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Today may be Valentine’s Day, but a local business got a dose of romance a month early when a man visiting Williamsburg from Newport News stopped in and asked if he could use the space to propose to his girlfriend of seven years.
Kendall Bynum approached Gulay Berryman, owner of Williamsburg Art Gallery, about his desire to propose to his girlfriend in the gallery when he unexpectedly stopped in while on a day trip to the area Jan. 16.
“The gentleman, Kendall, came in first and quietly explained he would like to ask if he could use the gallery spaces briefly for a very special event – he wished to propose to his girlfriend Stacy,” Berryman said. “We were only too happy to help them celebrate this joyous moment in their lives.”
Though Bynum, a lawyer who currently lives and practices in Newport News, had been thinking of proposing to Stacy Graham for a while and had recently purchased her a ring, he did not make the decision to propose during the couple’s planned day trip to Williamsburg until the night before they left.
“I had been looking online, on Pinterest, everywhere to try to get ideas for the perfect moment to propose,” Bynum said.
He had originally planned to wait until the couple went together to an upcoming wine festival elsewhere in the state but felt a sudden urge to move the proposal date up.
“I decided she’s the person I want to marry and I didn’t want to wait one more moment,” Bynum said.
Bynum came up with the idea to go to Williamsburg for a day trip the next day and propose at Liberty’s Ice Pavilion, the temporary ice skating rink on Duke of Gloucester Street.
“It seemed like a typical day,” Graham said of her mood when they set out for Williamsburg from Newport News that morning. “I felt the day before like he was up to something but I didn’t know what.”
The couple arrived in Williamsburg and made their way toward Duke of Gloucester Street, but once the ice rink was within his sites Bynum began to have second thoughts about his proposal venue of choice.
“I saw there were a lot of people out there,” Bynum said, laughing. “She’s not a big ‘hey, look at me’ person and neither am I.”
Bynum had purposefully left his phone in the car so he could double back to get the ring right before he proposed, so at that moment he sent Graham into the Barnes & Noble located right beside the rink and headed back to the car on the pretext of retrieving his phone.
It was serendipitous that on his way back from the car he happened to notice Williamsburg Art Gallery, which opened in Merchants Square last October.
Bynum decided to stop in the gallery on a whim and was instantly enchanted by the space.
“We both have always had an interest in art, and [Stacy] especially loves art,” Bynum said. “One of our first dates was at an art gallery.”
Bynum approached Elizabeth Greaf, one of the artists whose work is on display in the gallery and who happened to be there that afternoon, and explained his intentions to her and Berryman.
“I pulled out the ring to show them and was like, ‘This is what I’m trying to do,” he said.
Berryman and Greaf helped him pick out a spot in the gallery where he would propose, which would signal Greaf to get her camera ready to capture the proposal.
Bynum called up Graham, who was still waiting for him in the bookstore, and asked her to come over to the gallery and look around with him before they went out to the ice rink.
A little perplexed but interested in checking out the gallery, Graham said she headed over with no idea what was coming next. They browsed around the gallery for a few moments before Bynum called her over to a particular painting that he said he “really wanted to show her.”
As Greaf covertly readied her camera, Bynum bent down on one knee and asked Graham to marry him.
“I was very nervous; I was shaking,” Bynum said. “I’ve never been more nervous in my life.”
“I was like ‘What is going on, is this really happening?’” Graham said of her shocked reaction.
Graham instantly said yes, and the happy couple were quick to thank Berryman and Greaf for the role they played in their proposal story.
As the couple looks ahead to months of wedding preparations and years of marriage, they both are sure of one thing: They will be back to visit Williamsburg Art Gallery many times.
“The owner and the artist were so nice and so great for helping give us a little bit of privacy and making it special,” Bynum said. “I don’t think I could have chosen a better place to do it.”