To win the hand of marriage from the girl of his dreams, Joe Ferguson embarked on a risky strategy.

Tairua campground manager Ferguson, 29, faced multiple hurdles in popping the question to Ruby Woodruffe, 26.

Not because she was likely to say no - but because he wanted to do so in the most surprisingly romantic way he could think of.

The pair live together at the campground on the Coromandel, working together to run the business under a five-year lease with the Thames-Coromandel District Council.

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They live in the centre of a town where news - particularly happy news - travels fast.
"Keeping the secret until the special day can be tricky enough," says Ferguson. "For example, financing the ring when we already share a bank account."

 Ruby Woodruffe and Joe Ferguson. Photo / Alison Smith
Ruby Woodruffe and Joe Ferguson. Photo / Alison Smith

Then there was finding the time during the busy campground season to slip to the city and buy a ring without creating suspicion.

He also had to hide it from a future fiance who keeps a tidy, organised household where few places go unturned.

"I understand most lads are faced with similar challenges and low margins of error to keep it all a secret. But I added a challenge for myself."

Having won the blessing and oath of stealth from Woodruffe's family, Ferguson decided to photograph the ring alongside his girlfriend every day without her knowledge "until I finally got my knee dirty". It took 42 days.

Ferguson took many photos of Woodruffe asleep. Photo / Joe Ferguson
Ferguson took many photos of Woodruffe asleep. Photo / Joe Ferguson

"Fair to say there were some close calls and the ring travelled some kilometres," says the romantic rugby player.

Photos include the ring with Woodruffe walking, taking car trips, taking a shower, sleeping, and even one where Ferguson is in the midst of being told off.

Says Woodruffe: "I had absolutely no clue."

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On top of Mt Paku Tairua with friends and still no idea about the ring.
On top of Mt Paku Tairua with friends and still no idea about the ring.

The pair met two years ago and went through a rocky few months before breaking up, as Ferguson came to terms with the loss of his previous relationship through which he has a daughter, Harper.

Now Woodruffe describes Ferguson as someone who would never let her down.

"We are literally the guy and girl version of each other.

"We have each other's backs. He has made me feel so secure and his family has been amazing."

Woodruffe says she did wonder why he kept taking photos of her when she was doing boring tasks like vacuuming but he laughed it off by saying he had a bet going with a friend and couldn't talk about it.

"I thought it was just Joe being the clown."

And when the special day came at one of Woodruffe's favourite places on Waiheke Island, what was the answer?

Yes, of course.

"I'm so proud of him, how magical it was, and it should be - getting engaged is such a special thing and putting it together like that is just amazing. He has really wowed me."