A proposal over Panera's Broccoli Cheddar Soup in a Bread Bowl.

I Do—Over Soup!

This groom found that the path to his bride’s heart included one key stop at Panera Bread.

Damian’s girlfriend, Alaine, had one rule: if he was ever anywhere near a Panera Bread, he needed to drop in and buy Broccoli Cheddar Soup and cart it home for her. The pair, who met working at a market research firm (Alaine is also a student at Truman State University), didn’t have a Panera in their hometown of Kirksville, Missouri, but that didn’t stop Alaine from craving her favorite soup. She’d have to get it from a Panera in Columbia, a 90-minute drive away.

One day, Damian planned to pick some up for her while on a shopping trip to Columbia with a friend. En route, an interesting idea popped into his mind: what if he somehow connected the soup he was going to buy for Alaine, now 22, with the engagement ring he had purchased to give her? The pair had talked about getting married; they’d been dating for a few years at that point and had no question in their minds that they’d be together forever. But they didn’t have a plan for when their “forever” would officially begin—or so Alaine thought. She didn’t know that Damian, now 28, had decided he was going to ask her to marry him on the cruise they were to take in another two months. What could be more romantic, after all, than popping the question on some sparkling evening at sea?

But then the crazy Panera soup proposal intruded on Damian’s thoughts. “I told my friend while we were driving, and he thought it was a cool idea,” says Damian. “And he reminded me that he had his pocketknife on him, so we could cut a hole in the bread bowl that he purchased with the soup to hide the ring there.”

Still not 100 percent sure he should go through with this, Damian solidified his plan when he ran it by the Panera associate who rang up his take-out soup and bread bowl. “When I asked her what she thought of my idea, at first she didn’t understand, but after hearing a few more details of our love story, she said, ‘Awesome!’” That sealed it.

As for Alaine’s reaction, “I almost dumped soup on my engagement ring,” she says, but she recovered quickly, said yes, and married Damian last July 20. But did she eat the soup? “You know,” she says, “here I was so happy to be engaged—I think I ate maybe a quarter of it.” It’s OK. She and her husband have forever to enjoy more soup. Married now for a happy year and a half, they still get to that Panera in Columbia as often as they can for their favorite soup.