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Posted on Fri, Nov 16, 2012 : 1:09 p.m.

Ann Arbor's most creative wedding proposals: from the planetarium to the Big House

By Richard Retyi

Michigan Stadium Proposal.jpg

A Michigan Stadium wedding proposal | photo courtesy of Kyle Travis and Emily Robison

Three years ago my friend Jason DePasquale made the life of every guy in Ann Arbor in a relationship a little harder. He proposed to his now-wife and mother of his child Amy Sumerton in front of an elaborately arranged and personalized 826michigan storefront window, establishing precedent for future creative-dude wedding proposals. Proposals are stressful enough without having to top a window full of robots on a clear winter afternoon.

I was faced with my own proposal dilemma earlier this summer. After dating a special someone for four years, it was time to make it official. Rachel isn’t picky, but she’s particular. I floated a few trial balloons early in the process: Mariachis showing up at the door, a boat full of mariachis landing on the shore up north, mariachis emerging from the woods at dusk. She ixnayed them all. I was out of ideas.

There are plenty of places in Ann Arbor to propose to the one you love. But if you’ve shown an ounce of creativity in life, the expectations are a lot higher. The old ring in the flute of champagne or dog with the ring tied to its collar or “I need to stay in this country, please God help me” proposals won’t work if your potential wife thinks you can do something a little more original. Unfortunately, I’ve displayed this minimum level of creativity and thus had to compete with a window full of robots.


826michigan Proposal.jpg

An 826michigan wedding proposal | photo from the DePasquale files

I investigated the possibility of proposing at the Planetarium in the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History. Rachel is a fan of planetariums, not for the Laser Floyd shows but for the proper star talks and panoramic ventures into the cosmos. What better setting to pop the question?

I corresponded with Planetarium Director Matthew Linke about my Planetarium proposal and over the course of a few emails learned that: a) My idea to propose at the Planetarium wasn’t particularly original; b) The method by which I wanted to propose was pretty much what every guy wants to do; c) If Rachel says no, I will ruin the entire day for everyone in that room.

“We’ve had five proposals total, and all were successful,” Matthew told me. “A few of the proposals didn’t work out logistically and one time the guy just didn’t show up.”

Matthew laments the no-show because he put some work into using his graphic design skills to put a personal proposal message on a rising heart-shaped moon, craters and canyons and all.

Proposals need to happen after the public show to avoid disrupting the proceedings, and, I assume, to save the kids and families from potentially seeing a woman say “no” and a grown man cry. Or vice versa. I opted not to propose at the Planetarium. Partly for scheduling conflicts and partly because they didn’t have any mariachis on staff. (This mariachi thing is a running inside joke. Get used to it.)

I always threatened to propose to Rachel at Michigan Stadium. She’s a Michigan grad and owns a bootleg Denard Robinson T-shirt (Let’s Get Denarded!) but fooseball isn’t her thing. When I take her to a sporting event and the home team scores, she screams “SPORTS!” when everyone cheers. It’s adorable.

Last year, Michigan made the Big House and many of its other facilities available for weddings, parties and special gatherings. Special Events Coordinator Katy Hepner, who arranges many of these events, says that she gets calls from people all the time looking to propose on the field. A handful of couples were engaged on the field last year and a few guys have proposed already this year.

Kyle Travis proposed to his girlfriend at the Big House a little before Halloween.

“I wanted to do it in the biggest, yet most intimate way possible,” Kyle told me in an email. “I thought, where better than in front of 113,000 empty seats?”

Kyle’s girlfriend, Emily, grew up just a few miles from the stadium and is the most passionate female college football fan Kyle knows. He connived to get her to walk down the tunnel and into the stadium with him and then dropped to one knee and proposed before the ghost of Fielding Yost.

Proposals at Michigan Stadium aren’t free—$250 for 30 minutes—but it’s a pretty decent story and a lot more personal than a big-screen proposal, which is available for the same price. Plus you don’t need to be constantly worried that your potential mate might be in the bathroom or checking out Brendan Gibbons when your proposal flashes on the screen.



A Disney "UP" themed wedding proposal | Photo by Megan Lacroix

The Arb and the Matthaei Botanical Gardens are natural settings for pretty proposals. Trees and flowers and bushes and hobo leavings. Magical. Wedding planner Ana Skidmore of Two Foot Creative shared the story of Nick, who planned a Disney “UP” themed proposal in the Botanical Gardens. As big Disney fans, Nick set up an elaborate proposal for his girlfriend Elizabeth featuring music from the film and members of her family handing her balloons as she walked to a picnic-themed set-up in the garden. He dropped to his knee and she said yes.

The great outdoors don’t have to have anything to do with nature. I’m sure there have been plenty of proposals in the concrete sections of the Diag and near that fountain you’re supposed to walk through when you first get to Michigan. I’ve also seen wedding proposals on the marquee at The Michigan Theater (attempts to get specific information on these proposals was unsuccessful, sorry) and I’ve heard of at least one proposal in Liberty Plaza, better known as the site of the highly successful Occupy Ann Arbor movement.

One friend relayed the story of her boyfriend proposing to her after a meal at The Chop House, and I’m guessing that eateries up and down Main Street have been the site of many proposals during all courses of the meal. Not just MainStreet Ventures, but b.d.’s Mongolian Grill, the Heidelberg and I’m guessing a handful of impromptu and non-binding proposals at Rush Street.

In the end, my own proposal was a success. It was creative and meaningful—she was surprised and she said yes. I won’t give particular details because I want to keep the proposal-bar as low as possible for my soon-to-propose brothers out there, but it involved items purchased and rented from multiple Ann Arbor businesses (Shop Local!), sidewalk chalk, and changing into a white tuxedo in front of a Jimmy John’s at 7 a.m. on a weekday. It was pretty magical. And mariachi-free.

Tell me your Ann Arbor proposal stories in the comments below. What’s the coolest love story you’ve heard in our burg?

Richard Retyi returns to bigger, better and bigger (he gained a little weight this fall) with his new column Hidden Ann Arbor. Rich will write about the hidden side of Ann Arbor and the things locals take for granted. In his day job, Rich is a social media director for a digital marketing agency in Ann Arbor. Read more of his stuff at or follow him on Twitter.


Cecily S

Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 2:24 a.m.

Speaking of proposals at Michigan Stadium, I'm somewhat surprised that the recent proposal involving the Michigan Marching Band wasn't mentioned (article here: Anyhow, great article, and congratulations to all those mentioned!


Sun, Nov 18, 2012 : 7:25 a.m.

I'm not a fan of the elaborate proposal. A proposal is about promising to be together, not about how much hoopla you can create or how much money you can spend. Public proposals are the worst! I always said I'd turn a man down on principal if he proposed to me that way, since it's not so much about US as being the center of attention. In case anyone wonders, I'm happily engaged. And it wasn't a spectacle. It was in a coffee shop, hurriedly, between buying the ring and having dinner with my parents.


Sat, Nov 17, 2012 : 1:58 p.m.

"site of the highly successful Occupy Ann Arbor movement" And they were "highly successful" at ... ?

Richard Retyi

Fri, Nov 16, 2012 : 9:21 p.m.

In researching this piece, I heard stories of proposals during football games, basketball games, at the Ann Arbor marathon, in Ann Arbor restaurants big and small and even another chalk-related proposal in the Diag. A lot of love in Ann Arbor!


Fri, Nov 16, 2012 : 9:08 p.m.

It was the hot summer of 1988 and I was subletting the turret room in the Delta Upsilon annex from a friend. My boyfriend drove down from Holland after a long day at work and arrived very late at night - and proposed to me at about 2 o'clock in the morning. We've been together ever since, and now our daughter is a freshman at U of M. Maybe she'll be proposed to in Ann Arbor as well?....

Wystan Stevens

Fri, Nov 16, 2012 : 8:06 p.m.

I chanced to be at the Briarwood Mall years ago, watching little kids line up to see Santa, when I noticed that a grown man and woman had invaded the line -- and they didn't appear to be parents of any of the small fry. When their turn came , the woman plopped herself on Santa's knee. (Poor Santa! -- well, no: under the fake white beard I could tell that he too was young and strong, and actually seemed to enjoy having this young female invade his lap.) The lady's companion immediately opened a jewel box and proffered an engagement ring, while the Briarwood elf (tipped off in advance) snapped a photo for their memory book. Speaking of Liberty Plaza, the Ann Arbor News once ran a story about a homeless couple who held their wedding there. (It happens that years before, my wife and I had been married right next door, inside the Kempf House.) And I once viewed a wedding at Island Park, where the bedraggled bridal party and guests stood in a circle under open umbrellas, outside the former toilet building (the temple building at the park's upriver end), while a steady drizzle filtered down on them from Heaven.