Mercer librarian’s Peeps-themed engagement gains national attention

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A man gets on one knee to propose while a woman stands in front of him. A yellow chick mascot stands beside him, holding an Easter basket. They stand in a room decorated with bright chick and bunny designs.
Matt Rivera proposes to Carly Jessup in The PEEPS® Sweet Suite at Home2 Suites by Hilton in Easton, Pennsylvania, on March 25. Photo by Mark Stehle Photography for PEEPS®

One of our Mercer University “peeps” got the surprise of a lifetime recently. Carly Jessup, research services librarian at Tarver Library and longtime collector of Peeps candy merchandise, said “yes” to boyfriend Matt Rivera during a Peeps-themed proposal on March 25. 

The unique engagement has since gained national media attention, including a story on People.com.

Jessup, originally from Johnson City, Tennessee, and Rivera met in undergrad at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) as psychology majors working on a group project. However, it wasn’t until a couple years later that they reconnected on social media and had their first date at the Tennessee Aquarium. They’ve now been together for four years. 

Jessup, who also holds a master’s degree in library science from the University of Kentucky, had never been to Macon before interviewing at Mercer. She had a great experience during her visit and accepted the job, and Rivera relocated to Macon after finishing his master’s degree in industrial organizational psychology at Austin Peay State University. He now works as the people and culture coordinator for the National Diversity Council.

“Matt is my person. I’ve never met anyone who gets me the way that he does,” Jessup said. 

Jessup’s love for Peeps began in elementary school, when she was drawn to the cuteness of the brightly colored marshmallow chicks and bunnies. She started collecting brand merchandise and found joy in searching for new items. Twenty-plus years later, she now has more than 200 items, ranging from Peeps plushies to Peeps Crocs to Peeps-flavored toothpaste. Many of them are displayed on a shelf in her home.

A man holds a sign that says "she said yes" while kissing a woman on the cheek who is holding up her hand to show an engagement ring.
Matt Rivera and Carly Jessup are shown after the proposal in The PEEPS® Sweet Suite at Home2 Suites by Hilton in Easton, Pennsylvania, on March 25. Photo by Mark Stehle Photography for PEEPS®

Collecting Peeps merchandise was a challenge when she first started, but items are easier to find today, especially around Easter, Jessup said. The hobby has led her to a lot of new experiences, including attending the New Year’s Eve Peeps Chick Drop in Pennsylvania and staying in the “Peeps Sweet Suite,” where Rivera proposed. 

For a limited time, Home2 Suites by Hilton in Easton, Pennsylvania — near Peeps’ Bethlehem headquarters — had two Peeps-themed rooms available for guest stays. Jessup said she saw an Instagram post about the suites and shared it with Rivera, without any expectation that they would go. But by later that day, Rivera had booked a room and the pair had requested days off work. They also made plans to tour Philadelphia while they were there.

“The Peeps suite is a Peeps-lover’s dream. I was amazed at the attention to detail. The bedding, the bath towels, the hand soap, everything was Peeps related. You were allowed to take a lot of the items in the room, so that was really cool to me as a collector,” said Jessup, who snagged a Peeps bathrobe.

A sparkly gold ring box in the shape of a chick sits in an Easter basket with straw.
The PEEPS® ring box that Matt Rivera used in his proposal to Carly Jessup in the PEEPS® Sweet Suite at Home2 Suites by Hilton in Easton, Pennsylvania, on March 25. Photo by Mark Stehle Photography for PEEPS®

Rivera proposed not long after the couple checked into the hotel on March 25. 

“We heard a knock at the door,” Jessup said. “When I opened it, the Peeps chick mascot was there and a few other people. The Peeps chick was holding an Easter basket. I thought this was a nice surprise. But, I didn’t know if this was something they did for everyone.”

Then, Jessup noticed a Peeps chick ring box in the basket. Rivera grabbed the box, took out the ring and proposed. 

“It was the best surprise ever,” Jessup said. “I was really blown away by all the work that Matt had done to make the day so special to me.”

Jessup said a lot of people were involved in the proposal, and she was touched by the generosity of the teams at Peeps and Home2 Suites by Hilton.

“I think what I’ll remember most is the way I felt that day. I felt very loved,” she said.

In addition to People, Rivera and Jessup have been interviewed for stories by 11Alive News in Atlanta and UTC Chattanooga News. Their story was also shared by AOL, Yahoo! Entertainment, Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Life, WSB-TV, KTVB7, 13WMAZ, WHAS11, THV11, B98.5 and CBS News Philadelphia.

 

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Andrea Honaker
Andrea Honaker is a digital content specialist at Mercer. She writes feature stories for The Den and creates and maintains content for primary University web pages. She also plans and executes campaigns for the primary official Mercer University social media accounts.