This weekend, American viewers of reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians will see the programme's star, Kim, get engaged to her rapper boyfriend, Kanye West. The proposal, which happened in October last year, was rumoured to have cost millions and involved hiring an entire baseball pitch, fireworks, a 50-strong orchestra, private jets, a diamond as big as a Ritz cracker... and lots of TV cameras.
West's very public gesture is the zenith of what is a growing trend for proposals with viral potential. We're talking flashmobs; a pre-organised happening, usually in a very ordinary place (shopping centres are popular), involving apparently ordinary people breaking into a choreographed dance or song, culminating in someone getting down on one knee. All caught on camera, preferably professionally shot.
Efforts shared on social media get serious traffic. "Spencer's Home Depot Marriage Proposal" – filmed in a DIY shop in Utah – has had 11 million views since September 2013.
There has been a rise in OTT British proposals, too. This week saw the broadcast of the first episode of The Proposers, a TV series following London-based "proposal planners" as they arrange engagements. The series features a flash-mob choir on the London Eye and a choreographed ice dance. "We've had wedding videos for some time," says videographer Marco Federici of Federal State Media. "Now people are taking it to the next level; they want their own reality show made around it – from proposal to the big day."
Federici is accustomed to filming in Ibiza's superclubs, but in December, his venue was Glasgow's Braehead shopping centre to capture 32-year-old Bobby Beattie proposing to his girlfriend with the help of a dance group and Bruno Mars' "Marry You" track on the PA. The video, "A Christmas Love Story in Glasgow", has had more than 21,000 hits. And Federici has now been booked for more wedding-related work.
Jay Marsh, a freelance musician from south London, has also benefited from the trend for public proposals. In the last four months he’s been hired to play for three nearly-weds. Though none of the performances were filmed, he’s clear on what’s spawned the ideas:
“When there’s a superman cape involved and a series of placards to declare the guy's intentions, viral videos spring to mind.”
Are all-out proposals with an eye on internet fame going to become the norm? Not according to Bernadette Chapman, of Dream Occasions, an Essex-based wedding planner. She started offering proposal packages after reading about similar dedicated services in the US. But she soon scrapped the idea. "No one wanted to pay," she says. "People would ask for a flash mob, but they're expensive – there are musicians or dancers to hire, PA systems, a videographer, a photographer, plus an organising fee."
Both Chapman and Miryam Farrell, the weddings manager at Create Food and Party Design, a London-based catering and events company, say the couples that they work with err on the side of tradition.
"Our clients choose low-key ways of proposing, such as a romantic holiday or their first-date venue," says Farrell. "They tell us they want the actual moment to be private."
If it's a quiet proposal that's wanted, there's still help available. This Valentine's Day, "luxury lifestyle club" iVIP – accessed through apps, ranging from £0 to a whopping £699, offering a scale of access to exclusive hotels, supercars, private jets and more – is on hand to arrange last-minute proposals. In practice, anyone willing to pay can use the app to instruct iVIP's partner concierge service buy:time. In 10 years, it has organised about 50 proposals and is expecting a rise in demand after its inclusion in the app.
For many, any third party involvement in asking that special someone for their troth remains unthinkable. Ed Perrin, 30, a London-based windfarm developer, proposed to 29-year-old literary agent Camilla Young in the middle of watching a film while they were staying in an unglamourous B&B (with bunk beds instead of the more traditional four-poster).
"Milly would've been mortified if I'd done it in public," he says. "For years, I think she was avoiding climbing mountains with me at sunrise or sunset.
It's the most vulnerable and personal thing you can do together, and the idea of sharing that with anyone seemed a bit daft."
Try telling that to Kanye.