Surprise marriage proposals: Planners share their worst horror stories
You’re always supposed to look surprised at a marriage proposal. And as outsourcing peaked, companies began to pop up and offer to arrange the surprises for the proposer. They then expanded to birthdays and greetings too, allowing you to send out a customised thank-you poem or a singing clown or stage a flash mob.
But part of the risk, with an elaborate surprise, is that a) she’s not going to like it (sorry, guys, most recipients are still women) or b) the x-factor’s going to kick in and something’s going to go terribly wrong.
Most of the mishaps, planners say, occur in the marriage proposals, partly because they form the bulk of total events staged, and also because they tend to be the most elaborate. Charter planes grounded by bad weather, cops making arrests at a flash mob, crackers going off at the wrong cue… there’s just so much that can go wrong.
Crash, boom, bang
“Even when you plan months in advance, you really need the stars to align for you on the day of the event,” says Sakthi, founder of the Chennai-based surprise planning start-up the6.in.
Sakthi’s first bolt from the blue came in 2017, while staging a marriage proposal that was supposed to look like a movie set. “We wanted to recreate the proposal scene from the 2016 Tamil film Remo, so we positioned 25 people at 25 locations near the boy’s house, so that each one could light a firecracker at the same time, as the boy went down on one knee.”
The girl would be standing on the third floor of a building while this played out. The whole scene was planned over 45 days. What they didn’t take into account was a temple festival, one of many that occur through the year in Chennai. “The command for our guys was supposed to be the sound of a single cracker going off,” says Sakthi.
“We were still setting up when we heard fireworks from outside a temple nearby, and I was just standing there with Sakthi,” says Augustine Abraham, still crestfallen at the memory. “We were doing the last of the terrace decorations — there were roses, fairy lights, arches. The 150 fireworks lit up the sky as we stood there, and there was no way to stop them.”
“A cardinal rule is to never panic!” says Sakthi. “Luckily we had an hour to go before the girl arrived and even though it cost me extra to recreate the scene for the couple, it was well worth it in the end.”
Oh, and she said yes. The couple married a year later, in 2018.
The sky’s the limit
For A, a Mumbai techie who asked that he not be named, there were no retakes, at least not on the first proposal. He popped the question in 2014, with a brief message written in the sky near the hill station of Lonavala (sky-writing was still legal in India then).
He was paying for each letter, so he kept it brief — ‘A <3 S’. “Unfortunately, that day was so windy, the message vanished even before she could lift her head. It cost me around Rs 60,000. And she thought it was a real waste.” She didn’t say yes, either, though they did eventually marry in 2018.
In Hyderabad, Oye Happy almost had to call of one guy’s proposal altogether. “The plan was to send us up in a Cessna and from there he would point out to me, way below, a 60-ft-long banner spelling out the words ‘Will you marry me’,” says Rachel John. Unfortunately, the weather was so bad the plane couldn’t take off.
John had already arrived at the venue. Over the next hour, as she stood around wondering what was happening, the team quickly improvised, bringing in some puppies from a shelter nearby, called in a guitarist they knew, and had the puppies walked towards the girl with placards around their necks spelling out ‘Marry Me Please?’ She said yes.
Having your plane grounded or the girl saying no isn’t, as it turns out, the worst that can happen. Sakthi ended up spending the night in lock-up after he organised a flash mob on a beach without permission. “I learnt a lesson that day,” he says.
Then there are times when everything goes off well, the woman says yes, everyone’s grinning from ear to ear — and there are still no guarantees. “I lost the ring,” says Deep Mahaveer 28, a textile manufacturer from Coimbatore.
He proposed last year at a beautiful candlelit event at the Chhattarpur Farms in Delhi. “Just before Sakshi got there, I rushed in to change into my tuxedo. I was so excited, waiting for my cue to enter, and then I realised I’d misplaced the ring.”
Anjan Kaur, founder of The Proposal, one of India’s first proposal planning companies, kept his calm and fashioned a tin foil ring out of a soda can seal. “She laughed when he put it on her finger, and eventually they did find the ring,” Kaur says.
They were married in February. “But we’ll never forget our special start with the tin foil ring,” says Mahaveer.