**Warning: This is long and picture-heavy.**
I know the final weeks leading up to our November 13th wedding will be extremely chaotic. I also know our stress levels are going to be at maximum capacity. For that reason, I know precisely where Mr. Puffer and I will be three weeks before our wedding.
Alone. At the beach. Three hours away from guest lists and seating plans and RSVPs. We’ll be on a mini vacation on Chincoteague Island, Virginia, celebrating our engagement.
You might be wondering why we would go on a vacation less than a month before our wedding—and less than a month before we leave for our honeymoon. That’s easy: to reconnect.
With my moving to Maryland and changing jobs last year, Mr. P and I didn’t have a lot of time to take a vacation. We went to Atlantic City for a few days in June (casinos = cheap hotel rooms, just FYI), but other than that, we’d been pretty busy with our lives. So when Puff mentioned doing another short getaway in the fall, I quickly agreed. We tossed around a few ideas of destinations within a few hours’ drive—the mountains, the shore—and finally agreed on Chincoteague, where we’d each vacationed separately in the past.
Last October we hired a pet sitter, packed our bags, and set off for Chincoteague. The island was deserted: most tourists depart in September, leaving only the locals and a handful of budget-conscious tourists like us. While we were booking our hotel, I kept looking at the bargain places, but Mr. Puffer pushed for the “more romantic” hotel—one with a deck off our room and a 50-foot dock off the back of the hotel. It wasn’t too much more expensive, and it ended up being lovely.
We spent the first day and night exploring Assateague Island, a nature preserve for birds and the famous wild ponies. I’d read all the Marguerite Henry books when I was little, with Misty of Chincoteague being a perennial favorite, and it’s still neat to go there as an adult and see the ponies. We walked the shoreline, fed the seagulls, and enjoyed a nice dinner out. (And we watched The Walking Dead in our hotel room that night. Don’t judge us!)
A few of the famous wild ponies of Assateague
The next morning, after enjoying the hotel’s continental breakfast, we went back to our room to decide what we’d do that day. I’d noticed Mr. Puffer had been quiet all morning. He seemed frustrated when I asked him what was wrong. Finally, I decided to give him some space and stepped out onto the deck to enjoy the morning air.
A few minutes later, Puff opened the deck door and offered me his hand, asking if I’d go on a walk with him. I noticed he had a gift bag in his hand. Curious—and a little suspicious of what was coming—I put my hand in his and followed him out of the room. He led me down to the end of the dock behind the hotel and asked me to sit on the bench next to him.
My favorite dock in the whole world
We sat for several minutes, enjoying the silence of the bay and the warm morning sun. Then he began to speak. He told me the story of us, how we met and fell in love. Then he told me how much he loved me and why. Precisely what he told me is private; I’m keeping most of it to myself. But it was heartfelt and sincere and full of so much love, I think my heart did a Grinch and grew several sizes.
Finally, he put the gift bag between us and pulled out a wrapped gift. It was a CD with love songs from the ’60s, a genre we always said we’d play at our wedding. I smiled and read through the song list, pointing out my favorites. Then he took the CD from me and handed me a mug with several things inside. “Turn it around,” he instructed.
The mug had a long passage on it, but all I saw were four words printed at the bottom: “Will you marry me?” I gasped and looked up, then saw he’d dropped on his knee in front of me. I barely processed the ring box he was holding out to me. I just heard him ask me to marry him, then I said “Yes,” and we started laughing and crying and hugging and kissing. It was perfectly magical.
The mug, plus the Scrabble ornament inside
Also inside the mug: this beautiful rock
It was only after we’d both calmed down that he exclaimed, “Oh, the ring!” We’d completely forgotten about the ring in the heat of the moment. Grinning at me, he slid the ring on my finger. Another family heirloom, he explained, one he and his parents worked to customize for me. It has history and is completely unique. I love it.
Our recreated proposal scene, LOL
We spent about 20 minutes on the dock after that, as he told me about planning the proposal and getting the ring. After that, we raced off to tell the first person we saw—the woman at the hotel’s front desk—about our engagement. She came out onto the deck with us to take pictures.
First photo as an engaged couple!
For once, I didn’t refuse to have my picture taken.
After the front desk clerk headed back to the hotel, we spent the day exploring Assateague, flying a kite, getting our photos taken by friendly strangers, enjoying a sunset cruise around the islands, buying souvenirs, and sharing a romantic dinner by candlelight. It was the perfect day to follow an absolutely perfect proposal.
We found this gem right before we boarded the boat. Perfect!
From the sunset cruise
Now that’s what you call a sunset.
Before we left the island, we made each other a promise: the following year, and each year after that, we’d try to return to Chincoteague to celebrate our engagement. We know we won’t make it every year, but come this October, we’ll be there.
Weddings are stressful. Planning one is even more so. We see our little getaway as the perfect time to reconnect before the wedding. To remind each other of why we’re going through the stress of the wedding in the first place. And to reflect on how far we’ve come together.
One more ring photo. I couldn’t help it.