John and Beth both realized sometime during the summer of 2003 that they had found "the one," and both began scheming separately for their engagement.
The first person to learn of John's intention was his friend Zina, who provided excellent advice: the first questions everyone would ask Beth when learning of her engagement would be "how" and "where." John certainly wanted to create the perfect proposal and took Zina's advice to heart.
First, John needed the perfect setting. He fondly remembered going to the Bahamas with Matt while in college and wanted to share that experience with Beth. After some research, John found and rented the same beach home he'd stayed in previously, "Sea Watch," just outside of Hope Town in the Bahamas. Shortly after Christmas, the two of them would head off for a week in the sun and seclusion of a tropical isle.
Next, John needed the perfect ring. Beth was too special for a store-bought oh-so-generic band and stone, so John needed to find a custom jeweler to create her ring. Satisfying Beth's moral aversion to diamonds (and his own aesthetic tastes), John picked out a beautiful natural blue sapphire around which jeweler Geoffrey Good built a fantastic ring.
Finally, John needed the proposal itself. Drawing upon his talents as a writer and Beth's interest in children's books, John crafted a narrative he called "Beth's Story," written in children's style prose and illustrated with photos from the times and experiences they'd shared. He printed and hand-made the book on Japanese paper bound with a bamboo cover. The final passage read:
Of course, Beth's story isn't finished yet. In fact, the kookikins might begin a whole new chapter right here and now. All the kookikins needs to do is turn the page...
Whereupon a recess in the pages held Beth's ring and the completion of the previous page's text:
... And say "Yes."
And say "yes" she did... and Beth had a surprise of her own in store!
Beth had had a specially-designed ring made for John as well, custom designed by Faith Capone and featuring his favorite stone, a lapis lazuli. Beth carried this ring around her neck in a small blue velvet pouch in anticipation of John's proposal.