Erick Sharp proposed to his girlfriend, Stefanie Setacci, at the cannon Dec. 16. Photo by Emily Setacci

Cupid’s weapon of choice is a bow and arrow, but Erick Sharp wanted something more explosive to propose to Stefanie Setacci, his girlfriend of five years. So he did what many love-struck Gryphons have done before: he painted a proposal on the campus cannon in hopes of winning her hand.

If you happened to walk by the cannon Dec. 16, you may have noticed its painted message: “Will you marry me? A & F.” If you’re wondering what the letters stand for, they’re not initials; they’re an abbreviation for “always and forever.” The couple always signed cards to each other with that line, and it was Sharp’s way of personalizing the proposal so that Setacci would know it was for her.

There was no question who painted the cannon. “I’d been finding white paint everywhere,” Setacci says. “It was definitely Erick who painted it.” Sharp had already earned his painting stripes while working for Setacci’s father’s painting company in the summer of 2010. At the time, Sharp was also living in her parents’ basement in Kitchener, Ont. “I think it was actually really good for my parents,” says Setacci, “because they really got to know this kid who Stefanie’s been dating since first year.”

Setacci also helped her dad and boyfriend with paint jobs, many of which were on campus. “We were painting the residence that we lived in together,” says Sharp, who met Setacci in September 2007 when they were living across the hall from each other in South Residence. Those painting skills came in handy when it came time for Sharp to paint the cannon.

The newly engaged couple stands by the cannon.

Aside from living in the same residence, they had something else in common: they were both marketing students. “We were obviously attracted to each other, and one thing led to another,” says Setacci. They began dating in October 2007. “It definitely developed into a strong relationship over the years,” adds Sharp. “We started off as friends and became more than that.” They bonded while walking in the Arboretum, playing squash and volunteering with the Marketing Society.

They were also in some of the same classes, including one with economics professor Evie Adomait, who happens to be a long-time friend of Setacci’s mom, whom she met in church. One night when Sharp was invited to have dinner with Setacci and her parents, there was an unexpected guest at the dinner table: Adomait. “You can imagine it was pretty daunting, that’s for sure,” says Sharp. “At the time, we had just started dating.”

As a campus tour guide, Setacci always made a stop at the cannon, where she explained the campus tradition of painting it with messages, including marriage proposals. “It’s really funny that that’s how I got proposed to,” she says. Sharp adds that friends who were unfamiliar with the cannon’s use as a canvas asked him, “Did you vandalize public property?”

The day before the proposal, Sharp asked one of Setacci’s sisters to take her out for dinner and a movie so that he would have time for his project. He began painting the cannon white and then went to the UC for dinner. When he returned, he discovered that someone had already painted over his work, so he had to start over. Once he was finished, he guarded the cannon until 2 a.m. Setacci’s sister visited later that morning to make sure that the message hadn’t been painted over.

On the big day, Sharp told Setacci that they were going to have breakfast with friends at the Bullring. As they walked through the UC, he reminisced about all the good times they had shared at Guelph. Then he popped the question, but it wasn’t the proposal. “Do you trust me?” he asked as he tied a blindfold over Setacci’s eyes and led her to the cannon.

“I took the blindfold off, got down on one knee, said my speech, proposed and when I said, ‘Will you marry me?’ I turned her towards the cannon so that she could see that I painted it.” As soon as Setacci said yes, Sharp led her to the other side of the cannon, where he had painted “She said yes” the night before. Wasn’t that a little presumptuous? “I was confident,” says Sharp. Adds Setacci: “I would have never said no. It was the best way he could have ever proposed.”

Although she knew they were going to get married at some point, she says she had “no idea” when he was going to propose. That wasn’t the only surprise. Setacci’s sister had hidden near the cannon that day, taking photos of the proposal as it unfolded. Sharp gave the photos to Setacci for Christmas. They plan to marry in August or September.

How did their family and friends react to the news? “Finally!” says Setacci of her parents’ reaction. Their friends were equally happy for them, although they weren’t surprised that they were the first to get engaged. “Some of my friends are a bit upset, because now they’re going to be getting pressured by their long-term girlfriends as well,” says Sharp. “I’ve kind of opened the floodgates now.”

Sharp, B.Comm. ’12, is now an assistant product manager at Loblaws in Mississauga, Ont., and Setacci, B.Comm. ’11, works as a business consultant for Cintas in Kitchener.