A picture may be worth a thousand words . . . but Andy Levi cared about only one of them.
He and Niki Herr had been dating for more than three years, ever since meeting on a spring-break cruise in college and deciding they wanted to keep their relationship going past the cute-boy/cute-girl spring-break standard (crazy, right?). At that point, Andy was finishing his senior year at Washington University in St. Louis and Niki her junior year at the University of Richmond. Eighteen months of long-distance romance later (he moved to Mexico, then DC; she went to Kansas City), Niki decided to take the plunge and move to Arlington. Now it was September 2007, they were living together, and Niki’s 25th birthday was coming up.
“Little did Niki know I already had the ring,” Andy says. “So I planned a really nice weekend away to stay in a bed and breakfast and do some winetasting. I called someone at one of the wineries we like, Prince Michel, and I said, ‘These are my intentions, and I’m not really sure when I’m going to do it or how I’m going to do it, but I’m thinking I might do it during the tasting.’ ”
Funny story: Niki actually did know Andy had the ring. In August, Andy had asked Niki’s dad for his permission to marry his daughter. The same day, Niki’s dad—who “can’t keep anything secret,” says Niki—went up to her and said, “Guess what Andy just asked me.”
But—caught up in the ruse that the weekend trip was just to celebrate her birthday—Niki still wasn’t expecting what came next.
At the winery, after a lively tour, the guide led Andy and Niki to a private room decked out with a spread of cheeses. She poured the couple wine and then told them she would leave them on their own to enjoy it all.
“Before you go,” Andy said, “would you mind taking a picture of us?”
“Of course not,” she replied.
She snapped the picture, thanked the two for coming, and told them to stay as long as they wanted.
“At that point, I could feel my heart racing,” Andy says. “I had the ring in my pocket. So I said, ‘I hate to do this, but before you go can you take one more picture?’ And I got down on one knee and took the ring out and asked Niki to marry me.”
The guide captured the perfect shot of him asking—which brings the story back to that one word that mattered:
“Niki had teared up and was crying,” Andy says. “I looked her in the eyes and said, ‘Well, you still haven’t said yes.’ ”
She said yes.
“I had no idea it was coming that weekend,” Niki says. “We tell each other everything, so right afterward we were like, ‘How did you plan this?’ ‘Did you know?’ And I really didn’t.”
The two are still working out a date for the wedding, which they’re going to have in Seattle, where Niki grew up. But—no matter how much planning there’s left to do—at least they’ve got a head start on one thing: the wedding album.
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