After popping the question to his girlfriend in the village this weekend, Nick Yale heard the word no man wants to hear from his long-term partner: No. Well, to be precise, it was more of a high-pitched "Nooooooooooooo!" that came more from utter disbelief than cold feet.
"It wasn't like a 'No, I don't want to do this.' It was pure shock," said an elated Helen Thornberry, 29.
The happy couple, originally from England and now residing in the Cayman Islands, was visiting the resort for a ski getaway last week when Yale surprised his girlfriend of five years with a proposal involving Whistler's own Barbed Choir.
Knowing he wanted to do something elaborate, Yale originally mulled over a few different ideas: He brought a Santa suit along in case he could convince someone to don it and hand out presents — with one of them being the engagement ring. He also briefly contemplated proposing on skis at the bottom of a run, but reconsidered because "Helen's not a great skier, so she'd be sucking wind all the way down," he laughed.
After a bit of Googling, Yale discovered Whistler's fun-loving rock n' roll choir and reached out to director Jeanette Bruce to recruit a handful of members — along with some help from the Whistler Singers performing choir — for the proposal. Thornberry being a Stevie Wonder fanatic, Yale tapped the choir to sing Wonder's timeless classic, "Isn't She Lovely."
After getting the request from Yale, the choir rehearsed for just 45 minutes before heading over to Village Square for the big moment.
"We don't normally perform and it was pretty last minute, but immediately people were excited about doing it," said Bruce, who added that it wasn't until Yale called the group on the phone during rehearsal that it sunk in the proposal was real. "This was just some random guy that none of us had ever met. I'd only spoken to him over email. I thought maybe this is some sort of choir-catfishing situation. I would've felt personally offended if that were the case," Bruce jokes.
But even after the choir began an acapella version of the 1976 hit, Thornberry was still blissfully unaware of what was going on.
"We walked past and the choir started singing, and Helen even sarcastically joked, 'Oh, thanks Nick!' And in my head I was thinking, 'Oh, you have no idea,'" Yale recalled.
Said Thornberry: "I was just completely oblivious, just having a lovely time listening to it, and then the choir started to turn the signs over (that read "Will You Marry Me?") and I was like, 'Oh, somebody's proposing!'
"Then Nick turned around and got down on one knee, and I realized I'm the one being proposed to!"
Fortunately Thornberry managed to recover from the shock long enough to accept her boyfriend's proposal. The couple plans to tie the knot back in their native England in two years time, give or take.
Although she was taken aback in the moment, Thornberry said she wasn't surprised in the least that Yale would make such a grand, romantic gesture.
"All our friends have said that if Nick ever proposes, it will be something big. When we showed our friends the video, they've been like, 'Oh, that's so Nick, he went all out,'" Thornberry said.