Surprising your soulmate can be surprisingly hard to pull off. They know your habits better than anyone in the world, and can see most of your responses coming from a mile away. Thankfully for Marlon LeWinter, he had the right plan to throw Ashley Yanover off his scent in order to surprise her with a live television proposal on NBC’s TODAY show.
How did LeWinter pull that off? Learn that and more here in this fun interview with the memorable couple that captured imaginations everywhere.
PCS: First off, congratulations and thanks for letting me help tell your story. Let’s just jump right in. What is the story of when, where, and how you kids met? I recall Marlon giving me a brief recap about you actually trying to make another guy jealous by talking to him, but I have a feeling you have a better take.
Ashley: Marlon is completely correct! It was ME who picked him up!! I was trying to make another guy jealous. It was a Sunday morning in January and I went to the gym with my roommate after I had been stood up the night before. I was SO upset, but ready to have an amazing workout. Of COURSE, I ran into the guy who stood me up (who shall continue to be called “nameless”). I decided the best way to try to make the “nameless” guy jealous was to talk to some other guy. Basically Marlon is the “other guy.” He was literally hanging upside down doing an abs workout. I had never seen anyone doing that before so I went over and started talking to him. Turns out we had a lot in common – both our families are in south Florida, he knew my cousin through work stuff. Right in front of the “nameless” guys face we exchanged email addresses.
For the next several months we would email each other at work, finally we moved on to text messaging, phone calls here and there and what do you know… six months later we ran into each other outside of the gym again and we made plans to hang out. To be completely honest, I didn’t think it was a date, but now that I think about it, it was the BEST last first date that I ever had. He has completely changed my life and is the most amazing thing to ever happen to me. I am so glad Marlon was the “other guy”.
PCS: When did you realize that you wanted to propose? Was there one specific moment when it hit you that “I want to marry this girl!” or was it a natural progression to you for your relationship?
Marlon: Literally our first date. We went for brunch and I never laughed so hard or smiled so brightly. We met at 12:30 p.m. and one of my best friends from Long Island was coming into the city to meet with me around 2:30 a.m. The time FLEW by and I just didn’t want to say goodbye to Ash. I insisted on walking her to her friend’s apartment. I went to meet my friend but I literally couldn’t get her off my mind.
If you look into Ashley’s eyes and see her smile, you can easily understand why she is the best thing to ever happen to me. It doesn’t matter what we do, where we are, or who are around. All I want to do is spend time with that person. I used to ask friends of mine in relationships, “How did you know she was right for you?” and I would always hear, “you just know,” – with Ash, I just knew!
PCS: Once you were ready to propose, was the plan always to do something spectacular in a very public setting all along?
Marlon: I went into this wanting to do three things: something that could be captured on video (without Ashley knowing about it!), something so unique that no one else could do it, and more importantly something where both our families could be a part of it.
PCS: Have you ever surprised Ashley in this manner for other special occasions before?
Marlon: (laughs) That might be more of a question for my gorgeous fiancé! Ash?
Ashley: Marlon is the ABSOLUTE BEST when it comes to surprises.
PCS: The money question: how did you pull it all off?!
Marlon: Took a LOT of planning – three months to be exact. Both of our families live down in Florida and it was very important to me that we were all together. I knew if I proposed in Florida she would be expecting it so it had to be in New York. Plus this is where we met! We went ring shopping in November and both of us fell in love with the ring. I had told Ash that it was just too expensive for me and I would be happy to get it for her, but that I wouldn’t be able to buy it now and would need to save for a few more months.
Little did she know when she went to the bathroom I put down a deposit on it and then met with the designer over the next few months. I was on the phone with our families basically everyday for three straight months going over logistics.
PCS: How afraid if at all were you that she would say, “No?”
Marlon: The thought never crossed my mind. We have SUCH a good time together and love being around each other. Ashley is truly my soulmate.
PCS: I know you were surprised by your reaction of the timing, but did you expect a proposal at some point from Marlon? (I know my wife did.)
Ashley: I knew Marlon was the right guy for me. I just didn’t think it would happen for a while. He really did an amazing job planning this out.
PCS: I would be nervous just being on (I assume live?) TV, give me a rundown on what was going through your mind the night before and as Ashley was doing the segment intro.
Marlon: The night before I couldn’t sleep. I went into the bathroom and kept alternating which knee I was going to propose on. Saturday morning, we are getting dressed and I realize that I can’t put the ring box in my pocket or it would definitely draw attention, so I have it in my coat pocket thinking, “I will find another way.” The green room at the TODAY Show green room was freezing so I kept my jacket on, and moved it to my back pocket just before the segment.
PCS: So how exactly did this all come together?
Marlon: So the funny thing is that Ash didn’t want to be on-camera. AT ALL. Growing up, her dream was to be a producer on the TODAY Show so she was just really excited to go behind-the-scenes and see the production of everything. She thought that I was participating in a “fitness segment.” A few days before the “fitness segment,” the producer invited us to be the “fans of the day,” and Ash was a bit tentative about doing it. I had to convince her that I was nervous about being on-air by myself and really could use her support – so she reluctantly gave in – and did an awesome job on camera! Now we have an incredible memory for life. How many people can say that they are able to capture that exact moment? March 7, 2015 at 8:36 is captured in both our hearts and our cameras – forever!
PCS: Once it hit you that Marlon was actually proposing to you on TV, what went through your mind as well?
Ashley: I am STILL IN SHOCK! I didn’t know if this was a dream or real life. From my reaction you can probably tell I was completely surprised. I knew we were going to get engaged one day, but never in a million years thought it would be on national television! If you knew Marlon, you would know he always like to do things BIG and he definitely out did himself! This was the MOST AMAZING PROPOSAL! We might have re-watched it 50 times that day!
PCS: You asked Marlon, “Are you serious?’ after the proposal. At any point, did you think that it was not a real proposal and you were holding your breath in case Ashton Kutcher jumped out?
Ashley: Before my parents got engaged, my dad would have “fake out” proposals for my mom. Marlon and I like to joke around (A LOT) together so I thought maybe he was just kidding around with me. As much as I love Ashton Kutcher, I am happy he didn’t jump out and the proposal was real.
PCS: From what I have seen, the internet seems to have pegged you as the, “Are you serious girl?” I have to ask, do you say, “Are you serious?” on a regular basis?
Ashley: Hmm, I would say it is one of my signature sayings. Marlon, what do you think?
Marlon: Definitely one of her most commonly used phrases!
PCS: What family members were hiding behind the scenes that you see come out in the video after Ashley (thankfully) said yes?
Marlon: Ashley’s parents, my parents, and her brother, and future sister-in-law. Our families are VERY close. The TODAY Show staff was unbelievable – they arranged for cars to pick us up at our apartment and then 30 minutes later, arranged for two other cars to bring our parents (Ashley had no idea that they were in NYC) to the show – they put our families in a different green room on a different floor – so she had NO idea whatsoever.
Ashley even called her mom to remind her to put on the TODAY Show and when she got no answer at her parents’ house she called her mom’s cell asking where she was. Her mom said she was walking the dog and that her dad was in the shower. Little did Ashley know they were at 30 Rock and in a green room two floors below us!
PCS: Can you give us an idea what it was like behind the scenes after the cameras were not on you two directly following the proposal?
Ashley: The TODAY Show went above and beyond, they made all of us feel like such VIP’s. Everyone from Erica Hill, Sheinelle Jones, and Craig Melvin to the producers, cameramen, and switchboard operators came over to give us hugs and well wishes. They brought us back into the Orange Room for two other shots, and ended the show with us waving to the cameras. Afterwards, they brought us onto the set and the couch and let us take photos. It was SO amazing!!
PCS: With the internet not being the most positive place, have you lovebirds received any kind of negative feedback from the having such a public proposal?
Ashley: The only negative we have heard was, “How come you didn’t tell us to tune in?”
Marlon: I just wanted all of this to be a complete surprise! People have been amazing. I have heard from friends of friends and people started following us on Facebook and Instagram. It’s really been incredible.
PCS: After all is said and done, would you make the proposal in the same manner again or would you want do something more intimate?
Marlon: I wouldn’t change a thing. It truly was the most perfect day of my life. You can probably count on your hand those certain moments in life that truly stand out: Graduating college, getting engaged, your wedding day, the birth of your first child etc. I just wanted this to be the most perfect day of Ashley’s life.
PCS: Have you kids set a date yet, and when should I expect my invitation?
Ashley: We haven’t set a date yet – we know it’s going to be in South Florida but now the fun begins! I think Marlon is most excited about the food tastings at each venue! As for your invite – talk to our publicist (laughs!)
PCS: Not to be too personal, but are both planning on settling down with the two kids and the picket fence, or is that a discussion to be had in the future?
Ashley: One hundred percent! Add a mini golden doodle in there, a gym within walking distance, and amazing weather and life will be complete!
PCS: Sounds good to me! I’ll let you two get back to planning and feel free to give us updates on the big day as they come. Congratulations and thanks again to both of you!