After Afsi and I had our first date in September 2012, my friend +Jack Barger hit me up to ask how it went. Jack introduced us (and warned me off), so I had no problem giving him the honest truth:

"I could keep planning trips with this woman for the next 40 years."

We continued the courtship until we began planning a trip to Arizona, March of 2013. I put together the trip and included an early morning surprise. With this plan in my head, I had a few beers with +S McGee and discussed the possibility of asking Afsi to share her life with me during this trip. He advised me, wisely, to hold off and continue getting to know one another. 

In June, I contacted my local jeweler and close family friend, Jan Hipp at the Queen's Jewels, and told her the long wait was over. I had found a beautiful woman that could keep up with me, and was not about to let her go. Jan invited me over to the shop for a crash course in stones, settings and cost. My original plan was to find a tanzanite solitare, a tip of the hat to our dream of travelling to Tanzania and hiking Kilimanjaro, but that gem is too soft for everyday wear. A much better option would be a sapphire, but after all, diamonds are forever. I chose a pretty ring setting and went home feeling pretty hyped.

And then began second-guessing. The setting wasn't unique enough, it wasn't personal enough, it wasn't... well, it wasn't the One Ring. So I called Jan and asked to come back and look some more. I scoured Afsi's Pinterest page, sneakily looking for hints of what her ideal ring would look like. I searched online for different styles and sent Jan several emails with a dozen or so different rings to draw inspiration from. Drawing from the persian influence of paisley, we found a filigree that would work perfect and I swear I heard the clouds part and angels singing when we imagined the final design. Much of Afsi's pins on Pinterest showed rings with the Princess (square) cut and she had told me her ring size (7 5/8), so we decided to model a Princess cut peg on a ring with the paisley filigree and diamond accents and I placed the order before leaving for Germany in August. 

Now the fun part- finding a stone proved to be far more difficult than expected. For 3 months, Jan and her gemologist looked for the perfect diamond. Afsi and I spent our anniversary in Chicago and, while window shopping, stopped into a Tiffany's. This store holds special allure for Afsi, though I told her if she wanted a Tiffany's ring, we'd be looking at getting engaged in 2019 so I could afford it. It was fun to see her face light up at the different rings so the saleswoman pulled out a few sample pieces for her to try on. 

She's a perfect size 6. 

And loved every cut of diamond- except the Princess cut. 

It was everything I could do to swallow my disappointment and soak up Afsi's excitement. Seeing her excited about the possibility of marriage, that was the spark that kept my spirits high for the rest of the weekend. As soon as I could discreetly send an email, though, I shot off a message to Jan asking if the ring could be resized all the way down to a 6 or if I would have to buy another ring, and then I silently thanked God that the diamond had not yet been found, because the square cut being hunted was the only cut she disliked. 

During this time, I also reconsidered the idea of a sapphire center stone. I think there is something special about an heirloom ring with a beautiful colored gem, and Afsi deserves something unique, something that she would never have to fear encountering on another woman's hand. When speaking with Jan about the resizing and the stone, I asked her to change direction and focus on looking for a natural blue sapphire to use in the ring. It was now the end of November and my whole plan revolved around a Christmas eve proposal. I was starting to sweat. 

A miracle came through during a work trip, the gemologist called to say that the ring could be resized and they were going to send it off to have back the week of Thanksgiving. 

Very important to me was speaking with her father, no small task to do in secret from two states away, when almost every weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas was scheduled together. Luckily, Afsi was spending the weekend before Thanksgiving with her girlfriends in New York City and I had a window of opportunity. I looked into rental cars from Chicago, a 24-hour rental with all the agencies would be over $2,100. That option was quickly removed from the table. I walked up to the ticket counter and bought a ticket from the agent, a one-way to Louisville, departing an hour from my purchase time. 

Afsi was never the wiser, though after my trip to Kentucky every family member was in the loop, aside from her. Our families can certainly keep a secret, as we sat quietly on the news for over a month. In the meantime, the perfect stone was found and mounted and I excitedly sent off pictures to Afsi's mom, my parents, and people at the office. This meant my cell phone was now Top Secret contraband and Afsi was not permitted to look through photos. 

All of this background led to the final night, when we would pose for a photo in front of the Christmas tree at her family's cabin and I would fall to one knee for the big moment. You can share in the moment below, thanks to Damir filming the entire proposal and capturing both the most nerve-wracking and exciting moment of my life to date.