A Melbourne man who met the love of his life when they were both children filming an iconic Australian ad returned to the place they first met to surprise her with a marriage proposal.
Paul Van Der Toorren and Elysia Simons met at Uluru 16 years ago when they were aged 10 and 9 respectively, filming the famous Qantas ad featuring young choir members singing I Still Call Australia Home.
With the help of Qantas and Channel Nine, Paul was able to get Elysia back to Uluru to pop the question, and she had no idea that it was going to happen.
Ell – Monday the 9th of May was the best day of my entire life. The story begins 16 years ago as little choir kids. We were in Uluru filming for the Iconic 1999 Qantas ad where along with 100 other children we were placed right in front of the rock to sing "I still call Australia home". Paul stood to my right and in between takes we would chat and joke around. One of the things I remember most is Paul being this shy, smily kid that looked away as he giggled at my (probably not funny) jokes. We saw each other a few times after at choir events but being 9 year olds in an age where there was no Instagram, Facebook or mobile phones, it didn't even cross our minds to exchange details. Fast forward to High school we reconnected again through mutual friends (thank you MySpace top 8) and Paul was back in my life. After having many connections through school and uni, we were constantly drawn back to each other. Not too long after, our friendship turned into mutual crushes and I soon realized that what we had was better than the best kind of love. We had often daydreamed of going back to Uluru to reminisce about our first day together. Only four weeks ago I got a phone call from Qantas saying that they had heard our story and wanted us to travel to Uluru to view their event called the Field of light as part of a new documentary for channel 9. WHAT?! This was the most random, exciting, crazy call but naturally we jumped at the amazing opportunity. Qantas flew us in business class to central Australia where we were filmed arriving and exploring around one of the most incredible places on earth. We stopped at sunset at the most breathtaking spot near Uluru and as we were being interviewed Paul confessed that we were not actually there to view the field of light at all. We were there because he needed a way to get me back to the special place we had met 16 years ago. He had enlisted the help of Qantas and channel 9 to bring me back without knowing what was really going on at all! Whilst the cameras were rolling he got down on one knee and fought back (badly fought back) tears to ask me to MARRY HIM AND I SAID "OF COURSE!!!"
Elysia told Put A Ring On It that she was a member of the Australian Girls Choir and Paul was in the National Boys Choir at the time they each had the opportunity to take part in the ad.
“We stood next to each other for a whole day of shooting and in between takes would muck around and do whatever it is that 9-year-olds do,” she said.
“Paul even tried to take a photo of me by pretending he was taking a photo of the landscape!
“We saw each other a few times later at choir events but it wasn’t until we were a little older that we were re-introduced through a mutual friend.
“Once we got chatting we realised that we had met before so we had been placed back in each other’s lives! A couple of years later again we reconnected through different mutual friends and have basically been together ever since!”
The couple have been together now for almost 7 years, and popping the question at the place they first met was always on Paul’s agenda.
“Paul knew early on that if he was to propose to me he would get me back to Uluru to do it,” Elysia said.
“He pulled some strings and was able to plan the ultimate surprise, in a way I had no idea!
“Qantas called me one day and told me they had heard about how we met – to my knowledge it was through my best friend who had worked along side the Qantas marketing team.
“They wanted to fly me and Paul there to walk through an event called ‘The Field of Light’ by an artist called Bruce Monroe and have Channel Nine film it for their show Ready For Take-Off.
“They just wanted to film us arriving and walking through it and having a wine or something romantic like that,” she explained.
The Qantas people then made Elysia feel like she was the one responsible for making the Uluru trip happen and that she’d have to convince Paul to go along with it.
“They said ‘the first hurdle is trying to convince your partner’. I was thinking, ‘are you kidding? This is amazing! Of course he would do this!’
“Paul needed me to think I had organised the whole thing so that I wouldn’t suspect anything!
“So we filmed all day beginning at 4.30am and talked about how excited we were to view this amazing event! Little did I know we would not be filmed walking through the field of light at all and this was a massive ruse,” Elysia said.
“When we were filming a shot in front of The Rock and they were asking us how it felt to be back after 16 years, Paul turned to me and confessed his whole plan and how awesome it was that I fell for it. Then he went down on one knee and proposed!”
And of course, she said yes!
Elysia says that she got to planning the wedding straight away – on the way back home from Uluru.
“I’m in the wedding industry so I knew exactly what I wanted. We are getting married in January in the Yarra Valley at a beautiful venue called The Riverstone Estate. We can’t wait!”