We Got Engaged in VEGAS, Baby!

The Gilded Sparkle

It’s the moment we’ve ALL been waiting for: KEIL AND I ARE ENGAGED!!!!

Please throw ALL of the sequins, rhinestones, and confetti! Just chuck them directly at our faces because we are overjoyed!!

The coming of this moment is what I’ve been DYING to share with you and the very reason my writing on Hiya Tootsie! has tapered off over the last few weeks. We’ve known for months (and have been planning the wedding and booking vendors well before our official engagement!) and it got to a point where it’s all I wanted to write about.

AND NOW I CAN.

So here’s the quick recap on us before we jump into the engagement story:

Keil and I met on OKCupid back in May of 2015 by WAY accident – I’d extended my search to 350 miles and then wasn’t initially interested when he contacted me (!!), we started talking anyway and had our first date on May 31, 2015 in Hollywood, became offish July 19th, he met my family in January of 2016, we started openly discussing engagement and rings sometime within the last few months of 2016, we agreed it’d be rad for me to be a part of designing the ring, I found our jewelry designer a couple months before year’s end, and we began designing my ring in December of last year!

It took 3 MONTHS of working with our designer and his team from concept to completion (more on that in next week’s ring post)!

So suffice it to say, we’ve known and been sure for a while.

I also knew when he picked up the ring because I was with him for the trip!

I surprised him with Tough Mudder Half tickets for his 31st birthday back in December and we had Saiana and his little sister Jenna with us for the race. That was the perfect weekend to pick up the ring, so he took the girls with him to get it while he dropped me off for a sugaring appointment. He told me later that Jenna cried!

Jenna lives in Utah and was with us for a week at his place here in California. We’d planned a month in advance that we’d take her back to Vegas to her aunt’s house at week’s end where her mom would pick her up, and from there, have ourselves a quick one-night vaca.

I had a feeling he was going to ask me on this trip and thought I had it ALL figured out (I was super wrong and he surprised the hell out of me!), so of course, I wanted to prepare to look and feel AWESOME for the big moment.

Girls, right?

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I bought myself my first “Vegas dress.” It’s totally something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but I finally had an excuse to make it happen because I 100% thought he was going to ask me the night we were there, and again, wanted to look AWESOME.

I did look awesome. This was the outfit. But he didn’t ask me that night and therefore I wasn’t wearing this outfit when he asked. Ha!

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Our first stop after dropping Jenna off and before checking into our hotel was Margaritaville. It was 2pm and we were both famished after a 6 hour drive. He’d never been and I’d only been once before with my BFF years earlier.

We both got super fancy burgers and margaritas. His margarita was blackberry, mine was blueberry pomegranate, and they were both what I imagine Jesus would taste like if he were a mixed drink.

At lunch, we plotted our dinner plans. We’d already bought tickets to see Blue Man Group on the road trip a couple hours earlier, and since they were playing in our hotel, we decided we wanted to take the afternoon to hit the Strip and the evening to stay in for the show and dinner.

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One of the last times Keil was in Vegas was with one of his besties. He told me at Margaritaville that there was this place called O’Sheas that we HAD to find because they serve frozen Baileys and I would lose my mind over them.

THIS MAN KNOWS HIS WOMAN.

After walking the Strip in the warmth of the afternoon and seeing all the new stuff since we’d been there a year ago, we finally found this little Irish gem down a super snazzy side street with loads of other fun shops. I got the frozen Baileys and Keil got a frozen fireball. Imagine a small smoothie cup with drinks that have now taken the title for mixed drink Jesus.

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After polishing off our boozie slushies, we made a beeline for our hotel to get checked in. Keil booked us at The Luxor – which neither of us had ever stayed at before – and holy crap it did not disappoint! You MUST go if you’ve never been. The entire center of the hotel is hollow all the way up to the tip top point of the pyramid!

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I snapped this quick shot of him waiting in line to check us in because I love him and sometimes am creepy about it. Also, I walked the Strip in heeled boots – because fashion over function – and my feet were pretty much done.

It took a good 30 minutes to move through the check-in line, which left us 45 minutes to get ready. This might seem like no big deal on a regular day, but let’s not forget that we’d just been on a 6 hour road trip in which I wore zero makeup, had been walking around the Strip for 3 hours, and I THOUGHT HE WAS GOING TO PROPOSE THAT NIGHT.

Commence PROJECT RUSH READY.

He took a nap. Ha! I texted the besties during Project Rush Ready to tell them that I was no longer willing to put money down on the fact that I thought he was going to ask me on this trip because if he was, his game face was STELLAR. They played along (because they KNEW, those traitors!) and told me that it’s ok to be wrong sometimes and to just relax and have fun.

We ended up 10 minutes late to the show, but looked GOOD and were subsequently fine with it.

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Upon making our way to the second floor and kibitzing with Will Call for our tickets, we learned that we were seated in the “splash zone” and that we’d need ponchos.

Remember that fancy dress I bought? I also bought fancy shoes and had on a fancy jacket. “What in the hot hell, ma’am behind the counter? Ponchos for WHAT?”

Paint.

WHAT?!

I knew I’d chosen killer seats for us when we drove into town. We were front and center, second row, and on the aisle, but I had no idea how small the room was and that we’d literally be 6 feet from the stage.

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The good news is that the show was PHENOMENAL and the splashing was practically nonexistent. Neither one of us had a clue that the performance was percussion AND comedy. We both thought it was just a really fancy drum show.

Nope! The whole thing was silent slapstick with some of the most badass, glowing beats we’ve ever seen. The entire band above Blue Man Group was covered in glow-in-the-dark neon paint.

My favorite part was probably when they brought out these gigantic metal bug-like contraptions that they strapped onto their bodies that had extensions that moved on their own, but also had drums attached that each Blue Man would play while he walked around the stage with that sucker on his back.

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The dinner restaurant we chose earlier in the day at Margaritaville was right across the hall from Blue Man Group. It was super fancy and romantic inside and after a couple minutes of looking at the menu, Keil told me that he needed to use my phone to make a phone call because he forgot his.

My heart began pounding immediately.

It was 9:30 at night. Who could he possibly need to call?

I immediately thought that this was the moment and that my best friend was about to pop out from behind a pillar to take pictures.

I gave him a funny look, handed him my phone, and he got up from the table to make his secret call.

I tried to calm down, was surprised by my heart-pounding reaction, and later learned that the call was to check on his plans for the following morning!

He came back to the table cool as a cucumber, and I became unsure all over again.

What was this man planning??

Keil Elkins Rice & Co Las Vegas

Literally the only reason I’m including this shot is because he’s such a handsome beast, I can’t even handle it. Also, sushi burrito. Also, MAN OF MYSTERY.

After dinner, we walked around some of the shops attached to the hotel, I tried on a pair of heels I’d been eyeing online, and a piece of neon orange confetti from Blue Man Group flew out of my boot.

We ended up spending some time in a music and sports memorabilia shop chatting it up with the dude behind the counter and learned all KINDS of crazy celebrity stories.

My favorite things in there were the autographed Stevie Ray Vaughn guitar and James Brown microphone!

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After dinner and celebrity gossip, Keil asked if I wanted to grab a night cap in the casino before heading up to our room, so we made our way downstairs to the bar. He had a whiskey sour and I had a Malibu and orange.

My mind was racing at this point. It was 10:30pm. Was he going to ask me back up in our room?? Was Megan waiting up there to take pictures? Were there rose petals scattered everywhere? Was I just WAY off about this whole thing?

We finished our drinks, headed up to our room, opened the door, and he beelined for the bathroom to change and get ready for bed.

When he came out, I’d just taken off my shoes and he leaned against the wall and asked, “So, how long would it take you to just put on some light makeup in the morning?”

“Why?”

“I have something planned and want to leave kind of early.”

My heart leapt.

“How early is early? Are we talking 6am or FOUR am?” I was decidedly thinking that there was no possible way we’d leave that early, so I asked just for dramatics.

It turns out that dramatics were real life.

“Well, I actually want to leave by 5.”

WHYYYYYYY??! We’re on VACATION!!!!! WHYYYYYYY would you make me get up and leave by 5???”

“Because I have something planned and I can’t tell you about it.”

“But we’re on VACATION.”

“So how much time do you need? What time do you want me to set the alarm for?”

“VACATION!!!!!!”

“Time?”

“4am!! Not because it’ll take me an hour to get ready, but because it’ll take you 30 minutes to get me up at that hour!!”

“4am. You got it.”

I nearly said to him, “This better be life-changing,” and told him sometime after the proposal that this almost flew out of my mouth.

We both laughed at that. Good thing it was!

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The next morning, 4am rolled around sooner than was welcomed and Keil did his best to rouse me. 20 minutes later, I stumbled into the bathroom to start getting ready. Part of me knew that something was afoot and the other part was too delirious to think too hard about it.

He was super concerned with the time and it got to a point where he put my socks and shoes on for me while I brushed my teeth to get us out the door. There’s always a first for something! It was 5:10am!

I couldn’t figure out what we could POSSIBLY miss at that hour and began wondering if he wanted to take me somewhere to ask me at sunrise.

When we left, he was convinced that there was an elevator closer to our door than the one we’d been using, but there totally wasn’t, so we ended up literally running around the entire 27th floor of the Luxor until we got to the elevator that was right down the hall from us had we just turned left instead of right.

He also had to run back to our room to grab my adrenal supplements that I need to take every morning with breakfast while I raced around the floor to find the elevator.

We got our unexpected tour of the 27th floor, made it to the elevator, got down to the casino, and couldn’t remember how to get out to the car. There was a lot of speed walking, followed by more running when we finally found the exit.

When we got to the car, he was worried we’d be late, but was in good spirits, and the GPS said wherever we were headed was only a mile and a half away.

It was still dark out and the entire Strip was lit up. I told him that as unthrilled as I was to wake up at 4am, I was actually super glad we were doing this because I was a little bummed we wouldn’t see Vegas all lit up since we spent our previous evening being entertained in the hotel.

His phone rang while we were at a traffic light up the street and it was wherever we were headed calling to make sure we were coming. He assured them that we were on our way and almost there.

I still had no idea what was happening.

Heather Jabornik

In the Vegas dark lit up by the Vegas bright, we pulled into a tiny lot where I saw this sign and in slow motion, turned to him and said, “Stoopppp itttttttt.”

He just smiled.

I’ve wanted to go on a hot air balloon ride for YEARS. He knew this. What he didn’t know is that my dream proposal was also on a hot air balloon. Only one of my best friends knew this and I wondered immediately if she’d let him in on the secret.

I found out later that she hadn’t! How unbelievable is that? Once again, this man KNOWS me.

We got out of the car and I was still in joyous shock.

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We opened the door to the tiny building and saw about 30 other people crammed in there waiting to go on a balloon ride as well. We signed our waivers, I kept not believing what was happening, and I snapped this quick shot of the Balloonist’s Prayer. Finally, we filed into a 12 passenger van that drove us 20 minutes outside the city.

Keil and I sat close during the van ride and I kept gushing about how excited I was. I was about to text the besties and my mom to tell them I thought he was going to propose when I thought better of it for a moment and realized it may be better to tell my mom AFTER we’re back on the ground. I asked him off the cuff if my mom knew and when he said she did, it dawned on me that this was definitely happening.

WHY ELSE WOULD MY MOM ALREADY KNOW WE’RE GOING ON A HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE?

More internal joyousness.

Keil Elkins & Heather Jabornik Las Vegas Engagement

Our van dropped us at a side lot behind a hospital that we later learned had been the daily launch site for years. During our safety instructions, we heard all kinds of insane only-in-Vegas stories about what NOT to do.

“Please don’t get up on the edge of the basket to walk around. This has happened to me. They were Cirque du Soliel performers and were practicing.”

“Please don’t consummate your marriage in my basket. I know this doesn’t seem like I should have to tell you this, but this is Vegas and it has happened.”

“Please don’t get in the balloon if you’ve spent the entire previous evening drinking. I’ve had a girl throw up over the side of the basket for the entire duration of a ride.”

The unbelievable list went on.

More vans with balloon riders and vans with the baskets and balloons themselves showed up. The crew let small white weather balloons go to watch where they’d float. This would be the direction we’d go once we were in the balloon. Every single morning was different and knowing which way the wind was blowing also helped them decide how to lay the tarp on the gravel to lay out the balloon with the least amount of wind resistance to blow that baby up.

We were obviously both stoked and my war with 4am was a long distant memory.

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We were probably on the ground getting instructions, signing more wavers that we understood what to do and what not to do, and watching them blow up the balloons for a solid hour or more. It was incredible to see how they got a balloon that big up off the ground. This is a fab action shot to see how it’s done!

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While I documented our balloon’s progress, Keil was Keil and snuck this shot behind me when I wasn’t looking! I was so excited about the ride, I completely forgot that I thought he was going to propose!

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How incredible is this? We were one of four balloons that took off for the day and the energy was palpable. It was everyone’s very first time on our ride, which made it even more exciting!

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Right before we took off, the crew came around to grab phones and snap pictures. These are the faces of a man with an engagement ring in his pocket and a woman who was so excited about the balloon ride, she forgot. Ha!

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We were the first to take off! See ya later, solid ground!

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How BADASS?? This is straight up inside the balloon!

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Up, up, and away! Our hour long ride floated us above a residential area of Vegas where we learned that the city paid all its residents to have their grass removed to save water. From there, we flew high above Red Rock Canyon and heard from our pilot how they’ve seen everything from cougars to bighorn sheep on their flights. We saw a falcon and two huge jack rabbits!

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Once we landed in the desert, the crew who tracked us from the ground found us right off of Gas Line Road in Henderson, NV.

Keil and I parted from the group to search for some cool rocks. I had my mind made up that I would find a heart shaped rock (WHICH I DID) and we embarked on our rock hunt for a good 30 minutes while the crew tore down the balloon and got us ready to head back into the city.

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We snapped this shot during our rock hunt MINUTES before the proposal!

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Also, in case anyone’s curious, this is the extraordinarily flattering way they had us help get the last bits of air out of the balloon before they rolled it up and put it in the van.

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At the end of every balloon ride, the pilot and crew break out a mini table, orange juice, and champagne for a toast and to tell the story of the very first balloon ride. We stood with our ride companions, listening and waiting to toss back champagne at 8:30 in the morning.

Very shortly after we toasted, Keil turned to the group, handed one of our ride buddies his phone, raised his voice, and said that we were just over yonder looking for cool rocks and that he found a REALLY cool rock.

He reached into his breast pocket, showed the camera and the crowd, and then swept his arm into the air with a grand gesture and shouted, “I’M GOING TO MAKE THIS WOMAN MY WIFE!”

As soon as he reached into his pocket I knew!

He turned to me, a smile as wide as the universe across his face, held it eye level, I laughed, and we kissed.

Everyone was clapping and “Woohoo!”ing when we heard a girl behind us who stealth snapped these photos say, “Wait, did she say yes?”

HA!

I laughed and said, “Yes! YES!”

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We kissed again and were immediately surrounded by our balloon companions who handed out hugs like candy and shook our hands. Everyone wanted to see the ring and we got to share the whole story of how we’d designed it together.

A couple from the UK who was celebrating their year anniversary approached us and the woman told us she was a jeweler and asked to see the ring up close. She was blown away by the detail and what it took to make the piece and continued to congratulate us.

Perfect strangers wished us a long and happy life together and for just a moment, it struck me how universally exciting and sacred the proposal and acceptance of forever is between two people.

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We road back to Vegas with everyone in our 12 passenger van and sat in the very last bucket seat together, just the two of us.

I couldn’t stop awe-ing over the ring, flashing it in the sunlight, and smiling. I looked at him wide-eyed and said, “You’re my FIANCÉ.”

He smiled and we kept awe-ing over the ring together. I asked him what the secret heart on my ring said and he wouldn’t tell me! I guffawed for a second and then seamlessly transitioned back to the distraction of the sparkly rock.

After we dropped some folks off at New York, New York, we made our way back to the Vegas Balloon Rides building to grab his car and head to breakfast. We planned to hit Avenue Café in the MGM. We ate there last year when we came to Vegas and it was fabulous – breakfast for DAYS.

I wanted to find the infamous Welcome to Las Vegas sign to nab a picture under, but we ended up finding the next best thing inside the MGM! After trying to take a selfie of ourselves, the ring, and the sign a good ten times to no avail, a sweet silver-haired woman asked if she could take a picture for us.

Here we are! ENGAGED IN VEGAS, BABY!!

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After our Welcome to Las Vegas pic, we made our way through the casino to our restaurant where we waited in a short line and were ushered to our table.

Out of every single table in the entire restaurant, our hostess led us to the exact same table we sat at last year! What are the odds?? I promptly declared that this was our spot from here on out, we ordered (gluten free french toast for the WIN!), and began Facetiming our loved ones.

Keil told me in the van ride back to the Strip that they all knew already, so every time one of them picked up the phone, they had a sneaky smile on their face!

We dined like kings and queens and finally headed back to the Luxor to check out and road trip back to Cali.

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On the way inside, I asked Keil if we could stop to take a quick picture. Right above the Luxor pool, we snapped this baby and I’m so glad we did. We were both exhausted, but SO happy!

He checked us out while I packed up and bought a Luxor shot glass souvenir to keep in the bathroom and put my ring in when I take it off to wash my face.

As soon as we walked back outside to the car, we saw a MAJOR thunderstorm headed our way. Half the sky was bright and sunny and the other half was super dark.

We’d already made up our minds that we would cat nap in the parking garage before our 6 hour jaunt and when we did, the heavens opened up!

He napped. I made a photo collage and announced the news on Facebook – and then I napped!

On the car ride home, I asked again what the secret heart on my ring said.

After a lot of playful bantering and him telling me it would make more sense 10 years from now, he finally plugged his phone into the car stereo and blasted a song – our song – and told me the line of the song he had engraved on the heart’s diamond.

It. Was. AWESOME.

We were quiet for a moment when he asked if it was ok that he didn’t ask me on the balloon. He’d been planning on it, but just wasn’t feeling it when we were up there and wanted to wait until it felt right.

“Are you kidding? YES! It was awesome! I also think it’s funny that you didn’t ask. You just declared!”

He laughed and said, “Is it ok that I didn’t ask??”

I said, “Well, I certainly never pictured not being asked, but YES it’s ok! And if you really want to ask, ask me right now!”

He looked over at me from the driver’s seat with a slight smile on his face.

“Will you marry me, please?”

“YES!!”

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Stay tuned next week for close up shots and the story of the RING!

Images from: The Gilded Sparkle (She Said Yes), Heather Jabornik (2, 6, 10-11, 13- 16, 18- 21, 23-24, 27-30), Robert Vegas Bob Swetz via Active Rain (Margaritaville), Denise Truscello via Thrillest (O’Sheas), Travel Online (Luxor), Viator (Blue Man Group), Oyster (Rice & Co), Ballen Vegas (Las Vegas Strip), Keil Elkins (17, 22), Sue from Poughkeepsie, NY (25-26)


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