Asking someone to marry you is nerve-wracking enough, but when their answer is revealed on a giant billboard in downtown Auckland – there’s a bit more riding on the outcome.
Luckily, grand gestures are what brought Whang?rei couple Lisa Gray and KJ Stowers together; just 20 minutes into their first date they both said the L-word.
Now, exactly four years on from that mutual declaration, the couple is engaged to be married.
At around 5pm on Thursday – in front of thousands of Aucklanders commuting all around them – Stowers, 37, asked 30-year-old Gray if he could put a ring on it.
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Stowers lent on a friend to temporarily commandeer an 18-metre electronic billboard, and illuminate his big question.
That meant his timing had to be perfect; the pair left a long, late lunch and meandered towards the billboard on Beach Rd in central Auckland.
“We were early, so I had to pretend I’d overeaten and needed to rest a bit [by the billboard],” Stowers told Stuff.
But after a nervous few minutes, the clock reached five and the billboard changed to reveal a message for Gray.
Stowers dropped to one knee. Gray said yes. And so did the billboard.
Gray “had no idea” it was coming, despite a friend floating her the suggestion some days earlier, but was “over the moon”.
The pair live on a 14-hectare property outside Whang?rei but returned to the place they first met four years ago for their anniversary.
In 2016, both swiped right on the dating app Tinder. It led to a phone call and a first date.
“We just had conversations about everything,” said Stowers.
“We talked about what we both want out of life and where we want to go, and I realised she has the same kaupapa as me.”
They arranged to meet at Auckland’s Britomart and Stowers set about impressing Gray from the first moment.
“I had organised food and drinks, and everything was all ready for her – it was full romance,” he said.
So sure of his feelings for her, Stowers gave her a necklace with a compass pendant: “I said to her no matter what happens in life, you will always be able to find me.”
The pair believe in numerology, and engagement in their fourth year has significant meaning to them; Gray said four is stable and strong like legs that hold up a table or chair.
“It’s been a scary time lately, and so maybe if people see others in love it can give then hope, and they can share that,” Stowers said.
While there are no concrete wedding plans, Stowers said their soirée is not likely to rival the proposal.
“We want something small and simple with close, close family and a few friends.”