Get ready for a proposal story that will absolutely blow you away. It involves a custom made deck of cards and the fourteen countries Mariel and Gabe traveled to together before he popped the big question.
The happy Nigerian-Jamaican couple had a destination wedding in Antigua Guatemala, exactly a year after they got engaged in the very same place. One hundred of their closest family and friends from around the world gathered in Guatemala to share one amazing week that ended with everyone dancing until sunrise.
Wedding Date: August 15, 2015
Wedding Location: Casa Santo Domingo in Antigua, Guatemala
First Dance Song: “High Tide or Low Tide” by Bob Marley
Tell us about how you met and all about the proposal!
Gabe and I met on my doorstep in San Francisco in the summer of 2009. Three months prior, Gabe had been introduced to my dad through a friend and developed a relationship with him that involved watching basketball, eating homemade jerk chicken meals, and engaging in high-spirited sports conversations. During their 3-month-long friendship, my dad frequently told Gabe stories about my brother, never once mentioned having a daughter.
Fast-forward to a windy Saturday evening when I pulled up to my house, only to see Gabe walking toward my front door. When I got out of my car and also started walking to the door, we awkwardly looked at one another, each of us waiting for the other to speak. Gabe broke the silence saying, “I’m … here to see Errol?” Upon hearing my dad’s name and accustomed to the random strangers he brought home from time to time, I nodded and said, “He’s inside.”
Gabe’s quick stop that night turned into an eight hour extended stay with us watching Star Trek in the living room with my dad and crazy uncle, Billy the Kid, neither of whom were amused by our banter in the background. My dad was so protective, in fact, that at one point he pulled me aside and told me to tell Gabe to go home. “But he’s your friend,” I responded, and returned to the room. That night, as Gabe finally prepared to leave, he asked me to go on a date with him. It was amazing and we have been laughing, traveling, and taking jumping pictures ever since.
Gabe: I’ve surprised Mariel so many times in the past that I knew that this one would have to be special. Six months before the proposal, I created a fake email from an Expedia travel agent, advertising a chance to win an all-expense-paid summer vacation to somewhere in the Caribbean or Central America. Having signed up for these shot-in-the-dark contests in the past, Mariel asked me to sign her up, and I told her that I had entered both of our names in the raffle.
Over the next few months, I continually updated Mariel with news on whether we had advanced to higher rounds and the possible locations Expedia was considering sending its winners. Because Mariel was in New York completing a summer internship, she was busy enough to avoid becoming suspicious of our good fortune as we advanced further in the raffle and was eventually thrown off completely when I told her that I had been knocked out. When news came that she was selected as a winner and was on her way to Guatemala, Mariel was ecstatic and quickly encouraged me to buy my ticket, not knowing I had already planned every detail of the trip—ring included.
When we arrived in Guatemala, we headed to Lake Atitlan—a crater-lake surrounded by volcanoes. I wanted to propose in the middle of our trip so I asked the bungalow owners (months in advance) to approach us at some point during our stay and kindly ask us to model in an ad for their quarterly airbnb brochure. Mariel agreed, and two days later we woke up at 5 a.m. to get ready for our sunrise “photo-shoot.”
When we got to the floating dock, our photographers, the hotel owners were setting up. They had asked us to bring items to make the photos look more natural, so I brought a bottle of champagne and a magazine. As we sat down, I pulled out a custom-made deck of cards with photos of us from each country we had traveled to together on the back of each card. I began to show Mariel the cards and reminisce on all the great times we’d had in Portugal and Swaziland and Panama, however, my Birdy was barely paying attention, her focus instead firmly set on her hair blowing in the wind and the photo-shoot.
Not having planned for this reaction, I continued to ramble, but it was only when the photographers moved away from us that she really began to pay attention to me and the photos I was attempting to show her. When we finally got to the final 14 cards—all hearts—I fanned them out and held them out for her to see. On the back were pictures of us from all 14 countries we had visited together, with the 14 letters W.I.L.L Y.O.U M.A.R.R.Y M.E.? printed across them. As Mariel read the cards her face turned to shock. I dropped to one knee, told her how many more life adventures I am looking forward to sharing with her, and asked her to be my wife. In the happy chaos that followed, I had one more surprise. “Pack your bags,” I told her, “We’re going to Honduras!”. Exactly one year later, we got married in the same location in Guatemala.
I wore an ivory colored Vera Wang Kaitlin dress. After watching many episodes of Say Yes to the Dress, I expected the dress shopping process to be stressful and confusing, but the dress I chose was actually the second dress I tried on while window shopping with my mom.
Gabe is from the Ibibio Tribe in Nigeria. My father is from Jamaica. So we incorporated ibibio culture in the colorful traditional attires and musical selections, while we infused Jamaican culture in the cocktail beverages and food choices. In addition, we infused many do-it-yourself ideas such as personalized Nigeria/California cake toppers and more.
Help a bride-to-be out!
Get a wedding planner. Also, it’s okay to focus on the DIY details.
Wedding Planner: Diana Sciarrillo, IDOGUATEMALA
Photographer/Videographer: Carlos Lopez Ayerdi
Decor: Beatriz, Addy Florales
Caterers: Casa Santo Domingo Hotel
DJ-Music: Max Piha
Seat Place Cards: Polaroid Foto Bar
Jewelry: Elyanna Rodulgina, Haniken Jewelers
Men’s Wear: Combat Gent
Bridesmaid Gowns: BCBG
Bride’s Dress: Kaitlin by Vera Wang
Wedding Cake: Sofia Cobian
Ceremony Venue: Catholic Parish, Casa Santo Domingo
Reception Venue: Casa Santo Domingo Banquet Hall
Traditional Welcome Mixer Venue: Hotel Camino Real Restaurant