Having armed men wearing combat masks manhandling you and simulating a drug bust hardly sounds like the scenario of a perfect marriage proposals, but it’s apparently all the rage in Russia.
Imagine driving a car, minding your own business, when all of a sudden a black van cuts you off and slams the breaks forcing you to do the same in a split second. That would be scary enough, but it gets worse. The van door slides open and masked men carrying assault rifles jump out and violently pull you out of the vehicle, while they go through your personal belongings seemingly searching for something. And then they find it – a small plastic bag full of white powder that they claim is illegal drugs. You’ve never seen it before, but they claim otherwise and you feel your legs shaking under you as you try to grasp the implications of the situation. Then, all of a sudden, one of the threatening men drops down to one knee, pops open a small case and says “Marry me!”
Photo: Spetsnaz Show
That’s pretty much the gist of the extreme wedding proposal trend that has been sweeping Russia over the last few years. At least four special event agencies, all staffed by ex-law enforcement and military personnel, specialize in this kind of extreme marriage proposal, with the drug bust scenario being by far the most popular one among clients.
“They’ve got no imagination! They all want special ops, armed arrest, drugs,” Sergei Rodkin, the founder of Spetsnaz Show, told the BBC. And psychologists say that there’s a very logical explanation to why that is.
Photo: Spetsnaz Show
“Humor is a way for society to respond to what is happening with it,” psychologist Polina Soldatova said. “These pranks… are a way of accepting the fact that the security forces can always come for you. People need a way to reconcile themselves with this reality. The would-be fiancées laugh and smile out of relief that the men aren’t real cops.”
According to 1OBL, agencies like Spetsnaz Show offer all kinds of extreme services to people willing to pay for them, like faking the kidnapping of a bride during her wedding, or of a CEO during a corporate event, busting a wedding party to shock the guests. The possibilities are endless and provided that the client has the funds, there’s no limit to the realism of this kind of scenarios.
36-year-old Sergei Rodkin said he started offering this sort of service to friends for free, back in 2010, but as word spread, more people started asking him to do it, so he turned it into a business. Now his agency, Spetsnaz Show has 14 branches all across the country.
The drug bust remains the most popular scenario across the country, with people using it for memorable marriage proposals, wedding anniversaries, birthdays or expensive pranks. Everything is very realistic, and organizers always have the clients sign a waiver absolving them of any responsibility, should anyone suffer a heart-attack or other health problems during one of their performances.
One thing’s for sure, though, there’s something about the drug bust marriage proposal that makes it very effective. Rodkin says that in the five years his Moscow branch has been operating, only one woman turned down his partner’s proposal.