Today’s grooms-to-be often look for inventive and unexpected ways to “pop the question.” Indeed, proposals have come a long way from the days when strict protocol was followed when asking for a woman’s hand in marriage.
There was a time when the man adhered to very specific customs when proposing and the woman also followed certain procedures when accepting or declining.
Medieval British custom, for example, called for the man to place a hawthorn branch at the door of his beloved on May 1. If her answer was “yes,” she left the branch there. If she didn’t want to accept his proposal, she replaced the branch with a cauliflower. (Ouch. You’ll never look at that vegetable the same way again, will you?)
In the 1800s, it was common for a gentleman to send a pair of new gloves to his lady love. If she wanted to accept the proposal, she wore those gloves to church the following Sunday.
A man in Wales wanting to marry carved a spoon from wood and presented it to his intended bride as a proposal gift. If the woman accepted, she wore the spoon on a ribbon around her neck. (Puts a totally different spin on the term “spooning,” doesn’t it?)
According to fifth-century Irish tradition, a woman could propose to a man… but only on February 29, Leap Day. If the man didn’t accept, he was expected to give her some sort of “fine,” which was anything from a kiss or enough silk to make a dress to several pairs of gloves (supposedly to hide her ring-less hand—so sad).
We found four area couples whose proposals included neither cauliflowers nor wooden spoons, but a hefty amount of strategy and surprise. Read on to enjoy their heartwarming stories.
Andrew + Carol Bragoli
Introduced by a mutual friend in 2008, Andrew and Carol Bragoli of Ocala were married January 15, 2011. Andrew, who works as a paramedic, got the inspiration for his clever and complicated proposal from something he’d seen his then-girlfriend do at work.
A fourth-grade teacher at Blessed Trinity School, Carol liked to stage treasure hunts with her students during Student Appreciation Day.
“She’s very interactive with them, and I’d seen how passionate she is when she does this with her kids,” says Andrew. “Knowing how much she enjoys watching her students do these hunts, I thought it might be time to send her on one.”
Andrew started planning for the special day months in advance and enlisted the help of Carol’s family to pull off the big surprise.
Carol had wondered for some time if he would propose on Christmas, New Year’s or perhaps her birthday. Andrew always replied that a wedding proposal was so special that it shouldn’t fall on any other “special” day.
A few weeks before the day he planned to propose, Andrew asked Carol to request a half-day off work on Friday, March 19, 2010 and to go home where she’d find a surprise waiting.
“The very next day was her birthday, so this was a little confusing as to why she needed the day before off,” says Andrew. “We both lead very busy lives, so finding time together is hard. I knew that many things could go wrong this day, so I needed a lot of faith.
“March 19 started out like any other day for me. I got up at 5am and dressed, but that is when my normal day stopped and our new adventure began,” says Andrew. “Little did Carol know I was flying out to New York hours before. When we spoke, like we do every morning, I told her it was a busier day than normal and I had to go. I had recorded ambulance sirens days before with some radio noise in the background to convince her I was at work. However, by that time, I was already sitting outside the airport awaiting my flight.”
“I really did believe he was at work because I heard sirens in the background,” Carol remembers.
The day before, Andrew had given Carol’s mom, Era Rodrigues, who was completely in on the proposal surprise, a box that contained small boxes and envelopes, each numbered to be opened in a specific order.
On the 19th, Era told Carol that Andrew had stopped by and left the box, which gave Carol instructions to drive to Orlando. Mom and daughter began the drive, and once on the Florida Turnpike, Carol opened the first box, which instructed her to go to the airport. After she arrived, she opened the next numbered box; it contained Jet Blue earphones, which clued her into which airline to check in with. Then, she had to check in to have her destination revealed.
“When I found out I was flying to New York City, I started to panic because I hadn’t packed anything,” says Carol. “I thought maybe Andrew was sending me to a spa for a vacation, but I couldn’t figure out why he was sending me to New York by myself. My mom said I should just trust him and go.”
Unbeknownst to Carol, her mother had packed some clothes for her ahead of time, at Andrew’s request. So, with her mother’s encouragement, Carol boarded the plane and jetted off to New York.
Upon landing at JFK International Airport she pulled out the next numbered envelope, which instructed her to go downstairs where she found a limo driver holding a sign with her name.
“She got in the limo and was told to relax like a princess for the day and everything would be OK,” says Andrew. “The limo driver then took her to a French hotel in Times Square. From there, the next envelope instructed her to walk into the hotel—not knowing if she was staying there or not—and go to the front desk. There was an envelope at the front desk sending her to a very nice suite upstairs. The suite had a separate room, so as I peeked through the door, I got to watch her open the last envelope which read, ‘Your treasure awaits: Me.’”
At that point, Andrew opened the door of the adjoining room and an overjoyed Carol jumped into his arms.
“I asked her if she had opened the last box. While she frantically reread the last set of instructions, I had enough time to get down on one knee and open the ring box to propose to her. She said, ‘Yes!’”
Having just celebrated their third wedding anniversary, Andrew and Carol are the proud parents of two daughters, Samantha, 2, and Tabatha, who was born this past October.
Ryan + Ashley Frankel
Best friends introduced Ryan and Ashley when she was still living in Atlanta. Their first meeting took place at Opera Nightclub in midtown Atlanta on March 1, 2008, but it took some time for their relationship to develop, as they lived in different states.
“A night of talking, laughing and dancing was directly followed by weeks of Facebooking, texting and phone calls,” recalls Ryan, who was already living in Gainesville when he met Ashley. “The trips to Atlanta became more frequent, and eventually, a two-year, long-distance relationship developed. After a lot of mileage on our cars, a handful of speeding tickets and countless minutes added to our cell phone bills, Ashley packed up a U-Haul, said her good-byes and, in 2009, headed south to Gainesville.”
Before Ryan proposed, he’d put a lot of planning into making the occasion unforgettable. The couple had planned a trip to New York City to celebrate Thanksgiving 2012 with their families. Once that trip was confirmed, Ryan set about putting his plan into action. Because their first meeting was at the Opera Nightclub, he decided to propose with an opera theme.
“I thought it would be fitting to propose in a way that incorporated something that had meaning to us,” says Ryan. “I called our good friend, Keith Watson, an event designer originally from New York City who now lives and works in Gainesville. My call to Keith, who is good friends with one of the actors who plays Phantom on Broadway, was originally just to see if he could help get backstage passes and tickets to Phantom of the Opera. As we began to discuss the plan, my idea for proposing to Ashley continued to grow, and ultimately, the final plan was to bring the opera to her.”
On the night of November 23, Ryan, Ashley and their families attended the show. Afterward, Ryan suggested they meet Keith for a drink to thank him for the tickets.
“Upon arriving at the Two E Lounge at The Pierre Hotel, no one but Keith, my sister and I knew what was about to happen. It was incredible to watch the plan unfold as a complete surprise to our families and, most importantly, Ashley,” Ryan relates.
Unbeknownst to his bride-to-be, he’d hired six Broadway singers, two of whom previously played the Phantom and Christine in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, along with a pianist, who was the conductor from the Broadway show Mama Mia.
As the evening unfolded, these singers “just happened to” appear at the lounge, singing songs that were special to both Ashley and Ryan. About 15 minutes into their “spontaneous” performances, Ryan shocked Ashley by proposing to her in front of the entire room.
“It was a complete surprise,” says a stunned, but thrilled, Ashley. “Our trip wasn’t out of the ordinary since Ryan’s sister lives in New York City, and we planned the trip somewhat last minute. I knew that Ryan would put some thought into the proposal; I just didn’t think that he would plan something so elaborate.”
The couple married November 16, 2013 and honeymooned in Thailand before returning to their home in Gainesville. You can watch their proposal video on their wedding website at meetthefrankels.com.
Louis + Angela Wild
Classmates for years, Louis and Angela Wild first met at Belleview Middle School in 1994. Although they also attended Belleview High School together, they never dated at the time and didn’t stay in touch after graduation. In July 2010, they reconnected online through Facebook, started dating and, by December, Louis knew he wanted to propose.
Angela had a young daughter from a previous marriage, and Louis had two daughters. The couple had already made a tradition of taking family photos together several times a year, so Louis decided to use that to his advantage.
“It was about time to take our Christmas photos, so I put my brain to work to try to think of a great way to incorporate my proposal into that day,” explains Louis, who had chosen December 11 for the big moment.
“About a month before, I started making many phone calls to different offices in Ocala to see who is in charge of the marquee signage downtown. After many transfers and dead-end calls, I finally found the right person. That wonderful woman and I planned to have my proposal written on the sign on that day.”
Once that task was accomplished, Louis contacted the photographer they used for family photos and let her in on his plan.
On the morning of the 11th, Louis, Angela and their daughters met the photographer just south of the Ocala downtown square. They proceeded to take photos at several different places nearby, working their way back to the gazebo for the final photos and Louis’ surprise proposal. He’d already asked the photographer to set up the gazebo pose so that the sign’s special message, “Angela, will you marry me?” would be in the photo.
“We were taking photos and the next thing I know, the photographer was asking me, ‘Hey, isn’t that your name there?’” Angela remembers. “I looked at the sign, and by the time I turned around, Louis was already on one knee, ring in hand, asking me to marry him!”
As Louis had painstakingly planned, the photographer captured the magic moment forever, something Angela especially appreciated after the fact.
“We had talked about marriage before, but she had no clue this was coming. It couldn’t have been more perfect,” Louis says.
The Wilds, who live in Ocala, were married November 6, 2011. Their family now includes four daughters, Andrea, 14, Alana, 10, Ava, 7 and Aryanna, 1. Both Louis and Angela work as U.S. Postal Service mail carriers in the Lady Lake office.
Mike + Tammy Herchel
It’s not often that 40,000 people witness a proposal, but that’s precisely how Mike Herchel planned to pop the question to bride-to-be Tammy. As network administrator at the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA), Mike’s job revolves around sports, so he decided to propose at the 2007 Florida State High School Championship football games.
The two met while working at Barr Systems, Inc. in 2001, but it wasn’t love at first sight. (“He took a cookie from a box on my desk without asking, which I thought was rude,” recalls Tammy.) They eventually became friends playing on the company softball team in 2003 and started dating in 2006.
In fall 2007, Tammy and Mike had plans to fly to New York for a mid-December weekend of shopping and skating. Tammy had booked the trip as a Christmas gift for them, and their flight left from Orlando. This gave Mike a timeline for his proposal, as the high school championships were held the same weekend as their trip. He ordered her ring and had it shipped to his office so Tammy wouldn’t find it.
With the FHSAA executive director’s agreement, Mike created a fake email and sent it to her. It appeared to be from the executive director of the Florida High School Athletic Association announcing that Mike would be recognized with an award for exceptional service, and that family was invited to be on the field for photos after the presentation.
“He casually mentioned that since we’d be in Orlando then anyway for our flight, maybe we could pop over to the Citrus Bowl together for him to be recognized. I thought nothing of it,” says Tammy.
By the time December 14, 2007 arrived, Mike was nervous and distracted. He suggested they head over to the football stadium early “to see how things were going,” which only served to annoy Tammy. After all, Gator football season had just ended; she’d had enough football for a while and wanted them to spend time with her sister’s family in Orlando. Grumpily, she dressed to accompany Mike to the Citrus Bowl for his award ceremony.
Mike’s co-workers barely spoke to Tammy when they arrived, and she felt stung by their cool attitude. In truth, Mike had actually had a co-worker bring the ring to the event and had warned everyone not to say anything for fear they’d give something away.
Once Mike and Tammy were standing on the field, the announcer (whom Mike had worked with to write a proposal script), spoke the words that shocked Tammy as her husband-to-be got down on one knee and opened a Tiffany’s box containing her ring. Spectators witnessed the entire occasion on the Jumbotron and cheered for the couple.
“Later, in the elevator up from the field when it was just the two of us, he asked if my answer was still ‘yes,’ and of course it was,” says Tammy, who admits she’s a difficult person to surprise. “I’m a big snooper when it comes to gifts and stuff. He kept it a secret, which was pretty impressive.”
Mike and Tammy were married August 31, 2008. They are the parents of 3-year-old daughter Millie. You can watch their proposal at youtube.com/watch?v=wSwqB8ObrTk.