Passing the Candle: The Story of My Engagement With the Most Beautiful Woman in the World

meandkhalaBy Mark Hamilton

A few months ago I proposed to K’hala S. Carpenter. I’ve been meaning to write a little article here telling everyone about the experience, and now I’ve finally gotten around to it.

The thing that is most important to remember when it comes to planning a proposal is to know your target. Think hard about what the object of your affection enjoys. Do they like long walks? The beach? Books? Sports? Try to figure out something that they would find romantic. This seems like a no brainer, but sometimes people forget about it.

I knew that K’hala likes long walks, flowers, chocolate, and being remembered and appreciated. She also loves romantic gestures. So I picked Valentine’s Day as the day I would propose. A little cliché? Maybe, but it’s also terribly romantic and gave me a justification for showering her with romantic gestures all day. I got up early that morning and walked down to the flower shop on 13th and Hilyard. There I purchased a single red rose (I had learned from previous occasions that K’hala finds roses to be romantic, and I knew she would rather have a single rose than a giant bouquet). Then I walked down to the 7-11 and picked up a few of her favorite chocolates: Ferrero’s! By the time I had returned to the apartments K’hala had arrived. I presented the flower and chocolates to her and she beamed with affection. This served two purposes: now she would be less likely to suspect I had anything else planned for the day, and it also made her happy. Little did she know I had also bought her a carnation from student life, and arranged for a Val-e-gram. Now, remember, know your target. I knew K’hala would love a Val-e-gram because she loves to know that she’s remembered. Other people might be embarrassed by a Val-e-gram, and would prefer something a little quieter. As it happened K’hala loved the Val-e-gram so much she started to cry.

I had arranged for the Val-e-gram singers to give her a message: “At 2:00, meet at our tree.” Now in this case “our tree” is just a little tree around campus that we happened to like. Try to find a connections like that when planning romantic events. A bookstore or coffee shop may not seem romantic…but if it’s “our bookstore” or “our coffee shop” then it becomes very romantic indeed. I went to the tree twenty minutes early and “hid” up in the branches. She saw me up there, of course, but she enjoyed it.

Fortunately for me the weather was gorgeous that day. I asked if she’d like go on a walk, seeing as it was so beautiful out. She said yes (of course; I knew that she could never resist a walk on a sunny day) and we headed toward the river. We walked across the footbridge to Alton Baker park and wandered around on the bike paths. This was the critical moment. I needed to find a romantic spot where we would be unlikely to be interrupted by passing cyclists. It was a tall order; the unseasonal warmth had brought everyone out into the open and the park was crawling with people. I was about ready to give up and propose in front of passing joggers when I spotted an unused bike trail that had a beautiful old maple tree growing a little way off the path. I told her I wanted a closer look at the tree and we walked over. Then, while she looked up at the branches, I got down on one knee and showed her the ring. She was floored! And she said yes, which is the most important thing.

We kept it a secret for a week so we would have time to arrange a candle passing. For those of you who don’t know, candle passing is a longtime NCU tradition. All the single ladies get together in a room, form a circle, and start passing a candle around. Tied to the candle is the engagement ring. The candle is passed around and around the circle, back and forth, until finally the lucky lady blows the candle out, revealing her identity to all. Meanwhile, outside the room and staring in through a window are all the college men who might possibly be getting married. When the candle is blown out they’ll be able to guess pretty quick which one of them decided to get hitched, and then they’ll grab the lucky guy and throw him into the Mill Race (or, alternatively, dump a bucket of water on his head). I mean that’s what they’ll attempt to do: their victim is going to do everything he can to escape into the girl’s room, where he’ll be safe from attack and the girls will pray over him and his fiancé. So, that’s what we did. Not many guys showed up, and I got so carried away trying to escape getting wet that I never did manage to get into the room. But altogether it was fun.

So that’s my story. Hopefully the next time an NCU couple gets hitched they’ll decide to put on a candle passing too. The wedding is this Sunday, the day after graduation.

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