GUILFORD, Maine — Michelle Figg was told that she was in for a surprise.
During a holiday concert at Piscataquis Community Elementary School on Tuesday, Sheryl Allen, the school’s health and physical education teacher, took over the microphone and told Figg, the school’s music teacher, to turn around and close her eyes.
“What could it be?” Figg said.
“It wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you,” Allen said.
After Figg, 25, turned and closed her eyes, Seth Briggs, Figg’s boyfriend and a fellow music teacher from Trenton Elementary School, took the microphone and told her to turn around.
“Michelle,” said Briggs, also 25. Figg pulled her hands to her face and the crowd broke into “ooohs” in anticipation of what was coming next.
“I love you with every fiber of my being,” Briggs said with a cracking voice. “And I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
Briggs then exchanged the microphone for a ring and got down on his knee to propose.
Figg jumped for joy and said, “Yes.” Cheers filled the gym.
“Nobody knew it was going to happen and it was quite a surprise to everybody,” said Roxanne Chase, executive secretary for SAD 4/RSU 80.
Figg said on Friday that she was overwhelmed by that night.
“I was hoping and had been waiting for a while [for him to propose],” Figg said. “I figured I’d know ahead of time if he was going to propose by the way he was acting, but he kept it a secret from everyone. I was completely surprised.”
Briggs said he was lucky to reach Allen to set up his proposal. He got in touch with her about his plan only 30 minutes before the concert started. Before that night, he said only two other people knew he was going to propose — two friends who helped pick out the ring.
“I’m pretty good at masking things, I guess,” Briggs said. “It came together. It was kind of a last minute thing to make everything go smoothly, but it did.”
Figg and Briggs had been dating since their freshman year at the University of Maine seven years ago, when they shared every class together while studying music education.
“When Sheryl asked me to turn around and close my eyes, I thought they were going to bring me flowers or something,” said Figg. “Then I saw him and I was confused. Everything else faded away and I focused on him. I was overwhelmed.”
It had been her dream for a public proposal, and something she had mentioned to Briggs years ago, she said.
“I let him know that it had always been my dream to have a big public proposal,” she said. “It was a very romantic thing. He remembered that and he stuck right with it.”
“She made it very, very clear from day one [that she wanted a public proposal],” said Briggs. “I thought ‘How am I going to do that?’ Maybe that’s why it’s taken seven years.”
Figg said she admired the courage it took for Briggs to propose to her in front of so many people he didn’t know.
“I was amazed with how brave he was,” she said. “The audience was so receptive. It was fabulous.”
The audience didn’t make him nervous at all, said Briggs. The proposal itself is different story.
“I’m used to getting up in front of large crowds,” he said. “As soon as I started talking to her and saying the things I planned out, that’s when my voice started to crack.”
Figg’s students have been very supportive, she said.
“The kids are so excited about it,” said Figg. “Of course the older girls think it’s so romantic. Even the boys and the younger students have been so excited. They want to talk to me about it, know what my name will be and see the ring. It’s been adorable.”
Briggs said he started getting congratulations from people around school, but he didn’t know how they knew. He said he was unaware at the time that Figg had uploaded the video to YouTube.
“Lots of people have come up to me [to congratulate me],” he said. “Lots of women and girls have said that it’s so romantic. Someone said you kind of ruined it for all the girls in the crowd [because] that’s what they’ll expect [when they’re proposed to].”
The wedding date isn’t firm, Figg said, but the summer of 2014 is likely.
“I definitely want a summer wedding,” said Figg.