Student says yes to surprise wedding proposal at dance show

By University Communications
December 28, 2015
Rachael Wardon knew that Saturday, Dec. 5, was going to be a big night. She never could have guessed that it would have a fairy tale ending.

Photo: Aaron Stanley and Rachael Wardon

Rachael Wardon knew that Saturday, Dec. 5, was going to be a big night. She never could have guessed that it would have a fairy tale ending.

Wardon, of Germantown, is a University of Wisconsin-Stout student and a member of the Dance Ensemble, a student club with 90 members. She was scheduled to perform in four dances as part of the group’s fall show at Johnson Fieldhouse on campus.

In addition to preparing for the show and performing in front of a large crowd, in excess of 150 people, Wardon was excited to know that her parents, grandparents, sister and boyfriend, all from the Milwaukee area, were in the crowd as well.

About halfway into the show, the night became surreal for Wardon. Her boyfriend of 3½ years, Aaron Stanley, won a Twitter raffle and came out on stage to accept his prize and to have a photo taken with his favorite dancer, which, of course, was Wardon.

Then, Stanley took the microphone. “He gave a little speech about me. I was confused. I wasn’t sure what was going on. He said that I was beautiful dancing out there but that I’m beautiful everyday and that I always make him smile,” Wardon said.

He also said that he missed Wardon, loves her and “I would love to spend the rest of my life with her.”

Stanley, with ring in hand, got down on one knee and proposed.

Wardon said yes.

“I didn’t catch on to anything until the very end. I was in shock. I had him stand up, and we kissed. Everyone was cheering for us,” Wardon said.

The public proposal caught Wardon off guard because she said Stanley tends to be on the quiet side and because she didn’t think he would propose until after she graduates in May.

“I wasn’t expecting a proposal anytime soon. He said he didn’t want to wait anymore to make that promise to me,” Wardon said. “It was a big surprise and that he did it in such a big way. He said he wanted to have my family there.”

Rachael Wardon and Aaron StanleyJeanette VonHaden, of Tomah, the Dance Ensemble president, said Stanley contacted her in September about his idea. She worked with the group’s executive board to put the proposal into the show, but other members of the team didn’t know.

“When I handed the mic over to Aaron, the dancers backstage knew that something big was about to happen. The rest of the night was filled with a buzz in the air, and everything just seemed so magical and, as cheesy as it sounds, you could feel the love in the air,” VonHaden said.

VonHaden and Wardon have been friends and Dance Ensemble teammates since freshman year, when they met in their residence hall, South Hall. “I think that connection made it really special for me, and it made me so happy that Aaron included me on such a big event in their lives together,” VonHaden said.

No wedding date yet

Wardon and Stanley went to the same high school but didn’t meet until after high school. They have had a long-distance relationship while she has been at UW-Stout and while he was at Concordia University in Mequon. He graduated and is an X-ray technologist at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare -- Franklin.

Wardon is majoring in retail merchandising and management and hopes to work in the Milwaukee area after graduation.

She still had to perform one of her dances after the proposal.

“I was swarmed backstage by all the dancers, and then I had a little time to sit down and breathe. I was beyond happy having that just happen. I was definitely ready for the show to be done so I could be with him,” Wardon said.

When the show was over, Wardon and her fiancé called some friends with the news and went out with Wardon’s sister and another friend to celebrate.

Rachael and Aaron haven’t set a wedding date. “We’re just enjoying being engaged. Once I graduate in May, we’ll start planning,” she said.



Aaron Stanley proposes to UW-Stout student Rachael Wardon during the Dance Ensemble show Dec. 5.

Rachael Wardon and Aaron Stanley.