Proposing the pro way

For grooms-to-be here, it seems buying a ring and getting down on one knee in a restaurant is no longer enough for her to say "yes".

More men are hiring professional planners to execute grand and elaborate proposals, worthy of Facebook shares, likes, and even a chance at going viral.

Mr Lee Ming Hui, managing partner of proposal planning company HelpYouMarry, saw 15 clients in 2012, a number which doubled to 35 last year.

Of the 60 men Mr Lee and his team helped pop the question, 10 were tourists.

Spaniard Daniel Gartz, who proposed to his fiancee Bettina Schramm on a beach in Sentosa, was one of them. He sought HelpYouMarry out through the company's website.

The proposal, which took place in March, began with a waiter who presented a box - filled with memorabilia like the couple's photos - to Miss Schramm. The couple was lounging on a deck chair on the beach.

Later, balloons were presented to Miss Schramm, each tagged with words and letters which formed: Bettina would you marry me?

For the record, she said yes.

Popular locations for tourists looking to propose include local icons such as Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay and Sentosa.

Mr Lee said his clients are mostly men in their late 20s and 30s, who have worked for a number of years.

"They are typically very busy and sometimes struggle with coming up with ideas to bring meaning into their proposals," he points out.

The creation of such experiences do not come cheap.

Civil servant Wee Jie Hao forked out $6,000 for an elaborate proposal to his girlfriend on their ninth anniversary in February.

The 26-year-old counts the fee "worth it" as it was a once-in-a-lifetime event.

He says: "I wanted a video of the proposal process, and although I could get friends to help, I didn't want to trouble them. Also, I could not expect quality since they are not professionals."

Such videos and photos add a nice touch to the couple's actual wedding day or banquet, said Mr Lee.

He and his business partner, Miss Jennifer Goh, helped Mr Wee prepare a series of nine surprises for his now-wife, Madam Careen Ang, to represent the nine years they had been together.

A set of clues eventually led her to the proposal site, where she watched a video recorded by her husband.

It did not end when she said "yes".

Mr Wee immediately ferried her to the solemnisation venue in a limousine and they tied the knot three hours later that same day.

Prices for HelpYouMarry's packages begin at $3,000, which is not inclusive of venue rental and decorations.

While the company is one of the few here which markets itself as proposal specialists, wedding planners also offer such services.

Ms Eileen Tan has been in the business for the past decade and takes on about 10 proposal cases a year.

The 30-year-old, whose day job is in office administration, said demand has been constant over the years, with numbers picking up before auspicious periods such as the Dragon Year.

Her charges start from $300, a figure which can go up to thousands depending on how elaborate the plan is. Her rates do not include professional photography and videography.

She reveals that in 70 to 80 per cent of the proposals, the women never find out that their men had help with popping the question.

"Some of the men think revealing he had help might spoil the impression the fiancee had of the entire experience," she says.

Mr Jonathan Goh, the local representative for the Association of Bridal Consultations, says an increased awareness of proposal planning services probably contributed to higher demand.

But he reckons it is a passing trend.

"We believe that most ladies would prefer their boyfriends to plan the entire proposal instead of engaging someone else to do it, which doesn't really show much sincerity," he says.

Other unique proposals in S'pore

SURPRISE IS IN THE AIR

A man surprised his girlfriend by first sending her off at the airport to a business trip, then appearing on the plane when she got on it.

Miss Eileen Tan of Proposal Ideas said it took some liaising with the budget airline for him to board the plane without the girlfriend noticing.

Although the aisles were too narrow for him to get down on one knee, he succeeded in snagging a positive reply with a bouquet of flowers and went with her on the trip.

SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES

A man fulfilled his girlfriend's dream of being a princess by re-enacting the story on a beach.

Seven of the couple's friends got into dwarf costumes - complete with spades and axes - before performing some special moves.

Another friend acted as the Wicked Witch and gave the woman the poisoned apple, which required the would-be bride to "fall asleep".

Her prince gave her the "lifegiving" kiss before popping the allimportant question.

Would you pay $62,000 for a planner or $123 for an idea?

Proposal planning companies are not only gaining speed in Singapore.

New York-based Sarah Pease, who runs Brilliant Event Planning, reportedly handles budgets up to US$50,000 (S$62,300) for a proposal.

In one of the proposals she planned, a 100-man marching band was hired, parting at the right moment so the groom would emerge to pop the question.

Companies such as The Heart Bandits sell proposal ideas with prices starting from US$99 for two ideas, based on a questionnaire filled up by the groom.

The trend is being helped by celebrity grooms who orchestrate largerthan- life proposals.

In 2005, singer Seal arranged for a helicopter to fly girlfriend Heidi Klum to the top of a 4,267m-tall glacier, where he had arranged for an igloo to be built.

Besides candles and champagne, the igloo had a bed covered with rose petals.

Seal then asked for her hand in marriage with a 10-carat diamond ring.

But proving that the proposal is not everything, the couple split in 2012.

benitaay@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 6, 2014.
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