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Ben Barrington's idyllic island proposal

Despite the actor letting his “secret” slip to their friends and family, his fiancée was oblivious to the romantic scheme!

It hasn't stopped thundering with rain all day, but just as Ben Barrington gallantly gets down on one knee, the setting sun finally breaks through, lighting the sky in swirling pinks and purples.

As timing goes, it couldn't be more perfect. And surrounded by flickering candles and rose petals on the balcony of an overwater bungalow in Fiji, the Shortland Street star beams as he asks girlfriend Kristie Fergus for her hand in marriage.

Her answer? A speedy yes, followed by tears from the embracing couple.

"I don't think I've ever seen anyone so happy," Ben tells Woman's Day shortly after the magic proposal.

"It's been really perfect. And even though it was supposed to rain the whole time, it magically cleared up just as I asked her. It's an incredible sunset."

Kristie laughs, "I'm quite emotional. I've had a few tears, but so has Ben."

At this, the actor quickly interjects, "It's the sea air. It got in my eyes. It's very sting-y here in Fiji."

As Ben, 41, slips the stunning three-diamond sparkler on his bride-to-be's finger, he starts to laugh as 38-year-old Kristie fails to notice that it's her late grandmother Olive's ring.

"Ben's had it cleaned up and it's all sparkly," she smiles. "The last time I saw this, it was kind of black and on my nana's finger. I really didn't recognise it."

Fighting back tears, she adds, "It's very sentimental to me. It's very special as I was close to my grandparents."

Ben grins, "I went to Kristie's mum and asked her if there's a ring in the family that I could use as the engagement ring. There was and it was Kristie's gran's engagement ring. I knew she'd be happy with it."

Popping the champagne and pouring two glasses after the big moment, the Shorty hunk admits he has another surprise. He unrolls a metre-long banner with pictures and messages from all their family and friends at home.

"They all knew before me!" laughs Kristie. "Ben was obviously quite sure I was going to say yes to have a congratulations banner made. But really, there was no way I was going to say no."

It's a picture-perfect proposal, but the Almighty Johnsons and Offspring star admits it almost happened at Nadi International Airport as he'd hidden the ring in a suitcase filled with his favourite foods, including a can of reduced cream, to make that Kiwi classic onion dip, which Kristie was desperate to declare.

"We were getting closer and closer to the counter, and I was like, 'Oh, my God, she's going to tell them we have food and they'll open the bag to look through,'" laughs Ben. "I was going to have to propose to her by the bloody customs counter at Nadi Airport!"

Shaking her head, Kristie smiles, "We ended up bickering through the airport about it.

I knew we had to declare the cream as it's dairy, but he was like, 'They don't care – it's all in packages!'"

In the end, the couple whipped straight through customs without officials even looking at their arrival cards, much to Ben's relief.

On checking into the slick Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay, the actor launched straight into his proposal plan, cheekily telling make-up artist Kristie that staff hoped to do something special for them as they were fans of his long-running TVNZ 2 soap.

"I said to Kristie that because Shortland Street is so popular over here, they have a little surprise that they want to put on for us," he recalls. "I told her that they wanted to put cocktails or a bottle of wine on the deck, so we have to get out of the room for half an hour at 6pm.

"We went to one of the bars for a drink, and I could see over Kristie's shoulder that they were setting up the balcony with candles and flowers. It was right behind her, but she didn't have any idea. It was really cute."

When they returned to the luxury bungalow, Kristie still didn't know a proposal was on the cards. "I thought it was just kind of romantic," she says.

Ben, who plays Dr Drew McCaskill on Shorty, adds, "I'd hidden the ring in the coffee and tea draw. The ring was in a box tucked right at the back. I told Kristie that I had to get something from inside and then I came out with it. Her reaction was amazing."

So had Kristie had an inkling that a proposal was on the cards? After all, the couple have been together for five years after meeting in a bar in 2013 and feeling an instant connection. And in 2016, [they added daughter Harley], now one, to the family, which also includes Kristie's son Oliver, 15, from a previous relationship.

"It's been a bit of an ongoing joke because I go on about getting engaged all the time and he's always said that if I don't stop going on about it, then it will never happen," explains Kristie.

"But in the weeks before we went away, there were a few things that weren't adding up, like he wouldn't let me look at his phone!"

Kristie wants her son Oliver to give her away and darling [Harley](https://www.nowtolove.co.nz/parenting/family/ben-barringtons-adorable-girl-turns-one-33941|target="_blank") will be flower girl.
Kristie wants her son Oliver to give her away and darling Harley will be flower girl.

The waiting game might have been a tough one, but Kristie is glad she was patient. "It's great now as Harley will be old enough to be a flower girl," she explains. "And I want Oliver and my dad to give me away."

Oliver was one of the first to know about Ben's engagement plans, which were meant to be a secret, but the loose-lipped star admits to letting slip to around 50 of their closest friends and family.

"I wasn't going to tell anyone, but then everyone kind of knew," he says sheepishly. "I was talking about it all the time. I was talking about it with Kristie's mum and, at work, I'd talk about how the day was going to go and what I was going
to do with the ring.

"I got so used to talking about it, I almost talked to Kristie about it. Lots of times, actually. I'd be thinking about it and I'd almost say, 'I think I'm going to do the proposal at this time.'"

It was a quickie decision for Ben, who only realised he was ready to propose three weeks before the trip. He explains,

"It was one of these strange things that people kept asking me if I was going to pop the question in Fiji. It was really weird as that wasn't the plan at all. Then one day, I just thought, 'Actually, I am.'

"I worked out that we had pretty much been going out five years to the month, it was almost Valentine's Day and we would be in Fiji, so I thought it was the time to do it."

Now the couple have the momentous job of planning a wedding while also juggling their full-time jobs and life with a toddler. Kristie says she will be taking the reins, wanting a low-key, bohemian-style wedding somewhere in New Zealand. Ben adds, "Just let me know the date and I'll be there!"

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