This is how a proposal is supposed to go in Southport, N.C.: You head down to that fish bar by the water Saturday night, and take a walk on the dock with your girlfriend. “Hey, is that your mom?” she wonders, “What’s she doing here?” She turns around and you’re already on one knee, deftly whipping out the box containing your future fiancée’s engagement ring. Smooth. Flawless. But that’s not how it went for Matthew Picca, age 25.

As he produced the ring, it fell from its box and disappeared between two planks of the scenic dock, into the dark water below.

Goddammit, Matthew Picca. You were so close to getting this right. What are you going to do now?

Here’s what happened directly after poor Matt and his soon-to-be-fiancée-if-everything-goes-right, Kayla Harrity, watched the engagement ring vanish before Kayla could even get a good look at it: Kayla started crying.

“I covered my face and began to cry because I knew my boyfriend was devastated,” she told WBTV. “Matthew did not even get to say anything to me before the ring fell into the ocean.”

Their assembled family and friends, along with a group of people watching from the deck of the adjacent bar, headed down to the water to commence the search. At this point, Kayla’s sister had a brilliant idea: she’d use the flashlight on Matthew’s phone, which had a special waterproof case on it, to search underwater for the ring.

Matthew’s phone did not have a special waterproof case on it. Sorry, buddy.

As a crowd continued to gather to look for the ring, Kayla went to the nearby restaurants in search of flashlights and goggles.

“After ten flashlights, and five pairs of goggles and over 1.5 hours of searching in the water...the ring was found!” Kayla told WBTV.

After nearly two hours spent sopping wet and un-phoned trying to recover his fumble, a shirtless and fish-smelling Matthew finally remounted the dock to finish what he started, now with the entire bar crowd watching.

She said yes, and the newly engaged couple returned to the bar to buy the searchers a round of shots, finally ending unfortunate Matthew’s humiliation. They spent an hour in the bar, and then took a “romantic carriage ride.” Did Matt get to change first? Will his phone insurance cover water-damage-by-incompetent-in-law?

“Everyone in Southport was talking about it,” Kayla said.

[Photo: Kayla Harrity via WBTV]