What happens when a former magic store owner decides to get creative with his proposal? Plenty of tricks, an epic scavenger hunt, and one big, masterful reveal at the end. Jeff asked the most important question of his life with a painstakingly planned adventure involving old maps, convoluted clues, and a replica of the cryptex in the best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code (for those unfamiliar, a cryptex is a portable vault for relaying secret messages by lining up numbers and letters, and was coined by author Dan Brown).
The story began with a trip to Philadelphia for their third anniversary. It was Tristan’s first time there, so she was understandably baffled when the front desk called to inform her of a package awaiting her downstairs. Inside the weathered tube was an old map of Philadelphia with a cipher and the words Dunlap Broadside. “It was reminiscent of National Treasure or The Da Vinci Code,” says Tristan. Jeff somehow convinced her that her history buff dad was behind it all, and thus began an exhilarating series of codes that would consume the next part of their trip.
The map led them to stop #1, where the first reproductions of the Declaration of Independence were on display. There, Tristan deciphered her first clue: “Look to the unknown without tm to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where she uncovered yet another clue – one that guided them to a second package at another hotel. Inside was the cryptex, and it could only be unlocked with a secret five-letter word.
What followed next was more carefully crafted obscurity and even a hilarious snafu. Tristan mistook one clue for “under the seat” (it was supposed to be “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid), and frantically began overturning chairs at a bar during happy hour, to Jeff’s sheer amusement. In the end, she figured out the code (Ariel) and opened the cypher.
Much to her bewilderment, the cypher revealed a handwritten 1950s receipt from Harry Merrill & Sons. Jeff had gone through great lengths to make it look authentic, and Tristan was stumped. What could it mean? There was an address and a phone number, but nothing else that made sense.
The next morning, they made their way to Harry Merrill & Sons to present the receipt. At this point, Tristan knew what was happening. “I was glowing,” she says, “and my stomach was filled with butterflies.” To their credit, the Harry Merrill staff had things down to a tee. “They were so helpful in getting everything set up, and their acting was wonderful,” says Jeff. They appeared genuinely confused, then rummaged around the back vault until they came out with an antique ring box they had happened to find in their archives – from the 1950s! “Inside was the most stunning ring I could never have imagined,” remembers Tristan. “The sapphires were so blue, and the engravings so intricate.” He proposed on the spot, and they got married this past August.
How did they stumble upon the Kirk Kara design of her dreams? Says Jeff: “I wanted something that was basically rare. I looked through 10,000-plus rings online for weeks, only to finally find the Dahlia and realize it was perfect.” Tristan is a veterinarian, so the profile of her ring was an important consideration. “It couldn’t impact her treating the animals at the hospital,” says Jeff. Two other must-haves on her list? Sapphire accents, plus the ability to accommodate her grandmother’s diamond.
Even though she had no input in the selection process, Tristan was delighted with her engagement ring. “He was relentless in his search, and I was floored, because it was everything. It was perfect,” she says. What they love most about their delicate Dahlia is that it’s unique and understated, yet still catches the eye. They describe it as a design that’s “gorgeous without being ostentatious.” The ring features vibrant sapphires, elegant hand-engraved details, and of course, her grandmother’s beautiful center stone.
What a story! Congratulations, Tristan and Jeff. We hope your new adventure as husband and wife has just as much magic, excitement, and fun as the proposal that started it all.