On Labor Day weekend of 2009 my boyfriend and I took a trip to Washington, D.C. when we had only been together for six months. It was our second out-of-town getaway together; I was excited to show him our nation’s capital, as he had not visited prior to us meeting.

Our first stop of the trip was to tour the United States Marine Corps Museum in the town of Triangle, just south of the District. Being the Friday of Labor Day weekend, we figured it would be packed shoulder to shoulder, but to our surprise, it was nearly empty. Snagging a spot on the next available tour, we ended up being two of seven people in the group. We got lucky too – our tour included a Korean War veteran, who was there visiting the museum with his family and was happy to share stories of his own while we walked through the museum. It was so surreal, hearing stories about places memorialized in the museum straight from one of the brave men who happened to be present during the historic events and standing right next to us.

After the tour, we headed for the city to check into our hotel room and hang out for the night. We ordered room service and watched Metalocalypse on his laptop. It was a perfect start to our trip.

The highlight of our visit was exploring the National Mall the next day. While walking around the Washington Monument, he put his hand on my shoulder, stopping me from walking forward, and said “hang on a second…” He starts to get down on one knee and I see a couple in the distance stop watch us. The woman slaps her man’s arm excitedly and starts pointing as us, with a wide grin. I remember my mind started to race with thoughts like “oh my god is this the moment, this can’t be the moment, we haven’t been dating long, what do I do, oh my god!”

You think you know what’s coming next, but you don’t.

Slowly, he says “hang on… I just need to… tie my shoe.”

I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. I playfully smacked his shoulder while he lifted up off his knee and laughed heartily. The onlookers seemed slightly let down, but still laughed with us as they continued along their way. He thought it was hilarious. I can’t say I didn’t think it was funny, mainly because this other couple got so excited for us and he was just playing a prank on me. (These fake-proposal pranks kept coming for years to follow.) I don’t even know if he intentionally joked around about it, or if he just decided to take it and run as far as he could with it. Both of these scenarios are completely possible with this man.

After we stopped laughing and composed ourselves, we continued toward the Reflection Pool. At the National World War II Memorial we went on a search for Kilroy, the famous graffiti used by American soldiers in Europe during the Second World War. We knew it was hidden and that we were looking for something off the beaten path that most tourists wouldn’t know about if they had not researched the memorial prior to visiting. It took us nearly an hour to find the golden gates on the rear of the monument, but we finally did and took a moment for all those who gave up their lives for the fight. We are both history buffs (him more than me, especially when it comes to war history), so it was a very special moment we shared to be forever remembered.

We continued to explore the monuments around the National Mall, then went back to our hotel room on Capitol Hill to relax. The next day, we explored Arlington National Cemetery for several hours and decided to head back to the hotel for some rest and relaxation. I ended up getting sick the next morning, so we unfortunately had to scrap the rest of our plans while I wallowed in bed the rest of the weekend with him left to take care of me. He did an amazing job, by the way – from finding a CVS for cold meds, to making sure I had plenty of my favorite green tea on hand for when I wasn’t sleeping. On our way home, we vowed to come back again one day to make up for the lost time and visit all the things we missed.

The time finally came nearly six years later in July of 2015, when he scheduled a business trip to the Capital. When I decided to tag along, we booked my flight and planned out our trip in excitement. It was well over-due, not only visiting D.C., but taking a vacation together (albeit short). We arrived Thursday evening at the Ronald Reagan Airport and took an Uber Black to our hotel in Georgetown. After getting settled, we ordered room service and talked about all the things we were going to visit once he was finished with work on Friday. We watched South Park and relaxed while he prepared for the following day, then read until we fell asleep. Another perfect start to our trip back in the Capital.

On Friday July 10, after indulging on a delicious room service breakfast, he went to do his thing while I went to the pool to swim a few laps. Once I had enough sun and chlorine, I went back up to our room to finish up a little work of my own. Then, I got ready for the afternoon/evening while I waited for him to return. I kind of went above and beyond (because I’m not really the “get ready” type of girl… I usually roll out of bed and throw on something decent and head out the door, doing my makeup and hair later in the day as necessary) – I polished my nails, I did my hair, and dolled myself up because I figured we would be heading out for the evening once he arrived. I was right – we had dinner at a burger joint off Washington Circle and hit up CVS for snacks and drinks so we didn’t feel tempted by the mini bar, as we weren’t strong enough to say no the night before. Those damn peanut M&Ms cost us $7.50 plus an automatic 18% gratuity and restocking fee! Sigh… it’s vacation, right?

We took everything back to the room and relaxed for a bit, before developing our itinerary for the rest of the weekend. We decided since it was late in the day, we should visit the National Mall since the museums were already closed and we didn’t have a time restriction on sight-seeing. Shortly after, we walked to the Foggy Bottom station, purchased a couple of Metro Cards for the rest of our weekend, and hopped on the next train to the National Mall area.

Now, I have to tell you – we had been joking for weeks leading up to this trip about his fake proposal six years ago on the sidewalk of the Washington Monument. He basically said I should expect it because he couldn’t play it out for much longer, considering we went ring shopping together a couple of months earlier. I planned to let him have his fun, even though I’d still be a little embarrassed if he did it in public again. And of course, while we walked the streets near the Smithsonian, he kept joking and threatening to do it again for an entire crowd to see. Anything for a good laugh – he lives for this stuff, I swear.

We arrived at the Washington Monument, and surprise! He fake proposes! We both got a great laugh and didn’t see anyone watching us, so I figured he would continue to mess with me throughout the night. After all, he loves to mess with me like this more often than not and has been pulling this joke sporadically over the last six years. I always told him I was afraid I wouldn’t believe him when it really happened because of how often he joked around about it.

We started walking toward the National World War II Memorial and both got excited to look for Kilroy again. This time (since we knew where it was hidden), we took our time walking around the northern edge of the memorial. I took a few photos and we marveled at the craftsmanship of the shrine as we rounded the corner where the golden gate was finally visible. We smiled at each other and clasped hands, walking together toward the gate.

There it was – the famous graffiti known as Kilroy – nestled in the corner of the back of the memorial just as we remembered. There weren’t many people around, so we took our time talking about the history and cool-factor of the hidden gem. I decided I wanted a photo of us, so after taking a photo of the graffiti, he took my phone to take a photo of us (yes, a selfie, if you will) with Kilroy in the background. He couldn’t quite get the angle of the photo right and when he finally did, Kilroy wasn’t in the photo. He put his left arm around me to bring me a little closer to him for the photo.

I kept telling him we couldn’t see Kilroy in the shot; after some maneuvering, as he pulled me closer to him with his left arm around my shoulder/neck he said “I can’t… I’m trying to… see if… you’ll marry me.”

At least I think that’s what he said, because I was suddenly distracted by his left hand creeping up in front of my face, holding a ring box, open, with the most beautiful sapphire and diamond ring. Yes, the exact one that made me gasp in delight when shopped around in the previous months. I couldn’t believe it.

“Oh my god! No!” I yelled, in a state of shock and disbelief. Immediately, I shook my head and started to cry, thinking oh my god he’s going to think I don’t want to marry him so I quickly shouted “YES!” in order to eliminate any confusion. Luckily, he did actually snap some photos with my cell during the moment – priceless. (Sorry, I won’t be posting those photos – if you see me in person, I’ll gladly share!)

I started crying and couldn’t believe this was the moment. It was perfect and intimate, despite the very public setting. He asked me if he should get down on one knee – I laughed and said yes, but only to put the ring on, he didn’t need to ask me again. The answer is still, and will always be, yes. A thousand times, yes.

After I composed myself and stopped hyperventilating, we walked together to some benches to call our families. A girl, who couldn’t have been more than fourteen, walked by us with a huge grin and said “congratulations!” My heart was bursting. People could tell what just happened without seeing the actual act. A jogger ran by and pumped her fist in the air, shouting “congrats” as she ran by. I’m still amazed at how quiet the proposal ended up being, considering there were hundreds of people in the vicinity. We didn’t know anyone else in that park that night, but the strangers near us expressed their happiness for us and our moment. I knew I would want to share the news on social media later that evening, so we called our families and close friends to tell them before it was posted. Once we wrapped that up, we finished visiting the monuments and memorials then headed back to the hotel to grab a celebratory drink in the hotel bar.

I later discovered he showed my mom, sister-in-law, and my dad’s girlfriend the ring a month before the big day. He also asked my dad for permission without me knowing (even though my dad accidentally let the cat out of the bag by telling me he “couldn’t have done what my man did”). I told my love a long time ago that it would be great if he asked my father, but it wasn’t a deal breaker. My man is very brave, ladies and gentlemen. Then again, we’ve been together for almost seven years so he became a part of my family a long time ago.

He pulled it off. I’m notorious for ruining his surprises, usually without meaning to do so, because I’m too damn nosy for my own good. After we went shopping for rings, I promised him and myself I wouldn’t be nosy about it and let him take it from there one hundred percent. I’m so glad I practiced self-control because this became the ultimate surprise. It was more perfect than I could have ever imagined. Well worth the wait for six and a half years. Now the fun stuff begins – planning the rest of our lives together.

I am so elated and in love. I knew the moment I met him he was the one. I have been head over heels for him since that day and our love continues to grow wildly as time passes. I am excited to spend the rest of my life with him, for better or worse and through whatever hurdles we face – as long as we face them together, I know we’ll make it to the end of the line. We wish for health and happiness, as well as a long, lovely life together – and I know we’ll make it happen. He’s my best friend, my rock, my one true love, and soulmate. Here’s to us, babe, and our continuing journey. <3