“Will you stand by my side tomorrow
on the rim of the Grand Canyon at sunset and ...

Marry me?”

Looking back to that special day in 2000, there were so many signals, yet I didn’t have a clue. Oh, I knew this vacation would be special.  Mike wouldn’t let me re-arrange our travel plans in order to attend my 25th high school reunion, even though I was on the planning and decorating committees.  He finally relented with, “For once in my life, I’m planning something!”  So, I let it go.  From that point on, I just knew he was going to propose marriage.  This would be a second marriage for both of us.  Our commitment to one another had been made long ago, but now I was beginning to feel that we were closer to a more “public” long term commitment.

Our vacation was planned to travel to the Grand Canyon and other national parks in the Grand Circle.  The Grand Canyon had become a special place to us after our brief visit there in 1998.  We were so awestruck by the magnificence of the canyon that we knew we would return very soon.  The trip started with a flight to Las Vegas where we rented a car.  It was my first visit to Vegas and I giggled at seeing so many wedding chapels.  They were practically on every corner!  We vacationed through southern Arizona and made our way to the Grand Canyon by way of Williams, AZ, home of the Grand Canyon Railway.  It was Sunday, August 27th, and we decided to start the day by going to church. We remarked on the coincidence that the sermon was about marriages, after seeing so many wedding chapels in Las Vegas.  After a rainy day spent in Grand Canyon Caverns, where we heard a story about two employees who were married inside the caverns many years ago, Mike said that he wanted to take me somewhere special for dinner.  After all, it was my birthday.  Rod’s Steak House on Route 66 in Williams was the restaurant of choice and Mike hurried me out of our hotel room early so he could get my birthday present and card together.

The Engagement

We were staying at the historic Fray Marcos Hotel and Santa Fe Depot.  I sat in the lobby and watched him come down the stairs with a card and a box wrapped in birthday paper in his hand.  The box was just the right size for a ring.  My heart leaped and I took in a big gulp of air and tried to act casual.  Gee, what if I was wrong and this wasn’t going to be the big proposal?  I tried to control my anxiety as we watched the “staged” gunfight on the streets of Williams.  We drove down Route 66 to Rod’s Steak House.  After being seated, ordering a cocktail and dinner, Mike asked if I would like to open one of my birthday cards.  It was a very “generic” wish for a happy birthday and a nice life, etc.  Okay, the card was made with pretty paper, but it wasn’t really special.  I shrugged it off and told him it was sweet.  After we ate our salads, he asked if I would like to open my birthday present.  Okay, here it comes, the ring box.  Tear the paper away, open the box and .... What is THAT?  A little bitty marquis diamond with a tiny sapphire chip on each side of it all mounted on a narrow gold band.  I smiled and said, “This is cute!”

Mike was beaming and asked if I really liked it.  I said, “Sure I do,” thinking at the same time that this was nothing like what he had me drawing on paper for the last six months.  Then I asked, “What finger should I wear it on?”

“Any one you want,” he says, smiling at me from ear to ear.  I smiled back and made a sarcastic remark that it was bigger than the promise ring I got before I was engaged to be married the first time.  “Well,” he said, “I’ll  say I promise.”  I just didn’t quite know what to do.  I raised my glass of wine and we toasted just as our steaks were arriving at the table.  We exchanged small talk and I kept looking at the ring and feeling foolish for thinking this was going to be “the big one.”  After the dinner plates were cleared away, he mentioned that there was another birthday card and asked if I would like to open it now.

“Sure, why not” was my unenthusiastic reply.  The envelope revealed a Blue Mountain card.  You know, the ones that pour out your heart and soul with words you thought you could never express yourself.  I read the beautiful words, knowing that Mike meant them deep down inside.  Then I noticed the word “(Open)” is written at the bottom of the card on a pull out flap.  So, I opened the flap and read Mike’s handwritten words. “Will you stand by my side tomorrow on the rim of the Grand Canyon at sunset and ... marry me?” My eyes jumped back to the top of the card and I read the words again making sure I wasn’t misunderstanding anything.

I looked at him quite surprised and said, “Yes!” 

“Yes?” he said. 

I responded, “Absolutely yes!” 

Then he proceeded to removed a ring from the little finger on his left hand.  “So, I guess I can give you this,” he said.  It was a platinum band with a princess cut diamond in the middle flanked on both sides by emerald cut diamonds.  It was positively beautiful!  This was the real thing!  We hugged and kissed over the middle of the table.

The waiter approached and realized what had just happened.  He spread the word throughout the restaurant and we were instant celebrities.  We walked out with all sorts of souvenirs from the restaurant. 

I had so many questions that night.  Was there a ring for him?  Who was going to do the ceremony?  Who was going to take the pictures?  Who would be our witnesses?  What would we wear? 
When we returned to the hotel, he showed me his ring and the wedding band that went with my engagement ring.  He said that he had already made arrangements for the ceremony to take place at Moran Point on the rim of the Grand Canyon.  He had written to the U.S. Department of the Interior to request permission to be married in a national park and contacted a Justice of the Peace.  The next thing to do was go into Flagstaff, Arizona to get the marriage license.

There was misty rain in the air the next morning as we approached the courthouse in Flagstaff for the official paperwork.  Things seemed to be happening with a surreal feeling, but when the papers are put in front of you to sign, it all becomes very real.  I walked out of the courthouse with a “deer in the headlights” look.  Mike kept asking if I was alright and I would just murmur, “Uh huh.”  

I fretted over wedding details all the way from Flagstaff to the south rim of the Grand Canyon.  I was used to doing all the planning and making sure everything was “just so” and Mike was telling me that everything would be fine and it would all work out.  I fretted over flowers and witnesses.  He said we could probably find some flowers at the hotel and someone would volunteer to be a witness and even take a picture of us so we would have a memory.  He said it didn’t matter what we wore.  We could be married in t-shirts and shorts.  I remembered I had packed a pair of black slacks, a nice top, heels and always traveled with my pearls.  I felt only a little better.

The Surprise Wedding

We were very excited about returning to the Grand Canyon.  We felt so compelled to return after our first visit and couldn’t wait to get there.  We drove around the circular driveway to the entrance of the El Tovar Hotel where we would be staying.  While Mike checked on our reservation and check-in time, I went over to the rim to check out the view.  We gathered our bags and went up to our room.  Mike insisted that I enter the room first.  When I opened the door, laid out on the bed was a beautiful cream colored dress with stockings, shoes, hat, and garter.  I turned to Mike and blurted, “What did you do?” 

“Nothing,” he said so calmly.  At that moment there was a knock at the door.  I figured it would be the flowers.  When I opened the door, there stood my long-time friend, Gloria, and her husband, Larry, who traveled from North Carolina for our wedding.  The wedding outfit was Gloria’s gift to me.  I hugged her and burst into tears.  Mike and I had just stood as witnesses for their wedding the previous April when they got married in Jackson Square in New Orleans.  I thought they would both be standing for us in return.

Mike suggested we all go outside and take in the view.  While walking along the rim near the driveway, a car drove by and someone yelled, “Hey, Mike!”  I couldn’t imagine who it could be because we didn’t know anyone that drove a white Mustang.  Gloria reminded me that they were all rental cars.  We walked through the parking lot and just as we reached the rear of the car, two of our best friends from home, John and Mary Pat, jumped out.  Now I was thinking that John was going to stand for Mike.  This was getting good! 

As we moved about the hotel and gift shops, more family and friends arrived and surprised me at every turn.  Mike’s Aunt Thea drove from Metairie, LA to San Antonio, TX with a family friend, Kathy, in order to pick up Mike’s Mother, Anita, and continued on to the Grand Canyon for our wedding.  I finally sat down and asked Mike who else was coming because I couldn’t take many more surprises.  Mike’s son, Shane, his girlfriend, Courtney, and our good friend, Christian, would be arriving later with Mike’s suit for the ceremony.  Shane would stand as Mikes best man.  He told me that my mother and family members were unable to make the trip due to my grandmother’s illness.  My mother sent along a beautiful card with her heartfelt sentiments written inside.  At this point, I had resigned to just trust Mike and let things happen as he planned them.  I would find out everything on a “need to know” basis.  He would let go of each detail as it was about to happen.  I just had to be patient.

The ceremony was set for 6:00 p.m. at Moran Point which was a 16 mile drive from the hotel.  A heavy thunderstorm moved into the area during the afternoon while everyone was getting dressed and ready. Shortly before we were ready to leave, the rain stopped and the sun returned.  It was a quiet ride and I found myself contemplating what was about to happen.  Yesterday we were on vacation, and now we were about to be married!

Moran Point is a quiet place along the East Rim Drive.  It is one of the few places you can see the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon.  There were a few visitors coming and going as we prepared for the ceremony.  Out of the back of Aunt Thea’s van came the flowers.  They were beautiful.  Mike had them designed back in New Orleans based on the colors of the canyon.  “Oh, I have flowers!” I said.  Mike introduced me to the Justice of the Peace and informed me that he had selected our vows for the ceremony.  “Oh, we have vows!”  (Remember, I’m on a “need to know” basis.)


We walked out to the point and Mike nudged me to step over the retaining wall.  I wasn’t sure about going out there on the rocky rim, but I trusted him.  I found a flat spot to stand.  He nudged me to go further.  I refused.  I felt comfortable where I was and that was it.  We took our positions and the ceremony began.  Mike and I faced the canyon in order to take in all the beauty of our surroundings during the ceremony.  Gloria and Shane stood with us as witnesses.  In the distance, we could see what was left of the thunderstorm moving over the North Rim and the sun getting ready to set in the west.  I listened to the words being spoken and how closely related they were to our life together.  We repeated the vows that joined us together as husband and wife and exchanged rings.  When it was my turn to respond, the words “I absolutely do” came out as natural as anything.  Imagine my surprise at this point when Mike pulled a piece of paper from his suit pocket and began to read an excerpt from Led Zeppelin’s song “Thank You.”  He was holding back tears as he read the words. 

If the sun refused to shine,
I would still be loving you.
When mountains crumble to the sea,
There will still be you and me.

And so today, my world it smiles,
Your hand in mine, we walk the miles.
Thanks to you it will be done,
For you to me are the only one.

My eyes were bleary as I heard the Judge say, “I now pronounce you husband and wife.  You may kiss the bride.”  When we finally released each other, the Judge had us turn around to face our wedding guests as he said, “I would like to present Mr. and Mrs. Mike Poupart.”  As we acknowledged the applause,  we realized there were a good many park visitors that had gathered with our family and friends behind us to join in the celebration.


We lingered a while taking pictures, signing the marriage certificate, and enjoying the sunset.  As I sat on Mike’s knee showing off the garter on my thigh, he whispered something in my ear.  “Oh, we’re going to have a formal dinner!” was my response.  
(Again, I’m on a “need to know” basis.)


Back at the El Tovar, our table was set and waiting for us in a corner of the restaurant.  We ate a fine meal and we were supposed to move to a smaller separate room for a reception.  Since we were having so much fun and the restaurant was almost empty, the staff let us stay where we were.  Mike leaned over and whispered to me.  “Oh, we have champagne!” I said as Christian presented two bottles of Dom Perignon and Shane presented us with engraved champagne flutes.  We made many toasts to each other, our family, and our friends.  Mike whispered in my ear again.  “Oh, we have cake!” I said as I turned to see a beautiful wedding cake come out from the kitchen.  Mike remarked that designing the cake was the most difficult part during the 9 months of planning for the wedding.  We toasted again and cut the cake which we shared with whomever was left in the restaurant.  We opened our wedding gifts and Mike leaned over to whisper to me one final time.  There were no more surprises!  We spent the remainder of the evening in the lobby with our friends and family winding down from the awesome day we had all shared.

What more can be said?  For me, it was a totally stress-free wedding and I was able to marry my best friend and the love of my life who had no doubt in his mind that I would say anything but “yes.”  Each time we tell our story our listeners are blown away by the fact that he was able to keep everything a secret from me all the way to the end.  We had never kept secrets from each other so I had no clue of what was to transpire.  Our relationship today is even better than it was in 2000.  We share true love, total honesty, trust and friendship.  We never take each other for granted and enjoy every day together with a spiritual closeness that we know is a blessing.


Mike and Patricia Poupart
August 28, 2000

Written by: Patty Poupart        

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