June 10, 2014 at 3:57 PM ET
It was the proposal perfect for a reporter.
When signs with pink hearts began popping up all over Welland, Ontario, Welland Tribune reporter Maryanne Firth knew she had to get to the bottom of what was happening. What she didn’t know was that her then-boyfriend, Ryan St. Denis, was creating the scheme as an elaborate marriage proposal.
“I knew he wanted to surprise me but I didn’t realize it would be to this level,” Firth told TODAY.com.
In late April, Firth began spotting mysterious pink hearts throughout the community: in her neighborhood, at intersections and even on the side of the highway.
“I came into work and said that we need to find out what is going on with these signs,” Firth said. “They were everywhere, but nobody knew what they were for. We decided we were going to do a story on it.”
Firth began reaching out on social media to see if anyone in the area knew what the signs meant. But everyone was as clueless as she was — except, unbeknownst to her, her boyfriend, who was planting the signs as part of his marriage proposal.
“I figured I needed to do something that would stick out and draw attention,” St. Denis told TODAY.com. He enlisted the help of his uncle, mom and best friends to help with the plan, using his garage — a room that apparently Firth never enters — and his friend’s house to make the signs.
"It was all for fun," he said. "The pink hearts just seemed fitting. When I went to buy the paint, I made sure it was the brightest color on the shelf."
He continued randomly placing the hearts for six weeks, stirring not only his girlfriend’s curiosity, but that of the entire town. “There was a lot of talk in the community about what it could mean,” Firth said. “Some thought it was a street artist looking to spread some cheer.”
Suddenly, in early June, heart signs started appearing with a date, time and location written inside the heart: Chippawa Park, 6-8-14, 3 p.m.
“It was so exciting to know that we were going to find out,” Firth said of the mystery.
When she pulled up to the park on Sunday, with approximately 70 other people who also wanted to know what the pink hearts were about, she found a man dressed in a suit wearing a box with a pink heart over his head. He could see through a tiny slit in the box, but was wearing sunglasses so as to not give himself away. He handed out flowers to every person who showed up.
“I thought this is neat, but I didn’t know exactly what was happening,” Firth said.
Suddenly, the man gathered the remaining flowers, handed them to Firth, got down one knee and removed the box from his head — revealing his true identity as Firth's longtime love. He then asked her to marry him.
“It was very shocking,” Firth said. “I was trying to so hard not to cry like crazy.”
After Firth said yes, everyone began cheering for the reveal and newly-engaged couple.
She then called her editor to let him know the pink hearts were a part of an engagement — her engagement. “I think he thought I was joking,” she said. She still had to file a story within 90 minutes, and ended up writing a personal essay on the experience.
Firth and St. Denis have been slowly collecting the hearts from their locations around town. Some community members have asked to take some home, while one organization is adding one of the hearts to a Welland art collection.
“It’s beyond what any girl could every dream of to have so many people be so interested in what you two share together,” Firth said. “It’s just amazing.”