LBIers Tell Stories of Magical, Memorable Marriage Proposals
Spring is right around the corner, and there is no better way to greet the wedding season than to tell some thrilling stories of marriage proposals. Rachel Braunwell-Komyati, Dana Frack, Jane Romanowski and Scott Mazzella have a common thread in their deep connection to Long Beach Island, and all four were very happy to share the very charming and unique stories of their proposals.
Braunwell-Komyati, a former LBI resident and Southern Regional High School graduate, ran her first New York City Marathon in 2014, and was in for quite the surprise at the finish line. Friends and family had asked her if she thought her boyfriend, Dan Komyati, would pop the question the day of the race. “It was my first marathon. I thought if he was going to do it maybe he would hold up a sign” (asking her to marry him at some point during the race). But that didn’t happen, so she didn’t think about it again. “I was just really excited about running.”
Dan never told anyone what he was planning. After Rachel finished the race, he joined her by the finish line. “We were standing as close to the finish line as you can get.” The experience of running a marathon was already overwhelming, she recalled. “Your body only has enough energy to run for 21 miles” out of a marathon’s 26.2. The exhaustion and excitement were compounded by all the cheering going on.
“I was telling him all about my day and about running, and he kept asking people to take a picture.” Dan ended up handing his phone to a police officer, who said, “You’ll be lucky with my fat fingers if this picture comes out.” That was when Dan got down on one knee, saying to Rachel, “You said this was going to be the best day of your life. Can I make it better?” From a marathon to a marriage proposal, Rachel freaked out, a scene followed by a lot of hand-waving and hysterical crying.
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Dana Frack, a Southern Regional grad who grew up across the bay in Barnegat, met her fiancé, Ryan White, while working at MLB Network. “We quickly became attached at the hip and loved going to LBI together. He had never gone to LBI before meeting me, but since I grew up going to my grandparents’ beach house in Holgate, he got to experience all of the beauty south of the Causeway.”
Even though both Dana and Ryan are freelancers at work, they would make sure they were free on the weekends during the summer to get in their LBI time. “We would often go to the Wooden Jetty (a well-known surf spot in Holgate) to watch my mom, dad and brother surf and enjoy the rays before the greenheads would attack. It was our quiet, special hideaway to escape from the pressure at work, and each weekend we made it down to LBI from North Jersey, we felt like we were on vacation.”
On Aug. 22, 2015, they went to the beach in Holgate to watch a vintage longboard surf competition and listen to Dana’s parents play in a surf band at the competition. “Ryan was acting weird and complaining of a stomach ache. He wanted to head back to the house. I wanted to stay at the beach forever.” Dana went back to her house, where her sister told her she had plans to meet up with a friend on LBI. “She said that I should shower so I could meet up later for drinks. I had no plans of showering, but everyone kept pushing me to shower, so I fell into the trap – thank God!”
Dana then got a text from her best friend, who told her to rendezvous at Wooden Jetty so they could go out for drinks. “I threw on a beach dress and a little makeup and headed there with Ryan. He was acting so strange – wouldn’t bike next to me and was barely talking.
“We got to the top of the hill past the parking lot and I saw my grandmother in one of those beach-accessible wheelchairs along with my aunt. I was shocked she was there since she cannot make it to the beach these days and knew it was a big deal she made it to the Wooden Jetty. I started looking for my friend, Nicole Davies, pulling Ryan in the opposite direction that he was trying to lead me to. I pulled back because I wanted to watch the surfing finals, and that is when I noticed a group of people all in white shirts lined up on the beach along the jetty. At first I thought it was a baptism or religious gathering, and then it hit me, which made me instantly start hitting Ryan.”
As the couple made their way down the hill and onto the beach, their closest family and friends were wearing T-shirts spelling out, “Will you marry me?” with Ryan’s newborn godson playing the role as the question mark. “Ryan got down on one knee and a few words jumbled out of his mouth before he popped the question and I said yes! We immediately popped a bottle of champagne and celebrated on the beach, taking pictures and rearranging our family and friends’ letter shirts to make different words.”
The day ended with dinner reservations for the whole group at Buckalew’s and drinks at sunset at The Ketch. “It was an amazing day and an unforgettable engagement!”
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Jane Romanowski, another Southern Regional grad, married the love of her life, fellow Southern grad Rob Romanowski, in Beach Haven, where she grew up. Her proposal took place while on a trip Rob had planned for them in Napa Valley, Calif. “I had a feeling the trip might be it, but days were going by and nothing happened.”
The day the magic moment finally happened, Rob and Jane went to Kelham Vineyards. “It was the prettiest place we had been to.” Jane somehow recalls a showroom decorated with Louis Vuitton and other designers. “We went for a walk, and I could tell Rob was getting antsy and acting weird. We walked into the vineyard, and he got down on one knee.”
Jane nearly fainted from excitement and can’t remember much after that. “You can be as prepared as you can, but when it happens you don’t know what to do.” A professional photographer there in disguise, pretending to clean a pool, recorded the scene for posterity. “It was a blur,” remembered Jane. “I blacked out because it was so exciting, and then that night we went to celebrate.”
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Scott Mazzella, whose family owns a vacation home in Holgate, proposed to his wife on Oct. 21, 2006, also in the Big Apple. “I had a big plan to propose to my fiancée, Liz. I knew she was going to New York City to see ‘The Wedding Singer’ on Broadway with her friend. I thought, why not find a way to get her to Times Square and propose?”
Scott made secret arrangements with the friend to bring Liz to the center of Times Square, right on the sidewalk in the middle of the road, just north of the neon American flag and in front of ABC studios.
Gathering his nerve and wearing his best suit, he drove to NYC in his Chevy Silverado, which he said was not the best idea because of the difficulties of parking in the city. “I am not a fan of driving in the city and I don’t know what made me think parking a Silverado would be easy, but as soon as I got through the Lincoln Tunnel, I made a beeline for the first garage I saw and parked that truck in the tiniest of spots and hoped for the best. Then I walked to Times Square.”
At this point Scott was feeling some nerves, and the wait only built up the anticipation. “They probably would have called Homeland Security on me today the way I was pacing on that sidewalk median in the middle of Times Square. Were they coming? Did she know which spot I meant? I was a wreck. Then, finally, I saw them. I dove into some people so she wouldn’t see me.”
Scott finally made his way to Liz, who was surprised to see him, to say the least. But he didn’t give her time to speak. He dropped to one knee and pulled out the ring box. “Liz, you’re my best friend. I love you. Will you marry me?” The sounds of New York City disappeared, and what was only seconds felt like forever.
“A whole crowd had instantly formed around us. A man with a heavy New York accent screamed, ‘Did she say yes?’ I looked up with a sort of ‘Well ...’ The shock of it all had her in a trance. Then ... ‘Yes, yes, of course yes!’ she said. The crowd erupted in cheers. It was such a wonderful moment. Whenever we see Times Square in movies or on New Year’s, we get a tinge of excitement about seeing ‘our spot.’
“It was all so amazing and blinding fast – a menagerie of color and sound – like a dream in my memory. She said yes. Now, two kids and two dogs later, we still love telling that story.”
— Kim Travers