Walt Thompson likes to make his fiancee, Nealey Dozier, laugh.
Thompson, a videographer and aspiring filmmaker, does the photography for Dozier’s food blog, dixiecaviar.com. One day, he placed a Lego® figure in a photo. “She laughed and liked it,” said Thompson. “I did it a few more times. It became an inside joke.”
There was no joking around on Jan. 3, 2012, when Thompson slipped a DVD into the player and stood back while Dozier watched a stop-motion video starring Lego characters acting out the story of their lives together, culminating in a marriage proposal and wedding ceremony.
Dozier was expecting a poem from Thompson to mark the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the day they started dating, a tradition he started on their first anniversary. “I remember standing there [watching the video] piecing it together. I was in shock,” Dozier said. “Afterward, I couldn’t even talk.” She managed to find her voice and say “yes.”
The video starts with the day Thompson and Dozier met at a sports bar in Los Angeles, where they had both moved to start their careers. Dozier, 28, a native of Auburn, Ala., and a graduate of Auburn University, went to the bar dressed in Auburn blue and orange to watch her team play football.
“I walked into a sea of red and black,” said Dozier. The University of Georgia Alumni Association of Southern California was there to watch the Bulldogs. Thompson, 29, grew up in Sandy Springs and earned a degree in drama and film studies at UGA.
Though football rivals, the pair became friends and then began dating. Besides SEC football, they discovered other southern connections. Thompson’s aunt was Dozier’s mother’s sorority pledge sister at Auburn. Thompson and Dozier each have a grandmother from Columbus, Ga., and the families knew of each other.
“It was wonderful finding a southern boy in California,” Dozier said, pointing out their similar values and closeness to family. “We immediately connected on that level. I kind of figured out at the beginning that I was going to marry this guy.”
Thompson took a little more time to make that commitment. “I had a lot of friends in LA. I suppose I was a little scared to let go of bachelorhood,” he said. Even so, “I had a good feeling about her from the get-go. She is the most genuine, well-balanced person I’ve ever met.”
Before they met, Dozier worked for a wedding planner. About the time she met Thompson, she was beginning to re-think her career goals. Meeting Thompson added another reason to make a switch. “I had a new romance that seemed more important than working 80 hours a week,” she said, adding that she wanted to start cooking for him. “My mother always told me the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”
Thompson, who worked as a production assistant then set director for a TV commercial production company, encouraged Dozier to quit her job and helped her focus on what she really wanted to do. Her passion is food, so she went to culinary school and got a job as a taster for a cookbook author.
At the same time, Thompson was intent on furthering his own career.
“I wanted to start writing and I was working on a director’s reel,” he said.
He made a trip to Atlanta to borrow video equipment, and wound up with a job offer from a commercials director. He asked Dozier to move to Atlanta with him.
“It was an obvious choice,” she said. “I loved being in LA but I loved Walt more. When he asked me to move to Atlanta, I knew [marriage] was definite but I knew it would be when he was ready. I knew I couldn’t rush him.”
They bought a house in Brookhaven. Thompson eventually started his own company, and Dozier launched her food blog; she also writes for Cooking Channel as a southern blogger, tests recipes for Oprah Magazine and is a southern contributor to “Kitchn” food blog.
Thompson continued shooting photos for Dozier’s food blogs, adding additional Lego pieces. When he decided to make a Lego proposal DVD, he had eight figures and added about 10 more, including a blonde guy to represent himself and brunette ponytailed gal for Dozier. He spent two 12-hour days taking 2,600 photographs for the video in a makeshift studio in his parents’ Sandy Springs home. Editing was completed behind the locked door to his home office. Thompson was a stickler for detail – tiny plastic cups were painted with wine-colored nail polish recalling their first meeting in the bar; the intended bride wore a chef’s toque; a Lego table looked much like the butcher block kitchen island Thompson had given to Dozier as a gift; plastic food slid across the table; and the action was enhanced by audio of one of the couple’s special songs, “Don’t Wait Too Long.” Dozier explained, “Walt said when it came time to pick the song for the video, it was the only choice. By proposing the day before our fourth anniversary he wasn’t ‘waiting too long.’”
A detail that surprised both Thompson and Dozier was his choice of a jewelry designer to craft an engagement ring. During her time as a wedding planner, Dozier had discovered a ring designer whose work she admired. When a ring box with the name of that designer flashed on the video, Dozier asked Thompson how he knew. In fact, Thompson had researched designers for six months until he found someone who designed unique, one-of-a-kind ring settings. “I’m always cooking and doing dishes. He didn’t want my ring to get in the way,” Dozier said. “We’re convinced this ring found us.”
Thompson knew his elaborate proposal would be accepted. He said when he got down on one knee in front of Dozier at the same time Lego guy did in the video, “I had no doubt she would say yes.”
To view Thompson’s Lego proposal video, go to this link: http://vimeo.com/34638912