Jaouad Didi wanted to make his marriage proposal to Geneviève Harbec perfect.
“I wanted the proposal to be a story, something unique and remarkable,” Didi says. “When I received the e-mail about the Harvard Extension Student Association (HESA) annual family holiday event in Memorial Hall, I knew that was where I wanted to propose.”
With the help of HESA leadership, Didi concocted a plan to bring himself and his bride-to-be to the stage set in Annenberg Hall, the majestic dining and event venue within Memorial Hall. HESA President Tricia Byrnes and Director of Events Tracie Gordon created a mock raffle with two Harvard Extension School mugs as a prize.
“It was entirely rigged just to get the two of us on stage,” Didi says.
When Didi and Harbec came to the stage to receive their mugs, the engagement ring was in Didi’s cup. He turned to his bride-to-be, dropped to one knee, and popped the question—and Harbec happily said yes.
“I had been to Harvard before as a tourist, but this was the first time I was in Annenberg Hall, and it was just spectacular,” Harbec says. “It’s something you definitely don’t see every day.”
As for the proposal, Harbec says, she “wasn’t expecting it at all. It was really very special.”
PASSION, SUPPORT, AND INSPIRATION
Didi, who immigrated to Canada from Morocco in 2007, says he was drawn to Harbec in large part because of her fearlessness and willingness to step into the unknown, citing Harbec’s work teaching English and French in Peru in 2009.
“She left her job, her apartment, and went on her own to go volunteer in Peru,” says Didi. “She wanted to help people and make a difference, and I thought that was amazing. I saw some similarities to when I left everything behind to pursue my own dreams, that willingness to move from certainty to uncertainty.”
Those shared values helped the couple flourish despite some substantial challenges. In addition to working full time as a financial planner, Didi was also at the beginning of his long-distance studies for a master’s degree at the Extension School—a pursuit that would require time, attention, and energy.
“She understood that my work and my studies were both very important to me,” Didi says. “She was very supportive, and I really appreciated that.”
“I am very impressed that he was able to balance it all—his work, his study, and our relationship,” Harbec says. “He inspired me to start my own master’s degree. I hope I can handle it as well as he did!”
LOVE, HARVARD STYLE
As plans shift from the perfect proposal to the wedding, Didi and Harbec are determined to continue the magic of their Harvard proposal in the ceremony.
“We looked for a wedding venue in Montreal that touches on the feeling of Annenberg Hall, that sort of history and magnificence,” Harbec says. The couple will tie the knot on September 3, 2016, in the University Club of Montreal.
“We’re definitely bringing the Harvard experience into the wedding,” Didi says. “We’re even using Harvard’s colors as our theme.”
Both Didi and Harbec expressed their thanks to the Harvard Extension School community in coming together to make the event special.
“I just want to thank the Extension School team for what they did,” Didi says. “It made Harvard such an important part of the proposal. It was so unique, and we’ll never forget it.”