Interview with CEO of SKS Security Consulting

Sym Hogue, CEO of SKS Security Consulting

Sym Hogue, CEO of SKS Security Consulting

We sat down with Sym this week and chatted about the safety of events. Event security has become increasingly important as event professionals venture outside the design box, like hosting events in raw spaces.

We asked him 5 key questions we felt were the biggest take-aways regarding safety after having done so many events in raw space.

1.When should planners use access credentials for staff and when is it considered overkill?

There’s no such thing as overkill.  If you feel access credentials are going to increase the possibility that you’ll have a successful event, be safe and have it.  Sometimes you also have a client who is hyper-sensitive to security issues so you may have to beef it up just to make the client happy.  And access credentials could be as simple as having all staff wear black t-shirts with a letter on it.

On that note, there are 3 categories to determine the degree to which you provide credentials.

Facility: What kind of venue are you having this event in? If you have multiple rooms or places guests will be socializing in your venue i.e. a VIP room, determine whether or not you are going to restrict access to select areas.  Will your design or layout cause any hazards based on how the venue is laid out? Like the placement of a bar or stage. Will you be using any part of the venue as back-of-house where staff will be storing their personal items?

Event Type: Are you having multiple activities at the same time?  Based on your event, where are guests most likely going to socialize?  Are guests and staff expected to wear something specific? Are guests expected on a flow or all at once? If it’s a multi-day event, you may need credentials for the weekend pass, VIP pass for 2 days, etc...  There’s never overkill for that.

Guests: Are there speakers or performances of any kind? Will there be media, bloggers or influencers? Any celebrities attending? If yes, this means you’ll have to control access with credentials for speakers/VIPs in addition to the staff.

2. I found a security company where the guards are not certified fireguards and they're cheaper.  What's the danger in saving some money and hiring none certified guards versus paying more to have fireguards?

There are some instances where you don’t need a fireguard: If you’re not filing for a TPA, if the venue doesn’t mandate it and if the venue has an active sprinkler system.

Now I don’t advise trying to save money for any security matters.  You’re saving money and potentially losing everything you’ve worked for. One mishap can wipe you out.   The amount of money you saved will not cover the expenses and cost of your time.

3. I've filed for a TPA (Temporary Permit of Assembly) and the Fire Marshall is expected at my event at any time during the day.  What can I do to prepare for the Fire Marshall's visit?

The inspection depends heavily on the Fire Marshall’s personality and preference. By law, the guards are required to have fireguard cards with your address on it and you should have a letter authorizing this guard to be a fireguard at the address where the event is being held.  They’ve been flexible with this rule and only require that the fireguard card (or F04) is current. You can go the extra mile and get the security company to send copies of the F04 cards before the inspection.

And keep all of your permits on file, including floor plans, fireguard cards, and any pertinent TPA documents.

4. How do you determine the number of security personnel necessary for my event?

The specifications on the TPA will tell you how many guards you should have - 1 fireguard per 100 guests is a safe number but there’s no building code that states the exact formula.  

And if you have an indoor/outdoor venue on a beautiful day, you can expect all your guests to crowd around outside. Be sure to add extra security in instances like these.

5. Other than keeping unwanted guests out, what are other responsibilities a security guard has during an event?

  • Security is the first greeting - the first salutation to your guests. Their first job is as an ambassador- representing the client, their mantra and mission. They’re also setting the precedent for the experience, for the event.

  • Having the presence of a security guard outside gives the tone to the type of event it will be -a safe one.

  • They’re also responsible for controlling the area for hazards and dangers - which come in different forms. I also tell my guards to look up and look down. Are there glasses in an area that may be hazardous to guests, are the guardrails on the balcony high enough for people to lean on?

  • We need to also be in constant in communication with the client for any updates:

    • Inform the client of any changes to the environment i.e. sudden downpour when 400 guests are expected

    • Get any changes to the timeline or VIP arrivals from the client

5 Vendors You MUST Know

When Working In Raw Spaces

5 Vendors You MUST Know… when working in raw spaces.

5 Vendors You MUST Know… when working in raw spaces.

Executing an event in raw space requires a level of expertise all on its own.  There are risks, liabilities and design decisions that will make or break your event.  The ever-changing variables are the very reason a majority of event professionals stay far away from doing events in raw space.  Not to mention, it can also be cost-prohibitive.

Now that we’ve gotten all the negatives out of the way, working in raw space doesn't’ always have to be scary and can also have huge advantages.  You get to create a one-of-a-kind experience for your client and really knock the socks off your guests.

There are five key vendors you want to make sure you always have in your database when working in raw space:

Permit Expeditor

This person has the permitting knowledge necessary to lawfully execute your event.  This is crucial if you’ve selected an event space that is not categorized with the Department of Buildings as a location that can accommodate more than 75 guests. Spaces like warehouses, commercial offices, or retail storefronts require a TPA (Temporary Permit of Assembly) for indoor gatherings  for religious, recreational, educational, political or social purposes, or to consume food or drink.  For any of these instances, a Permit Expeditor will prepare your TPA application with the necessary supporting documents and have it submitted 10 days or more, prior to the event date in order to avoid rush fees.

Architect

Another key agent in helping you lawfully host your event in a raw space is an architect. Having an architect on-hand is very helpful not only to your TPA application but also central the execution of your design.   With an architect, you’re able to translate your design specifications into detailed schematics and floor plans. These documents are drafted to scale and account for your furniture placement, problematic columns, points of egress, and other key components to your layout and logistics.  With an architect on your team, you’ll also have access to a general contractor and/or electrician, which can be helpful if you need an uneven floor leveled or additional electricity for your caterer.

Fabricator

Scenic fabrication creates a powerful experience in any raw space by taking advantage of customization opportunities (with your architect’s help) and allows you to fit your vision within the confines of your raw space.  Most fabrication companies have services that include sketching your design to scale, fabricating necessary custom pieces, and installation/ tear-down surrounding your event date(s). This is great for both a corporate annual meeting looking for that brand punch to motivate the sales team and a personal concert the boss is throwing herself for her 50th birthday.  The best vendors will figure out how to work within your budget and you expect to start the tab around $5,000.00 USD.

Technical Director

Unlike your Permit Expeditor who’s job is done once the TPA application is submitted, your technical director would assist with the application and stick around until post-event.  Their experience includes drafting basic technical drawings of the event designs, gauge feasibility of installation per vendor schedules, and ability to provide alternate solutions for problem-solving.  This person is also a huge asset to your event production team; they help with production timelines, soliciting necessary vendors, as well as onsite production on event day(s).  When you apply for a TPA, the Fire Marshall will do a walkthrough of your space on the date of your event. It would be the responsibility of your technical director to escort the Fire Marshall to show that the event setup matches the floorplans your expeditor submitted in your TPA application.

Security / Fireguards

A great security team is your first line of defense and what allows all the weeks of preparation to come to fruition.  The best team will be one who’s security guards are also certified fireguards. Fireguards are required by your TPA, and the quantity is determined by your architect or expeditor.  These guards also assess security breaches or threats to your event and provide protocols and proactive plans to avoid undesirable situations. Always be sure to include the head security captain on the final vendor walkthrough before your event.  They need to be well acquainted with the space as well as the flow of guests and staff.

With any vendor your work with, it’s important that they not only have a similar work ethic as you, but you’re also looking for those who work well as a team.  Executing an event in a raw space presents a unique set of challenges that require the expertise of professionals with a specialized skill set and the ability to communicate should be at the center of everyone’s process.

With the right team, you can execute unique and draw-dropping events in raw space.

et Voilà!


Part 2 of this blog will be a Q & A with CEO of SKS Security Solutions, Sym Hogue.  SKS Security provides security risk consulting for non-traditional event spaces, executive protection for VIP guests, and registration management for large events.  Mr. Hogue will walk us through how to avoid the common pitfalls in most venues, specifically those that may present unique security concerns, like raw spaces.

4 Tips To Get Habits to Stick

If you read our previous blog “4 Resolution Myths to Avoid”, then you’re about halfway there to successfully meeting your goals this year. We know that reaching your objective requires new behavior and discipline. It’s easy to have the willpower and self-control to change habits when everyone seems to be in a “new year, new me” spirit.

But what happens when the hype dies?  What happens when you lose your motivation? What I find most important (and seriously lacking) are the resources that tell you what to do when it’s February and you’ve lost steam and sight of your goals.  By the time June rolls around, you’re getting ready for summer and have completely forgotten about the promises you made to yourself in January.

Let’s look at some winning behavior around staying focused and building lasting habits:

#1. Make it hard to give up.


Create a winning streak you don’t want to break.  This is where small rewards are helpful. Instead of promising you’ll carve out 10 hours per week to prospect new clients, break it down and spend 30 mins on Monday putting your list together for the week and reach out to 3 new clients per day.  Once you’ve accomplished your micro-task each day, put a big red checkmark on the calendar day. Seeing your consistency 2 weeks later will make it harder to give up. And instead of over-promising the 10 hours you’ll never actually set aside, this strategy ensures you’ve at least touched 12 new contacts per week.


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#2. Use cues to create a routine.

Professional athletes use cues to determine which routines to put into action and routines reduce uncertainty and self-doubt.  The classic if/then model can be applied to any habit you want to keep. “If this happens, then I will take this action.” It makes your actions less about consciously building a habit and kicking your willpower into gear but rather more about normalizing behavior around your habit so it becomes second nature


#3. Create an environment for success.

Your environment can be broken down into 3 categories; 1. Place 2. People 3. Prep work.

Place means being specific about where your habits will take place.  So if your goal is to increase the number of new clients you’re prospecting per week, determine exactly where this prospecting will happen.  Will you be at your desk? Is it in the morning before you head into the office? People means having the right team to execute. When you do the math to determine the feasibility of your goal, be sure both your accountability partners and your team are aware and on the same page.  Lastly, the prep-work is knowing your shortcomings. Make sure you understand the roadblocks that may prevent you from staying focus and account for those early on in your routine.

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#4. Be aware.

Conscious living is not just something yogis practice. Mindfulness should be at the heart of everything you do.  Check in with yourself every day and be aware when you start losing steam.  Create a game plan for when this happens BEFORE it happens. This way, feelings of discouragement or boredom will automatically serve as a cue to jump into your “I’m over it” reserve energy.  Accountability partners are extremely helpful here.


And here’s a bonus tip: It’s not all about the mechanics. The biggest incentive is knowing your WHY.  You want to break or change a habit because you have a goal in mind i.e. financial security, a tour of Europe, or buying a house.  Remembering why you’re creating these habits in the first place will allow you to keep your eye on the prize when all else fails.

et Voilà!


4 Resolution Myths To Avoid

There is no shortage of tips and guides on the internet regarding how to create the new you in the new year.  What do your 2019 goals look like? Want to get more clients? Expand your business? Any goal requires a new set of habits and behavior that will get you closer to your objective.   To successfully create new habits, first start by debunking the myths that give you a disadvantage from the very start. We’ll have more resources around specific habits every salesperson should have in our Event Sales newsletter.

Traps you should look out for:

Go hard or go home.

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Don’t try to change too many behaviors at once.  Break your larger goals into smaller ones. How small?  If you want to create the habit of flossing your teeth every morning, start by just flossing one tooth.  If you want to do 100 squats every day, start with just 10. Most importantly, be sure to have small rewards along the way for those micro accomplishments. Starting small increases your chances of turning your behavior into a habit for good.

There’s no math involved.

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It’s not complicated math but there’s definitely some adding and subtracting involved.  Take a look at this example:

Goal: Book 10 new clients in the first quarter of the year.

How many clients did you book last quarter?  Sure there are variables that affect each quarter differently however this broad question will help you answer the next one. How long does it take to acquire a new client?  If you booked 6 clients last quarter and it took you an average of 40 hours to book each, then 10 clients will take you 400 hours. This calculation allows you to gauge whether or not you have the manpower and resources to achieve your goal.  

Any support is good support.

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Accountability partners that are not personally invested in the achievement of your goal will lose interest faster than you will.  Support doesn’t last unless there is something to gain from supporting you. So asking your mom to make sure you spend at least 6 hours per week prospecting new clients is not going to help you when it’s April and you would rather go enjoy the Spring weather.  It’s not that your mom doesn’t love you. She’s human and life happens. A better accountability partner for your financial goal would be someone who is affected by them directly like your spouse or a business partner.

Willpower is all I need.

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A major misconception about staying focused is that willpower is the remedy for boredom with your routine.  In The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, studies have found that willpower actually runs out. It’s the same concept as going to the gym for the 4th day in a row when you can barely walk up a set of stairs from being so sore.  Sore muscles need a break and so does your willpower.

Now, it would be rude to just leave you here; myths debunked but no game plan.  Read our next blog on “4 Tips To Get Habits to Stick” and click here to sign up for Voilà’s Event Sales newsletter for more tips on how to create sales habits that generate more leads.  

et Voilà!

5 ​Unique ​W​ays to ​W​elcome​ New Employees

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1. Start date on a Friday - I can't take full credit for this one.  When I read Jack Daly's The Sales Playbook: For Hyper Sales Growthhe suggested that Fridays are actually the best day to make an employee feel welcome.  On Mondays, employees are back from the weekend so they're busy catching up. And besides, often times we'd rather be anywhere but work after a great weekend.  But guess what everyone loves and thanks God for... FRIDAYS!  Your new hire gets to see employees rounding out their week in a good mood.
 

2. Have an orientation plan already laid out - Show them you've been expecting them instead of cleaning their desk off as they stand above you waiting to start their day.  Have their work area clean, have their computer functioning and mouse and keyboard with new batteries.  Be sure to have an email already set up so they can start communicating internally.  If you're trying to up the ante have the other employees each write a welcome letter on a post-it and cover the computer screen with them.
 

3. Create a company welcome kit - Tour of the office? Sure. But do you remember how fun back-to-school shopping was? Do you know why? The anticipation of making new friends, you get new stuff (lunchbox, bookbag, pens, etc...) AND you just went up a grade which means you're smarter than you were last year.  A new job can be treated exactly the same.  Instead of sticking a bunch of pens in a holder, give them a gift box "survival kit" for their first week.  You can include snacks, branded water bottle, highlighters in the company color... anything you could find useful during your first week at work
 

4. Assign a buddy - Provide them with someone that's friendly and knows a lot about the office.  The 'buddy' doesn't necessarily need to be in the same department, just someone with a good grasp on company workings.  The purpose is to provide them with a go-to person they have access to during their first few weeks to ask questions they may feel embarrassed to ask a supervisor.


5. Ask for feedback - At the end of their first week, be sure to schedule a meeting to ask "How's your week been?" This is a great time to check-in if you haven't worked with the employee all week but more importantly, it shows them that they are part of the team and their opinions matter to you.
 

et Voilà!

Do's and Dont's at the Company Holiday Party

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Like life, many “Dos” would be better decisions if accompanied by a few “Dont's”. So, while other naughty or nice lists tend to lean on one side, we’re giving you a well-balanced etiquette guide to this year’s holiday party.
Let’s start with the obvious ones...

1. Do indulge in the open bar but Don’t call out sick the next day from being hungover.  Not only is that poor etiquette but now the whole office knows you can’t handle your liquor.

2. If you’re company allows inter-office romance, Do come as dates but Don’t make your boss regret it. So many Don’ts with this one: 1) Don’t make out 2) Don’t disappear together 3) Don’t get drunk and talk about what’s happening after the party

3. Do let the furry friends attend if the party or office is dog friendly. Don’t let them mistake the boss’s office for the bathroom. If you’re bringing your dog, then Spot is your responsibility and shouldn’t be left unattended.

4. Do bring a funny gift for Secret Santa but Don’t embarrass your coworker by exposing something they’ve told you in confidence or by gifting sex toys. I’ve actually seen this go down... at a corporate hotel!

5. Do let your guard down but Don’t take this as an opportunity to vent about work.  It’s a social affair so I’m sure you can find something else to talk about, like… what’s Beyonce up to these days?

Now here’s where it gets dicey...
6. Do go to the after party and let your hair down. You’re off the company clock (and the company’s dime) so let loose! But Don’t spill the beans to those who couldn’t make it. Whatever happens at the after party...

7. Do attend the party even if you don’t want to.  Don’t skip it or show up and complain about how stupid it is. That’s just unfair to the person who was tasked to put this together for you.

8. Do sport your fancy holiday attire but this one gets dicey for the ladies.  Don’t lose your job or change people’s perception of you for the worst by showing too much. If you can wear it to a club, don’t wear it to work… unless you work at a club.

9. Do thank the boss for throwing the party.  After all, countless companies end their year with not so much as a mention of the holidays, let alone a celebration.  Don’t hug your boss and give the drunken “I love you maaaan” speech. It’s never pretty.

10. Do have a great time.  It’s a party!  Don’t encourage others to talk strictly business because you can do that on Monday. Put the reindeer antlers on and get on the dancefloor! #no-twerking #not-werking


et Voilà!

Top 10 Wedding Traditions and Their Meaning

Over the years, I’ve planned many weddings across various religions and in this way, I’ve gotten to know and admire a lot of wedding traditions outside of my own faith that I found fascinating.  Some are thought provoking and others are just down right romantic, but either way, this is my list of top 10 wedding traditions I appreciate even more now that I know their meaning.

Exchanging of the Rings
Let’s start with one we’re familiar with.  While we know the ring symbolizes a never-ending circle of the couple’s bond and eternal quality of love, the Bible says it’s an exchange of resources as well.  Your wealth, your possessions and your lives all become one and your wedding ring is a reminder that having a joint bank account just makes paying bills easier.

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Knocking on the door
Many wedding traditions involve the bride leaving her family behind.  In a Chinese tradition, the bride returns to her family’s house 3 days after the wedding as a guest.  I understand the symbolism but the literal thought of leaving my family makes me sad. In African culture, marriage is considered the joining of two families – no one is left behind, not even grandma.  Bearing gifts, the groom and his family knock on the bride’s parents’ door and if the bride’s father answers, wedding planning and celebrations begin!
 

Choora
A Choora is a set of beautiful bangles worn by traditional Indian brides.  That’s just one of many pieces of jewelry that adorns the bridal garb.  Here’s what I didn’t know until I was having a chat with one of my brides after her ceremony… she has to wear it for a whole year!!! So 365 days with all those bangles jiggling every time she does the dishes, types on her computer or just moves her arm. The best part is her in-laws have the responsibility of removing it after the year is over.  Great way to make her suffer if you don’t like her. It’s no wonder some brides decide to take it off after 30 days… #compromise

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San San Kudo
In traditional Shinto weddings, the main goal is simply the pursuit of good fortune.  This tradition can be seen in both Shinto and Buddhist Japanese weddings and the words literally mean “three, three, nine times”.  During this wedding ritual, the bride and groom take three sips of sake from three stacked cups. After the bride and groom sip their sake, both sets of parents also sip the sake. The ritual is complete after a total of nine sips. I know it’s just a sip, but I’m a big sipper and that’s a lot of sake.
 

Arrival of the Vara Yatra
This was honestly one of my favorite wedding traditions ever witnessed.  As part of the Hindu faith, the groom and his party (together make up the Vara Yatra) arrive at the ceremony venue making as much noise as one can handle.  There’s music, lots of flower garlands, live instruments, dancing in the streets and a white elephant.  If you’re getting married in Long Island like my Hindu couple, you rent a white hummer with external speakers and start the processional a block from the venue.  With a little help from the NYPD, you’ve got yourself a proper arrival.
 

Mehndi
Henna is so beautiful!  Also called Mehndi, it is one of the oldest forms of body art conceived by man... take THAT tattoo artists!  Instead of a bachelorette party the night before the wedding, the bride decides to get inked.  Traditionally, this ritual is meant to “improve and brighten” the bride’s complexion but dang it, it’s just really pretty.  It’s usually applied to the bride’s hand and feet by a female relative.  The bride is not supposed to step out of the house after this ceremony so hopefully she has a Netflix subscription.

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Bedeken
For the most part, the wedding veil has similar meanings across many cultures – purity.  But something really tricky (and so wrong) happened ages ago.  A man named Jacob got tricked into marrying his fiancée’s less desirable sister.  So in Jewish wedding tradition, the groom is encouraged to take a look under that veil to make sure he’s marrying the right girl.  Can’t assure a job is done right unless you do it yourself, right?
 

Joining Right Hands
In ancient Catholic tradition, bridal couples would cut their right hands and by joining their bleeding palms, they would be joined together in the “blood covenant”.  It’s definitely unsanitary (love you, babe) so Catholics have just settled for joining the right hand while saying your vows as a public commitment to becoming one.  Thank God!
 

Throwing of Rice
Another familiar one with Christian weddings.  This started with the throwing of seeds (ouch!) and was meant to be a reminder that the purpose of marriage was to start a family.  So today, guests throw rice as a way to say “you better start the baby making on the honeymoon… or your marriage will fail.” I like the symbolism of seeds where planting something isn’t enough.  You have to care for it, water it and give it light so it can grow.

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The No-Tradition Tradition
Gay weddings are creating their own traditions as a way of finding a place in the wedding industry that better reflects their love.  There are a couple “remixes” in same sex weddings that I really love.  Some couples choose to not have an aisle or walk together at the processional.  Most same sex couples opt to see each other before the wedding especially if they’re both wearing suits or wedding dresses.  Also, traditional vows tend to be gender specific, so most same sex couples are choosing to write their own. So romantic!

et Voilà!

No Second Chances: How to Create a Memorable Wedding Proposal Worth Bragging About

This one is for the guys!  Or the ones doing the proposing.  We can’t forget the progress we’ve made in the wedding industry with same sex marriages or women now proposing to their male soulmates.

While doing a little digging on this subject, I realized that most proposal stories, ideas or articles about the special moment are all written from the recipient’s perspective, often a woman.  That was really interesting to me because although it’s the Propos-ee that gets to brag about it, it’s the Propos-er that creates the magic worth talking about. So after talking to 3 men and 1 woman, I noticed a common denominator.  The most memorable proposals were crafted by someone who completely put their significant other first.  The proposal was ALL about the other person and what they like.
P.S. My subjects were a little shy so I changed the names to provide anonymity.

Michael’s Plan – Mike and his now fiancée Jessica are both New Yorkers.  They’re not the type to veg out in front of the TV on the weekend.  Their relationship was all about 8-hour dates.  They would start with a quick breakfast at a cute coffee shop in the West Village, then a visit to the MOMA for the newest art exhibition, followed by a picnic in Central Park.  Really laid back, no frills type of a Saturday.  Jessica loved their Saturday’s together.  So Mike decided to craft THE perfect day with what he called “Jessica’s Favorite Places”.  They got to relive the places they had been to and loved, ending the day at her favorite Italian restaurant for dinner where he popped the question.

Louis’s Love Letter – Louis moved to Atlanta for college and never left.  It was at the Georgia Tech football game that he met the love of his life, Sara.  Unfortunately, she was rooting for the other team.  After giving up the fake “you’re my enemy” flirting session, Louis finally asked her out on a date.  Their relationship progressed quickly and soon after their 1-year anniversary, they bought a house together.  There was one really important thing both Louis and Sara had a common… their closeness to their families.  So naturally when Louis popped the question, he did it in the house they had bought together and wrote her a love letter about building their own family in this place they would now call home.  The entire family was there to celebrate the proposal, just like she would have wanted.

Bill’s Moment – Bill is a hedge fund manager and traveled a lot.  On one of his business trips, he met Lucas at a hotel bar.  Lucas is a fashion designer and was also traveling for work.  They lived in different cities and had to make plans on the fly in order to see each other.  They spent more time at hotels together than they did in their own homes.  They talked about moving in together and getting married but the timing never seemed right.  Lucas had a huge announcement to make… he was taking a 6-month project in New York where Bill lived.  Lucas planned this elaborate dinner and as he smiled from ear to ear while delivering the news, something washed over Bill and he said, “I want you for the rest of my life.  You are home to me.  Will you marry me?” Simple and spontaneous.

Cindy Pops the Question – Cindy and Doug were an untraditional pair.  He was studying to be a nurse and she, an architect.  They moved in and had a baby soon after.  The more their parents pressed them to get married, the more they resisted.  It was with the birth of their second baby that Cindy realized she really wanted to marry Doug.  So she took matters into her own hands, as she usually did, and bought him a ring.  After his winter finals, she got her kids around the Christmas tree and asked Doug to be hers forever.  He was beyond moved and said yes! The next day, he bought Cindy an opal engagement ring to look like the one her grandmother gave her.

What did you learn? REALLY get to know your partner.  Everything you need for a memorable proposal is in your relationship.
et Voilà!