After a month of planning, Alex Collette dropped to one knee in front of The Varsity Theatre and asked Kathleen Harrington to marry him, as both of their families hooted and hollered from across the street.
“I knew she would be fine regardless of how I decided to propose, but I wanted to do something special for her,” Collette said. “And I was trying to think of something quintessentially Chapel Hill.”
Collette contacted Paul Shareshian, the Varsity’s owner, who agreed to put ‘KATHLEEN WILL YOU MARRY ME’ on the theater marquee on the morning of May 20.
“Seeing the marquee brought an overwhelming feeling of relief and gratitude that I had found my best friend and now I could confidently say that forever was in front of us,” Harrington emailed from Spain, where she is traveling.
Collette and Harrington met her first year at UNC-Chapel Hill. Collette was a sophomore visiting one of her suitemates, a high school friend.
She invited him to her first sorority cocktail, and they officially started dating about 4 1/2 years ago.
Harrington is a public communication specialist at The School of Media and Journalism at UNC, so Collette took her out to lunch early May 20 to make sure she didn’t go to Franklin Street and accidentally see the marquee.
He then asked her to go to dinner with him for his last weekend in Chapel Hill before leaving for a summer job at a law firm in Mocksville.
“I told her I would pick the place because I feel like most couples will usually spend about 30 to 40 minutes anytime we’re trying to figure out where we want to eat,” he said.
I love us, and I’m so happy I’ll be able to call him my husband and life partner soon enough. ‘Boyfriend’ just sounded so inadequate after all this time.
They parked off Rosemary Street, behind Spanky’s, and walked around the corner. Collette had a photographer set up to catch the moment when Harrington saw the message on the marquee.
Their families were waiting by Johnny T-shirt across the street and began cheering when Collette got down on one knee. After the proposal they all went to Top of the Hill for dinner.
“Knowing my family and his could be a part of such a special moment in our relationship and lives meant so much,” Harrington said.
“Everything since has truly felt like a fairytale,” she said. “I keep seeing the ring on my finger and remembering it was all real.”
The couple have set their wedding date for May 27, 2017, at the Carolina Inn.