If the Wonderful World of Disney’s purpose was to create the illusion of a world where dreams come true, then there was no better place for Keith Gilmore to propose to Jennifer Byrd this past May when the two embarked on a Pixar filled weekend.
Their story as well as their love for Disney, however, began much earlier.
“Keith and I met back in 2004, when we were both doing the Walt Disney World College Program,” Byrd said. “He was going to school in Maine and I was from Michigan. We had both been assigned to work in Attractions at Space Mountain. I would say we became fast friends. We loved hanging out together and exploring the Disney Parks.”
Their parting at the end of the program, however, was an emotional one. “It was hardest for me to say goodbye to Keith. I didn’t know why, but I couldn’t stop crying,” Byrd said.
Over the years though, the friends stayed in touch and eventually found their way back to Florida, and to each other.
“When we were both here, you could tell something was different, there was a spark that neither one of us felt before. We were best friends, but there was definitely something more,” Byrd said. “We have officially been together for 2 ½ years.”
With the future firmly in mind, Gilmore wanted only the best for Byrd.
“I wanted Jenn to have the ring of her dreams and invited her to look at rings for both of us,” Gilmore said. “We visited a variety of jewelry stores but she consistently returned to the Verragio display after trying on every other ring in the store.”
But Verragio, Byrd shared, had always been in the back of her mind.
“I loved Verragio for many years. I always looked and dreamed of getting a Verragio ring when I got engaged. So when it came to picking a ring, I looked to find where they were sold in our area,” Byrd said. “Once we got there, we literally tried on every ring they had in the store. Verragio was the one that looked and felt the best on my hand.”
“Jenn loved that the Lumino Setting suspended the center stone and was complimented by a row of round diamonds on the band and even on the prongs,” Gilmore said. “I knew this was the one.”
The ‘One’ Gilmore and Byrd decided on, after visiting the International Diamond Center in Orlando, was the Couture 0371.
“It felt perfect. After trying on many, many rings, it was the one that looked like me and my style,” Byrd said of the ring. “I didn’t want to leave the store without it.”
But Gilmore wanted to set the stage for what turned out to be quite a show, and already knew when the timing would be just right.
“It started as planning for the first ‘Pixar the Weekend.’ Keith and I are avid Pixar fans,” Byrd said, looking back. “And while Friday the 13th may not be the most preferred date for an engagement it happens to be the debut date for our favorite Disney movie: Disney-Pixar’s “UP.’”
The day before the couple was set to begin their weekend; Gilmore suggested taking the opportunity to go diving at EPCOT’s The Living Seas.
“I wanted to create a unique ‘Magical Moment’ that was more creative than the typical proposal at Cinderella’s Castle and represented our ‘Spirit of Adventure,’” Gilmore said. “Epcot DiveQuest is a unique scuba diving experience inside The Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion at the Epcot theme park. I naturally chose this exclusive location as the ‘stage’ for my greatest adventure: betrothing Jennifer M. Byrd.”
But Byrd, worn out from the heat, almost passed on the dive.
“We had walked around EPCOT all day, taking photos of Pixar character’s and when it came time for our dive, I was so exhausted,” Byrd said. “The heat had gotten to me at that point, but after a little convincing from Keith, we went ahead with it.”
After a tour from the divemaster, the couple was allowed to swim by themselves, but Gilmore had already disappeared to the bottom of the tank.
“In the open area and I see this shiny, steel Mickey Head shape on the floor of the aquarium, then I see Keith reach for the Mickey head and pick it up. At this point I am getting mad at him because all I can think is that you are not supposed to be touching anything in the aquarium,” Byrd said. “Then he flips the Mickey Head up to expose the box and a Mickey Mouse figure is holding my engagement.”
The moment, for Byrd, was indeed magical.
“I inhaled water, started crying and hyperventilating. This was the best moment of my life,” Byrd said. “This was the moment I had been waiting for.”
Naturally the newly engaged couple plans to wed at Disney’s wedding pavilion in the Fall of 2012, and is taking their time to make sure that, once again, things will be perfect.
“We cannot select a date until 12 months prior so we have time to look at reception venues and all the details in advance,” Gilmore said. “We hope to have a Wedding as unique and custom as our proposal along with a few surprise guests.”