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Courting
The Proposal
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[From Michael's point of view] [From Suzanne's point of view]

After months of enjoying time with Suzanne, growing in our relationship, and spending time by myself in prayer and discernment, I came to the realization that God had brought Suzanne and I together to spend the rest of our lives together sharing His love with one another, so I started saving for "the ring."

Once I picked up the ring (which I had already casually taken Suzanne shopping for in order to find out what she would want), I started planning the thing everyone would ask us about the rest of our lives... the proposal!  I had originally considered proposing to Suzanne at Pere Marquette (one of the areas she helps promote through work) at the life-sized chess board.  She had never played chess when we started dating and I had taught her how to play... she was slowly becoming better, and I thought that I might be able to engineer a game so that she would beat me and I could propose once she had me in check mate.

Eventually, though, I came to the realization that it was God's love that brought and help us together and that the most appropriate place for me to ask Suzanne to share the rest of her live with me would be in a church before Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.  Over time, I decided to propose at SLU College Church before a 10 P.M. mass (participation in which is one of the hallmarks of our relationship.)  I also decided that Suzanne and I would both probably be excited to share the special night with as many of our family and friends as possible.  So I wrote Sean Dineen, the director of the 10 P.M. choir and a close friend through our ministry, and asked him for the schedule of 10 P.M. masses and presiders through the end of the semester.  Once I discovered that Dec. 14 was the last mass of the semester (far enough after Suzanne's sister Lindsay's wedding but still far enough before Christmas), that it was "Gaudete" or "rejoicing" Sunday, that it was in the season of anticipation that we call Advent, and that our favorite presider Father Doody would be the presider and homilist... not to mention it would be our 10-month anniversary, I knew that that should be the night!!!  On December 6, I took advantage of Suzanne and her mom's day of shopping to discuss our marriage and my plan for the proposal with her dad, and then set to work contacting as many friends and family members as I could think of... I wrote my family, Suzanne's family, our friends, and just about anyone else that came to mind.  I sent them details and the URL for the website with more information and asked for their help in keeping it a secret.

At mass on December 7, it occurred to me that I was one week away from the big night.  I got very excited and started to think about proposing right then to get it done with.  I convinced myself that I had to wait until the following week when our family and friends were there.  I promptly went home and hid the ring from myself so that I couldn't do anything drastic with it during the week.

On Tuesday, December 9, I went and hung out with Dan and Kris, two of my best and oldest scouting friends for about 1/2 an hour at Denny's.  It was awesome to hang out with them, but when Dan asked me if I was nervous, my nervousness came to the forefront of my mind for the first time.  That night ended up being my "nightmare" night.  I woke up at about 4:00 in a cold sweat, my mind going through all of the details for the proposal.  I was running through the timing of all of our friends' arrival, what I would do with Suzanne that day and evening leading up to mass, and more.  I didn't sleep much the rest of the night... it was basically in 15-minute increments of nightmare and then waking up to resolve it.  For example, in one dream, we had arrived late at the church and Suzanne saw her parents as we walked in.  She was so excited that they had come to mass with us and wanted to go talk to them.  I had to convince her that they weren't really there and that we should go pray at the tabernacle (so I could propose) first.  Then I realized that I had left the ring at home!  So I had to convince her to stay there in the corner of the church while I drove 20 minutes home to get it and 20 minutes back to the church.  Needless to say, once I woke up and hit real life the next day on the 10th, it was interesting to figure out how to explain to Suzanne that I hadn't slept much the previous night without telling too much more... I convinced her that I was having some nightmares about some stuff coming up at work.

The rest of the week was a roller-coaster ride of emotions.  Most of the time I was excited and peaceful in an unexpected combination.  Sometimes I started to get nervous and rework all of the logistics in my mind.  More than once, Suzanne caught me staring off into space as I was doing this and asked me what I was thinking.   I can only tell her I'm thinking about work so much.  :-)  On Wednesday, Tom O'Hara, another of my oldest and best scouting friends, called me on my way to a meeting during the workday.  He had proposed to his fiance Laura on Valentine's Day (the night of Suzanne and my first date), so it was very comforting to talk to a friend who had been through this step and to get his pre-congratulations and encouragement.  It meant a lot coming from such a good friend and Brother Knight.

Wednesday evening (the 10th), we hung out with Jeff (another old scouting friend and one of my very best friends) and Tara at Sacred Grounds... Suzanne wrote out thank you cards for Jeff and we all had good and funny conversation as he dictated his thank-yous, which calmed me down a considerable amount.

Friday night Suzanne had to work so it gave me time to sit alone and work on the website... Saturday it snowed and snowed and snowed and snowed - about 2 to 4 inches in all, we sang at 4 P.M. mass at Holy Family and spent some quality time together at Sacred Grounds reading and playing Scrabble... then came Sunday the 14th!

I woke up early (how could I sleep?) to news of Saddam Hussein's capture.  So I text messaged Suzanne and we spoke on the phone for a bit.  I picked her up at noon and we headed toward Pere Marquette and Elsah to take some pictures.  We had lunch at My Just Desserts in Elsah then made a quick trip through Pere Marquette to take pictures.  Then we went to Sacred to sit together and read for a couple of hours before coming back to the apartment for a nap.  I double-checked with Suzanne to be sure she still had next Saturday (the 20th) open.  I had asked her weeks ago to keep that date open... (1) to throw her off and let her and her mom start thinking that I was going to propose on the 20th and (2) to set aside a date that we might be able to go get engagement pictures before Christmas.  She said she still was.  ;-)  Then, after resting up, I had no appetite, and although we had planned to eat at Arcelia's, the same place we had dinner on our first date on Valentine's Day, Suzanne didn't want to eat with me watching, so we ran through Arby's drive-thru on the way to the church.  Food in hand, we then went to SLU College Church.  I had to have been the most nervous guy in the world at that point.  We took turns going to Reconciliation, then I took her up to the tabernacle to pray before the Blessed Sacrament.  After a few minutes of prayer, I talked with her a bit (between her and I) and then pulled out the ring and popped the question!!!  She said yes!!!!!!  As we left the transcept of the church for our seats, Sean (the choir director) yelled out "Mike, did she say yes?"  I said "yes!" and the choir started clapping for us.  We returned to our regular spots in the pews and all of the friends and family started to arrive.  It was a beautiful mass with all kinds of family and friends surrounding us, and even more fun afterwards hanging out for some quick drinks with Jared & Elise Ainsworth-Bryson and Chris Layloff.

[From Michael's point of view] [From Suzanne's point of view]

The proposal…I'll admit I had been eagerly awaiting a proposal.  Though we had only been dating five months, Michael and I - at his suggestion - went out and looked at engagement rings.  I figured that it would only be a matter of time before he had a ring and the proposal would be on its way.  I knew that my mom, my sister and a couple of aunts had pretty well already begun pumping him for information on the big event.  I tried my hardest not to in turn ask them for information.  I wanted to be surprised, and I didn't want anyone to take that moment away from me.  Hey, you only get proposed to once in a lifetime!

Soon after our trip to the store to browse the rings in the case, the questions began.  Do you think he bought a ring?  Do you think he is going to ask you to marry him?  When do you think it will be?  Followed by my favorite - I know when he is going to ask you.  Like any good sleuth, I had tried my hardest to figure out when the big day would be that he would finally pop the question.  He asked me to set aside December 20th on my calendar, but he couldn't tell me why.  I tried not to get my hopes up. We had talked about marriage on numerous occasions.  I really felt confident that some day Michael would ask me to marry him.  I also figured that God brought us together, and He would bring us together when the time was right for both of us.  I was excited about the possibility of spending the rest of my life with such an amazing person, and I would have waited forever for Michael.

The week before the proposal was a little rough for me.  Michael was picking at his fingernail beds, a habit that most often means that he is stressed about something.  He started complaining about not sleeping at night.  When I asked him what was going on, he informed me that he was having problems at work.  I wanted him to feel like he could talk to me about it, but he said we would discuss it when it was all over with in a week or so.  I was becoming a little frustrated, because I could see that something was consuming him and yet he wouldn't talk to me about it.  Since worrying is one of my favorite pastimes (passed down from generation to generation among the women in my family), I began to spend sleepless nights trying to figure out what was so horrible at work that he couldn't talk to me about it.  Little did I know that he was keeping a pretty big secret under wraps, as well as coordinating all of our family and friends for the proposal.  He did manage to play it pretty cool and not tip his hat at all.  Throughout the week, he continued to plant the seed of December 20th firmly in my brain.  He told me a few times, "Make sure you don't schedule anything on December 20th."

On Monday evening, my sister Lindsay called to tell me that she had been emailing back and forth with Michael all day long.  She told me that he was planning something big for the proposal, and she added that I should not expect a proposal anytime before Christmas.  Thanks, Lindsay!  Did I mention that not only does worrying run in the family but so does the inability to keep a secret?  At this point, I had pretty well thrown in the towel.  I knew Michael had been at the house over the weekend talking to my dad.  I figured that he had asked for my hand in marriage. However, knowing my little Senior Project Manager and his propensity to be organized, his talk with my dad simply suggested that if he had asked my dad to marry me, it could be coming next week, next month, or next year.  I decided to turn a deaf ear to any conversation centered around rings, marriage proposals, December 20th …until…

Early in the week, Michael casually mentioned that Sunday would mark 10-months of dating for us.  He promised to take me out on a "date" that evening to Arcelia's, the restaurant where we had our first date.  It seemed a little suspicious, but I really couldn't imagine Michael asking me to marry him at a restaurant.  It just didn't seem like his style.  On Saturday afternoon, my Dad and I took my cat, Bob, to the vet.  On our drive home, he asked me what I was going to be doing the rest of the day.  I told him that Michael and I would be singing at mass, and he and mom were more than welcome to join us as always.  He said that he would talk to mom.  Then, he added, "Maybe we should try out this SLU mass you are always talking about on Sunday night with Fr. Doody."  I was very intrigued by Dad's sudden interest in Fr. Doody and SLU mass.  I thought I might have been on to something.

Sunday morning, Michael sent me a text message at 8:30 wishing me a good morning and spreading the good news of Saddam's capture.  Usually, I am the one awake at 8:30 in the morning while he is still sleeping until 10 or 11.  I called him on the phone to jokingly inform him that it was 8:30 and believe it or not people were still sleeping.  We talked for a while and planned our day.  Our itinerary for the afternoon included a drive up the Great River Road for some photography, a little bit of reading at Sacred Grounds, a nap (since someone woke me up at 8:30), dinner at Arcelia's and mass at SLU.  Before I left the house, I had a gut feeling that today might be the day.  Yet, everyone at my house was playing it pretty cool, and my mom was in the kitchen making a pot of chili big enough to feed an army.

As planned, Michael and I took a drive up to Pere Marquette.  We stopped for lunch at My Just Desserts in Elsah around one o'clock in the afternoon.  On our way back down the Great River Road toward Sacred Grounds, Michael asked what my parents were up to today.  I told him that Mom had made a big pot of chili and they would probably be staying in the rest of the day just resting and relaxing.  He bet me a dollar that they would leave the house.  I naively took him up on this sucker bet - still not knowing what he had planned.  Pretty sneaky, huh?

Around four o'clock, we were sitting around Sacred Grounds reading, and Michael asked me if I thought I would be hungry later before mass.  Apparently, the man I love was suddenly experiencing a loss of appetite - something I had never witnessed before in this magnitude.  He was pretty sure he would not be hungry before mass at 10 p.m. - interesting.

My curiosity was peeked again as to what was going on with Michael.  Back at the apartment, he worked on the computer in the study as I napped in the living room with the television.  He was just sitting in the chair in the living room when I woke up around 6:30.  We talked out our itinerary for the rest of the evening.  He informed me again that he really wasn't hungry, but he would take me to the restaurant and just sit there while I ate.  I'm not too terribly fond of people watching me eat, so we decided to pass on Arcelia's.

We hung out on the couch for a while watching the news and talking.  I noticed that his hands had become pretty cold and clammy - very unusual.  He was still trying to play it cool.  The clincher was when we drove through Arby's on the way to the church.  I tried to feed him a fry as I always do if we have food in the car.  He held up his hand and told me that he couldn't eat it.  Passing up food when he hadn't eaten a thing since that afternoon…he was up to something.

We arrived at the church, and we both went to confession.  He told me that he would wait for me to come back, and we would say our penance together in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  So, we went before the Blessed Sacrament to pray.  He talked to me a for a bit, and then he reached into his pocket and pulled out his mint tin.  I remember thinking, "Mints?!? This is not time for mints!"  He pulled out the ring, cleverly hidden in the mint container, got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.  Of course, I said "Yes!"  It was absolutely beautiful!  I teared up a little bit, but for the most part, I couldn't stop from smiling.  The happiness that I have found with Michael is like none I have ever experienced in my life.  It is impossible for me to be around him without grinning from ear to ear as an outward display of just how much I love him.

Our time together at SLU mass has become one of the cornerstones of our relationship.  It was God that brought us together.  Sunday evenings have become our time to experience the mass together and pray together.  I can't imagine a more perfect place for us to commit ourselves to one another than before God at the Blessed Sacrament.  Just when I thought things could not possibly be more perfect, Michael clued me in on what he had been up to all week.

We returned to our pew where he pulled out an envelope containing a copy of the letter he had sent out to all of our friends and family, as well as many of the messages sent by our friends and family who would not be able to join us at mass.  Just as planned by Michael, our friends and family began to filter in around us to offer their congratulations and share the mass with us.  It was incredible!  I can't imagine a more perfect evening or a more beautiful proposal!

[From Michael's point of view] [From Suzanne's point of view]

 

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