Public proposals: The stuff of romance or epic fails?

Are public proposals a sincere declaration of love, or a way to manipulate you into accepting? Photo: 123.rf

American producer and director Glen Weiss stole the Emmy Awards show last September when he proposed to girlfriend Jan Svendsen during his award acceptance speech. Influencer Chiara Ferragni – aka The Blonde Salad – and Italian singer Fedez were engaged after he serenaded her on stage at his concert. Public displays of affection are the stuff of romantic fiction, but are they a tad over the top?

Maybe not to Singapore men, who are hiring marriage proposal companies such as Help You Marry (Singapore’s first professional marriage proposal planner) to make the big ask extra special. The company charges a starting fee of $3,400, inclusive of photography, videography, decor and reservations, and recently, they had an Indonesian client who composed a song and played it on a grand piano in the middle of winter along tree-lined paths on Nami Island in Korea. Yes, you’ve guessed it, it was a setting for the drama Winter Sonata.

On average, Help You Marry plans 30 to 40 proposals a year, 30 per cent of which are done in public, a sign that the once-intimate affair has morphed into an elaborate event. Millennials comfortable with sharing and being in the spotlight are the new norm, thanks to social media and reality TV, but proposals are still widely regarded as lowkey and private occasions. So why turn it into a spectacle?

“The love of the spotlight, and romanticism, are likely relevant in some cases. With all the proposing and love confessions that unfold on reality TV shows, it’s no wonder that more people are doing this,” says Singapore Management University associate professor of psychology Norman Li.

“Another reason is that guys think observers will be impressed, which may help tip the scales for the woman to say yes,” says Prof Li.

“It could also be a potential ‘up or out’ gambit for the men – either the girl will be so impressed and say yes, or the relationship will be over.”

It certainly can get awkward, as national serviceman Muhammad Amirul Sufian found out. He popped the question by getting his friends to each hold up a different word from the phrase “Will You Marry Me” at his  Operationally Ready Date (ORD) parade. After she accepted, they switched places so the phrase read, “You Will Marry Me”. Keyboard warriors joked that she never stood a chance.

But there are success stories: Social media creative Chloe Choo, 25, and her flight attendant boyfriend CY, 28, had broached marriage and a private engagement. But he proposed at the Italian Restaurant/nightclub Lavo’s Halloween party, and boy, was she surprised. CY explains that it wasn’t planned. He wanted it to be spontaneous instead of trying to create the moment.

“I brought the ring out with me on several occasions, even overseas. But at Lavo, the atmosphere and mood felt right,” he says. “We first met at a Halloween party four years ago, so proposing on the occasion was especially significant.”

“Perhaps extroverted women who enjoy being in the spotlight might take more favourably to public proposals than quiet women or those who like to stay private,” says Prof Li.

With 80.4k followers on Instagram, Chloe is comfortable in the spotlight.

Even self proclaimed introvert 26-year-old student Hana Zalejska is grateful to have felt like a princess for a day. Her fiance Adrian Chia, 37, got down on one knee in front of her and thousands of spectators at the recent Indoor Stadium WTA tournament, during a semi-final match. The setting was apt: Hana used to play for the Czech junior team, and the couple often watch tennis or play for fun together. She said yes. Game, set, match made!

But it’s not for everyone. Public proposals take guts, and what better way to demonstrate sincerity? “That is, if you can risk making a fool of yourself in front of many strangers, you must truly love the girl,” explains Prof Li.

Lynx Marriage Proposal cofounder and operations manager Pailin Thipayarat agrees, saying “clients who decide to propose in front of friends and family want to prove to their partner that their love is sincere and there’s nothing to hide”.

If you’re reading this, fellas, good luck, and to use a tennis metaphor – please don’t double fault.

Are public proposals romantic?

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This article first appeared in the January issue of our magazine.