Engagement Sunset

We got engaged on April 24, 2009 at the Cave B Inn in Eastern Washington.  Ben, not surprisingly, had a crazy over the top plan to sweep Alexa off her feet.  It all started a few months prior, when we started looking at engagement rings.  Yes, we had discussed this whole “marriage thing” before the actual proposal.  Actually, Alexa suggested going ring shopping because she feared Ben would never get around to breaching the topic anytime this decade :)

Anyway, we browsed around for a while at a few fine jewelry establishments, and eventually decided that we wanted to custom design Alexa’s ring.  We went to EE Robbins based on their awesome reputation in the Seattle area.  And they were great!  Soon, we had a laser-carved wax mold of the ring, and all Ben had to do was pick out a center diamond and approve production.  And he did, two days after we went in for Alexa to try on the mold (which she accidentally broke…  Thank goodness they’re easily replaced!)  But he didn’t tell Alexa that.  Instead, he gave her some schpiel about being busy at work and not having time to make the appointment and go diamond shopping….  He figured that since they’d designed the ring together, he had to pull the wool over her eyes a little to make the actual proposal a surprise.  So for a couple weeks, Ben would look sheepish every time the subject came up.  Good thing he learned to act in those school plays in the 5th grade…

Three weeks later, Ben’s XBox broke and he promptly replaced it, only to hear endless grief from Alexa that he had time to buy a new XBox but not a diamond ring!  Ooops… “But the XBox was at the company store and I didn’t have to make an appointment…”  Right…

Custom rings take about six weeks to make, so Ben planned out the proposal for about eight weeks after he ordered the ring.  Knowing that Alexa knew about the six week lead time, Ben set the stage.  A week before the proposal, he made sure Kristin overheard him tell Mike that he’d finally ordered the ring (this had been prearranged over dinner the week before).  Kristin pretty much immediately passed this info on to Alexa, and she now knew that the engagement was at least six weeks away.

Engagement Ring in RoseThe following Friday, Alexa and Ben had lunch plans.  Claiming a slow work day, Ben picked Alexa up from work and they went to one of their favorite lunch places near Alexa’s work, Teddy’s Bigger Burgers. It was a satisfying lunch, but near the end, Alexa mentioned that she planned to look at wedding dresses when she visited Becky in San Diego the following weekend.  Hoping to distract her from any thoughts of marriage/engagement/wedding, Ben tried to dismiss this idea, much to the chagrin of Alexa.  They left lunch with her a bit peeved.  You might say this was mean, but as it turns out, it set the stage even more!

Ben started to take the slightly irritated Alexa back to work, and “accidentally” got on the highway going the wrong way.  Alexa, thinking she needed to be back at work, informed Ben of his error.   But “I just want to show you one quick thing first,” he said.  Since Alexa’s employer had recently done their sixth round of layoffs, she was not keen on returning late from lunch.  “I have to go back!  They’re expecting me back!” she exclaimed!  “Actually, they’re not…” was Ben’s reply.  See, Ben had called Alexa’s boss earlier in the week to clear her afternoon absence through all the official channels.  At this point, Ben used his prepared excuse that Alexa had been stressed at work lately, and she’d always wanted him to plan a surprise weekend away, so he finally had.  He’d even packed a bag for her!

Despite repeated inquiries, Ben refused to divulge the weekend’s destination to Alexa.  As we got onto I-90 headed East, though, Alexa knew there were only a few options.  She knew that Ben, not having grown up in the area, only knew of a few potential getaway locations on the Eastern side of Washington.  As we crossed Snoqualmie Pass, she knew the options were dwindling and she began to think it just might be Cave B Inn, which she had always wanted to visit.  (On a side note – Alexa had initially mentioned this place to Ben about six months prior, and he’d taken note.  Then, about a month before the engagement day, she mentioned it again, and Ben claimed to have no clue what she was talking about, just to throw her off the trail even more.)

Alexa and Ben Engagement Kiss

Throughout the drive, Alexa had been clutching her purse in her lap, asking “Where are we going?”, “Can I at least tell my parents that we’re going somewhere?”, etc.  Turns out she was a little bit nervous and sort of suspected something was up, but she didn’t want to admit it in case this was actually just a nice, surprise getaway weekend.  She did call her parents to let them know she was on a mystery trip, and upon hanging up, her mom immediately said to her dad, “They’re getting engaged!”  At least one Pennak figured out for sure what was going on :)

When we arrived at Cave B, Alexa was ecstatic!  Ben had remembered!  Now, Cave B is special because instead of having a big inn or hotel, they have lots of separate cliffhouses, each dotted along the cliffside overlooking the Columbia River gorge.  We had a cliffhouse on the very end, nice and private and away from everything.  We got checked in and relaxed in the room for a few, all excited to be on our getaway weekend.  And then Ben announced that we had somewhere to be.

Off we headed to a couples massage at the spa in the middle of the associated vineyard.  Somehow, despite knowing he was about to ask the biggest question of his life, Ben fell asleep during the massage, and even snored!  Alexa, meanwhile, had her mind racing, “Am I getting engaged? What’s with this amazing weekend? Is he going to propose? But the ring isn’t ready….  Why is he snoring?!?!”  After the massage, we headed to our respective shower rooms, where Alexa found a brand new dress and pair of shoes waiting for her.  To be honest, at first she thought someone had left their clothes lying around, until she noticed the hand-calligraphied “Alexa” tags that Ben had made.  Alexa emerged from the shower room in her new dress, glowing, and we strolled through the vineyard back to our cliffhouse.  (By the way, the dress is the one she’s wearing in all these pictures.)

As we approached the door, Alexa said “I just keep thinking all these things!”, and Ben responded, “What kind of things?” with a small smile as he opened the door to the house.  As she walked in, Alexa sniffed for a second and said, “It smells like candles… Oh! There are a LOT of candles!”  While we were at our massage, the very nice Innkeeper had covered the room in 100 candles, and spread rose petals all around, including drawing a bubble bath with rose petals floating on top of the bubbles.

Engagement-79-EditIn the center of the main room in the little house was a small table, adorned with candles and a bottle of the Cave B equivalent of Champagne (called Blanc de Blanc) on ice.  Next to that was a plate of chocolate covered strawberries with a single long-stemmed rose on top.  Leaning against the plate was a small envelope with a game of hangman on the back.  So as Alexa said “There are a LOT of candles!” she noticed the elaborate setup and then noticed the envelope.  Now, her voice wavering, she said, “And hangman…”, instantly knowing what this meant.

About eight months into dating, Alexa had first told Ben “I Love You” in a game of hangman during a plane flight home from their first trip to Vegas together (EJKVT #3).  She figured she had a captive audience with nowhere for him to run :)  But sure enough, he loved her, too (though he fumbled to say it properly at the time), and they survived their first trip together.

But back to our engagement story… As Alexa saw the hangman game, she immediately knew this was it!  Ben had brought a special fountain pen (yes, a real fountain pen) to write out the answer, and she began to easily solve the puzzle.  Shaking a little with tears of excitement running, Alexa played the game:  “A… L… E… X… W… I… Y… Should I miss one just to make it fun? P!”  Ben: “No, there’s no P!”  Alexa: “H?”  Ben: “No H… :)”  She then quickly finished, revealing “Alexa, Will You Marry Me?” as the answer.  At this point Ben got down on one knee and said it properly, out loud, and she said “Yes, of course!”  We kissed, and Ben tried as hard as he could to take the ring out of his pocket.  But it wouldn’t come out!  It was in this fancy velvet bag that EE Robbins had provided, which turns out to have a secret inner pocket that the ring had slipped into.  So like a nerd, Ben had to stand up, pull out the bag and fumble about until he figured out the trick pocket.  But Alexa didn’t seem to care, and she squeaked (yes, squeaked!) with delight as Ben placed the ring on her finger.

Alexa and Ben After DinnerAnd that’s the exciting part :)  Shortly after, we took a few photos of us standing on our little porch, looking out to the sunset over the gorge.  (Ask Alexa sometime about how Ben knew the exact sunset time and bought a tripod just to take this photo…)  We then opened the champagne, munched on some appetizers Ben had pre-arranged to arrive shortly after the proposal, and called our parents to tell them the good news!  Then there was an amazing dinner at the restaurant at the Inn’s central building.  A couple sitting next to us even bought us a bottle of wine when they realized we’d just gotten engaged :)

The following day, we drove back to Seattle and arrived at an evening get-together at Fado that Mike had arranged for us to announce our engagement to all our friends.  Alexa carefully hid her left hand until everyone was sitting at the table, and then took a big left-handed sip of her beer.  Anthony immediately noticed the sparkle from the ring and shouted, “What!?!?! Ooooohhhhh! Ohhhhhhh! Congratulations!”  And that started a great night of celebration!

Alexa calls this whole weekend the scam of the century because Ben was able to surprise her so well!  We could go on and on about how happy we are to be engaged, but we’ve already blabbed on for far too long, so we’ll simply say we’re very excited to get married!  See you all in May! :)