Our A Day in the Life series allows you to step into the shoes of a UAE resident to experience a typical 24 hours in their work and home life
The founder and chief executive of Dubai's Proposal Boutique has organised more than 400 extravagant proposals at venues including Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, Aura Skypool and Al Ain Zoo – and has a 100 per cent success rate.
The former Emirates cabin crew member from Cheshire, England, was inspired to set up her proposal business in 2014 after her husband surprised her with a five-day marriage proposal in New York.
Today, she welcomes nervous grooms-to-be from around the world looking to arrange lavish set-ups, involving everything from flash mobs and private helicopters to takeovers of the Emirates Airline Rugby Sevens stadium.
Here, The National follows Ms Ralston through a typical day juggling prop preparation and flower arrangements with undercover operations and last-minute nerves.
5am: Prepping the day
"On an event day, I'll be up bright and early to make sure everything is in place for the proposal, since there's a lot to organise," Ms Ralston said.
"We're extremely busy now, with most proposals costing anything from Dh40,000 ($10,890) to Dh800,000 ($217,000)."
Ms Ralston said one of her most recent proposals took a full day.
"The guy whisked his girlfriend off on a yacht before enjoying a gourmet dinner on the beach, drinks in a secluded courtyard and a stroll through a private garden. When they reached the centre, there was a huge gift box waiting for her on the helipad containing a brand-new Range Rover Sport and a Dh250,000 engagement ring.
"Pulling off something like that takes months of planning, but seeing it all come together is the best feeling in the world."
8.30am: Getting creative
"I usually arrive at the office early to answer all the proposal requests that have come in the night before," Ms Ralston said.
"This is always an exciting part of the day and my inbox could hold anything from a rooftop proposal at the Burj Khalifa to a Disney-themed takeover involving princesses, magicians and hundreds of stuffed toys."
Then Ms Ralston heads over to a creative staff meeting where her team of six will come up with new ideas for "out-of-this-world proposals".
"This is supposed to last only 20 minutes, but can often get out of hand with talk of infinity pools, desert escapes and novel ways to hide engagement rings," she said.
9am: Calming nerves
The rest of the morning, she said, is dedicated to consultation and "calm-my-nerves" calls, where she reassures her fretting clients by taking them through the plans.
"People are typically most nervous the week before the proposal itself when we're taking them through the itinerary and coming up with a believable cover story to get the couple to the venue," Ms Ralston said.
"We once had a guy call us 90 minutes before the proposal wanting to change his giant message on the Rugby Sevens pitch from 'Marry Me' to 'Be My Valentine'".
Luckily, Ms Ralston said, he pulled himself together once he arrived at the venue and got down on one knee as planned.
12pm: Sourcing supplies
After a quick lunch, Ms Ralston runs errands and gets organised.
"Usually, I'll head to florists to discuss elaborate displays and flower arches, before auditioning musicians and picking up any props and craft supplies we need," Ms Ralston said.
Then, she'll drive to her warehouse in Al Quoz to paint the props or put together lighting displays or heart boards with a private message. "It's a treasure trove in there," she said.
4pm: Undercover work
In the afternoon, Ms Ralston and the team will head to the venue, whether it's a rooftop, beach, desert or garden.
She said setting up can take anything from three to eight hours depending on how many aspects there are.
Ms Ralston said one client from Taiwan managed three proposals in one day – to the same woman.
"The first was during a private helicopter ride, then they were driven by Rolls-Royce to a private garden where the groom joined a flash mob to get down on one knee and propose for a second time," she said.
"After that, they were taken to Burj Al Arab in a limo where deep divers presented a "MARRY ME" sign in an underwater restaurant. He got down on one knee and proposed again with a third ring."
Ms Ralston said that she sometimes goes undercover at the venue as part of the hotel concierge team or as a waitress in a restaurant to ensure everything goes to plan.
"It's all very slick and once we've perfected the room set-up, we'll get into position with our job sheet and schedule.
"There are plenty of times I've hidden behind palm trees or beach umbrellas to make sure everything is running smoothly," she said.
11pm: A job well done
Ms Ralston said that so far she's had a 100 per cent success rate, and reactions range from stunned silence to hysterical screaming and crying.
"We had one lady recently who couldn't say anything except 'shut up', at least 100 times," she said.
Once everything has died down, Ms Ralston and her team escort the happy couple to a car and will pack everything down and race to their hotel room to redecorate.
"It's a hectic job and some days last well over 18 hours, but when you see a couple sharing that magical moment, it makes it all worthwhile," she said.