Nora Aati was once obsessed with watching engagement proposals on the internet, but the romantic-at-heart actress never imagined her own special moment would also become an online sensation.
Her fiancé, actor Michael Koloi, wanted his proposal to be just as fantastic as the videos his loved one adored. Nora had also told him that if she was ever asked for her hand in marriage, she’d want it to be filmed. So after six weeks of careful planning, he created a make-believe short film as part of an elaborate proposal.
“I loved watching wedding proposals online because the reactions were so real. It would always make me cry,” explains 28-year-old Nora.
“I never thought Michael was into such public displays because he always use to roll his eyes whenever I watched them.”
The pair met when they attended the drama school at Unitec in Auckland and have known each other for nine years. Sparks between them flew two years ago and they officially became a couple. Michael (30), who has two children from a previous relationship – son Kingston (5) and daughter Kharlyn (3) – knew that any proposal to Nora would have to be memorable.
“I needed it to be filmed, so the hardest thing was having cameras around without Nora knowing that something was about to happen. It needed to be completely unexpected,” he explains.
Michael hatched a secret plan to pull off the surprise. He enlisted the help of film-making friends, including former Shortland Street actor Kiel McNaughton, who’d played nurse Scotty. Four days before the proposal, Kiel called Nora to tell her she had been cast in a short film he was directing.
“That was the only way we could do it without raising any alarm bells,” Michael reveals.
To help with the charade, Michael wrote a fake film script for Nora to rehearse. The scene he created had Nora playing a ghost giving marriage advice to her sister-in-law. When she received the script, Nora complained, telling Michael she thought it was “rubbish”.
“I hadn’t been in a short film for ages,” she explains.
“I couldn’t remember the lines, because it was so terrible. I was dissing it in front of him, not realising it was his words. I felt really bad afterwards.”
On the special day, December 21, the camera crew set up to film the proposal at a park at Auckland’s Mangere Bridge.
As Nora was being filmed saying her lines, the director asked her to look through a pair of binoculars towards the nearby bridge.
Michael had put up a huge banner across it saying: “Nora, will you be mine forever?” Then the couple’s favourite song played, Eric Benét’s Spend My Life With You, as Michael appeared, walking towards Nora, carrying flowers and with his two children beside him. They were joined by a big group of family and friends.
“When I heard our song and saw Michael, I clicked what was going on. It was very special,” Nora fondly remembers.
The lovebirds broke down in tears and Michael had to compose himself as he professed his love.
“I love you for the girl your parents raised,” he told her. “I love you for the woman you are. I love the way you love my kids, like they’re you’re own. I love everything about you. It has taken me this long to find you, I’ll be so honoured Nora Aati if you would marry me.”
He then got down on one knee with a diamond ring. Nora accepted immediately.
“I thought if this moment ever happened, I would be doing the ‘pretty cry’,” she says, laughing.
“But I didn’t. My emotions were raw and real.”
The couple has other joyous news too – Nora is expecting their first child.
They recently put their proposal on Facebook to share with family and friends. But to their surprise, it became an overnight hit – clocking up nearly 70,000 views.
“I filmed it mainly as our own keepsake. We are touched that so many people have been moved by our love story,” Michael says.
Michael and Nora hope to walk down the aisle next year – and hint there could be another online video to follow.
“I’m lucky that I’m going to spend my life with my best friend,” says Nora.
“We connect in so many different levels – spiritually and emotionally. We just get each other.”