Every couple is unique, and Dave and Deb are no exception.
They’ve always loved traveling, hiking, and stargazing together. It made perfect sense, then, for Dave to use those elements for his surprise marriage proposal to Deb.
At the top of Brasstown Bald on a clear starry night, Dave had Deb look through their telescope at a box of star-like lights he had placed further up the mountain. The lights read “Will you marry me?” After a moment of surprise, Deb said yes!
It was all the details of the proposal that made it great. But when there are many details, there are many places things can go astray! Things were not nearly as simple as they seemed in the end.
Fortunately, love conquers all. Even though a few obstacles popped up, the stars still aligned for this bold engagement idea.
The story is even better if we let you hear it from them!
Cedar Creek: This was a pretty original engagement. Where and when did you propose?
Dave: Brasstown Bald, on Dec 17th 2018.
CC: How did you plan and prepare for this engagement?
Dave: Planning took a ridiculously long time. The hardest part of it was finding a location to test the light rig at night without the police showing up!
I needed between 3000 and 4000 feet of direct line of sight, and I needed to be able to reach both ends on foot. That's easier said than done since there are way too many trees and hills in Georgia.
I originally started testing it on an active train track, and since trains don’t like making sharp turns it was easy to find long stretches of train tracks.
CC: What else did you have to do to get ready?
Dave: The first thing I did after finding the test location was to figure out the font size I needed for the message. I printed random letters and had a friend stand on the other end during the day while I pointed the telescope to figure out the spacing between the letters and all that.
Next I built some prototypes at home. Basically a cardboard box with holes drilled and an LED flashlight inside the box. Did some testing and realized it didn't really quite look like a stars when viewed through the telescope. It was too bright, too direct light and there was a substantial difference in brightness between the holes that were directly in front of the flashlight and the ones that weren't. So I had to put 2 light diffusers in the box and a set of 5 LED flashlights
I had to take the flashlights apart and rewire them to have all 5 draw from the same circuit and I had to rig a large set of batteries. Each change I made had to be tested at night at the location. It was a good hour away from home so it took a while to get it all right.
CC: So you didn’t test it in the same place you proposed?
Nope. I originally wanted to do the proposal at Kennesaw mountain. But I was unable to find a location with direct line of sight from that distance to the top. I even took Deborah there one day and I was being very suspicious taking pictures in all directions. She thought it was weird cause I brought a selfie stick but was using it not for selfies but to scout in all directions.
That’s when I decided I needed to just do it at Brasstown Bald. I knew through Google Earth that Brasstown Bald had the exact measurements and direct line of sight from the parking lot to the viewing tower. But the logistics of convincing Deborah to come with me to Brasstown potentially on a school night (she is a teacher and wakes up super early) to casually look at stars was a major concern.
Also, asking an assistant to hike up Brasstown Bald, which is bear infested, at night by themselves was gonna be an issue.
CC: Whoa, so did your friend take bear mace with him or something?
Dave: The potential bear issue is what prompted me to install an electronic timer on the box. I set it up to be 3 hours ahead, I figured I could go up Brasstown, tell Deborah to meet me in Gainesville, and just make sure that I set up for this in less than 3 hours.
However, I had a major difficulty with this. The box was painted black and had a lot of tape holding the 4 sets of 4 AA batteries that were taped to the side. There were cables coming off the batteries on to a timer circuit taped to its side with a red countdown. So basically it looked like dynamite and a timer. I was planning to put this in a federal building at night.
Although Brasstown Bald is fairly remote, there are always people up there. I knew because I had been there at night at this point a good 4 times. So I was certain somebody was going to call the authorities on my contraption. I decided to just pay a fried 200 bucks to be there just to push the button and to make sure no one messed with the rig.
CC: So what about the night of the proposal?
Dave: I told Deborah that I wanted to go look at the stars with my brother's telescope (I had borrowed a couple of weeks ago, so we brought 2 telescopes up there, she had no idea I had bought one specifically for this). She was not happy at all because it was a Monday night and she gets up at 5:30 AM. But I pushed and pushed and she said yes. So we went up there, I was driving like a maniac up those mountain roads cause I was afraid she would say "screw this! I need to go home.”
We got there and it was the windiest night ever. It was brutally cold but at least it was clear. When I got there, I could see my friend’s headlamp as he hiked, neither of us had cell phone signal (we knew this from the night before) so he knew to just set up the box and let it sit there. I would honk my horn when the whole thing was over for him to come down.
He got to the top and set up the box. I was setting up the telescope, Deborah looked like an Eskimo with about 3 jackets on, she was a little mad that we were there in the first place. Honestly, she was so mad I almost called the whole thing off. The only reason I didn’t was because I had no way of telling my friend to just cancel and come down.
Anyway, I set up the telescope and pointed it in the general direction of the now lit star box. I knew it took me normally about 10 minutes to find it. The entire time I was talking BS about how awesome it is that we were finally doing this. She started to calm down and not be so upset when I started teaching her how to use the telescope. I told her I wanted to look at that particular bright star.
I got a glimpse of the message on the viewfinder and started to find the right focus length and the right eye piece. I finally got it and had the message on the eyepiece clearly visible. I told her to hand me something for the car. At that point I also went to the car and grabbed the ring. We got back to the telescope and I told her to look through the telescope. She did and after some hesitation, she literally asked "What? That's so weird, Who would put that up there?"
I told her “It's for you, Deborah.” I was on one knee and she had not looked away from the telescope, she then looked at me and it sort of hit her that it was for her.
I said, “Deborah, would you marry me?”
She did not answer right away, her scientific curiosity got the best of her and she said, "How did you do that?"
I said, “I can explain it later, but right now you need to answer the question.”
So she said yes, and I kissed her! She was completely covered in jackets and scarfs and winter hats, so it felt like I was kissing a penguin. Literally within a minute we started picking up stuff to go back down, we were freezing. I honked the horn and texted my friend to let him know to come down. He surprisingly got the text message and texted me back that he was on his way down.
CC: What was the significance of the place and method of proposal you chose?
Dave: I originally wanted to do it at Kennesaw Mountain since we had gone there on one of our early dates. We had gone to Brasstown Bald before as well, but it wasn’t as memorable to us as Kennesaw, but as explained the Georgia vegetation didn't cooperate.
The reason I decided to do something stars related was because throughout the time we were going out we had gone to very remote places to get away from light pollution and see more stars. We wanted to see the milky way because I had seen it a few years before in the Nevada desert. Even in middle of nowhere Utah we couldn’t see it. So stars was sort of a theme.
CC: I know you said you got some help on this proposal. Who all was involved?
Dave: My friend Danilo got paid 200 bucks for helping out. He brought a friend of his on the day of the proposal so it was 2 people up there. I could not trust anyone else! The only people that knew were Danilo, my mom, and my friend Addison.
CC: You said there were some hiccups in the plan, though. What went wrong and how did you fix it?
Dave: On the day of the proposal, the cable that powered the timer broke off. I couldn't solder it back together. I had met Danilo at a Walmart and Deborah was on the other side of the parking lot waiting because I said I would meet her her at a time and I was about 30 minutes late.
I basically had to rip off that portion of the circuit and told Danilo to just join and twist the two cables that would close the flashlight circuit. That sort of destroyed the box.
CC: What was it like when she said yes?
Dave: I felt relieved. We were going on a trip a few days later and I wanted to know that we were engaged at that point. It had been so much planning and being at the mercy of the weather and the sky. I knew it would go well, I had done my homework, but I'm incredibly careful so I would not just roll with it. That's what pushed it so far into December.
I knew she would say yes, so that wasn’t a surprise. In my mind she was already my fiance but she could not join me on the other side until this happened. So it was an awesome experience and relief that we were both now together in the same spot in our relationship! It had been about 7 months of me knowing I was going to do this and do it this way.
CC: Based on your experience, what advice do you have for other romantic couples looking to propose?
Dave: I feel like there is sort of a competition when it comes to proposals. I did this not because I wanted to outdo anyone, but because it’s part of my personality and part of hers. We are both science geeks and we spend a lot of time tinkering with stuff on the weekends, we have also gone to some ridiculously remote places together and enjoy being out there. To make it personal for us, I had to do something sciency, elaborate, that I built, and it had to be outside.
My advice is to do your thing, do whatever is expected out of your relationship. If it’s travel it should be out there, if it’s music it should have some tune to it, if it's words then you better have something beautiful to say.
CC: What were you thinking before you knew it was a proposal?
Deb: I thought that he was acting very strange and very determined. The fast mountain road driving, meeting me late, continued pressure to be excited to go look at the stars. I was thinking, he really wants this to be fun and it's really important to him.
I felt bad for not trusting him to get me home at a reasonable hour or make the freezing cold night worth it. Let's face it, I don't like that complete lack of control.
By the time the telescope was set up and focused, as I looked through it, I thought it was odd that there would be a lit message over the mountain that we thought was a star. It totally took me by surprise.
CC: How did you feel when he proposed?
Deb: I felt shocked, more than anything, by how elaborate, unique, and intimate he made the proposal.
It was far sweeter than any proposal I could have imagined and I was amazed by the dedication he has for our relationship. He is so creative, innovative, and imaginative which are some of my favorite qualities of his. It was beautiful to see those aspects of him shining in the night sky at that moment.
CC: What did you do after the proposal?
Deb: Dave had already thought to gather our friends together to have cheesecake and champagne at Cafe Intermezzo. So, we made the hour and a half drive down to Dunwoody. It gave us time to process what just happened and make phone calls to family and friends to share the news.
Despite what Davide would say, the night could not have been more perfect (to me at least). And yes, I went to bed very late and was gleefully sleep deprived the next day!
CC: Based on your experience, what advice do you have for other romantic couples looking to propose?Deb: If you know she'll say yes, then just go through with it even if she is in a bad mood like I was. I cannot imagine that any girl who is in love with a man would be unable to feel over the moon with excitement just because of minor flaws in the evening. She knows how you normally behave and you will probably seem odd that night. But it is definitely worth it! Topics: Romantic Getaways