If there were a love language for giving and receiving big romantic gestures, Sam and I would be speaking the same one. From the very beginning, we revelled in displaying our affection for one another in grand ways. After meeting on Bumble, we celebrated our monthly anniversaries with a card and a gift, until we hit the one-year mark. Then, the cards and gifts grew further apart, but the romance and thoughtful attention to detail remained strong.
In August 2020, we moved in together and passed the three-year mark of our relationship. It was then that we became more serious about taking the next step, which we’d been talking about since our first year together. But, with a global pandemic keeping us separated from friends and family, we decided to wait until the world was a safer place to celebrate our love once we got engaged.
When vaccines began rolling out in early 2021, Sam and I began conversations with a family friend in the diamond industry.
We’re both people with very particular, different styles. Nonetheless, we knew that designing our own rings was something we wanted to do together. The process was utter bliss, oohing and aahing at shiny stones week after week. By April, the designs were finalized and we knew we’d have the rings in our hands by early May.
By this point, we’d also had many conversations about the logistics of proposing.
If we both asked, at what point are we engaged, after the first person asks, or the second? Is it possible for one of us to be engaged while the other waits to be proposed to?
We didn’t have answers, nor did any of our friends. But, we knew one thing for sure- we both wanted to propose in a big, romantic way, with as many elements of surprise as possible (this surprise was essential to counteract the fact that we had full knowledge of our ring designs and anticipated delivery date).
So, in April, the scheming began.
The first thing I did was secure a photographer, Marilyn Lamanna, who had done a brilliant job photographing my sister’s bridal shower a few months prior. Then, I had to secure the venue at 6BC Botanical Garden in the East Village. (This is where we’d had our fourth date and took our first selfie together. It’s also Sam’s favorite place in the city, if not the entire world).
Without knowing anything about Sam’s plans, I decided to wait until June 5th to pop the question to her, knowing I’d surely have the rings by then. However, unbeknownst to me, she was moving ahead with her plans, as well, which turned out to be similar in one specific way. (More on that soon).
Fast-forwarding a bit to mid/late-April, Sam and I were reviewing my quickly filling social calendar, with both vaccine doses fully digested. Without explanation, she asked me to cancel my plans on May 16th. As a Type A individual, I immediately entered “Be Proposed To” in my calendar that day and dutifully canceled other plans, without asking questions. As the weekend approached, Sam told me we’d have a nice day frolicking around Greenpoint, a neighborhood we know and love. We’d start the day with brunch at Chez Ma Tante (don’t miss their pancakes), wander around a few shops, and have a picnic in McGolrick Park. Of course, I knew what she was up to, but I didn’t quite know exactly how the day would unfold and at which point I’d gain a new shiny piece of jewelry.
I tell friends that even if she hadn’t been so obvious with the calendar scheduling, she came out of the bedroom, ready for brunch, in a black silk slip dress–a far cry from the usual ripped jeans and graphic tee she usually wears on weekends. Dead giveaway.
But, we pretended that nothing was suspicious and headed to brunch. Splitting the pancakes, we were both an anxious mess. Throughout the meal, too, I kept seeing a wrapped gift popping out of her tote bag. The moment was approaching, but I still did not know details.
After brunch, we dutifully went from shop to shop, browsing at the bookstore and smelling candles along Franklin Avenue. Eventually, we got to the park, where Sam laid out a blanket for us to sit on. Funny enough, this was perhaps one of our most awkward dates ever. Sam hadn’t quite planned a diversion, so we just on the blanket, anxiously awaiting the big moment. Her eyes darted around the park and mine followed, wondering what she was looking for.
Then, without explanation, she took that gift out of her bag and asked me to open it.
Thinking it was a gift from her mom (as she’d told me when I spotted it a few days prior), I began unwrapping it without too much emotion.
However, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted none other than Marilyn with her camera.
As the gift emerged–a framed map of our location with a heart over the park and a caption that read “Where Sam Asked Rachel,” I began balling my eyes out, realizing fully that I was in the process of being proposed to.
Sam, too, began crying.
And, before you know it, Sam took out a ring box and asked, “Rachel, will you marry me?”
Absolutely transfixed by the ring’s glittering surface (a far cry from the digital rendering I’d last seen in April), I grabbed at the ring. But, then realized that Sam should probably put it on me. So, I instructed her to do so. As she did, I realized I hadn’t answered her question, to which I said, “Oh, and to answer your question, YES!” We immediately began cracking up and kissing, Marilyn getting closer and closer in the process, to capture all the tear-filled smiles and laughs we were experiencing.
As it turned out, Sam had reached out to Marilyn a week after my initial request, telling her all the same details I’d told Marilyn just a few days prior. Sam had booked her for a two-hour session, so we quickly got to photographing our blissful day, after telling only a select few family members. We shot around the park and then in a few spots around Greenpoint. Finally, we were walking back to our apartment in Williamsburg, when we were about to pass MotorGrrl, a motorcycle shop that happened to be hosting a pop up event with Dykeland USA. Draped across the shop’s facade was a rainbow flag that read “BIG DYKE ENERGY.” Could the day get any better? At this point, a group of queer women encouraged us to come check out the event, at which we told them we’d *just* gotten engaged–the crowd erupted in cheers.
After taking a few photos in front of the rainbow flag, it occurred to me that most of my friends still had not known that any of this had happened today, and these random motorcycle lesbians did! As you can imagine, I quickly texted a number of my group texts. The rest of the night was a cascading series of surprises that I could not have predicted. Sam had her parents and my parents come into Brooklyn for a delicious celebratory meal at Lilia, and after she had our closest friends put together a surprise party on the roof of our apartment building.
It was one of those perfect Brooklyn nights, the temperature around 70 and the sunset a dreamy shade of orange. I can’t tell you how many glasses of champagne or slices of cake we shared that night, but I went to bed with both a full belly and full heart. Though I knew full well when the day began that it would end with a diamond ring on my finger, I never could have imagined it would unfold the way it did. And, yet, I also expected nothing less from Sam.
Now, our story doesn’t quite end there.
Sure, we were engaged…or maybe only I was engaged? But, we both knew a second proposal was coming soon. Unlike Sam, I’d been a little sneakier with the social calendar, so she didn’t quite know when my proposal to her would happen. And, behind the scenes, I was working with her best friend, Sara, to create the greatest lie we’d both ever tell.
The original plan was to have Sara approach Sam and say she was sure she’d be proposed to on Saturday, June 5th, or Sunday, June 6th, because her boyfriend was acting VERY suspicious about the weekend.
As such, she insisted Sam get a manicure with her and help pick out an outfit. Well, it turns out Sam knew Sara wasn’t actually going to be proposed to until July, and threatened to cancel plans with Sara.
In a fury, I called Sara and we came up with a new plan; her boyfriend was not going to be proposing to her, but rather hosting a graduation party in celebration of Sara’s recent accomplishment. We had him text Sam and me explaining the details of the day and asking us for a recommendation for where to host the party. Without fail, Sam suggested 6BC Botanical Garden, where she’d hosted her own birthday party a few years back.
As my own cover up, I told Sam I’d be gallery hopping with my friend Emily–a common activity for us to do in tandem, but I’d meet her later at the party. As the days approached, Sam grew more suspicious, but I hesitated to give in. On Friday, June 4th, I lied and said I had an early presentation to prepare for at the gallery I work at and had to leave for work early.
In fact, I was headed to the flower district to purchase four dozen white roses.
On my way home, I sneakily dropped the flowers and my special outfit off at a nearby friend’s apartment. The next morning, I was sure to leave our own apartment in the most casual and boring of outfits, so that even if Sam thought the day could be about her, she’d think twice about the possibility of me proposing to her in jean cut off shorts and a striped tee.
So, on the way into the city that morning, I swung by that friend’s apartment again, to pick up the roses and change into my outfit.
Sam had no idea.
Soon, her day began, too, with Sara obsessing over the food to be served at the alleged graduation party a couple hours later. She insisted there’d be a cheese plate and worried her grandma would have a hard time being in the day’s heat. Sam was convinced, to her chagrin, that this party was happening, despite having gotten dressed for the day in a cute outfit, in case today was *the day* after all. Even in the minutes leading up to the big moment, after I’d sprinkled the path from the front to the back of the garden full of white rose petals, Sam was texting me to ask if I’d arrived.
At 4:10 PM, almost on the dot, Sam arrived. So focused on the “graduation party,” she didn’t even realize the rose petals dotting the path. Finally, she made her way to the back of the garden, where I was standing in a sea of petals and with a special box in hand.
Oh, and Marilyn was hiding in the bushes, once again!
My plan worked, and Sara’s co-conspiring definitely worked. Sam was utterly shocked. We spent the first minute giggling and hugging. Then, I got down on my knee and popped the question. Her reaction to the ring was similar, utter awe at the shiny surface of the diamond.
Finally, we were *both* engaged!
We spent the next hour with Marilyn, shooting photos around the absolutely unreal garden, nestled in the busiest of neighborhoods in Manhattan. It’s where our story started back in 2017, and it’s where our story continues.
Many have commented in days since that they love the unique idea of the double proposal. Or, they’ve laughed at the fact that we both hired the same photographer. I’m not sure how else to prove how in sync we are than that! But, I hope our story, while silly and beautiful, proves that there is plenty of room for two grand, romantic gestures in every relationship, queer or not.
But, in this case, we’re definitely queer, and looking forward to messing with many more traditions in what is sure to be a very heterosexual industry.
Photography by Marilyn Lamanna Photography