My Day: Wedding proposal planner Ann Fong
- 2 February 2014
- From the section China
Ann Fong, 28, works as a proposal planner, helping lovers in Hong Kong orchestrate the perfect way of popping the question.
Planning wedding proposals is a relatively new business for me and for Hong Kong. We have plenty of wedding planners, but Hong Kong men are busy and women are keen on romance so increasingly people want planners to help with the proposal as well.
My day is long. It starts at about 10:00. I also work for an advertising company - who are very happy for me to develop my proposal planning business.
People always do the same old thing: they pop the question over dinner at a restaurant, there are flowers and a ring. This is not enough for some here who want a bigger display of sincerity. Most of my clients are from Hong Kong or mainland China.
It isn't your typical nine-to-five job - a lot of it is about when you get inspiration or an idea to make somebody's proposal really special. Sometimes I just get inspiration looking out of the window.
I work on about two or three proposals each month- the ideas occupy me throughout the day.
It all started with a YouTube video where a music band helped a man propose in a restaurant - it was so popular and went viral. That's what gave me the idea. After I first launched the business, it took about a month before somebody got in contact.
That first proposal was a real learning experience. The girlfriend was a flight attendant who was due to go to Frankfurt. He wanted me to plan a proposal there.
We arranged for her hotel to give her a card telling her to get into a waiting limousine. That would take her to a restaurant which had been decorated with photographs of the two of them and flowers - the proposal location. But the girl never showed up. She told me later that they had already broken up.
I learned a lot from that - to get much more detail in order to make sure a proposal can actually happen.
Our starting price is HK$6,000 (£470) but people are increasingly spending about $8000. I spend a lot of my day thinking up ideas and organising the event - we need to employ photographers, videographers, all sorts of people involved in the process.
Singing in tears
Most of the work planning proposals happens in the late afternoon and early evening when it is easiest to meet the client without their partners suspecting anything is up.
I meet my clients in cafes and we scope out places with atmosphere - these meetings are when we brainstorm to come up with big ideas and talk about the role-play side of things.
Sometimes they know exactly what they want. I remember one client asked me to write "marry me" on the beach in fire.
Once we created snow on a beach. We rented a snow machine, put LED candles to create a romantic atmosphere at night and got a friend to bring our client's girlfriend to the beach on a pretext. Once she was on the beach we began the snow. She was so surprised. We put up a dome with lots of flowers and her partner was waiting there to propose. She walked along a pathway lit up by LED lights. She said yes.
My time at night is also important. At night there is more silence. I have more time to think of romantic ideas. I watch television and I watch videos and that's how I get these ideas. Sometimes I don't finish working and preparing for a proposal until midnight.
Once we arranged a proposal for a woman who worked as a waitress at a restaurant. We enlisted the help of her colleagues who told her a company was having an event and to prepare drinks and snacks. During this "event" we sent restaurant staff out, saying the company needed some private time.
We then decorated the room with balloons and when the staff returned her boss took her to the middle of the room and everybody - all 40 people in the room - sang a line of a song for her. She kept crying. She was so tearful. Her boyfriend then came out to sing the chorus.
This was one of those ideas that came to me late at night after I met the client for a brainstorming session.
Romance doesn't come easily to people in Hong Kong in my view - they worry about security, property and money. The most expensive proposal I had was to decorate a home, to fill it with flowers and balloons - that actually cost $30,000.
But still I'm not sure there is enough of a market in Hong Kong for planning proposals to be a full-time job. Most people in Hong Kong take a bad view of this. There are comments like: "why waste money on this when you can save it for your wedding?"
I've had a few women make inquiries, but in the end shyness overcame most of them and they pulled out.
My husband proposed to me in the car. He played me some music on his phone, gave me some drawings, I thought it was a lazy Christmas gift but then he opened my car door and spoke some romantic words. I wasn't aware it was a proposal.
Even when I don't have a proposal on the go I am always working and thinking of ideas right down to the shape of the ring box - these details matter. I want people to have romance in their lives.
Ann Fong was talking to the BBC's Samanthi Dissanayake in Hong Kong