The Love Hunt: the ULTIMATE Proposal Planning

The following post is from Arun, the man responsible for the winning proposal for our Best Proposal Contest Search. Arun discusses his proposal planning - and the actual proposal to his fiancee, Megan. Initial Idea So it all started with a simple kitchen conversation between Kavi (my brother) and I in late July. How can I propose to my girlfriend Megan in a creative, romantic, meganyet simple way? Kavi suggested a scavenger hunt… I thought, gosh I like that idea, but that’s definitely not simple. A few days later, I was talking to Anjali (my sister) on the phone. The brainstorming session continued, and I resurfaced the notion of a scavenger hunt. My sister instantly loved it, and helped to evolve the idea with headstrong enthusiasm. She offered to make a website for the event…. Umm, who knew Anjali was savvy with developing websites?? Actually why should that surprise me; she’s a creative chameleon of many talents. Now we just need a perfect scavenger hunt title, and thus was born. The Pitch Every good “public” scavenger hunt needs a sponsorship. Megan will obviously wonder how I came to hear about this scavenger hunt right? My chosen sponsor was the Virginia Tech Alumni Association… an easy solution, and completely believable. The next tedious task was building the website. Over the next two weeks, and countless emails with Anjali, we had a fully functioning portal… complete with the tabs referencing Registration, About Love Hunt, Rules, Prizes, FAQ’s, and Contact. The homepage even had a fake archive from Love Hunt Philly held last year, a survey for potential Love Hunt host cities next year, and a link to a fake Facebook Page. But perhaps my favorite part… a ticker for the number of teams registered which my sister was gradually increasing each day. Genius little sis. Meanwhile, this event would be destined for only one team… Megan and myself. “Hey babe, check out this link... looks like a fun scavenger hunt, wanna sign up? First place gets a 3 day trip to Aruba!”. Megan’s interest was peaked… “sure let’s do it”. Booyah, she took the bait. Prep for Race Day To add to the legitimacy of the event, it seemed necessary to create a race day packet. According to the website, teams that registered early (prior to Aug 31) would receive this helpful packet in the mail, while teams registering after that cutoff would miss the privilege. Good deal right? So of course Megan and I early registered “Team Megarun” together on the website. With the help of some “Love” stamps from the post office, I mailed a self addressed packet to Team Megarun which included a map of Washington DC, a VT alumni magazine, a scavenger hunt rules sheet, two random love bracelets from Ebay, and a ‘VA is for Lovers’ sticker. All the simple but effective tools needed for MacGyver to achieve world peace. Next step, coming up with clever clues/riddles for each of my four event stops. The Dotson family thrives off this sort of thing… so with the help of Dad, Mom, Anjali, and Kavi, it wasn’t long before I had four finely tuned clues, and a masterfully crafted final puzzle. Everything was coming together! Hmm, what’s left… oh yes, volunteers. I need to find some reliable friends eager to help, but with one major catch. She absolutely cannot know them… mm k, that’s gonna severely limit my options. Luckily, I’m surrounded by some amazing friends happy to assist without hesitation. Two weeks and six orientations later, my all-star team was assembled and prepped. I could actually pull this thing off? Race Day The plan was for Megan to move in the weekend AFTER the event. But, Megs decided it was prudent to expedite the schedule. So instead of mentally preparing for a proposal, I’m now driving a U-haul at 9am and moving her in. Don’t get me wrong, I’m super psyched to live together… but couldn’t we wait just a few more days… sigh. Alright, let’s do this babe. Thanks to some helping hands (Kavi, Lisa, Kim, and Heather), we wrap up in time for the Florida vs Miami game. For those of you that know Megs, you know how much of a Florida Gator football fan she is. For those of you that don’t… imagine how much I like the Virginia Tech Hokies, then multiply it by any two digit number. Needless to say, I was on pins and needles hoping the Gators would bring home a win because it would surely affect her mood. Miami up 21-9 late in the 4th quarter, geez… c’mooooon really?? Despite the loss, she stayed positive and I felt like I’d just won the lottery. 2:30pm, I sent out a “Glympse” to the volunteer team… Glympse is a free I-phone app that let’s others track your GPS movements. 3:07pm, Love Hunt engaged. No pun intended. Love Hunt DC Clue #1 to put it quite simply, its a piece of This, accompanied with the Emotion that leads to marital bliss. still stumped? you'll Surely... discover a Village amidst. 1st Clue And we’re off… my sister uploads the first clue on the website at 3^07 pm (love spelled upside down). It’s the tiny details that make a difference. Megan had no trouble honing in quickly on Shirlington Village. However, she was sure it was a new clothing store called Bliss until she realized the store was called Bloomers. Back to the drawing board! But a few short minutes later… “Cake Love” was successfully deciphered. One thing to note here - the theme of this hunt is obviously Love so all the destinations need a name that incorporates an element of Love. Ok, so first clue solved, and we’re driving safely but urgently to our first destination! Meanwhile, I’m so friggin’ nervous, wondering if my volunteers are situated properly. We pull up, and all nerves dissolve away to the sight of Jackie & Dennis manning their station with a card table and the pink “Love Hunt DC” staff shirts I preordered. A competing team made up of Ann & Doug run up simultaneously (prestaged of course) – decked out in Hokie gear and an ‘Eye of the Tiger’ focus. Jackie nonchalantly hands us our clue and we take our standard picture in front of the venue as most scavenger hunts dictate. Just then, Team Dan & Erin come streaking around the corner adorned with Arizona shirts... it was perfect, and for a moment I actually felt like I was in a REAL competitive event! “How many teams have shown up so far?” Jackie responds “just two”. Megan’s eyes get wide... we’re front runners! We opened up our envelopes for Clue 2, and head for the car… Love Hunt DC Clue #2 neither silver nor bronzed, It beats faster with two. Stretch your imagination to decipher this clue. still lost? look to where the devil went down to. 2nd Clue Megs tackles the last stanza… one of her favorite songs, Devil Went Down to Georgia. (she knows every single word, it’s impressive). She concludes that it could be Georgia Brown’s, a well known DC restaurant. Knowing this is not the correct answer, I roll with it because a little hiccup in the journey could only help further the disguise. We pull up to the restaurant in DC, but no one in a pink shirt? “shucks, let’s try this again”, haha, I love her. The great part about this whole event… is that I know the answers so I can intentionally play dumb or lead her as much as I want. After some choice words, we discover the right answer together – the Golden Heart Yoga Studio in Silver Spring, MD. Let’s do this! Things are humming like clockwork… but just when I got comfortable, something was about to go seriously wrong. I notice all the volunteers are texting me requesting an updated “Glympse”. Greeeeat, the app isn’t working. But then, Jackie calls me twice. I pick up pretending it is work related since Jackie is actually my coworker. Jackie covertly begins, “so that project that we’re working on in the office…it’s not quite ready. D. Pally won’t be able to travel overseas right away, maybe in 10-15 min, I mean days. Sorry to interrupt your Saturday, and we’ll chat more Monday”. Brilliant code… basically translating into “Dipali isn’t at her station yet, stall 10-15 minutes”. Yikes, we’re two minutes away… NOW WHAT?! So I regretfully act distraught over an injured coworker overseas which slightly upsets Megan. Ugh, it’s all I could think to do. Megan sympathizes and offers to drive…wait, that’s not going to help me stall. Shoot, now what? Well, I’ll tell you now what…. I’m the navigator so it’s time to pretend like I don’t know how to read a map. After 5 frustrating minutes, Megan realizes my IQ has somehow dropped 50 points and resumes navigation duties. We pull up to Golden Heart Yoga Studio and I hold my breath… standing there is Dipali in a pink shirt, ahhhhh…my stomach rises again, and my blood pressure resumes a normal level. As it turns out, she had been standing there for just a few minutes – talk about close calls. “How many teams have come through?” Per script, Dipali says “just five”. Ah bummer we’re falling behind! Right on cue, Team MJ & Kendall come running up the sidewalk in homemade team shirts that say “Beast Mode!”. We snap pictures of each other’s teams, trade some friendly trash talk, and speed off with clue #3 in hand… Love Hunt DC Clue #3 fine Tune your senses to answer this question where lies a Dish with no fork, and a Station with no train? If your sense of direction is amiss, Adjust your compass with a KISS 3rd Clue This one was a bit more cryptic, so we took more time to analyze it. Google was our friend on the previous two clues, but didn’t seem to help much here. Was it a metro station? No, that couldn’t be it because it needed something to do with love in the name. “Tune” your senses… radio? Radio “Station”… Satellite “Dish”! Then Megan exploded with the answer… 93.9 KYS (KISS) FM radio station! Her intensity said it all, mentally she was packing our bags for Aruba. Honestly, if this had been a real scavenger hunt… Megan would have done pretty damn good without any help. KYS radio station was only a couple miles north… full speed ahead! From the road, we see Ahmed & his brother Muhannad in bold pink shirts. Megan can almost taste those pina coladas. So we pull around, park illegally and run up to the station. Looking back, it was ludicrous to park illegally… if we had gotten towed? Not to mention, the ring was hidden under the driver’s seat. Yea that’s a whole other ball of stress… hoping she doesn’t adjust the driver seat and it rolls out. Regardless, we weren’t towed. We ask Ahmed, “How many teams have been by?”… “just three”. Alright alright, gaining ground again. Now we’re ready to take on the 4th clue. Per the website rules, this 4th destination was a mini road trip within an hour radius of DC. I attempted to distract Megan with suggestions of Baltimore or Leesburg, VA. She nodded, and contributed that it could also be Annapolis and how fitting that would be for us since we first fell in love there. Little did she know, that was my entire plan… Love Hunt DC Clue #4 great job! you’re now in the homestretch… it’s time to separate the Strong from the Weak. for this riddle, an Ex Scientia Tridens education will guide you to the secret you seek Follow your hunger to a dessert bakery because Sweets are always better than sour. And if your taste buds still feel at Bay, Look within a well known Clock Tower 4th Clue Once again, Google is our friend. “Ex Scientia Tridens” is a Latin phrase translating into “From Knowledge, Sea Power”. This just happens to be the motto of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, and from there, the rest of the clue was easy peasy (As she would say). Megan smiled with the satisfaction of guessing right as we plugged in the GPS, destination: Sweet Heart Pattiserie. Then, she turns to me and sarcastically says “It’s like you made this Scavenger Hunt just for us”. As we pulled in, Chris was relaxing in place with his pink staff shirt and a box of clues. Just a few days earlier, Chris had done some reconnaissance and sent me photos of the area so we could gauge where to sit and solve the final puzzle. What a guy. After some friendly banter, “How many teams have you seen?”. With his silver tongue.. “you’re the first team”. Megan shrieked and jumped up in the air! It, was, priceless. We jogged over to an outside table next door at the Grapes Wine Lounge to work on our final puzzle. As fate would have it, this table would change our lives. Word Find The final puzzle was a heart shaped word find where I had hidden 16 words “synonymous with love”. Once we found these words, the remaining unused letters were to be unscrambled to form the final phrase in blanks (hangman style). And upon solving this phrase, it was supposedly uploaded to the website to complete our scavenger hunt. A curious waitress comes over and begins asking all kinds of questions about the event. I’m thinking I need someone to come by with a giant cane and yank her off the stage. Just when I think she is done, she continues inquiring, “Are other teams coming by here also?” Megan continues to indulge her… “oh yea, see that guy in the pink shirt over there… um, he was there?” Meanwhile, Chris had already abandoned his post and taken position to film the proposal. After a few more harrowing moments, the waitress vacated while Team Megarun continued with the puzzle. We carefully found all 16 words with a balanced effort. I said out loud, “gosh I wish I had brought a highlighter to highlight the leftover letters”… then Megan digs into her purse of goodies, “ask and you shall receive”. I love her catch phrases. We begin to highlight the unused 19 letters and refocus on the five word final phrase… Hunny! Out of nowhere, Megan rearranges the letters and blurts out “Will you marry me”… which was the correct phrase minus the first word. I play dumb and write that portion of the phrase in the blanks. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see her double-take, but then dismiss it based on my reaction. Beyond her, I can see Chris videotaping us from around the corner. My heart is beating through the roooof. My mind is racing on how to transition into the proposal… simultaneously, Megan notices the 5 unused letters leftover for the 1st word… “M, E, G, A, N”. she looks up at me and I see the emotional collage in her expression, she sits back and chirps with slight disbelief, “Hunny!?”. I smiled, and filled in the missing blanks on the paper which spelled the full phrase… “Megan, will you marry me”. I stood up to spill my heart, and just then, the curious waitress steps in the middle of us again! My instincts kicked in, and I gently stiff armed her away “We need a moment here”. I took Megan’s hand, looked her in the eyes and began… the rest is history. Crush We both cried & she said yes. It was a perfect moment I’ll never forget. I was so caught up in the moment, that I completely forgot to put the ring on her finger! Afterwards, we cleaned up at the Lowe’s Hotel and hopped over to the Crush Wine House. Chris (our videographer) also happens to be the General Manager of this fine establishment where Megan and I first said “I love you” to each other. This was the entire goal of the scavenger hunt… to bring us here, and walking in felt like walking on clouds. Yes, I’m a romantic, and I’ve always wondered what this day would feel like. What I didn’t realize is that you can imagine this day/moment all you want… but until you’ve actually found the one, you’re simply not imagining it to its full potential. I’ve found the girl of my dreams. Megan kisses me and says, “darnit, I really wanted to go to Aruba”. “There’s always a honeymoon babe”.