When Anneke Sharp and boyfriend Eric Beaulieu went down to the Christmas tree at Dock Square in Rockport on Sunday afternoon, she thought they were going to take some fun photos for a holiday card because they were dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus.
So when corpulently costumed Santa got down on one knee and pulled out a tiny green ring box, Sharp stood silent in disbelief in her upturned red footwear sporting the iconic Santa buckle.
That was a long minute for Beaulieu, 23, a Rockport and Newbury firefighter-paramedic, who waited for her reply.
“I popped the question and she was shocked and at a loss for words — and then she said yes,” he related. “In that time, I was thinking, ‘you can say yes at any minute,’ and then there was cheers from the onlookers when she did.”
Sharp, who grew up in Old Lyme, Conn., said the proposal was totally unexpected.
“Obviously I’m very excited. I don’t think it has fully sunk in yet. I think I must have looked at him like six times, wondering is this real,” she said Monday.
The couple were accompanied by two “elves,” Heather Eldridge of Rockport and Sharp’s sister, Avery Sharp of Old Lyme, Conn., and other well-wishers who suspected it may have been more than a photo shoot.
The couple love the December holiday season.
“We are both big family people, and we like the festive season and the music and the magic of Christmas,” Beaulieu said.
Today, the bride-to-be starts a new job at Swoons, a bridal boutique, in Peabody. She has been a bridal consultant for more than three years.
The couple, who live in Rowley, had dressed up for the annual holiday children’s party for the Rockport Fire Department, prior to which they spread their good cheer at nearby Den Mar Nursing and Rehabilitation.
“I was thinking about the right time to propose and we’re both big Christmas people and I thought what better way to do it than dressed up as Santa and Mrs. Claus,” said Beaulieu. “It’s been a conversation here and there, and I think I picked up a few subtle hints.”
So when Sharp suggested that they get some candid pictures after their stint at the children’s Christmas party, Beaulieu saw the perfect opportunity present itself.
“I was thinking let’s take some funny photos that would make laughs if we sent out a Christmas card with us all dressed up like this, and he just kind of ran with it,” she said.
They met in 2011 through a mutual friend on the Fourth of July — the day when thousands of people pour into town for the Rockport Firemen’s Association annual parade and bonfire.
“There’s a big connection between the Rockport and the Westbrook Fire Department in Connecticut,” he said. “So one Fourth of July she came up here. We started out as friends and started talking, and haven’t stopped.”
Sharp said her fiance is a good sport when it comes to indulging in Christmas movies and music.
“We’ve been listening to Christmas music and watching Christmas movies since Thanksgiving,” she said. “It’s my favorite time of year. I love that everyone comes together and everyone is so involved with family and giving to those in need. I think it brings out the best in people.”
A holiday favorite for her is the classic “White Christmas,” both the movie and the song.
“Growing up, every Christmas my mother would play the movie while making Christmas dinner, and when the song comes on the radio, we turn it up loud,” said Sharp.
Having worked in the bridal industry for years, she said it’s exciting for this phase to happen to her.
Although the planning has not yet begun, one wonders whether it could be a holiday season wedding.
“It definitely would make sense for us,” Beaulieu said. “But at this time we are just new to the idea and we’ll see how it all plays out.”
So the next time the tune “Santa Baby” is played — the lyrics which include “Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing ... a ring” — there will be knowing smiles on this young couple’s face.
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000, or at email@example.com.