Met: March 1997
Engaged: April 11, 2004
Wedding: July 16, 2005
"I picked her up with a pen,” Jose Luis Rojano says of his fiancée, Gabriela Arroyo. Mr. Rojano, 30, owns his own catering company, Bon Vivant. He met Miss Arroyo, 29, who works in sales at the convention center, in 1997. “We were both working downtown at the Manchester Grand Hyatt,” Mr. Rojano recalls on an early August evening. Mr. Rojano worked in room service. Miss Arroyo was a hostess at Lael’s.
“Every day when she came to sign in at work, she never had anything to write with. I started standing there with a pen.
“The door to Room Service was right next to the place where we signed in,” Miss Arroyo concurred. “Every day as I walked in, he would just appear with a pen in his hand.”
The couple went on their first date to Busalacchi’s about a month after they met. “He was so nervous when he asked me,” Miss Arroyo says with a smile. “He kept saying, ‘You can think about it if you want.’ I didn’t have to think. I said, ‘Yes.’”
After dinner, Mr. Rojano showed Miss Arroyo around the town. “I was born in Mexico City,” he says. “But we moved here when I was six. I consider myself a native San Diegan.”
Miss Arroyo came to San Diego from her hometown of Puerto Vallarta. “I only knew Chula Vista.”
The couple walked around downtown, then ended up at Café Lulu. “We talked until 2:30 in the morning,” Miss Arroyo recalls. “He talked about his family and about his mother. I liked that. I fell in love right away. He was so charming and genuine.”
When it came time to pop the question, Mr. Rojano consulted his friends. “They all said to get a limo and go for a hot-air balloon ride. But I knew that as soon as she saw the limo she would know that something was up.”
Instead, Mr. Rojano spoke to his brother who was studying in Boston. “He had a friend who was an up-and-coming artist,” Mr. Rojano explains. “I sent my brother some pictures of Gabi. I had already gotten the ring. I sent pictures of the ring and the box. My brother gave all the photos to his artist friend.”
Over a month’s time, the artist painted a portrait of Miss Arroyo sitting at a table. In the corner of the portrait, Mr. Rojano’s hand appeared holding Miss Arroyo’s engagement ring in an open box.
“The artist shipped the painting out to me,” Mr. Rojano continues. “I went to an art gallery in La Jolla right next to George’s at the Cove. The gallery owner was super nice. He hung the portrait and lit it for me.”
Last April, Mr. Rojano told Miss Arroyo, “Let’s go to dinner at George’s.” A friend, Chuy, is one of George’s bartenders. “Every now and then, he’ll call and say, ‘Come have dinner on me.’
“I told Gabi that I had a stomachache just in case I acted weird. I didn’t want her to be suspicious.”
“I was clueless,” Miss Arroyo confirms. “I didn’t even have a hint of what was going on.”
“We got there a little early, so I said, ‘Let’s look in here.’ I took her into the gallery. We walked around for a little bit. Then we turned the corner and saw Gabi’s portrait. We stood there for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, I said, ‘How about that one?’ and I pointed to her picture.”
“At first, I didn’t know what to think,” Miss Arroyo says. “I said, ‘That girl looks like me.’ Then I said, ‘I have a blouse just like that.’ I was concentrating on the woman in the painting. I didn’t even see the hand with the ring.”
Unable to wait any longer, Mr. Rojano dropped to one knee and pro- posed. “He said, ‘Would you do me the honor of being my wife?’ ” Miss Arroyo said yes.