Would you do it in public? AASMA DAY talks to one football fan who proposed to his girlfriend in front of thousands of people - and had the moment captured forever
They may be on opposite sides of the pitch when it comes to football teams but Chris Jones and Joanne Cottam are still the perfect match.
Chris, 27 is a huge Manchester City fan and is a season ticket holder who goes to all the games while Joanne, 26, supports Chelsea and travels to London when she can to watch her team.
Although they may be rivals when it comes to football, the couple, who live in Ashton, Preston, travel to games together twice a season when Man City and Chelsea face each other – although they sit in different ends for the match.
Chris, a satellite engineer, admits he and Joanne enjoy a bit of football banter and he knew she was the girl for him when she wasn’t afraid to take him on and tease him about football.
Chris says: “We met on the dating app Tinder and I sent her a daft question saying: ‘Does it bother you that sloths sometimes fall out of trees because they mistake their arms for branches?’
“Quick as a flash, she replied: ‘Does it bother you that City got knocked out of the FA Cup by Wigan?’
“Straight away I thought: ‘Wow, for her to come back with that so quick, she’s the girl for me.
“My next question to her was: ‘I hope you don’t support Manchester United?’”
Smiling, Chris quips: “That might have been a dealbreaker.”
Chris and Joanne got together in June 2014 and, after living together for some time, Chris decided the time had come to ask her to marry him.
When it came to how to propose, Chris wanted to do something out of the ordinary.
He says: “I thought doing it on holiday or something like that was a bit predictable.
“I wanted to propose somewhere where she would not expect it.
“I thought it would be great to propose while we were doing something we loved together so I thought a football match would be a great option.”
Chris came across new company Captured Proposals set up by Preston entrepreneur Rob Illidge while on Facebook and loved the idea of having his proposal to Joanne captured on camera while she was unawares.
He got in touch with Rob and told him he wanted to propose to Joanne before the City/ Chelsea match in Manchester and wanted the proposal captured on camera and video so they would have a keepsake of the moment. Rob contacted Manchester City on Chris’s behalf and after speaking to them, asked Chris if he fancied proposing to Joanne on the stage at City Square.
Chris explains: “The City Stage is an area outside the grounds where they have a stage where they do things like interview former players and have bands playing before the match.
“I was up for it but had to work out a way of getting Joanne on the stage without her being suspicious.
“City organised a fake competition and e-mailed me saying they had a competition on stage to win prizes before the game and that it was for couples and did I have someone who would come on stage with me.
“I showed Joanne the e-mail and asked her if she would do it with me and she said of course. She didn’t suspect anything at all as I had done a few competitions with City before and had done things like go on the pitch at half-time for competitions.”
Unbeknown to Joanne, the photographers from Captured Proposals were waiting as the couple went on stage. Family and friends were there, too.
The “competition” was for the men to do as many press-ups as they could. Laughing, Chris says: “Luckily, I used to be in the Army so this was a good challenge for me!”
The other couple taking part in the fake contest were then taken off stage and Chris was handed the microphone in front of a stunned Joanne.
He recalls: “I told Joanne: ‘I love you and we are both here doing something we love so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity ...’
“And then I got down on one knee and proposed.
“It was a complete surprise to Joanne. Her reaction showed how surprised she was and how she wasn’t expecting it. She smiled, laughed and cried.
“There were about three or four thousand people watching us on the stage and we later found out they had put it on the big screen inside the grounds too so more than 25,000 people saw my proposal. I am just glad Joanne said yes!
“I would probably never have gone to another game if she had turned me down!”
Chris says that he chose a public proposal as, deep down, he knew Joanne would accept.
He explains: “We have lived together long enough and have talked about starting a family so, deep down, I did think she would say yes, but you still get that moment of nervousness.”
For Chris, having the whole thing captured on camera put the icing on the cake and means they can re-watch and cherish the moment.
Chris says: “When people propose, it is normally just the two of them and people like to know how it happened. The way we did it means we can actually show people that moment and have the memory of the proposal captured.”
As well as pictures and a video of the proposal, Rob’s company put the proposal on Facebook Live so family and friends who weren’t there could watch it.
Chris says that even though he and Joanne support different football teams, their teasing and banter is usually good natured. He says: “Joanne rubs it in a bit when Chelsea beat us.
“But we both love football and that brings it together.
“It doesn’t matter who you support, you can still be the perfect match.”
Joanne, who is a social worker, says Chris’s proposal before the football match took her completely by surprise.
She says: “I was so shocked, I could not believe it! I felt every emotional.
“The way Chris proposed was perfect and summed up our relationship perfectly.
“It was very thoughtful and I love him lots.
“I think it was brilliant the way he had his proposal and my reaction captured.
“It goes so quickly when it happens that it feels like a blur. Being able to watch the video and see it all again is really nice.
“We both love football and it means a lot to us so it was the perfect proposal.”
Rob Illidge says knows it sounds like a cliche, but the moment he saw Siobhan McGoff in a bar, he knew she was the woman for him.
Rob, 30, of Fulwood, Preston, explains: “I looked at her and said to one of my friends: ‘I am going to marry her.’
“I then went over and started talking to her. I had never done that with a complete stranger before.”
Rob and Siobhan got together a couple of years ago and Rob decided he wanted to ask Siobhan to marry him. He says he spent around six months planning the proposal and he came up with the idea of having the moment of proposal captured.
He explains: “Both Siobhan and I love photography and I got to thinking how every special moment in life is captured on camera and shared with other people such as when you graduate, when you get married, when you have children.
“But the only moment in life that isn’t captured is the proposal - and that’s usually the first step of the journey. When somebody gets engaged, the first question people ask is: ‘How did he or she do it?’ Or ‘Where were you?’ And ‘What happened?’
“I thought surely I could get a photographer to capture the proposal.
“But I could not find anyone in the UK who offered that service.”
Rob found a company in Miami that offered the service and proposed to Siobhan on holiday. He bought the ring and organised the photographer and was sent a map to show where the photographer would be hiding.
Rob says: “I told Siobhan we were going to a beach party and when we got to the beach, there was a blanket laid out with flowers and Champagne “All I had to do was go to the blanket, say a few words I had prepared and get down on one knee.
“I could see the photographer and hear the lens but Siobhan had no idea he was there as he was quite well hidden.
“The proposal happened so quickly but we have it all captured and have all the photos.
“Siobhan had no idea what I had been planning and she was in shock and then full of happiness.
“The photographer then came out of his hiding place and took photos of the two of us as a newly-engaged couple.
“Before the proposal, I had asked friends and family to record a congratulations video and played it to Siobhan.”
Rob, who will be marrying Siobhan in Italy next June, says his own proposal gave him the idea of setting up his own business Captured Proposals.
The bespoke service offers proposal planning and photography. Every detail is agreed in advance with specifications and maps designed to ensure nothing is left to chance.
Rob says: “The photographers stay hidden from view but in the ideal place to capture the moment forever. You won’t know we’re there until you’ve popped the question.”
Captured Proposals was set up in November and has already captured more than 50 proposals. Rob says the company has had a few celebrities use the service but can’t reveal their details as they want to remain private.
Some of the proposals they have captured have been abroad in places such as Italy, Pisa, Florence, Madrid and Paris.
Rob says they have a 100 per cent success rate and no one has turned down a proposal that they have captured.
He says: “I say to my clients that if you are planning to propose to someone, you have to know them well and know they are likely to say yes. But I think everyone has that moment of doubt about whether they’ll get a yes.”
Rob says everyone’s proposal method is different and some like to propose in public or outside a landmark while others like to do it in private with just the photographer capturing the moment or at the place where they first met.
He says: “Some people come to us knowing exactly what they want while others have just bought the ring and want us to help them plan it. We will work with them and fit in with them or help them work out the details.”
l For more information visit: www.capturedproposals.co.uk