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Proposing the Kimye Way: Why romance is getting really expensive

The Beatles sang that money can't buy love, but Kanye West proved that it can buy you one heck of a wedding proposal extravaganza.

By Money Staff Jun 24, 2014 1:49PM

This post comes from Julie Halpert at partner site The Fiscal Times.

The Fiscal Times on MSN MoneyWhen Christian Moreno decided to pop the question to his girlfriend of three years, he wanted to wow her – and no ordinary restaurant proposal would do.

Kim Kardashian & Kanye West wedding © Kim Kardashian via Instagram at
"She loves surprises and I wanted to make it really special," he said. So Moreno, a 40-year-old brokerage representative in Keller, Texas, lured his girlfriend in April to a Dallas mansion, where Prosecco, champagne flutes and flowers awaited her. This was followed by an elegant restaurant dinner.

That wasn't all. Hiding behind a row of bushes next to the photographer to make sure it all went off without a hitch was Michael Bloomberg (no, not the former mayor of New York), owner of The Romance CEO. Moreno paid Bloomberg $1,750 for his proposal-planning services and an extra $2,150 for the gifts and services of various vendors. "I was very happy with the way it turned out," Moreno said.

For many of today's soon-to-be-hitched couples, the once-clever, "Will you marry me?" message tucked inside a fortune cookie simply won't do. Instead, in the spirit of Kanye West's opulent proposal to Kim Kardashian, many young men are feeling the pressure to do it up in a grand style. West flew Kardashian on her birthday to San Francisco’s AT&T park, which he had rented, brought in her entire family and hired a 50-piece orchestra to play one of his songs. That has spurred a new industry of wedding proposal planners who execute intricate plans intended to win a beloved’s heart.

Bloomberg said every person who’s being proposed to deserves "a story to tell."  A full service package, for which he handles all the details – ideal, he says, for the busy executive or professional athlete – can run $4,800.

Michele Velazquez's husband proposed to her on a sunset cruise, even though she doesn't like boats. This led her to realize that men need help in this area, so she founded The Heart Bandits in Los Angeles, Calif., four years ago. She now has coordinators in 14 cities in the U.S. and has planned roughly 1,000 proposals.

Social media "plays a huge role" in the demand for her services, Velazquez said. A proposal, once private, is now broadcast on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. "When someone proposes in a crazy way, a million people see it the next day," she said. "It's changed the expectations."

Most of her clients are affluent and spend anywhere from $3,000 to $43,000 on a proposal.

One man recently spent $42,000 to rent a private penthouse in Chelsea, N.Y., that overlooks the city. For his proposal experience, he ordered specially-made cherry blossom replica trees, a huge ice sculpture, crystals hanging with photos of the couple, a harpist, and a catered dinner with a full bar. Velazquez also once transformed a San Francisco room to a winter wonderland for a woman proposing to her girlfriend; the scene resembled Vermont, where the two met on a ski trip.

Many people feel that a lavish wedding proposal is a way to demonstrate commitment, says Velazquez. It also sets the bar for the main event: Someone who's spent $43,000 on a marriage proposal clearly won't have a simple wedding.

The presumption, of course, is that the woman will say yes. Most couples have already discussed marriage and sometimes have even set a date before the official proposal happens. The marriage proposal is a way to introduce an element of surprise.

"There are girls tapping their toe and looking at their watch and saying, 'Why haven't you proposed yet?'" said Sarah Pease, who oversees proposal planning for Brilliant Events in New York, where she executes seven to 10 proposals a month in the busy season.

Her proposals have ranged from a "takeover" of the end of the musical "Wicked" – where the man proposed on center stage accompanied by soloists – to a proposal on the French Alps, where the rose petals alone cost more than $5,000. There was also the $50,000 proposal aboard a rented aircraft carrier.

Stephanie Coontz, author of "Marriage, a History" and director of research at the Council on Contemporary Families, said that, unlike a generation ago when women often felt compelled to marry for economic reasons, they no longer crave it or need it. As a result, there’s a sense for men that "if you want a really desirable woman, you've got to talk her into it and knock her off her feet," she said. But she prefers the old-fashioned approach and feels that lavish proposals, "blasted all over" are a waste of money.

If you agree but still want an unforgettable proposal, less expensive options are also available. The Yes Girls charge $199 to provide ideas that future grooms can execute themselves. Bloomberg charges $250 for a one-time consultation.

Judging from his fiancée's reaction, Moreno – who took his girlfriend to Dallas to pop the big question – felt the money was well spent. Expecting a low-key proposal in front of her family, Yuri Veliz was "blown away" by what he'd planned. She said the "very classy and impeccably beautiful" setting was beyond her dreams. "It was the most amazing night of my life so far."

The only drawback? It threatens to overshadow their small destination wedding. "I think my big day won't be as beautiful as that night was," Veliz said.

More From The Fiscal Times

Jun 24, 2014 4:41PM
When my now-wife and I decided we were getting married, we went looking at rings together. She saw one she liked, and I brought her home and raced back to the jeweler to buy the ring before I had to get to work for the night. I literally sat on that ring for two months, bringing it with me everywhere and waiting for my moment. It came on Thanksgiving; I was sick as a dog and sitting out on the deck at her aunt's house when she came and sat on the steps in front of me and leaned back against my legs. She asked "Do you want a scotch?" and I didn't. She asked "How about a glass of water?" and I turned that down, too. When she asked "Well, is there anything you DO want?", I had my moment. Pulled that sucker out of my pocket leaned around to hold it in front of her, and said "Yes. You, forever."

No planner could have arranged that one. Love is patient, right?
Jun 24, 2014 4:31PM

One word for this article.  Insanity!

Jun 24, 2014 7:23PM
People make things waaaaayyy too complicated.
Is it stupidity? Or is it ego?
Jun 25, 2014 8:42AM
This article just shows the narcissistic  attitudes of some people. They don't want a marriage, they want a show that people will watch and say "Gee, I wish I was that person."

Propose in private, your partner might say no!

Jun 25, 2014 6:07PM
My co-worker gave his daughter the choice of a wedding or a down payment on a house. She still has the house. The same attitude should apply to the proposal. This will just spawn stupidity.
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