The Story Behind The Picture at Prague’s Love Lock Bridge

Every photograph tells a story, or so they say, so I thought I’d choose one of my favourites and share the tale behind it. This one was taken on Monday 30th May 2016 – the happiest day of my life to date. Darren and I are stood at the Love Lock Bridge in Prague city. To sum up how I felt the second that this picture was taken: I had never felt delight quite like it. In fact, I had never felt so many emotions all at once – excitement, euphoria, shock and the most genuine love that I’ve experienced. It was, of course, taken minutes after my childhood sweetheart popped the all-important question and asked me to marry him.

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I’ve fantasised about being Darren’s wife since we were kids. When we were just 15, we lay awake together all night and talked for hours about our secrets, our dreams and how we hoped the future might turn out. I honestly remember looking at him that night and hoping we’d get married one day. The idea of being his wife was precious. I thought he was absolutely perfect. When morning came, our eyes were glazed and “pulling an all-nighter” no longer seemed like our brightest idea. We were absolutely exhausted and I had to leave. Darren was falling asleep but he chose to walk me home. I’d never felt as special or as cheerful as I did holding hands and dawdling home at 6am with him – a 15 year old boy with a bingo dabber stamp stained on his forehead (I’d imprinted it there hours previously, not realising it wouldn’t come off… honestly!). It was funny, it was lovely and it’s a fond memory for the two of us. We were just children but to me, he was a gentleman and I believed that moment was as good as it could get for us. Of course I was wrong – it was only the very beginning.

Eight years later, we had left school, finished college, graduated from university, rented three flats in Manchester and bought our first house in our hometown of Barrow-in-Furness. Every step of our adult lives had been spent together by then. We had shared everything. Every high and every low. We had made amazing memories and pulled through tough times too. We knew one thing for sure: we were strong and we were serious. “Forever and always” as we used to say to each other when we were young. By now, we had talked about marriage – but I never wanted Darren to feel pressured to propose and so we would always change the subject to something else. After all, I wanted the moment that he asked to be special and more importantly: I wanted it to be his choice. Not mine. Not anyone else’s. And so I patiently waited for the love of my life to ask for my hand in marriage.

On Sunday 29th May 2016, we travelled to Prague for a short break together and we had spent the vast majority of the year planning our trip. We couldn’t have been more excited for it. Before we left, I daydreamed about him getting down on one knee while we were there and my heart swelled with joy at the prospect. But I told myself to forget about it – and I luckily I did. Our first night was perfect. We saw Prague by night and we were gobsmacked by the incredible sights. We slept in our stunning hotel room and we got up bright and early for a day of sightseeing. We had breakfast and went on our way, starting at the Dancing House then heading to the National Theatre and crossing over Charles Bridge before climbing Petrin Tower.

Climbing the tower was a scary experience – for me anyway! Heights aren’t my favourite thing and my legs were shaking uncontrollably throughout. That said, the views were amazing. Prague’s skyline looked simply beautiful in the crisp morning light. However, I wasn’t best pleased part-way up when my fear of heights completely took over. My legs froze and refused to continue moving. My breathing was all over the place and anxiety truly descended. Darren was directly behind me and lightly pushed me forward so that I kept going upwards. In panic, I turned around and scolded him. “YOU SHOULD NEVER PUSH ANYONE THAT’S SCARED OF HEIGHTS!” He told me later that he had planned to propose at the top of the tower – but unsurprisingly my shouting suggested it wasn’t the right time. I clearly had no idea!!!

Next, we went into a mirror maze and afterwards enjoyed what we agreed was a well-earned beer. Then, we went to Prague Castle to see the guards and we ate delicious street food for our lunch. It was so cultural, so atmospheric and so much fun. After, we went to the Old Town Square and saw inside St Vitus Cathedral. It was amazing to see. I stared in awe as Darren took hundreds of photos. Then we retreated from the hustle and bustle of the city and found a secluded cove down by the River Vltava. We held hands as we sat in the shade under some trees and watched a local lady feeding the ducks. The speed of the feeding escalated rather quickly and it wasn’t long before she was bombarding the poor mites with enormous wads of bread. I was absolutely hysterical with laughter. Darren took my hand and led me down to the water. I stopped laughing. St Charles Bridge was in the background as we kissed. It was very romantic. Or it would have been if a dead rat hadn’t just washed up by our feet sporting the most petrifying gurn. Again, I fell into fits of laughter and Darren soon followed. The scene was flitting between romantic and hilarious so quickly that we couldn’t keep up.

Once we’d composed ourselves, we continued to explore this beautiful city and eventually found the John Lennon Wall. Covered in Lennon-inspired graffiti and Beatles lyrics, it has become a Czech landmark in itself and I found myself fixated with it. Absorbed in the catchphrases and drawings, I barely noticed the Love Lock Bridge beside it but Darren soon pointed it out. I was so excited. “Awww! It’s one of those bridges that you put padlocks on! Look at these!” We read the names out as we looked out onto the water. I started scrambling around in my bag for a pen and pulled out a biro to scribble our names on the wall. “I wish we’d known” I sighed, “All I’ve got is this crappy pen!” As I started to write our names, Darren handed me a velvet pouch and said “I can go one better than that.” I opened the pouch and pulled out a padlock with our names on. I was overcome with surprise as I held it up to get a closer look. I saw that it was engraved with “Bex and Darren – Prague 2016” and had the silhouette of a couple on it. My eyes filled up as I began to cry. “This is so thoughtful” I said. Darren smiled at me and told me to lock it onto the bridge. He had used the key to unlock it and handed it to me. I fumbled around in my usual clumsy manner trying to put it on (using all of my concentration)!

When I was done, I turned to Darren with a huge smile and I thanked him. We looked out onto the water again and when I glanced back, I noticed he was holding a small box with a nervous look on his face. I gasped. I used my hands to cover my face and cried as he asked the question I’d been waiting to hear for years. There was no stopping the tears – I felt completely overwhelmed with emotion. He opened the box and the ring was gorgeous. I couldn’t stop staring at it. I absolutely loved it. He tried to place it on my finger but both of our hands were shaking. We eventually got it on and I couldn’t stop beaming as I admired it. The joy I felt was beyond belief. I felt bouts of excitement about the future and our wedding. I felt love – SO much love. I wanted to kiss him. There was a girl watching us and she was crying too. I was so excited. I wanted everyone to know. At that moment Darren took the photo on his phone. I tried so hard to fight my happy tears off as I grinned and held my hand up to the camera. Then came the shock and confusion! I began to bombard him with questions:

“Really?!”

“Are you sure?!”

“How long have you been planning this?”

“Where did you get the ring?”

“When did you get the ring?”

“Who knows?”

He took me back around the corner near the John Lennon Wall partly because a boatload of tourists had arrived and partly so I could calm down. We kissed in private as I continued to cry and he began to answer my questions. Yes, it was really happening and yes, he was sure. He told me that he knew the moment we met that he would eventually propose to me. I sobbed again! He said he’d had the ring for a few weeks and he’d been on edge all day waiting to ask me. He told me that he’d taken so long because he wanted it to be perfect – like me. I had never heard such kind words. He told me that he had wanted to ask at the top of the tower but if the colour draining from my frightened face wasn’t enough to put him off asking, then getting shouted at was!!! He had tried to ask at the cove by the river but the woman lobbing bread had ruined the mood. Then he was going to ask as we kissed by the water but the dead rat aptly “killed” the moment again. I told him I couldn’t be happier that he had asked me at Love Lock Bridge. He said that nobody knew – neither of our families and none of our friends. It was a huge secret – our secret. I kept saying how romantic it all felt – everything I could have dreamed of and more. He wiped away my tears as we laughed. We laughed at the whole day and how perfect it had been. We laughed at how I hadn’t had a care in the world all day and was completely unaware that he had been racked with nerves, waiting for the right time to ask me. We laughed at the amount of time I’d spent reading John Lennon lyrics while he tried to lure me to the bridge to ask. It was all so perfect – natural, happy and true. Filled with love and laughter like our whole relationship has been.

And that’s the story behind this photo. It tells a happy tale – the happiest one I’ve ever told, let alone experienced. It wasn’t just a happy moment, but the beginning of a happy journey too. Afterwards, we boarded a boat on the river and we drank champagne together. We enjoyed a truly perfect hour in which nobody else knew we were engaged – just the two of us (and the Czech girl that had witnessed it of course!). That was such a buzz – to have a brilliant, exciting secret that we hadn’t shared yet! We called my Nanna and Grandad first to tell them and they were moved beyond words. Then, we messaged our family and Darren posted a picture online to tell the rest of our friends. I saw him type the word ‘fiancée’ in the caption and I beamed with excitement. I was his fiancée!!! Since then, we’ve booked our wedding and started to plan every detail of it. We’ve recruited the help of our amazing families and fabulous friends, and asked the nearest and dearest of them to play roles in our special day. Monday 30th May 2016 was the start of this exciting time – the happiest time – and for that reason, I’ll always love this photograph. Just as I’ll always love him.

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