A Beautiful Story of a Creative Marriage Proposal (with Airplane and Flowers)

My friend Alexis Wright graciously allowed us to share the romantic story of how her girlfriend, Liz Fuller, proposed. Have tissues handy!

As told by Alexis…

Liz flew back from Boston the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving, 2010. Her flight was delayed and it was already after midnight when she called and asked me to park my warm car and meet her at the bottom of the escalator in United’s terminal. Truthfully, I was cold, I was tired, and I just wanted her to meet me curbside. Was it really that important that I go inside?

But park I did, and dutifully arrived at the appointed spot. As I stood there, calculating how long it would take to get her baggage and back home, I noticed a woman walking up to me. As she approached, she smiled at me, handed me a flower, and said, “I hear someone loves you very much.” My first instinct was, “Clearly she’s mistaken me for someone else,” but then a pilot – also holding a flower – walked towards me from the other side of the room. Handing me the lily, he said, “I hear you’re really special.”

As told by Liz…

The planning took days.

First came the idea: get a planeload of strangers to give my beloved armloads of roses.

Problem: How do you get sleepy travelers on the far end of a 7-hour flight to give the right stranger a bunch of flowers?

A picture! I needed to distribute pictures of her. Problem: I didn’t actually have any pictures of her.

Facebook to the rescue, eh? Problem: Alexis has tons of group pictures and almost none of her, alone, in decent lighting.

I settled for one I could crop her friends out of, Photoshopped the lighting, and printed out a couple dozen copies.

Then came the flowers. A quick check revealed that Boston’s Logan Airport doesn’t have any flower shops, and SFO’s would be closed before our arrival, so I’d need to buy them en route to the airport. To complicate things, I’d chosen to fly cross-country on “Opt-Out Day,” a national day of protest against the new TSA scanners. I’d been covering the TSA story for two weeks – the busiest two weeks of my fledgling journalism career – and the series was supposed to culminate in a final story filed from the airport.

So I had to bring my laptop, plus my clothes for Thanksgiving, plus the flowers. Yeah.

As told by Alexis…

Completely perplexed, I looked up the escalator I’d been told to stand near, and saw swarms of people coming down, each one holding a flower and what looked like a small, grainy picture. One by one, they each walked over to me, handed me their flower, and shared some kind sentiment.

A particularly endearing young guy, about 19, walked over with a confused look, squinted at the picture and then shoved his flower at me, saying, “Uh, I think this is for you…”

As told by Liz…

At the airport, I interviewed several of my fellow travelers, then asked them to watch my stuff – my luggage, coat, and the bouquet of flowers I’d picked up at a T stop. I wandered off in search of juicy quotes about the TSA searches.

I filed the story just as my flight began boarding, then shut down my laptop and climbed aboard. The flight attendants noticed the giant bunch of flowers. “Somebody loves you,” said one whose nametag introduced him as Doug.

I grinned and explained that I was planning to propose when we got to San Francisco. Doug said, “Well, if I can do anything to help you, just let me know.”

I suddenly saw the solution to all of my remaining logistical problems: Enlist the flight attendants!

As soon as the Fasten Seat Belt sign went off, I slipped into the back and began laying out my plan for Doug. He immediately found reasons it wouldn’t work. “It’s such a long flight – people will be tired – they’ll forget – they won’t care – they’ll just take your flowers and go home.”

His colleague, who had introduced herself as Marisa, cut him off. “This is the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard. Of COURSE it will work.” I let them bicker, and as they challenged each other, the plan unfolded.

Doug conceded, “OK, well, maybe the pilots will help. They have to be awake the whole time.”

Marisa liked the idea of enlisting the pilots, but bristled at the implied insult to the passengers. “People will help!” She turned to me. “I’ll find good people. People who will follow through. I will make this work. You just have to make sure she’s in the right place.”

Which is…where? Marisa conferred with the pilots, then came back to my seat with specific instructions, which I memorized. She also took the flowers, which she stashed in a fridge.

During the drinks service, she assessed the passengers and picked worthy candidates. Six hours later, she distributed the flowers and photos. She returned the final few flowers to me, in exchange for a promise that Alexis and I wouldn’t leave until she and Doug had caught up with us in baggage claim.

From my vantage point in the next-to-last row of the airplane, I’d watched Marisa work her magic with the passengers, but I lost track of who had the flowers.

On Marisa’s instructions, I turned on my phone the moment our plane’s wheels touched the tarmac, and I asked Alexis to meet me “at the bottom of the escalator at Baggage Claim 2.” (14 months later, I still remember. That’s how many times I rehearsed it during the flight.)

She sounded reluctant, but she agreed.

As we pulled up to the gate, I began to worry.

What if Doug was right? What if people just scattered to the winds, ignoring Alexis and keeping my flowers? Or what if they couldn’t find her? Or what if she changed her mind and decided to wait for me on the curb after all? Or what if people thought it was stupid and threw away the flowers? Or, or, or…

By the time I got off the plane, most of the passengers were long gone from the gate area. I rushed towards baggage claim, trying to see somebody – anybody – carrying a flower.

Not until I got to the top of the escalator did I finally see a hint of pink in the sea of dark jackets. One lonely flower, poking out to the side of the escalator, rode smoothly downwards, in the safe hands of some kind soul.

I looked down further and saw my beloved, just where I’d asked her to wait, holding an armful of flowers and wearing an indescribable expression.

As told by Alexis…

So many thoughts and emotions could have flooded me at that moment:

Wonder at the sheer genius and craftiness of my beloved

Instead: “Holy bananas! I’m in a flash mob – I’m going to end up on Oprah – and I didn’t brush my hair.”

Romantic, right?

By the time Liz finally came down the escalator, holding the last few flowers, I was completely dumbstruck. I had no words except, “You’re proposing in the airport? Really?”
As told by Liz…

I smiled at her beautiful confusion.

“Yes. I’m proposing at the airport.”

I got down on one knee and asked the timeless question.

As told by Alexis…

I DID say yes (after begging her to get off her knee), at which point all of baggage claim errupted into applause and came over to hug us and congratulate us.

As told by Liz…

We hugged, we kissed, and we accepted the applause and hugs of everyone who had helped the proposal happen – including Doug and Marisa, who must have run through the terminal to get there so quickly.

Doug had to blink away tears. “You’ve restored my faith in humanity,” he said to Marisa (and us). “I really, really didn’t think this would work out. I thought people were just too self-absorbed to care. I’m so glad I was wrong!”

I thanked him, and Marisa, and everyone who had risen above their travel stress and holiday rush and exhaustion (after all, it was almost 4a.m. in the minds of all of us East Coasters) to make it possible.

As told by Alexis…

The next morning, I had to look at the flowers to convince myself that it actually happened.