Daniella & Cornel

Any competition with “Most Romantic” in the title is not something we would have ever seen ourselves entering. As a journalist and photographer, we are a definitely an adventurous couple. Addicted to news. Fun-loving, yes. And sometimes rather silly. But romantic, we are not.
We have never celebrated Valentine’s day – we prefer to stay inside, rent an action movie (NOT a chickflick!) and eat ridiculous amounts of popcorn. We might go out to a restaurant the day after, when everything is nice and quiet, and cheaper!
I (the bride-to-be) am known to forget our anniversaries, and Cornél is the kind of guy who’d rather bring me a single hand-picked flower than send an extravagant bunch of roses.
And we both prefer it that way.
Cornél’s proposal, however, is in my opinion a worthy winner of the “most romantic”.
Granted.. not in the sense of hundreds of candles, a hot air balloon ride, or orchestrating a big video event to put on YouTube.
But to me, that’s not romance. Romance is what reflects who you are as a couple. And in that sense, it was simple, real, and perfect.
In May 2013, after months of saving, one of my lifelong dreams finally came true. I got to visit New York City. The Big Apple! Though this was not a dream of Cornel’s (initially), he saved up with me and also went on my dream trip – and, I have to add, ended up loving NYC just as much as I did.
We spent 3 glorious weeks in New York. It was spring and there were cherry blossoms in Central Park. We rode the Ferry to Staten Island, we went to the Top of the Rockefeller Building. We had a picnic on Roosevelt Island with South African friends and we ate the best pizzas in town under the Brooklyn Bride. Could a holiday be more perfect? Seems it could.
However, I did not expect a proposal. We had talked about marriage only in “long term” plans. We hadn’t looked at rings, he never even asked me what kind of ring I would like. Besides, we were both so broke from all the saving for the trip, the thought of adding a wedding to that never crossed my mind. And that was all part of his plan…
On the very last day, we had brunch with friends at a diner in Broadway street and went on a boat ride. We had to get back to our apartment to prepare for our flight back. Cornél asked that, before we get packing, we say goodbye to NY in the green heart of the city – Central Park. We walked around, looking for a quiet spot. Cornél said he needed one last picture of the skyline reflecting over a pond. (Poor guy – I did not make it easy for him. I was tired and getting stressed that we would not get everything done in time. I might have gotten a bit irritated 😉 )
Finally, we found the “perfect photo spot” and he took some pictures for his portfolio.
I sat down on the grass and was a bit more relaxed – thankfully! He set up the camera and asked me to stand, so we can take a final “autoshot” picture of us. I stood and smiled as he set up what was actually a video (I did not know this). He ran over, and stood next to me – asking me to give him a kiss for the “photo”.
When I opened my eyes, there he was – down on one knee.
For a few seconds, I was utterly bewildered – I could not believe it was happening!
But the moment he started to speak, I smiled and just felt utter joy. He spoke about us, the couple we are and how he wants me to be his wife. Of course, I immediately said yes!
He took out a ring he had made in South Africa – he had to carry it with him the whole holiday! Before our trip, he went to a jeweller and had it made. He showed her pictures of me and some of my favourite pieces of jewellery. Only his best friend (and soon-to-be best man) Marius knew about his plans. He did not want anyone else to give it away to me by letting a word of facial expression slip.
So there, on the grass in Central Park, he produced the most beautiful ring. “It’s only a placeholder! You can choose your own sparkly ring,” he said. But I loved it. It is made from photographic waste silver (had to bring in the photography) and has a gold band in the middle – symbolic of Central Park. It has two hearts on top, and an engraving inside that says “Dani, ek lief jou by die hart.” To top it off, he had a matching set of silver earrings made.
(Back in SA, I did get the “sparkly ring” made as he insisted, but I wear my “Central Park ring” with it – and it’s the one I’m most sentimental of!)
We took a few moments to sit there in the park, next to the pond with people rowing past, drinking in the New York late afternoon sun en dreaming about the life that now lies ahead of us.
Our holiday and the wonderful, honest, heartfelt way Cornel asked me to marry him is something I will treasure forever.


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