Arts & Culture

Glenn Weiss and Jan Svendsen Open Up About That Very Public Emmys Proposal

"There was no chance I was saying no!"
IMAGE GETTY IMAGES / JEFF KRAVITZ
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On Monday evening, veteran awards show director Glenn Weiss nabbed an Emmy for his work directing the Oscars — but his biggest win of the night was getting a "yes" from his girlfriend of ten years, Jan Svendsen, when he proposed to her on stage in front of the star-studded crowd. (And everyone watching at home.)

"You wonder why I don't like to call you my girlfriend?" Weiss said during his acceptance speech. "Because I want to call you my wife."

Svendsen, in a silver Sachin & Babi gown, wiped away happy tears and nodded her head, "yes," as the venue erupted in cheers. Then, she made her way to the stage to accept the ring, which had previously belonged to Weiss's late mother, Helen.


Like any public proposal, if Svendsen had said no, the moment would have been a whole lot different. But Weiss wasn't worried.

"Of all the things I was worrying about [in that moment], like making sure I was able to dedicate a tribute to my mom and thanking people and being very cognizant of the time factor of it all... it didn't even cross my mind that she might say no!" Weiss tells Town & Country in a joint interview with Svendsen.


Jan Svendsen and Glenn Weiss at the Emmy Awards.

"There was no chance I was saying no!" Svendsen interjects. "We already knew we were going to spend the rest of our lives together. For me, that part wasn't a surprise. But we'd never [talked about getting engaged before], so this was a real, total surprise. I didn't have a good poker face that night."

"And I can tell you she's not a good actress!" adds Weiss with a laugh. "She definitely wasn't acting that night, that was all real."

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Weiss, who has also directed the Tony Awards and the Kennedy Center Honors, and Svendsen, a former marketing director, met over a decade ago while working together on the Tonys.

"We became friends over a period of time," Weiss says. "But she was this strong, powerful creative, independent-thinking woman, and our sensibilities just lined up and [our chemistry] became magic."

The newly engaged couple now splits their time between homes in New York and Los Angeles. Weiss was actually in New York the week before the Emmys to pick up his mother's wedding ring from his father, Bob, in preparation for the big proposal.

"When my mom passed away [almost] three weeks ago now, it put a whole lot of life in perspective," Weiss says. "I'd been with Jan for quite a bit and I thought, 'What am I waiting for? The person who is so important and valuable to me is right in front of me, what are you doing?' [The plan] all solidified in a very emotional couple of weeks."


Bob and Helen Weiss with Jan Svendsen and Glenn Weiss.

Svendsen didn't expect anything but "business as usual" on Monday night, since Weiss directs "all the awards shows."

"It made it the surprise of a lifetime," she says.

But the "surprise of a lifetime" reportedly rubbed some people the wrong way. Per a Page Six report, one theater exec grumbled that at every year at awards shows, “Glenn gives this pompous speech to all the nominees, lecturing everyone about how the clock starts the second your name is called and that going long is unfair to your fellow nominees because it eats time for everyone whose categories come later in the evening."

"It just became a moment."

The source added, "Leave it to him to completely flout his own rule in order to grab as much attention as humanly possible for him and his girlfriend.”

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Weiss had all that in mind when he planned his proposal, but like any live television moment, things didn't go exactly according to his plan.

"When I rehearsed this in my head, I did internal editing and cutting," he says. "From when my name was called to when I said 'I want you to be my wife,' it was under one minute and thirty [seconds]. It was exactly the right amount of time. What I didn't expect was everyone the room to get on their feet and for this to become a moment [and take longer]."

Because it was such great television, Weiss noticed that the usual time limits went away. "In the back of the room, the prompter, which has a clock and says 'Please wrap it up' [was taken] down... It just became a moment."

After the show, Svendsen says director Hamish Hamilton came up to the couple and told Weiss, "It was great and I'm thrilled." She described the interaction as "a real bonding moment."


Glenn Weiss and Jan Svendsen

They haven't had time to celebrate their new engagement with their families yet, but hope to do so soon. Despite another Page Six report that Weiss’s 17-year-old and 21-year-old daughters were "completely shocked and blindsided" by the proposal, the couple tells Town & Country "[our] family has been following along in all of the excitement."

There's no date set for the big day yet, but the couple would like a "small and fairly private" wedding. In the meantime, Svendsen will enjoy her time being engaged to the "man of her dreams."

"I’ve been called his girlfriend for many years," she says. "I love the new fiancée title, I think we’ll keep that for a while."

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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