Friday, November 6, 2009

The REAL exciting news: Dale and Meredith are engaged!!!

Hey everybody!

I take no pride in my deception. I'm actually ashamed of myself--that I could be SO sneaky. On the other hand, I'm a genius when it comes to considering every possible angle of how this proposal was supposed to work out so I could TRULY SURPRISE my fiancee.

Though I had known for awhile that I wanted to propose to Meredith, I had to wait until a prime time as to not raise any suspicion. You see, Meredith and I used to watch YouTube proposal videos and I would laugh at her as she cried EVERY TIME a girl would have shocked expression as he pulled out the ring. I knew this was the ONLY way I wanted to propose to her.

Thankfully, Meredith has a birthday coming up. My cover was set in place. For this project I enlisted the help of famous arkansas wedding planner Jenessa Bailey for a multitude of secret tasks. Task One: invite our family and a few friends to a "surprise birthday party" for Mere. You see, they didn't know it was an engagement party, and therefore, my secret is still safe. Task Two: invite Meredith and me to a "double date birthday dinner" at a fancy-pants restaurant. You see, now Mere would get all fancied up... the only possible way she'd want it to happen.

A couple weeks ago, I went to Romance Diamond Co. (more on how I doubled my budget in a future blog post) and picked out a ring I fell in love with at first sight. I know, I know... this is Mere's ring. But hey, I have to take credit for it, as well as look at it for the rest of my life. Therefore, it needs to be something I love. And, let's be honest... I know more about weddings than most girls do-- a fact I'm only half-proud of. Okay, I knew I couldn't keep the ring on me for a week with out snoopy-snooperson finding it, so I arranged to pick it up the following week. Which I did. (A big thank you to Nic, one of my BEST BUDS and owner of NILO Productions for shooting some footage with my video camera for me!). Meredith and I will love watching that again and again! Here are a couple shots of the ring:

Next up, it was time to talk to the dad. Honestly I was more nervous about this than any other part of the process--not because I didn't think he'd give me permission, it's just that John McClary has been the most important man in Meredith's life for her entire life. On a tangent, I see why. He is a wonderful man, for whom I have the UTMOST respect. If I can be 1/2 the man, father, and husband he has been for the past 30+ years, I'll be the second best man I know. When Meredith and I first started dating, she gave me the best compliment to date: "you remind me a lot of my dad." Those words are still very dear to me. Okay, back on track... my hands were shaking due to nerves, and emotions were running high. John, of course, gave me permission to give the ring to his daughter, and I saw tears swelling in his eyes. That, more than anything, showed me his love and approval for Meredith and me. The hardest part was over.

The next 36 hours were the most sickening of my life. That is, my stomach did some really bizarre things. Waves of nerves over came it every couple minutes for the next day and a half. But that was nothing compared to what happened when I went to sleep...

Have you had a two nightmares in a row? Three? Well, I seriously had 10 consecutive nightmares about Meredith finding out and, thus, losing the surprise element I had fought so hard to protect--from seeing a family member in the restaurant lobby to reading a text on my phone spilling the beans to seeing the ring BULGE in my pocket. Thankfully, it brought about a deeper determination to the details so that I would be able to give her the surprised she was so deserving of. I just didn't know if my lack of sleep would prevent my attention from maintaining the focus on details this situation needed.

But the paranoia proved stronger than the sleep-deprivation. I called Jenessa 10 times in the next 10 hours with new ideas on how to sync everything perfectly, keep away suspicion, and how to make this the most memorable night in the life of Meredith McClary.

Wait a second... I thought you said there was lots of lying and sneakery going on?
Yes, yes there was.

How did I have time to go buy a ring?
On Wednesdays I teach two college photography classes in Missouri. There is a 4 hour break between classes, and I normally go play golf. However, I hopped back into my car and drove back to Fayetteville to check out rings, as well as Bordino's party room and balcony. Unfortunately I ran short on time and had to cancel the night class and, therefore, hang out at Jenessa and Mark's house with them for a couple hours.

How did I have time to talk to her dad?
I told Mere that I needed to go to my college class I teach early to get caught up on some work. That allowed me to drive to Joplin and have the appropriate meeting with the Pops.

How did I hide the ring?
This was brilliant (and spawned from one of my nightmares). I had Jenessa wrap a shoe box (easy to open) and bring it with the ring already inside (I dropped it off earlier that day). Ironically, the ring was right out in the open, two feet from Meredith, and she had no idea. Sneaky sneaky.

How did I make it clear to everyone to keep their mouths SHUT?
First off, I didn't tell many people (I later apologized to them for keeping them in the dark). I didn't even tell my mother. Everybody showed up at Bordino's thinking they were going to a surprise birthday party. The people I DID tell were only told at the very latest moment possible. For example, Nic didn't even know why he was coming to Fayetteville until we were about 3 blocks away from picking up the ring.

How did Mere have NO idea?
This is one of the hardest lies of the bunch. I had known for awhile that I wanted to propose, and Mere had even been pushing it a little bit. Okay, exaggeration... she REALLY WANTED A RING. However, I had to make her think it wasn't going to happen. This hurt me to do, but we had to have a fight about how we aren't ready to be engaged. I wanted so badly to tell her and to make everything happy and lovey, but I knew she'd appreciate the shock and surprise of an honest-to-goodness surprise proposal.

There were lots of other tiny little lies I had to tell (some to make her buy a new outfit, add a fresh coat of paint to her nails, etc, but they're insignificant to the story.


So now we come to it at last: the actual proposal. Mark and Jenessa picked us up for our double date at 7:00 (which was the time everybody else was to be in the party room at Bordino's, cars already valeted). The wrapped shoebox containing the ring was in plain sight between the two front seats. Meredith and Jenessa were chatting about wedding stuff, as usual, and I spent most of the car ride practicing my line: "Meredith, will you marry me? Meredith, will you marry me? Meredith, will you marry me?" (I knew she didn't want a big long speech with her proposal after seeing it in the aforementioned youtube videos). As we approach Bordino's I know that I had arranged for Lauren to photograph and Nic to videograph the proposal that was to take place on the balcony. Furthermore, I knew that the balcony was going to have a thousand-million candles lit. Panic set in as I saw it from afar and thought Meredith would surely notice. She did not. Once inside Bordino's, Jenessa stuck to the script and said, "They said our table wasn't ready yet, let's go look at the upstairs room" (where she had told us earlier she wanted to have her New Year's Party). Jenessa handed me the shoebox as we climbed the stairs and I made some silly comment about how fancy it looked up there. I took initiative opening the door to the balcony, knowing this was about to make Meredith LITERALLY the happiest girl on planet Earth. She followed me out above Dickson, and with the corner of candles lighting the way I turned on her and dropped. The ring made an appearance as she covered her face, completely surprised. I delivered my line as rehearsed and she said yes. She. Said. Yes.

Jenessa was nearly as happy and tearful as Mere...

If you know us, you know we HAVE to get a feet shot!

Oh wait! That's not all! I told her to follow me to have dinner so we could call her parents. The downstairs party room, however, was already filled with her parents, along with other family and friends. We walked in, they yelled "SURPRISE" and I told Meredith to say surprise back. Instead, she just started crying and held her hands up to her face. Her sister was the first to spot the ring and shouted out, "You're wearing a ring!" Meredith answered, "Dale just proposed up on the balcony" and amidst jaws dropping and cheers, we were celebrated by our friends and family.

Our friend Amy (of Sincerely Yours) had a hunch and printed out two versions of a gift: one to Meredith McClary, and one to Meredith Benfield. She's good! :)

One last thing... I wanted Ellie to realize and appreciate what was happening, as well as know that she is still the most special, wonderful little girl in the world. For that reason she got to open a present from me as well - a fancy crystal heart necklace which she loved...

We talked about what it meant for Meredith to have a ring - I asked her "Do you know what's going on?" as I pulled her aside to give her the present. She said, "you gave her a wedding ring." I said, "Kinda, it's an engagement ring, which means we are going to get married!" And then, I didn't know what to expect. You see, Ellie has always SERIOUSLY wanted to marry me. She tells me all the time. She said something that totally surprised me:

"That makes me happy."

Me too, sweet baby girl.

Talk to you soon,


  1. First of all, I'm going to say this made me tear up. And you know how difficult that is for me, Benny.

    Second of all, I'm SO happy for both of you. I know how deeply in love you both are and it takes quite a special relationship to be able to not only be together for 3.5 years but also to WORK together as well! You are a role model for other couples to follow.

    Finally, I WANTED TO MARRY MY DADDY TOO! I had a fantasy of being an Olympic figure-skater (even though I've only gone ice-skating once in my life at the age of 17) with my dad as my skating partner. Teehee!


  2. Has anyone else noticed the blinding light coming from Mere's hand in picture #10 from the top??

    What an exciting time for such a wonderfully deserving couple of such fun, excitement, and happiness!

    I love y'all!!!

  3. The surprise proposal, the gorgeous ring... nice job Dale!! :) I love that you have pictures from all of it AND you got to celebrate with your family & friend immediately.

    You guys are so cute together - can't wait to hear all about your wedding plans!!! CONGRATULATIONS!!

  4. Oh, you are good, Dale! You are sooooo good! Such thought and preparation- that is what makes a beautiful proposal. Meredith, your face... such a gorgeous face but even more so when lit up with incredible joy. *melt* Congratulations!


  5. Waaaah I'm such a baby - that was the sweetest story ever and I am so glad it worked out to perfection for you Dale - Many congrats to the both of you!!

  6. Beautiful proposal! :) And that ring....eww la la la! Love it! Very happy for you both!!!

  7. THAT is an AWESOME engagement story!! wow, you guys did SO good!! im very impressed...i dont know you guys, but CONGRATS!!!

  8. Who doesn't love a good proposal story!?!? ...And that is definitely one of 'em!! I can only hope when I get engaged (one day...) that my proposal will be as specific to me and my personality as this one was!! SO SWEET! I'm slightly stressing tho... I've read the story but can't see the pics! It won't be complete without seeing the pictures. I'll keep checking back! So excited for you guys!! :)

  9. I'm not afraid to say it. Tears in my eyes. Wonderful. So happy for two special people.


  10. Congratulations Dale and Meredith!!! When I read the story I was SO excited. It feels like sharing the happiness of good friends, which says so much about who you guys are and how you treat your "clients". Many blessings to you! P.S. Please,please,please post pics of the shoes Meredith wears for the wedding...I'm sure they will be to DIE for!

  11. You guys are just too stinking adorable! Dale, you are SO sneaky!!!! Mere, you are truly lucky to have a wonderful man in your life!

    I seriously cried!
    The ring is GORGEOUS!
    Loved the pics... Of course!

    Hugs - Tiffany Morris

  12. So excited and happy for you both! I teared up reading it earlier yesterday, and now today that I can see the pictures - I'm tearing up all over again. It is so exciting to see two people so well fit for each other make that leap.

    Awesomely done Dale!

    I hope you'll be sharing your wedding planning adventures too. :0)

  13. Nicely done Dale, nicely done! What a lovely story, and it sound just perfect. Wishing you both many, many years of happiness!

  14. omg! This is SO SO SO Sweet! That picture of you guys right after it happened is INSANELY gorgeous! You can feel yalls excitiment! Congrats guys! Cant wait to hear the wedding plans unfold!

  15. Dale- you did such an amazing job with everything. The ring is amazing! I'm sooo excited for the two of you!! Congrats!!!

  16. I can't believe it! I haven't logged on to a computer for a while and I missed the biggest piece of news all year! Many, many well wishes to the both of you! That proposal was so perfect not because of all the effort you put into the scenery and details, but because your entire plan was inspired by information you gathered from truly listening to Meredith. A great example for any man struggling to figure out how to show his sweetie how much she is loved. You are going to be such a perfect little family. Meredith is so lucky to have someone with such a big heart who takes joy in everything, especially his ability to inspire smiles. And, you are soooo lucky to have such a BEAUTIFUL and talented fiancee. Not to mention you both get to share moments everyday with that sweet, adorable little girl Ellie. The kind of child that wants to be Audrey Hepburn for Halloween! Enough said. I don't know anyone else in my life that deserves such perfect happiness everyday. Much, much love.
    <3 Mindy and Ray

  17. YAY! this is the sweetest proposal story ever! dale, your attention to detail and keeping everything a secret is absolutely incredible! i am so happy for the 2 of you! Mere, the ring is GORGEOUS and you have yourself one heck of a man!!!

    congrats to 2 amazing people!!!

  18. How wonderful! Your story made me cry! Congratulations!

  19. Great story Dale! Congrats on such an elaborate surprise, how special! Sounded like an amazing night. All us girls should be so lucky to have something so special. A BIG congratulations to you both! I can't wait to see how the wedding unfolds...

  20. I have to agree that my dad is the best man in the world, but Mere and I got pretty lucky to find good guys that realize how wonderful he is!

    Congrats to you both....and btw, how could I not see the ring right away??? It was blinding me!!!

  21. amazing job! amazing proposal! and so sweet that Ellie got in on the jewelry fun :) Ellie I'm sure that is a very special necklace!

  22. OMG!!! you guys, seriously... congrats!!!!! You are by far the cutest, giddiest, happiest looking couple i've ever seen... Can't wait to see how everything unfolds!

  23. Ellie's comment made me smile. I'm happy for you guys! Good job planning every detail out! Congratulations!

  24. You are so awesome! Congrats to you and Mere!!

  25. So excited for you guys! Dale, GREAT job on the ring, it's gorgeous!!!

  26. Just got back in town, one of Brandy's first comments was you have to see the most exciting news of the year! That's a lot considering she is having my first grandchild in about 6 weeks!!!! Back to your news, congratulations and best wishes. So happy for the two of you that this played out as planned. May God bless you two with an exciting engagement, planning and preparation for the upcoming wedding. This truly is an exciting period in life.

    Kelly B.

    P.S. Mere when you need a dress, come see me :)

  27. CONGRATULATIONS!!!! What a fabulous engagement story! Best wishes to you both as you plan what is sure to be a fabulous wedding!!

  28. A couple of things.

    1) I'm in a ball of tears after hanging on to every last word.
    2) you are the definition of thoughtful
    3) I LOVE that I can hear your voice when I read this.
    4) I CANNOT WAIT to meet Meredith.

    You're SUCH a great guy! :) Can't wait to see what the amazingness that is going to be this wedding!!!!!

  29. I'm very late in reading this, but feel as though I know you both personally. My daughter is Elizabeth Anglin and she thinks you two are the best.

    I enjoyed reading all about your proposal. Your consideration and thoughtfulness restores my faith in humanity. Made me feel as thought all is right with the world. Now...I'll look for the wedding pictures!


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