Glenn Weiss’ decision to propose to his now-fiancée at the Emmy Awards on Monday came after a heartbreaking moment, which gave profound clarity to the director.
“It wasn’t a long time planning at all,” Weiss admitted to Access on Wednesday. “I did speak to my dad three days before, actually. It was a rough couple of weeks. My mom passed two weeks ago and it was a lot of emotion and things, but a lot of clarity about what’s important in life too.”
“You come to the Emmys as a nominee; you don’t know if you’re going to win. If my name wasn’t called, it would have happened some other day. It didn’t have to happen on that day, but it was a moment and we went there,” he explained.
In his onstage acceptance speech after winning the award for outstanding directing for a variety special, Weiss said he decided to propose to his girlfriend, Jan Friedlander Svendsen, after losing his mother.
“Mom always believed in finding the sunshine in things, and she adored my girlfriend Jan,” he said. “Jan, you are the sunshine in my life. And mom was right, don’t ever let go of your sunshine. You wonder why I don’t like to call you my girlfriend — because I want to call you my wife.”
Weiss said his decision to propose was “full throttle” and “there were things I really wanted to say about my mom” in the speech. Having a director’s mindset, Weiss “really filtered and edited what I wanted to say and when I literally said to her, ‘I want you to be my wife,’ I know I was just at my right amount of time. It was great. I did not expect that reaction,” he told Access of the standing ovation from the audience and Svendsen being ushered up onto stage.
Svendsen, the chief creative officer at the Charity Network, admitted that she didn’t know until the very end that a proposal was coming: “I was in shock.”
But where did the couple’s love story begin? Before their relationship turned romantic, the two were colleagues.
“We worked together first. We met doing the Tony Awards, and then I actually worked on Broadway for about 17 years, and then I pivoted about two years ago, and I now work for Charitybuzz and Prizeo, where we help celebrities and charities raise money for cause,” Svendsen explained.
Prior to the recent death of his mother, Weiss said he “never got to a point of discussing” his proposal with her — but he know he has her approval.
“Mom’s favorite quote always to me was, ‘She was my friend first.’ And that’s just so meaningful to me,” said Weiss, who added that he knows his mother’s blessing “was there for sure.”
“As far as I’m concerned, they were there at that moment,” Weiss said about his parents being present at the Emmys. “Whether they’re physically here or not, they were there and that was a big, precious time.”
Although the pair — who Hugh Jackman congratulated on their engagement— don’t yet have a wedding date set, Weiss said it will be “more low-key” than the Oscars.
- Check out all of PEOPLE’s 2018 Emmys coverage here
RELATED VIDEO: Emmy Award Winner Glenn Weiss Proposes to Girlfriend Onstage
After his acceptance speech, Weiss later opened up about the decision while speaking to reporters in the press room. Revealing he didn’t have a “plan B” proposal if he didn’t win, Weiss said he probably would have “waited until next year” or perhaps done it later that night at “In-N-Out Burger, which is like our staple after award shows.”
“You can’t come in and plan this. It became [a] thought, and the thought picked up steam,” he explained. “That’s how we got here. The timing just lined up very nicely, and it was a really magical moment.”
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