BOSTON -- Envision this: A couple goes to a seaside restaurant for dinner. Their table isn't ready just yet, so they take a walk on the beach. The sun is setting.
As they stroll around a bend, they see a violinist standing beside a candlelit dinner for two. Shocked, the woman turns to find her boyfriend on bended knee, a ring in his outstretched hand.
Sound like a storybook proposal?
It's also Marriage Proposal Idea No. 20 -- "Dinner on the Beach" -- on Paul Alden's list of more than 100 ideas for busy, unimaginative, or romantically challenged people looking for memorable ways to get engaged.
Alden is president of Will You Marry Me?, a Hingham, Mass.-based Internet company that helps plan and coordinate unique and romantic proposals -- mostly for men.
"The proposal is really the man's last chance to have 100 percent control over the situation," says Alden, 35. "Once those words are uttered, it's all about planning the wedding, and your future wife, mother-in-law and mother are in control.
"This is the man's chance to show her how special she is, but some don't know how to do it," Alden said.
Or don't have the time to do it themselves.
Bill Fischer, 31, of Hoboken, N.J., had the idea to propose to his girlfriend at a romantic island resort on St. Lucia.
With Alden's help, Fischer popped the question with a view of the sunset, a waiter nearby ready to serve a private dinner and rose petals spread on their bed. A videographer even caught the event on film. The cost: about $300 for Alden's services, and more than $3,000 for everything else.
"I look at getting married as a once in a lifetime event," said Fischer, an analyst at General Electric. "But I'm a busy guy. I knew I wanted this to be perfect, but I didn't know if I would have the time to make it that way."
Wedding planners abound, but there are still few proposal planners.
Sasha Souza is owner of the San Francisco-based company The Main Event, which has been coordinating proposals, weddings, and even anniversary or birthday parties for six years. She says the popularity of the business is a sign of the times.
"Today we do the things we do, and we hire people to do the things we can't do," she said. "We're very busy people, some just don't have the time to be creative."
Alden, a former wedding photographer, said he got into the business soon after he pulled off his own extravagant proposal four years ago, one he swears he won't duplicate.
Alden got he and his girlfriend into an antique car for a parade on Nantucket. When the moment was right, he pointed to the car as something both old and borrowed, his own suit as something blue -- and then handed her something new: a ring in a velvet box.
Soon after his bride-to-be had told all her work friends the story, her male co-workers began calling him for advice. Since then, he claims to have helped coordinate 500 proposals, all of them successful.
"It's true that you don't need a proposal planner to propose, because you can just ask the question," Alden said. "But a lot of people want to do something extra special to give her the storybook proposal that every girl dreams of."
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