Getting engaged is always a big moment, but for Pete Dering and Sarah Johnson it was downright epic ... even a bit out of this world. That’s because Pete orchestrated his proposal to align with a rare astronomical event. On Aug. 21, when the solar eclipse entered totality in Jackson Hole, he looked away from the eclipsed sun and into the eyes of Sarah, and asked her to marry him.
“It was the greatest act I have ever pulled off,” Pete said.
And Sarah recalls being at a “full 10” on every meter possible ... happiness, joy, love, appreciation for nature, beauty, passion, awe and connection.
It all began when the idea hit Pete (like a punch in the face) while on a plane from Chicago to San Francisco, just 10 days prior to the eclipse. He immediately felt a huge emotional surge of energy as he imagined the grandness of making an eclipse proposal possible.
It would take piecing together monumental logistics, but it didn’t matter. He was going to give it his all, much like his relationship with Sarah.
Sarah had already planned to be in Jackson Hole for the eclipse – her favorite place in the world – so Pete needed to first figure out how to get himself there. He also had to buy a ring, find a vehicle and a place to stay (not easy as places had been booked out years in advance), link up with people who knew the area, figure out a location to propose ... oh and a small curve ball ... he had to book a flight for him and Sarah that departed 50 minutes after the moment of totality, to make it to a trip he already had planned with his family.
The morning of the solar eclipse Pete and Sarah woke up on Shadow Mountain, a popular dispersed camping spot north of Jackson Hole with magnificent views of the Tetons. They spent the morning with an awesome mix of friends, some new and some old. These friends had played a huge supporting role in helping Pete orchestrate his proposal.
Pete felt some obvious anxiety, likely palpable by those who knew what he was about to go do. He never held anything back from Sarah, and now he was holding in a huge secret. As each moment went by, the emotional weight grew heavier.
From Sarah’s perspective, she could feel something different was in the mix, but she chalked it up to the build up to the eclipse, travel plans and tight timelines.
About 45 minutes before totality, Pete and Sarah left to drive closer to the airport to ensure they would make their flight. Sarah and Pete arrived at a spot that seemed just right and pulled over. They set up a camera (the perfect excuse to film the engagement) and found themselves somewhat secluded in the center of the valley below the Tetons ... able to sit and take in the final moments toward totality.
The eclipse was more powerful and moving than Pete and Sarah ever imagined, especially when totality hit. The event took their breath away and left them both speechless. They sat there next to each other soaking it up, staring into the mid-day sky of darkness, with jaws dropped and wonder in their eyes.
About 1 minute into totality Pete gathered himself up and searched in his pocket for the ring. The only thing at that moment that could’ve been bigger than the eclipse itself was asking the woman he loved to marry him.
Sarah was completely surprised and when asked the question and presented with the ring, the "yes" that she replied with was almost inaudible; she was overwhelmed by the grandness of it all.
While they were alone, the surrounding valley was buzzing with hoots, hollers and howlers – almost an animalistic celebration of observing the mind-blowing beauty of totality. It was as if the world had just won the Superbowl, and at the same time, that energy was in alignment with Pete and Sarah, as they committed to each other.
“In reflection, Pete just nailed it,” Sarah said. “There was no fluff, no crazy elaborate ring and no theatrics. It was all simple and true to what an engagement should be.”
Following the end of totality, they had about 6 minutes to soak it up. They embraced, smiled, giggled and felt in awe of what they had witnessed and committed to – becoming husband and wife.
They tossed everything in their borrowed truck and made moves for the airport. The song that came on the radio was Night Ranger by Sister Christian. It seemed just right: You're motoring ... What's your price for flight ... In finding mister right ...
They had the windows rolled down and waved at everyone they passed. Everyone was so pumped about the total solar eclipse, and it seemed for them too.
On the plane, they felt giddy. They shared their story with everyone and anyone. Pete and Sarah were on an emotional high.
“The totality is where it is at!” Pete said. “When there is another total eclipse, Sarah and I will be there!”