NEW YORK (MainStreet) —Armin Gross was a student studying for his master's in international hotel management in Sydney, Australia when he asked his girlfriend of eight years to come along on a vacation with him to Lady-Musgrave Island.
He had more than a reunion with his girlfriend in mind, though. While snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, he pointed to a miniature treasure chest in the water that he had placed there earlier, which his girlfriend picked up, opened and found her engagement ring.
The couple has been married for eight years and lives with their two sons in the Bavarian Alps of Germany where Gross manages a spa resort. He says of the 2004 marriage proposal, "The idea was the result of long planning and thinking, to do something nobody else does." Gross's over-the-top proposal was modest compared to some, but it was profligate for a student on a budget: he had to sell his car to come up with the money for the trip and the ring.
Romantics have long come up with creative ways to propose to their beloveds, and according to a recent survey conducted by David's Bridal, nearly a third of newly married couples embellish their engagement story to make it sound better.
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However, with the prevalence of social media where most of us record every major event in our lives, it's getting harder to embellish those stories. As a result, many are opting for over-the-top proposals, which are costing in some instances in the thousands of dollars.
According to the survey, Jumbotron proposals and flash mob proposals are so 2012. The survey found that 63% of the respondents wouldn't say yes to a Jumbotron proposal and 57% would turn down a flash mob proposal.
As for using social media to propose? Forgetaboutit, 80% of the respondents said they would not say "I do," to a proposal made through Facebook. Lovers then are left scratching their heads of what unique ways they can come up with to pop the question, and that's where a growing number of prospective grooms are turning to event planners.
The Yes Girls, with offices in California and Dallas, Tex., began planning proposals for clients in 2008. Elie Pits, who runs the Dallas office of the company, says she believes social media has a lot to do with marriage proposals becoming such an event.
"Before Pinterest and Facebook, we only ever heard the story of how someone proposed at their weddings, but now right after the event you can share the images and hopefully video with all your Facebook followers," says Pits. "Also, women are now pinning things they want for their proposals and weddings on Pinterest long before even meeting the right guy."
The most expensive proposal the company has helped facilitate was one in which a man spent $11,000 renting out a night club and having a 15-foot Eiffel Tower constructed. The fee also included photography, catering, the florist, lighting and a designer.
Pits says that typically, an over-the-top proposal averages around $6,000. The company charges a minimum of $199 to come up with ideas and $1,200 to execute, but the consultants advise clients to expect to pay between $3,000 and $4,000, depending on how many vendors are involved.
Over-the-top proposals need not break the bank, as Chris Mosier planned a flash mob proposal in 2011. Mosier's girlfriend is a performance artist, so he knew his proposal was going to have to be good.
He arranged a flash mob of artist bloggers to meet at the New Museum in New York, as well as setting his friends up to meet at the museum. One of the friends handed out small canvases that read, "You are my perfect match" to select friends at the door. When he and his girlfriend entered a room, the friends all held up the canvasses and Mosier got down on one knee for his proposal.
"It was especially meaningful to have our friends involved," says Mosier. Since the museum lent the space on opening night for free, the cost was limited to the ring and less than $100 for the cost of the canvases. Mosier's girlfriend did say yes.
The average marriage proposal is still happening without the use of consultants, vendors, flash mobs and photographers. According to a recent survey by TheKnot.com, 72% of the respondents said that their proposal wasn't documented with photos.
However, 43% of grooms surveyed did plan the proposal down to the last detail in comparison to only 10% who "winged it." To boot, more proposals are happening in public places: in 2009, 68% of grooms proposed in a private setting compared to 57% who did in 2011.
With the average cost of a wedding now hovering around $30,000 and rising, and the continued prevalence of social media in our lives, over the top proposals are surely to become even more over the top in the coming years.
Places to go for an over-the-top wedding proposal:
Perry's Monument, Lake Erie near Put-in-Bay, Ohio: This location on South Bass Island is literally over-the-top. It's the second tallest memorial structure in the world and has a beautiful view. The monument is a memorial to the War of 1812 Commodore Perry. It's also cheap at $3 per ticket.
The QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, Solberg Airport, Readington, NJ.: Another literally over-the-top proposal with an average of two taking place per year in a hot air balloon. This is the largest summertime hot air balloon and music festival in North America with 00 balloons from around the world and 165,000 attendees. Balloon rides are $225 per person. July 26-28, 2013.
Aquariums: If you can't afford to go to an exotic island to swim with dolphins or the Great Barrier Reefs, aquariums are popular places for over-the-top (or under) proposals. The National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland will set up a proposal for $500 that includes a diver holding a sign asking "Will you marry me," and professional photos of the moment. Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey Bay, Calif., has romance tour packages that can include a private breakfast and behind the scenes experience with an exhibit animal such as an octopus. Cost ranges from $100 to $5,000.