March 17, 2010

An engaging proposal


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STAFF PHOTO BY JOHN PATRIQUIN -- Wednesday, May 20, 1998 -- Ghi Ghi Razi (with guitar) from Blue Hill and Lena Eberhart from Phippsburg enjoy the early season sun at Popham Beach state park today.

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Staff Writer

ingle men who hear how Mony Hang proposed to his wife usually have a singular reaction.

''We have a lot of friends who have gotten married since we did, and I try not to bring up how I proposed,'' said Hang, 32, a real estate broker from Portland. ''Because when they find out, a lot of guys say, 'Mony, you are such a jerk.'''

What Hang did was persuade his then-girlfriend Stacey Brewer to go on a sightseeing flight with him over Greater Portland in 2004. When the small plane flew over Fort Williams Park on the coast in Cape Elizabeth, Brewer looked down to see the words ''Marry Me'' spelled out with the bodies of about 80 friends and family members.

''We had about seven or eight people per letter, to make it big, and they all wore red shirts,'' Hang said. ''I wanted to spell 'Will You Marry Me?', but we couldn't get enough bodies.''

Although he didn't plan to, Hang helped raise the bar in the increasingly competitive field of proposal planning.

Proposal planning companies are springing up around the country, often as offshoots of wedding planning businesses, to help men come up with the kind of thing Hang did on his own. Las Vegas-based, for instance, offers a proposal planning philosophy called TIP (Thoughtful, Intimate and Planned).

Owner Rob Tillman says his staff can help men plan a proposal by handling travel arrangements, booking entertainment or setting up needed props -- even pyrotechnics.

Makes dropping to one knee seem about as outdated as an Atari game on a shelf full of Xbox 360s.

''Wedding planners are savvy marketers, so they've been branching into proposal planning as they hear more and more stories about these elaborate proposals,'' said Anja Winikka, associate editor of, a wedding planning Web site. ''I think there is pressure (on the man) to make it special, because the proposal is the one responsibility that's all his.''

Hang said he didn't plan his fly-over proposal out of any sense of pressure. He wanted to include family members, and he had a friend who was a pilot. It just all came together.

Seth Wilkins of Randolph had similar good fortune in planning his proposal to his fiancee, Amy Costa, on Dec. 22 last year.

Here's what Wilkins did: He took Costa to the Portland Museum of Art, a place she had wanted to visit, and casually strolled with her through the galleries. In the last room they visited, in the historic McLellan House portion of the museum, was an easel with an abstract painting of a figure on bended knee, looking up at another figure.

Wilkins had contacted museum officials early, and they worked with him to put his art on display -- someplace fairly private.

Attached to the painting was a note to Costa, with the big question in writing. When Costa saw the painting, she didn't have much of a reaction at first. But then she opened the attached note, addressed to her.

''I looked at the note then I turned around and he was down on one knee with the ring,'' said Costa, a student at St. Joseph's College in Standish.

Wilkins said his motivation was that he had taken up painting not long ago, and Costa had encouraged him. So a proposal in the midst of art seemed appropriate.

''What I did didn't really have anything to do with anybody else. I just knew I didn't want to do something cliched, like something in a restaurant or at a sporting event,'' said Wilkins, 22, who is in his third year at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

The couple is planning to marry in May 2009.

''We've been asking family members to hear their engagement stories, and nothing tops ours,'' said Costa.

Brad Cote of Biddeford also avoided cliches by taking up a whole new hobby to put together his proposal: scrapbooking.

He had never done any scrapbooking, and had never shown any interest in it. But his wife, Lori -- his girlfriend at that time -- loves scrapbooking, and spends hours each week with friends using stickers and tickets, photos and mementos of various kinds to create elaborate scrapbooks.

So Brad decided that's how he'd propose. He sneaked out to Wal-Mart and bought a mess of scrapbooking supplies. Then he got pictures of their trips together and went to work, glue and scissors in hand.

The very last page is full of wedding stickers -- cakes, bells, veils, etc. -- and the words ''Will You Marry Me?''

Brad decided to spring the scrapbook on Lori one night when she got home from work late. She was tired, and just wanted to go to sleep.

''I was sort of angry. I thought, 'Can't this wait until morn- ing?' '' said Lori recently as she thumbed through the scrapbook. ''The last page came after a page of weddings we had been to, so I thought it was all the same, and I was just looking at the stickers.''

''I had to say, 'No, no, look at the words','' said Brad, 27.

''He's very impatient,'' said Lori.

The couple married in May 2006.

Lori says the story of how Brad proposed is legend among her female friends, none of whom has a proposal story that can top it.

''They remind me (of the scrapbook) and tell me I'm not allowed to complain about my husband,'' Lori said.

It seems that planning pays off.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

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