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Man surprises his girlfriend with a diamond ring at the Cumming City Center just in time for Christmas
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Jake Smith gets down on one knee in front of the Christmas tree at the Cumming City Center to ask his girlfriend-turned-fiance, Caroline Hood, to marry him. Photo by Kelsey Butcher.

Caroline Hood and Jake Smith knew from the moment they met they were meant for each other.

The couple of a year and half grew up in Forsyth but didn’t know each other despite spending time with each other’s families and friends at church and both going to school at North Forsyth High.

After graduation, Caroline left Forsyth to go to the University of Alabama and didn’t meet Jake until she came back home in 2020.

“Some of our mutual friends just kept bringing him around,” Caroline said. “I remember asking my friend, ‘Who is that? I’ve never seen him before.’ And then once we started hanging out and talking, we realized that some of his family, I’ve grown up with in my church my whole life.”

The two started dating soon after they met and have been inseparable ever since. This past year, they even started talking about marriage, planning for a possible engagement early next year after the craziness of the holidays was long gone.

But after a faked electrical disaster and a trek through the cold, Jake surprised Caroline on Friday, Dec. 16, with what would become the greatest Christmas gift she could have gotten this year — a diamond ring.

Jake first started planning the proposal months ago, enlisting the help of Caroline’s mom, Lisa Mason. After finding the perfect ring and the perfect words to say, Jake asked Lisa if she had any good ideas of where he could take Caroline to finally pop the question.

“When I saw the big Christmas tree go up at the [Cumming] City Center, I thought, ‘How perfect,’” Lisa said.

The city center shares a space right next to where the couple’s first home together will be and serves as a reminder of where they first met in downtown Cumming. Not to mention, the background of the tree and Christmas lights would make for the perfect holiday proposal Caroline had been secretly hoping for.

“When I talked to Jake about it, he just loved it,” Lisa said. “And it worked out perfectly with the city center not being open yet.”

City of Cumming Mayor Troy Brumbalow volunteered to help hatch a plan to get Caroline to the city center without making her suspicious.

When the time came, Jake asked Caroline if she wanted to go out to dinner for her 25th birthday, which was coming up on Dec. 19. Thinking nothing of it, Caroline agreed, and the two were on their way out to celebrate when Jake got a call from Troy.

“Jake, there is an electrical issue at the city center. Is there any way you can stop by here and fix it really quick?” Caroline remembers Troy asking over the phone.

Jake is an electrician at J&M Electric Supply, and Caroline said he gets calls like this all the time. She didn’t expect anything even as they pulled up to the city center and saw Troy waiting for them.

“I was thinking there must be a really big electrical issue here because [Troy] was sitting there in his work van and everything,” Caroline said.

Thinking they would be outside for a long time working on an electrical issue, Caroline said she almost refused to get out of the car and stand in the cold.

“Please come with me,” Jake pleaded until she begrudgingly got out with him.

They started to walk down the path with Troy when he announced he had to turn back because he forgot his flashlight. And as they continued, just the two of them, Caroline started to notice lights turning on all around them.

“When I first saw the lights, I didn’t know what to say,” Caroline said.

That was the moment she knew he was going to ask her to marry him.

Caroline said she immediately started crying, asking Jake, “Are you serious?”

And as they walked down to the front of the giant Christmas tree, she was given her answer. Giant letters lit up in front of the tree, spelling out, “Marry me,” as Jake got down on one knee.

She immediately said, “Yes!” and before she knew it, their families were surrounding them with hugs and cries of “Congratulations!”

“It was a very sweet moment,” Caroline said.

Caroline and Jake are already making plans for their future and hope to have their wedding next December when they will spend their first Christmas together as husband and wife.

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Photo by Kelsey Butcher.