I met my boyfriend in college. Six plus years later, we were still going strong and living in NYC. It was known for many years that my boyfriend’s mother was adamant her three sons marry in order to follow the old Korean tradition, but the second older brother was and still is single.
In January 2006, I suggested a trip to Italy in the fall instead of the usual Caribbean trips we take. Prior to the trip, Joon (my boyfriend) pulled a lot of stunts. He had a serious talk with me about how he can’t propose on the trip until his mother gives us her blessing. He was worried I was expecting a proposal since all our friends anticipated us getting engaged on the trip. I had NO expectations because I know his mother. Since my birthday was during our trip, Joon gave me a pair of the most beautiful diamond studs. He explained that he wanted to go extra big on this birthday because he couldn’t give me the marriage that I deserved right now. He blew me away, and I knew he was worth waiting for. Joon asked me to leave several hours during our stay in Rome up to him for a supplement to my birthday. He didn’t reveal much about my mini birthday surprise, but he did say we were the "white team" and needed to wear all white. Immediately I assumed we were competing in a small ‘Amazing Race’ type competition in Rome probably because I love the show and just went with it in my head. I kept inquiring whether I need to study maps and landmarks, if I need to wear sneakers, etc. I wanted to win badly, and was concerned that we would be at a disadvantage compared to the other teams because I didn’t know anything going in. Joon just let my imagination run.
The day of my surprise, I was told to bring a change of 2 outfits and my bikini. This confused me even more. In the taxi, on our way to the Trevi Fountain which was the designated meeting spot, Joon asked if he could blindfold me using the sleeping eye masks he insisted we buy before our trip for the long flight. He didn’t want me to spot the other teams first and possibly figure out the surprise. I was reluctant to roam the streets of Rome blindfolded, but I gave in.
My blindfolded self held onto Joon tightly while he led me to the fountain as he looked for the organizer. I repeatedly asked if he found anyone, and a minute later he spotted the red team. I insisted we stand by the red team, but he claimed they were looking around aimlessly for the organizer as well. After what seemed like the longest 5-10 minutes, I began to suspect Joon got scammed until he found the organizer. He led me through the crowd and positioned me in a spot. He then said, "Jennifer, this is a real Amazing Race. If you choose, you can be on this amazing race for the rest of our lives. Take the blindfold off." Confused, I took the blindfold off to find him on his knee with a ring in front of the Trevi Fountain asking me to marry him! I was so shocked that I couldn’t talk. Joon had to repeat the question two more times before I nodded my head uncontrollably. He put his thumb up, and the loud cheers from the crowd took over. After we hugged and kissed, I discovered the surprise wasn’t over. He pointed out two photographers in the crowd that he hired to capture the moment, and to follow us around the rest of the day to different landmarks taking candid pictures. We felt like celebrities being followed by the paparazzi. Joon wanted this day to be unforgettable capturing my reaction and the local Italians’ reactions, and that’s exactly what he did!
Putting the pieces together – Joon’s mom gave him the green light months before our trip, we wore white and the photographers wore black in order to spot each other in the crowd, the change of clothes gave me the option to change for the candid pictures (how thoughtful of him), and there never was a competition – my imagination only made it easier for him. He also didn’t forget my birthday the following day, surprising me with a cake at lunch! He is truly the best man ever.
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