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photo | Sarah Libby Photography


So the only background information you need for this story is that my parents, Collin, my two best friends and I went to Napa Valley, CA for my 21st birthday. My birthday is actually in February, but we waited until the end of the semester because Rachel hadn’t turned 21 yet. And lastly, if you ever plan a trip to Napa Valley, be aware that you will return home the biggest wine snob you know. So here we go…

If you didn’t know, Collin Abdallah is quite the romantic. The day we got engaged was May 25th, 2017, but Collin had this plan brewing for quite a while before we ever set foot in Napa Valley. The Christmas break before the spring semester of 2017, Collin watched a movie called Bottle Shock [if you haven’t seen it, it’s actually a really great movie]. Bottle Shock is about a small vineyard named Chateau Montelena that gets their chardonnay put in a blind tasting in Paris, and ends up putting Napa Valley on the map for some great-tasting wine. This movie would soon become the inspiration for Collin’s proposal.

Fast forward a few months later, and we found ourselves at Chateau Montelena. It was day 1 of the trip, tasting number 2 of the day. I could go on and on about the wine we tasted, but this story isn’t about the wine so we’ll move past that for now. After the tasting, we all walked out of the Chateau and down toward a small pagoda that was surrounded by a pond. As we made our way to this pagoda, no one said a word and we were all walking in a straight line. It was weird, so I started to get a little suspicious. We crossed over a skinny, jagged bridge that led us to a picnic table and I saw a chalkboard sign that read ‘Happy 21st birthday, Elyse,’ so the little bit of suspicion went away because I thought that was the surprise. It was a picnic for the birthday girl [I will soon realize I was very wrong]! The picnic table was fully set, and my dad just bought a bottle of wine from the tasting so we were ready to celebrate. But wait, we forgot a corkscrew. So one-by-one, the group of 6 dwindled down to 3. My dad went to tell our driver that we were hanging out for a little while longer, Collin went to buy a corkscrew in the Chateau, and my mom just kind of [awkwardly] disappeared. Poor mom was left a little out of the loop because apparently, not everything went according to the original plan.

So Lexie, Rachel, and I were just sitting at the picnic table and all of a sudden both of them had letters in their hands. Without any preface to what was about to happen, Rachel began to read her letter. She talked about our friendship and transitioned into talking about Collin and I and our relationship thus far. Tears started to form in her eyes and it dawned on me. I was getting engaged today. So as I began to cry, I turned to Lexie and she read her letter that mirrored Rachel’s in many ways but do not be dismayed, both letters were eloquently written and so well reflected our individual friendships. These letters represented the blessing of our friends.

After they read their letters to me, both Rachel and Lexie walked me to my parents, who were now waiting for me at the end of the bridge that first led us to the pagoda. My parents and I walked around the corner and they stopped and told me how much they loved Collin. They told me how they were so excited for him to be part of our family and how special our future together would be. The last thing my dad said before he walked me back down to get engaged was, “Now Elyse you have 30 seconds. You can go down there and get engaged…..or…you can run.” So my obvious reaction, other than to laugh, was to turn around and go find my soon-to-be fiancé. That was the blessing of my parents.

Last but not least, I walked back down to the pagoda to find Collin standing by the picnic table waiting for me. Suddenly this bridge seemed a lot longer than it had the last two times I walked across it. Collin walked towards me and put his arm around my back. We walked to the table to sit down because I was honestly in freak out mode and could not fathom what was actually happening to me in that moment. Collin kissed me on the forehead and got down on one knee. I would tell you what he said but I’m selfish, and it’s a little too special to share. Just know that those words were thoughtful, well-spoken, and oh so very special. I CAN, however, tell you that he ended with, “Elyse Macalyn Buller, will you marry me?”

It was the easiest question I’ve ever gotten to answer.