Last week on How I Met Your Mother, Barney revealed the last page of “The Playbook” as his final, grand gesture as a single man: his proposal to Robin. The Last Page of the Playbook represented a transition, a closing of one part of life and a segue to something bigger and better. 2 months ago I took a similar leap of faith with my now-fiancee. This is my Last Page of the Playbook.
Our story begins at the Yule Ball at Villanova University in December 2006. Anne and her friends decided to dress up to go dancing, my friends and I were just there to mooch cheesecake and to see a buddy of ours stuck running the event. After begrudgingly agreeing to dance (I am the quintessential white guy when it comes to dancing: no rhythm or control of my arms and legs) we walked the girls back to their dorms and said goodnight. For the next 3.5 years, Villanova served as our home base and provided us many of the formative memories from our early relationship. So, when it came time to pop the question, it was a no-brainer where it was all going to go down.
The tricky part about proposing at Villanova, just outside Philadelphia, is that we currently live 800 miles south in Atlanta. For this to stay a surprise, there had to be a pretense for getting us there. It didn’t take long to find that pretense: Homecoming Weekend.
Anne and I hadn’t been back to Homecoming since she graduated in 2010. We have tons of friends that still live in the area and even more planning to come in for Homecoming. It was the perfect pretense for getting us to Philadelphia without raising suspicion, but there was still the problem of when I was going to actually propose. I wanted to do something personal, something just for us, and that had to be before the weekend or else someone definitely would have let the cat out of the bag. Plus, we wanted to celebrate and (most notably) I’m incredibly impatient.
We flew up on October 25th (which coincidentally also happens to be my grandfather’s birthday, my aunt’s birthday, and our good friends’ anniversary), ring hidden in the bottom of my carry on, for what I told Anne was an Alumni Dinner organized by my fraternity. I’ve stayed involved with the Alumni Association over the years so this didn’t send up any red flags. We were, however, asked by one of the airport pilots in a casual conversation if we were flying up to Philadelphia to get married. I’ll say for a second there, this thought flashed through my mind:
After a series of planes, trains, automobiles, and sidewalk-less walking, we arrived at the hotel in the mid-afternoon and took a nap to kill some time. I was keeping the nerves under control but there was no way in Hell I was going to fall asleep 3 hours before liftoff. So I laid there staring at my watch and sending text messages to stay busy until it was time to get ready.
As we’re heading out the door, Anne criticizes my choice to bring my sport coat because, according to her, “it looks ridiculous!” What she didn’t realize is that the box with her ring was so big it wouldn’t fit in my pocket, so I needed the jacket to shroud the ring for another 20 minutes. Needless to say I won the sport coat argument and we shipped out.
We get to campus and cab drops us off. We’re walking through campus “on our way to the dinner” and I can finally start to relax. The surprise was preserved and the timing was perfect. I dropped down to one knee outside Anne’s sophomore dorm and asked her to spend the rest of her life with me. Once the shock wore off and she remembered to say yes, I slid the ring onto her finger and breathed the biggest sigh of relief of my entire life.
Once she said yes, it was time for the real fun to begin. For the months leading up to Homecoming I had been coordinating an elaborate plan for our evening and it was just about time for curtains up. I took a notecard out of my pocket that I’d written the first step of a little scavenger hunt to serve as our guided tour through the history of Brett & Anne. It began:
Just minutes ago, you’ve agreed to be mine.
To have and to hold from now through all time.
You’ve been patient and vibrant, hard-working and caring
For the love that I have there is just no comparing.
Tonight we embark on the rest of our lives
But we’ll always remember where this love derives.
Right now we are standing at St. Rita’s Hall
We skipped tons of class and your TV was small
Now here on this Thursday in good ol’ PA
We’re back where we started, way back in the day
So I ask that you join me and remember again
Just how far we’ve come since we met way back then.
Now the best way to truly appreciate this
Is more than a smile, a hug or a kiss
We’ll need to get moving we’ve got plenty to see
Our journey begins just around that next tree.
Now, I had planned every facet of the night so it would be as special as possible. However, I’ll never forget the last advice I got from TJ, my best man to be, before I left and that was to prepare myself for things not to go exactly according to plan. I was mentally prepared but didn’t want to think about what might happen outside the realm of my admittedly overboard planning. But what happened when “our journey began just around that next tree” was beyond anything I could have imagined…except in the very best of ways. I knew I had a limo waiting to take us around the city to the major milestones of our relationship. What I didn’t know was that the limo had attracted some attention and our driver was getting questions about what the limo was there for…
Anne and I turned the corner and behind the white stretch limo were 20-30 Villanova undergrads standing on the steps of one of the buildings. Our driver, Bill, had told them there was a proposal happening and as soon as they realized it was us they broke into cheers. We didn’t know any of them personally but it solidified why Villanova was the perfect environment for us to have the special day.
We hopped in the limo and Anne called her folks to tell them the news. I had asked her folks for their blessing in late July and gave them the near-impossible task of keeping the secret for nearly 3 months. They performed admirably. 🙂
Before we progressed to our next clue I had another surprise waiting in the limo. Through some thinly disguised emails to my good friend Kurtz titled “Operation Frodo’s Journey”, we had coordinated a care package that he dropped off with the limo before we arrived. It included champagne, roses, and a package I had mailed up from Atlanta 2 weeks prior. The package included:
- The remaining scavenger hunt clues
- Athletic tape in case I got the ring size wrong (in case anyone was wondering…of course I did get it wrong)
- A mix CD (that’s right, a mix CD!) with some of our favorite songs. If you’re interested in the songs, a list is here but don’t expect all gooey romantic tracks…that’s not how we roll!
- Trail mix. Yes, I recognize this is probably an extremely bizarre thing to include in a proposal care package. However, I know how Anne handles (or, frankly, doesn’t handle) being hungry and I wasn’t leaving anything to chance
- An info packet for the evening, with
- Itinerary for our Homecoming festivities
- Reviews for the restaurant we’d be eating at
- The process for getting married in the Villanova Church (we really wanted the Church!)
- A list of funny stories about the proposal planning that I (obviously) hadn’t been able to share
The last item in the care package was a photo of the third member of our little family. Braveheart, our lunatic dog, wanted to give his blessing as well (many thanks to Rob McCauley for helping me clean up the photo):
So we popped the champagne and pursued our scavenger hunt clues. We stopped at Anne’s freshmen dorm, where the foundation of our relationship was built. We visited the restaurant from our first date, which upsettingly has since removed the hibachi tables that made it so popular in the first place. We moved on to some of the apartments that we had lived in and ended at the District Courthouse, Anne’s first foray into her legal career that brought us down to Atlanta for law school. Of course, we made sure to snap some photos along the way…
We had some time to kill so we planned in some time for drinks at the XIX in the Bellevue Hotel, a rooftop bar in downtown Philly. We sat in lounge chairs sipping Old Fashioned’s in front of the fire until it was time to head to Bibou, personally recommended by a foodie friend of ours as one of the best French restaurants in the city. The food was fantastic, the staff was very personable and the chef comes out to meet every person who dines there to make sure they enjoyed their meal. The food itself was fantastic and the atmosphere was perfect. We headed out and back to the hotel, where I’d asked the manager to leave a vase for the roses and a box of Ferrero Rochers I’d picked up in the room for our return. We crawled into bed and fell asleep quickly and easily. The previous chapter of our lives had officially closed.
And we’re ready for the next one!
Welcome! My name is Brett Snyder and I am the owner of Knucklepuck, a digital marketing agency based outside Washington D.C.
When I'm not studying and practicing SEO, you can find me hanging out with our dogs Lemon and Hippo, going to concerts, catching up with friends, exploring new hobbies, or spending time with my son Colin.