Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Are proposals always as romantic as Rory McIlroy's to Caroline Wozniacki?

Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki became engaged in fabulous style in Australia on New Year’s Eve, but is the moment he pops the question always so romantic? Three writers cast their minds back and reveal all.

Caroline Wozniacki posted a picture of what appears to be their engagement ring, along with a cute snap of the happy couple
Caroline Wozniacki posted a picture of what appears to be their engagement ring, along with a cute snap of the happy couple

You always want a marriage proposal to have a nice ring to it. And in the case of Rory McIlroy and his new fiancee Caroline Wozniacki, it certainly did — a diamond one that experts have estimated cost in the region of £125,000.

But, of course, it wasn’t just the bling that made the moment the golfing icon teed off on the marriage front to the Danish tennis star extra special.

There was the date — New Year’s Eve. What better way to start a new year than to take your relationship to a whole new level? Caroline’s joyful tweet, announcing the news, certainly trumped everyone else’s ‘best wishes for 2014’ offerings.

And then there was the location, location, location. As the couple celebrated the New Year in Australia, where Caroline is playing in a tennis tournament, they posted a snap of Sydney Harbour bridge as fireworks erupted.

Still, while getting engaged is a moment that many people dream of, does the reality always live up to the fantasy?

Or for many of us now is the sense of romance softened slightly by the pragmatism of finding a first home and moving in together?

We asked three writers to recall the moment they popped the question — or were on the receiving end of it.

FRANCES BURSCOUGH

So they've finally gone and done it. After months of speculation, Rory and Caroline have announced their engagement and like everyone here (with one possible exception) I wish them all the best for the future.

Of course, it all sounded very romantic. In the traditional way, she waited patiently until he popped the question, and the fairy-tale foregone conclusion that she would whole-heartedly accept his offer came true. Triumphant jubilation duly followed and continues apace as I write.

In my own engagement scenario all those years ago, (the mid 80s) things weren't quite so traditional, or formal. In fact it was quite the opposite.

I asked him. Even though we'd only known each other a matter of weeks.

Well, he'd just cooked me a gorgeous meal and opened a second bottle of really nice rioja ... it would have been rude not to.

As we were both quite drunk at that stage, it seemed like a hilarious thing to do. He naturally accepted, like you do when you're drunk. The following morning after the hangover set in and reality dawned, it didn't seem quite so funny. Still, the big taboo subject of marriage had been broached and from thereon in we just kind of went along with it. There wasn't much fuss or fanfare at our end.

Nevertheless, I did expect some kind of positive reaction when we told our families. When I'd been a kid, imagining the day I got engaged, I'd always envisaged scenes of jubilation; champagne corks popping, cheers of excitement, tears of joy, maybe followed by an impromptu firework display in the back garden amid a spontaneous gathering of well-wishers... Or at the very least, some kind of celebration to mark the occasion.

Even a cup of tea and a slice of Mr Kipling's would have been nice. Instead, when we announced to my parents that we had decided to get married, dad slowly put down the Peugeot brochure he'd been perusing and said: "So I suppose that's the end of that then. No new car for us again this year..!"

Now this may sound a bit harsh, but my dad did have a point, bless him.

Ours wasn't a normal family of two point four children. There were eight of us -- FIVE of which were daughters. And in those days, 20-odd years ago, five daughters meant five weddings to pay for, because it was still the unwritten rule that the girl's family coughed up for the lot.

I used to notice the look of sympathy his friends gave him when we were all out together at family gatherings. Some would even say: "Poor Frank. Five weddings to look forward to! I don't envy you, my friend!"

I was the middle child, fourth in line to the throne, so by the time of my announcement, mum and dad had already forked out for three weddings and I imagine the novelty had just about started to wear off. In fact, it must have seemed like no sooner had he started saving up again, to replace that battered old Opal Commodore in the driveway with a proper family saloon, than it was all snatched away again to be spent on flowers, froth and frills.

As a result, I actually felt guilty that I wasn't there to tell them I was coming out as a lesbian and/or considering becoming a nun.

Eventually, they did get round to the idea. One less mouth to feed, and all that. And our wedding day was an absolute belter.

But for me -- getting engaged was less fireworks and more damp squib.

UNA BRANKIN

Caroline Wozzilroy got engaged against the dramatic backdrop of New Year's Eve fireworks in Sydney. Although the tennis star has a sparkler that makes mine look like it came out of a Lucky Bag, I think my nearest-and-dearest managed to outdo Rory McIlroy in the memorable proposal stakes.

For a start we were in New York in 1999 on the eve of the new millennium, as guests of Waterford Crystal, to see their giant lit-up ball descend into Times Square in the time-honoured American tradition. It was an all expenses paid trip, a week of wining and dining in the best restaurants, iconic sightseeing and hit Broadway shows.

I remember looking at the city skyline from the Empire State Building's viewing deck, day-dreaming about Cary Grant in An Affair to Remember, and thinking it couldn't get any better than this. But it did.

My boyfriend wasn't one for romantic gestures. He had mentioned us getting married one day, when we were both a bit tipsy at some do in Dublin a few years previously, but he was so involved with his music career, it wasn't top of his list of priorities. Nor mine. I was never ever a girl who dreamed of her big day in white, all eyes on her, and I just knew for absolute certain, even as a child, that I would never walk up the aisle on my father's arm in our parish church.

Anyway, Times Square on December 31, 1999, was heaving with excited out-of-towners all day, as the different nationalities celebrated the millennium-eve according to their various time-zones. The Waterford Crystal party was staying in the Doubletree Hotel right on the square and had laid on a gala with the mayor and honoured guests. There was food of every nationality imaginable on platters the size of snow-boards and fine champagne on tap.

I was having a laugh with other journalists and didn't notice my boyfriend had disappeared until they were getting their coats on to go outside for the big crystal ball drop. We'd been out in the throng earlier and had decided to watch the action from the huge window of the ball room.

One of the reporters who had hung back told me he'd gone to get another film for his camera as we lined up at the window, and although I'm used to him disappearing, usually to be found embroiled in conversation about music in some corner, I began to think he was going to miss the whole spectacle as it grew nearer midnight, especially as he didn't wear a watch at the time.

Well, he came charging in with minutes to spare -- and made straight for the DJ. The countdown had started before he made it to my side, all flustered, and after the famous New York Times clock struck 12, he took my hand and led me to the dance-floor. The familiar chords of Burt Bacharach's This Guy's In Love With You struck up -- and the question was popped.

It was a miracle he pulled it off. He'd gone to get the CD from the room upstairs and the lifts were closed temporarily for fear of the technical millennium bug, and he had to run 44 flights up and down again! I suspect Caroline expected her proposal much more than I anticipated mine, split rumours or not. I hope that 14 years on she and Rory will be as happy as we are.

MALACHI O'DOHERTY

I doubt if my girlfriend was really surprised when I proposed to her. What, after all, had we been doing, if not binding ourselves closer to each other?

Those holidays in Donegal, the exchanged books, the dinner parties and the long lie-ins, even the arguments, were for getting to know each other more deeply. I had been in earlier relationships which had coasted amicably and intimately for years, but I had grasped enough about her to know that she would not forgive me for announcing, after a couple of years, that a dalliance was over. So long and thanks for the cuddles.

Nor would I have appreciated a disclosure from her that the whole thing had just been a hobby, a sideline to what really mattered in life. We were coming to a sense that what mattered in life was each other.

We probably knew we were getting in deeper in the first couple of weeks of going out together.

You are either looking for a committed relationship or you're not, and if you are not, it is cruel to waste the time of a woman who is.

At an earlier time in my life the prospect of commitment would have scared me off. At this stage, I wasn't messing around anymore or interested in being messed around with. And relationships like that don't stand still or drift; they either settle into something very like marriage or they break in pain and acrimony.

So it wasn't news to her that I wanted to get her a ring, however giddy, relieved, excited or aglow she appeared to be in her response.

More shocking would have been a declaration that I didn't.

I think, for most couples, getting engaged, when it happens, just formalises the state of things as they are. Many modern couples, of course, will not be getting married or exchanging rings. They will just move into the one home and live together. But for them too, there is that moment at which they make it real.

You may not want to give her a diamond and make an announcement to her family, but the day you concede that she has a say in what colour you paint the bathroom or where you'll spend Christmas, you're engaged.

Sometimes that commitment can be hard to make.

I know a man from Cavan who was engaged for nine years; then his fiancee left him and married another man within twelve months.

He had just not been ready for the next step. I understand that. I was a late blossomer myself.

Rory and Caroline are ready in their early twenties. The sight of their enthusiasm for each other is uplifting. Bonding with another makes you part of a wider family and mobilises goodwill, even from people you hardly know.

No amount of cynicism or grief inherited from failed relationships and witnessed in the misfortunes of others can quite extinguish the hope inspired by the reckless folly of young love and the ambition to make it secure and enduring.

RORY'S DATELINE

2005 -- childhood sweethearts Rory McIlroy and Holly Sweeney begin dating and stay together for the next six years before splitting up in 2011

Summer 2011 -- Rory McIlroy begins dating Danish tennis star Caroline Wozniacki and the couple regularly appear together in public

December 2012 -- Holly Sweeney appears on hit TV show Celebrity Come Dine With Me with a 'Golf Pros, Tennis Hoes' theme for her dinner party

April 2013 -- Wozniacki acts as caddie for McIlroy in a par-three competition on the eve of the Masters

October 2013 -- McIlroy and Wozniacki are reported to have split up after what had been a difficult year professionally for McIlroy, although this is later denied

January 1, 2014 -- the couple announce that they are engaged after watching the New Year fireworks over Sydney Harbour

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