It was March 6, 2019, pre-pandemic. It’s crazy how hard it is to imagine life before that. That day was our first anniversary, and I had just gotten back from a family funeral. It was a very emotional time, and I wasn’t sure what exactly Mel and I would do to celebrate our special day. I was so surprised as I walked into our apartment, and Mel had set out the sweetest spread of gifts. There were precious practical gifts, like a new pillow that would support my neck better at night and thoughtful gifts, like the gold hoop earrings I’d been eyeing for the last few months. Melanie has always known how to brighten my day genuinely. She wrapped everything in gaudy unicorn wrapping paper because she knew I would love it. And I did.
We exchanged cards and “I love you’s” and Melanie asked if I would feel up to having a date night together. I was exhausted but knew that a night out with her was everything I needed. Mel told me to dress in whatever would make me feel special and that she had the whole night planned.
We started the evening in our favorite rooftop bar downtown. The weather was chilly that night, so the bar had the most romantic fire going outside. We drank cocktails, and Melanie ordered every dessert on the menu. (If you know me, you know that sugar is the way to my soul.) We laughed and drank and ate dessert until we couldn’t anymore. I spent the night gushing my heart to Melanie, and I couldn’t help but notice that there were several moments where she looked terrified. I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on, but she kept assuring me that she just had so much she wanted to say and didn’t want to rush anything.
A few hours in, she asked if we could take a walk in our favorite park and visit “our spot.” After stuffing myself with all the sugar, I felt like a good walk was definitely a great call. We got to the park, and all the twinkly city lights were shining so bright against the pitch-black sky. I remember thinking that I had never seen the park so empty. We get to our spot, and I feel myself starting to tear up because everything feels so romantic. We sat at a cute little bench next to the park’s pond, and you could hear a pin drop aside from the sound of the city train.
Melanie looks at me, reaches in her pocket and pulls out several sheets of folded notebook paper. She told me that she had so many things she wanted to share with me and took my hand. As Mel read her words, she goes through our entire story up to this point. It felt like my memories had been turned into the most beautiful poem I’d ever heard.
As she reads, I hear her voice began to tremble until the shakiness turned into tears. Melanie never cries, so just the sight of her crying has me in a full-blown sob fest. After she finishes her letter, she looks at me and says, “remember how when you were getting ready for tonight, you told me the lip color you were wearing is called ‘wifey’ – well, that’s very fitting…” as she gets down on one knee with the prettiest vintage diamond ring I had ever seen. She asks, “Jillian, will you marry me, baby?”
I don’t even remember saying yes because I was so touched and excited. We both hugged and sobbed and kissed in the empty park. It felt like it was the most intimate moment I had ever shared with anyone in my entire life, and it was just for us to enjoy and savor and remember.
Melanie knew I always wanted a vintage engagement ring. It just so happened that the beautiful engagement ring of my dreams had belonged to her late grandmother. It is the perfect fit. It’s crazy how it fits like it could have been made for me, but the thought that her grandmother first wore this exact ring 70+ years before me gives me chills. What an honor, truly.
We kept this beautiful secret between ourselves and our closest friends, and the select family who love and support us. We FINALLY released our secret to the world in October of this year, more than a year after the initial engagement. The amount of kindness we’ve been flooded with is life-changing. We are so excited to tie the knot in December of 2021.
Photography by Casey Richardson