Rebel Rousing with Amy: An Alternative Engagement

Amy's road trippin', sunset-chasing engagement story on the edge of the Grand Canyon.

It’s fall and I’m wearing my favorite sweater that I finally pulled from the tippy top of my closet. Maybe it’s the chill in the air but I’m feeling, at least momentarily, at ease. 

October always feels like a pivotal month for me. The brisk breeze signals change, and this sagittarius lives for it. As a born adventurer, settling for the conventional has never been my thing, which is why a “traditional” marriage proposal never sat right with me. 

Autumn never fails to remind me of the rather unconventional way I got engaged. Six years ago, I was on the cusp of a big life change. I was about to embark on a journey that would take me away from my home and somehow back to it, all at once.

My partner John (he/him) and I had decided we were going to get engaged. But we didn’t come to that decision like you might expect. I was realizing he might propose to me and I might actually hate it. Not the actual “I want to spend the rest of my life with you” part – we had discussed ever after ad nauseum – but the getting down on one knee with a ring in hand. At a certain point in my early 20s I realized it just wasn’t me. When I realized getting engaged meant “a proposal,” I’d turn red just thinking about it. Instead, we decided to plan our proposal together. We googled “best sunsets in the country” and landed on the Grand Canyon. We set up some ground rules: first, no getting down on one knee. We didn’t want the attention + it felt a little too dangerous on the edge of a massive cliff. Second, we would both share something we’d written, why we were choosing each other. Finally, we’d have a surprise for each other, but not the popping question kind of surprise.

We hopped on a plane to LAX (appreciate all of you singing the song in your head right now...), rented a convertible, and got In-N-Out burgers for the road and madly chased the sunset to make it in time. We got into a spat on the drive there because we were getting cold and John thought we should put the top up on the convertible. But I was worried we’d miss the sunset if we pulled over and stopped. Perfect moments always include these imperfect ones, ya know? I always think of that last silly argument as boyfriend and girlfriend before we got engaged and laugh to myself.

When we got out of the car, we held hands and walked to a private spot. It’s so rare to have a moment where you think, When I walk back to this car, everything will changeI’ll be the same person but different. It was a beautiful gift to enjoy that kind of anticipation. John was wearing the ring he selected and I sported my big turquoise rock that I had picked out. Both of them, Etsy finds!

After we took a selfie, we FaceTimed my sister and shared the news. We told her she had to keep the secret for another week. Afterwards, we went to a divey restaurant and ordered the nicest bottle they had. I’m not a fan of Champagne and the wine was pretty cheap and perfect. Over the next two days, we road tripped together to Joshua Tree and cozied up in a completely private AirBNB. We stayed up too late, skinny dipped in the make-shift hot tub outside, and even called emergency services to put out a mini-fire cooking dinner. The firefighters had to back up their truck on the dirt road because there was no other way out. John and I were a little mortified causing such a ruckus.

It was messy and magical and we spent that entire week just reveling in a decision we made together.

Like relationships, there’s no right or wrong way. But there is beautiful space for the twist or turn of a tradition or etiquette if it makes more people feel seen and celebrated.

When it came to the surprises, I booked us an outdoor couple’s massage in the desert which ended up being just the one masseuse and we took turns, alone in the desert. Whoops! John’s surprise? Well, he really took my breath away. Skydiving. That’s right. Terrified of heights, it’s never been his thing. But he knew it would mean the world to me. And a few months later, we jumped out of a plane together.

Ever since, we’ve been making bold moves and climbing new heights together – never playing by any rule book.

In this new season, as the wind shifts, this is your invitation to embrace change, too. I hope it takes you somewhere perfectly imperfect, messy and magical, too.

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