HOLY SMOKES! How do I even begin to tell the amazing, insanely crazy and adventurous story of this proposal?! It has everything: romance, international travel, robbery, collusion, improvisation and secret signals!
For those of you that may not know, my roommate and best friend is none other than Katy Weaver, a local and badass wedding photographer in her own right. For the last two years we’ve traveled in the month of February as a birthday celebration for me and this year we booked tickets to Guatemala! So when two months ago Katy’s boyfriend Mikael asked me what I thought about him crashing our girl’s trip with a surprise proposal, my only response was, “HELL FUCKING YES!” These two travel so often that Katy was already wondering when and where he’d pop the question so there was no way she was going to anticipate him proposing during our girl’s trip. She had no idea what she was in for!
So Mikael bought the ring, booked the flight and the plan was underway! We set off to Guatemala and had a few days to ourselves to explore and to celebrate my birthday at Lake Atitlan. Then after a particularly rough day of travel to the jungle and turquoise waters of Semuc Champey the day finally came! I was a nervous wreck for days trying to make sure this went off without a hitch.
Here’s what I did: I lied to Katy and told her that a local blogger was meeting us at Semuc Champey and that I’d set up a photo shoot with her. I told Katy I wanted to photograph her too, so she’d get dolled up and wear her prettiest dress (a girl has to make sure her best friend looks like a total babe when she’s getting proposed to, know what I mean?) then I changed Mikael’s name to Stephanie Moreno in my phone so I could text him meeting points and times without raising suspicion. The morning of I texted him asking for any updates and didn’t receive a response so I went up to breakfast.
When I got to the dining area of Utopia Hostel Katy told me then that she’d received an interesting call from the front desk from Mikael, who was asking for me (suspicion raised!) and that his message was “2.” Well, shit. Okay so now she knew something was up but I just played it coy, “oh, 2, huh? Yeah, I think I know what he’s talking about. That definitely could’ve waited.” Katy kept looking at me with her eyes narrowed, “Okay! Now you know we’re in collusion but I’m not telling you what I know. Don’t worry your pretty little head about it too much.” It was vague and obscure enough that she still had no idea what was happening but I took that to mean he would meet us in the National Park at 2pm. This meant I had to find a way to keep her distracted for 4 hours with the only bus heading into the park at 10am. But here’s where Mikael’s side of the story gets pretty fucking crazy…
Mikael took a red eye flight through Mexico City to Guatemala City where he took a 7 hour bus ride to Cobán, but due to delays he missed the last bus to Lanquín and our meeting location. He befriended an older Spaniard man he met on the bus and they had dinner together and decided to share a dorm at a hostel in town. Mikael put his wallet in his underwear and his phone underneath his head as he slept (the ring and passport were in his pockets). He woke up at 4am with both his phone and wallet gone… along with the Spaniard. So now he had no money to make it to the final destination and no means to communicate with me about our meeting point. This is where he had to get crafty.
He managed to barter and trade his watch and his charging cube (with very limited Spanish vocabulary) for the remainder of his ride and made the phone call to the hostel by tricking a truck driver into using his cell phone. He clearly got flustered and did his best to relay his message without giving away too much information and got off the phone quickly. Then off he went to continue his journey.
Mikael bartered enough to make the final leg of the journey but once he got to Semuc Champey things got a little dicey; you have to pay an entrance fee to get into the park and the women (who only spoke Spanish) weren’t too keen on letting this gringo in without paying. First, he tried to sneak in real casually. They caught him. He did his best to explain to them what he was planning and why he was there and showed them the engagement ring, trying to appeal to their sense of romanticism. On the sign-in sheet he signed in under my name and wrote me a little note in Spanish, ” Marcela Pulido – I’m here! at the boardwalk” and he walked into Semuc Champey to propose to his lady love.
I walk into Semuc Champey thinking I’ve still got 4 hours to kill when I see the sign-in sheet with my name and the note. Instantly, I get nervous and start mentally preparing myself. Luckily Katy thinks we’re on our way to a shoot so I pull my camera out and start walking ahead, scouting the locations to see if I can spot Mikael before Katy does. There are three sections of the park he could potentially be at, so I set Katy up at the first, then the second areas while I’m searching the horizon to see if this is the spot. (Quick backstory note: the three of us had done a marathon viewing of The Hunger Games just a few weeks before. This is important later!) Eventually as I turn back towards to the third spot I hear it, the Mockingjay whistle signaling that… THIS IS IT! I knew we were close to the spot.
Walking back to where the paths crossed I noticed there was a black bandana (a marker we had previously discussed) tied to the sign pointing to the left, now I knew where to go! I start running up the boardwalk to the third location as Katy yells at me, “Why are you running!?” and I’m thinking, “Screw it! No time for excuses, she’s about to find out why.” I round the corner and see Mikael crouched down in the bushes, pointing down saying, “This is the spot!” I take a few quick shots of him and pass him up and turn around to catch Katy’s reaction.
And, well, you can view the rest for yourself from here!
Engagement Ring: Yellow triangle diamond with rose gold band custom made by Alexis Russell