BUCKET LIST ENGAGEMENT
As Megan and AJ grew in the beginning of their relationship, one of the conversations they shared included their top “Bucket List” dreams. Off the top and without missing a beat, Megan explained “wanting to see the sun rise on the East Coast of the United States and then set on the West Coast in the same day!” And for years after, she had discussed and entertained the idea of making this dream come true. But AJ had a plan of his own! After over a year of planning the details, coordinating logistics and through the help of a key few trusted individuals, AJ put into motion a coast to coast engagement to remember!
The dream was out there but making it a reality included many challenging tasks. First meant checking with a travel agent to see if the feat was even possible. Only a few locations on the East Coast were an available option. AJ chose Hilton Head, South Carolina to be the site of the surprise beach sunrise beginning and the ending was to be at or near Huntington Beach, California for sunset. AJ began by telling Megan’s stepmother, Tracy Laubacher on Christmas day the year earlier. He gave her a simple card with a message containing the details of his plan. He wrote that she couldn’t tell anyone, and if she did, he wouldn’t follow through with it – not even Megan’s dad! Tracey did as she was instructed and was a soundboard for him over the next 9 months with little details that would come up for the trip. This drove her nuts…and was part of his plan the whole time!
During this long time frame, AJ had acquired 3 matching emerald cut diamonds with a color, cut, & clarity that was unmatched from close friend Bill Pipoly. Bill was introduced to AJ as a customer of his 6 years ago and over time they became very close. AJ looked to Bill for guidance many times as a father figure and Bill left his prize home in AJ’s capable hands to maintain and improve as they saw fit. Bill had teased AJ for a couple years that he better make Megan his and that she was a “keeper”. When it was time, Bill made sure to put the idea in AJ’s head that he needed to come talk with him before AJ was to do anything. AJ did a he was told and on a warm fall afternoon Bill took him inside and told AJ a story of “3 diamonds”. Bill had been saving them as a collector for something special. He didn’t know what it was, but he would know when it was the time. Bill insisted on a favorable cost to AJ and there was no arguing it – Bill was a force to be reckoned with and had heart larger than any. From here, AJ sat down at his drawing table and began to draw and design the setting he wanted for the diamonds. He came up with the idea to use the 2 smaller diamonds in a matching setting as earrings and the large diamond in a single setting as the engagement ring. Next, he went to Jared! Over a 3-month time frame the earrings and engagement ring were cast in plastic for review and approval, altered a bit, cast again, and then finally created. Keep in mind this whole time he was sending text and emails to Tracy to just rub it in more and more that she had nobody to talk to about all this.
Planning continued with setting up hotels, rental cars, travel plans, and cover stories to get Megan out of town with AJ on a “business trip”. As time got closer, AJ asked Megan’s father, Mike Laubacher for his permission to marry him. Both Mike and AJ are traditional men and it was important to each of them to have this moment. Now keep in mind that Mike isn’t the greatest at keeping secrets. So, AJ planned the meeting at the annual golf outing about 1 ½ months before the big day. AJ had Megan’s uncles with him, they all drank a toast together, and took an oath of secrecy. Then AJ told them Tracy knows and he will turn her loose on anyone that opens their mouth! All secrets were kept! Hehehe!
As the departure day was nearing, Megan had no idea about anything. A close friend and business partner of AJ’s, Chris Volpe, made a call to him the Sunday before they were intended to leave. As rehearsed, he began to tell AJ of an emergency job that he needed him to go inspect. It was just 30 minutes outside Savannah, Georgia and it would only take one day to review the damage. With Megan in the truck at the time of the phone call on speaker, so she could hear the entire conversation and was being roped into the story. Then AJ said, “timing was difficult this week” and on cue Chris replied, “I’ll pay for your ticket and take Megan with you…she can keep you company and have a nice dinner on me! I just need you to help me here…please!”
It wasn’t as easy to get Megan to go and she made AJ wait for over a day while she decided. She said, “it was only 24 hours…it’s not going to be that much fun…you will be working the whole time…”
AJ was a little nervous at this point, but he kept his cool and persuaded Megan to come along. Now it gets a little more interesting! AJ sent Megan out the day before to get a manicure and pedicure as a gift. AJ knew she always consulted him on what color to get her nails painted and as usual, he waited for the question. Immediately, he said a nice deep fire engine red and gold sparkles on the ring fingers. At this point, the little hints were to begin. None would tip her off, but he knew when she looked back on it all, she would put the pieces in place.
As they left Cleveland airport for a 24-hour whirlwind experience, Megan had no idea what was in store for her. AJ was thinking of weather, missing and delayed flights, rain, clouds, being late, oversleeping, more WAETHER, more hujRAIN… but he never let it show. When they landed in Savannah, AJ had a tiny little white eco-friendly rental waiting for them. Megan was asking for something nicer, but AJ said it was only for a day and it wasn’t worth the extra money (another little clue was dropped here). When they got on the road to their destination and AJ entered the address in his GPS, he noted it was to Hilton Head. Megan exclaimed, “HILTON HEAD!!!! I would have brought a bathing suit if I knew I could go to the beach!”
To keep up the deception, AJ called his accomplice Chris again over speaker for Megan to witness. AJ stated, “you could have told us Hilton Head.” And again, as rehearsed, Chris replied, “is that a thing, I didn’t think it was a big deal?” Megan just rolled her eyes as she already knew Chris was not a very big traveler and mostly concentrates on work.
When they came into town, they both were pretty hungry and found a little diner where they had lunch. AJ could barely control his excitement when he saw the menu and order the lunch special, a “California Chicken” sandwich (annnnnnd another clue!) Later at the beach front hotel while checking in, AJ had already made arrangements and created a code word to secretly identify for the manager to guide him to their room and for the deception to carry on while at the hotel. The manager on duty when they arrived knew she was undercover when AJ asked to speak with a Ms. Cali West! (get it? Hahaha!) The manager took straight to her secret identity and played her role.
Meanwhile, Megan stood there the whole time and never gained an ounce of suspicion. She had spoke with the hotel concierge and tried to find a great location to visit for dinner. The concierge ironically kept discussing the sunset in Hilton Head at this one location and prompted Megan to once again think about her #1 bucket list dream. While back at the hotel room and during AJ’s nap, Megan used AJ’s phone to do research on what days would be best to travel the nation coast-to-coat and what locations would be best to view it! For AJ, slight panic set in when he viewed his phone while Megan was getting ready for dinner and he discovered these records being searched. After some short questions, he realized she was not on the trail and had no idea what was about to happen the next day!
That evening at dinner, AJ created some nervous tension within himself to try and get Megan to calm him down. During dinner he said he wanted to get up early and get breakfast together. He wanted time to gather his thoughts for the job and maybe walk the beach together before he went off to work. He asked if they could watch the sun rise together seeing how his appointment was at 7:15 am and the sun comes up about an hour before (6:19am to be exact…yes, he researched that too!) Megan was on board for it all and is always ready to help with what ever it takes. That morning went off without a hitch. Megan and AJ sat on the beach together and watched the sun rise exactly as predicted at 6:19am. It was at this time AJ told Megan of his plans. He began to tell her everything was a setup. “We are really here to fulfill your #1 bucket list and are flying to California in less than 2 hours!” Megan didn’t believe him at first but soon came around and laughed…a lot. AJ then told her he had a gift for her, but it was not what she may think it is. It is in a small velvet box but doesn’t go on the finger. She kind of laughed at him knowing at this stage in their relationship, it was impossible to give a gift of this nature without thinking, ”oh my, this is it!” AJ’s plan was to throw her off as long as possible and gave her a very nice pair of earrings (the matching earrings he had made for her) while continuing to make a scene about the size of the box and its contents to distract her a little while longer.
Full of excitement, they hurried back to the hotel room to pack and head for the airport. Everything was going according to plan. Switching planes in Chicago O’Hare left them sprinting through the airport like a gazelle tearing across the land avoiding the possibility of being lunch! Blowing through the gate and nearly running over the check-in flight attendant, they had made it to our flight for San Diego, California.
With about 5-6 hours to relax and nap, they talked about some of the events leading up to it all and what was to come. AJ had planned his outfit in advance wearing a nice new “red” polo, to match her nails of course. AJ told Megan that the car he rented for them in San Diego was “a little nicer” and a convertible. When he asked her if she could guess the color, she looked at her nails, then his new polo and said, “Red?” with a smile on her face.
Landing in California was now more relaxed for AJ. The last portion, while the most important and the reason for it all, was easy to him. Just getting there was the struggle. AJ made a call to his contact there in the rental department with whom he had been planning this day for almost 4 months. Both Megan and AJ looked at each other and decided to get freshened up before they continued. AJ, in typical male fashion, was in and out in about 5.2 minutes. Megan on the other hand, 15 minutes went by, then another 10, and after 5 more, AJ called her phone to make sure she was ok. Megan answered and told him to give her another 5 minutes and she would be out. And when she emerged, looked like a million dollars! AJ looked in the bathroom and said, “who all’s in there?!” Megan walked out of what seemed to be an airport beauty salon instead of the bathroom with a new outfit, her hair was freshly done from some top name designer straight out of Hollywood, and her makeup perfectly set like she was headed for the red carpet. Now all AJ saw was a perfect 10 walk out in slow motion, wind blowing her hair back and a gentle breeze on the back of his neck as it slightly blew across her sun dress. She was absolutely stunning and stated, “I needed to get ready for California!!!”
Walking to the rental car pickup, AJ couldn’t take his eyes off her. The excitement was growing within him, but he knew there was still more he needed to handle to make this the perfect day for her. Approaching the escalators, they were met by AJ’s contact and escorted first class to the private upper level of the preferred members rental car area. AJ and Megan were then led to a brand-new red Ferrari California Spyder convertible. This was what AJ had been waiting for! With the top down, they jumped into the Ferrari and left like a bat out of hell to drive the coast of Cali. The 2 ½ hour drive led them throughqw highways, small beach towns, past rocky cliffs and beach dunes while turning heads and getting waves & cheers the entire trip. About 30 minutes before sunset, Megan was getting a little concerned they might not find a spot to watch the sunset. AJ didn’t really have a location in mind, he told her he would know it when he saw it. With that being said, AJ revved the engine of the little red convertible, tore through the town, and came up on Huntington Beach. This was it! This was what AJ had been looking for. Watching the clock knowing sunset was at 7:16 pm, they arrived with about 7 minutes to spare and walked out to the beach to find a spot.
9 months of planning and preparation had led to this moment. And this was the question she would remember for the rest of her life…
As the sun was setting AJ turned to face her, he told her how she had changed his life, he told her she showed him how to love and to be loved, and he told her he will never leave her side. He then dropped to one knee and said the words they both have been waiting to hear… “Will you marry me?”
Her reply…. YES!!! Oh my God, YES!!!
That moment was the best experience in each of their lives and a perfect ending to a day that could not be topped. The happily engaged couple called a few family members, kissed and hugged a lot and finally headed off to their West Coast hotel on the beach. They enjoyed an amazing dinner together and basked in the incredible day that never seemed to end!
The next morning, AJ and Megan were awakened at 5am with dozens of calls and text messages from friends and family congratulating them on their wonderful news. Prior to the beach proposal, AJ had set up his phone to perform a live feed on social media at the request of her parents to watch and share the moment with them. With California 3 hours behind the East coast, nobody realized that morning the two were still sleeping. It turned out that this was one of the top moments and memories they shared together. With the outpouring of love and affection from everyone, getting woke up and having all the love surrounding them was another memory that will never fade.
The newly engaged couple were then up to pack and out the door for breakfast, with Megan behind the wheel this time. She drove without reservations through the streets of Huntington Beach and down the coast to the airport. They ate a delightful outdoor breakfast at a Hawaiian style café, took some pictures on the California coast together along with the Ferrari and reluctantly headed to the airport for home. AJ and Megan boarded their plane to complete their 24-hour trip from East Coast to West Coast watching the sun rise and set in the same day, on opposite ends of the country and came out of it all engaged to be married!
Next up… THE WEDDING!