When Audra Petersen’s best friend blindfolded her, put her in a car, and started driving her around San Antonio in June of 2004, Audra could hardly sit still. She knew her boyfriend, Bryan Clark, was going to propose that summer—and she was sure the blindfold was part of the plan.
“My friend leads me to a building and I start hearing Bryan’s voice, and I’m like, ‘Oh, my goodness, they’re going to take off the blindfold and Bryan’s going to be there on one knee,’ ” Audra says. “But right as someone is ripping the blindfold off, I look over and Bryan’s guy friends are ripping a blindfold off of him, and all of our friends are there, and they yell, ‘Surprise!’ ”
Audra didn't know what to think. Was this still an engagement party? Where was her ring? She looked at Bryan, but he looked puzzled, too. “It’s your surprise going-away party!” her friends announced. Audra and Bryan, who had both graduated from San Antonio’s Trinity University, were moving to DC in August. Audra forced herself to smile (“Oh! Great!”) and tried to forget about rings and fiancés and fairy-tale proposals.
Luckily, her friends had gone all out for the party. As they played a “who knows Audra and Bryan best?” trivia game and battled to see who could build the best monument from aluminum foil, Audra was laughing too much to think about anything else.
Near the end of the night, one friend stood up and announced that, because Audra and Bryan had never gotten to go to a big dance together, the party was going to turn into a 1970s prom. She put on a ’70s-music mix and blindfolded Audra, leading her to a bathroom to change her into a tacky dress from Goodwill.
“The whole time I’m like, ‘What are you dressing me in? This is going to be embarrassing,’ ” Audra says. “Then they lead me upstairs, take off the blindfold, and run away.”
Confused, she opened her eyes. In front of her she saw 12 long tables covered with dozens of Champagne and wine glasses, each filled with water and a floating candle. She saw rose petals everywhere. She saw hundreds of sheets of pastel paper scattered on the floor, printed with every e-mail she and Bryan had ever exchanged. She saw herself dressed in her princess prom dress from high school. And she saw her boyfriend, clad in a tuxedo, standing at the other end of the room. Bryan—whom she had never heard play an instrument—pulled out a guitar and starting strumming their song, “Love of My Life” by Michael W. Smith. Then he proposed. Right after that, the two heard screams from downstairs.
“I was so confused,” Audra says. “I’m like, ‘Wait—what just happened?’ ”
Bryan beamed: “Oh, everyone downstairs just found out they’re at an engagement party.”
“Our two best friends are awful with secrets,” Bryan says. “So I had called another friend and said, ‘I want to find a place where we can have a going-away party, that you get other people to plan, and then it will turn into some sort of engagement thing, only no one else will know that until after it happens.’ ”
Bryan, a law student at Catholic University, and Audra, a director at City Year Washington, DC, an AmeriCorps program dedicated to community service, were married in 2005 and live in Foggy Bottom.
Audra, who had even been ring shopping with Bryan before they got engaged, is still amazed her husband managed to pull off the surprise.
“My guard was totally down,” she says. “It was perfect.”
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