Keeper of the Plans

The story behind my barbershop-quartet proposal in NYC

Two Wichitans and a diamond ring in New York City

Watch my surprise proposal to my girlfriend before Thanksgiving in New York's Central Park, featuring the barbershop quartet stylings of The Beach Boys. Footage by Josie Jenkins Stankiewicz.
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Watch my surprise proposal to my girlfriend before Thanksgiving in New York's Central Park, featuring the barbershop quartet stylings of The Beach Boys. Footage by Josie Jenkins Stankiewicz.

It’s not often (really, ever) that I write a personal column for The Eagle, but upon the urging of several friends, I’ve decided to share this story in the hope that it might brighten your day.

You see, I knew for months – perhaps even years – that my girlfriend, Sydney Daigle, was the one I wanted to marry.

It was simply a matter of how and when to propose – and how to make it a moment she would never forget.

Over Thanksgiving, I was afforded the perfect chance to do so in New York City’s Central Park. You can watch the video attached to this column for the evidence.

But give me a chance to explain the story behind the proposal, as it was a rather intricately orchestrated process.

First, why was I in New York?

Well, the Chorale and Troubadours at my alma mater, Newman University, were invited to sing at Carnegie Hall recently as part of a concert to celebrate composer John Leavitt’s 60th birthday and 30th year of publishing music.

As an alumnus, I was invited to sing as well and recognized it as a romantic opportunity – after all, the Newman Chorale was what brought Sydney and me together as a couple.

I wasn’t immediately inspired to do the barbershop quartet thing, but it was an early idea.

Over the summer, I contacted three of the guys who would be traveling to New York with me – both good friends of mine and Sydney’s – and we began rehearsing.

We had never sung barbershop before, and we pulled it together in about three rehearsals – secretly, of course.

A couple of those rehearsals happened two floors below Sydney’s apartment, so I was really hoping she wouldn’t walk into the parking lot and see my car or hear the singing.

Then came the matter of documenting the proposal.

As a journalist, my profession is documenting happenings – I couldn’t miss documenting my own proposal.

Luckily, I found a New York City photographer, Vlad Leto, who specializes in photographing surprise wedding proposals. There was a New York Times article written about him. Only in New York can you find such a profession.

He had availability the day before Thanksgiving to photograph my proposal, and I booked him at a reasonable price.

The day of, I was nervous, even though we had dated for almost two and a half years and she had hinted to me many times prior that she was thinking about marriage.

I couldn’t eat. I sat in my hotel room and paced the floor, trying to memorize what I was going to say when the right time came.

We met up with the three guys in my barbershop quartet – Josh Baalmann, David Baalmann and Alec Hampton – at the Cop Cot after wandering through Central Park for about 30 minutes. I had to walk pretty much cross-armed the whole time to disguise the bulge of the ring box in the jacket.

Many tears were shed, she said yes, and the whole thing went off without a hitch.

Fun fact: The Newman Chorale and Troubadours have traveled to New York to perform at Carnegie Hall three times now. On each of those trips, a couple who met in the chorale got engaged. I guess you could call Newman’s director of music, Deanne Zogleman, the matchmaker.

Now I’m a happily engaged man who has (I hope) a pretty unique engagement story to tell the kids one day.

And all it took was a fateful trip to New York, a few really good friends and just the right girl.

But enough about me.

I want to hear your best proposal stories.

Leave a comment on this story or drop me a note at, and I may feature your proposal story in an upcoming column.

Matt Riedl: 316-268-6660, @RiedlMatt