I’m fortunate to have been able to lend my calligraphy skills to a few marriage proposals over the years and each one has been special and unique.
They’ve also all resulted in a yes, although I’m pretty sure I can’t take the credit for that!
When Joe Jasperse approached me with his plans to propose to girlfriend Jill Groom, I was blown away by what he had in mind.
He had managed to track me down from his home in Denver, Colorado (thanks Google), to ask me to pen six notes to Jill, a medical student at Newcastle University.
Each note included a few words, which Joe came up with, to invoke memories of a place they had visited together, as well as the co-ordinates of where they were at the time.
These notes would then be sent directly to Jill, with no clue as to who they were from.
A proposal inspired by travel
Joe said: “Travel has always played a huge role in our lives, even before we met each other, so I wanted my proposal to incorporate all of the adventures we had gone on together.
“I have always had a tendency to associate particular poems or songs I love with specific memories, so I came up with the idea of sending cards with quotes that corresponded to things Jill and I had done together.
“The cards were sent to Jill every week without any explanation, but to help her see the connection between the quote and the memory, I looked up the exact geographic coordinates of where we were at the time and added them to the bottom of each card.”
One such note featured a (slightly modified) excerpt from a poem by Robert Frost, which reminded Joe of a day spent biking the Great Glen Way in Scotland in August 2015.
“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, but we have promises to keep, and miles to go before we sleep, and miles to go before we sleep.”
Joe said: “The trail was pretty brutal in places, made more difficult by the fact that we were riding kids bikes that we had taken last minute from her parent’s garage.
“The route itself is beautiful though, and we stopped in a pine forest that was so thick it felt like evening in the middle of the day. We were absolutely exhausted by the time we made it back to our B&B.”
Choosing calligraphy and stationery
The notes were written in black copperplate script on postcard-sized ivory notecards and tucked into light blue envelopes with special edition stamps.
The first six notes were sent out weekly and although Jill was “pleasantly suspicious” she had no idea what Joe had in store for her ahead of his visit at Easter.
He planned to propose during a trip to the Lake District, with a final card featuring the all-important question ‘Will You Marry Me?’
The words and co-ordinates – for the cottage they were staying in near Buttermere – were written in gold this time, with some flourishes in the corner.
Joe, an epidemiologist, said: “The card was sent to Jill’s family and I picked it up in secret while we were over for Easter dinner.
“I had grand plans for us to go mountain biking in the forest, but it was below zero with freezing rain and snow all day.
“We did manage to brave the weather and go for a very cold, very brief swim in the lake, after which I proposed to her while we were warming up with a bottle of wine in front of the fire.”
The happy couple
Former aid workers Joe, 30, and Jill, 33, who was born and raised in Newcastle, met in Sierra Leone in 2015, where they had both taken jobs responding to the Ebola outbreak.
Joe said: “I had been in country for a few months and she had just arrived when a mutual friend introduced us over dinner. Jill was working for an organisation that I had worked with in the past, and so we ended up spending time with the same group of friends.
“As you can imagine, there were limited opportunities for a social life during that time, but we would escape as often as we could to go spend the weekends camping out on the local beaches and swimming in the sea. Not the most romantic of stories, but certainly a memorable one!”
Sounds romantic enough to me – and I’m sure the proposal was as memorable as all the other special moments they have shared in their life together so far.
Here’s wishing Joe and Jill all the best for the future!
*Pictures copyright Joe Jasperse and used with his kind permission.