After pouring their hearts and souls into their do-ups, walking away from the construction site for the final time was tough on all the contestants on The Block NZ: Villa Wars . But leaving behind her labour of love was even more emotional for bride-to-be Sarah Kong, who accepted her boyfriend Neth’s surprise proposal in the backyard of house two.
“As we were going through the house before auction, it was quite sad,” confesses the 24-year-old. “I kept thinking, ‘This is the last time I can get a selfie of me and Neth at the very spot without being done for trespassing!’”
But leaving the dirty, dusty DIY of Block HQ does have its benefits for Wellington-based Sarah, who can finally flaunt her happy news with her suave Cambodian fiancé, 38. Flashing her elegant, 18-carat gold ring with glee, the pint-sized design scholar reveals how she had to keep her engagement a secret until Neth’s grand proposal played out on the TV3 show.
“I couldn’t wear my ring on site, so it felt a little like I could only be engaged in private,” she says. “With so much of our lives on screen at the moment, though, it was quite nice to have something to ourselves. I doubt I would have risked wearing it anyway. I had to get the ring resized four times. If it had needed to be any smaller, they were going to have to remake it!”
Sheepishly, IT salesman Neth admits it was an important detail he’d overlooked – but otherwise the shock TV proposal went off without a hitch. “She said yes, which is the main thing,” he beams, pretending to wipe a bead of sweat off his brow.
“I’d been thinking about doing it for over a year and with Sarah being away for so long, I was really missing her. It felt like the perfect moment. Asking for the blessing of Sarah’s father was probably the most nerve-racking part of the whole experience. In Chinese tradition, you don’t normally have to ask for the parents’ permission because the parents usually talk among themselves anyway, but having Halm’s blessing was important to me.
“I had a plan – I’d gift him with a crayfish and if that didn’t work, I’d present him with some cigarettes. And if those both failed, I was just going to marry her anyway! But thankfully, he was happy. We even had a little drink afterwards. He never drinks, so I knew it was a big deal for him.”
Together for seven years, the couple first met when Sarah moved from her family home in Hamilton to the capital at age 17 to pursue her university studies.
“We were introduced through mutual friends,” she says. “Initially, there was a big group of us who hung out, but Neth always stood out to me and it wasn’t long before we were doing our own thing.
“Wellington was very new to me. It was the first time I’d lived away from home and I didn’t really know anyone, but Neth was always so sweet, making sure I felt welcome. When I was studying, I’d stay at uni late a lot of the time, and Neth would always offer to pick me up and cook me dinner. He always went out of his way to do nice things.”
Unapologetically joined at the hip, the duo are regulars on the Windy City’s busy restaurant scene, but they also love watching movies in bed or heading out to the beach and bush. While Sarah’s 10-week stay at Block HQ put a momentary stop to all that, the twosome are now relishing being back in each other’s arms. And they’ve got an all-new project to work on – a wedding!
Neth says, “There’ll be elements of our cultures, but we’ve told our parents not to expect a full-on five-day affair. All we know is that we don’t want to wait around too long, so we are hoping to be married by the end of 2016.”
With a ceremony looming, there’s certainly a lot of planning to be done, but venues, guest lists and caterers are far from Sarah’s mind right now. All she’s focused on is what she’ll be wearing.
“When Neth proposed, I was in the same paint-splattered jeans from the day before,” she smiles. “I hadn’t brushed my hair or put on an ounce of make-up. So my main priority is making sure I look a darn sight better on my big day!”