Hearts and flowers among the sofas

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 July, 2011, 12:00am
 

For Ivy Lai and Hei To, Ikea is more than just a furniture shop. Many key moments in their relationship have happened at Ikea - their first date was at one of its shops, and it was also where Hei popped the question.

'It's a very special place for us' Hei said.

Interior designer Ivy, 26, and engineer Hei, 28, were married on April 2 at Ward Memorial Methodist Church in Yau Ma Tei, followed by a banquet in The Langham nearby.

The couple met at church eight years ago. Ivy was 18 and Hei had just turned 20. It was first love for both of them and it gradually blossomed as Hei went out of his way to be on the same bus as Ivy.

'We were not exactly on the same route,' said Hei, who studied in Chai Wan, while Ivy went to school in Sha Tin. 'But it gave me an excuse to see her every day.'

On April 2, 2004, exactly seven years before they wed, Hei asked Ivy out on a date to the Ikea shop in Prince Edward. The shop is long gone, but Hei remembers well the first time he told Ivy he loved her.

'I held her hand for the first time and I said to her, 'I wish I could hold your hand walking down the aisle',' Hei said.

In August last year, Hei surprised Ivy by proposing to her in Ikea's Sha Tin branch. 'I didn't think he was going to propose when he asked me to check out some furniture for his aunt, who had recently moved home,' Ivy said.

But earlier that day, Hei had prepared flowers and asked the shop staff to help him hide them in a showroom. When they sat down on a sofa in the showroom, Hei gave Ivy an Ikea catalogue. It wasn't until Ivy opened the brochure that she realised what Hei had planned.

'The pages were filled with our photos from over the years - sketches, lyrics and things he'd wanted to say to me,' Ivy said.

As she flipped through the pages, memories flashed back and she started sobbing, leaving shoppers thinking Hei had upset her. 'They were in fact tears of joy,' Ivy said.

Hei took out the flowers, got down on one knee and asked Ivy to marry him. Ivy laughed at the ring Hei had prepared. It was made of soda can ring pulls and colourful crystals in the shape of a heart. 'Of course, I gave her the real ring after that,' Hei said with a smile.

Shoppers gathered around, cheering and yelling: 'Marry him!'

'I didn't plan it to be so high-profile. But it turned out to be a very special memory,' Hei said.

The couple said they liked hanging out at Ikea because of its homey feeling and it gave them a picture of their future home.

'But you know what, whenever I'm with Ivy I feel at home,' Hei said.

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