Recently, I proposed to my long distance girlfriend and it was the most exciting, exhilarating yet nerve wracking thing I have ever done. Chelsea and I have been in a long distance relationship since August 4th 2013. Since then we have visited each other on average about once every three months for about two weeks at a time. We have also, as many long distance couples will have, talked about our long term goals.
For a while now, it has been our plan for Chelsea to move to the UK on a fiancé visa. Obviously, we knew that to do this we needed to be engaged. But more than this, we wanted to be engaged. Our plan has been to marry, and to build our own life together in the UK. We have even visited our desired wedding venue – The Alverton. But it was not until March this year, that we officially became engaged. I knew that I wanted my proposal to be special; to be a moment in time that would forever be ours. But I had no idea how to go about planning it. This is the story of how I planned & proposed to Chelsea during our first LDR holiday to Greece.
Choosing the Ring
I began thinking about the proposal in detail just after the start of 2015. We had booked our holiday; a three part trip to Greece, Italy and the UK. I wanted to propose on this trip because I knew that it would be more special than in either of our respective cities, or even countries. We have visited each other numerous times, so a proposal during one of our ordinary trips I knew would not be as memorable, or special. Therefore it was important to take advantage of our first holiday together, and I had about 10 weeks until we left to plan it.
Obviously, my first concern was the ring. This was the part of the proposal that would last outside that moment of time. To me, it was important to get the right ring because it was a symbol of our love and commitment that would last forever. Chelsea and I had previously talked quite candidly about the ring styles that she prefered. So I knew that she liked thin bands due to her dainty fingers, and also leant towards rings that tapered inwards towards (thus becoming thinner) the settings.
I had a good starting point. I knew what I was looking for, and started shopping around online to see what was available. While I should make it clear that I never intended to purchase a ring online, it did give me a good idea about what was and was not common. And, as it transpired, a simple solitaire ring with a taper was a rare occurrence. The few that I found were decorated with gaudy gemstones around the band. I began to realise that it would not be easy to find the style I was looking for. It was as I was struggling to find a jewellers that I might want to visit, that an idea came to me.
I stumbled across a small independent jewellers in Lancaster (the town I am living in) that made rings to order – Firths Jewellers. As I thought more about the idea, the more I grew to like it. If I could have a ring commissioned, then not only would I be able to specify exactly what I was looking for, but it would also be much more personal. There may be rings out there that looked similar, but none would be made exactly the same. It would be one of a kind, and symbolise our own unique love as a couple (as well as conveying the idea that Chelsea is the only one for me).
Set on my new idea, I visited one weekend in early January. We talked about what I was looking for in a ring, and I even showed them some pictures of what I was hoping to create. That morning I was even able to pick out the exact diamond that I wanted the ring crafted around. I visited once more to confirm the details, and then waited. The process of crafting a ring by hand would take 5 weeks. They were a difficult 5 weeks, but I had a lot more to plan while I waited.
Planning the Set Up
Now that the first aspect of my plan was in motion, it was time to plan the proposal itself. I knew that I wanted to do it on our holiday, but not in the UK. That immediately ruled out London. Rome seemed too cliché. I felt there would be little special or unique about a proposal in Rome (even though it would be romantic). That left Greece as my other option, although I also did not want the proposal in Athens. The city just didn’t seem to have the same charm as other European capitals. More than that, it would be a waste to go to Greece and not make use of the coastline.
So I began to research other areas within a reasonable drive of Athens. It was not long into this search that I stumbled across Sounio, the southernmost tip of the Attic peninsula, and reportedly one of the most romantic spots in Greece. I did a little more research and discovered that it was home to the Temple of Poseidon. It was here that the Ancient Greeks worshipped Poseidon & his wife Amphitrite were believed to have lived. And it was easy to see why. The coastline was beautiful, stretching as far as the eye could see. On a clear day, you could see 7 of the Greek islands in the distance, and on a clear evening the sunset was magnificent.
I knew this was where I wanted to propose. The whole place was staggeringly beautiful, and I began to see what it could symbolise to. This was where two worlds met. Where the land met the sea, and they both lived in harmony together. I could see how that applied to our relationship, coming from two completely different places a whole ocean apart, but living in harmony and synergy.
Now that I had decided on a location, I had to figure out how to make it logistically possible. Sounio was an hour outside of Athens. My initial research showed that there was a bus that would take us there, but I wanted to travel there in more style. I wanted us to be able to enjoy and appreciate the coastal road, something I doubted we could do on a bus. I moved onto my next option, car hire. This seemed a much better option, and I decided on a Class C car from Avis, which would be one of any number of hatchbacks from their stock. I booked the car for our last day in Greece, as this meant not only would we be able to use it to drive back to the airport, but it would also give me the opportunity to book us into a hotel that night as well.
In terms of hotel choices, I was limited. There were only two hotels within the area – and one did not open until July. That only left me with one choice, but it was by no means a bad one. The Aegeon Beach Hotel is a 4 star resort with a private beach, it’s own facilities and waterfront views to rival those of Sounio’s Temple itself. I booked a room as soon as I could, and the last piece of my plan fell into place. I had the location, the transport, accommodation, and ring. Now all that was left to do was wait for our holiday.
Our Trip to Greece
Almost a month after I had finalised all of the purchases, the time had finally come. We were on our way to Greece. Chelsea began to suspect something was up almost immediately. Not only was there one day of our holiday that we had neglected to plan (while all the others were planned in excruciating detail), but there was also a night where we did not seem to have accommodation. Chelsea could tell I was being coy about our final night in Greece, and eventually persuaded me to give her a sealed envelope with our accommodation details for that night should an immigration officer ask for it.
Reluctantly, I obliged. It turned out that the immigration officer at the airport wasn’t interested in the accommodation detail, so I took the sealed envelope back, and threw it away before we left the airport. Now Chelsea knew something was going on for sure, but I was confident she still didn’t know about my plan – even if she had figured out what the secrecy was for.
Three days later and it was our penultimate day in Greece. We packed our bags and left the apartment we had been staying at in Athens. We took the metro two stops into the city and made the short walk to the car rental place. When we arrived, I realised one crucial detail that I had overlooked. The Greeks drive on the right hand side of the road! This meant that everything was backwards to me, from the roads to the pedals. A rep from the car rental company showed us to our car, an Alfa Romeo Giulietta, but I could barely move it from the busy storefront. I drove it for a minute until we were out of sight of the rental employees, and I swapped seats with Chelsea.
As an American, she was much more confident on the right hand side of the road – it was the obvious choice. Of course, this made it even more difficult to keep the surprise. But, fortunately, the route to Sounio was simple. As soon as we were out of the city, we simply followed the coastal road all the way. I had just managed to keep the surprise intact. The drive was as picturesque as I could have hoped for, and for the first time since we had arrived in Greece, the clouds lifted and sunshine peeked through.
As we neared Sounio I gave Chelsea the final few directions to the hotel and we arrived. We could make out the Temple of Poseidon & Cape Sounio barely 500 metres from our hotel. Chelsea even pointed it out and asked if we could go there. I replied that we would… once we had checked in. We dropped off our bags and had a chance to get acquainted with our room. It was certainly luxurious. We had a huge, comfortable queen sized bed, plenty of space and (most importantly) a sea view balcony. We stayed for only a few minutes to change clothes & so I could put the ring in my pocket, and then headed to our final destination – Cape Sounio.
The Cape was about a five minute drive away. As we neared the final corner, I realised that a number of tour buses had parked beside it, and that even more were coming. It was not the lonely, secluded spot that I had expected it to be. In fact it seemed to be quite a popular tourist destination – especially with school groups. I wondered what to do as we walked past the cafe; I was too nervous to propose in front of a crowd, and I knew Chelsea would be nervous about it too. I needed somewhere quiet.
We payed for our tickets at the small gatehouse, and entered the Temple area. Standing as little more than a ruin now, with incredible panoramic views, it was everything that I had hoped for. I could see that Chelsea was impressed too. It seemed to be making up for the disappointment we had faced in Athens. This was the Greece that we had come to see; not the sprawling urban jungle. Everything was going as I had hoped. We were enjoying ourselves, basking in the sunlight – surrounded by the Temple’s faded splendour and breathtaking views of the coastline.
For nearly half an hour we stayed at the Cape and took as many photos as we possibly could. Eventually, as even more tour groups arrived, we began to make our way back down from the Temple. That’s when I spotted it – the perfect spot. Off to the side of the Temple, far enough away from the tour groups and visitors was a small grassy hill covered in shrubbery. I began to lead Chelsea towards it, making sure no-one else followed. It took us a couple minutes to walk to the top. When we got there, I stopped and turned Chelsea around to face the Temple.
I gave a short speech about how the famous English poet Lord Byron had visited Cape Sounio and been inspired by it. I told Chelsea how I too had found my inspiration; how it was not in a place, but in a person – and how that person was her. I can’t remember the exact words that came out of my mouth. I was too nervous. But I know that just as I finished, an older couple began walking up the hill behind us. They had seen us and could tell what was going on. I wasn’t going to let that stop me though – an audience of two was still much better than an audience of a hundred.
In front of Chelsea, I got down on one knee and asked the famous words: Will You Marry Me? Of course, she said yes! And it was the happiest moment of my life. It sounds cliché but it was a moment that I will never forget. I pushed the ring gently onto Chelsea’s finger, but still needed a little help from her. She pulled me up and laughed. She had seen the couple behind us too, and thought it was embarrassing that they had seen us. But she agreed that two people was much better than a whole crowd. And it didn’t stop us staying there and taking as many photos as we could to remember the moment too.
As the sky began to turn cloudy again, we drove back down the hill to our hotel to celebrate. That evening we went out for a meal; our first as an engaged couple. We had the whole restaurant to ourselves, and the beautiful sea view to keep us company. It was an amazing, relaxing evening – soaking in the atmosphere of the tiny Greek village, and enjoying our time together. I could barely believe it, everything had worked out perfectly. The moment that I had planned out for months in my head was happening in that very moment. And I could think of no-one better to share it with.
However, this is not the end of our story. We are still in a long distance relationship, and we still have to put in a lot of work to apply for the visa. But, we are one step closer towards the goal of closing the distance between us. And we are one step closer to our dream as well – of building a life of our own together. Keep watching this space, for much more from Chelsea and I!