First, thanks to all who had given me feedback over the last couple months about my wedding proposal plan this past weekend - incredibly, the complicated plan worked to perfection and she was blown away.
In appreciation for your comments and to anyone else planning to propose in the future, here's everything I can think of related to my proposal planning - hope it helps someone else out there and sorry if it is so long. Here a summary of what I did, then specifics about different elements of the plan.
Summary of my plan:
- I surprised my girlfriend the day we were leaving, while she thought we were driving a couple hours to see my family for the weekend, we took a cab to JFK. Only at gate check-in did she realize we were going to Paris. We arrived to Paris on the red-eye and, while waiting for our room to be ready, we took a walk around the area we were staying (6th Arron). Crossing from the Louvre over the Seine on the Pont des Arts, we stopped to listen to a couple musicians playing. I asked if they happened to know the song "She's Got a Way" by Billy Joel. They started playing and I started serenading my girlfriend on the bridge. At the end of the song, a girl tapped my girlfriend on the shoulder and gave her a dozen red roses. That's when my girlfriend started to think maybe that this was all planned in some way. When she turned back around to ask me, I was on a knee with the ring out. She burst into tears, as did most of the women around us, who had gathered. After some explanations, introductions and more tears, we went back to our hotel (short walking distance), where I had a bottle of champagne waiting, along with a dress she had seen in a shop window in NYC and commented that she liked. We had a very romantic dinner that evening at Jacques Cagna and spent the rest of the weekend on a cloud. Best part is I had the entire thing video-taped candid camera style, so we've got the memories to share with family and friends and look back upon for years to come.
- Time of Year. End of October was perfect, weather couldn't have been better. There was a chance of rain forecasted, so we had a backup location set, but it was not necessary.
- Location to propose. I first thought of doing it in a restaurant or jazz club, but realized outside was better for us, which it turned out to be. I wanted to do it as close to our arrival time as possible, so we could enjoy the weekend engaged. 2 pm worked perfectly, but make sure your hotel will allow you an early check-in, or at least for the room to be ready for your return (our hotel's check-in was 3pm, but they made the exception.). I thought of the Eiffel Tower or other locations that were suggested, but the Pont des Arts was perfect for us - its a walking bridge (as opposed to the Pont Neuf or others that have cars) and it was very close to our hotel, as well as the fact that it is normal to have musicians playing there. From this moment forward, that bridge will always have special memories for us (and we bought water-colored drawings of it after the fact from the local artists along the streets). I think some of the beautiful gardens would have worked too, but probably would have made her suspicious to have musicians there. Frankly, the Eiffel Tower was too cheesy for us (even though this plan was pretty cheesy as it was). Our backup plan in case of rain were the arches across the street from the Pont des Arts, leading into the Louvre.
- Keeping it a surprise. One of the hardest parts of the plan, luckily my family helped out by going along with the idea we were visiting that weekend and her family acted surprised when she called them from the airport, once she learned we were going to Paris. I also needed to get her passport in advance and make sure it was current, which it was. As far as packing, New England and Paris have similar weather this time of year, so we were lucky (with that part, I figured we'd buy anything we might have forgotten while we were in Paris.)
- Musicians. It was not easy to find an accordian player or any other Street Performers online (esp with my limited French), but Craig's List Paris worked great, as most of the users seem to be Americans living there. They didn't even want payment (except for me to bring Pizza ingredients from the US, which they miss!). I did contact a concierge service, but they were first unresponsive then wanted a sizable fee to help.
- Hotel. We stayed at L-hotel (www.l-hotel.com) and it was perfect, ideal location, very accomodating staff and the rooms are so special, esp the underground spa. We stayed in room 10, although small was the best value at 250 Euro. The only place else I thought of as an alternative was the Hotel Relais Christine, but it was more expensive when I looked. The champagne was also a nice touch - we went with a great bottle of Veuve Cliquot, which was nice to have on ice when we returned.
- Restaurant. This was a challenge, since unbelievably, many high-end restaurants in Paris are closed on the weekends (which I still don't get). Anyway, we went to Jacque Cagna, which was very romantic and reasonably priced relative to its quality (90 euro Chef's tasting menu). The service was just OK for the occassion, but good overall (I asked multiple times in advance for a good table or a special dessert - but did not get much help on that). I would do it there again or somewhere else of the same quality and that is open on the weekends. I did think of doing a top level brasserie, but on second thought, the ability to talk quietly was very nice. www.bestrestaurantsparis.com would be a service I'd use again, as Ness is very nice and responsive (although I ended up booking directly on the Cagna website).
- Camcorder. This was the most tricky to pull off, but the most worth it, as having this captured has made it that much more special for us to cherish. I was lucky that the guitarist's girlfriend was able to come by to pick up the camera beforehand and station herself out of view. I used a wireless mic, but looking back, as long as the camera person can get close by and out of sight from my girlfriend, we could have used the mic on the camera and it would have sounded fine.
That's about all I can think of - thanks again to all of you and I've shared all of your responses with my now-fiance and she loves it!
This site is great!