“I’ll always remember that. Jon at the top of the stairs, looking smart in his suit, and thinking ‘this is it’”.
Read more about Jon & Hayley’s modern day romance, their first date that lasted hours and their fairytale proposal. The couple share their story and how Jon created a custom engagement ring fit for a princess…
How did you meet?
J: We met online almost five years ago.
H: Jon messaged me saying “you’ve got a fantastic smile” and I remember thinking “ooh that’s a nicer message than everybody else sends – I’ll give him a chance”. Then we were texting back and forth and organised our first date. We met, originally, for coffee. Then coffee extended into lunch, which extended onto a walk, then drinks, then dinner. So our first date was eight hours long. And yeah, from there we went on some more dates.
J: Shorter ones! *both laugh*
H: And then yeah, we went from there really.
J: I guess a year and a half in, we moved in together. We were in our little flat for almost three years.
This year we bought a house and got engaged… It’s all happening!
H: It’s been an expensive year! But yeah, so we met online. I remember when we first started dating, friends would ask how we met and I’d always say “oh just through a friend of a friend”. But if it weren’t for online dating, we would never have met.
Was there a moment you knew you had found ‘the one’?
H: I can remember the first time you told me you loved me. We were at V Festival and Jon went to get some Thai food. When he got back I said “oh can I have a bit?” and Jon said “yes you can because I love you”.
And I thought to myself, he told me he loved me over food – I’ve got a keeper!
J: I think for me, the moment I realised I wanted to propose to Hayley was at an airport in Denmark. I was heading home from a business trip and I saw a diamond specialist store so I thought I’d take a look. From there I made the decision in my mind that I was going to ask the question.
Do you have any favourite memories that you’ve shared together?
H: When we were first dating, we walked up Snowdon for Jon’s birthday. It was kind of our first holiday together. We walked up Snowdon and I carried a bottle of champagne with me and hid it in my backpack. I was so worried it was going to pop because of the air pressure! We like to travel, don’t we?
J: Yeah, definitely. I think a nice memory was for one of our anniversaries, I planned a picnic on top of a hill overlooking the countryside while the sun was setting. We were just thinking about moving in together so I’d bought some proper crockery, thinking this could be the crockery for our own place.
And then I know Hayley gets cold easily, so I had three huge bags with me for the picnic. One with crockery, one with the food and the other filled with warm clothes. I called it the Hayley Gardner cold weather survival kit. And as the sun went down, the layers piled up. That’s a nice memory I’ve got.
H: Everytime we go out Jon makes sure I’ve got a hat, gloves, scarf – an extra coat!
What is it about each other that makes you smile?
H: You’re easy on the eye.
J: I think for me, she doesn’t know I do this but sometimes when she’s doing things that she absolutely adores, usually watching Disney films, I look over at her and there’s so much joy and happiness in her face. I like seeing her that happy I guess. She has a lot of love for life… and Disney films.
You make me laugh, you make me smile.
J: She puts up with me being grumpy a lot of the time – that’s a bonus!
How did you go about creating the ring?
J: So Hayley loves unicorns.
H: I don’t even know how it happened. It’s just always been a thing.
J: If she could have any magical creature, it would be a unicorn. She’s just obsessed with them.
H: Not obsessed with them.
J: You are a little bit.
H: Ha, okay.
J: Everything is unicorn. You’ve even got a unicorn lunchbox.
H: I’m pretty sure my secret santa present is going to be something unicorn-themed.
J: But I’d like to add, she’s not crazy. She is a normal person. She just loves unicorns. It was more of a princess idea at first.
I saw your advert and thought I’d go for it. Because she loves unicorns so much, I thought it would be nice to get a ring featuring them in some way. My design consultant was receptive to the idea – I don’t think she quite knew what the hell I was on about – but she was willing to help.
I saw that I could include the detail underneath the stone and thought that would be just right. Even though I knew Hayley would love knowing it was there, I didn’t want it to be prominent. The unicorn horns are nicely tucked away so that’s what appealed to me because it’s almost like a secret hidden feature.
H: When I saw it, I couldn’t believe how well you’d done. It’s perfect – exactly the kind of style I wanted. And when you showed me the unicorn horns underneath, it was just incredible.
For me it, it’s more that I can show people if I want to, but I don’t have to. It’s really special.
How did you propose?
J: So it took me a month to design the ring. Then it took three months to plan the proposal.
I wanted it all to be as much of a surprise as possible where Hayley would meet me and I’d have everything prepared.
Eventually, I decided on a treehouse in Dordogne, France.
Hayley actually thought she was going away with her sister so they were staying near the airport, and in the morning her sister told her that she was travelling alone and gave her a big pile of envelopes to open throughout the day.
I flew out there early that same morning and Hayley set off on her trip without knowing much at all. There was an envelope called ‘emergency only’ which had details of everything, but I don’t think she opened that one.
I sent Hayley to a spa so she could relax for the day and she had an envelope that detailed a taxi would collect her in the evening.
H: It was such a lovely day – really sunny. I pulled up to the spa – it was like a castle with the lake and views. I kind of knew at this point that he was going to do it…
J: She hadn’t seen anyone since she said goodbye to her sister in the morning. While Hayley was at the spa, I had been driving around all day, buying props, decorating the tree house, buying flowers.
When she was finished, a taxi collected her and took her to a restaurant where I finally met her. Do you want to tell this bit?
H: So we’d had dinner and pulled up to the treehouse where Jon told me to wait in the car for a few minutes. He came back and handed me some silver sequinned dolly shoes and a torch and I was like “where is this going?!”
Then I walked up to the tree house and he gave me another envelope. When I walked in, the music from Cinderella was playing and that’s when I started bawling. I didn’t stop until afterwards.
There were fairy lights everywhere. I can remember seeing a glass slipper and an old fashioned clock with a print out of Cogsworth from Beauty and the Beast stuck on it.
So the envelope told me to go left up the staircase with flowers on and there was a book and a rose, like the one from Beauty and the Beast with another envelope. I remember Jon standing at the top of the stairs and he switched the song to ‘our song’ which is Ellie Goulding – How Long Will I Love You. And then I went.
I’ll always remember that. Jon at the top of the stairs, looking smart in his suit, and thinking “this is it”.
He’d bought a projector as well which projected stars onto the ceiling. All these little details which were so thoughtful and that’s something I love about Jon. He’d even wax sealed all of the envelopes. So many little touches that I was impressed by.
What are your plans for the future?
J: It’s got to be travel related.
H: Jon went to Norway a couple of years ago with his mum to see the Northern Lights and that’s something I’ve always wanted to do. So that’s something I’m really looking forward to seeing with Jon.
I think with the house and everything, we’ll probably get married in two years or so.