Saratoga National, Saratoga Springs, October 2019

The Engagement Story

Every wedding deserves a good engagement story. What’s yours?

Here’s mine.

I was studying TV, Radio and Film for my master’s degree at Syracuse University when I heard on the radio a promotion for a free wedding. It included the ceremony, reception for 50 people, music, food, wedding dress, tux, rings, a honeymoon in Cancun and backstage passes to meet Sting at a concert.

I approached my girlfriend about the idea and said I was going to write a letter about how amazing she is but also send my resume and soundcheck tape. I thought this was a genius and unique way to try to get a radio job at the local Syracuse rock station.

A few weeks later, I returned to my apartment after classes, and the radio station called me. (This was before the age of email and cell phones, so it’s amazing that the radio station caught me at home. On a landline phone.)

“You want me to come in for a tryout, right?” I exclaimed. I was excited. My idea was working!

“Actually,” the woman on the other end of the phone started. And then she proceeded to list off all the prized I had won.

“Wait a minute,” I said after I heard but didn’t really listen to what she was saying.

One of the things the radio station loved was that my girlfriend and I weren’t engaged yet.

She repeated that I had won the grand prize. Yes, I could come in for a tryout, but I had won the all-expense-paid wedding. One of the things the radio station loved was that my girlfriend and I weren’t engaged yet. This was the late ’80s — in fact, it’s almost 30 years ago now, early February 1988. Just a little more than two years prior, former football player and announcer Ahmad Rashad proposed to Phylicia Ayers-Allen on live TV before a Thanksgiving Day game. The new bride-to-be was best known at the time as Clair Huxtable of “The Cosby Show”.

So the folks at the station asked if I would propose live on the air in a couple of days on their popular morning show. I hesitated, then said, “Sure.”

Sure? I wasn’t sure about this at all. I knew I wanted to be a radio announcer, but married? That wasn’t in my plans. I called my best friend at school, my parents and my future in-laws. I’ll always remember that my mother-in-law wouldn’t stop laughing.

Two days later, I’m in the radio studio before dawn, meeting the hosts, dreaming about joining them not just for a moment but daily for the next few years before I moved onto a larger city.

They set me up in the studio. We reviewed the specifics, such as the phone number to her dorm. She was still in college. Jeez, what was I thinking. I’m in graduate school; she’s still in undergraduate school. What am I, crazy?

During one bit, I was asked to read my letter on the air. They liked how I described my wife as a real-life goddess. She’s half Greek and was named after a goddess named Demeter. I was having a great time. We were joking and talking on and off air, discussing music, news, pop culture.

Just before they dialed her number, one of the jocks teased me on air — What if a guy answers?!

Luckily, it was Demetria’s sleepy voice on the other end. No guy’s voice. I told her that I loved her and asked her to marry me. She said “Yes”, but it was more like “Yes??” than it was “Yes!!”. We were both a bit hesitant but excited at the same time. And her mom? She was still laughing when Demetria called her with this shocking news.

Later that same day, while I was driving to my part-time job as a math tutor at a local high school, I heard the radio station replay my proposal on the air. It was quite strange to hear myself propose on the radio.

Of course, this is a radio promotion, so there wasn’t much time between the giveaway and the actual wedding. We had to be married in 10 days — on Valentine’s Day — because that’s when all the sponsors had lined up their prizes. And Sting was coming to town.

A day later, we picked out rings, and I was fitted for a tux. Demetria tried on some dresses, and then reality struck. Her mom and sister weren’t with her to try on dresses. That didn’t feel right. Where would we live? Our schools were 50 miles apart. I lived in a townhouse with two other people — a guy and a girl. She was in a dorm. A vacation to Cancun and a Sting concert sounded great, but was this how we wanted to be married?

A day later we called the station and turned down the prize. We gave it all away, even the backstage passes to meet Sting. They offered me a pair of tickets to the show, and I gave those away to my roommate because I had a big research paper to work on.

A few months later, I proposed again — this time with an engagement ring and just between her and me. No radio audience. A year and a half later, we were married in the Greek Orthodox Church (that’s another story to be told here), and we’re still married, nearly 30 years later.

Ahmad and Phylicia? They were married less than a month after that famous TV proposal. Bill Cosby gave her away at the wedding. O.J. Simpson, one of Rashad’s NFL teammates, stood next to him at the wedding. The marriage didn’t last, however. They were divorced in 2001.

So what’s your engagement story?

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