Surprise Proposal - Dover Hall Estate

Today’s blog post is something I’ve been looking forward to writing for awhile now, and I’m so excited that I can finally share this story with everyone! On our website we have a general inquiry form for people to fill out when they are interested in hosting an event at Dover Hall.  Although this form is mostly used for wedding and event inquiries, we sometimes get other random messages.  A lot of the time it will be people asking permission to come take pictures, touring, or asking to be added to a mailing list, but on May 17th of this year we got something we had never seen before from someone named Michael.

My name is Michael and I was hoping to briefly use a small portion of Dover Hall as a location to propose to my girlfriend. Our relationship can be attributed to the ballroom of Dover Hall, where we remet at a mutual friend’s wedding (Michael and Kendall) last year and sparks flew on the dance floor. Thus, this would be the perfect setting to propose to her, for it to come full circle in such an outstanding venue.

I'm a sucker for a good love story, so needless to say I was intrigued. I emailed Michael to see what he had in mind.  He let me know his plans and we decided on a date.  I let him know that my only rule was that he had to let me write a blog post about it, because the whole thing was just so out of the ordinary for us! He was happy to share his story with us, and now that they have had the chance to spread their news with friends and family it’s my turn to share with you all!

Take it away Michael…

My name is Michael and while I was born in Anchorage, Alaska, I consider myself a Texan, having grown up outside of Houston for the majority of my life. I went to Texas A&M University for undergrad and spent two years working in the oil and gas industry in Houston before moving to Washington, DC, where I am now a consultant for Deloitte Consulting LLP focusing on workforce analytics. During a typical week, I can be found participating in whatever sport is in season, whether a flag football league, ultimate frisbee, or my first love of soccer. I am active in my church, Redemption Hill, and whenever I have a free weekend I love to get out to Colorado where my immediate family currently lives. We are a family of avid fly-fishermen, duck hunters, and skiers. Despite a penchant for the outdoors, nothing makes me happier than watching Texas A&M football games or reading a new fiction series. My close friends and I have a Sunday night ritual of board games, making new cocktails, and old school video games.
Her name is Maria, and she was born and raised in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She attended the University of Virginia to study public health, where her desire to shape policy around maternal health and family planning grew. She spent a year working in Puerto Rico in that same field of study before getting her Master’s of Public Health from Emory University. She currently works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Washington, DC but is on detail to the US Agency for International Development. During a typical week, she is actively involved in her church, Restoration Anglican, and her many small groups. Maria is the extrovert of this relationship, and she is constantly organizing flower potlucks and meeting up with friends for walks and breakfasts. She loves traveling and could spend weeks at the beach, but her new favorite thing to do is spoil her nephew Bruno.
 Photo by Katelyn James Photography (Maria on left)

Photo by Katelyn James Photography (Maria on left)

Maria and I initially met two summers ago in DC when she was interning the summer between her two years of grad school, but only in passing in a larger group setting. Our story really began a year later at Dover Hall on June 27th, 2015. Maria was a bridesmaid at the wedding of her college roommate Kendall Serpe to Michael Twining. I was invited to the wedding, having known the couple through DC friends. I remember sitting in the last pew during the ceremony, watching Maria walk down the aisle and thinking, I definitely need to seek her out at the reception and dance with her. Little did I know that Maria had actually checked the guest list prior to the wedding to make sure I was coming. So we both had agendas heading into night.

When we arrived at Dover Hall during the cocktail hour, I sought her out and asked her how her time at Emory had been, what she was up to now that she had graduated, etc. She was asking me similar things, but remembering too many details about me that should have tipped her hand that she had kept tabs on me. However, sparks were flying even in that initial conversation for me to notice. When the dancing began, I once again sought her out, and we danced for probably 5 or 6 songs in a row. People began to notice that something was starting, for some of her friends started taking pictures of us and asking questions. By the end of the night, I was hooked. I attempted to get her number, but she was surrounded by all her friends at the end of the night and I had to drive people home. So I emailed her, asking for her number and promptly asked for an opportunity to take her out. The rest is history, and we’ve been happily dating ever since.

While the planning was extensive, the choosing of Dover Hall was not. After I had put my heart and soul (and bank account) into the ring, I sat down to consider proposal options. I decided to simply list out all the important places in our relationship, wanting a place that meant a lot to both of us. I wrote down Dover Hall first and just stopped. I didn’t write down another name. The venue, the scenery, the memory was perfect. I knew it had to be there. So I contacted the venue and began working with Bronwyn on the perfect weekend. Despite a few hiccups along the way (including a last minute trip by Maria to Malawi for work on the initial weekend I had planned!), it worked out so smoothly. One of Maria’s best friends and future bridesmaids, Ashley Cox, is a brilliant wedding photographer based out of Charlottesville, so that choice was easy. Everything fell into place.

Because we both live in the Washington DC area, finding the right lie to tell Maria to get her down to Richmond was a tough task. I had a couple that used to live in DC and are dear friends of mine email us, saying they were flying into Richmond for a wedding. That if we were available Saturday morning, they’d love to see us for brunch considering they were within driving distance. Maria was game, so we drove down to Richmond under that impression. Once we started making wrong turns, she became a bit suspicious. It wasn’t until I pulled off to Manakin Rd that I turned to her and said “you know we’re not going to brunch, right?”. She then knew, and began to tear up. These were a special couple of minutes, as we pulled up to Dover Hall and I quickly changed shoes and threw on a coat.

I had the photographer, one of Maria’s sisters, and one of her friends arrive about 45 minutes beforehand to set up an area for us in the back of Dover Hall. Texting them before we arrived, I knew to pull up to the front and walk around back. We could not have asked for better weather, and Dover Hall provided the perfect backdrop. I led her to the blanket in the back, where flowers and pictures of us were waiting, along with some champagne. We talked for a bit, and I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me. I count myself the luckiest guy in the world to get a yes.
We were then able to celebrate with the group that had helped set everything up. We hopped back in the car after a quick photo shoot, and drove to Fredericksburg to say hello to her grandparents. After that, it was back to DC, where many of our friends and family were gathered at my house for an after party. The whole day was incredible, and it could not have gone any better.

Thank you to Dover Hall and Bronwyn for working with me to surprise Maria, and for providing an unforgettable venue. It will forever hold a special place in our memory as where it all began, and now as the place where I asked her to marry me. It could not have been more perfect and special for us, so thank you!

Congratulations Michael & Maria! Thank you for letting us play a role in such an important milestone in your lives.  We wish you both the best of luck, happy wedding planning!




Engagement Photos by Ashley Cox

Photos from Kendall & Michael's Wedding (where Michael & Maria's story began.)