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How They Proposed

It was a year unlike any other, as the coronavirus brought most of the world to a standstill in 2020. While the wedding industry suffered …

It was a year unlike any other, as the coronavirus brought most of the world to a standstill in 2020. While the wedding industry suffered immensely, life went on, and people still fell in love, proposed and got married no matter.

There was no shortage of creativity when it came to asking that age-old question, more often than not on bended knee. A New Jersey senator sang his proposal in India, a foreign affairs officer popped the question in Russia and there was a sob story in Central Park.

Here is a selection of a few of our favorite “Will you marry me?” moments we learned about from couples who married in 2020.

During a visit to the Taj Mahal, Senator Bob Menedez began singing a song to Nadine Arslanian. She knew it was the beginning of his proposal.

The Singing Senator Who Found Love at IHOP

One day last month, Senator Bob Menendez made three separate calls to three friends, each of whom was celebrating a birthday.

“I sang “Happy Birthday” to all three of them,” said Mr. Menendez, 67, the former chairman and senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“When it comes to singing,” he said, “I like doing little things like that.”

In May 2019, Mr. Menendez began orchestrating a much bigger number for proposing marriage to his girlfriend, Nadine Arslanian, whom he met five months earlier at an IHOP in Union City, N.J., where Mr. Menendez grew up and was once mayor.

“Bob told me that I will know when I’m being proposed to because of a certain song he will sing when the time comes,” said Ms. Arslanian, 53, who was born in Lebanon of Armenian descent.

“When I tried asking more questions about the song, he started joking and said, ‘Well, if you don’t recognize the song when you hear it, then this wasn’t meant to be.’”

“I was very nervous because Bob is someone who sings all the time,” Ms. Arslanian said. “He sings every morning, every night, and in-between while he smokes his after-dinner cigar.”

She decided to play along, and when the tune was right, she would say yes to the man she had fallen head over flapjacks with in December 2018.

“We were introduced by the owner of the IHOP, and I didn’t know at that time that Bob was a senator,” Ms. Arslanian said. “He was very intelligent and had a great sense of humor, and he was very, very hot.”

Mr. Menendez said he thought she was “beautiful and bright and had such a great personality. There was just this aura about her.”

They were soon traveling the world together, eventually visiting four continents in five months.

Each time Mr. Menendez so much as cleared his throat, whether it be in Puerto Rico, Greece, Turks and Caicos or Colombia, the needle seemed to move that much closer to that special song.

On Oct. 3, 2019 while on a visit to India, Ms. Arslanian was sitting on the Princess Diana bench at the Taj Mahal, when suddenly Mr. Menendez, who had been standing behind her, began singing “Never Enough,“ from the movie “The Greatest Showman.” She began to cry.

“Will you marry me,” he asked.

Through her tears, Ms. Arslanian said yes, and Mr. Menendez promptly swooped in, ring in hand, and with a wide smile said to her, “if you keep crying, I’m not going to be able to put this on your finger.”

They engaged in a long kiss, as most of the people around them, perfect strangers bearing witness began to applaud.

They were married Oct. 3, 2020.

Olivia Hall, left, and Olivia Reaney.Credit…Valory Immel of Valory and Benny Photo and Video.

Olivia: Will You Marry Me? Olivia: Yes!

Dr. Olivia Hall once told Olivia Reaney that she had always wanted to learn how to play violin.

“She surprised me by renting a violin and a studio in Manhattan, where she taught me how to play,” Dr. Hall said. “It was beyond nice, and way beyond thoughtful.”

In June 2017, four months after they met, the couple — both 28 at the time — took their first trip together, to Iceland, where they fell in love.

The possibility of getting engaged could have come on any of their trips that followed in such countries as Indonesia, Hong Kong, Bermuda or Mexico. But Dr. Hall chose to propose in September 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, where it was her turn to surprise Ms. Reaney as they walked across the Capilano Suspension Bridge.

“Rain had been chasing us the whole time,” said Dr. Hall. “When it stopped there were rainbows everywhere — it turned out to be a spectacular day.”

They were married May 14.

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Daniel Bering, left, and Robert Strain.

The Counterproposal

Robert Strain surprised Daniel Bering in March 2019 by proposing in front of a fireplace during a weekend escape to Point Reyes, Calif.

“We had such a great time,” said Mr. Strain. “But since it was my proposal, I think Dan felt like we were no longer on even-footing, like I suddenly had an edge in our relationship, and he had no say.”

Two weeks later, Mr. Bering had his say, proposing at Indian Springs, a hotel in Calistoga, Calif., and putting forth a counterproposal of sorts that put him back on equal footing with Mr. Strain.

“I was humbled and charmed when Rob proposed to me, but I felt that I had to do something to show how I equally respected and adored him,” said Mr. Bering, who sneakily slipped the ring box beneath Mr. Strain’s pillow before they turned in for the evening, only to have to awkwardly pull it out once he was certain that Mr. Strain could not feel it.

“Early in our relationship, we talked a lot about the proposal process,” Mr. Strain said. “We discussed how we could make it more of a shared, even-handed-event, so while I didn’t expect Dan’s proposal, I certainly understood where it was coming from.”

They were married April 4, 2020.

Credit…Jennifer Baciocco Photography

A Wingman? How About Man’s Best Friend?

Michael Pizzato, 41, proposed to Heather Dickinson on a hilltop in Marin County, Calif., during a hike in November 2019. Their yellow lab, Henry, who would later serve as “Dog of Honor” at the couple’s wedding on May 17, 2020, wore the engagement ring on his collar.

Mr. Pizzato turned Henry’s collar around on top of the mountain and asked Ms. Dickinson to look down.

“I shrieked and then I ran away,” Ms. Dickinson, 50, said, laughing. “Michael took the ring off the dog’s collar and got down on one knee. I couldn’t believe what was happening.”

“Michael and I bond over so many things,” she added, “such as our love of cooking, politics, travel and the outdoors.”

And of course, Henry.

They were married May 17.

Credit…William Innes

Getting Engaged After a Friend’s Wedding

Rolake Bamgbose and Justice Whitaker got engaged in May 2019 on a trip to Jamaica, where they had goneto celebrate the wedding of a close friend of Ms. Bamgbose’s family.

“Justice was acting strange from the time he got out of bed that morning,” said Ms. Bamgbose, 38, a Brooklyn-based, two-time Emmy-nominated documentary director and producer.

“He was so happy, and saying things like “I just love Jamaica, what a great, wonderful, beautiful place.”

As Mr. Whitaker was rambling on with glee, Ms. Bamgbose began sensing that something was afoot.

Unaware that Mr. Whitaker, who writes for Sesame Street’s online platforms, had hidden a ring in his suitcase, they were soon on their way to Strawberry Hill, overlooking Kingston to the south and the Blue Mountains of Jamaica to the north. “It was simply beautiful,” Ms. Bamgbose said.

A second beautiful moment occurred later that day, when, on the balcony of their suite, he asked for her hand in marriage. She said “yes.”

They were married Feb. 8.

Credit…Burj Al Arab

Rose Petals Everywhere

Roxann Belle and Gaspar Stinfil became engaged in April 2019 at the Burj Al Arab, a hotel in Dubai. Before the engagement, they had dinner at Al Mahara, an “underwater” seafood restaurant there.

Mr. Stinfil eventually proposed at the venue’s Talise Spa, which he rented for the occasion, decorating the spa with rose petals strewn across the floor and others positioned to form “I Love You.”

“I walk into the spa and there are roses everywhere,” Ms. Belle said. “I turn around and I see Gaspar going into some kind of speech, and I realize what’s happening, yet I don’t know what words are coming out of his mouth because my own mind is spinning, and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, he’s proposing.’”

They were married Oct. 1.

An Engagement With a View

Michael Seringhaus and Anna Kim were engaged in July 2019 at the Korean Friendship Bell, a location in San Pedro, Calif., from a favorite film (“The Usual Suspects”), after which they toured Los Angeles by helicopter — with Mr. Seringhaus, a licensed pilot, flying.

Mr. Seringhaus, 43, a partner in Latham&Watkins, hid the ring that day in a place that he said Ms. Kim would never have looked for it: her handbag.

“I’d been unknowingly walking around with it in there all day,” said Ms. Kim, 36, a San Francisco-based flight attendant for United Airlines.

“I thought we were just killing time at a pretty venue from a favorite film, so I was quite stunned when he got down on one knee.

“In that moment it was all white noise, I just grabbed the ring box right out of his hand and haven’t let go of it since.

They were married Nov. 10.

Credit…Aimee Custis Photography

Planning a Home in a Foreign Land

Victoria Kabak and Chris McGuire were engaged in Geneva, Switzerland in April 2019. Mr. McGuire, a foreign affairs officer, was there for two weeks as part of his work with the State Department, meeting with the Russian government to discuss nuclear arms control, and surprised Ms. Kabak by inviting her to spend some time with him. After meeting with Russian officials, the two went to dinner. They checked their coats and sat down at the table. It was not long before Mr. McGuire realized he had left jewelry in his coat pockets that was intended for Ms. Kabak. He immediately excused himself, saying he needed to use the bathroom, but made a beeline for the coat check room instead. When he returned, Ms. Kabak said that she needed to use the bathroom, and when she returned, wanted to compare notes about how tidy the bathrooms were.

Mr. McGuire quickly changed the subject, and the two were soon walking back to their hotel, when suddenly, he dropped to a knee to propose.

“Just before Chris turned to propose, he started walking very slowly,” said Ms. Kabak. “That kind of told me something was up, and I was happy to hear that he wanted to marry me.”

They were married Nov. 14.

A Different Kind of Promise

Keziah Weir and Daniel Feller got engaged in May 2019 in Central Park. Mr. Feller, 29, had just returned from a ski trip, during which he promised Ms. Weir, also 29, that he would bring her a large pine cone. They took a walk in Central Park on a Friday evening, something they had done regularly since moving to an apartment just north of the park. Along the way, Mr. Feller reached into his pocket for what Ms. Weir thought was the pine cone he had promised, but what he had in mind when he pulled out the engagement ring was a promise of a different kind.

“I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed,” said Ms. Weir — managing to get a “yes” in between sobs — “and later when I saw our parents at a restaurant I sobbed some more.”

They were married June 6.

A Crowd (of Sardines) Watched Her Say Yes

Both Rory Jelinski, 36, and Portia Carryer, 32, have a deep love of the ocean, and they spent their first vacation together at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, Calif. It was especially romantic, then, when Ms. Jelinski arranged an early morning behind-the-scenes tour of the Aquarium for their two-year anniversary. It ended in a proposal under the sardine exhibit.

“Sardines are so cool,” Ms. Jelinski said. “Like me and Portia and so many close families, sardines always swim together.”

They were married Jan. 10.

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