On a weekday morning in mid-July, Matthew Mair walked out of his home in Miami clutching a backpack the way a child holds a teddy bear. The key to a phenomenal future lay secretly buried in the bag.
“I kept wondering why he wouldn’t let anyone touch the backpack,” says Matthew’s fiancé, Adriana Garcia. “He never let it out of his sight.”
He watched it pass through security at the airport. He held it in his lap on the flight to Jamaica and kept it there during the ride to the lobby of Sandals Dunn’s River. There, still gripping the backpack, Matthew stepped with Adriana into a spectacular Caribbean embrace.
“As soon as the car door opened, we knew this would be a huge step up from anywhere we’ve ever been,” Adriana says, “and that we would never forget it.”
She would not know for another two days the depth of why they would never forget this trip.
Matthew and Adriana had traveled to nice resorts in Jamaica over the years, soaking up the sunshine and sounds of the Caribbean. But they’d never experienced anything as natural as those first few moments at Sandals Dunn’s River. The welcome drinks, the welcome smiles, and the “welcome home” immediately began to untangle Matthew’s ball of nerves and replace it with tingles of excitement.
“When people treat you that well from the first hello, you know it’s genuine,” Matthew says. “It sets your mind free.”
That’s exactly what the two of them needed. Adriana came to Sandals Dunn’s River to free herself from her mentally draining work as a senior analyst. “I wanted to enjoy the beach, the relaxation, and maybe get a massage. But really, I had no plans.”
She also had no clue what Matthew had in his mind or in the core of his backpack. Inside was a second stuffed bag. Buried within that bag was a sunglasses case. The sunglasses case housed a smaller hard case. Inside that fourth layer of protection sat an engagement ring, poised for the first-ever marriage proposal at the new Sandals Dunn’s River.
“Adriana catches onto everything,” Matthew says. “She reviews documents for a living, so I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to keep my emotions from giving away the secret.”
The view of the ocean and the radiance of the Sandals staff helped. They appeared around every corner with a calming presence.
“I can’t begin to tell you what it meant to have a community of people helping me every step of the way,” Matthew says. “They knew my vision. All I had to do was show up with the ring.”
Matthew had more than an engagement ring to work with. He had a lush Caribbean island. He had a turquoise sea and a silky-soft beach. He had the luxury of Sandals, meaning he could pop the question on a catamaran cruise, in a tropical garden, or while diving over a magnificent reef.
“I know what Adriana wants and doesn’t want,” Matthew says. He’d gradually gotten to know her since they worked together as teenagers at a sandwich shop. She would not want the proposal to be too public, but also not too private. She’d want it to be beautiful, unique, and shared with a few people who would also treasure the moment.
To find that narrow sweet spot, Matthew thought he’d work the big question into a photo shoot with a Sandals photographer. They could capture every bit of the milestone on camera: the beach, the ocean, the sunset, and (hopefully) the yes.
“The Sandals Engagement Concierge team listened to my ideas,” he says, “and then created a moment far beyond my expectations. They handled every detail.”
Matthew only had to handle the ring. Half an hour before the scheduled photo shoot, he pushed it deep into a pocket and told Adriana he was going out for some ice. A Sandals village was ready for him.
“Hey Matthew, my friend,” a bartender called out, “let me give you something.” He poured Matthew a shot of Appleton 12 and filled his bucket with ice. The general manager assured him everything was in place. The bartender poured him a second shot of rum.
“I’m not sure how the entire staff knew what was going on,” Matthew says, “but having them in my corner helped me enjoy the moment.”
When the photo session started, the Sandals staff photographer led Matthew and Adriana to the pool. Click. Then to the garden gazebo. Click. To a bridge. Click. Click. At every stop, Adriana thought, “Oh, this will look nice in a frame.”
Back on the beach, another Sandals team was setting up a picnic from paradise. Champagne. Flowers. Chocolate-covered strawberries. All in front of the sea and the last gentle daylit waves.
“Let’s finish next to the water,” Matthew said. Adriana walked over to the blanket, watching the sky turn colors and waiting for the click of the camera. As the sun dropped to the ocean, Matthew dropped to a knee. And Adriana’s world turned into a fairytale.
A champagne cork flew into the sky. A saxophone player strolled onto the beach. A drone hovered overhead. A sand-colored tarp pulled away from the words “Marry Me” spelled in sea stones. Adriana’s face became a beautiful shade of red.
“Yes! Yes! Yes!”
With the ring securely on Adriana’s finger, Matthew stood and looked around. People on the dock clapped. Guests at the pool toasted. Newlyweds on the boardwalk stopped. Women cried. And husbands said to themselves: Why didn’t I think of that?
On the day when Matthew and Adriana prepared to leave Sandals Dunn’s River, congratulatory echoes met them everywhere they turned: from the watersports staff, the entertainment team, the restaurant staff, and the entire Sandals family.
“They were thanking us for allowing them to be part of our special moment,” Matthew says. “Where do you find that? Staff members thanking guests?”
In a way, Adriana never really left Sandals Dunn’s River. She keeps the resort alive with a caption in her Instagram bio: “I’m on Cloud Sandals until further notice!” And her face still turns a happy shade of red when she talks about the proposal in choppy sentences.
“It’s so fresh. I’m still shocked. It’s heartwarming.”
Matthew laughs. He sounds relaxed, like a man who’s finally released his grip on a phenomenal future and is now living in it. “The proposal and people at Sandals set the tone for our life together,” he says, “and it’s better than I ever pictured.”
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