Popping the question: Our amazingly romantic proposals
Ahead of this week's Wedding Journal Show in Belfast, three couples reveal all to Una Brankin
It's the moment many wannabe brides dream of - and has almost all prospective grooms breaking out in a nervous sweat. For some, popping the biggest of big relationship questions - 'Will you marry me?' - can be a spur of the moment surprise, that's fuelled by the serendipity of finding a perfect, if unexpected, moment while together.
For others, it can be the conclusion of a much-planned and deliberated process, replete with all the trappings of champagne, red roses and a beautiful sunset.
Whatever the circumstances, a marriage proposal is a milestone in any relationship, as well as an oft-repeated anecdote for the years to come together.
Ahead of this weekend's glamorous Wedding Journal Show at Belfast's King's Hall, we meet three brides-to-be with wonderfully heart-warming proposal stories, proving that Norn Iron men are no slouches when it comes to romantic gestures.
'It was in a snowy Central Park'
Alicia Kearns (24) had a wonderfully romantic proposal in a snowy Central Park, New York, last December. The newly qualified lawyer from Banbridge is engaged to Brian McCrory (29) a farmer from Dromore, Co Down. She says:
Brian and I met a few years ago at a local nightclub. We exchanged numbers and the next day he called to ask me out to the cinema, and after the next few dates we started falling for each other.
We had been going out for more than two and-a-half years when we flew to New York in December 2013 for some Christmas shopping. We had talked about getting married but had always said we would like to have a venue booked before we got engaged. Still, while we were in New York we walked through the Diamond District and decided to call in. There were some lovely engagement rings but we decided to have a ring specially made, and Brian kept telling me I wasn't getting it until we got home and had a venue booked.
So once the ring was made and we collected it, Brian held onto it for dear life. We spent the rest of the time sightseeing – it was getting really cold but it was so magical to see all the Christmas lights and the snow covering New York. We were strolling along Fifth Avenue one day and then decided to go into Central Park. The snow was too bad for a horse carriage ride so we opted for a bicycle tour.
We had stopped off to take a few pictures when Brian presented me with my beautiful ring. I was speechless but I couldn't wait to get my ring on me – and of course I said 'Yes!' Brian then informed me that he had booked our wedding venue, the Millbrook Lodge in Ballynahinch, for August 21, 2015. I was so shocked that he went and viewed venues and had selected a beautiful one and picked a date all by himself! I was touched and thought it was very romantic. I couldn't wait to ring home and tell our family and friends the good news.
That night we went to see The Lion King, on Broadway, and finished off with a few drinks in Times Square – it was a brilliant way to celebrate. Then when we got home we had a lovely big party with all our family and friends.
We have our honeymoon booked to go to Barcelona for a few days and then we're going on a Mediterranean Cruise. We can't wait – it stops in Rome, which we have both always wanted to visit.
I loved Kate Middleton's wedding dress, something simple and elegant.
I can't wait to wear my own next August."
'I thought I'd never get married'
Claire Drummond (29) thought her commitment–shy boyfriend Andrew Millar, a 33-year-old civil servant from Bangor, was never going to propose. But the Portadown-born architectural office manager from Ballyhalbert was taken by surprise when Andrew made a Chandler Bing-style U-turn while they were on holiday in Enniskillen. Claire says:
Andrew and I met when I was working for Vets Now in Belfast. He brought in some dogs that had been involved in a fight, and I remember thinking to myself 'Oh he's cute, I like him!'
I mentioned him to a friend the following day and the next thing she was showing me his Facebook page, as she knew him! She passed on my contact details and he passed on his, and I texted him first.
We were together almost two years before Andrew proposed. He stole one of my dress rings and made some excuse about standing on it. At the time I believed him but the more I thought about it, it didn't make any sense! I was still shocked and surprised, though, when he proposed – he had gone down the route of Chandler Bing from Friends so much, I thought I was never going to get married!
And that's despite the fact Andrew and I couldn't be any better suited – we both tell each other this regularly. We knew within the first six months that we each had found 'the one'.
Anyway, we had booked a chalet at the Killyhevlin Hotel in Enniskillen for one week for both our birthdays. We arrived on Andrew's birthday, and I unpacked while he went to Tesco to get some essentials. He was gone for nearly two hours – I couldn't understand what was taking him so long, but he came back with all of my favourite foods and drinks: Ben & Jerry's ice-cream, Maltesers, Malibu rum and waffles for breakfast, including maple syrup. I was delighted. The next day, Sunday, we walked into town with our dog, Daisy, and stopped at a wee coffee shop for half an hour, then we walked back to the hotel, very chilled out.
Little did I know Brian had phoned my dad the week before to ask him for my hand in marriage. My dad gave his permission straight away. That night we had a table booked in a restaurant for 7pm. We got dressed up and Andrew told me I looked beautiful. When we got to the restaurant, they had a table for two which was totally secluded from window views – I was baffled.
After dinner, Andrew suggested we go for a walk round the grounds to digest our dinner, so off we went down towards the 'love gazebo'. I noticed some strawberry dacquiris, which is my favourite cocktail, sitting there and as I got closer I saw flowers and candles – and then my heart started pounding. Andrew took out his iPhone speaker from his pocket and put on John Legend's All of Me – my favourite song – and I said to him 'Are you serious?!'
He laughed and said yes, and told me that I had no idea just how happy I make him. He got down on one knee, ring in hand, and asked me to marry him. Of course, I said yes!
We went into town the next day to go on the internet and inform the world we were now engaged, and got such lovely comments and wishes from all our friends and family. The hotel sent us down a bottle of champagne that night, so we enjoyed that while watching movies – nice and relaxed, just how we wanted it.
I'd love a dress like Lauren Conrad's from The Hills – her wedding was beautiful, and she looked stunning. We have set a date of August 3, 2016, at the Ramada, Shaw's Bridge, Belfast, and hope to go to Disneyland Florida for our honeymoon, as we are both big kids at heart."
'Our family watched as he asked me'
Laura Harper was also taken by complete surprise when her partner Chris McKendry proposed out of the blue, in front of all their friends and families. The 22-year-old cook lives in Bushmills with Chris (27), a restaurant supervisor, and their one year-old son, Leo. She says:
Chris and I first met in Lush at Kelly's nightclub in Portrush, when he walked across the dance floor with his hand on his forehead making an L-shape, calling me a loser! I took it thick and started an argument with him over Facebook the next day, which started the communication between us. Then, a date at the cinema smoothed out all the bumps and we fell in love from then on.
I got pregnant with our son after 10 months and we got engaged when we were together two and-a-half years. But even though we have a child and a house, I had no idea Chris was going to ask me to marry him.
The day of our engagement started off as an extremely special day anyway. It was our baby boy's first birthday on July 4 and we had all our close friends and family round to our house – we had a bouncy castle, barbecue and fun games for the kids. At around 6pm, Chris gathered everyone into our back garden for a group photo. I held Leo, and Chris and myself knelt down to let everyone behind us see over our heads. Then suddenly Chris stood up in the middle of the picture and I was shouting at him to sit down because there were small children behind him. I turned my back to him and when I looked round again, he was down on one knee with the most beautiful big ring I've ever seen!
He said: 'Laura, I would be honoured if you would marry me and Leo!' There was a massive gasp from the crowd – which included my mum, dad, brother, Chris' mum, dad and his granny! And best of all I was holding our son in my arms. I was so shocked I didn't know what to do or say and turned around to my mum and said 'Mum what do I do?' I knew I wanted to say 'Yes' but I was so stunned I couldn't speak! So I just threw my arms around Chris and kissed him.
He asked me to marry him in his late granny's house, where his daddy asked his mummy for her hand in marriage. I could never have planned a better engagement myself, with all our friends and family there. No one apart from mum and the person who was taking the photos knew it was going to happen then.
Chris had very nervously asked my daddy for my hand in marriage. To my amazement he also asked my brother, who I am extremely close to. Afterwards we drank champagne, ate cake and went a bit mad on the bouncy castle until very late.
We've booked our wedding for June 2, 2016, in the Roe Park Resort in Limavady and we're planning on travelling to the Maldives for our honeymoon for some relaxing time as a family. I've chosen to honour my late nana and Chris's late grandmother by having yellow roses for the wedding flowers – they both passed away within weeks of Leo being born and those were the memorial flowers laid for them.
Without giving away too many clues about my dress, I love the idea of a big long princess-train like Kim Kardashian, with lace to add that vintage look of Kate Middleton's, and something quirky like Fearne Cotton might wear."
How some well-known celebs popped the question
- Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes - after dating Katie Holmes for just two months, actor Tom Cruise popped the question in Paris in June 2005, at the Le Jules Verne restaurant near the top of the Eiffel Tower. The Oblivion star later gushed: "Today is a magnificent day for me. I'm engaged to a magnificent woman." The couple wed in Italy a year later but divorced in 2012 after less than six years of marriage
- Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie - Hollywood star Brad Pitt proposed to actress Angelina Jolie in 2012 by gathering the couple's six children together and presenting his wife-to-be with a custom-designed diamond engagement ring. It was estimated to be 16 carats and worth £325,000. The couple were married last month in France, in a low-key affair, surrounded by their children
- Seal and Heidi Klum - musician Seal made sure his proposal to supermodel Heidi Klum in 2004 was one to remember. He flew the German beauty to a glacier in Whistler ski resort, Canada, where he had built a snow hut, complete with a bed, rose petals and candles. The pair wed on a Mexican beach the following year but divorced in 2012