| I'd like to share with you the story of my own marriage proposal. I knew that it would be an occasion that my girlfriend would remember for a lifetime, so I wanted to make it very special. As part of my plans, I decided to incorporate two identical Locks of Love ®, both red in colour.|
Many months previously, during the early days of our relationship, I had written a special poem for Olya, my girlfriend. The poem was six verses long and spoke about a series of dreams that I had one night: drinking cocktails by the sea; dancing and laughing along the Champs-Élysées in Paris; and finally a more intimate and personal dream!
In the penultimate verse, I awoke from the dream, 'I tried to move my arms and focus my sight', but found that I couldn't move - because Olya was asleep on my shoulder. The sixth and final verse spoke of 'a dream within a dream' and thanked her for being there.
Early in 2012, I bought six small wooden hearts. I spray-painted each heart in a bright pink colour, decorated each with images of beautiful orchids and then engraved one verse of the poem onto each of the six hearts. I also began to plan other aspects of my marriage proposal.
On Valentine's Day, we visited various jewellery shops, looking at engagement rings. For a man, it's always difficult to know if you should let your girlfriend choose the engagement ring or take a chance and hope that your own choice receives a good reaction. Obviously the former can spoil the element of surprise! I tried to play down the occasion as much as possible, telling Olya that we were just looking today and that we might find a better choice when we were on holiday. But, of course, unbeknown to her, I sneaked out one day and purchased the ring that had bought the biggest smile to her face.
With the ring and various other gifts and paraphernalia furtively hidden away in my luggage, we set off for our holiday in southern Spain.
March 8th is International Women's Day and, in Russia, this is a big public holiday, a day of celebration, respect and appreciation. Being Russian, this is obviously an important day for Olya. On the morning of 8th March, I called her out onto our hotel room balcony, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, and presented her with two gifts: the first wooden heart, containing the first verse of the poem; and a small, wooden box, containing just a key. Naturally she was intrigued, but I simply told her to keep the heart and the key with her.
A few days later, as we were sitting on the hotel veranda, sipping cocktails against the backdrop of the Mediterranean, I presented Olya with the second heart, engraved with the second and appropriate verse of the poem.
On 16th March, we left Spain, catching the overnight train to Paris. When we arrived in Paris the following morning, we quickly checked in at our hotel and took a ride around this beautiful city, using the tourist bus. Naturally I was keen to disembark on the Champs-Élysées! As we strolled down the street, from the Arc de Triomphe to Place de la Concorde, I produced the next heart from my pocket, engraved with the third, appropriate verse of the poem.
Unfortunately, the bright, sunny weather of Spain had not followed us on the train to Paris. The skies were grey and overcast, with regular showers and drizzle. Looking forward to 8:30pm on that Saturday evening, I prayed that the skies would clear.
After spending a great day, wandering and busing around the sights and sounds of Paris, we eventually arrived back at our hotel, collecting a scrumptious picnic from the delightful Rue Cler along the way. Prior to the holiday, I had researched this famous market street on the internet - and it didn't disappoint.
We spent the evening in our hotel room, feasting on the picnic. Knowing that March weather in Paris can be temperamental, I had made sure of a special hotel room for our meal. As we sat on the bed, surrounded by delicious French delicacies and fine wine, we starred through our open window, admiring a magnificent view of the Eiffel Tower as it twinkled in the background. During the evening, I presented Olya with the fourth and fifth wooden hearts, both at appropriate times!
Olya remembered the poem well. As she looked at the five hearts, and the key in the small wooden box, she knew that there was only one more verse.
A taxi was ordered for 7:45pm. While Olya prepared herself in the bathroom, I swiftly packed my holdall - two remaining gifts and various other paraphernalia. She believed that we were going to be cruising on one of the multitude of Parisian tourist boats which trip up and down the Seine each evening.
After querying the necessity of my bulging holdall, Olya followed me out of the hotel and into the waiting taxi. We headed off towards the Seine, the taxi's windscreen wipers clearing the persistent drizzle that was falling from the sky. I was receiving regular text messages on my phone - "this is going to be really difficult if it continues to rain, we'll need a contingency plan". It was now 8:00pm.
The location of my marriage proposal had been meticulously researched and planned. Olya had visited Paris in the past and she had told me that her favourite place was the Louvre Museum, hence I wanted to include this beautiful building in the background. As we strolled along the streets, close to Notre Dame and Pont Neuf, the rain continued to bounce off our umbrella.
Walking down a flight of steps, onto the promenade of the Seine, we neared the gangway entrance of the riverboat. Various groups of tourists were bustling around, waiting for the 8:30pm departure. Holding Olya's hand, I ushered her through and beyond the huddled masses, on towards a much more peaceful and idyllic spot.
In choosing the location for my proposal, my only reservation had been its popularity. According to the internet, the spot was well-loved by local Parisians and a beautiful place for a picnic on a warm evening. Had it been a temperate and dry evening, maybe the location would have been quite crowded.
But as we approached, I could see only a single individual, fussing around on the water's edge, taking the odd photograph. It was 8:20pm and, in my nervousness, I had not noticed that the sound of rain against umbrella had ceased. My prayers had been answered - the rain had continued just long enough to keep the locals away, but now it had relented!
I opened my holdall and laid out a pretty, patchwork blanket on the wet ground. Wrapped within the blanket were a number of electric candle lights - Olya stood motionless as I flicked on each candle light and set it in a strategic and preplanned position. The photographer continued to fuss around, taking light readings and fiddling with his cameras. He apologised for his intrusion and said that he would be out of our way soon.
The next items out of the holdall were a couple of glasses and the remainder of the wine from the hotel room picnic. As Olya and I sat on the blanket, facing one and other, I poured the wine. There we sat, underneath the weeping willow tree, listening to the sound of the Seine as it lapped against the promenade walls.
After a couple of minutes, another lone figure came strolling along the water's edge, guitar case in hand. This was Timothy and it was he who had been sending me regular text messages, reminding me that his guitar had a serious allergy to water and he couldn't afford for it to get wet! Throughout the previous few weeks, Timothy's emails had urged me to have a contingency plan, in case of rain, but I had ignored this suggestion, assuring him that everything would be perfect.
Timothy set himself down within a semi-circle of candle lights and began to play his dreamy, romantic pieces on the classical guitar. At the same time, the photographer, Pierre, turned his cameras on us and began to photograph and video the event. Everything was indeed perfect.
A few minutes passed before I produced the first gift from my holdall. With the beautiful sound of the classical guitar in the background, Olya unwrapped the gift to reveal a specially-designed keepsake box. Within the box was the final wooden heart, along with the first love lock, complete with key. Olya took the other five hearts from her bag and I locked all six hearts together, using this padlock. The hearts and lock were all placed within the keepsake box and this has become a very special memento.
After 15 minutes, and right on cue, Timothy began to play his version of Pachelbel's Canon - this is a very special piece for Olya and myself. I took the smaller second gift from my bag and handed it to Olya to unwrap. Inside was the second, identical love lock, engraved with my special message, but this time the padlock was locked, securing the ring. Olya had been carrying a special key for nine days and finally she realised which lock it fitted.
She took the key from the small, wooden box and released the shackle of the love lock. Her smile was as broad as the one I remember in the jewellery shop on Valentine's Day. After asking her to stand briefly, and whispering a few words, I went down on one knee and placed the ring on Olya's finger. One question later, she became my fiancée.
We attached this second love lock to a railing, just below the weeping willow tree, then walked towards the water's edge and tossed both keys into the Seine. After packing up our things, and introducing ourselves properly to Pierre and Timothy, we left this perfect spot.
Now we have our special place in Paris - a place where we can visit in future years, relive the memories and, of course, give our love lock a polish!
The evening didn't quite end there. We all walked around to the Pont des Arts (the lovers bridge), which had served as a backdrop for my proposal, and Pierre gave us a 15-minute photo shoot. At 9:30pm, a gleaming white, stretched limousine pulled up at one end of the bridge - with a bottle of champagne on ice, we drove away into the Paris night.