A European Castle Proposal

European Castle Proposal

The moment before the European Castle proposal. Ruby had no idea.
The moment before the European Castle proposal. Ruby had no idea.

I proposed to Ruby on April 20, 2015, in a historic European castle. In a small town. In a small country. In true fairytale fashion, she said yes, and fireworks blasted into the sky! Ok, so there were no fireworks, but she did say yes, and yet that proposal was a month in the making, and almost didn’t happen. Not even Ruby knows the full story, so this is the first time I’ll be revealing the behind the scenes look at “The European Castle Proposal”.

Step 1: The Ring

 

Obviously, for a proposal to work, the guy has to buy (or make) a ring! If you’re not Ron Swanson (from the Parks & Rec TV show) and cannot fashion a metal ring in 20 minutes using common tools from your neighborhood’s hardware store, then it’s time to go ring shopping.  This is a tricky part, because there are so many jewelers essentially offering the same thing. Princess cut, solitaire, three-stone, and many others. Ruby told me in the past that she doesn’t like the solitaire ring, because it’s just one solitary diamond sitting kind of sadly all by itself, kind of like a nicely dressed up kid who no one wants to sit next to on the school bus.

I considered various jewelers, some of them big chains, but ultimately decided to go with a local company which had very good reviews. The problem was that I had to make time go there on my own without Ruby knowing about it. So, of course, I devised a plan: since me and Ruby work at the same company and in the same building, it had to be flawless. I told her that I needed to go to my bank during lunch and drop off a check (this was true, I did have a check). So off I went, dropped the check off and instead of going back to work, I popped in to the jeweler place. So far so good.

I was met by a friendly guy who showed me various rings.  I told him that Ruby liked something “sparkly and shiny”, which I’m sure must have sounded truly moronic. He explained different ring styles and diamonds, but I liked one style the most, a 3-stone princess cut ring. It looked very nice and it was not outrageously expensive, so that sealed the deal for me.  The guy took it back to steam it to make it shine even more, and that was that!

Step 2: The Location

European Castle Proposal
European Castle Proposal

Where to propose? This is a simple question, but there are so many opportunities, and you want it to be unique and nice, but not necessarily outlandish. I was not doing some crazy, “Hey, I’ll jump out of a plane and when I land I’ll pop the ring open, and there will be fireworks and that will be pretty cool,” type of thing. Nevertheless, I still wanted to make it special. Since Ruby loves castles, I decided to do it in a castle. Trouble is, which castle? I can’t just nonchalantly say one day, “Hey, let’s go to a castle. No reason, let’s just go. It will be fun.” I think she’d know something would be up.




I was lucky, however, in that we had already planned to visit Europe some months back, to Germany and Slovakia, and both of those countries have a tremendous amount of castles. I believe Slovakia has the 2nd most castles per capita in the world. My first choice was the magnificent and world-renowned Neuschwanstein Castle in Schwangau, Germany. This castle was the inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella Castle, and it is truly extraordinary, whether it’s viewed up close or from afar.

As we packed for Europe, I wasn’t sure where to hide the ring. I couldn’t keep it in my pocket, but also couldn’t keep it in a checked bag, so I decided to hide it in a side pocket of my duffel bag carry-on. I probably felt and looked at that side pocket 10 times a day, and kept looking at Ruby to see if she knew about it, or accidentally saw it somehow. In any case, we went to Neuschwanstein with my cousin, and I right away knew that I couldn’t propose there. The reason: a few thousand tourists from all around the world had swarmed into this tiny town and there was absolutely zero chance that I’d get a private moment anywhere near the castle with Ruby. I still could have done it there, but I know that Ruby can be shy, so she’d have probably freaked out if all those people watched us, and I didn’t want to make it uncomfortable.

As we were leaving the castle after a great day, I told myself that I had two “grand” choices left: either do it at Devin Castle in Bratislava on the very last full day of our trip, or do it next month for our planned trip to the Grand Canyon in the United States. I had some thinking to do.

Step 3: The Decision

Bling bling, Jacksonville style.
Bling bling, Jacksonville style.

I decided for Devin Castle, for two main reasons: Ruby loved castles and it was going to be much less crowded there than at the Grand Canyon. So as our two-week trip wound down, me and Ruby agreed that visiting Devin Castle on our last full day of the trip would be a good thing to do. I scanned her face to see if she had any idea of what I had planned, but I realized she was just genuinely excited to visit the castle.

Luckily, we visited on a Monday, which meant that people were at work, and the castle really didn’t have that many visitors. I suddenly grew a bit nervous, because I knew that this was it. If I didn’t go through with it now, it would mean carrying the ring for another month or more, and I obviously didn’t want that. We got there around 11 in the morning, walked around for about an hour, took some pictures, and I knew the moment was approaching, but I had to pick a spot to do it. We came upon a part of the castle which had a sort of balcony overlooking the Danube and Morava rivers. There was a guy there, however, and I was praying he’d get the hell out of these as soon as possible. He took some pictures and walked out, and the moment had arrived.

Predictably, Ruby took out her camera and started snapping pictures from all angles, and her back was turned to me. I took out the ring, double checked that it was there (for like the 50th time), got down on my knee and tapped her on her back. She turned around, genuinely surprised, and actually asked, “Hey, what’s wrong, why are you kneeling?” Then I opened the little box and took out the ring and asked her the question. She said yes, and I was still on my knees, holding the ring, waiting for her to take it and put it on her finger. I didn’t realize that I was supposed to be the one to place the ring on her finger! I’m not sure if I forgot or just didn’t know, but Ruby then told me, helpfully, “I think you’re supposed to put it on my finger.”

We took some post-proposal pictures, some of which I’ve put into this post, and then finished walking around the castle and that…was that.

Our first day being engaged in Bratislava
Our first day being engaged in Bratislava

Conclusion

It was a long journey to get to that point, and I’m glad it turned out well, even though I had my share of lucky moments in order for it to happen. The take-away for any guy out there sweating about this is that you can’t perfectly plan everything, and, quite frankly, planning is only half the fun.  Embrace any twists and turns along the way, and don’t be afraid to improvise. I think improvising important things like this can be quite challenging, but it makes the process more fun and ultimately more fulfilling.

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