For people with money, there’s often more to marriage proposals than getting a “yes.”
In 2015, for instance, one suitor hired a travel agency to help him pop the question inside the magma chamber of Iceland’s dormant Thrihnukagigur volcano. As Brendan Drewniany of the luxury travel firm Black Tomato Ltd. recalls, “The couple enjoyed a private tour before the gentleman dropped down to one knee.”
While Mr. Drewniany won’t divulge the cost of this unique occasion, he will reveal that the question was followed by “an immediate yes,” at which point staff members of Black Tomato, which has offices in New York and London, were on hand “with Champagne and Icelandic delicacies to enjoy in the crater.”
For the company’s affluent global clientele, proposals aren’t just about affirmative responses. “Some clients put an enormous amount of pressure on themselves to deliver the spectacular in a way that is authentic and mind-blowing,” says co-founder Tom Marchant. “They are looking for the ‘never-before.’ ... Some people may want an Instagrammable moment.”
Along with luxury travel competitors such as Scott Dunn Ltd. and Indagare Travel Inc., Black Tomato is carving out a new and growing niche – bespoke destination proposals – that Mr. Marchant says encompasses “everything from brainstorming and inception to execution. We tap our global black book of contacts on the ground to work hand-in-hand with a network that sets everything up in advance.”
Then there is Vancouver-based Luxe Proposals, which focuses exclusively on the niche. Luxe caters to local and international visitors looking to pop the question in scenic B.C. destinations such as Whistler and the Gulf Islands, with some Luxe-staged “moments of truth” having topped $12,000, according to the company’s owner, Liza Child.
Luxe consults with clients on how proposals might reflect a couple’s tastes, personalities and relationship histories, among other factors. “A few of the guys really have ambition,” Ms. Child says. “They know her favourite flower, her favourite song and exactly when they want us to play it. They have a vision. Others are a little bit lost, and that’s when they come to us for creative expertise.”
What does this expertise yield? Here, members of the Black Tomato and Luxe Proposals teams share examples of some memorable question-popping.
Treasure-hunting in Marrakesh
After a cultural treasure hunt led them through the souks, tearooms and hammams (spas) of Marrakesh’s labyrinthine medina, a Black Tomato client and his girlfriend eventually arrived at the Majorelle Garden. Created by French artist Jacques Majorelle, the two-and-half-acre botanical sanctuary is dotted with pools, streams and fountains. The final piece of treasure – the ring – was hidden in its midst.
“After the proposal was accepted,” Mr. Drewniany recalls, “we arranged for the couple to head out to the Vallée des Roses," a locale in the Atlas Mountains that’s famous for its wild roses. There, the couple blended their own signature scents to be worn on their wedding day.
A toast in Mendoza
In Argentina’s bucolic Mendoza region, Black Tomato arranged for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Tempus Alba winery, where the Biondolillo family has been practising viticulture for more than five generations.
The two oenophiles “were then taken down to the cellars to make their own blend from the varietals on offer,” Mr. Drewniany recalls. “A personalized label was added, popping the question, which was gladly accepted and immediately toasted. To celebrate the engagement, we also arranged for an additional case of the couple’s blend to be waiting at home for them on their return.”
Love by a Whistler lake
The mountain-ringed backdrop to Nita Lake Lodge in Whistler, B.C., helped a Mexican suitor realize his vision for a majestic alpine moment, says Ms. Child of Luxe Proposals. “Upon arriving at Nita Lake for lunch, Humberto secretly met us to hand over a pair of canvas slip-on shoes he had brought from Mexico to include in his proposal, just like the ones Mariana used to sell when they first met.”
Humberto then led Mariana out to a dock, where a rustic arrangement of candle-lit lanterns and flowers – her favourites, purple daisies and roses – was waiting. “With the mountains peeping through the clouds and a serene lake behind them, Mariana said ‘yes,’” Ms. Child recalls.
From the Maldives to Maasai Mara
While Black Tomato clients tend to have locations in mind and a general idea of how they want to stage their proposals, this “often evolves into a very different moment and locale than when the request first came in,” Mr. Marchant says.
In one instance, after several consultations, a client who initially wanted to propose in the Maldives in the Indian Ocean settled on the Angama Mara safari lodge in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve. On a hilltop made famous in the 1985 film Out of Africa, “Tiki torches were lit for cocktails as elephants slowly strolled by in the distance,” Mr. Marchant recalls.
Eat your heart out, Robert Redford.
Joined in Jaipur
Having arranged exclusive after-hours access to the ornate City Palace in Jaipur, India, the Black Tomato team staged a private Champagne reception on an outdoor terrace illuminated by hundreds of candles, Mr. Drewniany recalls.
A private dinner in the Maharaja’s gilded dining room was then followed by a visit to the mirrored Sheesh Mahal chamber, where the groom-to-be proposed by candlelight.
Giving thanks in Peru
Black Tomato arranged for a couple to visit Huchuy Qosqo, a remote archaeological site in Peru’s Sacred Valley. There they met a local shaman for a ceremony that gave thanks to Pachamama, the fertility goddess of the Incas. Mr. Drewniany says the ancestral ritual “seeks to connect us to our habitat, and our intentions to the elements of nature that surround us. It’s a spiritual experience that creates a very romantic atmosphere.”
The mood appropriately set, a private picnic was served on the shores of nearby Lake Huaypo, where the groom-to-be proposed.