Oh, that? Well, that's an engagement ring. Yes. / by laurel

...But not on my finger. 

The gag order that's been strictly enforced over the past month and a half has finally lifted and I'm able to shout it from the rooftops (or wittily articulate it in HTML for The Internets): Jessica and Tyler are engaged! Double exclamation point overload!!!!! !!   !!!  One more! !

The plans were set in motion, really, the first night Jess and Tyler met. On July 21st, 2007 we had a Beatnik night, one of many (there have been a total of 12, I think, since Beatnik's inception in Spring 2006), one not unlike all the others. Except that Mike Posey came that night and brought a friend of his named Tyler. Tyler was blonde and smiley and, according to Jessica's wide-eyed observation, "Really, REALLY hot."

They hit it off after that night and in the intervening year and a half, they've fallen in mad, stupid, blubbering love with one another. Like the kind of drooly googly-eyed love that is reserved specifically for people as individually spectacular as they are and also for labrador puppies. This is a love that isn't spread thin and tossed at any old thing; Arrested Development! In-n-Out Double-Double! Disneyland! No, friends, this is a love that's reserved ONLY for either these two or for a basket full of fuzzy puppies.

And that's saying a lot. 

You see where this is going, don't you?

About a month ago, Tyler called me and clued me in on his plans - already once thwarted by a Portland trip gone awry (specifically, he wanted to propose to Jess in Portland except she and I planned a trip there instead. Whoops. Sorry, buddy) - to propose to Jess at a Beatnik night. It was a moment of clarity: Of course he would ask her at Beatnik! That's where they met! And from that phone call, a series of events were set into motion that culminated and exploded in a love confetti bomb on Saturday night. 

Feigning a 'freelance gig' on Saturday morning, I ran around Long Beach picking up last minute supplies for the evening. Seriously, much like the joys of a the veritable tax write-off when you own your own business, you can also apply the same expansive benefits to being a photographer. Need to get something done in secret for your best friend's birthday / christmas / engagement / whatever? "Oh, yeah, I booked a freelance gig on Saturday. Guess we can't go away to Vegas for the weekend like we'd planned for weeks in advance. Uh. Sorry. The economy's bad! I need the money!"

Piece of cake, y'all. I lie to the rich to give to the poor. I'm like the Robin Hood of covert event planning.

And what of this brilliantly covert plan, you might be wondering? The idea was that Tyler would be slaving away for many watchful moons and sleepless nights on an interactive video that would culminate in a ferocious love tsunami at the appropriate time. But prior to this, there was a lot of fiddling with the projector and fretting over the appropriate height for bed sheet screens to be hung and little bags being filled with candles and instructions to, duh, light the candles prior to the atomic love kaboom

The best part of all of it was watching Jess mope around the house earlier in the day, clearly donning her designated "I could care less, seriously, I don't care at all" Weekend Outfit. This particular iteration included a vintage bathing suit top, slouchy shorts which she swears up and down make her thighs look unfavorable, and - really, the icing on the quadruple-layer wedding cake - knitted sweater sock-boots. KNITTED SWEATER SOCK-BOOTS! Oh, it just kills me. My best friend got engaged whilst wearing pages 25 - 27 of an L.L. Bean catalogue. That's just rich. Filthy rich.

(Note to Mr. Laurel Dailey of-the-future: If you are going to propose and I'm wearing a bad outfit, I don't care how elaborate the setup is [and it had better be pretty elaborate], either you force me to change by whatever means necessary or you put that ring back in your pocket for a later date, are we clear? Good. I can't WAIT to pledge my eternal love to you, either, babe.)

It's about to get a lot more awkward from here on out, Mike.

Beatnik started with a bang, and we crammed at least 25 people in our living room for an hour or so of typical Beatnik fare: music, poetry, spoken word, video, visuals, and the like. At 7:30, Tyler and Mike burst in dressed like the toughest bros at the brodeo, all baggy camo cargos and wife-beaters and machismo. They rapped along with a video of themselves rapping about all manners of Orange County infidelity. 

Where my ho's at? They're in the Bro-C, of course. 

The video then transitioned to a hysterically cheesy RnB ditty featuring the angelic BGV's of a certain Janelle Wible. "Let me tell you 'bout my love conquest," Tyler intoned over a canned beat. "How I come to love a garl named Jess." Video-Tyler stripped from his crop top and denim short-shorts and into some slim-cut slacks while real-life Tyler disappeared to also change into his H&M duds. His lovesick paean enumerated the various ways in which he thought of asking Jess to marry him, concluding that he was "Gonna ask her at Beatnik." 

At this point the jig was up and Jess realized what was happening. People, the look on that girl's face was priceless. She was then blindfolded and led to a chair in the middle of the room, facing all the befuddled and stunned Beatnik goers, who were each given a lit candle to fill the room with lighting fit for a sensual massage, an escargot appetizer, or an engagement. Luckily, snails were not on the menu, but waiting just outside the house were all of Jess and Tyler's family and friends who had made the trip to see their boy pop the question. They filed in the room and surrounded Jess on all sides. Tyler reemerged in his fancy clothes and removed her blindfold from behind, revealing the room full of candles and massage oils family members.

The next part is fairly predictable. It's the part where he gets down on one knee and mumbles a bit about love and loving forever and marriage and more love, during which, I kid you not, I was bawling like a colicky infant. So much for sarcasm. The ruse is up, folks, I'm a mushy sentimentalist! Where's KC and JoJo when you NEED them?

So Tyler said, "Hey, do you want to walk to Holé Molé and get a burrito with me?"

Just kidding.

And to his proposal, Jess answered "Yes!"

And then the infestation of love flies filled the room like a love plague and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth cheering and clapping. 

And you don't have a 9.2 lovequake like that without an afterparty, right? Good thing the rest of the surprise family and friends were waiting at Janelle's house along with a CHOCOLATE FONDUE FOUNTAIN WITH BACON AND CREAM PUFFS (!!!  pause.  !!!!!!!!!!). I mean, not to belittle the detonated love grenade or anything, but it was a chocolate fondue fountain. With bacon. And cream puffs. And marshmallows. 

I know. Chocolate covered bacon is almost as good as eternal love.


Look, we're going to get married. See the ring? DO YOU SEE IT?

Oh, hey Jess? I have a question...

Guys, check out my OUTFIT!

I love you even if you wear knitted sweater sock-boots.

Absolutely stunning chunk of bling if I do say so myself.

One of Tyler's patented lethal love stares.