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7 years ago today, I became a fiancée. In the most unexpected way ever! And I think today is the day to share how it happened with you all if you want to hear :)
Hey guys, it’s Mammy Ticket Ranger - Julie here, and since it is the anniversary of one of the most wonderful and surreal moments of my life, I thought I would tell you all about how Phil proposed!
It is one of my favourite stories to tell, and one of the best moments of my, well our, life.
So, we were in Florida, obviously! Phil had booked the holiday as a surprise for my birthday, because he is just THAT awesome. And finally, after a year of planning and preparing, we were there - the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! The place I had always dreamed of going!
If you are new to Ticket Rangers then you need to know something about me... I am a MAJOR Potterhead. I obsessively love Harry Potter.
I am rarely 2 sentences away from turning any conversation into one about broomsticks or Dobby, and I am a very proud Hufflepuff. Harry Potter is my addiction. And I see nothing wrong with this at all. Infact, I am ridiculously proud of it. So much so that my rib cage displays my not so small nod to my favourite character from any literature ever – Professor Snape, with a Lily and ‘Always’ and a sprinkle of magic.
So when Phil surprised me with a 2 week holiday to Florida, to visit the newly opened WWOHP I could not believe my luck. This boyfriend of mine was a catch, of course I already knew that before he presented me with the best birthday present ever, I knew from day one he was a Keeper (Baddum tshh – HP Joke alert!)
People had suggested that maybe he would propose when we were over there, but I laughed it off as I was actually pretty sure he wouldn’t.
Not because I didn’t think he wanted to or anything, but because we had a joint bank account and I knew that every single penny we had was being saved and spent on this holiday! So it hadn’t even occurred to me that my friends might be right.
Anyway, a week into the holiday and we left our villa and checked into the Hard Rock Hotel for the night to take advantage of the early entry to the Wizarding World, as well as the express passes and the super cool night in one of the best hotels ever!
That morning however we didn’t have time to appreciate it, we literally ran through the (super cool) doors, checked in, left our bags and hot footed it over to Universal’s Islands of Adventure for my dream to come true and literally walk into the pages of my favourite fantasy.
Let me tell you, I was not disappointed. From the second I walked under the Hogsmeade sign I was in my element - looking around at the Hogwarts Express, the snow lined, crooked rooftops and the shop windows bursting with magic I started to sob. I was actually here! Then, nothing prepared me for walking around the corner to be met with Hogwarts, the school I should’ve had my education in, rather than the comp in Sunderland where I actually did.
The most magical thing I learnt at Castle View Comprehensive School was that my skirt could disappear… going from a respectable length when leaving the house to almost non-existent as soon as I walked out of sight of my Mam watching me from the sitting room window! Skirtio shrinkus!
Anyway, I digress!
So yes, we had THE most amazing morning at Hogsmeade, riding Forbidden Journey (fave ride ever) and Flight of the Hippogriff (bow), and giving the kid who got chosen by Ollivander the evils cos I was jealous it wasn’t me. Once it opened to the public we decided it was time to fill our rumbling tummies and headed to the Three Broomsticks for breakfast on Phil’s suggestion.
At this point, as I was still giddy and practically ran to the front of the line, I didn’t notice how nervous and fidgetty Phil had become. After ordering breakfast and following Phil to the most perfect spot under the antlers right in front of the fireplace, I was jabbering away about how brilliant everything was and how excited I was to finally get to try Butterbeer, and Phil literally hadn’t said a word.
Looking back, I should have realised, but filled with pure exhilaration due to where we were and the spot he had ‘somehow very luckily’ managed to secure I just got swept up in the moment.
Now, let me explain something about my husband, then boyfriend - Phil is shy. Not just a bit of a quiet lad, but really sweetly awkward, and introvertly shy. He loves nothing more than whispered moments between the two of us, because he doesn’t feel the need to prove anything with grand gestures of pubic affection. He is one of the most romantic people you could ever meet, and he is so thoughtful that it astounds me, he is a gentleman, pure and simple. However, he loves fun, and he really enjoys being in a big crowd going crazy, but the big thing to say here is that he shies away from moments when the focus could be on him. You will need to remember this Phil fact later!
(This can also be shown by the absolute lack of pictures of him here - he even shies away from them!)
So when we were seated and I was practically shrieking with joy, and Phil was sat smiling over at me with a nervous look and awkwardly biting his lip, I just assumed that he too was taking it all in.
Little did I know that at that very moment, that very planned moment, he had his hand in his pocket grasping a ring box and was halfway down on one knee in front of the fireplace…
At this very second I grabbed my Butterbeer, and after a year of waiting, I greedily glugged that bad boy back with the biggest swig known to man covering my top lip, and practically my whole face, with Butterbeer foam.
Declaring it the best drink I had ever experienced, but fizzier than I thought, I then proceeded to let out a bit of a loud butterburp… and grabbing the camera, Phil shifted from his half kneeling position and snapped a picture of the moment I completely accidentally ruined his magical proposal…!!
Unbeknown to me, the moment he had planned for had passed, and it was my fault! I wasn’t to know of course, but that didn’t help Phil with his predicament. With nothing else to do, he let go of the ring box in his pocket and continued with breakfast.
He has told me that as we walked out of the Wizarding World to make our way over to Universal Studios his head was buzzing with panic of ‘what shall I do now?? Shall I do it tonight when we come back to see Hogwarts in the dark?’
He tells me that the ring had became the weight of a brick in his pocket, and was a heavy constant reminder that the moment had passed and that he was scared no moment would be as perfect again! He also daresn't take his hand out of his pocket, as they had no zips and he was terrified of losing it!
Completely unaware, I skipped into Universal and spotted Shrek 4-D. Now we are huge fans of the hilarious ogre and his best mate. Before coming over here and knowing how much we loved the movie, my best friend Kelly advised us that we MUST speak to Donkey after the ride, as he was hilarious and enjoyed mocking everyone who came to see him. I knew this was top of my To-Do list but Phil said that this sounded far too embarrassing and although he couldn’t wait for the 4-D show, he would happily sit out the character meet
So straight in to the Express Line we went, and a few minutes later we were wearing our glasses and howling at the piggies in their boxes.
After a great show, we left and spotted a big crowd gathered round a stable laughing… Yes!! Donkey time!
Phil instantly claimed camera duty and stayed down next to the official photographer as I made my way up on to the stable stage.
For anyone who hasn’t been, or doesn’t know, Donkey is a mechanical character that interacts with you, voiced by Eddie Murphy’s long lost voice twin! Seriously, he is hilarious and cheeky, and EXACTLY the Donkey from the film.
So up I step and say hello and introduce myself.
“Hey baby girl” shouts Donkey, truly sounding every bit like the Eddie Murphy voiced Donkey... “Hey Julie, you don’t sound like you are from the swamps round here, where’ve you came from baby?”
I told him I had travelled from England to see him and was very excited to be here.
“You all by yourself today baby? You not got yourself a travelling partner?”
I explained that Phil was my boyfriend but was too shy to come up and talk to him in front of all these people. Donkey wasn’t having it and after nicknaming him due to the fact that he is 6 foot 5, he then rallied the crowd in a rendition of ‘BIG PHIL, BIG PHIL!’ while he shouted for him to join me on the stable floor.
Without much of a choice in the matter, my Big Phil was up in front of the rowdy crowd and shyly saying Hi to the ass on the stage, he then said hello to Donkey too ;)
Donkey proceeded to ask how long we had been together (3 years at that point) and continuously told Phil what a lucky guy he was to have this ‘great girl up here’
Then the next few minutes went and changed our lives… :D
Donkey - “You two are so cute together, look at you, I love you guys. You can see you were made for each other. Hey Julie, let me see your ring…”
Me - “Actually we aren’t engaged...”
Donkey - “Say whaaaat!? Big Phil, what are you thinking, you need to get a ring on this girl’s finger before someone, cough cough, comes and steals her from you man!!”
Phil – (In his head – 'Oh God, Oh man, this is the perfect moment to do this, I am going to have to seize this moment, it couldn’t be more perfect… but the people, the crowds, the spotlight, I am too shy, I can’t do it… Screw it, you only live once, here goes'). “Well actually...”
And with that, he got down on one knee, and my boyfriend became my Fiance!
And he did this in front of the huge crowd who all started screaming and cheering, in front of the mechanical Donkey in his stable who had set up the perfect moment unknowingly!
He whispered the sweetest proposal with words that were just for me, that aren’t for sharing, here or anywhere, not with you guys reading or with the large whooping crowd, he quietly asked me to marry him with the loveliest words, and of course I shouted my yes before bursting into tears and jumping on him in fits of laughter!
The whole crowd went crazy! ‘BIG PHIL, BIG PHIL, rang around the area and people came over to see what was happening.
Donkey was gobsmacked! He was screaming even louder than I was and he was shouting his congratulations over and over again, and in shock he just kept repeating “This was NOT pre-arranged, Big Phil, my Man, this was NOT pre-arranged!!”
Luckily for us, the staff member who welcomes you into the stable had taken our camera from Phil when he was called up to join me by Donkey, and she literally got a flicker pad of the proposal in pictures. These photographs are amongst our most treasured possessions.
They perfectly capture the moment – the shy excitement in Phil’s face, the complete shock and pure happiness in mine, and Donkey right there behind us, loving every minute!
We look back at them now and we thank our lucky stars that Butterbeer makes me gassy, and that I am not very ladylike, because as amazing as a Harry Potter proposal would have been, THIS is what was meant to be. THIS is our proposal story, and what a story it is!
We wouldn’t want it to have happened any other way. I bet there’s not many people can say they got engaged in a stable with help from a talking Donkey haha!
The rest of the day was spent getting high fives from everyone in lines and queues and shows, as it seemed that everyone was there watching Phil get on bended knee! We had drinks bought for us, we had hugs and kisses and my new rock was constantly being admired! We even had an impromptu ‘Big Phil’ chant sang at us in the Hollywood Rip Ride Rock-It queue from a group of lads who had been in the crowd when I became Big Phil’s Fiancée!
Aside from having the kids and getting married, it was the best day of our lives. And it just goes to show – you can plan something as meticulously as you like, but when it looks to have all gone wrong, don’t worry – these things happen for a reason, and there is something even more perfect just around the corner!
Of course that night we went celebrating, we went back to WWOHP and had a few beers in the Hogs Head, which is what Phil had planned for straight after the original proposal! It was lovely sitting in view of Hogwarts as the sun went down, with my new husband to be! And then we went out on City Walk for a meal and more celebratory drinks, we don‘t remember much after Margaritaville! But we do remember it was a hell of a night :D
We have visited Donkey many times since the proposal, and although he has a new stable in a new location, he still remembers us each time and we have THE BEST interaction with him.
He has met Niall and Martha and declared his stable a ‘House of Lurve’, telling the kids that they are very welcome as he is the reason they are in the world as he was the one who got Daddy to ‘put a ring on it’. He has also declared himself their official God Donkey and expects to meet their kids when our grandchildren come along!
So there you have it, that is how Mammy and Daddy Ticket Ranger got engaged. It was surreal and amazing and something that could not have been planned. It was perfect :D
And it was seven amazing years ago!
Since then we have lived in the USA and Canada, we have been married and then had our wedding blessed, we have had our two amazing little ones and we have started Ticket Rangers, and we have done that so we can help other people experience the magic that is Orlando Florida - a holiday experience that means so much to us for so many different reasons, and the proposal being top of that list!
We adore our job, and it is with love that we help each and every one of you to get to the best place in the world. Hopefully this will give you a little insight into why we do what we do. And it will also help explain why our house is filled with Harry Potter AND Shrek memorabilia :p
And also maybe explain why Niall’s first Halloween, he looked like this...