On the Beach, a ‘Surprise of a Lifetime’

A heart made of seashells or perhaps the candlelit path leading down to the beach might have suggested the kind of night Dr. Kerry Morrison was about to have on Christmas Eve 2018. But she thought it was going to be simply another evening at her family’s house on the beach in Fairfield, Conn., where she was visiting for an annual holiday get-together.

She was tired, having just finished a 24-hour stint on call at NYU Langone Health, where she is now a fifth-year resident in plastic and reconstructive surgery. She wasn’t paying much attention — that is, until her boyfriend, Will Whiston, started talking to her about what he wanted for Christmas and their relationship.

“Then he got down on one knee and proposed,” she said. “It was beautiful. My post-call brain was suddenly — I was very awake.”

Dr. Morrison, 32, and Mr. Whiston, 33, met in 2016. They were at the Colony Club in New York for the engagement party of a mutual friend who had advised both that they may be a good match.

Their chemistry was immediate. “I saw her across the room and I was like, Wow,” said Mr. Whiston, who is the executive vice president for the Olympics business unit of On Location, a company in New York that sells travel and entertainment packages for live events. He graduated from Williams College and received an M.B.A. from Harvard.

“Literally from the moment we met, we spent the rest of the night speaking,” said Dr. Morrison, who received both a bachelor’s degree, cum laude, and a medical degree from Columbia. “And we’ve been dating since then.”

Dr. Morrison said she was particularly impressed with Mr. Whiston’s efforts to keep in touch with her over the months that followed their introduction. She was in rotations at the time, and lived briefly in New York, Philadelphia and Boston.

“He would travel to meet me for dinner dates,” she said.

And one characteristic that drew her attention immediately was Mr. Whiston’s confidence. “I feel like we’re such a team, and that’s something I’ve always dreamed of finding in someone,” she said. “He’s such a rock in my life, and that’s something I had never found in somebody until I met him.”

By the time she matched with a residency program in New York, in 2017, she was in love.

Mr. Whiston said that he had been impressed by how well Dr. Morrison fit into his family, and he was particularly enamored of her zest for everything from a simple dinner out to a weekend at the yacht club, as both love to sail.

“I’m not the most enthusiastic,” he said. “I’m a bit more level. She brought an element to my life that I had never expected.”

On the way to her parents’ house, in 2018, where he intended to propose, Mr. Whiston, who had been plotting to make the engagement special, was nervous. “My hands were clammy,” he said. She asked if he was sick, before going back to trying to sleep. He brushed her concerns off.

When they got to her parents’ home, she said, he told her that her brothers were down on the beach having drinks. So they headed in that direction.

That’s when she missed the candlelit path.

On the beach, where she missed noticing the seashell heart (Mr. Whiston had designated it as “the spot” so that a photographer who was hidden nearby would have a clear shot of the moment), she was confused because her brothers weren’t there.

And then, suddenly, Mr. Whiston was on one knee. (It emerged later that her parents had locked all the doors to the house, just in case she tried to go inside.)

“She can be fairly not observant to begin with,” he said. “But when I did start saying some nice things, she definitely woke up.”

On June 19, at the Roman Catholic Church of the Resurrection in Rye, N.Y., the couple was married. Cardinal Timothy Dolan performed the ceremony before 175 guests. Dr. Morrison plans to use her own name and her husband’s.

Dr. Morrison said that Mr. Whiston completely pulled off the proposal. “I am one that is very hard to surprise,” she said. “And that was the surprise of a lifetime.”

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