Sitting down with PEOPLE editor-in-chief Jess Cagle for the latest episode of The Jess Cagle Interview, the Tonight Show host looks back on his emotional marriage proposal — and reveals that despite his best efforts, the big night didn’t quite go as planned.
“I wanted it to be romantic and perfect,” Fallon, 43, recalls.
When Nancy, a Hollywood producer who worked on Fallon’s 2005 romantic comedy Fever Pitch, came to visit him in New York, Fallon was ready to propose that night — until she surprised him with a reservation at legendary restaurant Per Se.
“I didn’t want to propose in Per Se because what if one year it moves locations,” Fallon explains, “and years later I’m going to have kids and go, ‘Your mom and I got [engaged here]. I know it’s a laser tag place but at one point it was a very fancy restaurant.’ ”
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The couple went on to enjoy their dinner at Per Se, but Fallon knew this wasn’t where he wanted to pop the question.
“Cut to 14 courses later,” Fallon remembers. “I was bombed out of my mind. Wine came with every course… So I waited another three months.”
His patience paid off, and the Tonight Show host’s dream proposal finally came together at Nancy’s parents’ summer home on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.
“I went out to the dock and said [to myself], ‘Don’t cry. Let her cry first,'” he says. “I’m a pretty mushy guy… and I just wanted it to be perfect. I got down on one knee and I immediately [started weeping].”
“She’s like, ‘Are you having a stroke?'” Fallon recalls. “My face was like I was smelling burnt toast.”
Fortunately, his emotional night ended happily.
“She said yes and we celebrated and it was fun,” he says. “The rest is history.”