I’m going to document every last detail of this for myself, and well, my mom, because that’s who’s going to read this entire post. Naturally this is the longest blog I’ve ever written in my life. Probably longer than most of all my college papers combined. Here’s the short version if you got places to be:

I thought I knew every detail of Ryan’s proposal. I was completely wrong about every detail of Ryan’s proposal. Saturday night, Ryan took me to an amazing cooking class, In the Kitchen with Chef Bob Waggoner. I thought that was when he’d be proposing. He encouraged this wrong impression, but never lied. We joked for months that he was booking sea lions to bungee jump with me from a hot air balloon and when I landed on the elephant he would propose.Charleston+SC+Chef+Bob+waggoner

I was so sure he was proposing Saturday that by the end of the night he had to gently tell me it wasn’t happening that night. Still a wonderful day, but I was quite disoriented for a minute. I was ready to use the word fiancé!

Instead it was the next day, Sunday, June 3rd, he sent me on an amazing scavenger hunt all around Charleston with clues detailing some of our memorable dates. The last clue led me to Daniel Island, where we had our first date and two months later, where we said “I love you” for the first time during the eclipse. On August 21, 2017, he said “That was the best two minutes of my life because I was with you.” And I knew that was the moment I had been waiting to tell him “I love you.” (He said it back!)

June 3rd, 2018. Ryan met me at Daniel Island Waterfront Park and walked with me down to a tree we had climbed on our first date and on one knee, asked me to marry him with the most jaw dropping ring I’ve ever seen. My friend Shelley was filming, she had helped me find all the clues. Then not one, but two secret photographers popped out of hiding. (Thank you Chris Smith & Peter Finger, and Cami for editing!)  And my babies that I babysat for 10 years and their mom came out of the woods too! It was an amazing day and I just feel so loved. secret engagement photographer

(I’m so exhausted from crying happy tears.)

Here are the clues Ryan put all over Charleston in hot pink glitter envelopes! (He knows me well!) He had been saying all morning, “You are going to be so mad at me.” At noon he hands me an envelope, says BYE! and runs out the door!

scavenger hunt cluesDocumenting my own tears.

she said yesCharleston engagement

1.      This clue sits where all of our cooking began!!! This is where we cooked the best 70 dollar mistake. This is also home of my favorite show!!!!  (This is my friends’ Sarah & Jennifer’s house where I lived when we started dating. They own an adorable dog now named Levi. Ryan loves Levi and refers to any video of Levi as “The Levi Show, it is my favorite show! The 70 dollar mistake was when we tried to cook Beef Wellington, we had no idea how expensive the meat was, we had already requested it from the butcher and it was cut and waiting for us. I told Ryan, we can just leave it and not buy it. Ryan with all the integrity in the world said “No, they cut it for us, we are paying for it.” We later found out that this story was the first thing that made my parents start to trust that Ryan was a good guy. So he calls it “the best 70 dollar mistake he ever made.” Ryan was not pleased that I missed 4 phone calls from him telling me to get on the road, (oooops) while I chatted with Sarah and had her braid my hair for the proposal. Apparently I needed to move quickly between the clues, I thought there were only going to be 3 or so…)

Our $70 mistake, it was quite delicious though. couples cooking together


scavenger hunt proposal  

   2. This is where you will find your traveling companion for the other clues. This house contains a child that is a never ending hurricane in Charleston. The son that asked Santa for better sisters, and a really sneaky middle child that helped me take third place at the Super Bowl party. (This is my friends Chris & Shelley’s house. I missed the part in the clue where it told me Shelley was going to start riding along with me to find the clues. It was so exciting to have someone to talk with and share the moment. Her kids gave me home-made cookies, a palmetto rose, and a card that said “You did it!!! Are you going to kiss?” I laughed because 3 year old Julie was telling me what to name the baby in my tummy, but was also under the impression that I had don’t kissed Ryan, she wants to name the baby Olivia, there is no baby.) friends at proposalkid's note proposal

3.      The next clue sits at the favorite topping only monsters like to put on pizza. You can sit and watch the children play around and get wet. (This is the Pineapple Fountain downtown, Ryan tells me I’m a monster because I like pineapple on my pizza. He’s from New York, he’s a pizza elitist. This has been a topic of debate since our first conversation.)

All the clues were attached with hot pink duct tape, but the heat made the glue melt and I found almost all of them on the ground.clues fell off bench

4.      This clue is where we saw the best dolphin sighting in Charleston. I believe it was the highlight of our Valentine’s Day. (When we couldn’t book a cooking class for Valentine’s day we decided to walk around downtown Charleston and then made lasagna at home. We sat at the end of the pier and dolphins swam within 10 feet of us and ate fish.)pier in Downtown Charleston SC

Do you see the pink tape underneath the bench on the right? This was the only clue that a stranger found and opened! Luckily they put it back and it didn’t blow away! (Ryan was smart enough to give Shelley details of all the clues in case something bad happened. An Eagle Scout it always prepared.)

5.      This clue sits at one of the most haunted restaurants. It is haunted by a ghost dog and an old lady. You enjoyed the crab cake and want to take your mother there. (Poogan’s Porch! My mom loves crab cakes and I knew she would like this one. Ryan is quite the foodie and this was my first experience going to a fine dining restaurant. I felt special that he wanted to include me in his eating adventures.) In between clues 5 and 6, I realized that he was hitting all of our major milestone dates and I said to Shelley, we have to be going to Daniel Island. If he’s doing all these dates, then our biggest dates have been on Daniel Island. A few minutes later Shelley slipped and said “When we get to Daniel Island…” I said “I KNEW IT!”

Shelley and I took a selfie when we got to Poogan’s Porch, I didn’t realize that you can see the pink clue taped to the gate by the porch over my head.downtown Charleston restaurants

6.      Some of the best standup comedy happens here. They even used my pick up line “When we going to do this?!?!?!? (This is Theatre 99, the actors asked the crowd “Ladies, how did the guy you are with get you on this date? I told them that Ryan asked me out for the first time by saying “So when are we gonna do this?” They liked it and used the line in the show.)

I don’t have a picture of us from Theatre 99, so here’s a cute picture of us from the Fourth of July.Charleston Fourth of July

7.      This lies at the entrance of the only place in Charleston you can watch thousands of bouncy balls drop from a helicopter!!!! We, unfortunately, did not win due to none of the balls landing on our side of the field. (Charleston RiverDogs Baseball game! The bouncy ball drop was an awesome and colorful sight to see! I introduced Ryan to boiled peanuts at the game, unfortunately he is going to need a few more samplings before he acquires a taste for them.)

The only picture I have of us at the baseball game, we are sticking our tongues out to see who’s tongue was more purple from our slushies. So here’s us at the fair instead.couple at the fair

8.      This is where I said “This is the best 2 minutes of my life, because I was with you.” Then you said I love you. Also this is where I taught you a few facts about blue claw crabs. Also where our 6 hour first date started. (This was the clue I had been waiting for! Our first date was crabbing on Daniel Island and then sushi. Two months later, our original plans for viewing the eclipse got rained on, so we rushed to find another location to view the eclipse. We ended up back on Daniel Island where we had our first date. For awhile now we had been running out of different ways to say “I like you a lot, I love spending time with you, etc” So I was waiting for the right moment to say I love you. I knew that I was in a relationship that I would fight for when things got hard, I knew I was in love. When someone says something as sweet as what Ryan said, you know it’s the perfect moment. (He blinked a little and then said it back.) Total solar eclipse aug 21 2017This clue was the first to make me cry, despite the fact that I had been bursting into tears at random moments for weeks leading up to this day.

When I arrived on Daniel Island, I saw Ryan and honked my horn a lot, and I drove right past Chris Smith’s car that I should have recognized. I walked toward Ryan with all my pink envelopes. 

The actual proposal Ryan walked me down to a tree that was very special to me. He reminded me that we had climbed the tree on the first date and that I had climbed higher than him. Then on bended knee he asked me “Will you marry me?” I said “Yes!” I took the ring out of the box and handed it to him and said “You do it.” So he put it on my finger and then asked me to shake my hand to make sure it fit. I think it’s a good fit.



The actual proposal happened so quickly I did not look around for Chris, plus I was trying to follow what Ryan was saying. I did see a GoPro in the tree so I thought maybe Chris couldn’t make it so he set Ryan up with a GoPro. My brain couldn’t process further than that. But once Ryan proposed he called out to Ally, Alex, and Ashley and they came over to give me hugs and flowers. Then not one, but two photographers popped out of the bushes. Peter Finger was with the kids, and Chris was in a full camo coverage, you probably can’t see him in the video. I don’t think I ever would have spotted him. I scream in the video because he popped up out of a fallen tree. 

secret photographer at proposalsecret photographer for proposal

proposal high five

I think the absolute best part was Ryan remembered that I once said I wanted to have pictures taken of us crabbing. I wanted to recreate our first date. He snuck my granddad’s crab nets into his trunk and even had bait.

charleston sc crabbingCharleston crabbing engagement picturesHe’s a KEEPER!!!

A crab has to be big enough to keep has to reach from your thumb to your pinky finger. We caught our first keeper! I had Chris take a very cheesy picture of the ring, the crab, and Ryan so could later caption the picture “He’s a keeper!!!”5-inch-crab-keeper

We did what we do best after dates on Daniel Island, we get sushi at Fuji! Then we called our families! (Turns out my brother was screen capturing my snapchats and giving my mom and dad a live update. He lives in Africa so he stayed up super late for this! Thanks man!)

I’m excited to see the ring shots from Chris, I wasn’t there yet when he took them! topaz engagement ring

My beautiful beautiful flowers and a little Venus fly from engagement

Thank you to everyone who was a part of this very special day!

Part II, that’s really Part I

The proposal I thought was happening Saturday

Still a wonderful date, part of an amazing weekend, but nope.

I thought I knew everything about how Ryan was going to propose. I had helped pick out the ring. I knew the date. I knew Chris Smith would be there to photograph it. I knew somehow a few of my friends were involved. I felt like it would be downtown. I knew what I wanted to wear.

Saturday was the day I thought Ryan was proposing. Weeks (months?) ago he ran into the room and asked “What are we doing June 2nd?” I accidentally threw my phone in the air because he scared me. “I don’t know, lemme check…um, nothing…why?” (He runs out of the room.) “NOTHING! DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT! RESERVE THAT WHOLE WEEKEND.” We had already started picking out rings in March so I thought to myself “Smooth, Dolan, I know what you are doing.” No, I did not.

A few weeks later we had a lovely Waffle House dinner with superhero photographer Chris Smith. Afterwards Ryan asked/told me to get in the car. I thought “hmmm, yeah smooth Dolan.” (He was asking if Chris was available to photograph the proposal.)

People asked how I knew the exact date of the proposal. I told them I’m really busy this time of year with weddings and photographing families on the beach. Ryan needed to book time with me so that I wouldn’t work all weekend. “Oh makes sense.” I calmly answered, “yeah in the end I prefer to be married to someone who can’t keep a secret from me.” How very wrong I was. (Please note, he never lied, I assumed everything!)

Trying on shirts with Jennifer. We were trying to imagine what they would look like on me when I was crying and being proposed to.marriage proposal

had spent Friday night at a Going Away/Congratulations party for my friend Caroline, our newly minted Doctor moving to Tennessee. I went to a back room and asked my friends to help me pick out an outfit for the proposal that I thought was happening the next day. (They all knew it was not happening Saturday, but they couldn’t say anything!) We decided on the pink shirt and capris. I had ordered 5 shirts and planned to return the rejects.

Saturday Ryan asked me where I wanted to go for lunch, I thought hmmm, strange he doesn’t have the whole day planned. He was telling me that I had to be ok with whatever I wore getting dirty. This freaked me out! WE ARE HAVING PICTURES TAKEN TODAY! I WANT TO WEAR THIS OUTFIT! I DON’T WANT TO BE DIRTY FOR PICTURES. WHAT ARE YOU WEARING? I’M WEARING PINK, YOU CAN’T WEAR MAROON!!! (This was not my finest most carefree hour. Honestly this whole experience was eye-opening to how much I am used to being the planner and not in the dark.) He changed his shirt for me, but I felt like such a control-freak! (He didn’t want to change because he already knew there was not going to be a photographer.)

Once we were in the car, he handed me tickets for In the Kitchen with Chef Bob Waggoner“. I’ve been wanting to take a cooking class for years! Ryan and I tried to book a class for Valentine’s Day but they are booked months out. I gave up and forgot all about it. He remembered and booked the class months ago, that’s why he was asking “What are we doing June 2nd?” I cried in the car, I said “This is so thoughtful, I feel so special.” I made him cry too. I thought we were having a special moment on the day we were getting engaged…In-the-kitchen-with-chef-bob-waggoner

We headed to Callie’s Hot Little Biscuits for lunch, a place I’ve always wanted to try. I documented the whole day thinking this would be the day I got engaged. Don’t get me wrong, it was a wonderful day, one of our best dates ever. But I did not get engaged on Saturday.

We walked around downtown and stumbled across the Spoleto Art Festival. It got so hot walking around I asked Ryan, can I please take off my shirt? (tank top underneath) “No secret photographers are jumping out right now?” I was close to sweating to death so I’d look cute for “the pictures”. He reassured me that I was free to look like a hot mess. He didn’t seem to have anything planned until our cooking class, but he seemed certain that he wanted to go to the swings at Waterfront Park. OK! Waterfront park is where I would lay my head in his lap and plan a grocery shopping list for when we cooked together on Sundays, one of our favorite things to do.

Good thing I got a “do over” day for my proposal. My hair could not take the humidity. Yeah, I changed shirts 3 times. I wanted to look fresh for the photographer.

We got the best Italian ice of our lives and managed to snag a swing on a busy Saturday. It was perfect. We even got to see the cruise ship “Ecstasy” take off for the Bahamas. The horn scared me and people laughed. We walked through the market so I could show him one of my favorite hotels downtown, The Grand Bohemian. It’s so fancy, I feel fancy just by proximity. We walked until my feet hurt (cute shoes ya know).Charleston water front park

I was determined to document the whole day. Ryan was determined not to tell me anything.The day I didn't get engaged

I began to suspect Ryan was way too calm, and that ring box in his pocket turned out to be a wallet. And he had forgotten his cell phone at home! How was he going to text the secret photographer? I’ve been the secret photographer, YOU NEED TO TEXT THE SECRET PHOTOGRAPHER!

Our cooking class had started. We had a wonderful time, Chef Bob was an excellent teacher. We learned things in the first 10 seconds. He would help and correct you without making you feel bad for not being a master chef. We made shrimp, pheasant, and apple pastries. We were served more wine that I could ever safely drink.

Seared shrimp, asparagus, pineapple salsa, and pea shoots. So fancy! We COOKED and plated it!cooking class with bob waggoner charleston sc

We learned how to put meat in a hot pan without splashing yourself with hot oil. A skill I needed.In-the-kitchen-with-chef-bob-waggoner

Sliced apples with butter and sugar on a pastry sheet. Topped with honey, walnuts, and ice cream.

The hours ticked by, it’s 9pm, this class goes until 11pm. I mean if anyone can photograph a proposal in the dark, it’s Chris Smith right? Somewhere between slicing the apples and sprinkling the sugar… we had this conversation.

Ryan very gently said: “I need to tell you something so you don’t get mad. I’m not proposing tonight.”

Laura: I’m not mad, I’m just taking to this new information in. I’m adjusting my expectations… BUT JENNIFER TOLD ME TO WEAR THIS OUTFIT TODAY! (Rock, Jennifer, Hard Place)

Ryan: What’s tomorrow’s date?

Laura: I don’t know. (I’m frazzled.)

Ryan: June 3rd, 6-3, what’s 6 times 3?

Laura: (normally stellar at math) uhhhhhh 21?

Ryan: What’s 6 times 3?

Laura: I don’t know

Ryan: 2018 is the year. 6×3=18. I got the cooking class for the 2nd and I’m proposing on June 3rd, 2018.

I’m truly not mad, I just thought I had it all figured out, and Ryan managed to keep every single detail a surprise and coordinate with multiple groups of my friends behind my back.just proposed

Ryan you are everything I never knew I always wanted. Your proposal was above and beyond everything I could have ever dreamed of, and so are you. Will you marry me? newly engaged couple  Finally a shout out to Diamonds Direct. We had an awesome experience. (Yes, we picked out the ring together! Ryan found this Blue London Topaz first and I picked the setting. It was so pretty my jaw dropped. As we have both lived in England so that was kinda cool too.) Our sales lady, Linsay was amazing. She answered all of our questions and even colored the different rings with sharpies so that I could better envision my blue ring! They even asked Ryan to be in Diamonds Direct commercial, but it would have aired before the proposal, so sadly no go!Blue engagement ring

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