Proposing barn style

Chad Brown and Amy Grimm are newly engaged and planning a wedding down the road.

But the area residents are still savoring the proposal part of it all, a unique country-style will-you-marry-me undertaking that blended plotting and planning with detail and devotion, sentiment and surprise.

It was cause for New Year’s Eve reflection as the two considered what was a highlight of their 2013.

And the story of it could be inspirational for other would-be grooms thinking of creative ways to pop the question, especially given Valentine’s Day is on the horizon.

But first some background.

Chad, 32, and Amy, 31, have known each other a long time.

“We knew each other in high school but never talked or dated until afterwards,” Chad explained of the relationship that took root after he returned from a stint in the service.

The two are 2000 Edison High School/Jefferson County Joint Vocational School graduates where Chad majored in welding, Amy in diversified health.

Chad grew up in East Springfield; Amy in the Knoxville/rural Toronto area.

July will mark their 10-year courtship, a couple’s milestone that fueled Chad’s desire to propose although getting hitched had been a subject they’d broached before.

After starting their cell tower company in 2008, for example, the two had decided to put marriage on hold.

“We always focused on where we were going, and the wedding was like in both of our minds – what we wanted – but we didn’t have to have it right away,” he said.

“We wanted to get our business going and get our farm, so we waited,” Chad said of their decision to prioritize goals, including Chad’s childhood dream to move into a farmhouse, a goal shared by Amy as the two are history buffs charmed by all things old-fashioned and country style in nature.

In July 2011, the purchase of a Jefferson County farm available at auction shortened the to-do list, something Chad wanted to achieve before turning 30. The couple moved in to their dream home by Thanksgiving that same year.

It was the summer of 2013 when the idea to propose began to take shape, after Chad had admired an old barn not far from their farm and came to discover it was owned by someone he knew – Connie Crawford, who was one of his grade school teachers at John Gregg Elementary School in Bergholz.

As one who appreciates old-fashioned country, Chad liked the old unused bank or banked barn so much, he offered to fix for free some boards on it that a windstorm had blown away, an offer Crawford accepted and what became an opportunity for the retired educator to share stories related to its history.

A bank barn or banked barn, incidentally, is a style of barn noted for its accessibility, at ground level, on two separate levels. Often built into the side of a hill or a bank, both the upper and the lower floor area could be accessed from ground level, one area at the top of the hill and the other at the bottom. The second level of a bank barn also could be accessed from a ramp if a hill weren’t available.

Chad started to hatch a proposal plan when he saw the barn and realized it was the perfect spot in which to surprise Amy with a proposal of marriage.

“The barn is one of a kind,” he said as he recalled his thoughts on staging the area for the romantic country setting he had in mind.

The back doors of the barn open to overlook country fields and trees, affording a theater-like view of sorts.

Inspired, Chad visualized the field would be perfect for a fireworks display that he and Amy would watch, its significance that their second date had been to the July 4 fireworks display in Toronto, something they haven’t missed since.

In that field, Chad would station a friend with a truck full of fireworks, alerting him by a text message when to cue the display which they would watch from their vantage point on a loveseat Chad moved to the barn just for the occasion.

It was the loveseat that came with their farmhouse and is a piece of furniture Amy “absolutely loves,” according to Chad.

His attention to detail included setting up a display of old farm tools and items in a little cupboard to the side of the loveseat.

He found a cut section of a heavy beam in the barn, which he positioned to function as an end table complete with an oil lantern.

He arranged to have Amy’s parents, Everett and Karen Grimm, on hand so he could ask Amy’s father for permission to marry her, and Amy’s sister, Ashley, his “foot soldier” to help make the surprise a reality. Her job was to cue their favorite song, “That’s How I Know You Love Me” by Justin Moore, to play after he had proposed, and then they’d dance to it.

Also in on the surprise were Crawford and friend and retired educator Karen Lundquist, the event photographer.

Chad decided to propose over the Thanksgiving holiday, since Thanksgiving is the time of year when they had moved into their own farmhouse.

And he would present her with an initial engagement ring, a silver fork he had had fashioned months earlier into a ring by a blacksmith in Virginia. Such a ring, he explained, would have been an engagement type ring from the period of history the two appreciate.

During a couple of dry-run rehearsals, Chad did issue one warning: “If she says ‘no,’ do not play the music,” he said with a chuckle.

Chad got Amy to the barn after a Black Friday shopping excursion with her sister, and Amy wondered what was going on. She was surprised to see the loveseat and watch the first round of fireworks from it, thinking initially that this was Chad’s way of softening her to the idea of his maybe getting a horse as he’d talked about before.

With her father emerging from his hiding place, Chad asked him for his daughter’s hand in marriage.

“I thought that was important,” Chad said of the old-school gesture.

“She was in real shock by now, and then I asked her, and she said yes,” Chad said of the moment that made Amy cry.

Then they danced to their favorite country song and enjoyed a second round of fireworks.

It turned out to be a special moment for everyone there, according to Chad, who’s glad he personalized the proposal, making it something unique.

“It hit me that the engagement is my day, and I am doing this my way,” he said of all the ways in which it held sentimental significance, from the barn setting to the fireworks and dancing to timing it over the Thanksgiving holiday.

“I just wanted it to be perfect,” Chad said.

Amy has no complaints.

“It’s so him,” she said in retrospect as she reflected on the events of that special day.

“I was very surprised, but he’s just always been that person who always goes above and beyond and is creative,” she said.

“Even though I was so surprised, he would be the person to pull it off.

“It was perfect.”

(Kiaski can be contacted at