Our Engagement
November 7, 2003

Planning this night is one of the most involved things I've ever done, from shopping for the ring, to keeping it a secret, to arranging all the details. The planning began months in advance and so many family members and friends contributed. Thank you to everyone for all your help. My first step was to find the perfect ring. I had a general idea of what Marni liked and with the help of Sharon at Master Goldsmiths, I designed a one-of-a-kind ring for her. After waiting weeks and weeks for Marni’s ring to be completed and hand delivered by my dad, it was now time for me to pop the question. As far as Marni knew, we were going out to dinner to celebrate our friend Jenn's 23rd birthday with Jenn's boyfriend Jim, who also happens to be Marni's brother.
Jim and Jenn are the wonderful people who set us up just over two and a half years ago, March 9th 2001. I started final preparations for the evening one week prior when I had Jenn call Marni to tell her about our special evening out for Jenn’s "birthday". This gave us the perfect opportunity to get Marni a beautiful new dress for the occasion. Her new red dress was incredible! Waiting for our special night made it the longest week of my entire life. The day of the proposal, Marni came home to a package from State Farm Insurance Company – a wedding planner! I thought they had ruined my surprise until she made the comment that she must “just be in the right age group or something!” I teased her relentlessly about ordering the book just to further solidify the secret and I knew that she still had no idea. Finally it was here and we were ready. After taking pictures in our new clothes, we walked outside to surprise number one. Our white limousine was waiting to pick up Jim and Jenn and take us to dinner. Neither one of us have ever ridden in a limo so it was so much fun. Of course I didn't want the limousine to give away the secret I'd work so hard to keep so we claimed that Jenn won the limo in a drawing from work and thought tonight would be a fun night to make use of it. Trying to keep all my stories straight made the ride pretty interesting for me but Marni still had no idea. Soon, after getting a little lost, the limo arrived at Jenn’s apartment where she and Jim were waiting to go out to dinner. We took more pictures and even got to give Jenn the fake happy birthday cake to keep the secret going.
We went to dinner at The Swan at the Inverness Hotel in Centennial near Marni’s parents’ house. I realized I had placed the reservation under my name (this was supposed to be Jim’s gift to Jenn) and sent Jim ahead to get the table while we kept Marni back “admiring the lovely lobby”. Once we kept Marni clueless about my little mistake, we were seated at our table.
We each decided to get the caesar salad made fresh at the table and Jim ordered a great bottle of wine. Jim and Jenn made a mini-toast to a fun night out and delicious food (little did Marni know, but they probably wanted to say more … about a certain surprise coming up in an hour!). After munching down the tasty salad and main course, we pre-ordered a couple pieces of chocolate cake to split between the four of us. After we all finished our dinner, I left to go to the bathroom to calm myself down. Meanwhile, Jim and Jenn were nervous knowing that I was going to pop the big question any minute and Marni was still clueless and blabbing on about school or something. When I got back, the dessert had just arrived and Marni, being a Johnson at heart, had her fork in hand and was ready to dive into that big hunk of chocolate cake. I interrupted and said I’d like to make a toast before dessert. She politely put down her fork, all the while thinking that I was just trying to make us all suffer a little. I made a toast to Jenn’s birthday (with Marni always piping in – ‘yeah, happy birthday!’ – still clueless). I kept going on about how this has been the best 2 1/2 years of my life and that I am very grateful that they set us up. Marni started looking a little confused that I would be including us in Jenn’s birthday toast. Then I got down on one knee and dug the ring out of the pocket of my suit. I opened the box and asked Marni to spend the rest of her life with me all while somehow sliding the ring on her shaking hand. Marni couldn't believe it and between her looking at Jim and Jenn, with tears in their eyes, or asking me if "I was kidding" she eventually said yes!

After the proposal (and somewhat eating dessert around the tears and excitement – the dessert was probably incredible but none of us really remember eating it!) we headed over to Marni’s mom and dad’s house to show off the ring and take pictures. Marni got to call her sister Colleen and her other brother Scott and share the happy news (that they already knew!). After a lot more tears and hugs, the four of us went to a nice nearby wine bar to celebrate and calm down. Afterwards, the limo dropped Jim and Jenn off and took us back up to Boulder. I finally got in a little sleep after weeks of hard planning and secret-keeping. Marni couldn’t wipe the smile off of her face. It was an amazing night that none of us will ever forget and I still can’t believe that she fell for all of the “lies”!
Chris and Marni