By Antoine Kinch

If you know anything about me then you know that I dream big! Why not? The sky is the limit! There are infinite possibilities and I feel like I should always try to give something my all. "If you are going to do it, do it right the first time", is my mantra. When I decided that I was going to propose to Shaunté so many thoughts of how I would do it went through my mind. I saw a lot of different proposal ideas online. They were always surprises. To me, it seemed like they had all been done before. The scoreboard at the game. The skywriting in the air. The hidden ring in her drink. The onstage proposal at the concert. And the classic proposal during the holidays when family and friends are around. But I wanted to be original. I wanted to catch her completely off guard and by surprise.

When we started dating Shaunté lived in San Jose, California and I was living in Raleigh, North Carolina. Now although we met in college and kept in touch as friends for years, our relationship changed when one day she sent me a text message. It was a Friday night, and she was on a date (with a guy that she met online). I didn't think anything of it because it was pretty common for us to tell each other about what was going on in each others lives. Often because of the three hour time difference between the west and east coast, if I was driving late at night we would talk for hours and she would keep me awake until I arrived at my destination. But this text message was different.

"I'm literally on a date right now, but thinking about you..." she wrote. Hold up. WHAT? Was this for real? Was she joking? Was the date that bad? I immediately jumped at the chance to capture the Unicorn that had eluded my grasp for so many years. Opportunity was knocking and I opened the door and let it in so it could get comfortable. The window to freedom from the "Friend Zone" was open and I jumped out with reckless abandon. I responded with a blowing kiss emoji and followed by writing "I am ready when you are!".

We exchanged messages for a few minutes and then once she was finished with her date, we spoke on the phone. We started to talk about old times, past relationships and where we were in our current relationships. "What if this didn't work?" was the proverbial elephant in the room. We both thought it. We would have to put everything on the line. Eventually one of us would have to find a new job, move across country and take the necessary steps to lead our friendship down a road that isn't easy to turn back from.

We decided to meet in New Orleans during the Essence festival over July 4th weekend that year. It would be our "First Date". It was a fantastic weekend, that lead to more weekends, and more trips until finally Shaunté decided that she would step out on faith and move to North Carolina. Her sister lives in Greensboro, and her father lives in 2 hours away in New Kent, Virginia so if things didn't work out she had family in the area. But I had no intention of letting things not work. It was at this moment that I knew what I had to do.

So I started planning the proposal. But now I need to get her a ring right? Dreaming big remember? I started saving money while she planned her move. But where to buy it? I talked to my best friend who had gotten married the month prior. I also reached out to a friend who worked in the diamond district in New York City. They both gave sage advice. The best of which was: take the diamond outside and look at it in natural sunlight, this will let you know EXACTLY how it is going to look on her hand. The light in the stores is made to make even average diamonds look good. And they were right. I switched center stones after taking a few outside. I ultimately ended up going to Diamonds Direct because they had good prices, a location close by and the staff did a good job at helping me through the process. I would definitely recommend them to anyone that is looking to take the plunge.

When Shaunté moved to Raleigh, she told me that her new company was having a retreat in Phoenix, AZ at the Arizona Biltmore that December and significant others were invited. PERFECT! This worked with the timing for when I was going to propose. I would do it there. In front of all her new coworkers. But how? I went to the company website and sent an email to the general inbox explaining what I wanted to do and asked if someone would get back to me and let me know if this was ok. They responded! Actually it was one of the founders of the company that called me and her first question was: "Are you sure she is going to say yes?" I confidently said: "She better!" We then tried to think of the best way to do it. She told me that they were going to give a company year in review PowerPoint presentation during the dinner and that was when the light bulb in my head turned on. BOOM! So, I sent her a slide deck with music and pictures of us from over the years for her to include and set things in motion.

Months passed and Shaunté still had no idea that I had been corresponding with her company! We flew to Phoenix, checked in and got ready to go to the party. I had the ring in my pocket and we were on our way. We got to the party at the Gladly restaurant and even though I had spoken to the travel coordinator, her coworker Heidi and her bosses Patti & Mike, I had to act as if I was just meeting them for the first time. We sat down to dinner and the presentation started to play. Her travel coordinator Michael had already called the hotel and had them put rose petals and champagne in the room for when we got back. He also planned for them to bring in a dozen red roses to her after I proposed.

SHE SAID YES! (Followed by the ugly cry). You know the kind that messes up your makeup? The uncontrollable, gasp for air cry. Yeah, that one. We enjoyed the night. I left her to make phone calls to her friends (who already knew what I was going to do) and I went to have a cigar with some of the guys.

The next day as we were walking around the mall a rainbow came out. Shaunté told me that her mother (who passed a way years prior) loved rainbows and that she thought it was a sign that her mother was happy for us. And so the next chapter of our lives would begin.

Click below to see the Actual Proposal with Shaunté's reaction.

Here are some pictures from the weekend when Antoine proposed to Shaunté.