EIGHT years ago, Dawn Slater was planning to propose to her boyfriend Paul Martin on February 29 – a date that only comes round once every four years and is traditionally a day where women can pop the question to their partners.

Dawn, who lives in Parr, had been with Paul for just over 12 months and planned to ask him to marry her with the help of his rugby friends but she was worried that someone might slip up and spoil the surprise so she decided to do it alone at home on February 29, 2016.

Little did she know that her meticulous preparations would be in vain as Paul would return home and turn the proposal upside down.

As soon as Paul came home, Dawn knew the proposal wasn’t going to run smoothly – especially when he’d stripped naked following a trail of rose petals up the stairs!

In the run up to 2024’s leap year celebrations later this month and ahead of some surprise proposals from women across St Helens, Dawn tells us what she remembers of the romantic moment that ended up becoming a viral comedy disaster.

Dawn, who is 43, said: “I still remember the proposal well.

“I knew when I first met Paul that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him and as he isn’t that romantic I thought I would ask him if he wanted to get married first.

“I was planning on involving Paul’s rugby friends - rugby is his life - but I was nervous I wouldn’t pull it off or someone would slip up so I decided to do it alone.

“I had a speech all planned out but it went out the window as soon as Paul came home!”

In the video, you can hear Paul as he goes upstairs following the candles and rose petals that Dawn has laid out leading to their bedroom.

As he remains hidden behind the bedroom door, you can hear him asking Dawn what’s going on and Dawn asks him to put his clothes back on – behind a few giggles.

Dawn tells Paul that she had a speech planned but that it’s “gone out the window now” and says she was going to ask him to marry her.

The video went viral in 2016 with the couple receiving messages of congratulations from all over the world.

Watch Dawn's disastrous leap year proposal (WARNING - video contains strong language):

Dawn said: “Everyone thought the proposal was hilarious and I still have some of the unedited clips – the language isn’t really appropriate!

“Our family and friends were made up we were getting married and the proposal video went viral – we even had messages of support from Australia!”

Paul did accept Dawn’s proposal and the couple had a fancy dress engagement party in July 2016 where they dressed up as Shrek and Princess Fiona at Paul’s favourite pub The Rockware, which has since closed down.

Dawn and Paul dressed up as Shrek and Princess Fiona for their engagement party

Dawn and Paul dressed up as Shrek and Princess Fiona for their engagement party

Dawn said: “Paul proposed to me on the night of our engagement party.

“He enlisted the help of one of his best men and bought me an engagement ring – he’d even asked my dad for permission.

“He wanted to do things the right way as he is quite old fashioned.”

The couple got married on April 29, 2022 – Dawn’s parents’ wedding anniversary – with three best men and five bridesmaids but were restricted to just 40 guests post Covid-19 restrictions.

Dawn and Paul tied the knot on April 29, 2022

Dawn and Paul tied the knot on April 29, 2022

Dawn said: “We got married on April 29, 2022 at Prescot Register Office – we met on December 29, 2014 and I proposed on February 29, 2016 so the number 29 had a special meaning for us.

“We used as many local businesses as we could, especially after the restrictions during the pandemic, and we celebrated with our closest family and friends.

“It was more about us getting married and getting everyone together than spending thousands of pounds on a fancy do.

“It was a big party for us and we were happy with how we did things - that’s all that mattered.”

So, what is Dawn’s advice for anyone thinking about popping the question this leap year?

Would she do it all again even though things went a little wrong?

Dawn said: “I think you just know if the person is right for you - it did for me anyway.

“I’d definitely encourage women to propose - just go for it!

“If it feels right, why wait?

“Proposing in a leap year makes it even more special, especially if you can get a bit creative.

“It makes great memories and a lovely story to tell people – even if it’s a funny one like ours!”

Dawn and Paul got their happily ever after

Dawn and Paul got their happily ever after