I have included these proposal stories because I think they are inspiring, if occasionally Byzantine in their complexity and organisation.
There are so many ways you can make the event one to remember and regale your grandchildren with. Some stories are as reported and others are written directly by the participants. I have kept the latter as they are as I feel it adds something of the excitement and immediacy of their feeling for the event.
Read on - or Download Chapter 14 as a pdf to read at your leisure.
I just love this proposal story, for all sorts of reasons.
THE STORY OF RUTH AND ARJAN
Engaged Easter Sunday 2013, Married Sept 2014.
Easter is Ruth’s favourite time of year. Arjan had created an Easter Egg hunt for Ruth and her son, who was just five at the time. He’d written up loads of clues that started in their garden, then sent her by car to her parents’ garden and finally back to their own.
The final clue sent Ruth and her son to a wooded area at the bottom of the garden where they had to dig down into a huge pile of leaves. There they found a bag with two Easter eggs in it, both addressed to Ruth. One was a ‘Hotel Chocolat’ Easter egg in a big box all beautifully wrapped and ribboned. The other was one of those little eggs in red and gold foil with ducks on that you’ll find in any sweet shop.
Arjan told Ruth that she had to choose which egg she wanted. Naturally, Ruth wanted the big, beautiful, gorgeously wrapped Easter egg, but she noticed that the little ordinary egg had a sticker on the bottom that said ‘open me carefully’, so she chose the little egg.
When she opened it, there was cotton wool inside and, in that, her engagement ring. At that point, Arjan got down on his knee and proposed.
Ruth said it was really special because her son was there too. He was thrilled, dancing around saying, ‘Wow, Mummy, that’s lovely’, and was involved in the whole thing. It was a proposal which included all three of them.
When Ruth and Arjan got married in the local church, they had a marquee in the garden, her mum did the catering, and it was a lovely relaxed family day.
Ruth said that they had previously gone out looking for rings. She’d seen one she liked, but they wanted platinum (it was gold) and she was going to have to wait eight weeks to have it made. So she wasn’t expecting Arjan to propose so soon. He’d returned to the shop and asked to have the ring to propose with, and planned to arrange to have the same ring made in platinum. When it came to it, Ruth didn’t want to part with the ring which Arjan had proposed with as it had a special meaning and significance to her, so she kept the white gold ring and that is what she wears now.
Marcus used Aneta’s birthday as a way to cover up the elaborate arrangements he made for his proposal. He loved the whole process of creating the event for her, and I think that comes across in this story which is exactly as he told it to me.
THE STORY OF MARCUS AND ANETA
‘Aneta and I got engaged in August 2014. We booked a holiday in Mexico to celebrate Aneta’s birthday which meant my surprise proposal could go under the radar without Aneta realising what was going to happen.
‘Before we arrived in Mexico I was emailing our hotel, organising everything to the last detail as this was the most important thing I had ever done! But first I needed a ring so did some research to design my own ring and had it made in good time. It was perfect.
‘So we begin our journey to Mexico, the ring is hidden in my suitcase and I’m nervous in case they see it at customs and want to search the case, spoiling the surprise. But everything goes smoothly. We arrive at the hotel in Riviera Maya and it is incredible.
‘So now I need to prepare and get everything sorted. I make excuses to Aneta so I can sneak off and finish the arrangements without her realising. I have planned everything to be done on her birthday. We wake to a beautiful bouquet of flowers left at our door, and at breakfast the waiters sing “Happy
Birthday”. The day is going perfectly. We spend it on the beach in the beautiful sunshine until lunch, and again the waiters sing “Happy Birthday”. Aneta loves it.
‘We stroll along the beach with cocktails, talking and laughing about the four wonderful years we have spent together. As the sunset begins I surprise her with a sunset couple massage looking out to the beautiful ocean, followed by a glass of champagne – so romantic. We head back to our room to change for dinner. There is a knock at the door – the hotel has sent a nice bottle of bubbly. Perfect. Aneta is loving our day, as I get nervous!
‘We stroll along the seafront to where I have organised a surprise dinner on the beach. Everything has been organised with the waiters – at the end of the meal they are to bring out the ring in a cake made by the hotel in the shape of a ring box. We finish the beautiful food; it’s going amazingly. The waiter then blindfolds Aneta and a man starts to play “Lady in Red” on a saxophone. As they bring out the ring,
Aneta bursts out crying with happiness and says yes. And we dance under the moonlight. The absolute best day of our lives.’
Rafael and William’s story is one of a whirlwind romance, and another where a birthday served as cover for all the arrangements. This one is less elaborate but was the perfect memorable day for them both.
THE STORY OF RAFAEL AND WILLIAM
Rafael is Brazilian. He came to London to learn English, set up a successful business and stayed. William is English and shy.
One week after they met, they decided that this was a serious relationship and they were going to stay together. Two and a half months later Rafael proposed, and they were married a short time afterwards. This is how it happened.
It was William’s birthday, so, under the cloak of birthday celebrations, they flew to Paris where Rafael booked a table for lunch in the Michelin starred Jules Verne restaurant at the top of the Eiffel Tower. He had alerted the Maître d’ to his plans.
They had a wonderful meal with staggering views over Paris. At the end of the meal, the waiter brought a huge silver salver with a high domed cover, announced it was their dessert and, with a small bow to them both, left it on the table.
Rafael lifted the cover. Under it was a beautiful cake with two gold rings arranged on top. Rafael then got down on one knee and asked William to marry him.
It took William a full minute to answer, he was so overcome, by which time other people in the restaurant realised what was happening and got up to applaud. Luckily William finally said yes and the restaurant brought two glasses of champagne over. They spent the rest of the day in blissful happiness wandering around Paris.
The lengths to which some chaps will go to surprise and delight their fiancée. For Byzantine, this almost takes the cake, but it just shows that all we really want is a lovely, thoughtful surprise. And Steve was pretty pleased with himself too.
THE STORY OF STEVE AND RACHEL
‘I proposed to Rachel in May 2015.
‘I told her that the directors of my parent company were holding a shareholders’ meeting in Reims, Champagne (somewhere she’d been wanting to go for a while) and that they wanted me to attend. Wives and girlfriends were invited for the Saturday night.
‘I contacted her boss secretly and asked if she could have the
Monday off work so we could really stay two nights.
‘I told her that the others were hiring cars and that I’d hire us a car too and drive down via the Eurotunnel. I said that
I’d picked a cool car, but it was a surprise.
‘We picked the car up on Saturday morning – a Nissan Figaro (her favourite car). She thought I was just being thoughtful, and luckily didn’t suspect anything.
‘At one point she said, “Well that’s two things ticked off my list: going to Champagne and driving a Figaro”.
‘My business partner was in on it, and I had him call me whilst I was driving so that Rachel answered. He said a few things to her and that we were meeting at the restaurant at eight to eat at 8.30, as requested.
‘We got to the guest house a little late, but it was a really nice place with just five bedrooms on a champagne farm in a quiet little village called Vrigny outside of Reims.
‘The receptionist at the guest house knew what was happening and not to say that we were booked in for two nights. She also gave us a bottle of champagne from the farm and gave me a little wink when we arrived!
‘We got a taxi to take us to the Michelin star restaurant, and when we arrived, it was an amazing old chateau in beautiful grounds. There was ivy growing all over the house and a classic Ferrari parked outside.
‘Rach got out of the taxi and said, “This is like a fairly-tale”
– still none the wiser.
‘I had booked the table under my business partner’s name, and called the day before to tell the waiters what I was planning and arrange that they would take us out to a private table on the terrace and bring over a bottle of champagne, which they did perfectly to plan.
‘At this point, when there was nobody there, Rach was wondering where everybody was and was worried we were in the wrong place, but I just said they must be running a bit late and not to worry.
‘I then told her I’d put together a photo album on my phone of all the things that we’d done together over the years and started showing her all the pictures. She thought it was a very nice thing to do, but was still none the wiser.
‘I then asked her if she was ready to tick another thing off her list and reminded her of the times she used to drag me past a shop window when I visited her in Liverpool. At that point she realised I was talking about a jewellery shop and she went silent and started to fill up.
‘I pulled out the ring box and got down on one knee, said a few words and asked her to marry me. After a few seconds of complete shock, and lots of tears, she said yes and gave me a hug.
‘At that point another table of guests had obviously noticed what was happening and cheered, then came over with some tissues for Rach and took a few pictures.
‘I also told her nobody else was coming, this was all for her, and she’d got Monday off work so we could go champagne tasting the following day, which came as almost as big a shock to her as the question itself.
'We sat outside for about forty-five minutes whilst she calmed down and stopped crying. She had mascara all over the place; it was a great hour or so out there.
‘I was a bit worried about whether she would like the ring or not, but she absolutely loved it. She said all she’d really wanted was to be surprised, but didn’t think I’d be able to do it. Every time we went away, everybody would say to her “Do you think he’s going to pop the question this time?”, but somehow I managed to get her all the way out to a nice restaurant in Champagne, in her favourite car, without her suspecting a thing. Very pleased with myself, and happy she said yes, of course!’
THE STORY OF DANIEL AND ALENA
It was the anniversary of their first year together and, not a man to hang about, Daniel had decided to ask Aléna to marry him. He wanted it to be a really memorable surprise and, in true Dan-fashion, a bit of a tease too. So this was all arranged under the guise of celebrating their ‘first anniversary’.
Dan booked a nice boutique hotel on Lake Garda and told Aléna he hadn’t been able to get anything on Lake Como. They had a lovely couple of days in Lake Garda, but on the third day he told Aléna that ‘the hotel’ was transferring them to a sister hotel on Lake Como owing to a ‘problem with the kitchens’ – for Health and Safety reasons they would have to move and they were booked into this hotel on Lake Como.
Despite her protests they packed their bags and drove off. On the journey Dan gave Aléna the Trip Advisor details for the new hotel, ‘edited’ with a new name, pictures and awful reviews, crucially keeping the address the same. She read ‘no hot water, bad food etc’ so was feeling really miserable. But they continued to follow directions to the hotel and arrived outside the Grand Hotel Tremezzo – a gorgeous, five-star luxury hotel on Lake Como.
Against more protests Dan insisted they go ask for directions to this ‘other place’. Aléna really didn’t want to go in because this was so beautiful, and where they were going would be even more of a let down by comparison. Dan told Aléna that these old historic hotels were so big they wouldn’t know better if he said they had a booking, and if they had a room free they would just give it to them, so they might as well try. The clerk looked up Dan’s name up on the computer and said, ‘Yes sir, your room is ready for you.’ Dan just said there must be someone else with the same name. But when they got to the fabulous room he had arranged, the penny finally dropped and she realised he’d planned it all along!
They had a wonderful dinner on the terrace overlooking the lake, with a full moon (also specially ordered), and Dan suggested they take dessert in their room. Dan ordered and called Aléna onto the balcony as there was ‘something he wanted to show her’.
He told her a story about a 19-year old woman and a 21-year old man who met at a dance. He was an electrician and she was a catering assistant and pretty quickly they decided to get married. These were Dan’s grandparents.
Then Dan took out a box. ‘Here’s the ring my grandmother wore all her life, they were young and it was all they could afford back then, but it has very special sentimental value. So I thought it was appropriate to have it with me when I asked the question.’
Then he got down on one knee, asked Aléna, and of course she said yes.
There’s a lovely postscript to this story. When they returned to London, they did the usual tour of Boodles et al, looking for Aléna’s ring. In each shop the assistant brought out four or five rings for Aléna to look at, but without success.
Then they found this tiny boutique where a little old French lady talked to them for a while before asking Aléna to tell her what she had in mind. The French lady disappeared and came back with just one ring, and for Alèna it was the perfect ring. The French lady simply said, ‘I knew it would be.’
Read On – Chapter 15 offers more information, resources and a glossary.