Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Is this the most romantic marriage proposal in Northern Ireland? Surfer Al pops question in candle-lit cave

Al Mennie and Sarah O'Neill.
Al Mennie and Sarah O'Neill.
Utpal Kanbia was dubbed the "most romantic guy in London" after asking for his girlfriend Meena Rabadia's hand by bending on one knee surrounded by candles spelling out "Will you marry me?" in Gladstone Park
Police officers spotted the candlelit proposal on Saturday night as they passed over in a helicopter equipped with thermal-imaging cameras

Is Al Mennie the most romantic man in Northern Ireland?

The Portrush surfer has set the bar for marriage proposals after whisking his beautiful other half, Sara O'Neill, off to a cave in Ballintoy at dawn to pop the big question.

On Friday, the big wave surfer, who is 6ft 5in in height and weighs 17-and-a-half stone, filled a cave with candles and flowers.

He then enticed Sara – a 5ft 1.5in fashion stylist and illustrator who is some 10 stone lighter – down to the coast and carried her across a clear water lagoon to ask her to be his wife. It has been a whirlwind romance for the north coast based couple who fell deeply in love earlier this year.

They hope to tie the knot next April outside of the big wave surf season.

Last night, Al explained the circumstances of their engagement, which has won the hearts of his female friends and fans, while generating some good-natured abuse from his male counterparts.

"At about 4.45am I told Sara I was going surfing but sneaked off to Ballintoy where we spend a lot of time," Al said.

"I filled a clear water lagoon with white flowers and I lined the cave with tea lights, so the water was sparkling.

"I had a flask of coffee with me, because Sara loves coffee and hid a camera just in case any future kiddywinkles want to see it.

"I went back and got Sara up, blindfolded her with a scarf and told her not to ask any questions.

"When we got to the cave I carried her through the water, got down on one knee and asked her to marry me."

Al says he doesn't mind taking stick from men about his grand gesture of love because "that is what you are supposed to do".

"I've raised the bar apparently," he said. "Some people are laughing, but I thought that is what everyone did."

Sara added: "He's a big old romantic. He got down on one knee with a beautiful art-deco ring.

"He was about the same height as me on his knee!

"He had thought of everything. It was beautiful.

"If I was doing it for a photoshoot it would have taken me and a creative team a month to put it together.

"My fashion friends are all quite dreamy, romantic people so they love it. It was really well done."

Al and Sara are both 33 and from Portrush – but over the years their paths never crossed.

Then a chance discovery earlier this year led them to each other.

"I was in the train station and bumped into (sports presenter) Graham Little who I used to style. He had mentioned Al Mennie had helped him move and said 'you must know him' but I didn't.

"Then totally randomly we got in contact with each other after Al found my business card in a puddle on the beach. One night we arranged to meet on the beach and that was it.

"We get on like a house on fire and have such good fun together."

Al added: "We have been inseparable since we met. I just know she's the one. I am totally at ease with her. She is amazing."

Factfile

Another romantic marriage proposal at the weekend. Utpal Kanbia was dubbed the "most romantic guy in London" after asking for his girlfriend Meena Rabadia's hand by bending on one knee surrounded by candles spelling out "Will you marry me?" in Gladstone Park. Police officers spotted the candlelit proposal on Saturday night as they passed over in a helicopter equipped with thermal-imaging cameras.

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