A Celebrant’s Own Proposal Story

by | Inspired Engagements, Weddings


Koren Harvey - Marriage Celebrant Melbourne
Find me on Ms Polka Dot's Directory | korenharvey.com.au

Dave and Koren

Proposal stories. I love them. Can’t get enough of them, in fact.

As a marriage celebrant, I get to hear them more often than the average Joe. It’s one of the first things I ask couples about and just one of the many reasons I love my job so much. I start with a question of ‘how did you get engaged?’ and usually end up a) wiping away tears, b) happy clapping, c) grinning like a funfair clown or d) all of the above.

I have them all catalogued in my head, a veritable treasure trove of romance and consideration. Each story is different and each is wonderful. Here’s mine.

I think my partner of four years, Dave, despaired for quite some time that he would find a way to propose that I hadn’t already heard from clients, and in a way that I wouldn’t see coming. I’m the born organiser of the two of us – if we have social plans, I’ve made them. If our tax returns/dry cleaning/chimney sweeping needs doing, I’ll arrange it. We used to joke that if Dave ever announced he’d made plans for us to go out for dinner on a Saturday night, I’d know to buy a wedding dress.

But he managed to do both. When Dave did ask me to be his wife, I was so shocked that I was lost for words. And that, my friends, is remarkably unusual for a woman who manages to keep talking during dental examinations. (It’s true. Ask my dentist.)

In June, we set off on what I can only describe as a five week adventure. We would start in China, where my sister and her partner live, exploring Beijing and Shanghai. We would then spend 11 days in Italy, eating ourselves sick and having romantic couple time, before making our way to Germany for a family wedding. The last four days of our trip were to be spent pool-side in Hong Kong, cocktails in hand. All of that happened, except that after the first day it all happened with my fiancé rather than my boyfriend.

Our first stop was Beijing where on day one, my sister, Trea, and her partner, Tom, were taking us hiking along the Great Wall of China. Any traces of jetlag were washed away by our excitement to see them both again and to be standing atop the most impressive structure in the world. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe the sheer awesomeness of the Wall. Just. Amazing.

After a 2km uphill climb to get to the Wall, we then spent several hours making our way along it in 38 degree heat and full sun. The section we went to hasn’t yet been discovered by hordes of tourists and most of it lies in disrepair. The four of us had a merry time dodging loose gravel and making our way up and down the steepest hills I’ve ever encountered. Oh, and posing for a photo or 300.

Dave had bought a new camera just before we left and would not let it out of his sight. Even at the airport he insisted on being the one to carry it, which I put down to possessiveness of his new toy. Along the Wall, Dave took most of our photos, relinquishing the camera only when I demanded that he be in a few of them as well. In all the photos he is still wearing the camera bag. I should have seen it coming, shouldn’t I?

When we’d had enough, some three hours later, Dave passed his beloved camera to Trea and asked her to take one last photo of the two of us on the Wall. The climb had been so tough that my legs were shaking from exertion. While Dave set up the camera, I held on to the Wall as support for my weary legs and took in one last valley view. I still don’t know what made me turn – I think Trea gasped. I turned to find Dave on one knee and even though the words came out of his mouth, it took me several seconds to realise what was happening.

My thought process went something like this:

He’s on the ground why is he on the ground oh hell did he drop the camera no Trea has the camera oh good the camera’s safe what’s that in his hand it’s black like the camera but it’s not a camera is it a lens cap it’s a black box oh my god there’s a ring in the box oh my god he’s on one knee did he just ask me to marry him oh my god is this happening really is this happening why is it happening now what happened to Italy I thought this would happen in Italy I’m all sweaty and gross he’s PROPOSING you need to answer him Koren oh no I’m crying stop crying say something give the boy an answer nodding is an answer stop crying where have all my words gone

And then I kissed him.

Once Dave was back on his feet Tom pointed out I hadn’t given a verbal answer yet. I very happily said yes and then went back to clamping my hand over my mouth in shock. Trea, meanwhile, had got trigger-happy through her tears and snapped over 200 photos of those beautiful minutes. Neither she nor Tom had been any the wiser to Dave’s proposal and were just as surprised as I was.

I was so convinced that I’d see a proposal coming from miles away that I thought Dave hadn’t realised what he was doing. I do believe I even asked him if he was ‘sure’.  I had decided – without any discussion with Dave – that if he were to propose, it would happen in Italy (because we were booked into a Tuscan villa so beautiful that it practically begs to be proposed in), so seeing him on one knee in rural China threw me.

But the boy had other plans. He had meticulously planned this moment for months, secretly meeting with a jeweller to design my ring, asking Dad for his blessing, working out how to surprise me (here’s a clue: don’t give anything away. Just drop to one knee) and making sure the entire thing was captured on film. Most importantly, he had thought of something I hadn’t – how meaningful it would be for us to have Trea and Tom there to witness the moment.

Once  back at our hotel, we rang our parents and gleefully told them the news before making a serious dent in Beijing’s champagne supply. We swore our families to secrecy and didn’t tell anyone at home for the rest of our trip. Neither of us liked the idea of our close friends hearing about it over Facebook and it was so special to have those five weeks to absorb what the news meant for us both and our future. It also meant we got to tell people in person and see their excitement on our behalf, which only served to magnify our joy.

Proposal stories now mean all the more to me. Whether elaborate or simple, planned or impulsive, each is wonderful because of what it means to the couple. I still love hearing them. It’s just that I have a favourite now.

Ms Gingham says: Oh what a beautiful story! I can’t wipe the grin off my face after reading this post. Thanks so much to Koren for sharing it with us!

Koren Harvey says: “I love standing with a groom waiting for his bride to arrive and watching the emotions well up in his eyes. I love seeing the joy on a bride’s face when she catches sight of her husband-to-be. I love what I do. Being a celebrant is the best job in the world.”

  • Melissa says:
    January 24, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    Congratulations Koren and Dave, great story! Well done Dave!

    Wishing you many years of suprising each other.

    PS Need a celebrant? 🙂

    Lots of love,
    Melissa x
    (Mine Forever Celebrant Services)

  • Maria says:
    January 24, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    Congratulations Koren & Dave!

    I had a chuckle when I read your story, as my fiancé proposed in a similar way (we were in Cape Town) – he held onto that camera bag with his dear life and I had no idea!

    Wishing you years of happiness 🙂


  • Koren Harvey - Marriage Celebrant Melbourne says:
    January 27, 2013 at 11:30 am

    Thank you, Melissa and Maria!

    Melissa, the most common question we’ve been asked since announcing our engagement is ‘but who’s going to marry you?’ I think we’re luckier than most, knowing so many brilliant celebrants.

    Maria, the old camera bag trick is a good one! As much as I thought I’d see it coming, I’m so glad I didn’t. That moment of surprise was just magical.

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