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14 Countries & 14 Letters Later: Gabe & Mariel’s Grand Proposal + photos from their destination wedding

Gabe Inyang @ginyangsworld and his girlfriend Mariel Bird  recently broke the internet with their engagement!
From Morocco to South Africa, Jamaica to Panama, from the beach to the desert, skiing to attending the Swazi king’s wedding, they had been to 14 countries when it was time for Gabe to propose.

Read the romantic story from the groom himself to Bellanaija.
“I always knew that when I proposed to Mariel it would have to be
a total surprise. I’ve surprised her so many times in the past that I
knew that this one would have to be special.

destnation kids
Six months before the proposal, I created a fake email from an Expedia
travel agent, advertising a chance to win an all-expense-paid summer
vacation to somewhere in the Caribbean or Central America. Having signed
up for these shot-in-the-dark contests in the past, Mariel asked me to
sign her up, and I told her that I had entered both of our names in the
raffle.


Over the next few months, I continually updated Mariel with news on
whether we had advanced to higher rounds and the possible locations
Expedia was considering sending its winners. Because Mariel was in New
York completing a summer internship, she was busy enough to avoid
becoming suspicious of our good fortune as we advanced further in the
raffle and was eventually thrown off completely when I told her that I
had been knocked out. When news came that she was selected as a winner
and was on her way to Guatemala, Mariel was ecstatic and quickly
encouraged me to buy my ticket, not knowing I had already planned every
detail of the trip – ring included.


When we arrived in Guatemala we headed to Lake Atitlan—a crater-lake
surrounded by volcanoes. I wanted to propose in the middle of our trip
and knew that the only way to successfully get Mariel to wake up at dawn
and get dressed and camera-ready without becoming suspicious would
involve some creativity. To pull it off, I asked the bungalow owners
(months in advance) to approach us at some point during our stay and
kindly ask us to model in an ad for their quarterly Airbnb brochure. Mariel agreed, and two days later we woke up at 5 a.m. to get ready for our sunrise “photo-shoot.”


When we got to the floating dock, our photographers (the hotel
owners) were setting up chairs and “scoping out the lighting.” They had
asked us to bring items to make the photos look more natural, so I
brought a bottle of champagne and a magazine. Most importantly, as we
sat down I pulled out a custom-made deck of cards with photos of us from
each country we had traveled to together on the back of each card. As I
began to show Mariel the cards and reminisce on all the great times
we’d had in Portugal and Swaziland and Panama, however, my Birdy was
barely paying attention, her focus instead firmly set on her hair
blowing in the wind and her posture for the apparent “Vogue photo-shoot”
we were taking part in.

Not having planned for this reaction, I
continued to ramble, but it was only when the photographers moved away
from us that she really began to pay attention to me and the photos I
was attempting to show her. When we finally got to the final 14
cards—all hearts—I fanned them out and held them out for her to see. On
the back were pictures of us from all 14 countries we had visited
together, with the 14 letters W.I.L.L Y.O.U M.A.R.R.Y M.E.? printed
across them.

As
Mariel read the cards her face turned to shock. I dropped to one knee,
told her how many more life adventures I am looking forward to sharing
with her, and asked her to be my wife. In the happy chaos that followed,
I had one more surprise. “Pack your bags,” I told her, “we’re going to Honduras!”

Watch the proposal montage

Now see photos from their proposal video


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And a video!

A video posted by Josh ?? (@calijax) on Aug 17, 2015 at 7:12pm PDT
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