* Ken Horsman, professional entertainer and owner, Illusions Magic Bar and Lounge
In 1980 my [girlfriend] and I were clowns in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. One night as we were just about to walk out into Madison Square Garden and perform our big clown scene, I proposed. She walked halfway out into the arena and jumped up really high. Then she turned around and said, ‘What did you say?’ I repeated the question and she shouted, ‘YES!’ We were going to get married in the center ring on top of elephants, but we wound up getting married in Oklahoma, where she’s from. It was a traditional wedding with one exception: We exchanged handmade leather clown shoes.

*Maria Vaccaro, co-owner, Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop
This may sound really corny but my husband, Nick, proposed to me 29 years ago on a beautiful summer night on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. I don’t know why; neither of us lived in the city. We were at the top of the steps— he was sitting on a cement wall and I was standing below him. As he was in the middle of proposing, the guard came along and told him to get off the wall. A week later, he took me to dinner at Red Lobster. Can you imagine? Red Lobster. When we left, he said there was something rattling in the trunk of his car. He stopped, opened the trunk and pulled out a 3-foot-tall teddy bear with my engagement ring wrapped around its neck.

*Elizabeth Evitts, editor and writer
Matt Dickinson and I had been dating for about 21/2 years and while we certainly discussed marriage, his proposal came as a big surprise. On Sunday, April 15, 2007, we planned to have brunch with some friends to celebrate my birthday, which was the following day. I woke up early and went down to the kitchen where there was a note on top of a new stainless-steel garbage can that said, ‘Happy Birthday.’ Believe it or not, I was actually pretty excited to have a new trash can. The one we had was a real pain; the foot pedal was broken. I complained about it all the time. I stepped on the pedal of this shiny new trash can and inside was a ring box containing a beautiful engagement ring. I was speechless. He wanted to surprise me, and suffice it to say, a ring in a trash can was a big surprise. I said yes and we were married on Nov. 10. I guess I can never get rid of that trash can.

*Gayle Brier, co-owner, Bonjour Bakery
Gerard Billebault and I lived together for years and years. After he had a heart attack, our lawyers suggested that since we already merged our hearts we should merge our financial and business interests. I know it’s not romantic, but it’s true. After a big, elaborate holiday party, everyone adjourned to the living room. I was in the kitchen cleaning up and someone said, ‘You have to go into the living room.’ Gerard said, ‘Come here,’ and he dropped to his knees. He isn’t a small man and he started to cry. At first I thought he was having another heart attack! Instead he said, ‘I really do want to get married’ and pulled out a fabulous sapphire-and-diamond ring. I was completely shocked. We were married in the sculpture gardens at the BMA seven years ago. Who could say no to a world-renowned pastry chef?

*Warren A. Brown, attorney
We had spent a lovely three-day weekend in Manhattan and were driving home on the New Jersey Turnpike, when I looked at her and asked if she was up for a lifetime of such fun and good times. She responded, ‘Yes,’ and I immediately asked, ‘Will you marry me?’ Her response was, ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’

*Diane Rehm, host/executive producer, “The Diane Rehm Show,” WAMU/NPR
John and I were out to dinner at one of our favorite downtown spots near the Department of State, where we both worked at the time. We talked of a number of things, and then he said, without fanfare, that he wanted to marry me. We’d been seeing each other for about a year, so I was delighted and accepted. The next day, when I saw him, I questioned him as to what plans we should be making if we were to be married. At that point, he looked at me blankly, and said he had no memory of asking me to marry him. He had a serious case of cold feet! I was horrified, and told him I never wanted to see him again. And I didn’t, for three weeks. I avoided him completely, even though our paths crossed constantly since, as an attorney, he was working on a project for my boss. On the third weekend, I went to Virginia to visit a friend. When I returned to my Washington apartment early Sunday evening, the receptionist told me there had been only one visitor, John Rehm. I assumed he’d come because he wanted his classical music recordings returned to him. At about 6:30 that evening, however, the phone rang, and it was John, asking me to have dinner with him. I declined, saying I didn’t want to have anything more to do with him. He was persistent, though, saying he needed desperately to talk with me. I relented. He picked me up a few moments later and took me back to his house in Georgetown where, in the kitchen, he got down on one knee, and presented me with a proposal of marriage, written twice, once in French (his first language) and once in English. We were married three weeks later, on Dec. 19, 1959.

*Tina Forbush, co-director of college counseling, The Park School of Baltimore
Two months after I started dating my [future] husband, we took a weekend trip to Alexandria, Va. We had a magical time there, wandering the streets, eating out and walking by the river. We also spent a remarkable amount of time in Why Not, a toy store on King Street. I still remember my husband wearing finger puppets and having them sing ’50s songs to me. When I decided to propose the following fall, I first agonized over what to propose with. A ring? Guys don’t wear engagement rings. A watch? My husband [then boyfriend] loses watches. So I settled on getting an instrument— he played guitar, and he said he would like to have a mandolin. So a mandolin it was. I contacted the toy store and asked if I could propose there. On the first weekend of November, I suggested to my boyfriend that we spend an afternoon in Alexandria. We walked into the toy store about 15 minutes before closing. As closing time approached, the staff kindly and discreetly ushered the other patrons out. I coaxed my husband back to the stuffed animal section in the back corner of the store. When he began singing with a finger puppet on his hand, I got down on one knee and pulled the mandolin case out from underneath a giant Dalmatian [where I had hidden it earlier in the day]. I asked him to marry me. He was surprised. We’d never discussed marriage, but after what seemed an eternity, he said yes. We bought the finger puppets and left the store. We went to the restaurant where we’d first eaten in Alexandria for dinner and spent a romantic evening at the Morrison House Hotel. We were married 10 months later, and it’s been a wonderful eight years.

*Ken Jackson, program host, “In The Mood,” WYPR
I met my wife in 1954 when we were students at Emerson College in Boston. I proposed to her one cold January night in 1956 in a telephone booth located under the first-floor stair landing in the Kappa Gamma Chi sorority house where she resided. As I recall I wasn’t very original. I think I said something like, ‘I love you. Will you marry me?’ I had no money. No job prospects. My friendly jeweler had given me 24 months, maybe longer, to pay for a very underwhelming engagement ring. For whatever reason, she said, ‘Yes!’ Fifty-one years, three children and seven grandchildren later, we are still as one. As they say, I married up! And I definitely got the better of the deal.

*Felicia Carter, singer, composer and lyricist
It was August of 1999. Baltimore was in a severe drought— it hadn’t rained in nearly a month. My boyfriend, Tom, planned a picnic for us at one of our favorite spots, the hilltop lawn of Fort McHenry near the statue of Orpheus. Before we left the house, a storm began to brew, and broke open. Normally a very ‘cool-headed’ person, Tom seemed crestfallen and agitated. We decided to make the best of it, and have our picnic on the living room coffee table, celebrating the rain. A true ‘wine geek,’ Tom excitedly opened a bottle of Hugel Pinot Blanc Les Amours. He toasted to our love, then on one knee asked me to be his wife. I was taken aback and in my surprise asked, ‘Are you kidding?!’ After a moment of dead silence, he said hesitatingly, ‘That’s not the answer I was hoping for.’ ‘Yes! Of course!’ I stammered. We laughed, and we still laugh about it today.

*Valerie Tracy, art teacher

‘Our’ song is the ‘First Day of My Life’ by Bright Eyes and this past Nov. 11 the group was playing in D.C., on a Sunday night. Phil Eisenbeiss, an artist and my husband-to-be, got tickets to this performance and he insisted I take the next day off so we could get a nice hotel and spend the night. He suggested we check out the National Arboretum for a little sightseeing beforehand, a great idea since all the trees were changing colors. We arrived at the Arboretum and Phil kept pushing to go down to the Asian collection by the river. Along the way he was super concerned about the people around us— little did I know he was looking for the right spot. Everywhere we went there were so many people. Finally, in front of a breathtaking verbena bush, with no one around, Phil got down on one knee and said some of the kindest words I have ever heard. He asked me to be his wife. I was really touched and with honor I said, ‘Yes.’ He had champagne and a beautiful floral arrangement waiting at the hotel. We went to a great Thai restaurant for dinner and got to see our band play our song. He thought of everything.It was perfect.

*Kelly Horvath, development editor, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
In 2004, I was living in Philadelphia and dating Mike, an old friend of my sister’s, who lived in Baltimore. We saw each other every weekend— either he drove to Philly or I drove to Baltimore. After about eight months of this trying lifestyle, I impulsively resigned my position one Friday morning. My bosses offered me all sorts of incentives to stay. I told them I needed the weekend to think it over. That night, I headed down I-95 to Mike’s house and arrived close to midnight. As I sat at the kitchen island, I told him that I had attempted to quit my job and would try to make it freelancing, but my bosses were trying to convince me to stay. Meanwhile, Mike had thrown a frozen sausage pizza in the oven and was lighting candles. He listened to me sympathetically and helped me weigh my options. Then, he popped open a bottle of Dom Perignon. I should have realized that something was afoot at that point, but he said he bought the champagne with his recent winnings in Atlantic City. We had successfully ‘doubled down’ there two weeks before. Next, Mike laid a poster board in front of me on which he had drawn a Jumble [like the word games in the newspaper] for me to solve. By the time I pieced together that the laughing couple depicted on it were clues to ‘Will you ‘merry’ me?’ Mike was kneeling in front of me with a diamond ring. I returned to Philadelphia the following Monday, made my resignation final and moved to Baltimore. This past October we celebrated our second wedding anniversary.

*Edie Brown, public relations maven
Ours is not the most romantic story. We began dating in December— Stan was graduating from dental school the following June. I had graduated from college and was working in an executive training program for Hutzler Bros. In February, we went out to a late dinner and were sitting in my parents’ living room. Stan said, ‘I guess we should get married. What do you think?’ I remember jumping up and screaming, ‘Does this mean we are engaged?’ He said, ‘I guess so.’ I ran back to my parents’ room and screamed, ‘I’m engaged!’ Stan still teases me to this day that all I wanted to do was to get engaged. I had no big ring to flash around— it was dental equipment or a diamond. Of course the dental drills do have diamond tips. He said that my teeth and eyes were the only jewels I ever needed. That lasted for a while but not forever. I did get a diamond for our fifth anniversary and a diamond wedding band for our 25th. After all, a diamond is a girl’s best friend.

*Connie Yingling, public relations coordinator, Maryland Office of Tourism Development
I met my husband at a red light on Route 40 and St. John’s Lane in Ellicott City. He had a bright red Chevelle and I was checking out his car, but he was checking out me! Of course, I lied to my parents about how we met. Instead I said it was at a local 7-Eleven parking lot when I stopped for a Slurpee. We dated for five months before he asked me to marry him, and since Jack is a low-key kind of guy, he asked me one day and we went shopping for a ring at the Columbia Mall the next. My proposal wasn’t very creative, but, on the other hand, my sister Teri was proposed to by her husband, Billy, on the beach at Ocean City. He made arrangements for one of the message planes to fly by with a banner asking her to marry him, then once she read the banner, he got down on one knee and presented the ring to her. 

*Deborah Bedwell, executive director of Baltimore Clayworks
In 1979, I met my soul mate, Richard Hill. I was a newly divorced mother of a 4-year-old boy, trying to lift off my nonprofit, Baltimore Clayworks. Rich was a divorced, hard-working, full-time father of a 7-year-old boy and an unprincipled Sheltie dog. We moved in together and all those boys and dogs got along famously. The years rolled by, and the boys grew up best friends and confidants. As they moved into their 20s, the boys found girls and declared their intentions to marry them. About that time, the boys came to us and said ‘OK you two. You’ve taught us about commitment and love. Now what about you?’ ‘Us?’ we responded, completely surprised. ‘You mean tie the knot?’ ‘If we can, so can you,’ one said. 

So one weekend shortly thereafter on a getaway to Rehoboth, we looked at each other and said, ‘What are we going to do about this? Are we sure we’re the ones?’ Feeling as certain as any boomers can be, we agreed that we were the ones, and made plans to marry at our big extended family’s annual beach vacation. The boys were charged with keeping our plans secret and designing the ceremony. The night before the wedding we slipped out to the local Food Lion to buy the reception luncheon delicacies. After midnight, we slid wedding invitations under the bedroom doors of my aging fragile parents, three siblings and all of their children— 21 in all. Lots of surprised, delighted relatives assembled on the pier the next morning at 11. The ceremony was fabulous. Vincent, Richard’s son, talked about what a wonderful friend and stepmother I had been. Ted, my own little darling, now 6-feet-2 and a recently married man, talked about Rich and his gentle and nurturing parenting. There were no dry eyes. From rings to reception, the bill came to $300, and we were as married as anyone. We continue to live happily ever after.

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