It was just before sunset at Waveny Park the evening of April 20. Disha Shah was sitting on a bench in the garden to the left of Waveny House wondering what exactly she was doing there. A few moments later she got her answer as a familiar face appeared from around the corner and walked toward her. Some conveniently placed lights turned on around them as he bent down on one knee and asked a question that seemed all too familiar and completely surprising at the same time.
"I definitely was not expecting this today," Shah said smiling afterward. "But I'm piecing it all together now. It was a great surprise."
"It all went according to plan," Makanji, who grew up in Norwalk, said. "And she said yes. That was the most important part."
Makanji knew about Waveny Park from his days in high school as a member of the cross country team.
"We used to come here for events and I remember being struck by all the open space," he said. "When I was figuring out my proposal, I knew I had to pick a really beautiful area. Waveny Park was the best choice. This garden is amazing."
His bride to be was just as awestruck with the setting.
"It has a long winding road leading into the park that is a little scary to be honest," Shah said with a laugh. "But then it opens up and it's this really pretty green park out of nowhere. I love it and I'll never forget this place."
She is not the only one. Many people have selected Waveny as the setting for their romance. Recreation Department Director Stephen Benko said the mansion is pretty much booked for most of this summer, unlike last year.
"It's picked up. Last year was kind of dead for us. Most people were not booking as often as we have seen historically. It was just the economy I think," Benko said. "But this year we are booked for a lot of the summer."
And most of the reservations are for weddings, Benko said. Every Saturday in May is booked while June has every Friday and Saturday booked. July through September has every Saturday and Sunday booked. New Canaan residents can reserve the location two years in advance for $1,500. Non-residents can reserve the location one year in advance for $2,650. The town will provide tables, chairs, china and silverware for the event while everything else is brought in from elsewhere by those who reserve the mansion.
Benko said the aesthetics of the whole area attracts couples to Waveny.
"I think it's a very pretty place to get married. It's a big large mansion. You have a patio and a lot of space. You can get a maximum 160 people so that works out pretty well. It's just the elegance of the whole area."
Similar to Makanji and Shah, many proposals have also taken place in Waveny Park. Shelly Riwer, who grew up in Darien, recalls her husband proposing there in 2003.
"It was a favorite spot of ours. We used to go to Waveny all the time to walk my dog and just spent hours of our weekend there on good days," Riwer said. "One day he told me he couldn't make it to the park with me and I went by myself. He surprised me behind the mansion and proposed to me. It was the happiest day of my life."