GN Focus | Valentine's Day

Assisted proposals

Hotels see 10 per cent of all proposals made every year on Valentine’s Day. We ask them to share stories of the most swoon-worthy proposals ever

  • By Shalini Seth | Specialist Writer
  • Published: 00:00 February 7, 2013
  • GN Focus

  • Image Credit: Corbis

It’s not just about printing ‘tea, coffee or me’ as a menu option. A ring concealed inside an oyster or in a bouquet of roses is one way of making a decent proposal, getting down on your knees on a deserted but wondrously catered island is another.

Increasingly, hotels all over the world make it their business to ensure that their guests propose and marry memorably. And for an industry that famously bills its guests, it isn’t even about creating new revenue streams.

“From the business side, it’s not about revenue. We want to get our guests to come back to us. It would give them great memories. We want them to know what it’s like to be treated by Rotana. We need to wow them,” says Ivy Bayotlang, the F&B coordinator at the Cove Rotana Resort, Ras 
Al Khaimah.

Elaborate planning

In her four years at the hotel, Bayotlang has helped with about 40 to 50 proposals, including one which built up through the day and involved the hotel printing a special menu. There are times when the hotel is not privy to the proposal but if the staff gets a wind of it, you can be sure that the evening will be one to remember — with flower petals and the works.

“A British man living in Dubai booked a room with us and asked us to help him plan his proposal. After a day of pampering, we picked up the couple for a private dinner at the gazebo. A violinist who happened to be at the hotel that day was serenading them. After dinner, the server handed them the dessert menu, where the last choice was “Will you marry me?” Even as she was going through the menu, the ring was already there in front of her,” Bayotlang tells GN Focus.

Timing it right

Proposals are expected on Valentine’s Day and the end of the year and New Year’s Eve are other popular times, along with birthdays or anniversaries celebrating the first time the couple met.

“January seems to be the most popular time of the year — probably due to annual work bonuses,” says Lynn Tonkin, Weddings and Events Manager at the Llangoed Hall, a country hall hotel in the UK, formerly owned by Sir Bernard Ashley.

Crying is a normal reaction, most hotels say, while Tonkin tells us that screaming new fiancées are par for the course. She has assisted a guest with buying a book and having the pages cut out to make place for a ring. Another guest, she says, challenged the prospective bride to reach the centre of the maze, which is located in the property, in a short time, only to have a tray with a ring and two glasses of a special beverage waiting for her.

Once, she says, the man asked for a ring to be placed in the midst of a bouquet. “The bride-to-be had not noticed and he kept asking her to smell the roses. Again, a scream followed,” says Tonkin.

It is true that some places are more conducive to proposals than others. In Dubai, Pierchic at the Madinat Jumeirah has built a reputation for this. Outlet Manager Margarita Khadyuk, says, “We see guests proposing every second week.”

Similarly, at Shimmers in Mina A’Salam, good weather brings in requests for assisted proposals. Alice Micolau Mafaity, Food and Beverage Director, says, “An Indian gentleman proposed to his fiancée in November and was very creative. He put love letters and notes on the sand all along the red carpet leading to the romantic majlis, where the lady had to pick them up along the way and read the messages.

“We arranged lots of candles and vases in the shape of a heart on the sand. There was a huge cake with the words ‘Will you marry me’. And, genuinely, the gentleman was trying his hardest to make sure that everything was perfect for his fiancée, which was a joy to assist in.”

Of opulence and style

The more romantic properties always stay a step ahead of the game and essentially dream up the whole proposal for the guest.

“We’re in the business of creating dreams. It’s about creating a unique experience, not just delivering a bottle of champagne with some flowers. Whether it is a dinner on a beach or an elephant bringing your ring, the effort shows and the memories stay a lifetime. Sometimes the couple return for the wedding, even a small, intimate one sometimes. In any case, a special location has been created for them. They like to come back to it,” Marion Walsh-Hédouin, Group Director, Public Relations, Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas, tells 
GN Focus.

Special arrangements include dining atop a wooden pagoda, which overlooks a baby elephant camp. At the Anantara Golden Triangle, located at Chiang Rai in Thailand, “We have organised some breakfast proposals at the venue called the Mountaintop,” Walsh-Hédouin says. “You can go there on elephant back. You have views of the hills; the sun rises on that side, overlooking the east at the hills bordering Myanmar and Laos.”

Sometimes, she says, romance includes weddings and vow-renewal ceremonies. “The Buddhist ceremony is very beautiful and is open to all nationalities and religions. It’s not legally binding but it is spiritually binding. The groom’s side arrives on elephant back. The rituals involve making offerings, breaking braids of flowers, and there are monks too.”

None of the hotels report any bride ever refusing — the answer is always yes, which probably explains why proposals and weddings are 
planned simultaneously.

Rosena Charmoy at Boutique Souk, a Moroccan travel and wedding planner, says, “A groom flew his girlfriend down to Marrakech for a holiday. He had a lot of the practicalities worked out with us before the proposal. We arranged a romantic dinner with musicians and flowers in their super luxury hotel suite for the proposal. When she accepted, he told her, ‘Tomorrow we begin our wedding planning. We are going to get married in this hotel in June’ (this was in April!).”

The rare instances when a woman springs a surprise, it turns out to be special. Says Walsh-Hédouin: “At Kihavah Villas in Maldives, we have a boat taken out for sunset cruises for guests. The lady had the whole boat booked. I am told that the gentleman remarked that they were lucky that they were the only guests on board that day. She had dinner and champagne ready and he had no idea.”

Maïa Bassal, Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications, Fujairah Rotana Resort & Spa, says: “One guest wanted to book the entire bar located in the lobby to redecorate it so that it was an exact replica of the bar that he had first met his girlfriend in. He had planned to propose to his girlfriend in this bar where they met, but it had since closed down. He even went the extra mile and asked for a tailored cocktails menu. The resort staff made all the necessary arrangements and it was a night to remember — his girlfriend said yes.”

The Dh100k date

At Madinat Jumeirah this year, a romantic date costs a mere Dh100,000. The day includes a Rolls-Royce transfer to Burj Al Arab for a helicopter tour, followed by a private dinner at the Madinat Jumeirah on the Executive Terrace with sweeping views of the Arabian Gulf. The flowers would be of the lady’s choice, along with live music and a photographer specially there for the occasion. The day ends with an overnight stay at Madinat Jumeirah’s Presidential or Royal Suite.

— S.S.

GN Focus