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With marriage proposals, You can pop the question, or you can make it explode

Fireworks, a flash mob and a full orchestra. It’s not the latest Beyonce concert; it’s a marriage proposal in the 21st century.

Forty years ago, an over-the-top proposal might mean a fancy restaurant, a sparkly rock and a dropped knee.

But a recent public marriage proposal trend, fueled by social media and YouTube, has put increasing pressure on proposers to turn their private, intimate moment into an elaborate and very public production. Now, with a click of a button, over a million of your closest “friends” can tune in and witness your big, unique, romantic gesture.

2013 brought a wide range of ornately orchestrated proposals: from a Home Depot flash mob to an on-air news anchor proposal to drone-delivered rings and even a Harry Potter-themed scavenger hunt. Rapper Kanye West also followed suit, planning a costly, Jumbotron proposal featuring a 50-piece orchestra to woo reality star girlfriend Kim Kardashian.

Hopeful grooms, it seems, are increasingly willing to put in time, effort and money to impress their significant others (and, perhaps, YouTube viewers). In 2012, 36 percent of brides told popular wedding site the Knot they received a public proposal, up from 32 percent in 2009.

People are also excited to spread the happy news instantly. According to a 2012 survey by Men’s Health and the Knot, 12 percent of women admitted to posting a photo of their engagement ring and changing their relationship status to “engaged” on Facebook before emailing and texting friends with the news.

In recent years, entrepreneurs – especially those involved with event and wedding planning – have realized the potential of this market. Michele Velazquez, 34, was inspired to start offering personalized proposal planning services through her Los Angeles-based company, the Heart Bandits, after a not-quite-ideal engagement in 2010. Her husband, Marvin, although clearly well intentioned, proposed to her on a dinner cruise (“I don’t like boats”), forgot to plan for a photographer to capture the critical moment and failed to plan a celebration for after she said yes.

She asked him what resources, if any, he had used to help plan the big event. When he sheepishly replied none, a business was born.

The Heart Bandits plan about 20 proposals a month and their clients generally spend between $3,000 and $5,000 on their big moment. The cost can surpass $10,000 with special add-ons and upgrades, including photographers, videographers and musicians.

The pressure to top other extravagant proposals has created some unrealistic expectations, both for the proposer and the proposee, and can lead to competition among friends. “There are always men who want to outdo each other and women who want the biggest and the best,” Velazquez says. “Now we want more, that’s our culture.”

For many, it’s about having a fun story to tell when, inevitably, they are asked by friends and family about the proposal. “You don’t want to tell them that he proposed over KFC,” Velazquez joked.

Justin Baldoni, a 29-year old filmmaker, wanted to make a remarkable and memorable tribute to his longtime girlfriend Emily Foxler, and produce a memory that their future children might enjoy. He enlisted the help of more than 100 friends and family to express his love in the best way he knew how – through film.

More than 8 million people have viewed the 27-minute YouTube mini-movie. It features three music videos, a home video montage, a car chase and a flash mob, culminating in a traditional proposal with Justin dropping to one knee in front of immediate family.

“The biggest expectation I had was for myself,” Justin says. “I’m a very grand-gesture guy. I love love; surprising her and trying to make things romantic since we started dating.”

“It would’ve been special even if it had been super small and him just literally getting down on one knee and asking me,” Emily says. “It may seem over-the-top to others, but to us it makes perfect sense. This is Justin’s art. If he was a painter, he would have painted me an amazing painting to show his love.”

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