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Under the lights

Local man stages elaborate proposal at Oregon Zoo


by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: KAT DOSSETT - Brian Engelhard knew he wanted to do something special for his proposal to Amy Miller, so he staged a flash mob at ZooLights in Portland. Brian Engelhard doesn’t embarrass easily.

He is, in his own words, “brazen” and “without a filter.” Important moments in his life are often coupled with extravagant gestures, and when the former West Linn resident, who lives in Tualatin and works in Lake Oswego, decided in October that he wanted to marry his girlfriend, Amy Miller, he knew the proposal couldn’t disappoint.

“How can I do something grand?” he thought, “and actually pull it off?”

What Engelhard ultimately came up with was indeed “grand,” as he proposed Dec. 14 to Miller amidst a choreographed flash mob at ZooLights in Portland at the Oregon Zoo. The resulting YouTube video has since logged nearly 8,000 hits, and both Engelhard and Miller now have a story they can tell for the rest of their lives. “It went exactly as planned without a single hitch,” Engelhard said. “I was expecting something to fall through the cracks or not work out.”

Engelhard’s original idea was to do something similar in downtown Portland, zeroing in on Pioneer Courthouse Square. That plan would have required a number of city permits, however, and so Engelhard shifted to an alternative option at the zoo.

After extensive planning with friends, zoo officials and Billings Dance Center owner Tony Loupe, the day finally came.

Engelhard walked Miller through the zoo to the clearing where the proposal would take place. A specially hired DJ

was playing the “Glee” version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” before Engelhard walked up and handed him money to play a different song. He’d done that before at a restaurant, and he knew it wouldn’t provoke any suspicion on Miller’s part.

The music switched to the tango song “El Tango de los Assassinos” by John Powell — a nod to Miller’s seven years of tango dancing experience. The couple began to dance within a circle of onlookers, Miller still clueless as to what was about to happen.

The first clue came when the couple stopped dancing and a new song came on: “Marry Me” by Jason Derulo.

“Tony (Loupe) suggested it,” Engelhard said. “It was brand new, so she wouldn’t expect it.”

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: KAT DOSSETT - Brian Engelhard met Amy Miller in August, and began planning the proposal in October.

Engelhard and Miller watched as Loupe and Billings Dance Center associate Damon Keller began dancing to the song. Soon, Loupe and Keller were joined by five more dancers from the crowd. Another five joined just seconds later, and the group continued to multiply as Engelhard prepared for the big moment.

It wasn’t until about halfway through the song that Miller realized what was happening.”I didn’t recognize the song,” Miller said. “And I wasn’t listening to the lyrics because I was focused on the flash mob.”

When she put it all together, Miller turned to Engelhard and gasped.

“Yeah, this is really happening,” Engelhard said.

His best friend, Jay Crowthers, was supposed to approach from behind and hand off the ring. In the moment, Engelhard worried that Miller would see it coming, or that he and Jay would botch the handoff.

None of that happened, though, and the timing was perfect as members of the flash mob fell to one knee and Engelhard showed her the ring.

“I had eight beats to get her to say, ‘Yes,’ because four guys were going to pick us up,” Engelhard said. “She started backing up and I said, ‘No, no, we have like three beats before we get picked up.’”

Miller did say yes, of course, and the two were quickly lifted up over the crowd in celebration.

“Then there was an unplanned part that worked phenomenally,” Engelhard said. “I was going to serenade her, and at the end when they put us on their shoulders everyone was supposed to chant the melody. But the very last verse it was just me singing, everyone quiet.”

It was a fitting end to a moment that Engelhard and Miller will never forget.

“I expected something because he’s always over the top with everything he does,” Miller said. “But I had no idea it was going to happen that night. ... It will probably be one of the most amazing things anyone has ever done for me.”

Engelhard, for his part, is still amazed at how smoothly it all went.

“The zoo, all the people getting there, the ring, the DJ — it was maybe too many moving parts,” Engelhard said. “But everything worked.”

Watch the proposal video at youtube.com/watch?v=zgwYcllPRvA.

Patrick Malee can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 106. Follow him on Twitter, @pmalee_wl

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: KAT DOSSETT - Amy Miller said she will remember the proposal as 'one of the most amazing things anyone has ever done for me.'