Simply getting down on bended knee doesn’t cut it for everyone.
Instead, some lovebirds are splashing as much as £200,000 on popping the question – and that doesn’t include the ring.
Speaking to MailOnline Travel, four luxury proposal planning companies have revealed the most extravagant engagements they have fulfilled for clients, with prospective brides and grooms jumping out of helicopters, watching firework displays from superyachts and plucking diamond rings out of Icelandic glaciers as part of a niche trend for uber-luxe engagements.
Four luxury proposal planning companies have revealed the most extravagant engagements they have fulfilled for clients
When it comes to lavish proposals with a travel bent, Black Tomato – a specialist travel company based in London and New York – is arguably the market leader.
Each Black Tomato proposal takes place on a holiday that the company, founded in 2005, has carefully curated.
Co-founder Tom Marchant reveals that one of the firm’s stand-out engagements took place in Mongolia when they sent a couple on a hunting trip with a local Kazakh (a traditionally nomadic people in central Asia) hunter, whose ‘perfectly trained eagle’ helps him to hunt for red and corsac foxes. Tom recalls: ‘After the eagle spotted some prey in the distance, the mighty bird took off to attack, but rather than returning with the fox, [it] returned with an engagement ring’.
Black Tomato once crafted a ‘thrilling proposal’ that involved the sweethearts ‘leaping’ from a helicopter into the Great Blue Hole (above), a famous marine sinkhole off the coast of Belize
Black Tomato co-founder Tom Marchant
When the team learned that another couple had a passion for scuba diving, they crafted a ‘thrilling proposal’ that involved the sweethearts ‘leaping’ from a helicopter into the Great Blue Hole, a famous marine sinkhole off the coast of Belize. ‘They explored the Blue Hole reef system in complete privacy and then conducted their engagement,’ says Tom.
There’s more. Describing another unique engagement, Tom recalls: ‘Several years ago we whisked an intrepid couple to the Baliem Valley in West Papua, where they spent the entire week completely immersed within the ancient Dani Tribe. After six days of traditional hunts and tribal rituals, the proposer got down on one knee and proposed in front of the whole tribe, which was met with a celebration of local songs and a traditional feast.’
Another of the team’s ‘most loved’ proposals was in Iceland, where they organised a guided caving experience inside the Langjokull glacier, the second-largest ice cap in Iceland, set in the west of the Icelandic Highlands. The prospective groom had pre-arranged for the ring to be embedded within the wall of an ice cave. Tom says: ‘When they walked into this ice cave they saw all these glistening minerals, but one in particular really sparkled. With the help of our expert guide, the bride-to-be stumbled across the ring. Together the couple ice picked it out and she accepted the proposal.’
One Black Tomato proposal took place in the Langjokull glacier, the second-largest ice cap in Iceland, set in the west of the Icelandic Highlands. The ring was embedded in the ice for the bride-to-be to discover
For an engagement in the Maldives, the team found ‘a tiny headland in the Baa Atoll that transforms into a tiny little island when the tides shift’. Tom explains: ‘After studying the tidal patterns of the area, we planned a picnic on the headland at the perfect time to ensure that the two were “stranded” on this pristine little island for a few hours.’ The proposer got on bended knee on the island once evening fell, Tom reveals.
In South Africa, Black Tomato arranged for a ‘completely private dining experience on the most panoramic point of Table Mountain’, the landmark flat-topped mountain that overlooks Cape Town. Tom recalls: ‘We worked tirelessly to ensure that we could effectively reserve the entire plateau of the mountain to ensure the couple were completely alone when he popped the question.’
The team also organised proposals in Costa Rica’s Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve, where the client proposed in a clearing that ‘very few have ever trekked to’; Morocco’s M’Goun Valley, also known as the ‘Vallee des Roses’, an area to the east of Marrakesh that’s known for its flora, where the groom-to-be spelt out his proposal with ‘vibrant petals’ on a hillside; and Rome’s Trevi Fountain – once the bride-to-be said ‘yes’, three opera singers emerged from the crowd and ‘serenaded the couple with “their song”‘.
Black Tomato arranged an engagement ‘on the most panoramic point of Table Mountain’, which looms over Cape Town, South Africa (above)
Naturally, these out-of-this-world engagements don’t come cheap. Prices range from £5,400 to pop the question while ‘chasing the Northern Lights’ in Iceland to £200,000 for a proposal trip in the salt flats of Bolivia.
Speaking on the budget required for a truly unique engagement, Tom notes: ‘Of course, many clients are seeking opulence for the occasion and big grandstand gestures. However, we believe the perfect proposal focuses on personal touches, not budget. It needs to be hugely personal to the couple, and the really romantic element to this service is capturing the spontaneous, old romantic feeling of being caught off-guard.’
What is the company’s most popular proposal spot? According to Tom, it’s those that are ‘set against the backdrop of an iconic, breath-taking view’ such as the Grand Canyon in Arizona. He says: ‘We like to pick couples up in a helicopter and whisk them out to the remote North Rim, away from the crowds.’
Rome’s Trevi Fountain (above) was the setting for one Black Tomato proposal – once the bride-to-be said ‘yes’, three opera singers emerged from the crowd and serenaded the couple
Traditional romantic hotspots like Paris are ‘perennial favourites’ too, he reveals. For one couple, the Black Tomato team created a scavenger hunt that ‘sent the bride-to-be around the city for a full day, before the search concluded at the Eiffel Tower, where the groom-to-be was waiting on one knee’.
A romantic staple, The Eiffel Tower played a big part in another firm’s most extravagant proposal of all time.
The Heart Bandits, a proposal planning firm based in Southern California, created a 7ft (2m) Eiffel Tower out of moss and roses for a couple’s ‘around the world’ themed engagement.
One Black Tomato client proposed in a clearing that ‘very few have ever trekked to’ in Costa Rica’s Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve (pictured)
Married couple Michele and Marvin Velazquez, who run the company The Heart Bandits
The proposal cost a whopping $70,000 (£55,651), Michele Velazquez, who founded the firm with her husband Marvin in 2010, reveals.
She says: ‘We had to bring elements in from all of the countries the two jet setters had visited… we had roses spilling out of a gondola to represent Italy, and we scoured the country for a Mexican-themed Christian Louboutin bag. We rented out a rooftop garden in Manhattan, brought in an orchestra, florals, gifts and more. At the bottom of the pool in the garden was a monogram that said, “Will You Travel With Me Forever?”‘
However, it’s not the priciest proposal the firm has ever arranged – Michele reveals that one proposer splashed $76,000 (£60,421) on the romantic occasion, not including the fee.
‘If the proposal is very extravagant, we charge 20 per cent of the overall cost of the proposal,’ she notes.
Above is the setting for an ‘around the world’ themed proposal on a Manhattan rooftop, as arranged by The Heart Bandits
Describing the ‘around the world’ engagement, The Heart Bandits’ Michele says: ‘We had to bring elements in from all of the countries the two jet setters had visited’
The happy couple whose engagement featured an ‘around the world’ theme
Michele and Marvin, whose own engagement inspired them to set up the company, are currently working on another deluxe proposal that involves a ‘private circus show’. Michele reveals: ‘The client will be hiding backstage during the circus and come out disguised as a circus performer. He will eventually reveal himself and propose.’
Meanwhile, Heather Vaughn, CEO of another California-based proposal planning company, The Yes Girls, reveals that one client spent as much as $100,000 (£76,695) to make the moment as special as could be.
Shedding light on all this pricey proposal entailed, Heather says that the groom-to-be flew 30 of his nearest and dearest to a villa on Kiawah Island, off the coast of South Carolina, on a private plane, hoping to surprise his partner. At the villa, there was a monogrammed ‘floaty’ in the pool, spelling out the couple’s initials, and a custom-made dessert bar.
Above is Kiawah Island, off the coast of South Carolina, which was the setting for the most extravagant proposal that The Yes Girls has ever organised
Pictured is Heather Vaughn, CEO of The Yes Girls
‘[The client] flew in his personal champagne bottles and wine bottles from his personal cellar, so just everything had to be temperature controlled,’ Heather adds.
The Yes Girls organised everything from ‘what was ordered on the plane, to the itinerary, to the proposal, to the engagement party’.
‘We’ve definitely done a lot of different types of extravagant proposals,’ Heather says, adding that another couple’s firework display was designed to create a ‘rainy day effect’ because their ‘first date was in the rain’.
Across the globe, Australian proposal planning firm My Proposal Co has similarly been tasked with high-end proposal requests. Of one such proposal, Tania Alaee, who co-founded the company with her partner Gloria Gammo, reveals: ‘We exclusively hired a superyacht with a private chef who prepared a three-course meal, with light-up fireworks that spelt “marry me!”‘
At one engagement (pictured), organised by The Yes Girls, the couple’s firework display was designed to create a ‘rainy day effect’ because their ‘first date was in the rain’
For another swish proposal, the team hired a private dining room with panoramic views of Sydney and filled it with 1,500 red roses. In Australia’s rugged Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, the team hiked to a remote spot in the mountain’s peaks with picnic supplies for a client who wanted to ‘have a picnic with ponies present’. A picnic set-up in a ‘private area’ of The Great Wall of China in Beijing was the setting for another romantic moment – this was the ‘hardest to reach location’ the firm has worked with, Tania reveals.
She notes that the company will charge anything from AUD 1,500 (£864) for ‘intimate settings’ and up to AUD 20,000 (£11,463) for a particularly extravagant proposal experience.
However, their most big-budget proposal to date cost AUD 16,000 (£9,187). ‘We arranged [the] exclusive hire of a stunning location in Sydney with light-up letters to spell out “will you marry me”, pyrotechnic sparks to go off at the moment his girlfriend said “yes,” a red carpet, candles, real rose petals and thousands of fresh red roses to fill the space. The couple arrived in a limousine and stayed in a five-star hotel in Sydney after the proposal,’ Tania says, adding that it was one of the company’s ‘favourite’ proposals of all time.
An elaborate proposal arranged by the Australian proposal planning firm My Proposal Co
Arranging such elaborate proposals is not without its challenges, according to Tania, who says that the biggest struggle is working to an exceptionally tight deadline. She explains: ‘We have planned a proposal with only six hours’ notice before because our client picked up his engagement ring and was too excited to wait to propose.’
For The Heart Bandits, a challenging proposal to curate was a ‘flash mob orchestra’, which involved 20 musicians and 10 dancers in a ‘huge crowd’ in Las Vegas. The dancers and musical acts were told to start performing in harmony once the bride-to-be left a tip in the tip jar – which turned out to be difficult to manage. ‘It was very stressful getting the girl to leave a tip,’ says The Heart Bandits’ Michele.
Meanwhile, for Black Tomato, the trickiest engagements to see through are those that are dependent on ‘a naturally occurring – and impossible to control – event’. Tom says:’ We’ve had several clients who’ve had their hearts set on proposing beneath the glow of the Northern Lights. Thankfully, we’ve always been able to help them pull this off, but there have been occasions where it’s taken a few attempts to find the perfect moment.’
In Australia’s rugged Blue Mountains, the My Proposal Co team hiked to a remote spot with picnic supplies for a client who wanted to ‘have a picnic with ponies present’
Try as they might, some proposal requests are simply too difficult for planners to fulfil. My Proposal Co’s Tania notes: ‘We once had a client ask us to organise his proposal on stage with Post Malone during one of his concerts in Australia.’ However, the client gave the firm just two days’ notice. ‘It proved to not be possible in the end,’ Tania says.
Another live event request threw The Yes Girls CEO Heather, who says: ‘We one time got a request to do it at a WWE wrestling match. We weren’t quite sure how to make that really romantic, so we didn’t do it.’
Meanwhile, some clients’ demands are downright strange, as Michele of The Heart Bandits discovered. One prospective groom asked the company ‘to kidnap [his] girlfriend and pretend it was a hostage situation so the guy could look like the hero’. Michele’s reaction? ‘No thanks!’ she says.
For Black Tomato, the trickiest engagements to organise are those that are dependent on a naturally occurring event, such as the appearance of the Northern Lights
After spending so much time, energy, and – of course – money on the proposal, does anyone ever say ‘no’ to the all-important ‘will you marry me’ question?
For My Proposal Co, there have been no rejections – but sometimes the love bubble bursts before it goes ahead. ‘We have a 100 per cent success rate for all of the proposals that have gone ahead. However, we have had clients cancel their proposal plans with us in the past as they have separated from their partners before the proposal date,’ Tania says.
While The Yes Girls’ Heather admits she’s witnessed some awkward moments. She says: ‘We definitely had a few [people] that seemed a little bit in shock.’ Recalling one proposal, which saw a client propose to his shy girlfriend in a public space, she says: ‘You could tell she was pretty mortified.’
However, the company has yet to see someone say a flat-out ‘no’. ‘That would be ironic, since we’re called The Yes Girls,’ she says.