CHICAGO — A Chicago man is engaged thanks to a marriage proposal more than a year in the making.
Josh Schmitz proposed to his girlfriend Danielle Roesch Friday near Adler Planetarium, but it was the lead-up that had "grown men crying," he said.
Schmitz, 29, says he and Roesch don't see much of each other on work days because he wakes up early for his shift, according to WGN-TV. The heavy equipment manager said he and Roesch, also 29, began writing each other notes telling the other about their day, for them to read once they wake up or go to sleep.
More than a year ago, the heartfelt solution became an inspiration for a much bigger idea.
“I like going back and reminiscing on our past and things we do together,” Roesch said.
On Aug. 19, 2015, he decided to write a secret note to her on a white board every day for a year and film it for a proposal video.
Messages on the board included, "I want to spend forever with you," and "You're my one true love."
Schmitz recorded about 10 seconds of each message, often discretely while they were together, such as on a trip to South Africa. He said when she saw the video he wanted her to look back fondly on their time together.
He said there was only one close call: “I dropped the board, she was cooking something on the stove. But she never caught on."
The plan remained a secret for a year, but only to Roesch.
"Some of her friends knew as far out as September," Schmitz said.
On Friday he coaxed Roesch into visiting Adler by having one of his friends make a fake invitation, "Adler After Dark." Eager friends and family, about 50 of them from places such as New York, Arizona, even London, would attend with them.
"In the invitation it said, 'cocktail attire,' so she wore something nice," Schmitz said. He also had a mobile billboard parked near the planetarium with a monitor ready to play his final video.
When they all arrived, the movie played. At the end he was waiting for her by the lake on one knee.
“At that point her friend walks her across the street, I had rose petals laid out on the ground and the steps to the lake,” he recounted. "She was definitely shaking, she kept saying, 'How did you do this? How did you do this?'"
He asked her verbally, then had her check a box on the white board: "Yes" or "Maybe." There wasn't an option for "No."
She checked "Yes," in permanent marker.
The two were engaged along Lake Michigan with the city's skyline as a backdrop, an image familiar to how Schmitz first saw her. The couple met on the dating app Tinder, and Roesch's profile picture was of her standing near the very same spot.
The roughly 50 friends and family all stood by watching the couple celebrate. Thirty more attended his final surprise later that night: another engagement party, this time at the rooftop of Plymouth Grill.
Today Schmitz says he and Roesch still exchange notes about their day.
"I wrote her one this morning, but I addressed it 'fiancée' this time, which was nice," Schmitz said.