I'm no Cinderella. As a child, I was one with the sword saving the prince-in-distress. But somehow I was the one, 20 years later, with a fairy godmother, the gown of my dreams, and a magical masquerade ball. Just after midnight, instead of the dream melting away, my very own button-nosed Prince Charming poured out his heart, asked for my hand, and sealed it with a kiss and a sparkling sapphire.
Eight-year-old Lydia, eat your heart out.
Here's how my real life masquerade-themed engagement story played out…
I invited Scott to the ball. The Image of Splendor English Country Dancing Spring Magnolia Ball, to be precise. I take a crew of teenagers there every year and had to get their special blessing to bring my boyfriend along. Scott knew the rhythm of my feet was the rhythm of my heart, so he decided that this ball would be the perfect moment to pop the question. He then set out to make it the most perfect evening imaginable.
The fairy godmother
Scott is a logical, left brain kind of guy who is simultaneously a keen appreciator of aesthetics with his own personal stylist. When he heard I was struggling to find an outfit to match my mask in the bustle of arranging outfits for my teenage charges, he called in the expert. Whitley Hamlin of The Queen City Style, to be precise. In one whirlwind morning, she took me to antique malls, ritzy boutiques, and costume shops until we had assembled the perfect ensemble piece-by-piece. The memories of that day alone will last me a lifetime.
The mask is handcrafted leather. I purchased it a few years back from artisans at the Carolina Renaissance Festival outside of Charlotte. The underskirt, hair ornaments, and purse were handcrafted by me. The blouse, overskirt, and belt were found with Whitley at K.K. Bloom in Charlotte. The shoes Whitley picked out from Broadway Shoes in Charlotte. The Erte-esque teal velvet shrug was picked up for less than $5 at Varnadore Costumes in Charlotte.
I'm afraid I can only describe it in cliches. It was magical. I could have danced all night. We did dance all night, or at least 'til the girls were tired. With the flurry of food, selfies, dancing, and giggling teenage confidences, it wasn't until after parents were called and the girls were sent home to dream sweet masquerade dreams did Scott and I finally have a moment alone together.
“I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?”
Scott's earnest speech is etched into my memory. I can recite it by heart to my closest friends. Here I'll just hit the highlights. He opened up by describing all the scenarios he had tried to arrange for the proposal and how they had all failed. He then told me how the very things that I adored most about him were the things others had mocked him for his whole life, and then named each of my quirks that made him love me so much. He complemented what he saw in me as passed on from my parents, then closed with “I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?”
After my enthusiastic yes, he presented, almost as an afterthought, a Montana sapphire ring. It is purple, indigo, blue, smoky, and sometimes teal depending on the light, with a heart of dusty rose. It is ever-changing and endlessly fascinating.
The surprise… or lack thereof
Scott made one mistake in his otherwise perfect proposal planning. One month earlier, while showing me an email thread from his parents, he failed to remember that he had replied with specific details on the when and where of his proposal. I read those details with great delight before he could stop me. I was actually much happier knowing when it was coming so I wouldn't be constantly expectant and then disappointed every weekend until The Weekend. I don't know how you almost-engaged folks deal with the suspense! I was quick to make the best of it — I booked my photographer friend for the day after the ball. I never wanted an engagement photo shoot, but the masks were killer and the tux was rented, so why not?
On the day of the photo shoot, I was an hour in to reconstruction surgery on my fancy hairdo when the photographer called to say it was raining. She assumed we'd want to call the shoot off, since we were meeting outside in the park where the masquerade had been held. “We're game if you're game,” we were quick to assure her. The next hour of giggling, posing, props, and raindrops was every bit as fun as the night before as we re-enacted the scenes. It extended our celebration and created a tangible record of those magical memories. I wouldn't have had it go down any other way.
Photo credits: Sabrina Jean Wilson • Stylist: Fairy Godmother: The Queen City Style • Mask: Carolina Renaissance Festival • Blouse, overskirt, and belt: K.K. Bloom (Blouse and skirt: Lavender Brown; Belt: Ada Collection) • Shoes: Broadway Shoes, Charlotte, NC • Velvet shrug: Varnadore Costumes in Charlotte • Ring: Greenlake Jewelers