Priya Mehta, 23, of Birmingham didn’t think she was the kind of woman who would like a marriage proposal in a public place with strangers witnessing one of life’s most precious milestones.
But that was before her boyfriend of four years, Marty Brown, 30, got down on one knee on live television last Friday morning with 5.6 million viewers watching.
In that moment — on that very public stage of a Good Morning America set — the world fell away, just the way it is supposed to.
“I’m not a very emotional person,” Mehta said last Sunday, the day after arriving home from New York City with her newly betrothed. “But when it happens, you can’t help but tear up. The thing is, I just never thought I would like getting proposed to in a situation where other people are watching, but I didn’t feel like that at all. I know that people probably say this all the time, but it was like everyone else was gone when Marty got down on one knee. It was like it was just the two of us.”
Brown, a realtor with SKBK Sotheby’s International Realty in Birmingham, was selected as one of 25 people from around the country for an all-expenses-paid trip to the Big Apple to surprise their partners with an on-air wedding proposal. A producer contacted Brown a couple weeks ago after he submitted a photo and a 200-word essay. The ruse told the unaware significant others was they had won a free trip to a GMA Valentine’s Day Concert at Bryant Park in New York City.
“Marty texted me at work and asked if I could get next Thursday and Friday off because he’d won a sweepstakes-type thing,” Mehta said. “So I Googled it, and sure enough, there was a winter series concert with grand prize winners and so I said, ‘Wow, you must have won that,’ and he just said, ‘yeah.’ ”
Meanwhile, Brown put his proposal plans on fast forward; he needed a ring, fast. Fortunately Kyle Astrein at Astrein’s Jewelry came through.
“They said this should be the least of your worries,” Brown said.
So Brown picked out a setting and they placed a fake diamond in the prongs for the time being.
“I wouldn’t have known, so he probably shouldn’t have told me,” Mehta said. “It’s beautiful.”
“Yeah,” Brown chimed in. “I probably could have saved myself a bunch of money.”
Mehta, who is the daughter of Claire and Dr. Mehul Mehta, a hand surgeon in Birmingham, was paired with Brown, the son of Pamela and Pastor Jack Brown of Olivet Congregational Church, at a family wedding. In August 2009, Mehta’s older sister, Niki, married Brown’s younger brother, Mitchell; Priya Mehta was the maid of honor and Marty Brown was the best man. The following year, Brown went to visit Mehta while she was in school in Colorado and the relationship blossomed.
Mehta, who is studying to be an optometrist, and Brown share a love of travel, and for both, family takes priority. More than anything else, they simply enjoy being together. In the pre-taping teasers for GMA, Brown pretty much knocked it out of the park. He said the reason he wanted to marry was: “When you find someone who makes you feel better about yourself than you could have ever imagined, you can’t let her go.”
Brown felt comfortable enough to joke around with Dr. Mehta when he asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
“I hadn’t told either of our parents beforehand what was happening,” Brown said. “So I waited until just before we left to ask for his blessing. I sat him down and told him I had a confession to make and that I had been lying to everyone just to tease him a little. “
No to be outdone, Dr. Mehta joked back. “He said: ‘So what happens if I say no? Does that mean you have to cancel the whole trip? And I said: ‘No, it means I’m taking a free trip to New York!’ Then he gave me a hug and welcomed me officially to the family.”
After spending the night at the Millenium Broadway Hotel in the heart of Times Square, the couples were outfitted with skates and gathered on the ice for a special performance by Christina Perri singing “A Thousand Years,” the platinum hit she wrote for “The Twilight Saga — Breaking Dawn, Part 1.”
As Perri sang atop a piano in the middle of the ice rink, GMA co-anchor Lara Spencer and correspondent T.J. Holmes pretended something went wrong with the audio, which was the grooms’ cue to get down on bended knee.
“We were all extremely worried that we were going to fall over while trying to kneel down,” Brown said laughing. But gallantry kept them steady. “I just told her I loved her and asked her to marry me.”
While Mehta says she had her suspicions — she thought maybe he was going to ask her privately — she never expected to be swept off her feet, much less on live television.
“It was perfect,” she said. “It was so perfect.”