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Grand Forks woman looking for a few good men to help with her wedding

With tourists snapping photos, Marine 2nd Lt. Joe McLaughlin proposes to Jill Eken on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 3. She said yes, and they'll be married Dec. 30 in Grand Forks, Eken's hometown. Photo provided by Michelle Cross.

Jill Eken, 27, wants to get married in Grand Forks later this month, so she's looking for a few good men.

Six would do nicely, she says, but she'd settle for four. If interested, you can reach her at 1-(701) 610-1375 or

We should explain.

After a five-hour proposal involving a scavenger hunt studded with Marines in dress uniform and holding red roses -- culminating in one smartly uniformed Marine dropping to a knee in front of a crowd at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. -- Eken said yes on Oct. 3 to 2nd Lt. Joe McLaughlin.

She then began planning a wedding that would conclude with the newlyweds leaving the ceremony under a shimmering arch of swords held aloft by bright and shiny Marines.

"There's a tradition with the Marines where six or eight of them stand outside the church and create an arch with their swords, and the bride and groom pass under it," she said.

"The last one hits the bride in the rear end with his sword as if to say, 'Welcome to the Marine family.' "

Most of Eken's family, including parents Craig and Kim Eken of Grand Forks, are in North Dakota, so the wedding will be Dec. 30 at the Hopper-Danley Memorial Chapel on the UND campus.

It will be capped, she hopes, by that archway of drawn swords, which explains the city briefs ad she placed in the Herald Friday looking ... well, looking for a few good men.

"We've got a couple of guests who are Marines, and they will help out," she said. "But we should have six."

A rose, and another, and ...

Eken grew up in Grand Forks and studied physical therapy at UND, graduating in 2007 before moving to the West Coast.

"That's where I met Joe," she said. "He's from California."

McLaughlin, 28, enlisted in the Marines out of high school. When his hitch was up, he went to college and later worked as a stockbroker.

They've been living in Virginia, where McLaughlin recently finished officer training, and will be going after the wedding to Pensacola, Fla., where he will train to become a Marine pilot.

Joe's proposal started with someone handing Jill a rose and telling her that Joe wanted her to embark on an odyssey that was part scavenger hunt, part obstacle course and part sightseeing tour of national monuments.

She was directed by a succession of clues around the suburban Virginia countryside and into Washington, where she found spit-and-polish Marines holding roses outside the White House, near the World War II memorial and finally to the Lincoln Memorial and Joe.

"By the time I got to the last few roses, quite a number of tourists knew who I was," Eken said. "At the Lincoln Memorial, there was a mob of people around, everybody taking pictures and cheering.

"You can't beat Marines in their dress blues, holding roses and standing in front of a national monument."

Eken insists she didn't complain about the more than five-hour ordeal, which included a number of challenges along the way (including having to locate and photograph an albino squirrel in one park).

"It was so special and fun," she said, "it never crossed my mind to get upset with him.

"And I think I knew at the first rose what it was leading to."