Written by Ian Mayta
Luis Daniel Arias, a high school student at the American School in Honduras, queued behind a line of boys and girls holding hands. He waited patiently to be “married” by an upperclassman dressed as a minister, who distributed plastic rings and made-up wedding certificates. In line with other student couples, Arias held the hand of the girl next to him tautly. This event was part of “Carnival” — an annual junior-senior fundraising event. This might be an unfamiliar and bizarre scene to the average American high schooler or Biolan.
Yet, during my sophomore year at Biola, girls and guys wearing wedding gowns and suits had a food fight on the beach for their hall’s GYRAD — Get Your Roommate A Date. Instances like these remind me of that childhood image of boys and girls lined up to get “married” at the carnival. The way things are progressing, GYRAD might as well upgrade to GYRAW — Get Your Roommate a Wife.
Setting all frivolousness aside, engagements are happening all around the Biola community. Events such as this semester’s Biola Relationship Retreat exist to foster preparedness and unity between those who are seriously dating, engaged or married. But what does it take to propose, especially from a generation of young men, perhaps somewhat rough and ill-prepared, but daring enough to ask? There is beauty, originality and sheer courage in not knowing what to do that allows a passing moment to become one to remember.
Boy Meets Girl
Drew Van Herk, a junior psychology major with a minor in Christian ministries, met his now-fiancee, Valerie Peterson, during his junior year of high school. Now a junior humanities major, Peterson lived on the same street and attended all the same schools as Van Herk, without them knowing each other.
One day in high school she sat in front of Van Herk in class, and they were forced to exchange numbers to work on a group project. Van Herk says from then on they never stopped calling and texting each other.
“Our discussions have continuously grown more serious about marriage,” Van Herk says of their relationship. “All of our intentional time together has been to bring us to that. We have always dated one another with the intent of being married.”
The Next Step
Chase Andre, a 2012 Biola graduate with a degree in communication studies and a philosophy minor, feels that marriage has been a comfortable topic in his relationship as well.
But in regards to the next step, he says, “I am not going to propose.”
As a young man Andre had reached the conclusion that he didn’t have to date many people to figure out whom he was supposed to marry. He trusted God would bring the right woman into his life.
“I began to reason with the Lord: ‘I don’t want to merge two lives together. I don’t want to be heading in one direction and see someone heading another direction and try to make those paths meet. Lord, I want to be walking in the direction you have for me in my life, and look over my shoulder and see she is walking in the same direction,’” Andre says of his prayer.
Through a series of events, Andre noticed someone walking in the same direction; he was taken aback. In a fumbling of words, he asked out his now-fiancee, Alicia Miller, a Biola nursing alumna (‘10), and she agreed.
An Unconventional Engagement
“She and I don’t feel that our wedding is something I invite her to — asking her into my life — but I feel this is a decision that we are making together mutually,” Andre says. Instead of proposing using a conventional diamond ring, Andre and Miller agreed to have a public celebration with all their friends and family to announce their engagement.
Furthermore, Andre and Miller are expecting to live in a low socioeconomic community doing ministry, and it seemed to them inappropriate to use their resources to make such a statement. He goes on to explain that while they will both wear wedding bands, Miller did not want their engagement and wedding to be about displaying an expensive diamond, especially to a community that is not able express the same sentiment.
In regards to their unconventional engagement, Andre says, “What this has allowed us to do is craft a day going forth that will be all about our community, all about the people that brought us there together.”
Andre and Miller’s engagement plans are reminiscent of the union of one of the great, long-standing marriages of the 21st century. In the year 1945 in Great Britain, people were in the streets celebrating the end of the Second World War. Among them was Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, the current queen of England. As she mingled between her people undetected, wearing a cap and military mantle, she remembered her childhood love, Philip, and anticipated his return.
Over the next few years, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s union materialized, but the largest obstacle to overcome in their relationship was the public dissatisfaction toward the planning of their ornate and lavish wedding while the country experienced shortages and rationing more severe than during the war. The British courts and monarchy, as well as the future couple, decided to make the wedding public, inviting all the classes to celebrate something that was usually private and restricted. Their wedding became a celebration, not only for the English monarchy, but for all British people — a day off from austerity. The event itself was a monument that things could get better and that love could overcome all barriers of war, classes, poverty and fear.
In the same way, Andre and Miller decided to make their March 24th engagement and future wedding centered on their family, friends and people in the community they serve.
Scripting The Moment
Every couple writes a unique script for their engagement. Van Herk has decided to propose with a diamond ring that has special historical significance to his family.
The day Drew’s younger sister was born, his mother received a pair of diamond earrings from her husband. Van Herk says it was the way his father showed appreciation to his wife for being the mother of his child. Unexpectedly, his father passed away when Drew was only 13, and one of the diamonds given to his mom would later be a gift to Drew for his future wife.
“I was so thankful and respectful to think about the relationship I had with my dad and to think about the gift he gave to my mom,” Van Herk says. “It was a big deal for her to give one to me.”
Van Herk proposed two days after I spoke to him in his home city of Huntington Beach, and he and Peterson are set to have their wedding next year. Van Herk says, “If you want to really invest your time, energy and spiritual life into something that will be a huge light in this world, one of them is marriage.”
A Marriage to Emulate
One couple that has been a beam of light over the years has been Fred and Ruth Waugh. They are proud Biola great-grandparents, both 90 years old, and have been married for 72 years.
Almost six years ago, the Waughs celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary with a road trip to the end of Route 66 at Santa Monica Pier. It was there at the end of the road where Fred decided to propose to Ruth, more than a half-century ago.
The Waughs met at a church in Inglewood, Calif., when they were 10. “She was one of those girls out in the front lawn standing on her head, which attracted us,” Fred remembers of the first time he saw Ruth.
The couple continued to see each other despite the more than 1000 miles that separated them. Fred’s father worked for the railroad company, and during the Great Depression, Fred was given train tickets to travel down to California from Montana. He says his mom packed a suitcase full of bread, peanut butter and jam for the three-day journey. On these regular trips to California, Fred established a relationship with Ruth and her family. When he was 18, he took the train back to California and proposed to Ruth at the end of Route 66.
The Waughs have lived a life full of leaps and turns. The moments and things that felt out of place, bland and not worthwhile, they now see were those where God intervened the most.
Many have looked to manufacture a special moment in engagement proposals. However, one must realize that memorable moments cannot be forced, but rather must simply be lived. Cherish the fullness of the time spent with your loved one; be eager to get to know them and love them as yourself. In doing so, any instant will hold a special place in your relationship.
When asked about what advice could be given to this generation of men about to propose, Andre says, “I think it is valuable for people to know that the script is open!”