By Jordy Yager - 10/14/09 11:50 PM EDT
Bieszka, 25, put on a black suit and red tie and went to work as a legislative correspondent for Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.).
So she called Bieszka, her boyfriend, who told her to meet him for lunch at Bullfeathers of Capitol Hill.
Meanwhile, Aderholt had a group of constituents scheduled for a tour of the Capitol Dome that afternoon, but the group canceled at the last minute.
Aderholt knew that Bieszka had been itching to propose to Grumm and would have loved to do it on top of the Capitol Dome.
So the congressman told his staffer about the cancellation, and they set a plan in motion.
Aderholt has become an old hand at arranging marriage proposals for his employees. In January, Josh Willis, one of his legislative aides, proposed to his girlfriend on top of the Capitol Dome as well.
The idea itself came from Aderholt’s staffers. Willis and Bieszka hatched the proposal plan during a casual conversation in the office. Bieszka hadn’t even met Grumm yet, but the self-described romantic was more than happy to help his friend plan the perfect setting for an engagement.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t remember if Josh had come up with [the idea to propose on top of the Dome], or I came up with it, or if it was kind of a joint venture of us getting all excited and talking about different things to do,” Bieszka said.
Nevertheless, he soon followed suit. Bieszka’s plan was to surprise Grumm at the top of the Dome with a ring, but the tour wasn’t scheduled until later in the afternoon. So, with time to kill, they took a walk through the parks on the south side of the House office buildings and then through the U.S. Botanic Gardens.
Finally Bieszka, Grumm, Aderholt, several other staff members and a friend of Aderholt’s met the tour guide, and that was the only moment when Grumm thought something seemed slightly off.
“Mark loves photography and he didn’t have his camera, so I was like, ‘Why don’t you have your camera?’ ” she said. “He said, ‘No worries, everyone else has cameras.’ ”
Grumm didn’t think about it again for the rest of the tour, she said.
Bieszka had given his camera to Darrell Jordan, Aderholt’s communications director, who waited at the base of the Capitol’s West Front with a telephoto lens. His plan was to zoom in close on the couple after they were engaged.
Aderholt said he wasn’t nervous, but that he worried Bieszka might have been.
“As we got to the top of the Rotunda, I asked him occasionally, ‘Everything good?’ ” Aderholt said in a phone interview. “I was just checking in with him. I would sort of whisper to the side, and I don’t think she caught on.”
At the top of the Dome, the guide offered a detailed account of the sprawling landscape beneath them, but she was talking a little too much. Bieszka was getting “antsy,” Grumm said.
Sensing his impatience, Aderholt directed everyone’s attention over to the north side of the Dome and peppered the guide with questions so that the couple could be alone.
“To give them a little privacy, I asked the tour guide some questions about where Maryland was and if you could see Maryland up there and was that particular point Maryland,” Aderholt said. “So we were all distracted in that conversation, and the next thing, he was engaged.”
Grumm was completely surprised.
“He was talking to me and he got a little serious and told me how much he loved me and he wants to love me for the rest of my life,” she said. “And I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s happening?’
“And then he walked around me, he got down on one knee and opened up this big box and this beautiful ring was right there,” Grumm said. “And he said, ‘Would you make me the happiest man? I want to love you forever and I want you to be my wife. Will you marry me?’ And I was so shocked, just because I wasn’t expecting it that day.”
It took Grumm a minute to get her wits back about her, she said, but she eventually took her hands down from over her mouth and exclaimed, “Yes!”
(Bieszka did have a proposal Plan B: dinner at Sander’s Corner, a Maryland restaurant where Grumm and her grandfather would traditionally dine.)
In the week since the proposal, they haven’t yet talked too much about wedding details — other than that they’d like to keep it simple.
“Something simple, something fun, something that brings people together and they can just have a good time. Nothing too formal,” Grumm said. “We’ve kind of joked around with the idea of a backyard barbecue. That would be OK with us.”
Bieszka also joked that he and his brother each want “a football team” of children so they can coach them and play them against each other on family holidays and reunions. But more realistically, he and Grumm will be happy with a couple of biological children and perhaps be open to adopting several more, Bieszka said.
Bieszka and Grumm met through mutual friends at a game night at Grumm’s place. She was wearing a yellow shirt and khaki shorts and looked “stunning,” Bieszka remembered. But it was several months later — on May 8 — that they went on their first date.
When he picked her up, Bieszka offered her an apple (since she’s a teacher) instead of flowers, and he tried to surprise her by taking her duckpin bowling, only to find that the alley was closed. So they returned to Grumm’s place to play Battleship.
“She definitely sunk my battleship,” Bieszka recalled.
And that, he said, is when he began falling in love with her.