Coronavirus Wedding Diaries: The Quarantine Didn’t Stop My At-Home Proposal

One Philadelphia couple’s journey to engagement despite the COVID-19 outbreak.

Philadelphia proposal

Christopher Bordoni proposed to Danielle Hulen during the coronavirus crisis. Photo courtesy the couple

The coronavirus crisis has upended life in Philly (and across the country) in more ways than we can count. With the strictest guidelines focused on large group gatherings, weddings as the grand celebrations we know and love them as are effectively halted. While there’s no perfect roadmap for how to proceed, there is something to learn from every couple’s story as they navigate postponing, canceling, and changing their wedding plans in the wake of COVID-19.

This story is part of Philadelphia Wedding’s on-going Real Talk series, where real Philly couples share their unique approaches to wedding planning and marriage. If you have a unique story or experience worth sharing, we’d love to hear about it.

The couple: Danielle Hulen, 29, and Christopher Bordoni, 35, of South Philly

We met on Tinder in April 2016. I actually canceled our first date two hours before we were supposed to meet because I was asked to stay for an overtime shift at work. As a Philly firefighter, you’re taught to never turn down an overtime shift. Thankfully, Danielle did not turn me down. We rescheduled for the following night and had an amazing dinner at Modo Mio on Girard Avenue. That was almost four years ago, and she still lets me take overtime. 

I knew I wanted to spend my life with Danielle very early on. We respect each other’s emotions and beliefs. We were always honest with each other, even during those hard conversations. I had never experienced real communication like that in a romantic relationship. Because of all of this, I wanted the ring to be something special. I decided to custom design it. I first walked into Bario Neal on Aug. 8th, 2019. Designer Sarah Rachel Brown was amazing and really helped me make my idea even better than I imagined. [Because of] a few changes and a stone-sourcing issue with customs, it took about seven months until the ring was finished.

I thought the coronavirus crisis was going to ruin everything. The city went on lockdown before I could secretly sneak out to the jewelry store. Thankfully, Bario Neal was still doing curbside pickups. It was Wednesday, March 18th. My excuse to get out of the house was to take our dog, Stella, on a hike in Wissahickon Creek. After an eight-mile hike I showed up to Bario Neal to pick up the ring. Sarah made the handoff, and Stella and I booked it home. For days leading up to this, everyone was asking how I was going to propose. I always felt it would be best to just do it alone and when it felt right. Having [waited so long, that day] felt right. … I was not letting a national emergency stop me. 

I could not have been more surprised (as told by Danielle). Wednesday was completely unremarkable in every way except for his proposal. I was sending out one last email from my makeshift kitchen-table WFH space. He had just gotten home. A couple minutes after he got in, he said, “Oh, look what Stella and I found in the woods.” I walked into the kitchen expecting a feather or a skeleton or a rock. So I almost fell over when, instead of a nature treasure on the kitchen counter, there were the rings perfectly propped up in their box. 

RELATED: A Guide to Philadelphia Weddings During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Afterward, I made us martinis. Then we showered. We were living the “I don’t need to shower” quarantine life, and we wanted to snap a few pictures on our roof deck as we knew we wouldn’t be able to see any family or friends to celebrate. 

I called my mother, who immediately burst into happy tears (as told by Danielle). I called my dad and stepmom; there was lots of cheering on that call. I think the two of us spent hours communicating with our friends and family. … The next day we did a little South Philly tour to show the ring to Chris’ grandmother, his sister’s family, and his parents through the glass doors of homes. Our two friends came by later that day to congratulate us through our glass door. 

When we first shared the news via calls, FaceTimes, texts and eventually to everyone on social media, we were overwhelmed with love from all of the responses. What put everything in perspective for me were the people responding saying “Thank you” and “You have no idea how much I needed to hear this today.” I couldn’t feel any happier knowing that news of our engagement gave people we care about a little hope and something exciting to look forward to. 

Philadelphia engagement

Chris worked with jewelry designer Bario Neal to create a combination ring that can be worn as a solitaire or with its cluster, with their favorite stones (his is tourmaline, and hers is amethyst).

I am feeling elated (as told by Danielle). Honestly, the morning of the day Chris proposed was hard for me. I started my day at 4:30 a.m. by reading an article that said this lockdown could last another 18 months. Later in the morning, I was discussing the state of affairs with a coworker and started to feel overwhelmed. Even though we don’t really know when this chaos will be over, the engagement has given me something huge to look forward to even if we can’t set a date yet. 

We will [hopefully] be scouting out a location when we backpack out West this October. The ceremony will be a small, intimate occasion, but we want to have a big, fun celebration when we get back home. As of now, a Philly-style block-party blowout is in the lead. Food trucks and formalwear. 

My advice is to lean into each other during these uncertain times (as told by Danielle). When everything seems scary, find comfort and stability in each other. I think we all have to take everything day by day. I’m practicing patience and detachment for all of the plans that I had for the spring and summer. My heart goes out to those who have had to cancel their weddings. 

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