Epic On-Ice Surprise Proposal Story 10 Years In The Making

Surprise proposal ideas in Central Park while ice skating

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” – Bill Gates

Hi Everyone! Johnny here. I’m very excited to share what I hope for Hoang-Kim was an epic on-ice proposal story 10 years in the making. Hoang-Kim spent weeks perfecting the video of our surprise proposal on her YouTube channel, so I wanted to share what happened behind the scenes leading up to this pivotal moment. Before I begin, I want to say thank you to all of you who are here, whether you’ve followed our love story for a while or are just now learning about us. I couldn’t have done this without JamesAllen.com, who really came through by partnering with me on a top-secret project to create Hoang-Kim’s dream ring.

3650 Days Before Proposal

I was just a kid. A senior in high school focused on varsity wrestling, finishing high school and preparing for attendance at the University of Texas. Then, I met a girl. We fell in love. Hoang-Kim will go on to change the course of my life.

365 Days Before Proposal

Walking down the hill to the entrance of Wollman Rink in Central Park, I glance up to the skyline. The fog is slowly enveloping the NYC penthouses 80 stories up. The birds are exchanging spots on The Plaza’s iconic green roof. She squeezes my hand and Hoang-Kim looks at me with her glorious smile. I can’t help but feel like I’m floating with her by my side.

We arrived at the entrance ready for private ice thanks to our friend, Jordan. As he begins filming, Hoang-Kim and I embrace. A jolt of energy surges through me. “This feels like ‘the moment,” I joked. We laughed it off and went skating and took some blog photos.

In the city we both love so much, holding each other, and preparing to skate at the iconic Wollman Rink, this moment felt perfect. But I didn’t have a ring. That’s when I knew this was where I was going to propose to Hoang-Kim.

ice skating at Wollam Rink in Central Park wearing outdoor voices ice skating at Wollam Rink in Central Park wearing outdoor voices

100 Days Before Proposal

An important part of every man’s journey is asking for her parents’ permission for her hand in marriage. Usually, when we visit Hoang-Kim’s parents, we do it together. Luckily, she had an extended work trip planned when I could see her Mom and Dad and speak privately.

I went to see her parents a few months ahead from when I planned the proposal because I knew I wanted to ask her before year’s end. I didn’t really know the particulars of the “how” and “when” of this suprise proposal while ice skating.

I was uniquely nervous compared to my usual self before sitting across the table from Hoang-Kim’s Mom and Dad along with her oldest sister joining the meeting. I’m typically a cool cat.  I’ve been in board rooms presenting to investors. I’ve been in front of an audience giving speeches. Yet, the weight of this conversation felt different.

When we finally got to sit down, I felt like a little boy again. Time to man up. I told her Mom and Dad I love their daughter and would like to have permission to ask her for her hand in marriage. They said, “yes!” Cha-ching!

In some ways, I could see this as a formality. Hoang-Kim and I have been dating for 10 years. We’ve seen each other through a lot. I finished my last semester of high school while dating her. We went to the University of Texas at Austin together. I saw her blossom as a journalist. She started Color and Chic while she was in school. I started working on my company a year before graduation. I helped her Dad when he had his first traumatic brain injury. We fought for each other through thick and thin. This wasn’t a formality. Her parents’ approval means the world to me. I’m more a man today for asking them directly.

30 Days – Project Eros

What is a big secret event without a name? I dubbed the proposal, Project Eros, after the Greek god of love and desire. Creative…I know 😉

With many moving parts, I couldn’t really see the exact “how” and “when” until 30 days out. Hoang-Kim began seriously planning her “NYC blogger trip” with Amanda Marshall and Amanda John. They just booked their tickets, so I finally got some real dates to work with.

They had a few extended conference calls to plan logistics, shoots, etc. I knew for sure if Hoang-Kim was on a work trip, she wouldn’t suspect a thing, even if we’d be skating at Wollman Rink as one of the group shoots. The plan only comes together if I enlisted the help of a few co-conspirators.

First, I needed our great friend and magnificent videographer, Jordan Cowen, better known as @OnIcePerspectives on Instagram, as my co-conspirator. I blasted off my first TOP SECRET email for my surprise proposal.



We only officially met a year ago, but he’s as authentic and amazing a person as there is and has a one-of-a-kind skill – filming videos like no one else can. What takes video crews a whole morning takes him one take while skating with Olympic figure skaters. He also would be the only on ice videographer I could invite where Hoang-Kim wouldn’t suspect a thing.

So…he was actually going to be in the UK until the new year. Uh oh. More on this later. As you can tell, I got him to come home for this.

On ice videographer captures emotional surprise proposal while ice skating at central park in new york city

So the train has left the station. I’ve set my mind on getting this done, but I didn’t have my first true co-conspirator yet.

I sent my first confidential, locked email with the subject: “TOP SECRET: Project Eros” to Amanda Marshall (@PardonMuahInsta) to set Project Eros in motion. P.S. If you ever need to send emails that can’t be forwarded and screenshotted, Gmail has this function. Who knew?!

With confidential, locked emails, like a Mission Impossible messages, they automatically “explode” after a set time, so I don’t have her response to show. Amanda is a romantic herself and told me she cried happy tears immediately after reading my email. I had my first true co-conspirator locked in.

Now I had someone on the “inside” who could tell me all about their trip logistics without me pestering Hoang-Kim abnormally leading up to her trip. Amanda Marshall then recruited Amanda John (@strawberrychicxo). Now I officially had two co-conspirators for Project Eros!

And boy did I end up needing them big time. Hoang-Kim found a perfect, white sequined Retrofete cocktail dress. It’s the same brand for a dress Taylor Swift wears on tour. Hoang-Kim was wavering on whether she should get it before the trip. She kept saying she needed to be responsible since we are building our first home together. My thought? This was the perfect dress to wear to an engagement dinner. Despite my nudging, she didn’t bite yet. At one point she talked about getting the yellow version because she found it on sale. That’s when the Amanda’s swooped in and convinced her to get the white version. “It’d be perfect for all sorts of special occasions!” they said. It certainly is.

Proposing to Hoang-Kim was never an “if” question. Always a “when” question. I’ve been slipped plenty of “design inspirations” for things from Hoang-Kim and discussed a few things we both like together. I knew she liked a cushion cut. We both loved how the right halo could accentuate the diamond. With so many options floating around, I didn’t have “the ring” picked out until 2 weeks before the proposal.

Surprise proposal ideas at central park

Designing the Perfect Ring with JamesAllen.com

Having worked with James Allen on their “Diamond Shapes” promo video posted in 2018, they were always on top of my mind. I had looked at several engagement ring Instagram accounts for inspiration, but when it came time to pick the right ring, I knew I should take a look at JamesAllen.com.

The filters they had in their search really helped me hone down the ring design and specific diamond. After getting an idea of what was available, I reached out directly to the James Allen team and one of the associates, Lorraine, a diamond consultant was amazing to work with. We had a consulting call, so she could help guide me to the right ring and time the order so I could receive it to make sure it was everything I expected and more.

I wanted more than a traditional halo for Hoang-Kim. Something with a magnificent profile from the side as well as from above. Lorraine really pointed me in the right direction after I sent her a few design inspirations and preferences Hoang-Kim had. I eventually decided on the falling edge pave diamond engagement ring. JamesAllen.com does a lot of work to ensure each ring and diamond has a great  360° view. The falling edge design was one I actually wasn’t too sure about at first. After raising this concern, Lorraine comforted me describing it as a “pillow of diamonds.” Who wouldn’t be floored by that?!

While I’m a white gold fan, I ended up choosing the platinum ring for durability. White gold tends to fade over the decades and will turn yellow. I decided to get a platinum ring so we could get a nice silver luster forever. Additionally, they cost roughly the same.

Cushion cut diamond engagement ring by James Allen during surprise proposal at central park

Insider Tips for Choosing the Perfect Diamond

Take Millimeters Into Account

The last thing to decide was the specific diamond. Lorraine had some great pieces of advice I want to pass on. One tip she gave me was to shop for the diamond by millimeter measurements in addition to carats. I didn’t even know this was listed. It’s not something straightforward to talk about in the world of carats, clarity, color and cut. Some diamonds hold a lot of their carat weight in their body, so you might be getting value, but not the “wow” factor. Depending on the look and profile you want from different angles, different measurements will help you shop more accurately. I wanted a cushion that didn’t have an exact four-way symmetry and looked like too much of a square. Thanks to JamesAllen.com’s massive diamond inventory, I did find a cushion with the right ratios to give me a slightly elongated look.

What Sparkle Is Right?

Lorraine’s second tip was to pick a diamond that appealed most to me with the way it glistened in the light. Every diamond and cut has a different look. I personally love a diamond with a lot of little places to reflect light so the light bounces all through the diamond almost like a thousand little stars. Going with a brilliant-cut gave me exactly what I wanted and I knew Hoang-Kim would love it, too. Plus, it’s nice to look over at her and find her admiring her ring.

Rank What is Most Important to You in A Diamond

Before the Thanksgiving holiday week came full swing, I spoke to both my Mom and Dad independently to get their opinions on the ring. My Dad’s family is in the jewelry business, so beyond looking at shape and carat, he taught me the importance of picking a diamond with the highest color, clarity and polish. These were areas I overlooked when first looking through the diamonds. However, they are critical areas when thinking about the value and look of the ring. After an extensive search, I selected the perfect diamond and called Lorraine. Excitedly, she helped process the order with me on the line.

I placed the order the week before Thanksgiving and left for Los Angeles for the holiday. Less than 10 days later, it arrived at my Mom’s home. I couldn’t have it shipped to our apartment, hah! So I drove to my Mom’s and we had our first look at the ring together.

What a blessing! It was more gorgeous than I could’ve imagined. Even better than I expected. I went back to actually look at the reviews and that seemed to be a common refrain. James Allen did a magnificent job. The package included the GIA certification along with an appraisal for insurance. I now had what I was missing a year ago.

Cushion cut halo engagement ring surprise proposal ideas in New York

7 Days

At this point I had my two confidants in Amanda Marshall and Amanda John, I had my ring and a semblance of a plan. We were working on last-minute logistics for the group skate on Dec. 11th or 12th.

After Jordan said he couldn’t come help film our proposal, he volunteered his wife and our great friend Talia. She was also a competitive ice dancer who could film in his absence. On December 4th, Jordan emailed me and then messaged me about doing a quick call. I didn’t read the email yet.

He was still in Europe and I knew he’d be calling regarding feeling guilty about staying there and missing the proposal. As a fellow entrepreneur, I know these situations where you have to pick between personal and professional obligations and they really nag at you inside. I told Hoang-Kim I needed to “get something from the car,” and I spoke to Jordan. I immediately told him he should stay and take care of business. As an entrepreneur, it’s your duty and I didn’t want him to feel any regret if his heart was in finishing his professional obligations. He was taken aback and surprised, but also relieved. I went back upstairs and finally read the email.

“If I could do it all over again, I’d pick staying in NYC.”

A few emails later, we work out logistics and Jordan is coming home to NYC to film the proposal.

I mentioned to Hoang-Kim Jordan luckily was coming home and we could film with him while we were in the city. Excitedly, she began planning the group skate session with the Amanda’s and perhaps a few couples skating shots like we did the year before.

After looking at the forecast and working through detailed logistics with the Amanda’s, December 12th at 10 a.m. when the rink opened was the plan.

Surprise proposal while ice skating

The Big Day

I didn’t really feel the nerves until the morning of. I had written a short script while on the flight to New York City. I couldn’t help but cry a little thinking about the journey we’ve been through and the future we’d build together after I said these words. I knew I didn’t have a lot of time, so I kept it short and sweet.

I hid the ring in my backpack as I packed my skates. We arrived in Central Park and walking hand-in-hand to Wollman Rink, I couldn’t help but feel the gravity of the moment to come. “Soak it in,” I said to myself. It was the only day we were in New York City where we had a blue sky and sunshine. It was a great sign.

We all walked to the upper terrace to meet with Jordan and Talia. A few hugs later, Hoang-Kim and I are getting mic’d up. Nothing is up. Jordan has filmed us so much that this is a standard affair.

Talia, Jordan, and the Amanda’s all ask me about the “signal.” I didn’t really have one planned. I knew I wanted to ask her when we could film, so that meant almost immediately when we got on the ice with as few public skaters as possible.

Hoang-Kim had been playing I Get to Love You by Ruelle for the past month. I knew this was the song I’d use to signal when the proposal was happening. When we played it all month, she hugged me tighter and looked at me with that glorious smile. I’d be flying. That was the signal. I brought a portable speaker and told everyone they’d know when it was happening because that song would be playing.

As everyone gets situated, we all begin skating a few rounds. Jordan is getting his camera settings just right. Everyone gives me a slight nod.

One more round I signaled to everyone.

Jordan, Talia, Amanda Marshall, Amanda John, and I all gather near the ice rink entrance as Hoang-Kim takes a quick lap around the rink.

As we see her finishing her lap, she stops near the boards and looks at Talia. She points to the speaker as I Get to Love You begins playing. “Why is that here?” she says. Talia points at me and says, “Because he wanted it.”

She looked at me as I pulled the red box out of my pocket. Tears began welling up in her eyes. For friends who know her, Hoang-Kim rarely cries. That’s how I knew it was really a surprise to her. I got this overwhelming feeling in my heart. I started crying. For friends who know me, I’m a weeper. We always joke that we’re like the couple from The Holiday. Any fans will know what I’m talking about.

Before I know it, she’s gliding immediately into my arms. I had my answer and I hadn’t even used my script or asked her!

After a moment of collecting myself, I do my best to say something romantic, get on one knee, and ask Hoang-Kim to marry me. She said, “Yes!” My surprise proposal went off without a hitch!

Emotional surprise proposal idea while ice skating at Wollman rink in central park

I’m so thankful for Hoang-Kim. I’m grateful for everyone who led us to this point. Her parents for raising her to be a powerful and kind woman. I’m forever grateful for my parents who raised me and reminded me to never let go when you’ve got the right one. I’m thankful for all our friends who supported our relationships over the years and through long-distance. I’m sorry for the friends who kept checking social media every holiday or on our anniversary to see if I had proposed. Now,  they won’t have! I’m extremely grateful to have friends including Jordan, Talia, Amanda Marshall, and Amanda John who I can trust with top-secret projects. Without all of them, we wouldn’t have arrived here today.

I’ll end this story with a quote from the first movie Hoang-Kim and I ever saw together: Remember Me.

“Whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but it’s very important that you do it.” Because nobody else will. Like when someone comes into your life and half of you says you’re nowhere near ready, but the other half says: make her yours forever.

So I did.

Surprise ice skating proposal at Wollman Rink in Central Park with James Allen ring

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