On February 27th, 2016, my then boyfriend proposed at the end of a surprise, Seattle-wide, Doctor Who scavenger hunt proposal. He spent months preparing for this, and his efforts really paid off! Weeks earlier, he'd told me to block out that day in my calendar for a surprise. I'm like a cat (curiosity “kills” me), so when the day finally arrived, I was eager to know what his plans were. But after making me breakfast, he said he was “leaving to umm… go do some stuff,” and handed me a letter to open after he was gone. Inside the letter, I was told to retrieve a package (and another letter) from outside.
This obviously important box contained a sonic screwdriver, the Doctor's favorite tool. I would later use the sonic throughout the day to reveal hidden clues. The second letter explained the basic premise of the scavenger hunt. Shortly after opening the box, our doorbell started to ring. Close friends of mine began arriving (some wearing Doctor Who themed clothes/costumes!), along with John's sister Liz who was completely decked out in a TARDIS dress!
She presented me with the first clue, and my friends and I started to get to work solving it. All of the envelopes used in the hunt were carefully decorated by John. The envelopes are a direct reference to a plot line in Season six of (new) Doctor Who. Thanks to the internet masses, the stamps pictured are exactly the stamps that are seen on the envelopes in the show. Each of the clues had an accompanying letter that told a short story in which River (my favorite character) gets separated from the Doctor and must try to find him.
The answer to this first puzzle was “Who You Gonna Call,” which clued me to instruct the CARDIS (aka Liz) to head to Central Cinema (a local theater that shows old films). This was the location of our second date, where we watched the original Ghostbusters together (both for the first time). It was at this point that I had my first inkling that this would end in a proposal, but I didn't fully admit it to myself until much later.
When we got outside, I saw that Liz had transformed her Kia Soul into a “C.A.R.D.I.S.,” with some nice decals on the windshield and front passenger door. She also created a whole soundtrack to play in the car between each location. Each mix she created was unique, and fit the amount of time it would take to drive from one location to another. All started with the iconic TARDIS sound. Since some of the clues involved songs, Liz even mixed the referenced song into the music to be played after that particular clue had been solved.
At each stop was hidden a business card with the Doctor Who logo on it. I had to find these to activate the CARDIS (Liz) so she would give me each subsequent clue. Really, though, John just wanted to make sure I had a chance to use my sonic screwdriver at each location. The sonic, when pressed, makes sounds from the show and emits UV light that illuminates the otherwise invisible message (all phrases from the show) written on the back of the business cards.
For clue number two, I had to arrange nine squares to form a QR code that, when scanned, pulled up a map giving directions from Soho to Brighton in the UK. “From Soho down to Brighton” are lyrics in the song “Pinball Wizard” by The Who, which told me to go to a Pinball Museum (one of the stops from our fourth date).
The third clue was the easiest of the puzzles. Once the list of high scores has been sorted from highest to smallest, the first letter of each name lines up to read “Mink Car Five”. This clues a song by They Might Be Giants, the fifth song on their album Mink Car, titled “Another First Kiss.” My friends and I hightailed it to the exact spot of our first kiss: a bus stop outside of Cafe Mox/Card Kingdom (a board game store and cafe) where I kissed John at the end of our first date.
From this point on, I didn't have to solve any more puzzles. Logistically, this was because timing was going to become more important. The next note included a gift certificate for a mani/pedi at a nail salon and we were off.
After getting my nails done to match the Doctor Who theme, I split off from my friends and the CARDIS (Liz) drove me home to get dressed for the evening (following the instructions on the clue). After getting dressed I was sent to a hair salon to get my hair styled.
By this point, all decked out in my fancy hair, Gallifreyan Necklace, and TARDIS blue dress, I finally admitted to myself that I was about to be proposed to.
When we arrived at the final destination (Willows Lodge in Woodinville, WA), Liz sent me upstairs to a specific room. On my way, I ran directly into John's best friend who tried (but fully failed) to hide. Meanwhile, John had been waiting in a super fancy suite for close to an hour. After setting up some music, sparkling wine, glasses, etc., he passed the time by pacing in front of the window which overlooked the only entrance to the hotel parking lot — anticipating my arrival in the CARDIS.
In the hotel room, John presented me with the final clue. He opened the final envelope, containing his proposal, read it to me, got down on one knee, and presented the ring. My response was “Of course!”
Immediately following the proposal, John sent a quick text to Liz, who brought up many of our mutual friends — all of whom had been hiding in the hotel lounge — into the room for a quick engagement party.