By Makayla Steede
When Cellas Hayes and Mweyeria Offord had their first conversation outside of the J.D. Williams Library during their undergraduate days, neither could imagine that five years later Hayes would propose in that very spot, or that Offord would say yes.
On Dec. 14, Hayes sent Offord into the Library under the guise of asking her to check out a book, but when she went inside, she was met by a friend who gave her the first book and clue that led to a scavenger hunt that required her to take the call numbers for seven books, which each held a quote from the book with letters capitalized in each quote to spell out “will you marry me?”
In a TikTok posted by Hayes, which now has over 1 million views, Offord can be seen going through the library, looking for the books, unscrambling the messages, and tearfully going outside to see Hayes on one knee holding a ring.
In the video, Hayes can be heard asking, “will you marry me?”
Offord nodded and said yes.
“Are you sure?” Offord asked. “About me?”
“Yes, I’m sure,” Hayes said and asked her the same question.
“Yes, I’ve been sure,” Offord said in return.
Hayes had decided to propose several months before, but with him being a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Pharmacy and Offord seeking her Master’s Degree in Higher Education Administration and both of them caring for their one-year-old son Caspian, it was a matter of timing.
“With the sun going down at 5pm and us both working and in graduate school, Wednesday [Dec. 15] was the only available day with free time for everything to be planned around,” Hayes said. “So, I guess it was fate and in the stars.”
Well aware of Offord’s love for literature, Hayes decided that a scavenger hunt in the library leading to the spot where they had their first conversation would be perfect, and once he made that decision, he had to put his plan into action quickly.
Hayes picked and typed out quotes from some of Offord’s favorite books and dipped them in tea water to give them a vintage, faded aesthetic before going to the library and putting them in the books, like “Hood Feminism” and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
On the day of the proposal, Hayes told Offord that they were going on a date, and Offord did not think anything was out of the ordinary.
“I’m a mom, so when Cellas told me we were going out to eat at our favorite restaurant [City Grocery], I hopped at the chance to get super glammed up as I rarely get to do,” Offord said. “It’s never unlike Cellas to want to look good at all times, so us getting dressed up for a date night that was long overdue was definitely not out of the ordinary, which is why I didn’t suspect anything.”
Even after arriving at the library, Offord did not suspect the true purpose of the scavenger hunt.
“I simply thought that this is just my boyfriend making today extra special since it was date night,” Offord said. “Cellas has always been very romantic and spontaneous, so his send me on a random scavenger hunt as a way to tell me how he feels about me was, once again, not out of the ordinary. Those are things he does. He has always been this way.”
Part of Offord’s lack of suspicion was due, in part, to a few accidental mistakes that Hayes made.
“The unscrambling was hilarious because I struggled since he was missing many key letters to question: “will you marry me?” Offord said. “He used ‘merry’ instead, and it made me think he was surprising me with a vacation for Christmas since we had just talked about that a few days before.”
Offord still finds being engaged to be a surreal experience especially since marriage is something she has doubted was for her in the past.
“I never considered marriage before I met Cellas,” Offord said. “I didn’t have the best upbringing with things I witnessed with my parents being married. I always vowed that if that’s what marriage was like then I never wanted to be married.”
Hayes admits to having similar doubts about marriage before proposing to Offord.
“I am not a person to get nervous or have anxiety, but I remember saying, ‘if this is what anxiety feels like, I never want to experience it again,’” Hayes said. “I think I felt more nervous waiting outside than when we had our son, Caspian. It was very odd but not because I thought she would say no but because it’s a step I never saw myself taking. I didn’t grow up seeing marriages and proposals, so for me to do it, it felt kinda full circle that I was breaking generational cycles.”
When considering their relationship, Offord thinks that a large part of what makes it work is that they both make conscious choices to ensure each other’s happiness.
“We have watched each other in every single phase: the good, the bad, and the ugly,” Offord said. “We made choices every day to continue to love each other. We’ve always complimented each other so well mentally and emotionally. Whatever I lack, he’s right there. Whenever he’s off track, I’m right there keeping him focused.”
Hayes has known that Offord was someone he wanted to keep in his life almost since the beginning.
“There are very few people in this world that will genuinely support you and make you truly better,” Hayes said. “If you find a person that does that then you do whatever it takes to keep them. Mweyeria is one of those people, and she has been since our first conversation.”
Looking forward, Hayes and Offord plan on getting married in a small courthouse ceremony in April 2023 and hope to hold a larger ceremony in 2024 once they have completed graduate school and can safely have the event be held without masks being required.
“I never thought I could have this,” Offord said. “I never thought I could have a relationship, be a mom, be a wife. So, for God to have placed me exactly where I thought I could never be with the exact person I always wanted it to be is just such a blessing. The sense of joy that I have in my heart knowing I get to be with this man for the rest of my life is immense.”