Message across the e-ocean

The nerdiest romantic proposals of all time—any geeks out there who can top these this Valentine’s, do write in

In April, Aayush Jain, 27, an engineer, proposed to Ambika Bumb while dancing in a flash mob to Bhangra tunes at Pier 39, San Francisco, US. Called the “Bollywood-Bhangra Flash Mob Proposal”, the video of his proposal on YouTube had garnered 161,352 hits by Tuesday and has made the couple online stars. A delighted Bumb was surprised by the effort her boyfriend had put into the proposal. “He even involved my brother, sister and friends through a secret Facebook group, which made the whole thing 10 times better,” she said. What surprised the couple was the buzz it created online.

Love 2.0: These geek proposals redefine romance.

For a generation which lives on the Internet and BBMs on mobile phones, proposals with sunsets in the backdrop are passé. Take the example of Greg Rewis, who was the first one to tweet a marriage proposal to Stephanie Sullivan, in March 2008. All he did was put in four words, “Will you marry me”, as part of a conversation he was already having with Sullivan.. Her reply: “…I’d be happy to spend the rest of my geek life with you…”. Home-made videos, lolcats, iPhone apps, virtual reality games, Google Maps or Foursquare—people are finding tech tweaks to make their proposals stand out. Here are a few of our favourites.

Stream it live

What’s a happy event if none of your family members are there with you? Matt Van Horn, who works for a tech start-up called Path, appreciated the value of family and friends. So in August 2010 he used Qik, a live-streaming mobile service, to propose to his girlfriend, Lauren. He arranged for a friend to take his girlfriend to the top of a hill in San Francisco where he was hiding behind a rock. Yet another friend used his iPhone to live-stream the proposal through Qik. “It took me a week’s planning to do this. I added last-minute touches on the day of the proposal,” said Van Horn via email. Family and friends had been alerted half an hour earlier to keep a lookout on his Qik channel. As soon as he saw Lauren, he checked into the spot via Foursquare, which auto-updated his Qik, Twitter and Facebook accounts. “I knew Lauren received my tweets via text message on her phone,” he wrote on his blog, “so I asked her to turn around as I proposed!” Meanwhile, his girlfriend, who didn’t even know her boyfriend was in town, was delighted and surprised when she saw him pop up from behind the rock with a smaller but very important rock in his palm. They are now happily married. “I am extremely happy with the way it turned out. I love doing things for my wife, so there will be plenty more surprises for her in future,” he said in an email interview.

See it online


In 2009, Bryan Haggerty, 30, a San Francisco-based designer for Twitter, created an app to propose to his partner Jeannie Choe on her iPhone. “I design mobile apps for a living so I decided to take this way,” said Haggerty in an email interview. “I finally designed the app as a mobile Web app so that she would receive a text message from me with the link to launch it.” The app, called Romantech, displayed a map containing location points throughout San Francisco. Each point had a video in which Haggerty gave clues on where to go next. Eventually the two met at a point where all the location dots on the map connected to form the shape of a heart (<3) symbol which had a lot of sentimental value for the techie couple. “The app was one time only use, tailored specifically to one person,” Haggerty explained over email. For romantics, Choe said yes. The couple is now happily married, with a four-month-old daughter, Euna.

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A new kind of bottle

A staunch believer in the idea of a message in a bottle, KC’s boyfriend John, a Web developer, created an online website to propose to KC in July 2006. The website ( had an online quiz to check if the person who replied was the real KC. It took KC until June 2009 to reply and say “yes”. Why?


Because she had no idea the website existed. “I wanted to test out whether fate would bring my message to my girlfriend,” said John in an email interview, adding that the website was “a message in a bottle that I tossed into the vast ocean of the Internet”. From start to finish, the whole website, including the design, content and fine-tuning the questionnaire so that only KC could pass it, took two months. In those three years, he got 4,611 responses to his eProsal (as he chose to call it); of them, 1,851 took the quiz meant for KC (and failed). KC received an email in June 2009 which looked more like spam than real. Still, she decided to check it out and got the shock of her life. “Now I want to make a domain for but I don’t think my wife finds the joke funny,” John said over email.

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Standing on the street

In 2008, Google employee Michael Weiss-Malik got an unusual chance to propose to his fiancée Leslie Moreno a second time after a rather humdrum proposal (though she said yes to that one too). “I did what any Silicon Valley geek would do: I decided to upgrade to “Proposal 2.0, a new improved online version,” he writes on his blog. When his company announced that the Google Street View vehicle would be outside his office at Mountain View, US, to record, he knew this was his chance. The Street View extension to Google Maps lets a viewer explore a place through 360-degree street-level imagery. As Googlers lined up along the street to appear in the Street View worldwide, Weiss-Malik was there holding a banner which said: “Proposal 2.0: Marry me Leslie”. The banner was recorded and can still be viewed on Google Maps if you see a Street View of the Mountain View Google office. “It was a fun random thing that’s part of the history of our relationship,” he said. If he had a chance to propose to her differently, he would go non-tech and “buy her a puppy”, he said in an email interview.

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Light writing on the walls

In December 2009, Derick Childress sparkled his love for Emily on the buildings of Raleigh, North Carolina, US, with a light graffiti video of “Emily, will you marry me?” on the streets. The technique, known as Light Writing, moves a spotlight across a space while a DSLR camera is left open with a very, very slow shutter speed. The photograph that is captured shows a continuous streak of light in the final exposure. The shot in itself is not that unusual but was made so by the sheer size of the project. Childress decided to make a video of many such captures put together. To find the point where he could place his camera as well as write with his spotlight, he used Google Earth and approximated the view from high-rise buildings in his city. “Since none of the letters could fall on areas that were inaccessible by foot, the requirements for the vantage point were very specific,” he wrote on his blog.

It took him some days to find the right spot, a hotel which had a top-floor restaurant open to the public. Then he booked a room in the hotel, called up some friends and connected his camera to his MacBook Pro. Along with his friends, he went to the streets to mark spots where the spotlight should be moved so that the words could be captured by the camera. It took them three days in freezing rain to get the short video. He then took Emily out for a movie, took out his MacBookPro and showed her the video. “When the words ‘Emily, will you marry me?’ came up at the end, I was down on one knee with the ring in hand,” he said in an email.

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Pointing with a map

Ari Gilder, a software engineer with Google, decided to set the myth that “women can’t read maps” to rest with his marriage proposal. In February 2011, he created a romantic scavenger hunt for his girl using the Google Maps mobile app. He constructed a personal route on the Google Maps using its MyMaps service. The map touched some destinations in New York City where they had shared experiences. “On the road to ‘The Big Question’, I wanted Faigy to visit places around New York City that were filled with memories of our relationship,” he writes on the official Googleblog where his story was carried first. Then he coordinated with Faigy’s manager to give her a Nexus One which came preloaded with a custom-made app he had built. The app would let her check in to each location and then prompt her for a password for the next location.

He had a friend stationed at each of the six locations marked on the map to give her a rose, take her picture and then give her a question. The answer to that question was the password. “When Faigy entered the password, the app would automatically initiate walking navigation to the next location,” he said in an email.

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