With the COVID-19 pandemic, it's easy to feel like everything has screeched to a halt. We can't gather with our friends or make dinner reservations, schedule trips or even safely walk down a crowded street.
But not everybody has been putting their plans on hold while waiting for daily life to return to "normal." Instead, these five couples took matters into their own hands, confidently moving forward to the next stage of their relationship: Proposals.
Here, each couple shares their own story of how they got engaged during quarantine.
Ali Knapp, 27 & Billy Clemons, 27
"I’m in business school, and in May, all of us were supposed to go to different international locations to work for about a month. I was going to go to Santiago, Chile, and at the end, Ali was going to meet me there. We were going to go to Peru and do the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. I had picked out a spot at the top of the trail where I wanted to propose. Then, obviously with COVID-19, that wasn't happening anymore.
It was nice to have good news to share, especially when there hasn't been that much in a while.
Instead, I tried to recreate it in our house. I set up a tent in the living room and cast onto the TV the spot where I wanted to propose. I put those little glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling, got Chilean wine and Peruvian food and had lantern lights in the kitchen. When she walked into the living room, I proposed. Afterwards her family, who live down the street, came over to celebrate with us. In normal circumstances we would've probably done something with more people; her grandparents are nearby, and we would have wanted to go show them.
It was a little bright side in what would have otherwise been cloudy times. It was nice to have good news to share, especially when there hasn't been that much in a while."
"I thought a proposal might be coming in the summer or early fall, but I had no idea what he was planning. I was so surprised, and it's really those little details that got me. We were supposed to a wine tour in Chile, so the Chilean wine was an extra touch. He had my granddad's wine glasses with it, and then we were supposed to do a cooking class in Peru so he had the Peruvian food. I don't know how he found it with everything being closed around us, but he did."
Nicole Pomponio, 26 & Bob Kane, 28
"Nicole’s been talking about getting engaged since we met in 2016, and I first started looking at rings in late January. I had this plan where I was going to put "Marry me?" spelled out in balloons outside, and I would be dressed up with our dog in a dress. But then the world shutdown. I had the ring hidden in my closet, and I thought, 'There's got to be a good time.' I was trying to come up with a plan B.
Then, I got told by my job that I was going to get furloughed. We were both really upset, and we were talking about, 'Where can I apply to jobs? When can I apply for unemployment?' and Nicole starts asking me how much money I have saved up.
It seems like a cop out that I wanted her to stop crying, but I needed her to understand that we would be fine because we had each other.
In my mind, I knew I couldn’t tell her I just spent basically all the money I had saved up on a ring. I just said, 'I don't have any money because I just spent it on a huge purchase.' She took that as, 'You just bought a used video game system from GameStop.' And she starts crying with her head in her hands. So I get up from the kitchen table and said to myself, 'I'm just going to do it now.' It seems like a cop out that I wanted her to stop crying, but I needed her to understand that we would be fine because we had each other. I really wanted to balance the negative of finding out I was getting furloughed with, 'I want to spend the rest of my life with you.'
When she lifted her head from her hands, I was on one knee and she's screaming, 'No, no, no. This wasn't supposed to happen like this. No, no, no.' And I said, 'Will you marry me?' And she just kept saying no. I was like, 'Do you mean yes?' and then she said yes.
We have a really good support system. Nicole’s okay, and I'm able to file for unemployment and get a part-time job. I didn't want us to think about the quarantine as that time that I lost my job for a brief time. I wanted to think about when we were stuck in the house, and we got engaged."
"The funniest part from my side was that when I heard him get up, I thought he was going to the room to get the video game and go return it. Then he came back with a ring. I opened my eyes, and I was expecting the video game to be in his hands. That’s why I said no. I was really surprised. I had no idea that he had been hiding that for a couple months.
I think it was that real glimmer of hope that life will move on at some point.
I got a lot of messages from people saying, 'This was amazing to see in this time.' I got emails from people from my work saying, 'You really made my whole week.' I think it was that real glimmer of hope that life will move on at some point. We won't be stuck in this forever. When you get engaged. you know that there's planning involved afterwards. People see that as, 'Okay, this is a new beginning. It's not the end.' There are new beginnings that are coming out of this. too."
Brea Baker, 25 & Mariah Harris, 26
"I had planned a proposal that was completely different from the one that actually happened but because of the coronavirus, I had to improvise. I had made reservations at a restaurant that has a private chef table. Friends and family had booked their flights. The ring was being made and was going to get to me by April 1st. Then everyone's flights were getting canceled. The restaurant ended up closing its doors. I thought, 'I'm not going to let this prevent me from making this moment happen.'
I knew that even though it wasn't under ideal circumstances, this would all just be part of our story.
One night, I took her on a walk and said, 'I have a confession to make. The walk that we went on had a purpose. Tonight is a full moon.' I said, 'A few years ago, you told me that if you give someone a moonstone on the night of a full moon, it's a symbol of eternal love, and I love you very much. I have known I've wanted to marry you for nearly four years now. So I want to ask you a question.' By this point, she was bawling. I get on my knee and ask her, 'Will you marry me?'
For me, I thought just because it's not what I planned doesn't mean that it's not a good proposal. I can modify my plans, and it'll be just as good, if not better. That's what ended up happening. I loved it so much more. It happened exactly how it needed to happen.
I was also selfishly really excited to be engaged to her. I knew that even though it wasn't under ideal circumstances, this would all just be part of our story. Just because the story that's being told is different doesn't mean it's not just as impactful or as meaningful."
"We knew we wanted to get married sometime in the next one to two years. We both wanted a proposal and we both wanted a ring. I was so caught up in planning my own proposal, I was not looking out for signs that she was planning something and beating me to it.
On the day of the proposal, she started getting dressed up and showered. I'm like, 'Why are you getting all nice for the living room?' And she said, 'I felt like sprucing myself up. I haven't been feeling my best lately.' So I got dressed up, too.
I was so caught up in planning my own proposal, I was not looking out for signs that she was planning something and beating me to it.
After the proposal, she said, 'If everything had gone as planned, your family would've been here, and we would been celebrating with them. But since we're all quarantining, everybody's going to be on a Zoom call.' It was really nice to immediately celebrate with them. She had a queue of Zoom calls scheduled."
Julie Becker, 24 & Sam Spector, 24
"Julie's a teacher, and we were planning on coming down to Florida for her spring break in April. But with everything that happened, I convinced her to fly down a little bit early to her parents' house in Jupiter, Florida.
I flew with the ring knowing that I was planning on getting engaged. My dad passed away at the end of January, and I got to go with him and pick out a ring. She had no idea I bought it. Our families were both supposed to be at the proposal, but with the pandemic, I didn’t know the next time we would all be able to be together. I thought, 'Why hold onto it for another six to eight weeks not knowing what the future holds? Why not take this time where we're stuck in the house and make it a happy moment?'
Julie and I actually both got COVID-19 around the same time while we were in Florida. We both had extreme fatigue, a super dry cough, the normal symptoms. Day six and seven got much worse for me, whereas Julie got a little bit better. I started to have some shortness of breath and had trouble breathing for probably two weeks. I went to the hospital one night to get some oxygen.
I thought, ‘Why hold onto it for another six to eight weeks not knowing what the future holds?’
On April 4th, when I actually proposed, we had already started to feel better. I thought, 'Well, we got through that. Why not just do it now?'
With her parents, we came up with a plan. We told her we were going to go take family photos on the beach. We get there, and there’s caution tape and barricades up. We ended up climbing over some of the tape and went around the barricades. I knew we had to be quick with it. So I said what I said and proposed right there on the beach."
"I was expecting an engagement, but we had a trip planned in July so in the back of my head, I thought that's when he was going to propose. But when he said, 'Let's just go to the beach,' I thought maybe it was happening.
When he first got down on one knee, the first words out of my mouth were, 'Oh no.' It wasn't because I was upset, but I was surprised and shocked. I was like, 'Wait, what's happening?' But I’m so excited. I was a little upset that my whole family wasn’t there, but obviously I totally understand that we were unsure of the next time we'll be able to see them. So I’m happy that he decided to go through with it.
People have expressed how this has brought so much happiness during this crazy time—it’s a bit of hope for people looking out to the future."
Erika Saucedo, 27 & Justin Sisson, 26
"I had this planned out pretty far ahead. Her two sisters and her mom were planning to come in for the engagement on March 19th. Then everything got tossed out the window. The restaurant closed, the location where I was going to propose closed.
But her sisters were saying, 'Hey, you can still do it. We'll do a FaceTime.' My brother that lives with me was going to have both of our families on FaceTime. Two of my cousins who live pretty locally agreed to take pictures and catch the moment on video. So that day, I told Erika, 'Hey, let's go for a walk at this park.'
My brother popped out, and he's got both our families on FaceTime, and then I dropped down on one knee and asked her.
When we got to the location, I was sweating bullets, and I could see my cousin hiding behind the tree. We started walking, and then I started getting into how I planned that day to be a special day and how I still wanted it to be a special day. She actually stopped me and said, 'Did you talk to my family?' I knew that was the biggest thing. I said, 'Yeah, actually I did, and they're watching right now.' My brother popped out, and he's got both our families on FaceTime, and then I dropped down on one knee and asked her. She said it was the easiest yes that she's ever made.
It did cross my mind to just wait, especially when I got the message from her sisters that they were canceling their trip. But then they were so encouraging and trying to help me figure out how to still do it. I knew I wanted to marry her and I wanted to propose, so there was no doubt with that. It was just wanting to make sure it was still special for her. I have no regrets."
"I had an idea that he was going to propose the week that it happened. I'm in optometry school, and I had told him, 'I just want to make sure I've already taken my board exam when you propose.'
The week that he proposed, I was supposed take my exam that Monday and I figured he was going to do it within the next few days. But then my board exam got canceled because of the coronavirus, and everything was closing down. I thought, 'There's no way he's going to propose.' I wanted my family to be at the proposal, but nobody was flying.
I think it solidified to both of us how we can see each other working through tough situations together.
On the actual day, he asked me to go the park, but he was wearing khakis and a formal shirt. I was getting ready to wear workout clothes. That's what I knew something was going on. He was like, 'Don't you want to dress up a little?' And I was like, 'Why? We're going to the park.'
But in the middle of all the chaos, it was still very special and very meaningful. After being engaged, we got to enjoy being together in quarantine. I think it solidified to both of us how we can see each other working through tough situations together."
Madison Feller Madison is a staff writer at ELLE.com, covering news, politics, and culture.