Over the Christmas holidays (and right after our January/February Wedding’s issue went to print), our Production Editor Jena Hippensteel became engaged to her boyfriend, Andrew. The two met as undergrads while attending Samford University and have been dating for almost five years. For his proposal, Andrew planned a night for Jena to always remember.
The holidays can be both fun and tricky when trying to spend time with all of your loved ones. Since Andrew lives in Indiana for a pharmacy residency, we carefully planned out the Christmas week ahead of time so that we could get enough face-time with both of our families and a lot of friends. Early on in the planning stages, Andrew and I decided that we would have a quiet date night on Thursday, December 26. The day before, he told me that his mom asked us for a favor- to swing by the Birmingham Botanical Gardens on our way to dinner to take pictures of the poinsettia tree for his grandmother. I didn’t think much of this request at the time, because we would be driving past the gardens on the way to dinner and it would be a nice surprise since she hadn’t been able to visit the greenhouse display this year.
So on Thursday afternoon, we dressed up and headed to the gardens. It wasn’t until we arrived that he became quiet and started wringing his hands. I thought it was because it was so cold outside! We walked hand-in-hand up the stone path to the greenhouse, only to find that it was locked. Though Andrew was clearly thrown off, he still took a few pictures of what he could see through the window. Then he said, “Lets just go over here,” and started walking toward the nearby lawn. He suddenly stopped right in front of a beautiful fountain. He turned to face me, holding my hands in his, and he said, “Well, the real reason I wanted to bring you here…” At that point, I can only remember bits and pieces of what he said because I immediately started crying. I had also worn my red lipstick for our special date and it was smearing all over my teeth, but I managed to get out a “yes.”
We asked two women who were nearby to take our picture by the fountain. They were very happy to help. As I held up my newly embellished hand they exclaimed, “That just happened?! We thought we saw you go down on one knee!” They immediately started to excitedly buzz around us—the “photographer” positioned us and the other woman fixed my hair and Andrew’s skewed jacket as they snapped away. They also demanded Andrew reenact his proposal so that they could video it, but with the excitement Andrew couldn’t remember all of the words. The women settled for getting images of him down on his knee again. When they left, they thanked us for involving them on our special day.
As we walked back to the car, grinning and laughing all the way, Andrew opened the trunk to give me a red rose. Once we arrived at the restaurant, I realized how perfectly planned the evening was because he chose the restaurant where we celebrated our one-year anniversary. But the planning didn’t stop there. After we had a lovely Italian meal, we headed back to my mom’s house and the street was packed with parked cars. Surprise! Some of our close friends were inside and ready to celebrate!
We walked inside the house and were immediately embraced by both of our immediate families and close friends. My brother and his sister swarmed around us like paparazzi with their cameras as we retold the garden moment and indulged in rich chocolate cheesecake, homemade marshmallow hearts, chocolate-covered strawberries, and Prosecco. All in all, it was a perfect engagement evening celebrated with all of my loved ones.
By: Jena Hippensteel