Oct. 31, 2013 at 3:09 PM ET
Debbie Preston, 26, had always dreamed of swimming with dolphins. Little did she know that last Saturday she would have two dreams come true at the same time, thanks to a dolphin with a sweet surprise.
For weeks before a big family trip to Orlando, Fla. for his sister’s wedding, Alex Rigby, 27, knew that he wanted to ask Preston, his girlfriend of three years, to marry him. He decided that he would do it at Discovery Cove, a SeaWorld marine and bird park where Preston would finally get to swim with dolphins. The only problem was that the five hour time difference between Orlando and his hometown near Liverpool, England, meant that Rigby wasn’t able to get in touch with Discovery Cove to plan the proposal in advance.
Finally, after arriving in the U.S., Rigby, with just days to spare, reached the right contact.
“I told them what I wanted and they said, ‘We can do that. You just come, relax and we’ll sort it out,’” Rigby told TODAY.com.
When Rigby arrived at the park, he slipped the staff the diamond ring he brought from the U.K. so they could set up. Along with 13 of their friends and family who all knew what was coming, a nervous Rigby and Preston set off to enjoy their day, including a swim with dolphins.
“We were all split into groups for the swim and with so many of us, I was panicking that the buoy with the proposal would go to the wrong person. But the dolphin trainer was amazing and it all went off as planned,” said Rigby.
Toward the end of the group’s swim, the trainer asked an unsuspecting Preston to help with a trick and catch a buoy lobbed by the dolphin. Preston was so happy the trick came off without a hitch that it took her a moment to realize that “Debbie, will you marry me?” was written out in bright blue letters.
“Swimming with dolphins was a dream and I was nearly crying towards the end,” said Preston, who also lives near Liverpool. “I didn’t have a clue that Alex was planning this. I am still in shock to be honest.”
But the surprise wasn’t over yet. When Preston got out of the water, the couple made their way to a dry area next to the water decorated with flowers, where the ring waited in a treasure box. (It was too risky to have it in the water.) With friends and family, including Preston’s 5-year-old daughter Brooke cheering him on, Rigby got down on one knee and asked Preston to marry him.
“Brooke was so excited and she right away wanted to know if she could be a bridesmaid,” said Preston.
Now back in the U.K., the couple is starting to plan their wedding, which will likely take place in 2016.
“My friends are all saying that I have really set the bar high and now their girlfriends have expectations,” said Rigby. “I’m just so happy about the way it went. It was a perfect end to a perfect holiday.”