My Woodloch Engagement
~shared by Steve Shaw
I’ve been married for 39 days. So far so good! As my annual week at Woodloch approaches (Week 32), I find myself reminiscing. August 3rd marks two years since I stepped away from dinner at the Inn to take a walk with my girlfriend, Bevin, and pop the question.
Woodloch has been a second home to my family since my Grandmother and Great Aunt first visited in 1959. I grew up in a household that couldn’t have a conversation without Woodloch coming up. We have the countdown written on the fridge and it starts the day we return home from our week. As a child, I struggled to describe to my friends what made Woodloch so great. I could describe the events, the staff, and the different places to explore but I couldn’t describe how special it was to see the same faces every year and have a second family. I couldn’t describe the how great the feelings were to have things pick up exactly where they left off. The atmosphere was indescribable then and I still find that to be true now. It’s just something you need to experience. As I grew older, I knew anyone I would share this experience with would have to be special.
I knew nearly from the moment that I met Bevin that she would be the one I would marry. They say “when you know, you know.” I don’t know if that’s true for everyone but I knew for sure. When the time came, and Woodloch crossed my mind, I grew nervous. What if she didn’t fall in love with my second home? What if she didn’t understand what makes it so special? Those feelings quickly dissipated when Bevin joined us for her first year in 2011. She jumped right in and fell in love as we all have before. She’s passionate about Woodloch and always eager to share the events of our week with her family and friends. I would say I got lucky but how can you not love Woodloch?
Growing up, I always thought I’d get married at Woodloch. But as Bevin and I grew together I recognized how important her church was to her. I knew my plans would have to change and then the brilliant idea of an engagement at Woodloch was bestowed upon me. When I finally felt ready to pop the question, the planning began. Surprising Bevin is nearly impossible. She’s a bright young woman; my planning had to be immaculate. The first step was getting her parents and sister in on the surprise. I knew they needed to be present to witness this once-in-a-lifetime event. I explained to them every step I had planned and they were all-in to take the trip to surprise their daughter.
For the sake of keeping this as a short-story and not a full-blown dissertation I’ll describe only the most important details. To begin, I needed some help. This is where Vanessa and Cara, your friendly staff members came is. My sister shared their numbers with me and we began the group-chat that would involve all the planning: from where we would hide her parents, down to the type of champagne we’d have waiting when we returned to the Inn. I knew I needed a picture of the moment because pictures are SO important to Bevin. Cara suggested Joe Ranner and put him in contact with me. All the planning was set just a handful of days before we left for our week at Woodloch. I just needed to have a quick couple of secret meetings to set the final details when we arrived. That is much more difficult than it sounds when you do everything as a family! Tuesday afternoon, roughly 24 hours before the moment, our family went up to the Trap Shooting Contest. In the middle of the contest I needed to run back to our “house” quickly for something (a.k.a. the Inn to meet with Joe). We began planning where we would stand to get the best photo. I don’t know which one of us was more excited for the moment! We didn’t get to talk long before my phone started ringing- my girlfriend was about to shoot a gun for the first time and I couldn’t miss that. I thanked Joe and sprinted back to the event.
Fast-forward to Wednesday August 3rd, 2016. The forecast was beautiful: sunny with a couple clouds to combat the sun. All day I had to keep it cool knowing what would happen at dinner and I think I did an okay job! Now, Wednesday night is Theme Night and my family loves to continue the tradition of dressing appropriately for dinner and a show. In my house, we call it “fancy night.” I planned this night because I knew Bevin would be dressed to the nines naturally. It wouldn’t seem out of place. I wanted her to look back on the photos and feel beautiful and elegant. After everyone got ready, we continued our routine of taking photos in front of our fire place. At this point, most of my family had figured out what was going to happen because I needed their help throughout the week to distract Bevin. We all shot each other secret smiles in eager anticipation. The time had come to walk down to the Inn. My large family walked over as a unit and chatted like any other night. When we arrived at the Inn, we were greeted by the photographer and were asked if we wanted a family photo. I couldn’t help but laugh knowing what picture we were about to get but of course we took photo before we walked into the Inn. How could we not?
We walked through the door and wow, was my heart racing! We made reservations to sit downstairs where the atmosphere is a little more intimate. My mother had already met with Cara and Bevin’s family to hide them in the bridal suite. Everything was in place. At this point, I knew everything that was left was up to me. As we walked through, I saw the staff members that helped make these next moments possible and shot them the biggest grin. We began to walk down the stairs and I caught a glimpse of Patrick Kiesendahl giving me the thumbs-up from atop the stairs. It was time. We got to our seats and before sitting down my mom said “OOH let’s go down to the lake and take some pictures!” My dad groaned in disagreement (planned) and I turned to Bevin and said “hey let’s walk down there before everyone else comes down- we rarely get a moment to ourselves during this week.” She agreed. We went through the porch doors and I grabbed her hand and we began to walk slowly down the path toward the lake.
The sun was shimmering off the water- it was beautiful. I began small talk. “You know how I’ve talked about getting married here?” And she smiled at me, “yeah.” I continued “Well we both know that’s changed but you know we could get engaged here.” She just smiled again. We began walking on the grass toward the area that Joe and I had planned. There he was taking what looked like graduation photos of a young woman (his sister). We were facing the water when I turned her to face me, “Well, what if I told you that your family was here?” She protested with a smile, “They’re not.” I grinned, “Yes they are.” And that’s when she looked up the hill, to the porch of the Inn, to see our army of a family all standing and her family right there with them. I dropped to one knee, smiled and said “Well?” She squeaked “YES!” We hugged and as our family came racing down to congratulate and celebrate, I told her how the photographer that we passed was a friend and that his sister had a camera to capture the moment as well. BOOM- 2 surprises. Unheard of when dealing with Bevin!
I could drag on and on about every detail. But I’ve already edited this essay a million times attempting to shorten it, so I’ll end with the moment that I tried describing to her family when I pitched the plan. It was one of the few moments I didn’t plan but I knew would happen. After dinner- we all went over to the Nightclub for the show. As the double doors opened, we were greeted with a roaring crowd of family, friends, staff, acquaintances and strangers who were all ecstatic to see my fiancé. They all cheered for Bevin, hugged her, asked to see the ring and celebrated her the way she deserved. That is the Woodloch family. That’s the family I try to describe to so many friends. That’s the feeling that I think of when I think “Woodloch.” I think about our engagement and those moments every single day. I’m thankful for my Woodloch family for making this possible and I’m thankful that I could share that family with Bevin.
That’s my Woodloch Love Story.