Tokyo – It seemed like an ordinary meeting; Dinner in a fancy restaurant followed by a romantic walk around the restaurant. But suddenly a smiling staff member appeared out of nowhere and led the couple through the fairy gates to the steps of the English-style chapel.

As his date stood awkwardly, the man sprung into action, dropping to one knee and brandishing a tiny wedding ring box. The surprised young woman had no time to mumble her agreement when his parents came into view to congratulate him, and then on a large monitor, her family joined in the fun via video link, shouting greetings from their home in Taiwan.

A man, a client of Tokyo-based wedding, event and proposal consultancy Anniversaire, proposes to his girlfriend on the steps leading to the firm’s Western-style “chapel” in the Japanese capital.

Commercial for the anniversary

Another mission accomplished for Anniversaire, a Tokyo-based wedding and events company that in recent years has tapped into the booming proposal consulting business, a field that originated overseas but has begun to gain traction here. In Japan, this typically involves guiding men in their late 20s and early 30s through the ins and outs of getting to yes.

Anniversaire started receiving inquiries from concerned potential suitors starting in 2014. The rise of social media has fueled the trend, said Fumika Nishimura, a “proposal planner” who also organizes weddings for a firm in Tokyo.

“When guys go online to find out where to propose, they find tons of posts of women showing off their engagements in (fancy) places,” she told CBS News.

In the age of Instagram, a simple declaration of devotion in the privacy of your home just doesn’t do.

“We get a lot of women asking for repeats,” Nishimura said. One couple, who had already planned their wedding, shelled out the extra cash to plan a lavish reenactment of their engagement session in the company’s lavish wedding hall.

“When women get proposed to, they want to tell their friends,” she said, adding that a plain old selfie taken in someone’s living room is a definite no-no. Young people also seem fixated on the idea that when it comes to getting engaged, it’s all about location, location, and location — preferably with a dramatic night sky.

A man prepares to propose to his girlfriend on the steps of a Western-style “chapel” that is part of wedding and engagement spaces offered by consulting firm Anniversaire in Tokyo, Japan.

Commercial for the anniversary

Money may not buy love, but it sure helps when it comes to securing the services of a proposal planner. A barebones price of about $200 buys just one hour with a proposal consultant plus 30 minutes of space rental. At the company’s fashionable Tokyo location, the chosen romantic backdrop is the chapel, a newly renovated “church” with 140-year-old stained glass and a royal blue carpet. (Christian-style weddings, often officiated by foreign actors as the minister and held in buildings that resemble Western houses of worship, form the bulk of such ceremonies in Japan, which is a non-Christian country.)

Nishimura helps the nervous groomsmen compose their speeches. Unless it’s short and to the point, like “Marry me!” she advises reading from carefully compiled notes. Some men also think about which leg to kneel on (any of these works, but the best camera angle is from the man’s “open” side.) With one particularly stiff-tongued client, Nishimura ended up writing the entire proposal herself.

But the customer didn’t have to sweat. More than 2,000 offers later, Nishimura said not a single suitor has been turned down. “When the client puts down money for the proposal, the couple is more or less on the same page about the arrangement,” she believes.

Most customers are willing to shell out for additional services, such as formal wear rentals or bride-to-be limousine transportation, bringing the average price to nearly $1,000 in 2022. This fee does not include the purchase of an engagement ring, and the modern custom of giving the betrothed a huge bouquet of 108 roses, a number that also means “forever” in Japanese. That being said, the flower eternity weighs over ten pounds and costs about $400.

A young man presents his girlfriend with a bouquet of 108 roses before asking her to marry him at the Anniversaire wedding and engagement ‘chapel’ in Tokyo, Japan.

Commercial for the anniversary

Customers can capture the moment on film in cinematic style. Companies examples online – from real customers – not exactly Notting Hill, but they seem perfectly calibrated to activate the lacrimal glands.

The rise of proposal consulting offers a small ray of hope for Japan’s struggling wedding industry, which includes hotels, restaurants, wedding halls and high-end “guest houses” like Anniversaire.

In the 1980s, when celebrity weddings were covered by the media, the Japanese often contented themselves with flashy spectacles – couples descending in gondolas accompanied by clouds of dry ice, loud music and light displays. But the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s 2021 report on the restructuring of the domestic wedding industry showed that the number of couples tying the knot was already in decline by 2013, falling by more than 12% in 2020 to just over half a million.

Those getting married are generally opting out of the circus weddings of the 1980s, the report says. The average cost of a wedding in 2021 has fallen to around $20,000.

With fewer and fewer domestic customers, wedding companies are turning to foreign tourists to help make up the difference. Has anyone suggested a destination?

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