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On a gray winter afternoon, a red carpet is rolled out along the Pont de Bir-Hakeim, a bridge over the River Seine in central Paris. Petals are strewn across it and a glowing sign above reads: “Will you marry me?”
The rain doesn’t dampen the spirits of one woman who approaches it and, understanding what is happening, sheds tears of joy.
It’s a special moment, but relatively commonplace in the City of Love where roughly 36,000 visitors arrive each year to pop the question, according to proposal-planning marketplace Proposal Paris.
Rodrigo Mendoza, 33, is one of those people. When he decided to propose to his girlfriend Ciera Rojas in June 2023, the choice of location was easy.
“Before the pandemic, that was my first time visiting Paris,” Mendoza told CNN. “For me, it was an extraordinary city, super romantic … and I said, ‘OK, when I find the chosen one, the right person, I’m going to propose here in Paris.’”
Traveling from New York, Mendoza contacted a photographer beforehand to set up a photoshoot with the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop, and popped the question there.
Such romantic gestures appear to be a rising trend after the Covid pandemic, with travelers keen to make up for lost time. Proposal Paris told CNN that it saw a 30% rise in the number of requests received between 2021-2023.
Kiss Me in Paris, an event planner which organized over 450 proposals in 2023, has noticed similar patterns. It reports a 50% increase in proposals planned between 2022 and 2023, and a notable explosion in requests after Covid-19 travel restrictions were lifted in Paris.
A recent study conducted by US wedding-planning website The Knot even found that the number of Americans proposing abroad is now higher than pre-Covid levels.
So, what is it about the French capital that still entices so many?
“I get the impression that people are looking precisely… to show that they are in Paris, the magic and the romantic environment that the city can provide their proposals,” Diana Sumano, founder of Proposal Paris, told CNN.
From the Eiffel Tower to the Seine River, Paris is filled with globally recognizable locations and monuments where public proposals often take place.
For some, the prospect of having an audience witness such an intimate moment might make the skin crawl, but “there are some people who relish it,” Chantelle-Marie Streete, co-founder of Kiss Me in Paris, told CNN. “They want everybody around to be clapping.”
According to Florence Maillochon, a sociologist at France’s National Centre for Scientific Research specializing in couples and families, the concept of public proposals is “an invention which without a doubt originated in the United States or the United Kingdom.”
Although a recent phenomenon, the public proposal “really took off with the rise of social media, which invites us to display and to dramatize our lives in all areas,” Maillochon added.
When it comes to the appeal of Paris, the influence of popular culture, as well as social media, cannot be underestimated.
A recent study carried out by France’s National Centre of Cinematography and Animated Pictures and French pollsters IFOP found that 1 in 10 tourists surveyed had decided to travel to France after watching a particular film or TV show, with 38% of those citing “Emily in Paris.”
The Eiffel Tower’s the limit
Planning proposals abroad - particularly public ones - often requires logistical help. A booming proposal-planning industry has consequently emerged in Paris, and no request is considered too extreme.
Daisy Amodio, founder of event planner The Proposers, told CNN that one of her clients wanted his face beamed onto the Eiffel Tower as part of his proposal to his girlfriend. “I called up the Eiffel Tower, I called up the government, I called up everyone in Paris that you could possibly think of… but it was an absolute no … so instead I hired Disneyland Paris just for them,” she said.
Streete is no stranger to an extravagant proposal. From “Mission Impossible”-themed quests to dance flash mobs and fake cinema screenings, she has planned and executed them all. Her company launched in 2013 as a photography company, later expanding into proposal planning as a market for it grew in Paris.
“We put a structure to French companies that caters to foreigners. It was all English-speaking,” Chantelle-Marie of Kiss Me in Paris told CNN. “We’ll take care of everything for you. You want flowers, we sell flowers. You want a musician? We got a musician. Oh, a harpist? Don’t worry about it.”
Companies like Kiss Me in Paris and individual vendors try to provide a memorable experience to couples, bringing to life their wildest dreams and highlighting the charm of the city of love.
For Ciera Rojas, her fiancé Rodrigo Mendoza’s proposal was precisely that.
“Everything in Paris just felt so magical” she said, “I can honestly say that I had a dream proposal. Everything was perfect.”
Mendoza, meanwhile, says he now knows his first impression of the city was right - it really is the place to whip out an engagement ring: “If you’re in love, it is going to make you be even more in love.”
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