The way a man proposes to his beloved seems to grow grander, gesture-wise, each year.
The creativity and romance in asking a woman for her hand in marriage stretches large with infinite ideas and possibilities.
Those days of saying, "Wanna go ahead and get hitched?" or "Let's make this fornication legal" are dust on the dirt roads of ho-hum question-poppings.
Ryan Bentley, 31, of Fairview, has staged one of the best proposals I've heard in a long time.
He first fell in love with Emily Beckett shortly after meeting her at Bele Chere in 2010.
"We met through a friend and there was a little spark," he said. Ryan, living in Charlotte at the time, believed he was on to something good. He called her, and they set up a date to watch a preseason game between the Carolina Panthers and New York Jets at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
"After a month of Ryan pursuing me, I finally gave in to his charms and agreed to go out with him," said Emily, 36, who works for The Plastic Surgery Center of Asheville.
During the football game, Ryan couldn't take his eyes off this woman, a brunette beauty with a smile like coliseum lights. So two weeks later, he decided to drive to Asheville and dine with her at Jerusalem Garden, knowing Emily loved this kind of cuisine.
"We continued to date and became more serious," Emily said. "Ryan wanted to move here so we could spend more time together and began his job search in Asheville."
Ryan said he knew he wanted to marry Emily, so he finally found a position with Home Trust Bank in town, similar to the job he had previously.
With a house together and secure jobs, it was now time for Ryan's big proposal plans.
Because Emily loved cats and kittens, and with the help of his beloved's mom, the two secretly visited various shelters, looking for that perfect feline.
"I'd tell Emily I had to work late," he said of the nights he and her mom searched for kittens. After about a month, he found the one.
He was a gray tabby, less than 2 months old, and Ryan adopted him through Brother Wolf, a place he and Emily often visited just to look at the animals.
"She loves cats," he said. "We baby-sat her mom's cat, and I thought this would be a good fit. A dog or puppy would be too hard to take care of with both of us working."
The kitten, he said, was to be Ryan's "wingman."
The key in this plan he was hatching was complete secrecy. Emily couldn't know about the kitten.
One night this spring, he got the kitten and brought it to Emily's mom's house. He planned to take Emily back to Jerusalem Garden, where they had their first date in Asheville.
"We went out to eat, and I texted her mom, and she brought the cat over to our house and put him upstairs in the cat carrier," Ryan said. "We had a great time, like we always do, and left the restaurant and came home."
Ryan excused himself while Emily was still downstairs. He'd bought her a 2-carat cushion-cut diamond ring and had attached a very special tag to the kitten's collar.
When he returned, he had the kitten in his arms, the ring in his pocket.
She saw the cat and was confused.
"Where did you get this kitten?" she asked.
"I said, 'He's ours now.' I handed him to her, and he was purring, and she was hugging him. I said, 'Look, I named him for you.'"
Emily then saw the green collar and the tag dangling from her kitty's neck.
Engraved in a red heart were the words, "Emily, Will You Marry Me?"
Ryan got down on one knee and pulled out the ring and asked the big question.
"She said yes," he said. "The kitten was my wingman and helped me out. I wasn't nervous at all."
Emily said because the two were spending all their time together, she was shocked her fiancé found time to pull off the proposal via a kitten.
After he proposed, she said she felt not only surprised but overjoyed.
"I began to cry," she said. "Ryan then said he wanted to name our little boy 'Amore', and I thought that was the perfect name.
"Amore has been so much fun and the source of many laughs," she said. "He is such an energetic and loving kitten. He will always be a reminder of our love and our engagement."
Ryan said he thought his proposal was fitting for Emily.
"I wanted to do something special, because she's such a special girl. She's the best thing that ever happened to me."
Written By: Susan Reinhardt, Asheville Citizen-Times