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5:34 AM Wed, Sept. 19th

Popping the Question: What to expect when you're proposing (or being proposed to)

You might expect people in the wedding business to tire of proposal stories after a few years, let alone decades. After all, how many ways can someone pop the question?

"You'd be surprised. Over the years I've enjoyed asking (about proposals), and answers vary across the board," said Hazel Bowman, publisher of prescottweddings.com and the woman behind Sunday's 2012 Bridal Affaire at Prescott's Hassayampa Inn, 122 E. Gurley St.

In her nearly three decades of work in the field, Bowman's heard about childhood friends who became lifelong lovers, love-at-first-sight strangers who tied the knot within weeks of meeting, and everything in between.

"Some people just knew it when they met and, as their relationship grew, they just planned a wedding without a formal proposal," Bowman said.

Sometimes proposals are planned in meticulous detail, others are fateful flights of fancy, and, occasionally, they start out in one camp but fall into the other.

"To me, and a lot of women, I think, the proposal can be as meaningful as the (wedding) vows," said Shari Camp, manager of Prescott Valley's Elegant Brides and Evening Wear.

"There are just so many romantic stories," said Camp, who's been in the business about 14 years.

She's heard a lot of setups, and one of her favorites involves a row of Hershey Kisses.

"She follows a whole trail of them into the bathroom, and hanging from the shower head are a dozen red roses," Camp said. "And there's a note, 'I kiss the ground you walk on and shower you with roses. Will you be my bride?' I thought that was really cute."

Over the past 22 years, photographer Jay Grover, of Prescott's A Portrait Park by J, has fielded a lot of requests for pictures at proposal sites.

"A lot of it's outdoors here, places out in the woods, the aspen grove on Copper Basin, Watson Lake, Goldwater Lake, places like that," Grover said. "I think a lot of guys pop the question out on a picnic."

He's also been privy to a firefighter's engagement via a ladder to the second story of The Palace in downtown Prescott.

It probably goes without saying, Grover remarked, but "that one was very unusual."

Memories and considerations

Bowman suspected something when her then-boyfriend, Howard, took her to a fancy restaurant in Huntington Beach, Calif.

"It was this beautiful romantic dinner overlooking the Pacific Ocean, which was not typical of our dating relationship," she said with a laugh. "That tipped me off."

Bowman often hears betrothal stories with accounts of minutia.

"I hear from people that can remember what they were eating at time," she said. "I couldn't even tell you what I was wearing. I envy people whose memories go back that far."

The Bowmans have been married 32 years.

Camp thought she was headed out to dinner when her then-boyfriend, Wayne, stopped her outside the front door.

"We didn't it make it out of the yard," she said. "He dropped to his knees, and that's a very, very special thing. I was shocked."

They both had children from previous relationships - quite a few, in truth, with nearly a dozen between them - so, eventually, they ran off and eloped.

"We were a little bit older and didn't want to plan around all of that," Camp said.

The Camps have been married about four years.

Grover couldn't decide how he wanted to propose to his then-girlfriend, Terilyn, but he finally stopped planning and went for it.

"We'd just shot a wedding and had been through a pretty long day," he said. "So I pulled this funky ring box that looked like a rose out of my sleeve, and she's just staring at it."

A rose is a rose is a rose - except in this case.

"It took me a second to open it and explain," he said. "It was Dec. 10, at Murphy's, and after that we got our picture taken with Santa Claus."

The Grovers have been married 11 years.

A final thought

When considering a proposal, there are myriad variables. But first, there's a fundamental question to ask, and answer, Bowman said.

"The most important thing you have to ask yourself is, 'Is this the person you want to spend the rest of your life with?'" she said. "All the rest, the details, are secondary."

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