Originally published December 29, 2009 at 1:46 PM | Page modified December 29, 2009 at 3:46 PM

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Pop the question, museum style

The Field Museum in Chicago rents out a display case for marriage proposals.

Chicago Tribune


CHICAGO — Neelam Patel couldn't believe it when she saw her boyfriend, Neal Patel, reach his hand into a case at The Field Museum in Chicago and grab the diamond ring sitting inside.

"I thought, 'What is he doing? He's breaking into this case at the Field Museum! He's going to get arrested,"' she said.

A second later Neal, 24, got down on one knee and asked Neelam, 25, to marry him. The case, identical to the others in the newly refurbished Grainger Hall of Gems and specifically lit to hold a diamond ring, is part of a new offer by the museum to pop the question there. The $350 fee includes a Champagne toast, with optional add-ons like flowers, music and limo service.

"We're kind of floored by the response," said Megan Williams Beckert, who is in charge of special events at the Field. They've had seven proposals since they installed the case in mid-October, and several inquiries a week.

The museum previously offered a similar, lower-key service. About half a dozen men a year would rent a Plexiglas case that was rolled into the hall for the proposal, Beckert said.

Neal Patel knew one of those men, who mentioned it when Neal was brainstorming creative proposals.

"I'm a romantic," he said. "I wanted to give her a story she would never forget."

The two are both fourth year medical students, he at Rosalind Franklin University and she in Ohio, though she's doing her rotations in Chicago this year. On a date last month, Neal told Neelam he had a surprise for her, which she said was not unusual.

"She starts freaking out," Neal said. "About 45 minutes after it happened, she asked me, 'I said yes, right?' "

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