Sara and George Aye are together by design

sara and george love story

He Gave Her His Art

George Aye, designer, 32, and Sara Aye, design consultant, 29, Chicago, Ill.

He: It took about two months to plan my marriage proposal to Sara, my girlfriend of three and a half years. We’re both designers, and I wanted it to be something that would slowly reveal the words Will you marry me? When a coworker put me in touch with the owner of an art gallery, I decided to stage a fake art show.

First I created it all with 3-D software. Then I made the letters for Will you marry me? out of foam core, using a laser cutter. I broke them into even smaller shapes, so there were about 60 pieces in all, and I stuck each one on its own piece of aluminum siding. The idea was to have the pieces at different heights, arranged seemingly randomly around the room. But if Sara stood in just one place, she could read my question.

I set up a video camera where Sara would be standing to make sure the letters lined up right; it took a full 40-hour workweek to arrange them. It was a nightmare! I really sweated. About a week before, I sent an e-mail to Sara and all our friends, saying, “There’s an artist, Serge Gandaora, who’s having a show on Friday called My Early Muir Owl.” I played with words: Serge Gandaora was an anagram of “George and Sara,” while My Early Muir Owl was a jumble of “Will you marry me?” The studio owner even enlisted an actor friend to play Serge during the show.

The day of the proposal, I texted a few friends, “This is a big day. I hope I don’t screw up.” I just wanted Sara to know how much I loved her.

She: At the gallery, after I’d chatted with people for a few minutes, George walked over and said, “My friend can introduce us to Serge.” Serge said his artwork was “all about the intersection of text and space.” I was thinking, I don’t see any text. But just to be polite, I said, “Oh, wow, that’s great!” Then Serge said, “If you look through these frames, you’ll see the world differently.”

Well, I saw these frames-like little rectangles-placed all around the room. I looked through one, but I just saw white pieces. Then George steered me toward a pair of frames, one at eye level and the other a couple of feet off the ground. The lower one was a vehicle for him to get on one knee! I looked through the frame, and after a second, I saw the word you. It was magical, appearing as if out of nowhere. I moved my head one degree and suddenly the whole thing just came together: Will you marry me?

The room had gone silent. Everybody was looking at me. I turned and saw George on one knee and I started to freak out. He was holding a ring, looking at me like, Well …?

And I said, “Of course I’ll marry you!”

It was amazing. I was crying, and I kind of fell against the wall. I remember thinking that he didn’t have to work so hard to persuade me. I would have said yes anyway!

They Spoke a Romance Language

Heather Pucheu, property clerk, 31, and Fabrice Pucheu, artist, 34, Spokane, Wash.

She: In my high school French class, there was a pen pal requirement. The matchups were completely random. When Fabrice and I started writing to each other, I told him about school, and he told me about his life in Léon, France, as a landscape artist. For the next eight years, we shared our lives on paper. We were able to be really honest and say things many people probably wouldn’t say to each other—there were no appearances to keep up. Each letter brought us closer than we’d been before, but I never expected anything but friendship. During these years, I dated, got married, got divorced, and dated a bit more. I continued writing to Fabrice.

Then 9/11 happened. It made me understand how short life is and that it could be taken away at any second. Fabrice and I really bared our souls after that, although I think we didn’t realize how much our relationship was changing.

When Fabrice came to visit in September 2002, I went to pick him up at the airport, saw him, and fell in love at first sight. I know it sounds hokey, but you never think it will happen until it happens to you. I just knew I was going to marry him. I was so happy to finally meet the person I had gotten to know so well as a friend—we had all of that groundwork laid already.

It was an easy transition to romance. I spoke a little French, and Fabrice spoke some English. We went on long walks and started this wonderful new chapter in our lives.

Now Fabrice is the cook in our family; I haven’t had to cook a single meal since we got married. His quiche Lorraine and paella are my favorites.

To this day, I still have all of Fabrice’s letters.

He: It was wonderful finally meeting Heather after knowing her long distance for so long. I just knew she was the one. After I got my visa and put all the paperwork behind me, she and I settled in Spokane together.

I am still painting landscapes. When people tell me my artwork is beautiful, I do not question why. I know the reason: My wife inspires me.

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