The Full Story Behind Leslie and Jonah's Big Sur Engagement

From two isolated days in paradise to a surprise celebration with family.
Author:
Publish date:
IMG_8232

Leslie: Most engagements end with a wedding, but this one started with one. Late last month, Jonah and I attended a wedding between two of our close friends from New York just outside of Yosemite, in Hetch Hetchy. There are a lot of things I don't love about weddings—the emphasis on aesthetics, the insincere showiness, traditions that feel a bit old-fashioned—but this one had all of the good and none of the bad. The entire weekend was beautiful, genuine, and a perfect reflection of the couple's love. Before the wedding, Jonah had told me to take three days off of work for a "Surprise Trip," and I would say I was about 90% sure he was going to propose... only thing is I had no idea how or when.

Jonah: Honestly, I knew that I was going to marry Leslie for at least three years. In my mind, when I moved to L.A. with her, that was me saying "I'm in." But I hadn't started thinking about how to propose until about a year ago. I wanted to wait until our lives were relatively settled in terms of jobs and finances, and I also knew that Leslie wasn't in a big rush. So late last year I started writing down whenever I thought of a place or time that would make for a nice proposal. I knew I wanted to ask her somewhere that meant a lot to us, but we've been lucky enough to travel to so many places that it was actually pretty hard to narrow it down. I toyed with Copenhagen (where we met), New York (where we lived together for the first time), Paris (it's Paris), and pretty much everywhere in California. I also knew that I wanted to do something special (but not too showy or public), so I made sure to start saving up quietly for the ring and the trip about two years in advance. 

Leslie: The morning after the wedding, we attended a "goodbye" brunch, then took off on a surprise road trip. It works in Jonah's favor that I have a very poor sense of direction because I had no idea where we were headed. When we passed under the 5 freeway, he said, "You have to know where we are now right?" Nope. No idea. Because I so strongly suspected he was proposing, I assumed we'd be heading to Lake Tahoe (my parents live in Reno) or into Yosemite Valley, a place we both love and visited on a road trip two years ago. For some reason, Big Sur never occurred to me and I had no idea where we were until I saw the sign that said: "Welcome to Monterey." 

Jonah: I ended up choosing Big Sur for a few reasons. It was the first place we traveled together after we started dating, and where I realized that I was totally in love. Also, it has always been a place that both of us can completely relax. Mountains covered in redwoods and rocky coasts are both of our favorite places to just be. And, as an added bonus, there's no cell service so I knew that we could have a few days there completely to ourselves. Surprisingly, I was able to keep my nerves relatively in check in the days leading up to the trip. The day of, however, I was super antsy. I woke up at the crack of dawn, wide awake, and spent the morning awkwardly moving to try and hide the ring-box-sized lump in my jacket pocket. Once we were in the car, it helped to have some great scenery to talk about, and music to distract me. It was also nice that Leslie had no idea where we were going until the last 30 minutes or so. Even though I could tell she suspected something, it was nice to still have a few surprises in my back pocket. 

With Jonah at Rocky Point watching whales, six years ago

With Jonah at Rocky Point watching whales, six years ago

Leslie: In retrospect, Big Sur makes perfect sense. Three weeks after Jonah and I started dating, and a year after we met, we went on a camping trip to Big Sur to celebrate New Year's. The trip was a disaster in every sense of the word. First of all, I invited a woman I'd met only the week before (I have a tendency to immediately become best friends and ask questions later). We learned over the trip she was in a very, um, complicated relationship with a married man. She and Jonah's college roommate, who we also invited, got along like oil and water—they pretty much started fighting the moment we met. And then, on New Year's Day, Jonah's car broke down smack in the middle of Big Sur. Without any cell service, we hoofed it to the nearest store, an art gallery, and used their landline to call Triple A. Jonah and I spent the rest of the day in a tow truck, driving to service stations—most of which were closed for New Year's—until finding one. After finally dropping off the car, we sat in a grocery store parking lot in Cambria for six hours eating bad sandwiches and talking as we waited for the car to be ready. But through it all, against all odds, we had a fantastic time and loved it so much we've returned for New Year's most years since. On that trip, we could hardly look at the ocean without seeing whales (which migrate that time of year), and at one point we hopped a fence to watch them from Rocky Point at sunset, one of the most beautiful lookouts. 

Jonah: One of my main concerns with the exact location I planned on proposing at was other people. I wanted it to be a special moment for just the two of us to enjoy (at least until we told all our family and friends). Since Big Sur can get crowded in the summer, I had a few backup spots just in case a tour bus happened to be sitting at Rocky Point. But luckily, we got there in the early afternoon, after the nearby restaurant's lunch rush, and there weren't many people at all. Rocky Point is a place I first went in high school, on a road trip with friends. Since then it's pretty much impossible for me to drive by without stopping for a while to admire the view. Not only is it one of the most picturesque viewpoints in the area, but it also is one of the few turnoffs from which you can actually scramble on some rocks and get a totally isolated, varied, dramatic view of the coastline in every direction. From the tip of the promontory, you really feel like you're in the middle of the ocean. 

Leslie: We're never awkward together, but as we approached Rocky Point, Jonah said in possibly the most robotic voice, "You know I can't go to Big Sur without visiting Rocky Point!" It was at that point that I knew, with 100%, absolute certainty, Jonah was about to propose. 

The southern view from Rocky Point

The southern view from Rocky Point

Jonah: I was acting SO weird. I didn't have a big speech written down, but I had planned on saying some lovely things about how much we've grown as a couple, how we're such perfect partners for each other in every part of life, and how I can't wait for the infinite adventures we'll have throughout the years. But of course, right when we got there, my brain went completely blank. 

Leslie: I could tell Jonah was nervous—and I was too! After six years of dating, I just kept thinking, "So it's really happening!" It was hard to wrap my head around that fact and be fully in the moment. It just felt crazy. When we finally found a place to sit next to each other—I wanted to make sure we were on equal ground—he started his speech. 

Jonah: After dating for six years, and living together for over five, we haven't been awkward around each other for a looooong time. So it felt totally crazy to be back in the shoes of my 21-year-old self, sitting next to her, not knowing what to say, and just hoping it all came out right. My brain wasn't quite working as normal, but I managed to say a few words about how much fun I had at our friends' wedding, and how excited it makes me for a celebration of our own. Then I basically just burst out with "Can we just get married already?" She laughed and said, "Are you asking me?" At that point, I was able to actually put together the words, "Yes. Will you marry me?" Leslie immediately started bawling and nodding her head, and I could finally breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy where we were and what had just happened. After a solid five minutes of tears and hugs and "I love yous", I brought out the ring which prompted a new round of tears and joy.

A stranger took this of us moments after Jonah proposed

A stranger took this of us moments after Jonah proposed

Leslie: Because I was so certain Jonah would be proposing, I was concerned I wouldn't be emotional when he actually proposed. I'd already felt so much excitement in the weeks, days, and seconds leading up to the proposal—did I really have any left? But of course, I burst out happy-crying so hard I couldn't even blurt out, "Yes" for a few minutes. I love that Jonah didn't go down on one knee—he proposed sitting right next to me. As much as I love seeing that happen for other people, and celebrating strangers' engagements, I wanted the moment to be a private one shared between the two of us. A couple nearby took our photo right afterward, but only Jonah and I knew what had just happened.

Jonah: We sat on the edge of the rock for a while, just enjoying the view, then started wandering back to our car. That's when I let the other surprises drop: I told her that when we got back to LA, both of our sets of parents were coming to town to spend the day celebrating with us. And in the meantime, we would be staying at the Post Ranch Inn. I first heard about the hotel when my parents stayed there to celebrate an anniversary years ago, and have been wanting to go ever since. As big of a surprise as the proposal was, this hotel was the hardest thing for me not to tell Leslie about in advance. We had been talking about potentially one day staying there until we looked at the prices online. They're extreme to say the least, but after saving up for two years and booking a room nine months in advance, I was able to take us to paradise for two nights. 

IMG_8603

Leslie: I think I was actually in shock when Jonah told me we were staying at Post Ranch Inn. Three years ago, we went to lunch there—there's a stunning restaurant that overlooks the ocean—and it was such a beautiful experience, but I never imagined I would actually stay there one day, because of how much it costs per night. The hotel was the most incredible place I've ever stayed. We stayed in the "Treehouse" rooms that are practically nestled in the forest, but with all the amenities of a world-class hotel. Again, I really can't believe we stayed there. But it was so, so perfect. Jonah and I spent the 48 hours following our proposal completely offline, enjoying the hotel and Big Sur. It was incredibly romantic, and the perfect way to celebrate such a monumental step in our lives as a couple—plus it gave me an idyllic background for proposing back to Jonah (more on that soon! ;)

Jonah: I was a little nervous leading up to our stay that the hotel wouldn't be worth the high cost. But, believe it or not, I'm already counting down the days (more like years), until we can justify going back. Our Treehouse was the most luxurious, peaceful, serene, and beautiful room I've ever stayed in. From the heated room floors to the multiple infinity pools, fresh-baked cookies in your room, homemade bagels every morning, daily yoga sessions, and in-house astronomer, there were a thousand little things that made it a perfect place to stay. On top of all that, it was insanely quiet. Even though the whole place was booked, having only 30 rooms on 100+ acre grounds made it feel like we had the place to ourselves. So yeah, definitely worth it. 

At lunch at the Post Ranch Inn, three years ago (there's an ocean somewhere under those clouds!) 

At lunch at the Post Ranch Inn, three years ago (there's an ocean somewhere under those clouds!) 

Watching deer from a pool at Post Ranch Inn on this stay (magical, to say the least!)

Watching deer from a pool at Post Ranch Inn on this stay (magical, to say the least!)

Leslie: On Tuesday evening, we drove back to Los Angeles, and on Wednesday morning we met our parents at our apartment and spent the day with them, starting with an hours-long brunch at Kismet, followed by the Broad, cocktails at OTIUM, and dinner at Majordomo. I loved being able to tell them the story of the proposal in person.

Jonah: I knew that I wanted our families to be involved somehow, but I also wanted to make sure Leslie and I had some quality time just the two of us before any craziness kicked in. So after we left Post Ranch, we had a lovely drive down the coast during which we called our parents, grandparents, and closest friends to finally let them in on the news. The next morning, all our parents came over. We showed them our pictures, told them the full story, and spent the day eating, drinking, and celebrating some more! 

IMG_8625

P.S., We'll be sharing more about the ring and my proposal back in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your own stories!