"When I was a little girl and I was dreaming up my wedding, I thought Cinderella would be a beautiful idea to go with," Ella Kleefisch tells PEOPLE
After a proposal fit for a Disney princess, a couple from Wisconsin are planning a “magical” fairytale-themed wedding.
Actors Ella Kleefisch and Gabe Hanna got engaged onstage while playing Cinderella and Prince Charming in a production of Cinderella at the Sun Prairie Civic Theatre earlier this month.
And now the pair, who met on Bumble in Aug. 2021, are planning to tie the knot next year at an Orthodox Cathedral in Milwaukee with their nuptials inspired by the classic fairytale.
“Cinderella has always been something very special to me,” Ella told PEOPLE. “My mom would always tell me that I was like Cinderella or I looked like Cinderella, and I grew up talking to animals like Cinderella. So the show was obviously really wonderful for me, but way before the show when I was a little girl and I was dreaming up my wedding, I thought Cinderella would be a beautiful idea to go with. It’s something magical and so special, delicate and colorful.”
Ella, who is also a student at Baylor University in Texas, added, “The color scheme and just the essence of a classic fairytale is what we’re going for with this wedding. We want to capture the essence of that magic of childhood and the magic of love defeating all odds. I want it to be magical.”
As for why he chose to propose during the curtain call of the final show, Gabe said it was not only because his “goal” was to catch Ella “totally off guard,” but he knew it would be incredibly special as the couple had been rooting to play each other’s counterparts in the production.
“I had to make it perfect,” Gabe told PEOPLE. “I knew I was going to propose at some point this summer, but when we got into the show as Prince Charming and Cinderella I thought that would be a really good opportunity to find a way to do it on the first night or last night.”
And Gabe revealed that even the production crew were in on his plans. “Three weeks into the rehearsal process I approached our director Tyler Stone and told him my plans,” he told PEOPLE. “I said I wanted to make sure he was on board and have production in the loop before I randomly got down on one knee on the stage! He was an immediate yes so we started concocting this plan of how to do it.”
“The production team came up with a really good idea of coming with this facade of an end of show announcement for the final show,” he continued.
“They gave Ella and me a piece of paper each and we were supposed to read the script verbatim, basically thanking people for coming to the show and how we’re excited to share these new productions that are to come. I started reading the script and said, ‘Thank you all for coming to the final show of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella,’ and then I went totally off script and started talking about Ella.”
“When he was going off script I was like, ‘This is very off script, it’s a bit unprofessional.’ I was quite surprised,” Ella told PEOPLE. “Then he continued and I was like, ‘No way is this happening right now!’ Then I started falling apart. You can see the moment I realized in the video.”
Ella shared a video of the proposal on her Instagram with the caption, “I GET TO SPEND THE REST OF MY LIFE WITH MY BEST FRIEND OMG.”
But Gabe hadn’t just been throwing Ella off the scent in the weeks prior to their engagement, but for months before, too.
“Gabriel had placed a lot of red herrings in my path,” Ella told PEOPLE. “About nine months prior to the proposal he started designing the ring and that was when he said to me, ‘I love you but I don’t want you to get your hopes up about getting engaged so soon so I would appreciate it just for our relationship and the fact I don’t want to disappoint you that we stop talking about that future.’”
“I was absolutely crushed,” continued Ella. “But he fully committed to the bit for a very long time so in no way did I think I was going to get engaged during that final show."
And even when their fellow cast members started suggesting that a proposal could be in the cards, Ella’s sister Violet was on hand to steer her off track.
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“The little girls in the cast came up to me throughout the entire production about it and then even by the end the adults were like, ‘What if Gabriel proposes?’ I was like, ‘You guys need to calm down!’” continued Ella. “I even said to my sister, ‘Violet, am I getting engaged today?’ and she said, ‘Ella, it would really disappoint me if he proposed to you and I had no idea.’ She is also a professional actress so her playing along was absolutely beautiful because it all came together so magically and it was everything the little girl in me could ever have dreamed of or imagined, not only in a proposal but in a partner.”
“I could not imagine being with someone who is better for me,” she added. “We can’t wait for the rest of our lives to begin.”
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