Business proposal turns into romantic reality for Carlingford entrepreneur
THEY are only four small words but linked together make up the most terrifying question since the beginning of time - 'Will you marry me?'
Now, a Co Louth entrepreneur is hoping to take the stress out of a marriage proposal with her new business, Propose2Me.com which launched in Belfast on Wednesday.
Arlene Malone - who describes herself as a 'proposal curator' - has partnered with The Merchant Hotel and Lunn's Jewellers to organise the "most creative and perfect" proposals that any bride-to-be - or groom - could wish for.
Timed to coincide with one of the busiest seasons for proposals between Christmas and Valentine's Day, the Carlingford businesswoman - herself only married since September - has already been booked to organise one of her top packages, a helicopter proposal which (including overnight hotel stay, red roses, champagne and photographer) lands in at €3,550.
Other proposal packages listed on her new website are based around everything from a romantic picnic to private musician, horse and carriage, sailing boat and hot-air balloon.
"I have loads of ideas; the sky's the limit really," Arlene enthused during a meeting at the Merchant Hotel - her hotel of choice for couples hoping to celebrate their new engagement with an overnight stay.
Similarly, for the proposer - and with 2016 being a leap year, that could mean more women popping the question - who lacks the confidence to choose a ring themselves, the former marketing and event planner has linked up with experts at Lunn's.
As the only business of its kind in Ireland she believes there is a definite gap in the wedding market, which has traditionally been focused on weddings rather than the proposal day.
"I think that is definitely changing, as the first question people always ask now is 'how did he do it?' she said.
"Today, everything is on social media and people want perfection as well as something a bit different.
"From a professional and business perspective, a proposal planner is every bit as important as a wedding planner - the days of sitting in front of the TV, eating a curry and popping the question are over."
But, surely, it all begs the question: are men and women really that clueless that they can't organise a romantic picnic or book a horse and carriage themselves?
"It is really about taking out the stress of the organisation for someone who may not have the time to co-ordinate everything themselves" Arlene explained.
"From research I carried out before deciding to launch the business, I also discovered that after stress and the time factor, the thing couples wanted most was a guarantee it would all go smoothly."
Going smoothly, however, was something her own proposal didn't do, with new husband Stephen forced to ask Arlene to marry him in the middle of Hurricane Sandy during a Caribbean cruise in 2012.
"It was still very special of course," Arlene added, "but I think Stephen was nervous enough without the storm. He is a carpenter and is also involved in the new business, making bespoke signs reading, 'Will You Marry Me?' for people who really can't get the words out."