As the coronavirus pandemic hit, Izunna Ogedi-Uzokwe, 30, knew he needed to act fast.
The investment bank associate, from Canning Town in east London, had planned to propose to his girlfriend of a year at a nice venue in front of all their family and close friends.
But as restaurants started shutting down and lockdown became imminent, Izunna realised he would need to dramatically change his plans and get the proposal sorted before he and Esther Odejimi, 24, were separated in quarantine.
So, just two days before lockdown came into place, Izunna invited Esther to his flat for dinner, decked out his place with rose petals, candles, balloons and champagne, and surprised her by asking his girlfriend to become his wife.
And he roped in a pal to film the whole thing.
Man surprises girlfriend with proposal, two days before lockdown hits
Izunna and Esther met when they worked for the same investment bank back in 2018.
‘She would walk past my desk numerous times a day,’ Izunna tells Metro.co.uk. ‘I wondered who she was because she consistently caught my eye.’
‘I would always awkwardly catch Izzy looking over,’ Esther remembers. ‘I didn’t think too much of it until one of my good friends within the firm asked me I had met her friend Izzy.
‘She did a quick intro over lunch one day and I immediately realised she was trying to play cupid.’
The pair quickly became friends – as Esther wasn’t interested in dating – but after months of spending time together realised there was a spark.
On Valentine’s Day 2019, Izunna asked Esther to be his girlfriend. She waited 24 hours before saying yes.
‘Within weeks, I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her,’ says Izunna. ‘But I had to let the love marinate!’
One year on, Izunna knew he was ready to pop the question and began to plan an elaborate proposal.
Then the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK. Restaurants began to close, venues shut down, and warnings of a full lockdown were uttered. Izunna hastily came up with a new plan to make sure he and Esther would be engaged before they were separated by the illness.
Two days before lockdown officially began, Izunna called Esther and invited her to his flat for dinner.
‘Everyone was advised to stay indoors as much as possible and I knew that if I waited any longer, a full lockdown would be around the corner,’ Izunna tells us. ‘I had to seize the opportunity before coronavirus completely robbed me of it!
‘With the help of my flatmate and his girlfriend, I cleared out my living room and laid out a path of candles and rose petals in the landing, which led to a massive heart, made out of candles and rose petals. I played her favourite song in the background as I walked her into the house to ask her the big question.’
Esther was stunned.
‘He had been acting weird the whole day,’ she said. ‘I definitely had a hunch, but he had managed to convince me that he was just cooking.
‘So I made sure that I didn’t eat beforehand and was shocked to walk in to such a romantic display.’
She said yes.
‘The only issue is that I told her that I had cooked, so she saved her stomach for a meal that didn’t exist,’ says Izunna.
‘She ended up sticking some lamb chops in the oven after all of the excitement.’
Two days after the proposal, the engaged couple were separated, having to self-isolate separately in their own households. They haven’t seen each other in person since, but are making do with lengthy FaceTime calls each day.
It’s strange to be celebrating an engagement in a pandemic.
‘We almost feel as though things are in limbo,’ says Izunna. ‘We haven’t really been able to celebrate at all with anybody as we got engaged on the cusp of full lockdown, but we are praying that everybody comes out of the other side in full health and looking forward to things returning to normal.
‘We have an idea of what we would like [for the wedding], however it has been difficult to communicate with vendors in the midst of a global crisis. Particularly as there will be hundreds, if not thousands of disappointed couples who have had to cancel their big days. It only makes sense that vendors will give them priority with regards to post-quarantine dates.’
Now, the couple are each working from their respective homes, communicating daily, and looking forward to when lockdown lifts.
What are they most excited to do once this is all over?
‘Planning our wedding and tying the knot,’ says Izunna. ‘We wouldn’t mind celebrating our engagement in some way, too.’