What’s in the water at IKEA?
Earlier this month, a New Jersey couple exchanged wedding vows in the picture-frame aisle at their local IKEA store, where they had first locked eyes eight years earlier. Now, in the latest romantic tale for the Swedish furniture retailer, a Miami man, Carlos Gatos, has staged an elaborate flash-mob proposal in the Sunrise, Florida store.
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For some couples, navigating the maze of an IKEA store the ultimate relationship test. But for Gatos and Rebecca Shackelford, it's the place they first met. Two years later, on June 15th, Shackelford looked floored as a suit-clad Gatos descended the store’s long escalator, bouquet of flowers in hand. Then, at the end of a flash mob’s dance routine to Bruno Mars’s “Marry You,” Gatos dropped to his knees before Shackelford (and in front of a large crowd), saying, “You're the greatest thing that's ever happened to me. I can't think of my life without you. I love you. Will you please marry me?” She responded with a resounding “Yes!”
Soon afterward, Shackelford told the Palm Beach New Times, “When I saw him, I was in shock. I'm still shaking.”
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Gatos, a 29-year-old paramedic, said he was determined to propose to her in the place that brought them together. “I had to bring her back here because, against all odds, we met here,” he told the Times. “We had lunch in the cafeteria, separate checks, and then we spent the rest of the day here. When it closed is when we left.” He worked with Sean's Dance Factory of West Palm, where Sean Green choreographed the number and worked with the crew of dancers.
“I love how it came out,” Green said. “I’m just excited for Carlos and his new wife-to-be. We thank IKEA for allowing us to be here and put this project together.”
It's not the first time Ikea played Cupid. On June 8, Shirley Stewart and Rashid Smith were married an IKEA store in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Shirley, a reciprocal clerk at AAA, had been shopping with her daughter when she noticed fellow customer Smith.
“I couldn’t tell if he was wearing a wedding ring or was with a woman so I followed him around the store for an entire hour, trying to find a reason to talk to him,” she told Yahoo! Shine. “Eventually, my daughter got impatient so she offered to get his phone number for me.” That got his attention, and, eight years later, they tied the knot in the exact spot where they first spoke.
Earlier this year, in Australia, another couple tied the knot in IKEA, in a ceremony orchestrated and paid for by the store itself. “Meet Lynne and Chad. They're the lucky couple selected to hold their wedding at the IKEA Tempe store. For them it's a dream come true,” read a promotional announcement on the company’s website about the wedding, designed to show the public how it can still be possible to orchestrate an elegant, affordable event (with IKEA products, of course).
“It feels right to be married somewhere we both love—and we adore IKEA,” the couple was quoted as saying, adding that their many shopping trips to the store over the years had brought them closer. "It's true, romance can be alive anywhere, even in the aisles of IKEA!"
According to IKEA spokesperson Marty Marston, such romances have been a part of the store's allure for a while now. "I remember 20 years ago we had a couple get married on Valentine's Day in the New Jersey store," she told Shine. At the Burbank store, she added, IKEA partnered with Universal Studios for the 2008 film release of "Mamma Mia!," marrying 20 couples in the store with a festive disco theme.
"I think it's great that people feel so attached to the store that they want it to have a place in their memories," Marston said. As far as why love seems to bloom in their aisles, she posited, "You feel good when you're at an IKEA store. I think that promotes a very positive frame of mind."
It seems to be the case around the globe, including in Shanghai, China, where new IKEA stores were seen as magnets for older lonely hearts seeking a shot at romance, according to a 2011 Wall Street Journal story. Tang Yingzhuo, a retired widow, told a reporter she didn’t think it was right to try to meet men at bars, clubs or Karaoke joints, and preferred the aisles and café area of IKEA instead. But the new town square was fulfilling in other ways, too. "I make more senior citizen friends when I come here," Tang said. "There's more to offer than meeting a boyfriend at IKEA."
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