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From This Day: Creating a life of surprises

Al Schluter, center, is the friend who introduced Jay Howat IV and Melody Stang Howat at their church. Schluter also created the opportunity for Jay Howat to propose and served as the best man at their wedding on May 7.

Photo courtesy of Heather Bean

Al Schluter, center, is the friend who introduced Jay Howat IV and Melody Stang Howat at their church. Schluter also created the opportunity for Jay Howat to propose and served as the best man at their wedding on May 7.

ST. PETERSBURG

They wanted everyone to be surprised.

So as the couple walked away from the altar of First United Methodist Church, the wedding march faded. Then the "007" symbol was projected on a screen and the James Bond theme kicked into gear.

Laughter and smiles of recognition followed John "Jay" Howat IV and Melody Stang Howat out of the sanctuary on May 7.

Once again, they had surprised their friends and family. And just as it had before, it made everyone feel that they were a part of something special.

The first surprise was just as astounding for Melody, a real estate broker in St. Petersburg, as for everyone else.

Al Schluter, a mutual friend, had introduced Melody, 49, to Jay, 58, at church. She admitted she'd spent months staring at Jay during services before they ever spoke.

"I kept thinking, 'Who is this gorgeous man?' " she recalled.

After she was introduced to Jay, a manager for a medical equipment company, it wasn't long before the two got serious. Melody took Jay along to her hometown of Overland Park, Kan., for her 30th high school reunion.

"We all thought that that's when he would propose," she said.

And Jay, whom her family affectionately calls "Four" because they have so many Jays of their own, was ready to ask.

But it all felt so expected, he said. "Her dad basically asked me what were my intentions for his daughter. I kept my answers very vague."

The perfect time and place just hadn't presented itself. Then, Schluter called Jay and asked him about throwing Melody a surprise birthday party in a private room at 400 Beach Seafood & Tap House.

It was just right.

Toward the end of that October evening filled with friends, fun and lots of gifts, Melody came down to the last box.

It was from Jay.

She opened the shirt box and inside she found a tie box.

Inside the tie box, there was a ring box. The sighs and gasps rolled through the crowd.

Inside the ring box was . . . nothing.

Melody thought, What's the big idea? Then she looked up and saw Jay.

"You have to be asked the question first before you can receive the gift," he said.

Shock turned to joy as she got the birthday present she would never forget.

From the crowd reaction, it was hard to tell who was more excited, Jay recalled.

Melody said she originally wanted a beach wedding, but Jay convinced her that a big church wedding made more sense.

"Everyone who was there (at the proposal) shared in that moment with us," Jay explained.

So 300 invitations went out beckoning friends and family to witness their union before God.

"We met in church, so our relationship has a good faith foundation," Jay said.

And maybe a few more surprises.

From This Day: Creating a life of surprises 07/30/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 30, 2011 5:30am]

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