It feels like brushing over history to tell you about the weekend that Kai and I got engaged and then not mention when or how he proposed! And in the next month or two, I will undoubtedly be sharing bachelorette party photos and some shots of our wedding weekend in Spain, so it makes sense to give you the full context on our love!
To tell you about our engagement, I guess I first have to give you a bit of background on our relationship.
Kai and I first met in May 2015. I’d been single for about a year, and was totally relishing my first taste of adult independence – living on my own, making some fantastic new friends, finally having a decent salary, dating, and focusing on my career. It was one of the most empowering and simultaneously exciting phases of my life, and even now I look back on it with so much fondness . . . and sometimes even a little bit of lament! Ohh to be young, wild, and 27 again!!But I digress – back to May 2015 :) My friend Laura works at Nike and had invited me to a a colleague’s birthday party. I was a ‘yes!’ kinda gal at the time, always up for meeting new people and an adventurous night out, so when she mentioned Friday drinks at a floating canal-side bar, I was in.
Turns out, the birthday boy was my future husband, Kai. To be polite, Laura introduced us, but when we shook hands, there was no inkling of a romantic relationship. First and foremost, I was seeing someone else at the time. And secondly, as we were there to celebrate Kai’s birthday, I KNEW his age – which was *gasp* five years younger than me!! So other than a polite hello, a hand shake, and a happy birthday, I didn’t chat to Kai, and mostly hung out with my girlfriends in attendance, dancing, sipping vodka sodas, and indulging in the typical Friday night debauchery. At one point, one of the girls did mention that Kai was cute, and I pointedly remember laughing because he was *so* much younger than us!
Fast forward to October, and my friend Laura was hosting a Halloween party. A lot of her Nike friends were there, including a very cute guy dressed as Tiger Woods (if you’re wondering, it was a very literal interpretation, with a tiger mask slung around his neck and some evergreen branches sticking out of his t-shirt!) At one point, I casually asked Laura who the tiger was, and her eyes laughed at me as she said, “Ohh, that’s Kai!” aka the same guy I had proclaimed was *too* young six months prior. I silently chuckled at myself for being a total hypocrite, and went on to have a blast at the party before moseying on out to dance elsewhere – without so much as a single word to the cute tiger.Kai and I didn’t officially strike up a conversation until December that year. Laura had invited me to be her lady-date to the Nike Christmas party, so we got all dolled up and hit the town for a free night out on her company. At that point, it had been almost 10 months since I’d first met Kai, and we hadn’t spoken since, so when we arrived at the party, Laura sweetly did another introduction. Kai and I said hello and exchanged pleasantries, but it was pretty clear he had his sights set on another girl, who he danced with and talked to for most of the evening. I even remember joking with one of his friends about whether or not he’d take the mystery girl home. At that point, I still had zero inkling he had any interest in me!
The following evening, Laura and I were both completely hung over, but we still wanted to do something (Saturday night, ‘yes’ mantra, and all that jazz!) so we went out for a low key dinner in our neighborhood. Half way through the meal and completely out of the blue, Kai sent Laura a text asking her about the “cute friend” she had brought to the the Nike party the night before . . . . aka me! We had a good chuckle, since *surprise* we were literally out together at that very moment! But since we had been playing the night by ear, we made plans to meet up with Kai and his friends at a cocktail bar after dinner. When we arrived, Kai’s friends craftily maundered the seating so he and I were next to each other, we started talking, and an hour and we couldn’t stop kissing outside! We totally hit it off, but it was right before we were both about to travel home for Christmas, so we made plans to meet up in the New Year when we were both back in Amsterdam.At first I honestly didn’t even think about our age difference – Kai was the fun, young guy I was hanging out with, but I had every intention of keeping it light hearted. However, the second time we hung out (I went over his house to ‘Netflix and chill’, as the kids called it back then) and we wound up talking for eight hours straight. We both canceled our evening plans, and hung out late into the night, talking about everything from R Kelly to politics, Dutch life to marathon training, in an insane-crazy bubble of chemistry.
After that night, I called it off with everyone else I had been dating. Kai and I never discussed it (or at least not right away) but I immediately knew what we had was really special, and I didn’t want anyone else to be a part of our story, even inadvertently. From the beginning, he had 100% of my heart and I truly KNEW whatever we had was going to be something really extraordinary.
Two months later, Kai and I had been spending almost all of our free time together, and coincidentally, we both had a work trip to Portland, Oregon the same week (!!!) We were on the same trans-Atlantic Sunday flight to the US, and when we arrived, Kai spent the afternoon showing me (the new timer) around town. You may remember this post – Kai was the ‘guy friend’ I mentioned who first introduced me to Voodoo Doughnuts! That’s also the weekend we had the conversation. He was definitely my boyfriend and I was definitely his girlfriend . . . which, frankly, I already knew, but it was good to hear voiced out loud, and it also gave us a date to be like, ‘Hey, this should be our anniversary!’ At this point I did start to consider our age difference, mainly because I was 4 years, 7 months, and 9 days older. I had started to feel ready for marriage, family, and kids about three years prior, and knew it was something I wanted in the near future. But Kai was 24, and frankly when I was 24 I had barely graduated from my master’s program and was more focused on pints and partying than anything real-life . . . never mind the scary thought of settling down. But given it was a bit early for the kids and marriage talk, I decided to see how things went over the next few months.
Turns out, they were pretty fantastic. By April I was completely in love with Kai, and one drunken night out, told him exactly that . . . and that I was completely petrified by our age difference, as we would most likely want things at different times. He smiled, kissed me and said, “We’ll figure it out together.” Which is probably the most mature and re-assuring thing my 24 year old boyfriend could have said at the time, giving me complete confidence that no matter what, we were in it together.
SO! Why am I giving you all of this background? Because our engagement was slightly (kinddddd of) something I knew was coming.
A year into dating, Kai and I were pretty serious and had moved in together, and we could both easily articulate that if things kept feeling *this* magical, then we definitely never wanted it to end. So around that time, when talking about what a future together might be like, we also had the ‘when do kids come into the picture?’ conversation.
I really didn’t care about how young or old I was when I had my first child. The young mom vs old mom, more energy vs more income debate is worthless. Great moms transcend age and titles.
However, what was really important to me was the ability to have more than one or two kids. What if we had two children a bit later in life, really loved the experience, but at that point it was too late to have a third?
I’m not saying I want three or four kids (yikes!) But do I want the choice, and I don’t want time or biology driving our family decisions. So as much as I want to spent a thousand years with just Kai, basking in this amazing thing we have, I also want our next family-phase to be just as special and exciting :) So we decided together that when Kai was 28 and I was 32, we would start to build our family. At the time, this sounded like it was eons away, and would give us plenty of time to travel, prioritize work, and experience life together – but it was also early enough in life that I could easily pop out three or four kids if we decided that was right for us. And honestly, we caveated this whole conversation by saying, things change! This was in no way written in stone, and the most important thing was just being happy together.With this in mind, I had a feeling that Kai would propose sometime in 2018 or 2019, before any babies came into the picture. We had even casually talked about a summer 2019 wedding. We knew we wanted to get married, we spoke about the future together all the time, and Kai even took me to look at engagement rings on a few occasions, but proposing was something he really wanted to do in his own way and time. So I enjoyed the ride and waited to see what my lovely boyfriend would decide to do!
I thought that maybe he would propose while we were on our US road trip in the fall of 2018. Then, when he didn’t propose on that trip, I thought maybe he would on Christmas morning over the holidays – nope! New Years Eve? Still no ring, and the wedding timeframe we had discussed was less than a year away. Then came our anniversary weekend trip in February, and I was 100% positive he was going to propose on this trip. We had been talking about it FOR SO LONG. So I booked the most romantic hotel room I could find. I packed the champagne, crystal flutes, and sexy lingerie. I was READY. So imagine my surprise, at the end of our romantic weekend in Belgium, when we piled back in the car to drive to Amsterdam and there was still no ring on my finger!
I was definitely pensive on the car ride back – Kai and I had talked about spending our lives together with such comfortable regularity, and he told me time and time again he knew I was the one. So what was he waiting for?! Did think weddings were a quick business to plan?! Plagued with a million questions, but really wanting to trust my boyfriend, I somehow managed to keep my mouth shut – but was definitely a bit disappointed he hadn’t taken advantage of our romantic Valentine’s Day together, the weekend trip, or our anniversary. The next day I was headed to London for a work trip, and after that I was Japan bound with Amie, so if Kai was still planning to propose, I really had NO idea when or what he had in mind.We got back to Amsterdam from our weekend in Gent around 5pm. I’d signed up to a 5.30pm yoga class, so I quickly unpacked a few things, changed, and rushed out the door to make it to my class on time. Kai said he would head to the grocery store and pick up dinner, which I was grateful for because we were both starving! When my yoga class got out, I had a text from Kai asking me to tell him when I was on my way home. I thought that was a bit odd, but because it was sill our anniversary and he said he would pick up and cook dinner, I thought maybe he had planned a romantic meal for us he was rushing to get ready. So I text him that I was leaving the studio, and hopped on my bike to cycle home.
The evening was cool and windy – I pedaled through de Pijp and then up into our neighborhood. I love turning onto our block because we live in the historic center just past the first canal ring. Going home from the south is like crossing from a city into a village, and we live in an idyllic spot right between the two.
When I got to the bridge at the end of our street, my heart immediately stopped. Kai was standing there on the Reguliersgracht, amidst a sea of candles, and I knew right away what was about to happen.
I don’t remember parking or locking my bike. I don’t remember how I got to the top of the bridge with Kai. All I know is that one second I was a girl cycling home in sweaty yoga clothes, and a second later I was fully immersed in the best moment of my life.
I could hear the blood pumping in my ears. I was shaking. Kai was shaking even more. I then noticed dozens of photos around of us, fluttering in the breeze, tied to the bridge. Our song was playing somewhere in the background. And then Kai got down on one knee, and asked if we could keep having adventures together, for the rest of our lives. Of course I said a thousand times yes!
I was crying, we were kissing, an oversized engagement ring was swimming on my finger, candles were blowing out in the wind, and smoke was pluming around us. It smelled like birthday wishes, and tasted like the sweetest love.
We went home and spent the night together, enjoying our secretly engaged status.
The ring Kai had picked out was stunning, but it was about 100 times too big for my finger! He then told me that it was only the final setting (which we could get sized) but not the final stones, and that I could go in to the jeweler and pick out the diamonds I wanted the following day. OMFG! So Kai not only proposed, but took me diamond shopping in the same week, and I don’t think I’ve ever been a happier camper.
I asked why he didn’t propose at the start of the weekend (which totally would have been my tactic, so we could have spent a romantic weekend together engaged!) and he said he wanted to make sure that our proposal was in Amsterdam, because it was where we met, where we fell in love, and how he wanted us to remember this chapter of our lives. So not only did I say ‘yes’ to an incredibly kind, intelligent, and handsome man, but a very thoughtful one as well.
So that’s our engagement story – a tale that spans half a decade and probably consists of a lot more detail than you bargained for when you first started reading this post! But I’m happy to share a little window into our lives, and now hopefully all of the wedding related photos in the next few months will make sense.