“Man, these shoes are hard to walk in” is what I remember thinking of my beautiful nude pumps as I not-so-gracefully strolled down 16th street toward the White House, just as the sun was beginning to set.
Pat had told me to make sure I looked my best—I wasn’t sure if I should be offended or excited that he wanted to show me off to his co-workers. I was meeting many of them for the first time at a press office party. And while I was happy with the ensemble I put together (which my co-workers dutifully and excitedly chose for me)—elegant and fitted—my feet weren’t thrilled.
Pat, working for the administration as a press assistant, had rushed out of the apartment an hour earlier as soon as I had arrived in on the train from Philly, called into work to do last-minute press clearance for the Easter Egg Roll that weekend. I was nervous about having to enter the party by myself, but Pat promised he’d meet me at the security gate.
But when I arrived, it was his co-worker who ushered me through. I found it a bit odd, but didn’t dwell on it once we got to talking. Dressed in a suit, she told me she hadn’t had time to change for the party—another detail that I quickly dismissed. Once we got inside, however, she turned to me and said, “I’ll need your badge, your purse, and your jacket.”
Totally bewildered, I stood there unmoving. She took the items out of my hand and nudged me into a hallway. I looked to my left, and there was Pat, looking ultra handsome in his navy suit and pink button-down, wearing a big, beautiful smile, and standing in the middle of the iconic White House Colonnade. That’s when it hit me, and I froze and started shaking.
Pat came and grabbed my hand and started walking me into the center of the Rose Garden—the Rose Garden! I remember him saying, “I’ve wanted to do this since grade school …”
And I don’t remember anything he said after! I didn’t even remember him getting down on one knee! And I still don’t know if I actually said “yes” out loud. I recall seeing the ring and thinking, “Oh my god, it’s stunning. I can’t believe this is happening.” And when it finally registered, I leaped forward and gave him a huge bear hug, completely elated.
He then walked me down the Colonnade to where his co-workers were waiting, beaming. I remember showing them the ring, and my hand wouldn’t stop shaking. And while I had never met most of them, they seemed so genuinely, unconditionally happy for us.
I later learned that they were integral to planning everything. Of course, an engagement in the White House Rose Garden isn’t just something you can improvise. There was all kinds of coordination and re-works, particularly as the president was in the Oval Office later than expected. And they even thought to ask a photographer at the White House earlier that day to stay into the evening to photograph the engagement, which I am forever thankful given my lapse in memory.
So many people were a part of the puzzle. And as others got word of it, they jumped in to help. Seeing the group of them there—they had stayed late on a Friday night just to help make our engagement outrageously memorable—was so incredibly touching.
We then walked out of the White House, and Pat called for a taxi. He said he had a whole night planned out for us, and I was totally shocked that there was more! I just couldn’t stop admiring the gorgeous, sparkling ring now on my left finger, shaking, smiling, uttering, “I love you” over and over again.
As we headed toward our next destination, I began the inquiry: how long ago had he planned it, how did he decide what he wanted to do, who knew he was proposing. His mom called and said some beautiful things about how happy she was that I was joining the family and how she wished she was there with us to celebrate. I remember thinking, “That would be really nice.”
I thought about dialing everyone on my phone list and began contemplating the all-important first call, but Pat said, “Why don’t you just wait until we get there?” Still shaking and trying to soak it all in, I said, “Sure.”
We arrived at a hotel downtown and as soon as I walked through the glass double doors, I was ambushed by my twin sister, my parents, his parents, my brother—who had flown up from college—and my sister’s boyfriend.
And the floodgates opened; tears started streaming down my face. That’s when I knew it wasn’t a dream—though all of them being there is exactly what I had hoped for and dreamed about. It was the perfect ending: celebrating my engagement to the love of my life, my boyfriend since the 7th grade (Ancillae Assumpta Academy in Wyncote, thank you), with the people that mean the most to me (and on the phone with those who couldn’t make it!).
So that was the incredible start of my whirlwind wedding journey, which will culminate next July 20th at the Four Seasons Philadelphia! I look forward to sharing the journey with all of you. What made me want to do this more than anything is that I’ve quickly learned that planning a wedding is no easy task, and that I’ll need all the help I can get! I would love to have your input.
To kick it off, how did you get engaged? I’d love to hear your stories.