Penguins, Planes, and the Proposal: The Story of Erwin and Alex

On October 3, 2015, my work colleague and friend Erwin married beautiful Alexandria in London, Ontario.  I was blessed to emcee the reception that evening, and as part of the program I presented the following story about Erwin and Alex:  their meeting, the courting period, their dating, and the proposal.


The story of Erwin and Alex begins in March 2013 when Erwin sat across from me (and 3 others) in a boardroom in downtown Vancouver. We asked questions and he did his best to answer them.

One month later he was living in Vancouver and working at a new job. For a really good looking boss.

As I mentioned earlier, Erwin and Alex met in Saskatoon in January 2014 when they were both there for some youth ministry gatherings that had some really long names.

Alex’s first impression of Erwin was hardly a positive one. She found him abrupt, unapproachable, and standoffish. Pretty much everything you look for in a future husband.

Erwin’s first impression of Alex was quite different. He found her to have a unique beauty about her. But admittedly he wasn’t – in his words – overly attracted to her right away. But he was intrigued by her background, her story, and her nose ring.

Throughout the weekend, Erwin kept asking Alex to hang out but she had her priorities straight. No, it wasn’t the studying that she had good intentions to do. It was watching TLC’s ‘Four Weddings’ TV marathon on Netflix. Rejecting the man who would ultimately become your spouse…all because you wanted to watch wedding shows. How ironic.

Now Erwin claims he was being hospitable. Sure…if by hospitable you mean STALKING.

On the last day of the Conference, Erwin and Alex sat together for the banquet and talked the whole night. Their chemistry must have been quite good because the Cathedral’s fire alarm went off and rang continuously while everyone scrambled to help clean up. What is it with you guys and fire alarms?


Erwin’s stalking – I mean – interest in Alex was quite apparent and she was interested in him too. Alex was impressed by the way Erwin seemed to know what he was doing. He was organized, deeply rooted in his faith, had a servant’s heart, and was really slow…at cleaning tables. Come to think of it, it was a brilliant plan by Erwin to extend his time together with Alex.

But they were faced with the reality of returning to their respective cities. They started off by texting daily…and multiple times a day. I can attest to this because I don’t think Erwin knows how to turn the ringer off on his iPhone.

Texts led to phone calls and even hand-written letters.

Their conversations became even more deep….and then Erwin asked Alex if she felt the same way he did…that there was something there.

“No kidding” Alex replied, “You text me 358 times a day.”

Erwin – ever the romantic – asked Alex out…over the phone. Erwin asked her to go steady. She thought he said go study. He said, “No, go steady!” Alex said, “Who is Ghost Eddie? Is he related to Casper?”

Now, their conversations had more meaning and purpose. So they upped the ante.

They had movie dates over the phone…with both of them pressing play on their respective devices at the exact same time. Amazing.

They hopped onto planes for quick visits with each other at different meetings places throughout the country.

Then came the proposal. It was coming up to their one year dating anniversary, and Erwin happened to be in Yellowknife.

Remember what I was saying about Erwin having a great attention to detail? Being meticulous? And artsy fartsy?

Team Vancouver: #westcoastbestcoast
Team Vancouver: #westcoastbestcoast

I’ll let them take it from here. Straight from their wedding website:

[Erwin]: Knowing that Alex had to work a late shift on our actual anniversary, I went along with her suggestion that we would celebrate our anniversary the next day, instead. But really I had intended to surprise her all along… and so had she.

[Alex]: At about 11PM, after a full day’s work, we met for a short visit. Pretending to find us a late-night snack, I came out of the kitchen hiding Erwin’s anniversary gift behind a bag of Ruffles chips (both a decoy object and my dinner)!

[Erwin]: After opening the gift that Alex gave me, I handed her a ‘ball’ of yarn and asked her to find the end. Attached at different points throughout the yarn, were short notes that I had written to her.

The first message read: “Will you be my…”

[Erwin]: As she continued to follow the string she unraveled a heart-shaped pocket holding a small wooden penguin ornament to complete the sentence (“Will you be my … Penguin?”)

[Alex]: I smiled and told Erwin that I already was his ‘Penguin’ as he had been calling me this for months already.

Time out. I asked Erwin about his fascination with penguins and why he called Alex a penguin. Was it her ability to think in clear black and white terms? Or was it a not-so-subtle reference to her black hair and white skin?

It’s neither. Apparently, Erwin is a big Christina Perri fan, and one her songs is called “Penguin”. The song talks about some of a penguin’s qualities, including the way they mate for life.

I accept that. And besides, it’s much better than another Christina song. That would be Christina Aguilera’s song “Dirty”. “Will you be my dirty” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Back to the story:

Alex continued to follow the string, and found another message: “Will you be my…”

At this point her heart was racing, and she was beginning to get nervous.

Further along the string there was another tag with the word “Forever” written on it. This completed the message: “Will you be my… Forever?”

Alex was really getting nervous at this point and so was Erwin because the string had tied into a knot – this was not part of his plan!

Erwin was frustrated that his string plan wasn’t unraveling the way he wanted it to (see what I did there?). He frantically checked his post it notes for instructions on how to get out of this mess but to no avail. So he pulled out some scissors and cut it.

Now free to work through the knot, Alex continued to follow the string and hidden within the last heart-shaped pocket was a beautiful ring!

Erwin got down on one knee and professed to Alex how much he loved her, how there was no one else he’d rather spend his life with, and how he hoped they would share the rest of their lives together.

Alex didn’t immediately answer or say anything…probably stunned that she realized the guy she was going to marry was into knitting more than she was.

So Erwin repeated, “Will you marry me?”

Thankfully, she said yes.

Erwin and Alex: look at this room and at all the people who are here to celebrate with you tonight. What a testament to the impact you’ve had on the lives of everyone here.

It’s plain to see that the love that you share for each other is definitely God’s doing. There’s no doubt in my mind – and I’m sure in yours – that God meant for the two of you to meet and fall in love. As we heard at the Church today, you moved to your new cities within a month of each other in 2013. That is all God’s doing.

Erwin likes to introduce me to people as his boss. But, I’ve been telling people that for today, he is my boss. And going forward, Erwin will have 2 bosses: me…and Alex.

You know what else is boss? Just a year and a half after binge watching Four Weddings, Alex has said Yes to the Dress.

May God bless you both abundantly.


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