WHEN Paul Neale invited his girlfriend Sarah Fawcett back to Sheffield Hallam University, where they met seven years ago, she thought it was to watch him give a paper at a conference.
She was then stunned when - after starting to give a lecture on marketing - he asked her to marry him, accompanied by a live band and performing dancers.
Miss Fawcett said: “I thought it was strange that he was so nervous, because he’s really good at public speaking.
“We’d talked about marriage before and knew it was something we were going to do, but I didn’t expect this.”
The pair, both 29, met in Sheffield Hallam University’s Pennine Lecture Theatre and began dating on June 14, 2006.
So when he decided the time was right to propose, Mr Neale got in touch with his alma mater to see if it would be possible to return to “where it all began.”
The university went along with his ruse, providing a lecture theatre packed with students and even convincing business studies lecturer Rod Radford to join in with the fake conference.
After Mr Neale took to the stage and began giving his paper, he then revealed – through a sequence of slides – that he had brought Miss Fawcett there under false pretences.
Screens then slid back to reveal a live band and a dance troupe ran on to perform a routine to “Love Train”, before handing a stunned Miss Fawcett, who was teary-eyed in the audience, several single-stemmed red roses.
Photographs of the couple were projected onto the big screen as the band performed tracks including “My Girl”, before Mr Neale danced up to where his girlfriend was sitting, got down on one knee, produced a glittering diamond ring and asked her to marry him.
She whispered “yes please” before accompanying him back to the stage, where they opened a bottle of champagne.
Mr Neale said: “I’m relieved - I haven’t been able to say anything to anybody and haven’t even spoken to friends or family about it.
“Over the past seven years shes given a lot of support to me, and I wanted as many people as possible to know how much I love her.
“It also disproves her theory that I don’t always show it.”
The pair are set to fly out to New York to celebrate their engagement today, and are planning to marry on June 14 next year.