I had absolutely no idea James was going to propose.
Looking back now, I can see a million little clues in the lead up to that day, that all make sense now… like James having to go into the office “to work” on the Saturday before we left for the airport. (He was picking up the ring). When he got ‘bag searched’ at Gatwick security and I was told in very aggressive sign language, to just ‘stay put’ with the children on the seats nearby. Then, when we arrived at the hotel and checked in to our room and James was particularly concerned that the ‘in room’ safe didn’t lock… ( I thought he was just being over protective of the new iPad pro he had been given for Christmas) and finally when the picture perfect weather took a prolonged turn for the worse.. he took it so much harder than he normally would. At one point (I think it was day four of black sky and torrential rain) James emerged from the bathroom saying
“I think I just had an emotional breakdown in the shower”.
As I write this now, it sounds like the very obvious plot of a bad romantic comedy, but at the time, in the midst of two children (one a pre-teenager the other an pre-three-nager’) it all seemed like the normal everyday antics of a harassed family of four, travelling abroad.
I guess our engagement story really begins the day my friend Ellie and her husband arrived at our resort in Long Boat Key, because that’s the day the bad weather finally broke. I’m not exaggerating when I say, that when I first met up with Ellie in the hotel lobby the weather was so bad we were both stood there discussing whether or not, we were checking out to escape to another location. (Her to Tampa and us to Orlando.) But just like that cheesy movie I was referring to earlier, as we chatted and contemplated saying goodbye before we had really even had chance to say hello, the Sun suddenly emerged from behind the doom and gloom and in the blink of an eye the black sky was gone. Talk about someone literally bringing the sun with them. (Ellie, from now on … you will always be the girl, who actually packs the sun in her suitcase. Thank you xx)
Any way, we had the best time sunning ourselves at the pool and the beach during the day and then that evening we enjoyed dinner altogether overlooking the bay. The stress of the bad weather was gone and it was prosecco and key lime pie all round to celebrate new friendships and some long awaited fun in the sun.
The next day (Friday) was the day it all came together.
The day was literally perfect. Not a cloud in the sky, the Gulf of Mexico was calm and crystal clear. Ellie’s husband Steven surprised us all with a rented beach cabana and a bag full of mini prosecco’s for the girls and beers for the boys.
our other friend Maggie and her children also joined us there and we spent the day laughing, the kids in the cabana, the boys covered up like old men on the deck chairs and the girls laying out trying to get brown bums. I remember looking around at how happy the scene was and feeling so grateful to have my own wonderful family and also be part of such a special Instagram family. If you’re not involved in social media communities, you wont believe that these kind of magic situations happen 4000 miles away from home, but they do and it’s not lost on me how lucky I am that moments like this exist and these women and their families sharing a day on the beach with me and mine, is a very real and special part of the life Instagram has afforded me.
Anyway, after prematurely ageing myself at least 15 years in the beautiful Sarasota Sunshine, talk turned to dinner plans. James and I had a list of restaurants we wanted to visit during our time in Sarasota and one of them was The BEACH HOUSE on Anna Maria island. A place where you sit with your feet in the sand and eat dinner watching the sun set over the sea. As the weather was so perfect that day, James pointed out that if there was ever day to eat dinner on the beach, it was today. So the 6 of us (me, James, the kids, Ellie and Steven) headed out to celebrate the last night that we would all be together.
We arrived as the blue sky was turning a million shades of pink and orange. Whilst the men were at the bar ordering the drinks, Ellie took some pictures of me and the kiddos on the beach (which I so appreciated because as we all know, Mums are rarely ever in the family pictures, we are always the one behind the camera… because dads never seem to remember to say “lets take a picture with Mum” sorry James but you don’t ).
As we headed back to wait for our table James was taking an unusually long time settling the bill for the pre-dinner drinks. I know now, he was pre-ordering a bottle of champagne, but at the time I was laughing with Steven that he was probably chatting up the waitress – whoops.
No one knew what James had planned, it was just pure luck (and Ellie being her usual lovely self) that prompted her to say “let’s get a picture of the two of you while the sun is setting”. Steven kindly looked after Moo (that sounds way better than ‘got lumbered with the two year old’) and Charlie was playing assistant photographer to Ellie as we had a little sunset photoshoot.
Suddenly the buzzer to signal our table was ready, vibrated and I don’t know if Ellie just has some weird kind of sixth sense but she just whisked Charlie away with her back up to the restaurant as James walked me further down towards the water.
For the first time in 11 days we were ALONE. no children to distract us, just me and James. As we walked, James did a great job of pretending that he hated all the romantic photo nonsense and I was wittering away mindlessly about how he was literally the only person in the whole world I could spend an entire week of rain with, with 2 moody kids! Ha! Then there, a little way up from the waters edge, the sun going down… he just stopped. It was like slow motion as he knelt on one knee in the sand and produced a box seemingly out of thin air (even now I could not tell you where that ring box came from, I saw no digging around in pockets it just appeared like magic in the palm of his hand…. Very smooth James, well done)
He looked at me and smiled as he opened the little square box to reveal the most beautiful ring I’ve ever seen. Now James, by nature, is not a cheesy person or into cliché or convention at all, so saying ‘will you marry me’ just wouldn’t have suited him. But what he did say, I’ll never forget…
“It would be my greatest achievement if you would be my wife?”
it was romantic and perfect and yes I pretty much spontaneously combusted into a puddle of tears.
I didn’t even say yes, I couldn’t speak, instead he simply slipped the ring on my finger and cuddled me until I stopped crying saying ‘I love you’. To me, it had been this wonderful, personal, private moment, just us and the ocean and the sun setting in the distance. Little did I know that when I turned around to walk back to re-join our friends and the kids, everyone dining at the Beach House that night, had witnessed James get down on one knee. As I looked up and wiped the tears from my face the restaurant began to applaud, James even took a bow lol. It felt amazing walking back to our table, everyone cheering. Ellie and Steven threw their arms around us in complete shock and a well timed waitress appeared with freshly popped champagne.
I honestly couldn’t tell you what I ate for dinner that night, all I know is that one minute we were toasting our engagement, celebrating and accepting well wishes from the other diners whom came over intermittently to offer their congratulations and get glimpse of the ring… Then all of a sudden, we were the only table left, the restaurant was completely empty and the night was over. We said our goodbyes to Ellie and Steven as they were leaving for another resort the next day. They even surprised us with an impromptu gift to remember the occasion by. A beautiful print of the restaurant we just got engaged at.
Looking back at the turn of events and after speaking to James about how the weather had ruined all the plans he had made at the beginning of our holiday, I can’t quite believe how perfectly everything played out. I coudn’t have asked for a more romantic, fun, special proposal. I loved how effortless and private it was when it was just James and I on the beach. But walking back while everyone cheered and clapped and having friends there to immediately celebrate with made it even more memorable than I ever could have imagined.
After that, I pretty much just stared at my ring for 72 hours straight and then we went on to enjoy our final week of vacation engaged, in glorious sunshine and actually looking forward to returning home, so we could start planning our WEDDING! (I mean I’m 36, a long engagement is absolutely NOT AN OPTION hahahaha.)
Right! Ok ladies, I promise that’s it. If you made it to the end of this, without wanting to throw your left shoe at me I thank you and I promise I won’t reference anything else as ‘magical’ until at least the wedding day itself .
Thanks so much for all your love and support
(P.S for those of you that asked for the details of the ring. James had it specially made for me. It’s a brilliant cut (aka round) center diamond with a cushion halo set on a platinum band, it’s literally my dream ring!)