Photo by Nunu Sharon Cuatriz

Engagements

Snow romantic: Passing photographer captures young Irish couple's magical engagement at the Dark Hedges

The beauty of the Dark Hedges formed the perfect romantic backdrop for a Co Down man to get down on bended knee and ask his girlfriend for her hand in marriage.

As snow fell on the Co Antrim beauty spot made famous by TV fantasy drama Game Of Thrones, Steven Wylie decided to pop the question to long-term partner Donna Thompson.

And, by sheer chance, local photographer Sharon Cuatriz was there to capture the special moment.

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The couple - who met nine years ago at a barbecue in Donna's home in Kilkeel - moved to England two years ago, and were home on a family visit when Steven decided the time was right.

They had been staying at Galgorm Resort & Spa, and he had thought about proposing there.

He explained: "I took cold feet because it didn't feel right, but we were going out to the Dark Hedges and I thought that would be a better place.

"Then it started snowing, so I didn't actually know if we would make it or not - but we went on ahead anyway.

"I hadn't bought an engagement ring because I wanted it to be something that Donna had a say in too.

"We called into Ballymena on the way to the Dark Hedges and Donna actually bought a Pandora ring, so I used that.

"There wasn't anyone there when we arrived except for this one person who we now know was Sharon, and, amazingly, he just happened to be a photographer.

"We asked him to take a couple of shots of us with my phone then we walked down through the hedges before we headed back because it was so cold and neither of us had a coat.

"I went back to ask Sharon if he would take another picture of us, but I had the ring box in my hand this time and he twigged what was going to happen and he had the biggest smile on his face.

"I went back over to Donna and then went down on one knee - and she said 'yes'."

Despite being together since 2009, Donna said she had not been expecting the proposal.

She said: "Because we have been together so long I was caught completely by surprise.

"It was a spontaneous thing for Steven too because the ring he proposed with was just a Pandora ring we bought in Ballymena that I picked for my middle finger.

"When he went down on one knee, I didn't realise at the start that he was going to propose, but of course I said yes.

"Beyond that I don't actually remember too much because I was so surprised.

"When we came back home we got a real engagement ring and I love it so much, but the ring Steven asked me to marry him with will always hold a special place in my heart too. "When we came back from the Dark Hedges and told our families they were so excited. I think they thought it was never going to happen.

"It is too early to think about setting a date for a wedding but we do know we will come back to Northern Ireland for it."

Sharon, the man who happened to be in the right place at the right time to immortalise the occasion, was only too happy to oblige.

He said: "I am a landscape photographer and I have taken lots of photographs at the Dark Hedges but I had no clue that I would be asked to take this very important one.

"I have been taking pictures here for the past 16 years and that was the first time I had seen the Dark Hedges covered in snow.

"I was composing my own picture when this guy came up to me and asked me to take their photograph.

"I took the photograph using their phone and handed the phone back to them, but it was all so unexpected I got back into my car and forgot to ask who they were.

"I took one photograph using my long lens and asked through social media if anyone knew who the couple were, and that's how I found them.

"Steven allowed me to use the photo on my social media and so many people saw it and reacted to it. I am only too pleased to have played a part in their wonderful moment and I wish them all the very best for the future."