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Will you marry me? How Northern Ireland stars popped the question

On top of the Eiffel Tower, on a golden beach or over a romantic dinner for two: what's your dream proposal? Ahead of Valentine's Day on Friday, Linda Stewart asks Belfast boxer Carl Frampton and Q Radio's Ibe Sesay how they won the hand of their beloved


Boxing clever: Carl and Christine Frampton

Boxing clever: Carl and Christine Frampton

The couple with their children Carla and Rossa

The couple with their children Carla and Rossa

Boxing clever: Carl and Christine Frampton

Carl Frampton would be the first to admit there was a little something lacking in his marriage proposal.

It's even become something of a family joke that his now-wife Christine will bring up from time to time, the former two-weight world champion says, adding that he now wishes he had done it differently.

"I knew pretty early on and I had a ring for a while," the Belfast-born super-featherweight says.

"But I'm pretty shy and I didn't really put much effort into the proposal - it was a bit of a rubbish one, to be honest. It's something that she talks about now and again, how rubbish a proposal it was.

"She was in her sick bed, in her mum's house, and we weren't on the best terms at that point. But I knew she was the one for me and I had this ring and I thought I might as well see what she says.

"I was on my knee in the bedroom - if you could think of a worse proposal I'd give you a pound. I was a stupid kid back then and if I could have done it differently I would.

"I'd love to have brought her to Paris and done it on the Eiffel Tower - it wasn't the most romantic."

When the couple first met, Carl (32) was an amateur boxer and Christine (also 32) was working towards her degree in criminology and criminal justice.

"We met in Kelly's nightclub in Portrush - I was 17 or 18 - and that was the first time we ever met," he says. "We kind of half knew each other because we used to speak to each other on an old social media platform called Bebo, but we actually met for the first time at Kelly's.

"We went our separate ways, but we kept in touch, texting and phoning. On our first proper date, I met her at McDonald's on Royal Avenue in Belfast - that was the meeting point. She was about 45 minutes late and she blamed the black taxis coming down the Falls Road.

"A friend of mine walked past me when I was waiting and half an hour later he came past and I was still waiting, so he was laughing at me. I brought her to Wetherspoons and we had a couple of drinks - and that was it."

It didn't take long for Carl to realise she was the one, but there were a couple of unusual incidents that cemented their connection, he says.

"She has everything - she's very attractive, she's funny, she's very intelligent, she's loyal. I like her honesty as well. I think I fell in love with her pretty quickly, to be honest," he reveals.

"One of the first nights we went out, I ended up pretty drunk and I fell over and knocked a lot of drinks over a table. There were a couple of other girls at this table who were a bit annoyed and Christine sorted that out pretty quickly so I knew she was a good one early on."

On another occasion, Carl was attacked by a group of thugs.

"There was one too many of them for me to defend myself and I was on the floor and getting kicked in the head and stuff," he admits.

"But she came to the rescue and dived on top of me and she ended up getting a few kicks herself - she had a badly bruised arm. So she's a very brave girl."

Carl says the key to winning Christine's heart was being very persistent.

"I think I'm a bit of a short fry and there's a lot better looking people in the world than me, but my persistence paid off. I probably annoyed her into it," he says modestly.

The couple didn't have much money in those early days.

"At the start I didn't really have much money. I was an amateur boxer and we lived off her student loan for a long time. My dream in life was to be a world professional boxer and I put all my eggs in one basket," Carl says.

"Our dates were things like going to the Morning Star for lunch when we didn't have much.

"With my first car, she pretty much paid for it all. I didn't have much and she really looked after me."

The couple wed at The Old Inn in Crawfordsburn in 2014, surrounded by friends and family.

"We had our daughter by the time we got married and it was really nice to have her be there and walking down the aisle in a similar-looking dress to Christine," Carl says.

"I'm an emotional person but I'm not one who ever gets emotional when I'm happy. But I remember seeing Christine walking down the aisle for the first time and she looked amazing and I shed a wee tear. It was a good day."

These days, the couple have two children, Carla (9) and Rossa (5).


The couple with their children Carla and Rossa

The couple with their children Carla and Rossa

The couple with their children Carla and Rossa

"I love Christine's personality," Carl says. "She's a stylish girl, very attractive, but she has a great personality. She's almost like one of the lads, but a very good looking one!

"But what I love about her is how much of a good mother she is. She's brilliant with the kids.

"I am away a lot of the time and Christine holds the fort and does everything. I'll be on a 12-week training camp and she does everything with the kids for 10-12 weeks. It means a lot.

"After, not the last fight but the fight before, I got beat pretty bad and it was hard for her to watch.

"I don't think she's too keen to go back and watch again.

"But I get great support from Christine and the kids and I have a great family circle.

"She's very clever - she has a degree in criminology and criminal justice and she'd like to have done something with that degree, but because of my boxing career she hasn't.

"I'm the one that is providing and bringing in money and she's looking after the kids which is equally as important.

"I know she feels like her degree has been wasted and she's given up her career with the degree that she got to allow me to push on with my career and fulfil a dream I had, without pursuing her own dreams and aspirations.

"So when I do retire from boxing I'll gladly take the reins and be a stay-at-home dad if she wants to go and work, and I think she does."

Q Radio DJ Ibe Sesay says his then girlfriend Colleen had no idea that he was planning to propose.

Ibe and Colleen

It was a couple of years after the couple had first started dating and he said her mum and dad were dropping broad hints.

“She had no idea that I was going to propose to her, none whatsoever,” he says.

“It was her birthday. I got a card and the card said ‘To my fiance’. It was early in the morning in her bedroom and she kind of looked at it and said ‘You numpty, you got the wrong card’. And I said ‘So I did, how did I do that?’

“But I got the ring which was hidden under the bed and I got down on one knee and she started to cry. I said ‘Will you marry me?’ and she said yes.

“We didn’t go away or do anything extravagant — it was just nice, it was at home and it was very personal. That’s when the celebrations started and we had a bit of a celebration with her parents and a bit of a celebration with mine.”

The couple first met when Ibe (39) was DJing at the Groovy Train at the M Club nightclub and Colleen (36) and her friends would go every Friday.

“She was there on her birthday celebration and I thought it was her hen night because of the way she was dressed,” Ibe says. “She was wearing a tiara but she was very quick to say it was her birthday! She came up and asked for a request to play Michael Jackson and I was a big Michael Jackson fan, so that was no problem. I played Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough.

“The next Friday night she was there and we exchanged numbers and I asked her out. It all clicked very fast, to be honest. She had the same interests as me and we were both into our music, we were both into our food and drink, and our nice wine. We just clicked — it was just easy. She was easy to be around, and we both had a laugh together.”

The first date was pretty unusual though.

“Because of the way I work, I booked flights to Edinburgh and we always say Edinburgh was our first proper date — we spent a couple of nights there,” Ibe says.

“We went to a nice Italian restaurant, we went out on the Royal Mile, lots of eating and drinking wine, so it was nice. Every now and again we like to go back to Edinburgh because it’s our wee place.”

The pair gave themselves two years from the proposal to get married but within 11 months they were walking down the aisle at St Bridget’s Parish Church on the Malone Road.

“We had the big party in the Ramada, now the Crown Plaza — a big wedding party for a lot of people there. It was a nice day, but it poured with rain all day!” Ibe laughs.

The couple now have four children, Katie (17), Mollie (14), Stephen (10) and Daniel (9), but they still make a point of going on date nights.


Ibe Sesay with his wife Colleen and their four kids, Katie (16), Mollie (13), Stephen (9) and Daniel (8).

Ibe Sesay with his wife Colleen and their four kids, Katie (16), Mollie (13), Stephen (9) and Daniel (8).

Ibe Sesay with his wife Colleen and their four kids, Katie (16), Mollie (13), Stephen (9) and Daniel (8).

“We make a point of going out regularly, just the two of us — we like our food and drink so we go to nice restaurants,” Ibe says.

“I work a lot of weekends as a DJ, so in my new year’s resolutions I made a point not to work as many weekends, so we can go out and socialise more and spend more time with the kids. As they are growing up so fast, it’s nice to have that extra bit of time with family.

“Colleen does most of the cooking but every now and again I would put the apron on and attempt it. Sweet chilli chicken pasta is the one — that’s about the only one I can make, being honest!”

Colleen works as a classroom assistant and is a part-time make-up artist — “She’s into her beauty products and all that jazz,” Ibe says.

“She’s good to me — she looks after me, as do I look after her. She’s a great mum to the kids — we have two daughters now and she’s more like a friend to them, almost, now that they are a bit older.

“I could never be without her, never, ever, ever. She is the glue that sticks the family together.”

Now you can win a dream marriage proposal with Hastings Hotels

To celebrate the launch of a bespoke range of romantic proposal packages from Hastings Hotels, the Belfast Telegraph is giving one lucky reader the chance to win the proposal of their dreams.

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The Hastings collection is made up of seven stunning hotels, each with its own character and all perfect proposal locations to ask “Will You Marry Me?” — the five-star Culloden Estate & Spa, the world famous Europa Hotel, the contemporary Stormont Hotel and Northern Ireland’s largest hotel, Grand Central Hotel. Outside the capital, there is the choice of the magnificent Slieve Donard Resort and Spa in Newcastle and the 17th century Ballygally Castle, both offering beautiful coastal views, and the luxurious Everglades Hotel in Londonderry.

The new Proposal Packages are available in all seven hotels and the dedicated Engagement co-ordinators will help ensure the perfect, romantic proposal. Whether it’s a private proposal in a stunning suite, getting down on one knee within the grounds or helping to arrange the special touches — the options are endless and every detail will be looked after — helping to create one of the most memorable moments in both your lives.

For further information on the Proposal Packages with Hastings Hotels, go to www.hastingshotels.com or contact 028 9047 1066.

To be in with the chance of winning, tell us in around 100 words how you met your girlfriend or boyfriend, what makes them so special and why you should win this amazing prize. Send your entries to this email address: j.cole@belfasttelegraph.co.uk before the closing date of March 14.

The winner and selected entrants must be agreeable to publicity. Usual Independent News and Media rules apply.

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