Trang Vu and her boyfriend came to UCLA to visit their alma mater last Saturday when suddenly a flash mob of about 200 people in Bruin Plaza spontaneously joined a choreographed dance. For a moment, Vu thought it was a back-to-school event, until she spotted her cousins … and her best friends … and then her parents, who live 300 miles away, all dancing to her favorite love song.
“In that moment, I thought, ‘My God, this is for me,’” Vu recalled. “That’s when I knew he was up to something big.”
“Big” is an understatement.
In fact, Vu’s boyfriend – well, (spoiler alert) fiancé, Nam Tran – spent four or five months planning the flash-mob marriage proposal, which is now on YouTube. The video has gone viral, nearing half a million views less than a week later and drawing unexpected media attention.
Vu, 28, and Tran, 32, have been together four and a half years, and he’s known for more than a year that he wanted to marry her, so he had time to plan, he said.
“We both love musicals, and we both love dancing, and a flash mob is the closest you can get to a real-life musical,” Tran said. “It was also a great way to involve family and friends and have them there celebrating with us. It was something I really wanted to do for her.”
Tran, who graduated in ’02, brought Vu, ’06, back to campus by pretending there would be an independent book fair on campus, just like on their first date. They met on campus in 2003 when he taught a workshop she attended, though they didn’t start dating until 2007.
Saturday, the couple walked through Ackerman Union, and the company that Tran hired to organize the dance, Flash Mob America, helped sneak a microphone onto him in the men’s bathroom before the couple headed outside where the surprise was waiting. Moments after the Frankie Valli song, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” began to play, dancers rushed from all corners of Bruin Plaza. About 100 strangers signed up online to participate, and another 95 were the couple’s friends, co-workers and relatives, many of whom traveled from out of town and even out of state, but still kept the secret. One minute into the song, Tran jumped into the crowd and joined the dance while Vu watched with a look of overwhelmed delight on her face. At the end of the song, he pulled Vu into the middle of the crowd.
“I love you so much,” he said, “And, if you’ll let me, I want to make you feel happiness the way you make me feel happy, from now until we grow old together.”
“You’re so cheesy!” Vu said affectionately, drawing laughs from surrounding friends and family.
A few heartfelt pledges later, Tran knelt, and the whole crowd knelt with him. The choreography was developed by Flash Mob America, he explained later, but asking the crowd to kneel with him was his idea.
“I wanted her to feel at the center of it all,” Tran said. “It was a nice moment where she was the center of the world.”
Down on one knee in Bruin Plaza, he pulled out a ring before the teary-eyed onlookers. “It’s always been you, love,” he said, his voice quavering with emotion. “Will you marry me?
Vu appeared to choke back a sob, before replying, “Well, duh!”
Tran put the ring on his fiancée’s finger and leapt up to kiss her. Vu’s off-beat answer came as no surprise. “She’s definitely one to always crack jokes to lighten the situation, and that’s one of the reasons I love her,” he said later.
After they got engaged, the crowd of friends and family went out to dinner, followed by roller skating at a rink Tran had booked for the occasion.
“We were both ecstatic,” he said. “Happy doesn’t even explain it. We were in a state of euphoria. It was so awesome, just a perfect day from beginning to end.”
“We’ve had permanent smiles on our faces for the last few days,” Vu said. She’s spent part of that time trying to learn the flash mob’s dance. “I told him once, that when the chorus comes in with those horns, I just want to choreograph it and dance to it,” she said. And now she can.
How did the former computer-science major pull off his engagement to the former biology major?
Tran selected the song, but the computer scientist leaned on Flash Mob America to choreograph it. “It would have been horrible if I’d done it,” he said. The company put an instructional video online so that everyone who registered — even complete strangers who wanted to be part of the couple’s big moment — could learn the dance. “Then it was all about mobilizing friends and family,” Tran said. He organized it so that they would be in the front row, where Vu would see all her loved ones.
“Even our dentist showed up,” Tran said. “I just casually mentioned it to him, and he said, ‘Oh, you need more dancers?’ It was so funny to see him there.”
Tran never expected the video to go viral. “He just wanted to have a video,” Vu said he told her. “Something to show at our wedding. Now it’s surreal.” The couple appeared on CNN’s morning show and KTLA, and the video’s been seen 433,000 times in less than four days.
For now, said Vu, who has worked in medical research for several years but plans to pursue a styling career in the fashion industry, the two of them are just reveling in each other’s company and not worrying about planning the wedding. They are considering their next flash mob, though.
“Everyone in the video — they’re our flash mob family,” Tran said. “This is definitely not our last flash mob. We want to pay it forward.”
This article originally appeared on UCLA Today. It was republished here with permission from the university's office of media relations.