Zany Proposals - Y Magazine
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First Person

Zany Proposals

BYU students, past and present, have a penchant for popping the question in peculiar ways.

Joke’s on You

Gary W. Mack, ’78, Safford, Ariz.

Pass the Candle
“Passing the candle” was traditionally a way to announce an engagement, not propose. But for one BYU couple on April Fools’ Day 1968, things got turned around. Photo by Bradley Slade.

In the spring of 1968, the girl I was dating wanted to pull a joke on the girls in her dorm. She thought it would be funny to “pass the candle” on the night of April 1. After blowing out the candle, as if she were engaged, she would wait for the excitement to die down and then yell, “April Fools!” She was going to borrow her dorm mother’s wedding ring to put on the candle.

Well, when she told me this, I got a bright idea of my own. I excused myself, ran to the dorm, and gave the dorm mother the ring I had planned to give my girlfriend at a romantic moment. That way when she blew out the candle and put the ring on, it would be her own ring instead of the borrowed one.

On April 1, when she got to the part where she said, “April Fools!” there was a lot of jeering, to say the least. When the noise died down somewhat, right on cue the dorm mother said, “It’s April Fools on you!”

I was dragged from around the corner. My girlfriend asked what was going on. I replied, “What did all this start out to be?”

She said, “A joke on all the girls.”

I answered, “Well, the joke’s on you. That’s your ring. Will you marry me?”

I got some nice kisses, and she got to stay out past curfew.

A few days later on campus, I was asked if I was the guy that pulled the joke on the candle passer. Word had already gotten around.

Halftime Entertainment

Terri Walton Gale, ’94, Albuquerque, N.M.

I started following BYU football as a young child and loved that I could go to the games as a student. My boyfriend, Jason, and I purchased tickets together with his sister and some friends for the 1992 season.

At the September 19th game, we were seated in the east stands at about midfield. As halftime began, I started to notice people around me pointing and looking toward the north stands, so I turned to look. Attached to the net behind the goal posts was a giant sign with huge green letters that said, “TERRI—Will you marry me?—JASON.”

I saw the name Terri but was not sure it was meant for me until I looked at Jason. He pulled me to my feet, knelt down on one knee, and proposed. I said, “Yes!” and then Jason, shaking like a leaf, slipped the engagement ring on my also-shaking finger.

After the proposal, sitting through the rest of the game was anticlimactic. It was the first and probably the last time that I will ever attend, watch, or listen to a BYU football game and not stick with it until the very end.

Bonus Points

April Ferguson Reynolds, ’82, Aurora, Colo.

It was Valentine’s Day in 1980, and my boyfriend had asked to meet me in the library after I had finished my studying for the evening.

When he arrived he told me that he had a treasure hunt for me to go on and handed me the first clue. This treasure hunt took me all over campus—to the base of the bell tower; to the Karl G. Maeser statue; and even back to the library, where I had to look up a book in the card catalog (remember that?), go to the floor where the book was shelved, and remove the clue that was tucked into its pages.

My final clue led me to a computer lab in the Clyde Building. There my boyfriend instructed me to sit down in front of a monitor, where he opened a program that he had created for me. It included a series of yes-or-no questions that started with “Do you like being single?” and ended up with “Will you marry me?” (Little did I know that he had written the program so that no matter what my answers had been, they all led to the same final question.)

Since this was an extra project that supplemented my boyfriend’s computer work as an engineering major, one of his professors even gave him extra credit for it!

A Knight to Remember

Dan W. Baker, ’02, Keyport, Wash.

My roommate Brian and his girlfriend, Katy, were the ultimate “cheese” couple. They would talk all lovey-dovey to each other while the rest of us tried to refrain from gagging. So it came as no surprise when he recruited us for help on his “knight in shining armor” proposal.

They were going to go watch the sunset from Rock Canyon Park. As soon as they got there, Brian told Katy that he had to go to the bathroom. That’s where we were waiting. Once he was inside, being the barbarians that we were, we ran out yelling and charging poor Katy like we were going to get her.

Brian to the rescue! He had changed into his alter ego, the knight in shining armor, complete with tinfoil sword, with which he defeated us soundly before leading his sweetheart off to the getaway steed—a tandem bike from Outdoors Unlimited.

Off they rode into the sunset, into a grove of trees down the hill, where he formally got down on his knee and all that. Or so we were told. We didn’t get to see that part. It would have been too cheesy for us anyway! OK, so we were mostly just jealous.

Pop Quiz in the Math Lab

Ily Peery Murdock, ’00, Vancouver, Wash.

April 15, 1999, was a reading day, and I was busy as a TA in the math lab, helping people get ready for finals. Most of Bryan’s roommates were taking math classes and often came to the math lab for help. I should have noticed that I had talked with each one of them in the math lab that afternoon, even the ones who weren’t taking math. And why did Bryan’s roommate Shayne insist that I help him with his math review right away?

Shayne led me to a table around which all of the roommates were sitting and said, “To answer this question, I need you to stand on a chair.” Then some guy, hiding in a hooded sweatshirt, crawled out from under the table. Once I realized it was Bryan, I knew exactly what he was up to—he was proposing to me in the math lab!

“No! Not in here!” I shrieked, attracting the attention of everyone in the room. He persisted, despite my initial reaction, pulled a ring out of his pocket, and asked, “Ily, will you marry me?” Thoroughly embarrassed, yet impressed with the audacity of this normally shy guy, I managed to reply, “Yes, of course I will!” People cheered, they laughed, somebody cried, and though we have never seen it, somebody did take a picture.

I have been asked many questions as a TA in the math lab, but my favorite by far was when I was asked, “Will you marry me?”

Sunday Surprise

Julie Ashby Swindler, ’94, Provo

While studying for finals in December 1991, Phil and I decided that the next July 17 might be a good day to be married, although he hadn’t officially asked me, and I hadn’t officially said yes.

Over the next couple of months, I teased Phil a lot, saying that I would know when he would propose—that he’d probably do it at Temple Square in front of the Christus statue on Valentine’s Day. I thought I was being funny; he took it as a challenge.

Valentine’s Day came and went, but there was no ring. At the beginning of March, Phil decided it was time to liven things up. He left roses on my bed one day when I was gone. I wasn’t fooled. He took me out to eat one night and tried to convince me that my ring was in the unfinished food the server cleared away. I knew better. Then he gave me a small wooden box that he had turned himself. Inside was a velvet-covered ring box that contained . . . a Hershey’s kiss.

That Sunday, I attended Phil’s BYU student ward. We arrived during the prelude and sat by Phil’s friend, who had saved us a seat. The meeting began. I noticed one of the hymnbooks looked warped, as if someone had spilled a bottle of milk on it. I didn’t think more of it until the opening hymn was announced, and I grabbed that particular book to sing. To my surprise, the pages of the book wouldn’t open, no matter how I tried. Finally, it fell open into my lap, revealing a ring and a message: “Julie Marie, will you marry me?” Phil had bought a hymn book, glued all the pages together, cut out a hole in the middle for the ring, and painted his question on the inside cover.

I had no idea it was coming. Of course, my answer was yes, and we were married July 17, 1992, in the Manti Utah Temple. Phil still likes a challenge, and I still like to be surprised.

Sliding into an Engagement

By Robert G. McKeen, ’86, Farmington, Utah

As days go, Sept. 14, 1983, was long in coming and even longer for remembering. Since first seeing a student nurse named Janet Bird in a religion class, four years, three universities, two states, and one mission had transpired. Along the way, we had gone from casual acquaintances to casual friends to best friends to sweethearts. The time had come to take the next step. But how?

Determined to avoid ostentation and make it a special, yet personal, surprise, I found a perfect pretext: an older sister of mine needed to borrow some slides of Brazil for her job. Normally, mission slides would be the kiss of death to any promising romance. Fortunately, I had two things working in my favor: Janet had served in Peru, so the pictures were bound to resonate. And we were very much in love, which would cover a multitude of sins—and slides.

After borrowing a projector, I asked my roommate if he would mind working on his dissertation elsewhere that evening. He gladly agreed, though he left the apartment humming “Taps.” Since he was 30 and I was pushing 26, that provided a humorous, albeit unorthodox, good-luck wish.

Sure enough, we had an enjoyable time viewing shots of Brazil, until a hand-lettered slide appeared near the end of the tray. The message read, “Janet, will you marry me?” This was followed by a long, pregnant pause.

Janet later said that her first reaction was “What’s my name doing up there? I didn’t know you when you were in Brazil!” Then she read the rest of the slide and melted—but not before saying yes. End of slide show. Start of engagement and transition from sweethearts to fiancés.

Three months later, we changed it to “eternal companions.” Two decades later, we’re hopelessly in love, more than ever.

Popping the Question

By Jennifer Hammond Goodman, ’88, Corona, Calif.

My roommate’s boyfriend filled her entire room with balloons, including an extra-large red balloon that had an engagement ring in it. It hung from the ceiling and had a note that said, “Pop me.”

When my roommate got home from class, another roommate and I were there to help her find the ring while her boyfriend waited in another room. She popped the big balloon, and the ring went flying. She had no clue there was a ring, so she just gushed on and on about how cool it was that he had filled her room with balloons. Waist high in balloons, my other roommate and I began hunting all over the room, saying things like “There must have been something in the balloon you popped” and “Why would it have said, ‘Pop me,’ if there was nothing in it?”

She remained clueless and just played with the balloons, not making any effort to help search. We had to start moving the hundreds of balloons out into the hallway and kitchen because we were having a really hard time finding that little ring. It took about 15 minutes for us to find it while her boyfriend waited agonizingly in the other room. My roommate finally found it behind the bed. She screamed, “I found something!” and tossed it to our clueless friend. I’ll never forget her starting to cry and saying, “Oh Scotty,” as we ran out of the room and he ran in.

Staging a Proposal

By Julie Kriner Pagan, ’01, Springfield, Mo.

It was as perfect as any LDS motivational speaker or author could have conceived it. An R.M. almost engaged to another and a freshmen waiting for her missionary meet in the Wilkinson Center as custodians and become best friends.

After seven months of bathroom banter in the Wilk, Luis’ relationship ended and we began dating. While taking a stroll after general conference, I sat down on a swing for a rest. Luis began combing the grass feverishly. I thought he had lost his mind until he bent down on one knee and placed a ring made of twigs on my finger. I asked him to love me with every inch of his heart. He agreed, and I said yes to the pretended proposal.

During the week that followed, Luis was cold and distant. He did not do anything special on my birthday but asked to take me out the following night after work. His roommate was opening atJohnny B’s Comedy Club.

We arrived at the club, and I was prepared for our usual time together. How wrong I was! His roommate Derek came onstage and announced we were in the audience. Derek asked me to come up and join him onstage. Oh no, I thought. He’s going to make fun of me like always. Instead, he began to inquire about how I had met Luis and invited him to join us. Derek asked Luis how long we had been dating.

“One month,” Luis replied.

“Well, don’t you think it’s about time?” Derek exclaimed while pushing Luis down to his knees and handing him a ring from his pocket. Luis proceeded to ask for my hand in marriage, and the crowd roared with applause.

Like many of my experiences at BYU, boy, do I wish I had that on tape!

An Empty Promise

By Kristen Weed Howell, ’01, Englewood, Colo.

With an intricate plan up his sleeve, my boyfriend, Ryan, definitely surprised me the night we got engaged. We were heading to Denver to get my ring and en route we ran into some car trouble—or so I thought. He tampered with some things under the hood and concluded that he didn’t know what the problem was. (He had actually unplugged the spark plugs to make me think something was really wrong.) We tried to restart the car several times. Each time we tried, it sounded worse and worse until it wouldn’t even make a noise. It was at this point that I really began to worry.

After much thought and running into dead ends of what the problem might be, Ryan convinced me that we were just out of gas. Sure enough, the gas tank was on empty. That’s why the car wouldn’t start. He asked me to find the gas can in the trunk while he closed the hood and locked up the car.

As I opened up the trunk, there were two dozen red roses sprawled across the trunk. I said, “Ryan, I think I’m seeing something I’m not supposed to!” (I just thought they were flowers for when we got to Denver.) I began to dig around underneath the flowers in search for the gas can, but I couldn’t find it. I called Ryan to come back and help me. The can was right in front of my face, taped to the underside of the trunk. He pulled it down and as he did I saw a little “bling.” It all hit me at this point. He took the ring from the gas can, got down on his knee, and asked me to marry him. We were married three months later on June 22, 2002, in the Reno Nevada Temple.

The Dear Hunt

By Lori Anne Baker Walker, ’78, Escondido, Calif.

The way my husband, Ray, proposed, would probably qualify as the least, well, anything proposal.

In the fall of 1980, I was a newly returned missionary working as a teacher’s aide. Ray was majoring in financial planning. We met the end of August, and by mid-October we were already talking about marriage—hypothetically. The deer hunt weekend was approaching; Ray had bought deer tags but decided instead to take me home to “meet the folks.”

We made the drive to California, where Ray met my parents. My parents seemed impressed but were somewhat concerned over the short time we had known each other.

My father required that any young man who wanted to marry one of his daughters had to ask him for her hand. Ray was aware of this. Unbeknownst to me, he had taken an opportunity and proceeded to ask for my hand. The conversation went like this:

Ray: “Your daughter and I like each other. Hypothetically speaking, if we decide to get married, would we have your blessing?”

Dad: “Hypothetically speaking, right? Well, if that should happen, I could give my consent.”

After the visit, we headed back to Provo. As I was driving past Fillmore, Utah, he told me he would take over the driving. Putting the car in park, I said, “OK, your turn.” He must have been thinking about proposing, because he blurted out, “Will you marry me?”

I was shocked! What kind of a place was this to propose—on the freeway, under an overpass, outside Fillmore, Utah?! I kept saying to him, “Are you serious?” He was not kidding. I pointed out to him that this location was not exactly what I had in mind for a romantic proposal. He suggested that we begin a fast and then go to the temple the next night, where he would ask me in a more suitable setting. The second time he asked me was in the celestial room of the Provo Utah Temple. I said yes.

He likes to tell everyone he even had a successful hunt that year, because he managed to bag his dear.

Inflated Promises

By LeAnn Mayer Scanlon, ’03, Cortland, N.Y.

On Oct. 16, 2002, I asked John what to wear for the surprise trip he had planned. It was 5:30 a.m. as I attempted to find something in the dark of my room that fit the description he had given. Had I know what was going to happen, I would have spent a little more time choosing an outfit.

At about Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah, what he was doing occurred to me. He was taking me on a hot-air-balloon ride, although I couldn’t be 100 percent sure. This was how I wanted to be proposed to.

In Park City, Utah, we had a quick breakfast and my suspicion was confirmed when I saw the pilot walk past wearing a jacket with balloons embroidered on the back.

The morning was cold, but the sun kept us warm. The view was spectacular, and the pilot said we couldn’t have picked a better day. We ascended to 13,000 feet, at which altitude I anticipated his asking. But the ride was surprisingly noisy because of having to blow hot air into the balloon every few minutes.

Time passed quickly and we attempted several landings; by this time I accepted the fact that he wasn’t going to ask me. He couldn’t, the pilot had requested no talking so he could focus on the landing. Finally, on a narrow street named Aerie, we landed.

On the ground we were told to stay in the basket so it wouldn’t ascend again. Seizing our moment alone, John clasped my head with his hands, gently kissed me, told me of his love, and proceeded with his proposal.

As was tradition, they had sparkling cider for us to celebrate the landing and now the engagement. The balloon didn’t have so happy an ending—it tore on a tree as it deflated.

Fairytale Beginning

By Jodi Milner, ’03, West Jordan, Utah

My husband, Joe, has always been a very creative person and a true believer in being my personal “knight in shining armor.” To my surprise he took this role to a whole new level when he proposed. It was a brisk evening in March, and I had just come home from work. Weeks earlier, Joe had asked me to keep this night free for a special date, and so I was madly rushing to get ready when there was a knock on the door of the apartment. At the door was a tall figure in long black robes that covered his face and trailed to the ground. He asked me to come with him and then proceeded to tie me to a tree in the courtyard formed by the two apartment buildings. Before I could decide whether it would be more appropriate to laugh or yell, Joe rushed out of his apartment dressed as a perfect prince. He even had a stick pony. He fought the evil villain (also known as his roommate Keith) who held me captive, cut my bonds, and whisked me away to safety. We had a lovely dinner and ended up at the Jordan River Utah Temple, where he asked me to be his princess forever. Throughout the evening he gave me no fewer than six dozen red roses, which I dried and still have along with my princess tiara.

A Sappy Sunrise Serenade

By Marci von Savoye Williams, ’99, Memphis, Tenn.

Freshman year when my husband, Dan, and I first started dating, we would frequently watch the 1989 cult classic Say Anything together. In one scene the character Lloyd Dobbler (John Cusack) plays Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” from a boom box outside his girlfriend’s bedroom window. One morning that spring, I made the trek from D.T. to Helaman Halls, held up my boom box outside his window, and asked him to go to Preference with me.

Two and a half years later, early on a Saturday morning after his mission, I—along with everyone else in my apartment complex—was awoken by that same sappy ’80s favorite. When I went to the window, Dan cried up, “Marci, I love you. Will you marry me?”

I had no time to fix my disheveled hair or brush the cotton taste out of my mouth. I ran down the stairwell to him. He got down on one knee to give me my ring. I gave him a quick hug and a kiss and said yes. Then I ran back upstairs, crawled into bed, and made a futile attempt to go back to sleep.

A couple of years into our marriage, I learned how disappointed Dan was that morning. He had anticipated spending the rest of the morning with me, but I, embarrassed at him seeing me in my morning disarray, was in a hurry to get back to my apartment. If it had only occurred to me then that the man outside my window would one day clean up my vomit, feed me ice chips during labor, and give me an eternity’s worth of morning-breath kisses, we could have spent a lovely morning together the day we got engaged.

The Ripple’s Effect

By Wendy Lindgren Hill, ’97, Newnan, Ga.

“You’re from California? How are the oranges? I guess if we haven’t heard anything, we can assume we’ll have a good crop of oranges this year. . . . I see you’re driving a Volkswagen. Do you get good gas mileage? . . . I think that’s funny, you drive a Volkswagen to save gas, and you don’t even know what gas mileage you’re getting. Heh heh. I think that’s funny.” So go Scott’s attempts to practice his social skills on the California girls at the Ripple’s Drive Inn take-out window in the classic BYU-produced video The Phone Call.

Who didn’t grow up watching The Phone Call at least once in seminary or during a mutual-night dating panel? It’s the story of Scott, a gawky young man who builds his confidence and social skills through working at Ripple’s. It’s at Ripple’s that he perfects his milkshake and french fries, all while making phone calls in the Ripple’s phone booth to Pam, his dreamy love pursuit. Its ’70s-era fashion and music are great entertainment, on their own. But the many one-liners make it a classic: “I play the bassoon. It’s like a balloon, but with s‘s.” In this typically romantic plot, he emerges a new, confident Scott who somehow gets Pam to notice him.

Now fast forward a decade or two. After four-plus years of separations while we served missions back-to-back, Justin and I were slowly rekindling our friendship made during our freshman year in 1991-92. Since then, Justin was the yardstick to whom I compared every potential guy friend I met. “Hmm, he’s nice, but he’s not as funny and smart as Justin.” “Well, he is tall, but not as tall or cute as Justin.”

Justin and I met up again in April 1996. We saw each other a couple of times during the next few months, and I certainly enjoyed thinking about him again while I was at BYU. So in September 1996, when my roommates, Jennie and Candace, and I had the chance to go down to a lodge at the Grand Canyon to work for a weekend (where Justin conveniently happened to be working), we jumped in our car and set out. The eight-hour drive provided plenty of time for my dating coaches to convince me that I should just take the plunge and confess to Justin my growing interest in him. Although I was unaccustomed to being forward with boys, I was determined by the end of the night that I would make my bold confession to Justin. Our friendship was ready, I hoped, to blossom into a closer friendship.

But when we entered the lodge, and Justin and I awkwardly embraced with a half-shoulder hug, all my determination was zapped.

Most of the employees ended up in the recreation room in the evening for games and social chatter. My roommates kept giving me nudges and glances, encouraging me not to wimp out. They conveniently left the recreation room when there were only a few of us left, hoping that the others would follow. Alas, no one else followed. The stragglers included a few girls who fluttered their eyes at anything Justin said or did. And I was about to burst with nervousness and emotion.

Then Steve suggested watching The Phone Call—another 20 minutes for me to die inside. As the show unfolded, I realized that Scott and I had something disturbingly in common. Pam? Justin? Oh no! I doubt there could have been a more anticlimactic show to set the stage for my big confession.

After the video, the boys and girls separated to their respective dorms for the night. I pulled Justin aside. “Umm, can I talk to you for a second? I need to tell you something.” (Sweat.)

Sitting with him on the curb in front of the vending machines, I admitted, “This is going to come out even weirder now after watching The Phone Call, but . . . [gulp, quivering voice] I . . . like you.”

There was a long pause, then, dumbfounded, he responded, “Um, thanks. That’s cool.”

Despite my big love announcement a la The Phone Call, our relationship actually did begin to progress slowly. By Christmas 1996, I was finally his Pam!

The phone call—Justin: “Hey, I’ll come down this weekend [from Utah State] and take you to your graduation party.” So on April 11, 1997, after Justin accompanied me to my BYU graduation celebration earlier that evening, he took me on a drive on the east bench of Provo, ending up in the parking lot of Ripple’s Drive Inn. Once again, The Phone Call set the mood for the evening. Only this time I wasn’t the anxious one. Justin fidgeted with his car stereo, watching the clock until it turned to 12:00 a.m. He brought me out of the car, knelt down in front of the Ripple’s take-out window, and with a very un-Justin-like shaky voice, showed me a beautiful ring and asked me to marry him. After a few jittery, elated yeses, I laughed aloud, half asking, half declaring, “We’re getting engaged at Ripple’s? Seriously?” It was five years to the day that I had written in my freshman journal on April 12, 1992: “I want to marry Justin Brent Hill.” The Phone Call had come full circle, and our romantic story began happily ever after.

Picnic Panic

By Sarah Sandberg Pletsch, ’02, Provo

It was the Fourth of July 2002 in Provo—a favorite holiday filled with colorful early-morning hot-air balloons, a freedom run, a festive parade, family barbecues, and lots of loud, brilliant fireworks.

I was driving with my boyfriend, Erich, for what he said was a picnic at the Maeser Building. He parked on the sidewalk in front of the building on the west side overlooking the hill. We were greeted by a table charmingly decorated with candles, chocolates, pictures, and silver stars of confetti along with two chairs.

I immediately knew this was not your usual picnic. As I guessed he might, he proposed, and I accepted. I was thrilled!

A few moments later, a BYU police officer pulled up behind our car. He yelled out his window, telling us we were illegally parked. Judging by the setting, anyone could have guessed what was going on.

Erich said he would be happy to move the car soon.

“No!” the officer yelled back. “You have to move it right now!”

“Alright,” Erich replied and left to find an alternative parking spot.

I again opened the box containing the diamond he had just given me. As I took out the diamond, not yet in a ring setting, it slipped through my excited fingers and fell into the grass. My heart panicked! Frantically I fingered through the blades of grass searching for the tiny object. It was gone!

I was still searching when Erich returned.

“Did you lose something?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied, “the diamond!”


“What if we don’t find it?”

“Then we’ll buy another one.”

Wow, I thought. A man who does not lose his cool when his new fiancée loses his newly purchased diamond is a man I would like to spend the rest of my life with! Together we searched, and I silently prayed. We found the diamond and have been living happily together ever since!

Finding a Treasure

By Malinda Chrisman Harris, ’84, Taber, Alberta, Can.

My husband, Merrill, ’85, put a lot of thought and work into his proposal of marriage to me.

He asked me out on a date, and when he picked me up, he handed me his car keys and an envelope marked Clue #1. The clue inside informed me that I was to go on a treasure hunt. Merrill had a friend waiting to take him to the final destination, so off I went to find the treasure. Each clue was written in rhyme and had a love poem attached to it. The first place I was sent to was the Cougar Bowl. There I found Clue #2, which sent me to the Richards Building, where we had our ballroom dance class together. Waiting for me was a giant chocolate kiss and Clue #3. This clue sent me back to my apartment, where I discovered a pair of fuzzy slippers and Clue #4. I was sent to his house to find a bouquet of flowers and Clue #5, which sent me up to Bridal Veil Falls, where the treasure was waiting nervously for me.

We climbed a snow bank to where we could get a good look at the falls, and he popped the question. After I accepted, we went back to his house and phoned our parents with our happy news. We were married in June of that year in the Cardston Alberta Temple.

After 20 years and five children, I can truly say that I found a wonderful treasure on that February evening.