Love in the Time of Algorithms

Match.com Wants You Attention Grubbers to Compete for a Marriage Proposal Planner

Betabeat provides the barf. Lovingly.
Could these two be America's Next Top Proposers? (Photo courtesy Match.com)

Could these two be America’s Next Top Proposers? (Photo courtesy Match.com)

For people who spend a lot of time online, it feels like you can’t swing a dead lolcat without hitting a viral marriage proposal video these days. It’s not necessarily a new phenomenon, though. People have delighted in watching strangers’ marriage themed home movies since the earliest days of America’s Funniest Videos. But with the advent of YouTube, you can catch the latest gushy, overblown wedding stunt on demand, whenever you please.

The digital cupids at Match.com have taken notice, and they’re running a contest for couples who met on their website. This is prime wedding proposal season, you see, with 39 percent of questions being popped from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day, according to a release from Match.

Couples just have to answer the question, “Why does your match deserve the ultimate proposal?” from now until Nov. 22. Winners get “an all-inclusive engagement package featuring a unique, custom-designed proposal plan from wedding expert Sarah Pease, the Proposal Planner.”

Hold up. What is a proposal planner, and do we really need one more paid professional offering services within the wedding industrial complex? To find out, Betabeat spoke with Ms. Pease herself.

The Proposal Planner, as she is known (and trademarked), got her start about six years ago. She had worked in banking and finance, then switched over to wedding planning, opening Brilliant Event Planning. Based in Manhattan, she picked up proposal planning shortly after she heard about a male friend whose misguided proposal included placing a ring at the bottom of a bucket of greasy fried chicken, his honey’s favorite.

“His heart was truly in the right place,” Ms. Pease said. “He was trying to do something different. Ultimately, she said yes, but I heard the story and thought there had to be a better way.”

In the line of duty, Ms. Pease has been tasked with creating a jigsaw puzzle the size of a living room; a trail of tented cards with watercolor designs highlighting moments of a couple’s relationship, leading to a French hotel room with two Hervé Leger dresses and a $5,000 bottle of champagne inside; and a hasty project that a stressed out groom needed done in three days.

Not all of the proposals Ms. Pease oversees seek to land in the annals of viral video history. But she does think shared proposal videos are upping the ante when it comes to the big question.

“It’s opening his eyes to something like, hey, it doesn’t have to just be a nice dinner and, over dessert, he pops the question,” she said. “It’s the guy’s chance to shine. People say the wedding is more the bride, but maybe the proposal is the guy’s chance to show his creativity.”

Some grooms spend up to nine months painstakingly planning alongside Ms. Pease. They find her through word of mouth–and a few jewelry dealers who tip them off, she said. But all that work doesn’t mean an elaborate proposal is all about exhibitionism and creating a viral hit.

“What it comes down to is reflecting their love story,” Ms. Pease said. “It’s not about making it big and flashy, unless their love is big and flashy, in which case, let’s blow the doors off of it. Let’s do something wild and crazy. Let’s flash-mob it.”

Skeptics may think that, in taking the work out of the groom’s hands, hiring a planner makes the proposal less personal. Not so, Ms. Pease said. A wedding planner doesn’t make a wedding less personal, she points out.

“And for guys, it’s like a once in a lifetime thing,” she said. “Let’s say it’s Mr. Computer Guy or Mr. Finance. They can make you a hell of a spreadsheet, but they might not have the skill set to make this a hell of a proposal.”

Despite all the proposals she’s seen, the Proposal Planner doesn’t think the trend of the viral wedding proposal video is going anywhere.

“I’ve probably witnessed more wedding proposals than any other human being on the face of this earth,” Ms. Pease said. “And you know, I still love watching them … It’s a great escape. People are great, humans are amazing, look at this.”

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