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Asking Melissa to Marry Me

Mackinac Island Carriage Ride

It was the summer of 1996. Melissa and I had been dating for three years and had just finished our junior year of college. We had one more school year to go, and then real life” and work would begin.

I had to complete a summer internship that year as part of my degree program, and had already made plans to do so at home in Michigan. Meanwhile, Melissa would be staying in South Carolina, working at a daycare center, and living with her sister in a townhouse that they shared.

I already knew that I wanted to marry Melissa. I’d known it from the first year we started dating. And I knew this summer of 1996 was when I was going to propose.

I had worked out a special payment plan with the employer where I was doing my summer internship. Because I was living at home with my parents that summer, I didn’t really have any expenses, so the payment arrangement that we agreed to was this — they would pay me half of my summer’s earnings on July 1st, allowing me to buy the engagement ring, and then they would pay me the other half of my earnings at the end of the summer. Of course, Melissa didn’t know about this payment arrangement or my plans to buy a ring. She just knew that I wanted her to come visit me in Michigan at the beginning of July.

July 1st, 1996 arrived, and I received my paycheck. I took it to the bank, cashed it, and walked into the jewelry store with cash in my pocket. I was so nervous. Not only had I never held that much cash before — especially cash of my own! — but also I had never picked out a ring before — especially a ring that would be so important. I think I spent probably an hour in the jewelry store that day, but I finally picked out a nice set that included the engagement ring and wedding band. I was confident Melissa would like it, and also, the cost was within my price range, allowing me to pay with the cash in my pocket. (If only I had kept that good practice of paying cash for more major purchases in the future, but that’s for another day.)

I got the ring home and showed it to my parents. I told them I wanted to propose, but I guess I had used up all of my planning ability on the payment schedule and buying the ring because now I had no plans and no clue of a special way to propose! Remember, this was 1996, before the internet and YouTube, so I had no easy access to proposal ideas. But my dad had my back and suggested a day trip to Mackinac Island on July 4th.

So the morning of July 4th, 1996, my family and Melissa loaded up into my parents’ Chevy Astro minivan and drove to Mackinaw City. We bought our ferry tickets and began the ride to the island. I was more nervous than I think I had ever been — not so much about Melissa’s response to my proposal, but because I now had this very expensive and important ring in my pocket and I was terrified that I would lose it!

In fact, while we were on the ferry boat to Mackinac Island, she noticed an odd shape in my pocket and asked me what it was. It took some quick thinking on my part, but these were the days before digital cameras when we still used rolls of film, so I told her that I just had extra film rolls in my pocket. 😆

We arrived at the island right at lunchtime, so everyone — except me — agreed that they wanted to eat lunch right away. I didn’t want to eat because I was too nervous! In fact, I even excused myself to the restroom during lunch just so I could have a chance to check the ring box and ensure the ring was still there!

Finally, the meal was finished and we ventured out to find something to do. But I still had the problem that, in spite of now being in a beautiful location, I still had no specific idea for how to propose.

We checked out the horse-drawn carriage tours, but with it being Independence Day, there were a lot of people there that day and it would be a while before a carriage tour was available. So then we decided to rent bicycles and ride around the island — the 8-mile trip on M-185. Melissa and I settled on a tandem bike — me in the front, steering, and her on the back. And we all set off on our bikes, heading east-to-west around the island.

We all stopped for a break near mile marker 2, and I decided it was now or never. I gave the rest of my family the signal to keep riding on while Melissa and I stayed behind.

We sat on a large rock and made small talk, and all the while I was trying to distract her so I could get the ring box out of my pocket. Finally, she looked away long enough that I could get the ring box out, and when she turned back around, I was sitting there with the ring box open. She immediately shouted, YES!” I didn’t even get a chance to get down on one knee, say anything, or even ask her. But I was OK with that because she had said yes. And I was finally able to get the burden of that ring out of my pocket and onto her finger where it belonged.

We eventually got back on the tandem bike so we could catch up with my family. I was happily pedaling in front, and Melissa was just cruising on the back, hands and feet out, making happy squealing noises, and shouting to anyone we passed, I’m engaged! We’re getting married!” It’s 8.2 miles around Mackinac Island, and we had stopped around mile marker 2, so I would safely estimate that I pedaled those last 6 miles by myself, with her just riding along. And I didn’t care at all. (Of course, I was much younger then and much more fit — I was 20 years old, turning 21 the next month in August).

We made it back to town there on the island and celebrated with my family. And we even got to take that horse-drawn carriage ride.

25 years ago today — July 4th, 1996. One of the happiest days of my life. ♥️

(And yes, our family is very patriotic 🇺🇸 — Melissa and I were engaged on Independence Day, July 4th, 1996; we were married on Flag Day, June 14th, 1997; and our son was born on Patriot Day, September 11th, 2007.)

Posted on 2021-07-04   #Engagement     #Mackinac Island     #Melissa Dunn  

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