Pease's rates start at $500; for that, she and her team will help put together a “blueprint” for how to pull off a memorable proposal.

Pease believes that services like hers will probably soon be the norm, not the exception--much as wedding planners, once a luxury, are increasingly viewed as necessity.

One client even hired Pease to help convince his girlfriend she was a contestant on a new reality TV show called Fashion Scavenger Hunt. "He wanted the whole day recorded.”

Sometimes trouble arises: There was the Grinch-like Central Park security guard who “hated love” and tried to break up a flash mob that had flocked to a roof for a proposal.

This Welsh couple got engaged in a Manhattan penthouse with a panoramic view of the city, while a choir and orchestra played her favorite song.

“It should be so good your grandkids will tell the story.”

Would You Pay $50,000 To Plan The Perfect Marriage Proposal?

Plenty of folks already do, and Sarah Pease is the one making sure they get their money’s worth. Bring on the jet skis, tuxedoes, marching bands, and much more.

Not long ago, Sarah Pease, who brands herself the Proposal Planner, found herself on the USS Intrepid, which houses a maritime museum by the Hudson River in New York. Pease stood belowdecks with a man named Marcial, who had contracted Pease to help plan a marriage proposal for his girlfriend, Brynn. Since the two had met through a connection in the merchant marines, Pease had devised an elaborate, nautically themed proposal.

The plan was this: one of Pease’s accomplices would contrive to get Brynn abovedecks on the Intrepid, while Marcial would linger below. A 100-person marching band would perform, and at just the right moment, the band would part in the middle, leaving Marcial to emerge with a flourish and propose to his beloved.

Pease and Marcial could hear the marching band overhead; it was almost time for his move. Pease radioed up to her colleague to confirm that everything was in place for the big moment... but there was no response.

“I’m on the radio, asking, ‘Are we a green light?’ and she’s not responding back,” recalls Pease. Meanwhile, she and Marcial could hear the marching band winding down its song--the cue for his big move. Pease was gripped with panic: “When someone doesn’t respond in that scenario, you know something bad is happening.”

A Burgeoning Business

These are stresses that Pease has brought upon herself, by inventing her unusual, demanding, and lucrative job (it’s one of a few services she offers through her company, Brilliant Event Planning). In 2008 Pease heard a story about a man who had proposed to his girlfriend by hiding a wedding ring in a bucket of fried chicken. Pease became convinced she could do better. She began to add a feature to her events planning website offering services as a proposal planner. “It started out just as an add-on service, almost as a novelty,” she says. Today, half of her clients at any given time are proposal clients; she’s performed hundreds of such stunts.

Sarah Pease

Her services start at $500; for that, she and her team will help put together a “blueprint” for how to pull off a memorable proposal. For custom-designed proposals full of complicated logistics--like Marcial’s aboard the Intrepid--the very lowest price is $2,000, and can soar much higher, depending on the complexity. Some of her clients have budgeted as much as $50,000 towards designing and implementing the perfect proposal; Pease’s fee would be some fraction of that.

As the wedding industrial complex has ballooned to unprecedented sizes--wedding costs exceeds the median income in the U.S.--entrepreneurial spirits like Pease have discovered or created demand in unlikely niches. The idea of dropping 50 large on a proposal might seem outlandish to some, but Pease believes that services like hers will probably soon be the norm, not the exception--much as wedding planners, once a luxury, are increasingly viewed as a necessity. “I’m a believer that a marriage proposal, while it doesn’t have to be elaborate, should be personal, unique, and reflective of a love story,” says Pease. “It should be so good your grandkids will tell the story.”

Will You Marry Me?

Most of the time, it goes smoothly. There was the Welsh couple (pictured in the slideshow above) who were engaged in a Manhattan penthouse with a panoramic view of the city, while a choir and orchestra played her favorite song. There was the man who sent “Little Prince”-themed gifts to his beloved throughout the day, eventually guiding her to the New York Public Library, her favorite building, where he got down on one knee.

One client even hired Pease to help convince his girlfriend she was a contestant on a new reality TV show called “Fashion Scavenger Hunt” (“he wanted the whole day recorded,” Pease explains). The “show” had its climax on a boat, where 25 people ashore held up a giant sign proposing marriage. “At that moment, he comes barreling towards the boat in a tuxedo on a jet ski,” recalls Pease.

Was the fiancée disappointed not to be an actual reality TV star? “I don’t think so. The first words our of her mouth were, ‘It’s about effing time,’” says Pease.

Pease played the role of TV producer through the day; other stunts have called upon her to play a valet parker, a front-desk attendant, a delivery woman, a spa employee, a cocktail waitress, and a concierge.

On top of those fake jobs are all the real, high-stakes jobs that her line of work sometimes seems to imitate: “I’m a spy, an emergency responder, a crisis coordinator, you name it...” It’s not easy work: So much depends on so little, and if the moment’s ruined, you can’t get it back. "I like to joke that emergency room doctors have got nothing on me,” she says.

Without a Hitch?

Crises do arise. One client checked in to a hotel with his girlfriend, but before his elaborate proposal at that night’s New Year’s Eve party went down, the hotel carelessly sent up a bottle of champagne, together with a note offering its congratulations. Luckily, the groom rushed to the door, pocketed the note, and claimed the champagne was penance for the delays in their check-in process.

There was the Christmas Eve she spent frantically negotiating with Fed Ex and French customs, who had detained a crucial package for a proposal that was to go down in mere hours in a French skiing village. There was the Grinch-like Central Park security guard who “hated love” and tried to break up a flash mob that had flocked to a roof for a proposal (Pease literally blocked the man’s entrance to the stairwell; “Thank God I have a big booty”).

One time, a client wanted to clandestinely assemble an elaborate tree with orchids flown in from Thailand at the apartment he shared with his beloved. The problem was that she worked just a block from home, and often returned home midday for lunch. Pease posted phony notices of a “fumigation” meant to deter the woman from a daytime visit, and thought she was in the clear.

But then: “I’m in the lobby speaking to the florist, and out of the corner of my eye I see the girl. It was like my life was in slow motion. I saw her walking across the lobby towards the stairway to her apartment. I’m frozen, my heart’s beating, I’m sweating. What do I do? Do I tackle this girl?” It was all falling apart. How to explain away the half-constructed ten-foot tree?

Deus ex machina: Just as the woman was about to gain the stairs, Pease saw the building’s superintendent intercept her. She watched their conversation; the woman shook her head angrily and stomped her foot, but the super held strong. Finally, she turned and walked back out the building. “That super earned his Christmas bonus that year,” she says.

On stressful days like that, Pease is glad she has a good colorist.

A Day to Remember

That day on the USS Intrepid, with her client Marcial at her side, was just such a day. The 100-piece marching band was winding down its song.

“Are we a green light?” she radioed again to her colleague up above. No response.

What was happening up above was this: a security guard had wandered over to Brynn, Marcial’s beloved, and told her she wasn’t allowed to stand where she was standing. But though Brynn didn’t know it, she had to stand where she was standing, for her to stand even a little to the left or a little to the right would spoil her vantage of Marcial’s grand entrance.

Thankfully, Pease’s colleague grabbed the security guard, drew him aside, and quickly explained what was about to go down in a manner of seconds. Just as the marching band ended its song, she radioed down to give Pease and Marcial the green light.

The marching band parted, Marcial emerged triumphant, and he and Brynn got a story for their grandkids to tell.

[Image credit: Sarah Pease headshot by Fotofia, all others images by Jeff Tisman Photography]

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8 Comments

  • Nicolas Garreau

    As a marriage proposal expert in Paris, with more than 1200 marriage proposals planned since 2006, I can say that scenarios even more spectacular can be planned: last year, for example, I planned the first ever marriage proposal... in space!

    Nicolas, Founder of www.proposeinparis.com

  • Anthony

    It's funny that this article was published a few days after I came back from a surprise proposal in Paris. I was torn about this article and the idea of a service for proposal planning but a memorable and fun proposal does require time, planning, coordination and plenty costs.

    Here is the video of my proposal, http://vimeo.com/anthonyup/pro... 

    I planned on my own but needed help from good friends and an attention to tasks and detail. If you know your partner well, some of these details will come easy to you. More importantly, keep it a fun process, it's going to be something you will share together forever, which means there has to be a happy medium between going over the top and creating a monstrous burden of a production.

  • Karen

    Um, flash mob on a roof.....that is the complete opposite of "planning."  If you are any kind of professional planner, engagement or otherwise, you will plan to get a permit or pay rental fee from the venue, business or any property with a security guard so you can to do your thing.  A security guard is doing his damn job, not being a "love hater" because you self-important assholes could not bother to get permission to use a private space.  Here is the thing you morons leaching onto wedding industry forget when it comes to working in weddings or other events:  the couple only does it once, but you on the other hand, the event planner or other event professional are not doing this one time.  Your clients will want to repeat a lot of what they see in your work portfolio.  You, the professional, survive by networking with others in the industry, working at the same venues and with many of the same people week after week.  That was an awesome roof top that was used for this engagement.  Too bad none of your other clients will ever be able to use that space again because you were too stupid and unprofessional and burned that bridge.  Keep showing up at private places without permission and do other things to continually piss off people that work in this industry and you will soon find yourself out of business. 

    PS guys....every single bride I've worked with for 20 years has said they were happy with PRIVATE proposal in their own home.   Have you not seen enough Youtube proposal disasters yet to know women do not like to be embarrassed or publicly pressured to say YES.  You better be absolutely sure if you insist on making a scene. 

    And, every single thing that is part of the wedding industry is a luxury.  A wedding planner is not necessary, a big reception is not necessary, and certainly a proposal planner is not a necessity. This industry creates a lot of false market demands that do not exist.  However, if you indeed choose to have a big wedding or hire proposal planner, then be prepared to pay the costs involved with event planning.  Don't expect to cut corners and treat people like building security like crap when they are doing the job they are hired for.  When you want luxury services (and yes, everything beyond going to the court house for a marriage is indeed a luxury) then hire services be prepared to pay for them.  But know going in that you are choosing to have these luxury services.  Wedding celebrations are not entitlements and workers in the industry are professionals providing you with services, not people to manipulate to just have your way like a 5 year old child.

  • Kimberly A. Daly

    I feel bad for the men. They must feel so much pressure to make the moment memorable that they go to such great lengths and spend so much of money to create the "perfect" moment. I'd be happy with my man if he simply dropped to his knee in the middle of a nice dinner out. 

  • Kat

    I have to hand it to Pease for capitalizing on this weird business opportunity, but I just think grand gestures are that much grander when you come up with them yourself. This article doesn't really say if these proposal ideas are the guys', and Pease just does the backstage work, or if she comes up with the ideas for them as well.

  • Cedricj

    The 'perfect' proposal may insure a yes response. But it takes a lot more than that to make a successful marriage. How about lessons on partnership, acceptance, respect, and what makes for enduring love? Look at the track record of successful relationships on "The Bachelor" where they had near perfect proposals.

    cedricj.wordpress.com

  • millymoo97

    Hurrah, another example of an experience that should be wonderful and personal and memorable by definition needing to be more, so much more, more than I've ever felt about anything. 

    Even the 'miracle of birth' isn't enough now, it's got to come with bells and balloons and cakes and gory pics of half naked people cradling the 'bump' and showers and ...... well, let's just say I'm certainly holding out for the full marching band in the delivery suite, oh yes! 

    Hopefully by the time the grandchildren are telling these stories they'll be using them as examples of how truly strange and empty people used to be.