In the days leading up to the proposal, nearly everything was set: family and friends were on their way to Chicago, the photographer and proposal location near Adler picked out, and the ring had safely made the trip from San Francisco to Washington DC and finally to Chicago. The hardest part up until this point had been convincing an overworked/sleep-deprived Aashka to buy her plane tickets. She had been on her surgical rotation the past 2 months, and I was beginning to worry that my constant reminders were going to make her suspicious. Fortunately, not only was her flight uncharacteristically on time, she seemed to have no idea about the big surprise.
Saturday June 23rd arrived, and I had told Aashka that the hospital was having a social event at Adler Planetarium. Before we headed out that evening, I texted our photographer—everything was running right on schedule. Aashka and I started making our way down Lakeshore Drive only to encounter standstill traffic. I anxiously switched between texting the photographer and double/triple/quadruple checking that I still had the ring. We eventually arrived, however, the photographer was now running late, and I needed to buy some time. Aashka looked at me, “let’s go inside.” In the most ineloquent way possible, I convinced her that my friend was bringing our tickets and that he was running late. She didn’t seem to think much of it, and we decided to take a walk along the lakefront to Shedd Aquarium. As we passed the planetarium, my face went pale—there was a wedding reception going on right where I planned on proposing.
I panicked and texted the photographer, who was still a few minutes away. Under the guise of texting “my friend,” the photographer and I quickly decided to re-locate to the aquarium. We slowly made our way there—I never thought I’d be so thankful for Aashka’s high heel shoes. As we rounded the corner behind the aquarium, I spotted the photographer in the distance walking towards us. At this point, my anxiety peaked. I’d been nervous about the proposal all day, but I knew the words I was about to utter were so unexpected they may ruin the entire surprise. I took a deep breath, turned towards her and said “let’s take a selfie.” Aashka definitely looked perplexed, but once again, seemed to just shrug it off as we took a few photos.
The photographer approached us and offered to take some photos with my phone. After a few pictures, she started our scripted conversation, explaining to us that she was on her way to a photoshoot which didn’t start for another half hour, and since we were dressed up and the skyline was in the background, she could take a few professional photos and send them to us. I feigned concern to match Aashka’s reaction, but we went ahead and agreed. A few pictures later, the photographer gave me my cue: “the lighting is perfect.” I turned to her (after making sure I was standing on the lake side), and started the speech I had been rehearsing for weeks, dropped down to one knee, and asked her if she would marry me. Despite her better judgment, she said yes.
We spent the next several minutes taking photos, happy-crying, and calling our family and friends. Once we had finished photos, I told Aashka that I had made dinner reservations for the two of us. We hopped in a taxi and eventually arrived at one of her favorite restaurants—Coco Pazzo. We walked in where the manager met us at the hostess stand. “Patel, party of two, please” I said. He walked us towards a curtain. We stopped briefly, I stepped behind Aashka within fainting distance, and the manager pulled back the curtain to reveal our family and friends who yelled “Congratulations!” We shared food, drinks and hugs with some of those closest to us for the rest of the evening. What started as a routine weekend trip for Aashka and I become a day of excitement, chaos and celebration, and continues to be the happiest day (so far) of our lives.
I cannot describe how grateful I am towards all who took the time to travel to Chicago to be part of this surprise. Your presence meant the world to Aashka and I. A special thank you to my parents, this wonderful weekend would not have been possible without your constant guidance, support and love.
Vendors for the wedding:
Venue: Doubletree by Hilton-Warren Place
Decor: Rao Factor
DJ: Riz Entertainment
MUAH: Blush Bar
Photo: VEK Photography
Video: Aria Films