A MAN has brought New York to Brighton after his showstopping wedding proposal in the Big Apple was scuppered by the coronavirus lockdown.
Ashlea Branch-Parker had plotted to surprise brand manager Laura Williams by proposing at the top of a skyscraper in mid-town Manhattan – but bent down on one knee on the beach instead.
As part of an elaborate itinerary, the 30-year-old decorated their Hove flat with a poster of the American flag, arranged coffee and doughnuts, cooked hotdogs for lunch, and set the scene with a 4000-piece jigsaw featuring the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge.
Laura said “Yes”.
The pair met on the dating app Bumble three years ago, and fell in love with New York after visiting for a friend’s wedding.
Ashlea had been preparing to propose for some time. He disguised his plans by telling Laura the trip was a birthday present.
“She had no idea,” he said. “I had the whole day sorted – I was going to take her roof garden with a sunset view.
“I called up and got a 15-minute slot when nobody else would be there – that’s when I was going to propose.
“I prepared a speech and there was going to be a champagne, photos, and afterwards we were going to visit all our favourite places in New York.”
But the coronavirus travel restrictions put paid to Ashlea’s plans, and he had to find alternatives closer to home.
He scoured Brighton and Hove place names for New York links. On the big day, he woke Laura up at 4am and told her to meet him on Brighton Beach – which is also the name of a stop on the New York subway.
He handed her a map with comic stateside directions, leading her past 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Avenue in Hove, as well as “Hoventral Park” – or Hove Lawns.
Ashlea was ready and waiting by a seafront bandstand, which he lit up with a runway of solar-powered garden lights.
“I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me,” he said. “I gave a speech and said that even though the world has stopped and I can’t give you what you deserve, I wouldn’t let the circumstances dictate how our relationship progresses.”
Laura said: “I was so excited for New York – I was hoping he was going to propose there, and I was gutted when we had to cancel the trip.
“I was completely blown away by what he did instead.”
The pair plan to marry in September 2021.