Marriage proposals becoming big business

HAPPY COUPLE: Dallas Harema proposed to his girlfriend, Lucy Ferris, with a flashmob dance in the Re:Start Mall last month.
HAPPY COUPLE: Dallas Harema proposed to his girlfriend, Lucy Ferris, with a flashmob dance in the Re:Start Mall last month.

Prince William rented a remote African lodge, singer Seal took a helicopter to a private igloo and Tom Cruise borrowed the Eiffel Tower and restaurant for a night.

And last year newly engaged celebrities flaunted some of the biggest diamonds ever seen on a finger, from Angelina Jolie's £500,000 ring to Keira Knightley's at £40,000.

All very well for the rich, but now even the average Mr who wants his Miss to be a Mrs is catching on to the fad that is creating a new industry out of planning the proposal.

Prolific in the United States, websites and agencies are springing up in Britain and elsewhere.

New Zealand company FreemanX Weddings helps Kiwis organise their big moment.

One of the website's Canterbury-based ideas is a hot-air balloon ride over Christchurch for $880.

"A romantic hot-air balloon flight over Christchurch city would make a wonderful place to propose to the love of your life," the website says.

"As you drift along with the breeze, and take in the spectacular views, this could be the chance for that wonderful moment."

Another Christchurch idea the website offers is a luxury sailing proposal package. The couple can hire the boat for two hours and enjoy a light antipasto platter and Champagne. This package will set you back $794.

Other ideas for the rest of the country included a secluded beach proposal in Taupo, a horse-drawn carriage proposal in Waikato or a banner, where a plane will tow a "Will you marry me" banner across the sky.

The director of a British firm founded last year to help plan the romantic gesture says the trend of big proposals has gone "utterly crazy".

Daisy Amodio, director of the Proposers, said men were getting competitive.

''They want their mates to be impressed as well as the girl,'' she said. ''They are trying to outdo each other.

''A lot of it is people looking for an idea. They'll pay for one that suits them and go away happy to carry it out.

''At the other end, we organise the whole thing, plan it, research and find a venue.

''We launched in May and have been overrun by demand. A lot of it is following celebrity trends, and the movies of course.

''In days gone by, you might have gone for a walk in the park to propose, but that's not enough now.

''About half of our clients come to us with their own idea, which is great because it does need to be personal, but for some of the proposals a guy couldn't do it on his own.

''Like the one who wanted to be a knight in shining armour. We had to find him a castle and decorate it and persuade him out of wearing the complete helmet.

''They are all normal people who use us, who just want to make it special and something to be remembered.

''I'm really proud of them all and we haven't had one who has lost their nerve or one that has said no.''

Amodio is working on her first flashmob proposal; something she thinks will become more popular (as recently evidenced in Christchurch).

Cantabrian Dallas Harema proposed to his girlfriend, Lucy Ferris, with a flashmob dance during the World Buskers Festival in the Re:Start Mall last month.

He had been planning it for about a month after getting the idea from YouTube.

Amodio said the pressure was on to come up with something spectacular.

Think location, think buildup, think romance, think a whole lot of rose petals.

Overblown shows of sentiment are never going to be everyone's cup of tea, though.

Dame Helen Mirren last month said that she and her partner, Taylor Hackford, were not ''remotely romantic''. 

''I'd be completely horrified if Taylor gave me a Valentines Day card,'' she said.

Amodio recommends that people think carefully about making a public proposal.

''It's not to everyone's liking'', as a baseball fan found out last year when he proposed in front of 10,000 people in a US stadium, along with a viewer who asked US television show host Ellen DeGeneres to propose on his behalf on national television.

They both scored a ''no thanks''.

For the sceptics, remember the late Johnny Cash, who proposed to June Carter live on stage in Canada and got a ''yes'' - and 35 years of marriage.

- Observer

The Press