How it Happened — Michael’s Perspective
It’s Friday, August 14, 2015. The scene is set. After secretly working from home all day I was able to deliver the first of what would turn into many surprises for the weekend. Kenz thought we were going home for a weekend with her parents to celebrate her dad’s 60th. When she arrived home she found one of my notes instructing her to wait until 6 to open it. She initially dismissed it and started packing. At 5:52 she texted me asking where I was and if she really needed to wait until 6 to open the letter. I told her to go ahead and open it. After opening it she was surprised to find that in it I told her the following things: (1) this weekend was different (2) she had a massage scheduled at 7 and (3) I was going to ask her to marry me.
At the end of the note that started what I can only describe as an emotional roller coaster for Kenz, she went for her massage, spray tanned and came back to her apartment to binge watch Parenthood as instructed.
This was just the first domino in a weekend filled with surprises. While this was happening I was at my apartment conducting the first parts of my elaborate weekend proposal. Keep in mind that Kenz and I are in Dallas, TX. My mom arrived early Friday from Birmingham, AL to celebrate with us. Aarika, Kenz’s soon-to-be maid of honor arrived at 7 Friday evening and Chris, my best friend and future best man arrived late Friday at 11 from Nashville to my apartment. In a third narrative, right around the time Aarika was arriving, Tom and Judy Mackenzie’s parents were arriving from The Woodlands, TX. Once everyone had settled at my place, Aarika (the official after-party planner), Robert and me set off to walk to Fireside Pies. As we were walking, Robert had an emergency and had to run back to his place, leaving Aarika and me to Fireside Pies. I made a comment that it’d be funny if Robert was in on something, but that was that. I didn’t think any more of it. Aarika and I arrived at Fireside Pies, were seated quickly and ate until we were full. (She also taught me how to fold napkins into a Bird of Paradise incidentally. A cool, if trivial, “skill”). After devouring a pizza and a half, Aarika and I set back to my apartment. When we got back, my mom was asleep and had locked the top lock (the one that has no key hole). I grew frustrated. That was a rookie mistake. It was annoying, but relatively small in the scheme of the weekend. Eventually I got in and was surprised to see that Robert had come back to join us. I walk over to the fridge, turn right and Boom! — my sister is there! She had flown all the way from D.C. as a surprise to be there with us on our big day(s). When you have plans set into place of any scale, things happen. My sister’s arrival is one of those monkey wrenches that made everything click into place. The parts in my plan that lacked evenness had a new found clarity.
Shortly after the big surprise for me, Aarika, Chris, Mo (my sister), my mom and me head to sleep.
Turn the clock to Saturday, August 15, 2015. Chris and I wake up at 7:15, and run downstairs to meet Robert who’s waiting for us. At 7:30 we arrive at Starbucks to pick up a venti iced two-pump mocha with coconut milk and no whipped cream (Kenz’s favorite). Then, the three of us head to Kenz’s apartment. Once there, Robert drops off the beverage to Mackenzie at 8 sharp with a note instructing her to dress casually and expect further communication at 9:30. We return to my apartment shortly after to find Aarika, my sister and my mom awake, alert and hastily scrubbing down my bachelor pad. We can’t stay long because we have to run to meet Judy, Kenz’s mother. Chris, my mom and me pile into my mustang. It’s a little crammed. Imagine a 6’8″ man crammed into the back seat (if you could call it that) of a Ford Mustang. A couple minutes later we arrive at Judy’s hotel to find that she’s in terrible back pain. This was not good, but it was a special day so she decided to tough it out. Like I said early, this weekend the monkeys and their wrenches were on point (on fleek?). This development worked to our advantage later. With the car loaded with the four of us we headed to Kenz’s apartment. Upon arriving, I lead Judy inside with a letter. As I stand at the end of the hall obscured by the corner, I watch Judy make the long walk down the hallway, checking the number of every apartment to see which is Kenz’s. She gets to the door, knocks a few times and then I see her step into the apartment.
On to the next part of the plan. I rush downstairs. Chris, my mom and I rush to Kenz’s nail salon to beat Kenz and Judy there. The note I entrusted to Judy detailed to Kenz that she was to head to Hawaiian Nail Bar in Addison, TX to get their nails done together. The way it works out, we arrive at the nail salon about 15 minutes before Mackenzie and Judy. I drop my mom off and she goes in. As Chris and I are driving home I receive a picture of Kenz hugging my mom looking happier than I’ve ever seen her. She and Judy came in, walked right by my mom and started their pedicures. My mom makes her presence known, and Kenz stands up (feet still in a bath) and wraps her arms around my mom. It made me very happy. Another successful surprise.
Time passes and the rest of us away from Kenz head to Liberty Burger in Addison. Shortly after we arrive, Maddie joins us from Houston, TX. We laugh, we cry and we enjoy lunch. Around 12:15, about 45 minutes earlier than I expected, Kenz texts me asking if she should pay for nails. I say, “No, no, no” and ask her to wait just ten minutes. Mo and I then get into my car, drive like two bats out of hell and arrive at the plaza where the nail salon is. Melissa (aka Mo) gets out of the car, rushes in (surprising Kenz in the process) and pays for the mani pedis for the group. This is where Melissa’s presence makes a big difference.
She then helps the crew relocate from Hawaiian Nails to Gloria’s, Kenz’s favorite restaurant. At this point I’d rushed back to Liberty Burger and beat my friends to the chase, and comp their meals because they deserve something out of this. After eating, it’s go time.
Chris, Robert and me rush to Kroger. While at Kroger, we get some of Kenz’s favorite wine (14 Hands Merlot), and some flowers. Chris and I then leave from Kroger to infiltrate Kenz’s apartment. There, we drop off the flowers, wine and the third letter. We hijack Bailey (Instagram: @BaileyTheRealLifeDogPrincess) and the timeline I made for Mackenzie for Christmas last year. We leave unscathed. If you’ve ever played Star Fox 64 you know what I mean when I say it was Mission Complete, but not Mission Accomplished. Chris and I get back to my place, and realize that we forgot the rose petals at Kenz’s place. We rush back, spread the petals around the flowers and return to my place. Mission Accomplished.
At this point the girls are wrapping up lunch at Gloria’s…two hours too early. I’m blanking. I don’t have anything planned until 3. This is where Judy’s back pain results in a positive spin. Two hours is just enough time for them to head back to Judy’s hotel and let her ice her back. Time passes, they ice her back and Judy rallies. At 2:30, Melissa leads them out to the DryBar @ Highland Park to get Kenz’s hair done. Here, Melissa gets her hair done too. Chris (whose presence is still a secret at this point) picks up my mom from the nail place so she can come back to my place to rest, because at this point it’s been a long day for her. Likewise, Tom comes to retrieve Judy. After Kenz and Melissa finish their hair, Melissa drops her off back at her apartment. Melissa walks up with Kenz to her apartment where she finds the wine, flowers and the third and final letter.
This is where she finds out when it will happen. In the letter I instruct her to get ready, and head down stairs to meet her driver at 6:30. While this is happening Chris, Robert and I head to SilverCar Dallas, a startup that rents only silver Audi A4’s. I enlist Robert to drive my Mustang back, and Chris and I follow suit. The car drives like a dream. This is the car Robert will pick Mackenzie up in. We get back to my place after floating across town. Robert leaves with the car to get ready. (Shout out to Robert: this never could’ve happened without him. His enthusiasm and friendship were such a big part of making this happen). Chris and I head into my apartment to get ready. Around 6 I’m getting out of the shower, ready to get on with things. While planning relentlessly each detail of the weekend with contingencies was important to me for most aspects, I committed to leaving any toasts or words unrehearsed. While getting ready it came to me how I wanted to thank our friends and family. How I wanted to propose.
“This weekend has been incredible and it’s only going to get better. It couldn’t have happened without you all coming. This may not be the norm, to have all your friends and family fly in, but doing it any other way just didn’t make sense for Kenz and me. Robert can tell you. I’ve been planning this for two months, and the appearance of the weekend has changed several times, but the bones have remained the same. I wanted our friends and family to be a big part of it. I love you guys.”
After sharing a moment with my friends and family, we set out to Winfrey Point on the east side of White Rock Lake for a place with a great view of downtown Dallas and the sunset. On our way to White Rock I receive a text from Judy. Her and Tom were lost. All I can say is thank goodness for Aarika. She helped guide Tom and Judy to Winfrey Point and saved the day. On the other side of town in Uptown, Robert was waiting leaned against the Audi with his white gloves, chauffeur hat and sign reading “Future Mrs. Columbus.” Kenz came down, looking for the driver (and expecting some rando) and was just stunned.
They left for White Rock with our playlist playing in the background (this was a nice touch of Robert’s). Upon hearing that Tom and Judy were running late, Robert stalled just like I needed him to. We were getting so close to the big moment. After Tom and Judy arrive, we start working with Jillian the photographer to figure out where I should stand. We find the place and then the others start lay out a path of rose petals. It was all coming together.
As we stand in position, we’re scanning the horizon for that silver Audi. Suddenly I see it in the distance. Up to this point I wasn’t nervous, but something about seeing her pull into the horizon got my heart beating. Robert pulls up the Audi and we can see Kenz sitting in the back seat looking away (Robert later told me that he had told Kenz not to rush out so that he could open the door). I’m standing just 10 yards from the car with our closest friends and family flanking me on either side. I’m holding Bailey’s leash. Bailey’s leash is attached to the garter I caught at Austin and Katy’s wedding just a month earlier. As Robert opens the door I let Bailey go and she runs up to Mackenzie jumping up and down. It’s the beginning of a perfect moment. Kenz sees Aarika and Maddie and runs up to hug them, amazed that they’re there. She then sees Chris and rushes to hug him too. The sky is clear and everything is perfect. Now it’s my turn. We stand, holding hands for a moment. I kneel and tell her about how I wasn’t nervous until I saw her pull around the corner.
“Mackenzie Anderson… soon to be Columbus. Will you marry me?”
I slide the ring onto her left hand (fortunately it’s just slightly too big) and then we do all the group shots with everyone and Bailey. Once we’re done with the photographs with those guys Sarah Molina takes Bailey back to my place (she was a life saver!). Kenz and I spend the rest of the hour taking advantage of the beautiful weather and lighting before we stroll back up to the car. Robert was waiting for us. We hop into the car and he plays our song “White Lightning” by The Cadillac Three. He starts driving us to Hg Sply Co, but goes the wrong way. We redirect him back to the restaurant. When we get there the valet is full which turned out to be a good thing because it gave us an excuse to be later than everyone to the after party.
We walk in and up to the rooftop where everyone is waiting for us. Everyone from the proposal is there along with Maina, Jaclyn, Daniel, Marie, and Danielle. It’s perfect. The food was delicious. We toasted champagne. It was the best dinner. Most importantly, everybody kept the after party secret. The dinner wraps up and people begin to file out. As Robert’s running to get the car, Kenz and I stop by Steel City Pops. I get a sweet tea flavored popsicle (who knew that was a thing? It tasted just like you’d expect). Then we run to Walmart and load up on wine. Kenz is preparing for a girl’s night with her girls. We swing in, pick up some wine and then we head back to my place to pick up Bailey before heading to Kenz’s to drop her off. (Ha-wink).
We get to my place. Kenz resists walking in for a minute because she’s in such a hurry to get to her girls, but eventually she yields. Robert stays waiting in the car, because we will be right back. We walk up the stairs to the second floor and we immediately notice that the hallway is littered with rose petals (a nice touch that even I didn’t know about. Thank you Mom and Maddie!). We get to my door and I fiddle with my keys a little.
I open the door and the lights are off. We turn them on and she is supremely shocked. Everyone is there. Marissa. Leonard. Dustin. Austin. Katy. Sarah. Brian. Olivia. Everyone from dinner. It was magical. Aarika setup the party and it was like Pinterest threw up on it.
And with that we started a new chapter in the book where (spoiler alert) we live happily ever after.
P.S. It’s amazing to me that throughout this whole process, Mackenzie didn’t find anything out. So many people knew so many details. I think it’s a testament to the Fact (capital F) that if you believe in people, they will pull through for you.
Are you ready for this, planet earth?
To see Mackenzie’s side of the story, click here.