Food News

Wedding Proposals: The Dark Side

Take another little piece of it now, baby.The white cloth drapes perfectly on the specially reserved table; the candles are lit; the staff anxiously waits in the back with the ring strategically placed on a silver platter surrounded by rose petals, and the only thing to do now is wait to hear the magic word, "Yes." This is how Courtney Luscher, general manager at The Grape, describes the excitement of wedding proposals at her restaurant. But what happens when things go awry? How is the staff supposed to react?

I remember waiting tables through college and seeing happy couples come and go, but there were those few awkward moments that one must endure when the bride says "No."

Luscher is lucky to admit that she has never seen a groom have his proposal turned down. "I have seen many, many, MANY proposals. The Grape is infamous for them," Luscher says. "I'm so happy to say that nothing has gone awry. It's a little nerve racking but somewhat entertaining to see how nervous the men get. They call a hundred times, asking the same questions over and over to make sure everything will work out according to their plan."

Because Valentine's Day is just hours away and romantic disasters are way more entertaining the successes, I checked with several local restaurants to find whether they had any great oh-hell-no moments. Apparently, Dallas is for lovers -- or restaurant managers know better than to advertise disasters -- because most of the people I spoke with say they have never experienced anything other than slight mishaps when it comes to wedding proposals at their establishments.

Kip Corkill, manager of Avanti, says he has learned from past missteps. "Once I made the mistake of telling a few cocktails servers about this gentleman's plan to propose," he says. "They started staring at his table instead of paying attention to what they were doing and almost blew it for him. He looked pretty green, but she said yes, so all was well."

For a server, keeping such juicy information secret while maintaining your cool and giving the table excellent service is a tough job. Rebecca Mendiola, who works at a Corner Bakery in Southlake, has been in the service industry for nine years and has seen a few awkward moments at previous jobs. "I've always thought that things like proposals are so intimate and should not be done in public," Mendiola says. "It's so awkward for people around you, especially ones that are having to serve you."

Mendiola may seem less romantic than some of the others I spoke with, but the they didn't witness the proposal she saw last summer at a catering gig.

"It went awfully wrong. I was catering at a wedding and this guy interrupts the reception," Mendiola says. "We all think he's about to make a toast, because that's what you do at receptions, but this guy decides to propose to the bride's little sister. Apparently he didn't ask the father for permission, so the dad immediately flipped out. Then, if things weren't bad enough already, the bride flipped out because her day was ruined, and started yelling in the middle of the reception. An answer couldn't even be said because everyone immediately started arguing. We all just stopped working and started staring. It was such a train wreck we couldn't look away."

After the excitement began to wind down, Mendiola says the servers were becoming more and more nervous. The father of the bride was supposed to pay them, and since the bride and groom stormed off, they began to think they might be stiffed. He did pay up, though.

John Sarvarian, general manager of St. Martins Wine Bistro, has never witnessed something so awkward at his dark and cozy establishment. "Usually every night someone is proposing here," he says. "Most people that come in are couples either on a hot first date or for a special romantic evening. A couple of times we have had men call and make a reservation for a proposal, so we have the arrangements ready, but then they actually realize that their girlfriend isn't ready for it, and call and cancel. No one has ever said no in the restaurant, but a few have chickened out before."

Faint heart never won fair lady, they say, but then whoever "they" are probably never had their heart ripped out between appetizers and dessert. Aubrey Chesner, a server for more than five years who works in real estate now, saw that happen. It wasn't pretty. "They ordered food and were holding hands across the table so everything looked OK," Chesner says. "But then I saw her back her hands away, and her leg started shaking under the table. I couldn't hear what was being said, but she was just staring blankly at him. I wanted to ask if everything was OK, because neither touched the food. I asked if the food tasted all right, and they just nodded. I went back and told another server the situation and everyone started staring out the window at them. You could immediately tell what was going on. It was so awkward for me because I had to continue waiting on them and didn't know how to react."

That one ended in a break-up, not a wedding.

Servers sometimes go through weeks of training before being sent out on to the floor, but there is no course for break-ups 101. So maybe Mendiola's right, unless the guy knows for certain that the magic word "Yes" will be the response, keep that proposal locked hidden from the public eye.

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Megan Morris
Contact: Megan Morris