If you were at Weed Beach on Friday night, Aug. 2, you may have been surprised to see an unusual flurry of activity. It wasn’t a shark sighting, or a sand castle contest, or even a community band concert, it was a wedding proposal!

While Bruno Mars’ “Marry You” played over the snack bar speakers, Darien High School graduate Jay Alter proposed to his high school sweetheart Lizzy Van Ingen, incorporating over 30 family and friends to help spell out his request: “Will You Marry Me?”

Van Ingen and Alter, both 25, are DHS Class of 2012 graduates.

They first met in ninth grade Spanish class and then reconnected in October of their junior year in the Middlesex Middle School cafeteria. They were participating with their families in a nonprofit charity called Feed My Starving Children, which coordinates the packaging and distribution of food to people in developing nations.

They continued to date, even as they attended colleges a thousand miles apart. Alter went to Syracuse University in New York, and Van Ingen went to the University of Georgia.

Alter began planning for the wedding proposal several months prior to the event, when he called Van Ingen’s mother. He then scheduled a conference call with Van Ingen’s family, who was coming in from Georgia, to set the plan.

After his proposal plans were in place, Alter had a revelation: “Lizzy’s favorite number is 8. Her birthday is March 8, my birthday is April 8, and after planning my proposal date, I realized the time between when we started dating and when I proposed was eight years, eight months, and eight days,” he said. Sounds like fate!

One close call they had was that Van Ingen had scheduled to dog sit that weekend, so Alter had to scramble to find another person to take her place.

Since they are often at the beach, particularly on Friday nights, “everything was very ordinary” on the night of the proposal, according to Alter.

On Friday night at the scheduled time, “We went onto the beach and when Lizzy saw everyone holding the signs, she asked, ‘What is happening?’ and I said, ‘This is happening.’ I got down on one knee and proposed,” Alter said.

Van Ingen was stunned by the surprise, especially since eight friends and family members flew in from Georgia without her knowing.

Everyone agreed that keeping the secret was the hardest part! In addition to saying “Yes,” Van Ingen said afterwards that “the night was better than I ever could have imagined!”

They are planning a wedding for the summer of 2020.

Alter and Van Ingen currently reside in Darien and plan to live in town after they marry. Alter is a commentator for ESPN and Van Ingen teaches third grade at Rogers International School in Stamford.

“I wanted the proposal to be in Darien, to be really memorable, and to be with friends and family, and I think we hit them all right out of the park,” he said.

Sandra Diamond Fox contributed to this story.