Film proposal: Mark Peacock proposed to Louise Adam via a video clip on the big screen before the movie they had gone to watch. Photo: James Brickwood
A month of planning culminated on a balmy Monday night in Collaroy on the northern beaches in a charming art deco cinema.
Mark Peacock's homemade DVD was secure in the hands of the projectionist, a group of his closest friends had eagerly filed into the theatre's back rows and his girlfriend, Louise Adam, was pleased the couple had finally made time to see Argo.
When the film rolled, however, it was Peacock, not Ben Affleck, who appeared on screen.
Romantic proposal: Mark Peacock and Louise Adam at Collaroy Cinema. Photo: James Brickwood
To the strains of love songs, a series of more than 50 hand-held placards delivered a declaration, with his final poster revealing a single printed word: "Wife?"
"I thought it would be really great to do something a bit creative, something she loves and remembers and a story she can tell to her friends," Peacock says.
The 30-year-old's story represents a shifting tide in new age romantics – a generation that is turning up the heat on its peers by finding increasingly elaborate ways to pop the question.
Elaborate plan: Jonathan Krywicki proposed to his partner Karyn in the Dandenongs through an idea that took six months to scheme up. Photo: Paul Jeffers
In Melbourne, Jonathan Krywicki planned to have his partner, Karyn, win a fictitious competition for a weekend away, even going so far as to purchase a domain name and build a website to add credibility.
"I had her take me away to dispel any suspicions she otherwise might have had," he says. "And my plan worked, she was absolutely speechless."
The proposal went off without a hitch, the question hidden with the use of tweezers inside a fortune cookie amida romantic blend of spa and champagne bubbles.
Fortune told: Jonathan Krywicki shows how he made his elaborate Wedding Proposal to partner Karyn. Photo: Jonathan Krywicki
In fact, it was such a success that it prompted Krywicki to set up Pitch & Woo in February, a venture dedicated to helping co-ordinate proposals.
The business has already overseen half a dozen engagements and its proprietor is currently working with two clients on proposals scheduled for later this year.
The first involves a winery and a songster flown in especially from overseas. He has also been speaking to a man with an elaborate New York proposal in mind.
While he admits some clients find it uncomfortable confiding in another man, Krywicki says they tend to be time-poor and career-focused men who acknowledge the need for romance, but lack the know-how to go it alone.
He says men don't need to part with a lot of money to create a unique proposal, still, it not uncommon for his clients to spend upwards of $5000 on the experience, and $8000 or more on the ring.
Queensland-based Sue Luppi, who plays stylist, choreographer and cupid, decorating hotel rooms, picnic blankets and restaurants in her role as proposal planner, says she has observed a trend.
"It's a specific demographic, younger guys, 27, 28," she says. "Their mindsets are different and their girlfriends expect more. They're after something special and have money to spend, but they just need help tweaking the finer details."
Those may include rose petals and champagne, perhaps even personalised M&Ms.
Event planner Vivien Reed says suitors who book the 'romantic celebration' package through Sydney-based Australia in Style take it upon themselves to dream up unique situations.
"Recently, we had a man who liked the beach picnic idea but he said he'd also like a horse and carriage and a magician, and he wanted the magician to make the ring pop out of a rose."
Romance might be thriving, but Jennifer Kennedy, the founder of Bells 'n Whistles event planning, says social expectations and competitive peers and friends can also influence future grooms.
"I think sometimes there's added pressure coming from family and friends; their expectations on top of [his own] of not wanting to let their partner down," she says.
Peacock concedes there's an element of friendly rivalry involved. "All the boys that are already engaged or married were like 'We're so glad we've already gone through it', and all the single ones are like 'You bastard, can't believe we have to try to compete with that'," he says.
The Collaroy video has joined the thousands that jostle for position on You Tube, each one a 'virtual' rendition of an age-old question.
There's the flash mob proposal in a Christchurch shopping centre, vibrant street art on an East London brick wall and the 27-year-old American who splurged $US45,000 on an "engagement honeymoon" extravaganza.
Despite the hype, Peacock maintains it's the romance of the narrative that underpins the act. "The nicest part is that we have a really lovely story to share with friends, and we have the video to remember it by."