Seven hundred proposals, every one of them leading to a “yes”. It’s a strike rate that explains why some men are prepared to pay Samantha Davies up to $40,000 to help them pop the question.
Ms Davies is the “hopeless romantic” behind Unforgettable Proposals, Australia’s first high-end marriage proposal planning service. Superyachts, helicopters and island hideaways are the tools of her trade.
“We actually haven’t had a no yet. I feel that when a man or woman goes to this much effort, they’re pretty certain that they’re going to get a yes,” she said.
Ms Davies, 27, grew up in the hospitality industry. Her father was a Sydney publican and she grew up living on top of pubs and clubs.
After her father retired, the family moved to the Gold Coast where Davies attended Bond University, completing a Bachelor of International Hotel and Tourism Management.
She started her working life with a sales role at a five-star resort and it was there that the idea of Unforgettable Proposals began to form.
“We used to have men constantly call the resort wanting help with their romantic events. They were looking for help on how to propose, or do we know where they can find a luxury lookout or a cliff, or what helicopter company to use,” Ms Davies said.
Her attempts to set up an engagement planning service at the hotel were rebuffed, but after stumbling across a flash mob proposal while on holiday in New York, Ms Davies decided to go it alone. She spent the flight home designing a logo and typing up a mission statement for her new company.
Starting business in 2013, Unforgettable Proposals services a market that has changed rapidly over the years and through the generations. Davies laughs when she recalls how her father proposed to her mother.
“I think my dad did it over a meat pie.”
It’s safe to say the “Steak and Cheese Deluxe” won’t be added anytime soon to Unforgettable Proposals’ range of engagement packages, offered from the company’s premises on the Gold Coast and in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Bali.
Someone looking to win over their bride-to-be in Sydney can surprise them with a harbour cruise and picnic, before popping the question. In Melbourne, a street art proposal is an option, as well as a horse and carriage package. For a Gold Coast experience, the “Beach Goddess” package features a surprise dinner set up with a luxury Moroccan marquee, cushions, rugs, flowers and lanterns. And for those looking to head offshore, Bali options include dinner in a beach cave.
But while the packages on offer are designed to make life easier for a stressed-out lovebird looking to propose, Davies emphasises the importance of adding personal touches to each proposal, to reflect the couple’s love story.
And for those with deep pockets, the possibilities are endless.
Proposals at the top end sit somewhere in the $40,000 price range, but Davies insists you don’t need to spend big for your proposal to be a winner -- most people spend about $3000.
“A great proposal doesn’t have to be over the top, it doesn’t have to be the most expensive, elaborate thing. I think it’s more about touching base on those points of personalisation and just being an intimate, beautiful setting.”
Once the concept is agreed upon, Unforgettable Proposals take over, co-ordinating the event, and booking suppliers, photographers, videographers, and any custom props that are needed on the day.
Davies says how people propose varies according to the season and the location.
“On the Gold Coast, people love a beach concept, whereas in Melbourne people love a rooftop concept, so it kind of varies, depending on the city.
“There’s no one thing. In one week we might be doing 10 events and that might vary between a hotel room proposal to a picnic proposal to a flash mob, to a rooftop.”.”
She’s also noticed differences in clientele in each city Unforgettable Proposals serves. On the Gold Coast, it’s mainly young men that need help with their proposals. In Sydney, many of their customers are Chinese, Singaporean and Malaysian. In Melbourne, they get a lot of customers with a Middle Eastern background.
But no matter where they’re from, Davies says the stereotype of the unromantic male is now largely outdated.
“It’s not that they’re not romantic, they are, they just don’t know how to put the pieces together. They’re looking for assistance so someone can take that stress away, but in the meantime deliver an event without getting caught. Because it’s all about throwing her off and the surprise factor.”
However, men sometimes don’t make it easy on themselves.
“Guys don’t give us much time, they will literally call up and say ‘what can you do for me tomorrow? I got excited, I’ve got to do this, I’ve just got the ring.’ So they don’t really give us much time, we generally get a two-week lead time to plan these events.”
Davies accepts there’s also more expectation for men to propose in style.
“I think the trend has definitely changed, I think there’s more pressure on men now to declare their love, and if he’s not going to do it, then she may not be so happy. There’s definitely this pressure now on men to do something beautiful.”
Unforgettable Proposals has run almost 700 engagements, and Davies says they’re yet to have someone say no.
And once that all-important three-letter word has been uttered, and thoughts turn to the wedding, it’s not unusual for Davies to find herself on the guest list.
“A lot of the weddings, I’ve gone to, and they’ll send me photos of the wedding, you kind of maintain that relationship, a lot of them come to me looking for assistance with their wedding and things like that.”
Despite this, Davies says she’s not tempted to offer a beginning-to-end service, and move in to wedding planning, instead preferring the creativity that comes with planning engagements.
It’s hard to talk about engagements with Davies without noticing the sparkling ring on her finger.
And yes, her husband managed to plan his proposal without Davies figuring it out.
“He knew what I wanted, he knew I wanted something really intimate about the two of us, I didn’t want it to be this whole ‘look how big my proposal is’.
“It was really beautiful, and he really surprised me to be honest – you’d think I’d have caught on, but I had no idea.”
Davies’ efforts with Unforgettable Proposals have been recognised with a clutch of awards.
Awards Australia named Davies the Queensland Young Achiever of 2018, in the iFly Online Category. The recognition followed earlier success, with Davies also being named the 2016 winner of the Aspiring Young Business Women’s Award in the Women in Business Awards of Australia’s Gold Coast category.
However, it’s not the awards that she does the job for, but the special moment when two people agree to spend their lives together.
“As soon as he or she comes along, and they say yes, and there’s all that emotion between them and you get the thumbs up…there’s times when we’re all crying, watching on. It’s super cool.”
Samantha Davies’ top 5 wedding proposals
One man surprised his partner with a series of gifts delivered to her Melbourne office. Eventually she was given a note instructing her to go downstairs, where a stretch limousine was waiting. She was taken for a cruise before getting her hair and make-up done, picking up a dress, and being taken to the airport to catch a flight to Sydney.
After touching down, another limousine took her to a resort, where her partner was waiting on a stylised rooftop. As he popped the question, fireworks erupted from Sydney Harbour, and the happy couple finished their evening with dinner at a private function with family and friends.
In another beautiful engagement, one of Unforgettable Proposals’ customers arranged a scenic helicopter flight with his partner over the Gold Coast. But the trip took an unexpected turn when the helicopter diverted to a nearby island, where a romantic glamping experience awaited.
The couple had met online, and the wannabe-groom had kept the couple’s original conversations, which were reproduced on boards leading to the glamping site.
The site came with a private chef and a musician – and after he popped the question and she said yes, the couple sat down to dinner, during which a fireworks display was set off.
For something with a cinematic touch, one romantic beau told his partner that a friend from work was having an engagement party, and that they’d been invited.
Arriving at the house, the pair followed a candlelit pathway to gardens at the back of the house.
But instead of a party, friends or guests, the couple came across an outdoor cinema with a romantic picnic set on the lawn.
As they approached, the screen turned on and a slide show played, set to the tune of the couple’s favourite song, showing pictures of memorable moments in their relationship.
The final slide read, “will you marry me?” - and the answer was yes.
A pair of horse lovers embarked on a scenic private horse-riding tour through a valley before coming across a romantic lunch set up by a nearby river.
As the woman hopped off her horse, she turned around to see her partner on bended knee with an engagement ring – alongside his horse, which was also down on one knee.
Following the proposal, the pair relaxed with a picnic hamper and wine, before completing their trek.
Another proposal involved a bride-to-be being picked up by helicopter and flown to a 100-foot superyacht in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. After landing on the superyacht’s helipad, the woman was taken to a private dining room, complete with chef, where her partner was waiting with 1000 red roses.