Taylor Donahue took to the skies to propose to Shae Murphy. What seemed like an innocent plane ride to celebrate their one-year anniversary as a couple ended up being an over-the-top wedding proposal. They also won HER Magazine and the News Tribune’s second annual Best Proposal Contest.
Both work at St. Mary’s Hospital in Jefferson City. Donahue, 28, is a registered nurse in the ICU and Murphy as an Epic product specialist for St. Mary’s electronic health records system. They met in the ER, where he worked at the time when she was then an X-ray technologist.
“I always thought she was gorgeous and I always tried to be around when she came in to do an X-ray,” he said.
Their mutual friend and co-worker Sarah Andres played matchmaker.
“She told me that Taylor thought I was really cute but I was fresh out of a relationship and not very eager to begin another one,” said Murphy, who attended Jefferson City High School. “I was hesitant, but Sarah was persistent that I needed to meet him and hang out.”
They did. An opposites attract kind of relationship, Donahue’s an adventure junkie into rock climbing, hunting, archery, mountain biking while she’s much more of a homebody who likes to spend time with family, bake and do arts and crafts. Still, she’ enjoys being active and joining him in rock climbing and hunting.
“I knew that I wanted to marry her pretty quickly after we started dating,” said Donahue, who’s from Columbia and attended Rock Bridge High School. “I started looking at rings and trying to find the most creative and big way to propose.”
“Shae had always wanted to go on a hot air balloon ride, so I checked into that but there would be a crew going up with us, and with the unpredictable winds there was no way to promise a certain route,” he said.
Instead he contacted his friend, Quinten, a pilot in Hannibal to develop his idea of proposing in the air. After months and months of research and preparation, they were ready and the day finally arrived.
“Taylor loves to do all kinds of crazy stuff, and he had been talking about a
plane ride with his friend who was a pilot, so when he said that’s what we were going to do, I didn’t think much about it,” she said.
His friend picked them up at the airport in Columbia and once airborne, his elaborate proposal took flight. From Columbia, their flight plan routed them over his hunting grounds in Harrisburg with another stop over the home he shares with Murphy in New Bloomfield.
There was a bit of a glitch though. Murphy was experiencing a major case of motion sickness.
“It was a hot windy day and Taylor was holding a window open so I could have some fresh air,” she recalls. “I was so nauseous. All I wanted to do was be on the ground.”
After the plane made a few circles, Murphy spied their house and their shop below, where her father stores his boat during the winter.
“I told Shae to get her camera ready to take some aerial shots but the first pass above their house didn’t work, so Quinten tried again and gunned it,” he said. “We come over the house at a perfect angle and he turns the nose of the plane and she looks down.”
There, a yellow 4 foot by 30 foot banner was staked to the ground on their property letters in purple, her favorite color, spelling out “Shae,Will You Marry Me?”
“Everything froze around me. I looked at Taylor and I was shaking and crying filled with adrenalin; I even felt better for at least five minutes,” Murphy said.
By that time, Donahue’s already down on one knee with the custom-made engagement ring on display.
“I knew the ring box would show in my jeans so I bought a pair of cargo shorts with large enough pockets to hold the ring and made sure she sat on the right side so she couldn’t see,” he said.
His friend also had to take out one of the plane’s seats so that Taylor had room to propose in traditional fashion.
Teary eyed, Murphy said, “yes.” Champagne and long-stem roses, which he had packed behind their seat, followed.
What had involved months and months of planning came off in about an hour, but the couple was engaged. Even many of the staff at St. Mary’s Hospital were involved and kept it a secret.
“People don’t realize how much research was involved to make this work,” he said. “There has to be the right longitude and latitude coordinates in the flight plan and the plane has to be going the right speed and be high enough to get the right angle.”
“I also had to find out what size the letters had to be so they could be read from the air,” he added.
Once they landed, they took photos and then headed to their favorite sushi restaurant, Osaka in Columbia, which is where they went on their first date.
“I had wanted to call my mom right after we landed but he said to wait, which I thought was a bit odd as I wanted to share it with everyone right then,” Murphy said.
She didn’t have to wait long as 13 family members were waiting at the restaurant, including their parents and siblings. Her father, Kevin, owns Advance Lighting Service, and her mother, Cindy, worked for the state and is now retired.
“A month or so before the proposal Taylor told me he was going to get a beer with my dad. I didn’t think anything of it because they get along great and they both like beer,” Murphy said. “Turns out he just used it as an excuse to ask my dad if he could marry me.”
Murphy’s parents helped stake the banner, and Donahue’s parents were also in on the event and at the restaurant to congratulate them. His mother, Teri Thrift, is a teacher at Jefferson Junior High School in Columbia and his father, Harold, is an agricultural sales representative. His stepfather, Michael, is president of National Building Supply, Inc.
The couple will marry on May 30, 2015, at Trinity Lutheran Church, almost a year to the day from the proposal. Their reception will be held at Capitol Plaza Hotel.
Check out other proposal contest entries at www.newstribune.com/bestproposal