The couple maintains they were influencing out of pure love, not for money. Some onlookers are less convinced, thanks to a well-planned, detailed marketing deck that was disseminated in advance of the “surprise” marriage proposal Gabriel Grossman, a vice president at Morgan Stanley in New York, staged this week for his soon-to-be wife, Marissa Fuchs, a director of brand partnerships at Goop and an Instagram blogger known as @fashionambitionist.
Months before the three-day proposal began — an experience from New York to the Hamptons to Miami to Paris — Mr. Grossman had worked with Ms. Fuchs’s longtime friend Elicia Blaine Evans, a social media specialist. Ms. Evans created an itinerary and marketing strategy for the proposal. Everything would be perfectly arranged — and maybe even paid for.
Skepticism of just how much of a surprise the surprise proposal was began to flood the internet as soon as the operation kicked off Tuesday, and continued up to the actual live-streamed proposal on Friday.
Still Ms. Fuchs continued to be seemingly astonished by each leg of her saga as it unfolded, all the way up to the proposal just outside Paris at Chateau Bouffémont.
As “Beyond” by Leon Bridges played on a nearby speaker, Ms. Fuchs stepped out of a black car, and out of frame. (The music used in the videos was unlicensed. “I’m not a brand or selling anything so I didn’t think I had to license,” Mr. Grossman said in a text. “Can I get in trouble? Just thought they were good timeless love songs so ‘our wedding video’ will stand the test of time.”) Mr. Grossman signaled for her to join him on the lawn of the chateau (for an epic shot).
In a sparkly short dress and sandal heels, she entered the frame. Crying. Again. He pulled her close to him and they rocked back and forth, holding each other. More sobs and slow dancing ensued before Mr. Grossman descended to one knee, proposing with an engagement ring previously owned by Ms. Fuchs’s late grandmother. Ms. Fuchs, still standing, shuffled her feet with enthusiasm (and more audible sobs). She shrieked and fell to her knees. (More sobs, more professional photographers.)
Then Mr. Grossman revealed to Ms. Fuchs that both of their families were in attendance, standing atop an imperial staircase.
As he collected his phone (that was capturing all of this), Mr. Grossman exclaimed, “Look Marissa, I even used your tripod. You taught me so well.”
“Is this a live stream?” Ms. Fuchs asked her now fiancé. The couple danced some more, exchanging kisses for the camera. Nearly 5,000 watched on Instagram as live comments posted.
Mr. Grossman’s last surprise — if you can call it that at this point — was announced while still live streaming. “So, an engagement’s great, but the last part of this obviously: You know we’re getting married,” he said to Ms. Fuchs. “Yay!” she exclaimed.
Mr. Grossman then said a rabbi was there to marry them.
At first, when the proposal began Tuesday, the bride said she knew nothing of any of it. As the influencer-inspired saga went on, however, she said she was aware of the deck.
In an interview Ms. Evans admitted to pitching brands and taking meetings on behalf of Ms. Fuchs, without her permission. Although mostly unsuccessful, she did secure services from Flytographer, a vacation photography company, free of charge. (It’s no coincidence they’re featured in Ms. Fuchs’s static Instagram posts and stories.)
“There was an informal agreement,” Ms. Evans said. “They just wanted us to promote some. Obviously, Marissa had no idea. She was like, ‘What and why are we doing this?’ and I had to explain to her what she had to do moving forward. She hasn’t tagged them in everything, and that’s because she doesn’t think it feels organic, but she loves the content, so we’ve had to go back and edit and add them in one or two posts. Other than that, she hasn’t been tagging. She was supposed to follow my directions.”
There were other bumps along the way. A planned seaplane flight to Montauk using a private aviation service was canceled, seemingly last minute. In an Instagram Story, Ms. Fuchs cited weather as the reason, but professed personal relief at the change.
“So I just said to Staci and Ali,” she told the camera, “‘Thank God we’re not getting on Blade because there’s been so many accidents recently.’” She still tagged the company — which, though it was not operating the flight, regularly used an aircraft that made an emergency landing on the Hudson River in May, and which was not involved in a June crash in Manhattan that resulted in a fatality — in her Instagram Story.
“Plan was to get on a @flyblade — but things changed based on weather!”
It also was no disappointment to Mr. Grossman, who saved some money when the flight was canceled. He said he footed the bill on that one.
Even though Ms. Evans is making her friend work the Flytographer brand, she said, “it’s a gift from me to her,” and she “expected more brands to be involved more than they have.”
Mr. Grossman was privy to Ms. Fuchs’s login information, granting him access to her work contacts and companies she’d previously forged relationships with. He took the initiative to reach out to clothing brands and other retailers, as well, using his work email.
The proposal planning squad managed to score freebies from FlyWheel, and Glamsquad, $100 off from 1 Hotel South Beach, and a hefty discount from jeweler Jade Trau, who made a monogrammed key and necklace chain.
“Jade Trau has a very close relationship with Marissa,” Mr. Grossman said. “I paid $4,000 for the pieces, but they would have been retail: $10,000 or $12,000. I also told her, if she ends up redoing her engagement ring and whatever wedding bands we end up getting, she’ll probably want to work with her anyway.”
Ms. Evans was convinced her influencer comrade would be impressed by the deck upon her return to real life, especially because Mr. Grossman has paid for the other surprises — dinners, hotels and flights — out of pocket.
“I originally went into it saying the budget’s going to be $40,000,” Mr. Grossman said. “I think I’m probably a little under $50,000, all in.”
Realistically, this adventure is costing him less money than a Manhattan-based wedding could have.
“I was completely and utterly in shock,” Ms. Fuchs said in an interview as the proposal escapade began. “I was so mind-blown that this was happening.”
Ms. Fuchs shared Mr. Grossman’s Instagram video with her Instagram followers. Since then, he posted a continuous series of videos and clues to his Instagram Stories, leading Ms. Fuchs (and followers) on a scavenger hunt that ended with the proposal and ceremony.
“I always knew it would be some sort of big proposal because having a wedding isn’t a priority to me,” Ms. Fuchs said. “Whether that was a romantic night followed by fireworks, or proposing and then going to the airport — something just a little bit more elaborate than just a quiet proposal. A wedding and a whole, long engagement isn’t something that is important to us.”
The proposal hunt included some of her favorite things: jewelry, travel, food and friends. Ms. Fuchs has shared each step of the way through her Instagram account. There were stops at Flywheel Sports and AIRE Ancient Baths in Manhattan and Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Spa. When Ms. Fuchs thought she was en route to the couple’s hometown, Hewlett, N.Y., she was actually being driven to the airport and flown to Miami. Throughout the footage, Ms. Fuchs cries, jumps up and down. One minute she’s confused, the next she’s excited and grateful.
“Honestly, it’s remarkable how kind and nice the community is: coming together to support me. I’m getting messages like, ‘It’s so nice to see a real love story unfold. It’s so nice to see somebody together for so long and this happen.’” She called it a real-life reality TV show. “When I go silent for two hours, or an hour, they’re asking for more content,” she added.
Other followers called it fake.
Within 24 hours of her initial post, her @fashionambitionist account gained approximately an additional 58,000 followers on the social media platform and garnered the type of media attention more typical for a Kardashian or Jenner. About 50,000 people watched her story during the first 24 hours, she said, citing analytics provided by her Instagram insights. As of Friday she had 198,000 followers. His livestream of the proposal on Friday, had about 5,000 viewers at one point.
Even Mr. Grossman’s Instagram account, @gabriel.grossman, has seen a blip in followers since the viral video was posted. It started at fewer than 500 followers and has now jumped to over 12,000. “He’s not active at all on social media,” Ms. Fuchs said of her soon-to-be fiancé. “That’s why this is so amazing and hilarious. He’s just thought about what I would want in an engagement and he’s making this truly all about me and making me happy.”
“I feel like it’s going to end with an engagement,” Ms. Fuchs said in an interview Wednesday afternoon before the actual knee-collapsing proposal. “At first, I thought it was going to end with something intimate in the Hamptons with family and our closest friends but now I don’t really know.”
Throughout the videos, Ms. Fuchs was showered with gifts from sources unseen (but not untagged). She received clothes, luggage, dog tags, jewelry, and gift bags of unknown treasures. After the action of a scene had played out — in between screenshots of media coverage and reposted fan reactions — she frequently turned a front-facing camera on herself. In these clips, under the diffuse light of an Instagram filter that coated her world and especially her eyelids in golden sparkles, she predicted her future surprises, inviting followers to guess along via poll. (“Will my brothers be at airport?”) At every turn, across multiple states and continents, new friends and family arrived to aid her in receiving still more surprises, like a fairy tale with no dramatic climax.
Her only questions for the friends accompanying her on her journey, she said, were if her hair and makeup would get done and what she would be wearing. “The only clues I need are in regards to what I’m wearing,” Ms. Fuchs said. “Everything else, I just want to be surprised.”
“I have a fashion blog,” she added, “and I want to make sure I look fashionable for any moment that is to come.”
Mr. Fuchs and Mr. Grossman, both 30, have been dating for almost six years. They first met in Hewlett, when they were 10, “living just blocks away from each as they grew up,” according to a slide in the branded deck. They grew closer during their college years, despite Mr. Grossman attending Syracuse while Ms. Fuchs attended the University of Florida.
Ms. Fuchs has worked at Goop since February 2018, according to her LinkedIn profile. Previously, she worked at Clique as an advertising director for three years, as a Jewelry/Watch and Lifestyle Director at InStyle Magazine. She’s managed her Fashion Ambitionist blog since November 2018.
“I pre-cleared this at her office, the highest person she would answer to, which is Kim Kreuzberger,” Mr. Grossman said. “She was really on board, and she was so happy for us. She was like, ‘Absolutely, Marissa can take off.’ I had other friends at Goop handle her scheduling so once this all kicked off, everyone was there to let her know ‘hey, don’t worry, we’ve notified everyone. We’re taking care of emails and everyone’s been brought in the loop so you’re not missing anything work-wise.”
Until Thursday afternoon, the profile description of the @fashionambitionist account included her title at Goop. It no longer does.
“While we’re happy for Marissa, the proposal is only associated with her personal brand, and entirely separate from Goop,” said Noora Raj Brown, senior vice president of communications at Goop, in an email statement. “Marissa never received formal approval from Goop for this. We have opened an internal review into this to see what happened, but we do know that she did not go through the proper channels for any such request.”
“When I was thinking about this in my life, I thought this would end with a trip to City Hall,” Ms. Fuchs said. “I didn’t think there would be all these stops along the way.”
Mr. Grossman confirmed shortly after the ceremony Friday that, despite the fanfare, the couple are not yet technically married. He tried to work out a legal ceremony in France. “But it was a nightmare, so I just did a symbolic ceremony.”
The official wedding, he predicts, will take place “in the next few weeks” — @CityHall.
Caity Weaver contributed to this article.