Melody Dale of Cleveland had one of the biggest surprises of her life recently when she was caught unaware with a flash mob wedding proposal by boyfriend Steven Vagnini.
The daughter of Edwin and Karen Dale had come home to Cleveland to visit for a few days from her job as an internal communications specialist at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. She did not know that Vagnini, who also lives in California and works for the Disney Archives in Burbank, had secretly traveled to Tennessee to surprise her on the Walnut Street Bridge in Chattanooga where he first asked her to be his girlfriend.
Vagnini, a Disney archivist, had planned the ultimate magical, musical proposal for months. He had reserved the Walnut Street Bridge and sent out detailed color-coded charts, schedules and itineraries to Disney Cast friends from Orlando, family, former high school friends from Jackson, college friends, and even some of Dale’s former University of Tennessee-Chattanooga professors.
He also provided an instructional video on how to do the “Melody Time” dance on the chorus of the song, with help from Orlando cast member friends. More than 20 participants rehearsed the event three hours on the day prior to the proposal — all without Dale having any clue. Props had to be gathered and used at specific points in the song, including baskets of silk flower petals, picnic basket and blanket, two bicycles, a large sign/note, a trumpet, yellow flowers, a piece of sheet music just for Dale, and even a favorite puppet named Thurgood.
“That’s How You Know” from the Disney film “Enchanted” played from the rolling speaker as the cast of friends carefully choreographed each line of the song. Dale sang at First Centenary United Methodist Church in Chattanooga that morning, where she was a music intern during college, and then went to the bridge, thinking that her brother Benjamin and sister Caroline were going to meet them there for family photos.
Vagnini had carefully planned for Dale and her parents to stop at a point on the bridge that was marked with an orange tie, and then the music began. Only two friends appeared at the start, and as they turned and approached her, Dale remarked, “That looks like Kelsey and Matthew, but they are in Florida.”
They quickly swept her away, walking down the bridge as friends came out with their props and moves for each line of the song.
At the close of the final chorus, the dancers spun around to form a “V shape,” and held out their arms, looking down the bridge, but nobody was there.
Vagnini had planned this also, wanting there to be a moment of bewilderment. As the cast began to murmur, “Where is he? Where is he?” Vagnini eased up to Dale from behind and tapped her gently on the shoulder. He gave her a list of things they had hoped to do together, and shared some sentimental words before kneeling with the ring box. He then asked Dale to be his bride.
She did not hesitate, but immediately said, “Awwww … Yes!” Then just as planned, the soft music made a crescendo back into the chorus, the cast once again did a dance and covered the couple in colorful pop-out kabuki streamers.
The joyous celebration continued as everyone went for a luncheon at the Back Inn Café. The couple first met after Dale graduated from UT-C and went to Orlando in the fall of 2010 for an internship with Disney. Dale, a singer in her own right, ended her internship early to return to the Junaluska Singers for their Winter concert, but Vagnini came to visit in Cleveland and asked her to be his girlfriend on the Walnut Street Bridge.
Now, the California couple is poised to live happily ever after. Their wedding is planned to take place at the Disney Pavilion in Orlando in the fall of 2014, after Dale’s brother returns from a year in Taiwan as a Cleveland outbound exchange student.