Welcome to the Newsletter Series. Ivy and I co-write a periodic newsletter. This piece is adapted from an edition of it, dated when the newsletter came out.
This is the timeline and story of how we got engaged. It’s written in third person to capture both sides’ points of views as they happened.
Ivy and Owen check out rings for fun while wandering through Sydney. Ivy finds one she likes at Tiffany’s and the price tag has Owen shook.
Owen orders the ring online, where it’s literally half the price (protip). He gets it shipped to his friend Tommy’s place and starts discussing a plan with Ivy’s best friends Yifan and Yiti (henceforth Y&Y) for how a proposal would go down. From previous discussions, Owen knew that Ivy’s ideal proposal would be private, have a scenic view, her friends would be there, and it’d be a surprise. They were already planning a girls’ trip to Croatia sans Owen, so that would be an opportune occasion for meeting the requirements.
The ring arrives at Tommy’s place. He excitedly goes to share the news, but accidentally began to do so in the wrong chat…one with Ivy in it! With quick improvisation he avoided a disaster.
Ivy discovers the group messenger chat between Owen and her best friends, with code names “Joe Wang” and “Joe Zhou” — very indiscreet. Owen had been careful to delete the messages, but it turns out he forgot a few, which left a bit of incriminating evidence. The only thing Ivy could decipher was that Y&Y offered to leave Croatia earlier so that Ivy could spend time there with Owen alone.
Frantically brainstorming with his friends, Owen came up with a plausible alibi. He’d never been to Croatia so he wanted to go as well and surprise Ivy in the process. He abandoned that plan because his friend Jamie was now visiting him! Ivy seemed to believe this and was thrown off the tracks. She told Owen that she didn’t want him to crash her girls trip (he was forgiven for doing so after the proposal). Owen then proceeded to create a Yahoo email for all future communications, something Ivy would be unlikely to ever discover.
Ivy gets her phone stolen, so she would now share Owen’s phone for the remaining weeks leading up to the proposal. Traveling together, they were already with each other 24/7. Now this meant they were sharing the same apps and switching between accounts, and often for convenience she’d just message her friends through Owen’s accounts. This made Owen extra nervous about communications and notifications coming in as Ivy was always on his phone. He deleted apps that had any traces (Airbnb, Yahoo Mail) and became very careful with logging out and using incognito mode. Finally, the use case Google thinks people use incognito for — planning surprises. 🙄
The day before Owen and Ivy go their separate ways, Ivy links Owen the flight he should book from Austria to Greece to meet back up with her. She demands he book it on the spot with her watching so he doesn’t forget. Not actually needing the flight, at the last step of checkout he says “Stop hovering! Give me my space!!” then runs away and cancels the booking.
Owen leaves Singapore for Vienna, Austria in the morning.
Ivy is stuck by herself with no phone (stolen), a half working laptop (broken keyboard), no debit card or drivers license (expired). She flies to Dubrovnik, Croatia later that night.
Yiti messages Ivy that she got her nails done for the vacation and pressures Ivy to get her nails done too. Ivy just had a finger infection and refused.
Owen meets up with Jamie in Vienna! He explains the setup plan to Jamie:
Ivy always wants to stop by fruit tea stalls when she sees them, so we will set one up along their drive up the coast. The girls will stop by it and it’ll be unmanned, so they’ll read the menu while they wait. The menu will contain drinks based on our story, with each item getting progressively more suspect. While they’re reading, I’ll come out of hiding to propose.
Logistics-wise, we either ask someone to borrow their stall or we try and build one ourselves. The location, the time, how we’ll communicate with the girls, the speech I’ll give, the menu items, and how the interaction will go down are all still TBD.
Jamie’s response: “That’s not a plan… that’s just an idea!”
Ivy hangs out by herself in Dubrovnik, binge watching TV.
Owen and Jamie (henceforth O&J) explore the tourist town of Hallstatt, making sure to send Ivy some photos to prove they’re really in Austria. They decide commandeering someone else’s stall would be hard because of language barrier and logistics. Building one would also be challenging because fitting it in our car and disposal after would be problematic. They scrap the fruit tea stall idea and start brainstorming alternatives that would still be personal, memorable, yet somewhat derpy (that’s Owen’s style).
O&J on their speed tour of Austria go to Salzburg. Turns out just about everything is closed on Sundays (amazing work life balance) so they can’t run the errands they needed to and have trouble even finding fast food to eat. The beer garden is still open and is where everyone seems to be. Good beers were had, then they hopped on an overnight bus to Split, Croatia.
Y&Y show up in Dubrovnik, #familybffretreat begins! At dinner, Ivy goes off about how she wishes Owen would propose already and complained about how she would have to wait until next year once they settle down. She predicts the timing of the proposal based on the time Owen must work to buy the ring. Also, being with Owen 24/7 and sharing a phone, there’s no way a surprise could be planned right now.
Y&Y discuss whether Ivy has caught on to the plan and is playing dumb or if she actually has no idea (it’s the latter). Either way, they decide to go along with it since Ivy seemed okay with getting engaged.
O&J groggily arrive in Split. They pick up their rental car and drive the coast to scout out potential locations for the proposal.
O&J find a nice spot where you park along the coast, walk down a short trail, then you have an open view of the ocean. There’s even an abandoned metal structure there that could be transformed into a fruit tea stall. What a crazy random happenstance! The original plan is back on!
Ivy and Y&Y explore Dubrovnik and take a million photos on the old town walls. She writes captions around how this trip will have no randos (the boyfriends).
O&J explore the very local neighborhoods of Split, from stationery stores to hardware stores. People try to talk to them exclusively in Croatian. Jamie used a branch to estimate the dimensions of the metal structure and brought it to the stores to measure supplies.
While Ivy is in the shower, Yiti tells Yifan to act like she really wants to do her nails so that Ivy would want to do her nails too. After Ivy’s shower, Yiti aggressively paints Ivy’s nails, pulls out her blackheads, and gives her a facemask.
Ivy pays no attention and ruins her nails when she packs. Yiti immediately fixes them.
Ivy tries to FaceTime Owen but he refuses to pick up, saying he’s too tired. In reality he’s surrounded by arts and crafts and he’s not sure if he could keep his alibi straight if they talked about where he’s at / what he did today.
O&J finish construction! There’s various signs to lead the girls to the stall, a banner for the stall’s name, a sign for the table saying we’ll be right back (the clock hands are where we camped at Burning Man last year), and the drink menu (click for higher quality image).
It’s game day! O&J head back to the location to set up. Their makeshift table surface idea doesn’t go as planned, but zipties save the day with making everything magically work.
The girls start driving from Dubrovnik to Split. Ivy sees that both Y&Y keep texting in a Whatsapp group named “Hello”. She questions who that’s with and Yiti responds a friend in Toronto.
Y&Y keep saying how much they want fruit tea and how Yiti would love to support local businesses.
O&J finish setting up and see the girls are close from their shared real time location tracking. They hide behind a rock and Owen is freaked out. 2 minutes before they arrive, he exclaims “Oh crap what am I supposed to do with my hands during the speech!?”
Y&Y go down the path. Ivy is hesitant and doesn’t think the view is there and decides the fruit tea stand looks a bit like a shed (compared to real fruit stands on the road).
Ivy goes down the path only so that she’s not left behind. Y&Y then go to the shade and tell Ivy to read the menu and tell them what to order.
Thinking that they just wanted to stand in the shade and make her stand in the sun, she skims through the first 2 things on the menu and moves towards the shade too. The first item on the menu has mangos, her favorite, so there was no need to read further.
Ivy didn’t notice the cameras rolling. Seeing that there was real fruit on the “table”, she thought maybe the owners of the stand were off getting more water or fruit.
The rest of the proposal is a blackout for both Owen and Ivy. But rewatching the footage, Ivy interrupted Owen many times during his speech.
The first was to throw away the sunglasses in her hand since Owen was holding that instead of her hands.
The second time was to tell Owen to “go on” as he was nervously frozen in place.
The third time was when he still didn’t continue after “go on”, Ivy laughed and said “this is the worst”.
The fourth time was Ivy deciding to take off her hat since it blocked her full view of Owen.
FINALLY. The ring comes out and Ivy’s first reaction was leaning down to inspect the ring and deciding “it’s the one I wanted!”
Then whispering an inaudible “Yes”. All in all, very graceful and unfiltered.
Tears only came out after Ivy calmed down from her shock and read the menu fully. She loved the reminiscing in it and understood the amount of thought and effort it took to actually surprise a control freak like her.
Following, the duo took some photos with the actual view instead of the bush they ended up under, and with the friends who helped make it all happen!
The rest of the trip was spent enjoying the company of friends, visiting Krka and Hvar, and learning that Yiti is brutal & scary.
Since Owen secretly booked the same ticket separately, they sat apart on the flight out of Croatia to Athens. It only really hit Ivy that she was engaged when the person next to her on the flight spotted her ring and asked “Where is your husband?”