Couples who married in 2022 have had some of their most formative years together during the pandemic, and many have said they developed a strong bond during the time they spent together at home during lockdowns.
This past year saw the return of larger gatherings, including concerts, parties and weddings. But many of these couples’ proposals happened in 2020 and 2021 — the two most socially distanced years. This didn’t stop people from getting creative, and extra thoughtful, when popping the big question to their significant others.
A college events manager hid a ring in a piñata, and a psychology professor embedded his proposal into an escape room clue. A strategy director presented a symbolic painting to his partner, while a history lecturer proposed with a rock in lieu of a ring.
Here are 10 of the best proposals from couples who were featured in The New York Times Weddings pages this year.
She Cracked the Code with Six Minutes to Spare
Shawn Jones and Zainep Mahmoud have been breaking out of escape rooms together ever since their second date at Insomnia Escape Room DC in September 2018.
“We literally have an undefeated streak going,” Dr. Jones, 36, said. “When it was time to propose, I just knew that it would make so much sense for it to be connected to an escape room.”
He coordinated with Breakout Games, an escape room in Richmond, Va., and there, the couple participated in a heist-themed game in September 2021. Inside the escape room, with ultraviolet light in hand, Ms. Mahmoud, 36, uncovered a message: “Ah Few Tour Why Eff Uh.”
The message revisited a game show clue from the bonus round of a March 2016 episode of “Wheel of Fortune,” during which Dr. Jones, a contestant, solved the puzzle, despite there being few letters on the board, in less than one second into his allotted time: “FUTURE WIFE!”
When Ms. Mahmoud deciphered the message, Dr. Jones proposed. “In particular I remember him saying that he knows we can navigate any and everything together, and I deeply believed the same,” she said.
Ms. Mahmoud said “yes,” and the two escaped, engaged, with six minutes to spare.
Strike a Pose, They Vogued Their Way to Engagement
Yuming Chiu started his career as a professional violist, so he mentioned to Dr. Shilpen Patel one day that he would love to have a “simple engagement” that incorporated his love for music.
But Dr. Patel, a pop culture lover, said he wanted the engagement to be “fun” and something they “remember for the rest of our lives.”
On Dec. 17, 2021, the couple attended the San Francisco Symphony for the Holiday Gaiety performance, which included classical renditions on pop songs.
In the middle of the show, they were selected to vogue onstage while the symphony played Madonna’s “Vogue.” Peaches Christ, the drag queen hosting the show, then pulled the couple to the center of the stage and handed Mr. Chiu, who now goes by the name Patel, the mic.
“You know, we’ve had a lot of adventures these past few years,” Dr. Patel started saying, and Mr. Chiu, 37, covered his face with his hands in shock, knowing what would proceed. Dr. Patel, 46, got down on one knee in front of an audience of more than 2,500 people.
On May 7, 2022, the two were married.
She Whacked the Ring Out
Suzanne Joskow and Henderson Blumer were celebrating New Year’s Eve together in their Los Angeles home in 2020, when just before midnight, he asked her to break open a star-shaped piñata that he had hung onto the stone pine tree in their backyard.
“It was sparkling perfectly, it was very romantic-looking,” she said.
Ms. Joskow, 39, whacked the piñata, and out flew a black pouch with a ring in it. Mr. Blumer, 33, picked it up and got down on one knee. After she said “yes,” fireworks went off around the city.
“We have a hill right behind our house. We walked up the hill and looked out over Los Angeles as all the celebrations were happening across L.A., and we were able to celebrate each other, too,” Mr. Blumer said.
“We were saying goodbye to what had been a really complex, tumultuous year, but it was a double-edged sword for us because it was also a year where we’d fallen more and more in love,” she said.
The couple married on Jan. 22, 2022 under the 100-year-old stone pine tree where he had proposed.
Two Art Lovers and a Symbolic Painting
Everett Long Jr. and Fred Smith Jr. first met in October 2015 while they were each getting a haircut at Brown’s Barber Shop in Athens, Ga.
Five years later, in November 2020, Mr. Long commissioned a painting of the barbershop, which was originally meant to be a birthday gift for Mr. Smith. But by the time it was completed in April 2021, Mr. Long said he “just had this feeling that this is no longer a birthday present,” adding, “It’s much deeper than that.”
That May, the couple shared dinner together on Mr. Long’s balcony, before heading to the airport to celebrate Mr. Smith’s birthday in Puerto Rico.
“Before we left, I said, ‘Hey, I want to give you your present before we leave because it’s too big to go on the airplane,” Mr. Long, 40, recalled.
Mr. Smith, also 40, opened the package, and as he was admiring the painting, Mr. Long got down on one knee.
“We had talked about getting engaged, and we talked about a specific way of maybe going about it,” Mr. Smith said. “But he was describing how he just couldn’t hold it in anymore, and that he’d never been more certain about almost anything in his life.”
The piece is meaningful to the couple for many reasons, Mr. Long said, which include a shared love of collecting art. Mr. Smith grew up in Athens, the location of the barbershop, and Mr. Long, who grew up in Philadelphia, called Athens “a formative place” in his life. The barbershop’s address on “Hot Corner,” a section in Athens bustling with Black businesses, is also historically significant.
“But most of all, the fact that we met each other at, of all places, a barbershop felt ironic,” said Mr. Long, who called the space “one of the Blackest, most masculine and most beloved institutions of the Black community.”
On Sept. 10, the couple wed at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, where they showcased 25 pieces from their art collection, including the barbershop painting.
‘I’m Not Going to Make You Ask this Question Again’
Brian Guyer and Tisza Bell were living a three-hour drive away from each other in the fall of 2019 — she was in Missoula, Mont., and he was in Bozeman. They would see each other most weekends.
One of those weekends, in September 2020, went spectacularly badly. They’d met halfway, outside Butte, Mont., to go camping and biking. There, they encountered an unexpected snowstorm, their truck suffered a flat that they didn’t have the tools to manage and they didn’t have cell service to call for reinforcements. They laughed through it all, and by Sunday, when the sun finally broke through, Mr. Guyer, 43, proposed while they were covered in cow manure and mud.
“He said, ‘If I had a ring, I’d ask you to marry me right now,’ and I said, ‘I’m not going to make you ask this question again,’” said Dr. Bell, 39, who has a doctoral degree in microbiology.
A few days later, the couple ordered matching white silicone rings. Since Dr. Bell was processing wastewater samples for Covid-19 at the time, a silicone ring was the only kind of ring that felt comfortable under her gloves.
Eventually, her parents sent the couple her grandmother’s ring. “But we still wear the white ones everyday, and they were what we exchanged at our wedding,” she said.
He Proposed at His Father’s Graveyard
On Father’s Day in 2021, William Browns Jr. made Kimberly Harris breakfast in bed before giving her a note that sent her on a scavenger hunt around the house. Each clue related to a different memory in their relationship, and in the end, she was rewarded with an Edible Arrangements bouquet delivery.
They then headed to a family event, but on the way, the couple stopped by Oakridge-Glen Oak Cemetery in Hillside, Ill., to visit the grave of his father, who died in 2016. On Father’s Day in 2020, he had brought her to his father’s grave, and he said that was the moment he knew she was “the one.”
Before they left, Mr. Browns, 28, got down on one knee and proposed. Right at that moment, there was a torrential downpour, but that didn’t stop Ms. Harris, 35, from saying “yes” and hugging Mr. Browns in the midst of a rainstorm.
“It was so surreal and divine, as all of our most beautiful relationship moments have been in the pouring rain,” including their first date, Mr. Browns said. “Then, we held hands on the way back to the car, barely able to see where we were going, and laughed at what we knew would be a moment we would never forget,” he added.
He Stalled, and He Stalled Some More
Robert Flaherty’s plan was to propose to Carla Frank on Sept. 18, 2021, when her best friend, Ellie Cohen, would be in town with her husband. He figured it would be a good time for their close friends and family members to fly into Washington, unbeknown to Ms. Frank, and be present for the proposal at Willowcroft Farm Vineyards in Leesburg, Va.
After he made the plan, Kate Burner, a friend, invited them to her wedding, which would also to take place on Sept. 18, 2021. Mr. Flaherty, 31, decided to use that wedding as a cover-up: Ms. Frank, also 31, thought they would be attending.
But on the day of the proposal, his mother’s flight got delayed, and Mr. Flaherty had to devise numerous stalling tactics. He texted Ms. Burner to ask if she could send a BCC’d email to them that her wedding would be delayed by an hour. Ten minutes later, while getting her hair done on her wedding day, Ms. Burner sent the email.
Although this bought Mr. Flaherty some time, he needed to come up with several more excuses that night.
“Ellie and I were making up reason after reason after reason to stall,” he said. “Carla was getting increasingly frustrated.”
Finally, after his mother arrived to the vineyard, Mr. Flaherty orchestrated a surprise wine tour and proposed in the vineyard.
“The very first thing she says is, my parents are here, right?,” Mr. Flaherty said. They had a celebration at the winery with their family and friends, who had been hiding in a loft upstairs, followed by a dinner at their house with a private chef.
Sealing Their Relationship With a Pasta Stamp
Just a few days after the pandemic set in, Laura McDonald moved into Harsh Shah’s apartment. They spent that first year cooking together. So, it was only fitting for him to incorporate food into his proposal.
After flipping through a cookbook, he was inspired by a recipe for fresh corzetti, a coin-like pasta that is typically stamped with a design. He decided to take a few woodworking classes and began secretly carving his own pasta stamp.
In February 2021, the couple took a trip to Sea Ranch, Calif., and on the second night of their trip, Mr. Shah, 36, told Ms. McDonald, also 36, that he would be making dinner that night.
“I was definitely suspicious when he told me he would take care of dinner and I should relax on the couch, we almost always cook together,” she said. “I remember getting very excited and nervous while trying to read my book.”
When he handed her a plate of fresh corzetti with pesto, it took her some time before she realized that each piece of pasta was stamped with the words “Laura, will you marry me?”
“I remember grinning the entire time,” Ms. McDonald said.
“We kept our engagement a secret and didn’t tell anyone for 36 hours,” Mr. Shah said. “It felt like we were sitting on the world’s biggest secret.”
She Proposed With a Rock In Lieu of a Ring
Katherine Turner, 46, had made it clear to Robert Sparks, 40, that if they were to get married, she would be the one to propose. She wanted to be sure that her two sons, then ages 11 and 8, were comfortable with the idea.
Two years after their first date in December 2018, she was ready to propose, but she waited until January 2021 once the Philadelphia Museum of Art reopened.
“We had one of our first, most magical dates there, so it seemed like the perfect place,” said Dr. Turner, who has a Ph.D. in history. The couple agree that they fell in love on that date.
She brought Mr. Sparks to the Fairmount Water Works behind the museum, but she had something other than a ring in her pocket. The previous year, Dr. Turner had found a small heart-shaped rock on a beach in San Diego, her hometown, and she kept it.
She presented the rock to Mr. Sparks and said, “You tumbled unexpectedly into my life, I picked you up intending to throw you back, like this stone. I was lost, I reached out and I found you.”
‘It Was the Best Way to Diffuse a Heated Situation’
Janeine LeCorday knew she wanted to propose to Janine Lee during a trip they took with friends to San Diego in April 2021 to celebrate Ms. Lee’s birthday.
The plan was to sing “I Choose You,” by Kiana Ledé, to Ms. Lee during a karaoke night, and then get down on one knee and propose. But leading up to karaoke, their friends had gotten into a fight, and there was still some tension in the group.
Ms. Lee worked on smoothing out the tension in the room, while Ms. LeCorday volunteered to sing first. However, Ms. LeCorday, 41, did not start singing. Instead, she started crying.
“I immediately knew what was about to take place, and the only thing I could say was, ‘Really babe, you’re going to do this now?,’” Ms. Lee, 40, said. “Little did I realize it was the best way to diffuse a heated situation.”
Ms. LeCorday got down on one knee, and although she did not say anything, Ms. Lee said “absolutely.”
“I got down there with her, and we hugged each other and cried a little more,” she added.