Our proposal story

One year ago today, a young man got down on not one, but both knees to ask for my hand in marriage. It was such a special day that seemed so short, yet so long in coming. While our three and a half months of courtship leading up to that point may have seemed fast to the onlookers, I went through many different stages of learning, growing and bonding in the time leading up to Ashton’s proposal. The Lord took me from “this isn’t going to work- I’m going to have to say no” to “when is this guy ever going to propose?!”.

By the time we reached April, we had talked through all the major issues, and I had grown to admire and respect this young man who was both patient with me, yet would make me laugh and push me out of my comfort zone. I distinctly remember sitting in my parents’ parlor as they asked me where I was at emotionally- if I was ready for the next stage. With an excited smile and butterflies in my stomach, I said that I was. 


Visiting the Dodge House in Iowa

The weekend before Ashton proposed, I was out in Illinois visiting him and his family. By that point, we had talked over all the big issues, and seen each other work through something difficult. In other words, we really liked each other and were in that mysterious region of a relationship where we were hovering between the “get to know you” courtship stage, and engagement.

I tend to be rather dramatic and do the opposite of taking everything in stride, so merely two weeks into the “mystery” stage, I was anxious to move on to the next step. I also had my studio to consider… I wanted to be able to make the recital (which was quickly approaching) a goodbye to my students, and wanting to figure out the timing with that had me on pins and needles. I had to keep reminding myself to trust my Dad and Ashton, let them make the move, and leave the timing up to the Lord.


During my weekend with Ashton and his family, he would start to say something and then stop and say “I’ll save that for later”. All I could think was, “when?!”. Here was the guy who very seriously took the initiative in January, ready for a quick courtship and engagement, while I was the one asking to take more time. Now it seemed the roles were reversed. I was definitely ready for the “next stage”, but managed to keep my mouth shut and, again, trust the Lord for the timing of when he would pop the question.

We also went to a wedding the same weekend, which didn’t exactly help me stay focused. I tell people that I’ve become more emotional since being in a relationship, and it was definitely true as I teared up watching the bride walk down the aisle and exchange vows with her beloved. I couldn’t believe I was standing next to a guy I liked so much, who, unbeknownst to me, already had plans to ask me to be his bride. 


I left Illinois on Sunday, and actually saw Ashton again the next day when he came to Omaha for work. I had no idea that over those two days – while I was busy with recital preparations- he was scouting out downtown Omaha, and planning the perfect proposal.

After a returning home for a few days, Ashton was back out to our place for another weekend. On Saturday we spent a leisurely morning with one of my girlfriends, who gave us a tour of a historic house, a local museum, and obligingly took photos of us throughout the beautiful April morning. We had planned to talk with my parents that evening about “how things were going” and decided to do it over dinner in the Old Market. Of course, I was wondering what all we had to talk about, since things were going just peachy!


We had reservations for a pretty classy restaurant, which was a treat, but since mom had coupons and an excuse to go I wasn’t suspicious. Ashton and I agreed we had to dress up, and as we were driving in the surprisingly warm evening weather, in my concern I asked the sweating Ashton if he wanted to take off his jacket. He insisted that he was fine, and to keep it on, and again I was clueless and thought nothing of it. (Later I found out that he had the ring in his jacket pocket…)

We arrived in the crowded shopping area ahead of our reservation, so we decided to walk around for a bit, and at one point walked by the horse-drawn carriages that are often used for rides in the Old Market. As we paused, Ashton randomly (and, as I might add, nonchalantly) asked if I wanted a ride. 


I had never had a buggy ride and viewed such things as a rather romantic thing to do; where he puts his arm around her and they gaze dreamily into each others eyes. And, if one was doing it for purposes other than romance, it seemed rather touristy to me. Since we weren’t allowed to be romantic and I really hate to be watched by onlookers, I tried to answer vaguely. But, Ashton insisted that we do a carriage ride, so I reluctantly climbed in, looking down at my parents and asking if they were going with us, who smiled and shook their heads.

So off we went in the carriage, sitting side by side, riding around in the gorgeous night air, as I tried not to be self-conscious of all the passersby watching a couple ride together without holding hands or cozying up. 

Our first carriage ride…

That Monday was a cold, rainy and snowy April day, but on Saturday the 27th it was beautiful and sunny. We enjoyed the peaceful carriage ride as we rode down the brick roads in the Old Market, finally stopping at a park surrounding a lake. The driver asked if we wanted to get out, which confused me… I didn’t know stopping to see the sights was a part of the ride. But I was still clueless, so Ashton helped me out of the carriage and we began walking down the stairs towards the lake.


The entrance to Heartland of America Park

When we got to the bottom of the stairs, Ashton said “let’s go over here” and led me underneath a trellis on a little brick path towards a stone bench. At that point I finally caught on to what was happening. Wow, it was actually happening! 


Still unsuspecting…

We sat down on the bench as Ashton proceeded to say some sweet things (sorry, classified!), and within a moment was down on both knees in front of me, pulling a ring out of his jacket pocket, and asking me to be his wife. It’s hard to remember exactly all the thoughts and emotions that passed through my mind… this moment was so long awaited, it was hard to take it all in. Was this actually happening to me, was it actually my turn?


A hug, some tears, smiles, taking a closer look at the diamond ring, another hug… discovering the undercover photographer hidden in the trees, seeing my parents wave from the stairs, hearing cheers from a wedding party up on the street who had observed the proposal from afar off. More smiles, more tears.


Noticing the wedding party cheering above us

Finally we stepped away from our little bench in Heartland of America park, hugged my parents who were waiting on the stairs… laughing over how clueless I was all day, how well the plan went… I always wanted a special, surprise proposal, and Ashton’s was perfect.


Holding hands!


My parents


Mom and Dad, guess what!

We climbed back into the carriage, leaning against each other, and finished the second half of the ride along the river, through a park, back to the Old Market where my parents were waiting for dinner. More hugs, more smiles. It was such a blessing to have a private proposal, and yet have my parents involved and present surrounding it. 




We all had a wonderful dinner in a romantic setting at our own tables; at a classy restaurant with amazing food, brick walls and low lighting. (I didn’t realize it until my friend reminded me later, but that was the same restaurant I had said would have been perfect for a proposal dinner, when we had a girls’ outing together in 2008.) I don’t think wine glasses have ever been so sparkly, an atmosphere so serene, or a prayer before a meal so touching as it was when I had dinner holding hands with my fiance on the night of our proposal. 

Dinner at V Mertz in the Old Market



DSC_0378And that, my friends, is just the beginning of our story!

2 Responses

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  1. Patti
    Patti April 27, 2014 at 9:50 pm |

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story, Jen. I rejoice in the gift God gave you and Ashton in each other.

    Love, Mrs. G.

  2. Anna Wolfe
    Anna Wolfe April 28, 2014 at 1:23 pm |

    Yay!! Thanks for sharing more pictures and details. Hard to believe it was just a year ago! But I remember waking up (in the guest house, where we are again this time this year!) and getting a call from Jen Sunday morning, telling me she was engaged. 🙂 It’s been such fun watching you and Ashton grow together in love!

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