Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Aaron Atin had already spent a year planning a proposal for his girlfriend Sandrine Emmanuel.
Wanting to create an experience she’d never forget, the 36-year-old had thought of popping the question at a Toronto venue, surrounded by their friends and family.
“I was planning to write a song and to perform it in a venue … [it would be] a huge surprise with videographers [there] to record the event,” said Atin.
Atin did end up writing and performing a song when proposed to her on April 19. But instead of doing it on stage and a large venue, Atin got down on one knee at Emmanuel’s parents’ living room.
“I was absolutely shocked,” said Emmanuel, 27. “He starts singing, and I started crying…it was honestly the most magical moment.”
Aaron Atin proposed to his girlfriend Sandrine Emmanuel at her parents’ house. Photo provided by Sandrine Emmanuel.
While getting engaged during a global health crisis was never the plan, the couple had been organizing their lives together for some time.
Atin and Emmanuel are both lawyers living in Toronto, and purchased a house together last year.
This week they were supposed to be on a trip to Vietnam together, which is where Emmanuel initially thought he would propose.
Thinking her engagement was likely delayed, she felt disappointed, she said. Little did she know Atin was in cahoots with her friends to organize a large Zoom chat so loved ones would be able to witness the proposal.
How to maintain your relationships in the age of COVID-19
“I was expecting to see the people in our group chat, five to six people. Then as soon as we set up the laptop, my brother starts playing the guitar, Aaron starts singing, and now there are 30 people in the zoom call,” she said.
He says he considered waiting until lockdown had lifted, but he didn’t want to delay the engagement any longer.
“Who knows when this quarantine is going to end? I’m not prepared to wait that long,” he said.
“Not only did I not want to wait, it actually added to the experience and made it an even better experience.”
Why some couples are choosing to get engaged
It’s possible we may see more engagements during this time, as the stress of a pandemic often reveals the state of our relationships and what truly matters to us, said Jessica O’Reilly, a Toronto-based relationship expert and host of the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast.
“As we take stock of our priorities, we may realize that it’s time to invest in our relationships; for some couples, this means taking commitment to the next level and for others, it may mean seeking therapy and additional support,” she said.
Couples with a strong foundation may thrive during this period of isolation and it can be a chance to prove the relationship can survive tougher times, she explained.
“Of course, some people are concerned about making big decisions or significant changes during times of distress, but most of these relationships pre-existed the pandemic,” she said via an email to Global News.
“They have the foundation and this situation has given them the opportunity to see their partner(s) in a new light,” she added.
The lockdown has allowed Toronto couple Elizabeth Sweet, 35 and Blair Wilson, 38 to spend more time together and reevaluate what’s important in life — a sentiment contributing to their recent engagement, said Sweet.
While Wilson had been planning to propose since the new year, he decided he didn’t want to delay it, simply because the way he’d planned to propose had changed.
“We envisioned going on trips, we had talked about going to Jamaica together at one point,” said Wilson. “Elizabeth’s a big foodie, so we’re often eating in restaurants. She has a couple of favourites which could have been good spots.”
Elizabeth Sweet and Blair Wilson after they got engaged on April 21. Photo provided by Elizabeth Sweet.
Wilson says he decided he didn’t want the pandemic to be a reason to delay his proposal, and ordered a ring a couple of weeks ago. He video-conferenced with a local jewelry store that mailed it to their house.
“I don’t want to use the pandemic as an excuse not to move forward with things in life and put big events on pause.”
Wilson added: “I just had to get a little bit more creative and strategic with how I went about it,” he said.
Wilson proposed to Sweet on April 21 during an unseasonably cold lunchtime walk with their dog near in park they visit often.
“We’ve talked about our future there…we’ve talked about everything there. So it was kind of the perfect place,” said Sweet. She says she was shocked when he got down on one knee, with their dog as the only witness.
“It almost felt like we were in one of those Hallmark movies because that freak snow happened. Just when he proposed all the snow came down, it was like we were in a snow globe and the world had stopped for a moment,” she said. “That was incredible, I don’t think it’s a moment either of us will forget,” she added.
‘Still optimistic about the future’
Not being able to hug her mom after getting engaged last week was difficult, says Samantha April, 28.
But overall, she is thrilled and was excited to call her family with some good news.
“I was very anxious at the beginning of the pandemic,” said April, who is originally from Halifax but now lives in Toronto. “And now it’s kind of washed away, I don’t know when the pandemic will be over or when our wedding will be…but knowing I’m going to spend the rest of my life with him is the best news I could ever ask for.”
The couple met on the dating app Hinge a year-and-a-half ago. Now-fiance Yoni Kamil, 31, says he’d been looking at rings since the start of February this year.
Samantha April and Yoni Kamil stuck with their engagement plans, despite the pandemic. Photo by wedding photographer Inna Yasinska.
“On my end, I never thought to wait. I was just trying to find a good time to do it that worked for both of us, knowing we’d have some time at home,” he said.
For April, she had assumed plans were on hold as they had discussed being more responsible with their finances due to the pandemic, in case one of them are suddenly let go from their jobs.
But Kamil had been planning to propose on April 16, the night before her birthday, for two months as the couple had booked a trip to New York City during that time. He decided to stick with the original plan, but instead proposed at home.
While dancing in their living room, April spun around and found Kamil on one knee, proposing to her.
“It ended up being more special than I could have ever imagined,” she said. “I think we FaceTimed at least 100 of our friends and family, announcing and surprising them.”
Bringing happiness to loved ones, including their families who met for the first time on a virtual Passover dinner via Zoom earlier in the month, made their engagement timing even more worthwhile, said April.
“It’s super positive, I’m still optimistic about the future and I’m definitely optimistic about our relationship, our engagement and our future marriage,” said Kamil.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.
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