Little did Nellie Tan realise that when she went rockclimbing in Petaling Jaya, Selangor with her boyfriend four years ago, she would return with an engagement ring on her finger.
“My friends had encouraged me to climb this particular route which was a bit of a challenge for me. I wasn’t so confident about being able to complete it,” said Tan, 35, a rockclimbing enthusiast.
Tan started climbing in 2011. She had to “bribe” her then unwilling boyfriend, Kan Wayn Shaun, 35, to join her.
“She had to drag me to go climbing and I absolutely hated it. She had to bribe me with lunch a few times. But then, after a while, I thought, hey, this is actually fun,” said Kan, who has a fear of heights.
Kan and Tan, who got married in December 2015, were classmates in college. They got to know each other better during their final year, when they interned in the same company.
“When I first started climbing, I thought it could be a nice activity for a couple. But my boyfriend is afraid of heights … ‘scared to die’ most of the time!” Tan joked.
“As we went along in our relationship, I read about a guy in the US who proposed to his girlfriend while rockclimbing in the gym,” said Kan.
Work for it
“I thought it was a fantastic idea. I thought that if you’re going to get something from me, you might as well ‘work’ for it. And I’m probably the only husband that would make his wife work for her proposal,” he continued with a wicked glint in his eyes.
A couple that banters … rockclimbs … together, stays together?
“After I reached the top, I immediately called down to my friend to lower me. And the few friends who were below said: ‘Hey, there is something in front of you. Can’t you see it?’ It took me a few seconds to realise that there was something hanging from the anchor. It was this giant can ring tab with the words ‘Will you marry me’ on it. I only realised it was a proposal then.
A double win
“If I had to describe it in a word, it’d have to be … daunting?” she laughed. “But after the climb, it felt more like exhilaration. I had a double win: I completed the route, plus I got a diamond ring!”
“I always told her I’d propose to her with a ring tab from a can. I actually managed to find a huge tab but I have no idea how she could miss seeing it,” he said.
“The beauty of doing all this is that as you lower the person down, if she doesn’t say yes, then we can just leave her hanging!” Kan added jokingly.
Tan shared: “When I was lowered to the ground, he was on one knee asking, ‘Will you marry me?’ I don’t think I said anything, I just nodded and smiled … with some tears. I couldn’t stop smiling after that. Later, he told me that he was going to keep me tied up there and not allow me to be lowered to the ground if I had said no!”
Spidey and Mary Jane
The good-humoured couple eventually had a rockclimbing pre-wedding photoshoot with photographer Anna-Rina Rahim, who is also a climbing fan, at a popular outdoor rockclimbing facility at Batu Caves in Gombak, Selangor.
“This time, Nellie made me do all the climbing (so that her perfect hair and makeup wouldn’t get ruined by the sweat),” said Kan.
The couple had wanted to replicate a famous scene from one of the Spider-Man films – one where Spidey and Mary Jane kissed while he was hanging upside down.
“It was difficult!” said Kan.
“I was not so concerned about the makeup, hairdo and the fact that I would not be wearing a conventional wedding gown for the photoshoot (they both wore gym clothes). My makeup and styling were minimal, but I felt comfortable and it was more memorable as we did things which we enjoyed rather than just pose for photos,” Tan revealed.
“It’s a personal preference kind of thing. Among climbers, it might be getting more popular because it is something close to our heart. But outside the climbing community, I think it would be really rare,” he concluded.