Sewanee Proposal: Eric + Emily / by Allison Kendrick

This is a guest blog by my dear friend Eric Keen who knows how to make people feel important and loved. He planned a whimsical surprise proposal for Emily in the woods behind their house, and I had the honor of documenting their evening. Here's the story according to Eric: 

After weeks of secret preparations, the time had come to hatch the plan. I think Emily knew I was cooking up a surprise, but she sweetly feigned an oblivious air in the days leading up. So on Friday night when I confessed that we were not, in fact, meeting my folks for dinner, but would like to go on a walk in the woods instead, we both sighed in relief. Neither of us had to pretend there wasn’t a surprise anymore.

I led her to the head of the trail, and we walked until we met our dear friend Allison. She gave us big hugs and walked on with us down the trail. It was a sweet stroll of anticipation; we both knew what I was about to ask.

When we arrived at the creek, we found a beautiful picnic laid out for us on the bank, tucked underneath the trees, the blanket surrounded by candle-lit mason jars. Our friend Mary stood at the Creekside and welcomed us, in a French accent, to Chateau Derriere. “Do you have a reservation with us this evening?” she asked.

I said it was under “Eric and Emily”, and she was able to find our names on her list. She took two menus and led us to the picnic blanket. As we sat down, we started to hear music emanate from the woods. Emily immediately recognized the beautiful voices to belong to our dear friends Jonathan and Becca. Emily was beaming and I was thrilled; she may have known there was a surprise, but she didn’t know her best friends would be here with us.

One by one, more friends appeared out of hiding places in the woods to serve us our meal, all of them in wacky costumes. In overalls and a floppy full-brim hat, Jamie brought us water followed by chocolate milk served out of a wine bottle. Seth brought down lobster bibs and helped us put them on. Will and Cacky, dressed in a hotdog suit, served up the appetizer (ants on a log). When they came back to pick up our plates, they had switched outfits and Will was now the one in the hotdog suit. Donning a parrot mohawk, Sara served up the entrée (roasted Skittles). Luke seasoned our meal with generous doses of salt and pepper. Adam in a chef’s hat and wig of curls welcomed us to his establishment and insisted that the meal be on the house. He asked, “Is there anything else we can get for you?” Eyes on Emily, I said, “I believe we are ready for the ring.”

 Adam whisked away, and moments later all of the picnic players processed down to our proposal blanket. Jonathan and Becca led the way, singing a beautiful adaption of Kermit the Frog’s Rainbow Connection. Next was Mary, carrying the ring. The rest of our friends followed, each holding a candle. They circled us, Mary handed me the ring, I looked at Emily, and I read her these words:

“Emily, it’s been almost 10 years since our first date. A date very much like this one – a picnic, hosted by our friends, with ants on a log. Three years ago, we went our second date and had our first kiss. Every day since then, I’ve gone to sleep more in love with you then when I woke up. Now we’re making a life together here, on this very ground. Infusing this place with our memories and meanings. I want to be with you for the rest of my life.

“Our friends here have watched us grow up and come together, and hopefully they will watch us grow old together. For almost 14 years, I’ve been talking with Will and Seth and Mary and Luke about love and marriage. For just as long, we’ve both admired Sara and Adam, as individuals and as a couple. We’re surrounded here by the couplings of our dearest friends, whose marriages and engagements have inspired us and taught us and brought us closer. Friends, there is only one way to propose to Emily Ezell, and that is surrounded by the people we love and admire most.”

 I took out the ring, and by this time we were both looking at each other through tears. “So, Emily Carter Ezell, will you do me the honor and the joy of making me your husband?”

 She said yes, we kissed, and our friends cheered. We broke out some champagne and gave a toast to a successful picnic. “That’s the end of the surprise, right?” Emily asked. I lied, “Yep, that’s it.”

We all walked back up the trail to our home. The others went ahead while Allison took some photos of the newly engaged couple, then went ahead herself to give us a moment alone.  

After a few sacred moments one-on-one, we continued on our way. As we rounded the corner of the barn, the crowd of family and friends waiting for us on our back deck began cheering. A few bottle rockets were shot into the sky. Emily was shocked; part 2 of the surprise was another success! Hand in hand, we approached the loving crowd, hugged our parents, and joined in the fun.

I could not have imagined a more perfect engagement to a more perfect partner. Emily and I will cherish Allison’s photos of the event for the rest of our lives.

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To see more photos from the evening, click here

As a present to both Emily + Eric, I put together a short surprise video for them to remember the day: