Emotional displays are nothing new at Massey University's celebration to honour graduates in its Maori studies courses but no one was expecting a student to seize the opportunity to make a grand romantic gesture at last Thursday's ceremony in Palmerston North.
Waipounamu Kara (Ngāpuhi, Raukawa, Tainui) and partner Te Karohirohi Kira (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Te Wairoa, Kāi Tahu, Muriwhenua, Ngāpuhi ki Whaingaroa-Ngāti Kahu ki Whaingaroa) were graduating from Massey's postgraduate Māori medium teaching and learning diploma programme Te Aho Paerewa, when Kara surprised everyone, including himself, by going down on one knee to propose.
To the delight of the large crowd in the Regent Theatre Kira gave him the response he was after.
The Havelock North couple - he from Titahi Bay, teaching at Terrace School, Waipukurau, and now finding the Kahungunu in him back in Hawke's Bay, and she, reckoning the surprise big day will be in the round hall at Mohaka - were among 15 students being honoured at the ceremony.
The ceremony follows the main Massey graduation where 18 Te Aho Paerewa students graduated, swelling the ranks of much needed Kura Kaupapa teachers.
The couple have known each other about 8 years, but it was only about three years ago that they got together, when studying together at Te Wananga o Raukawa.
On Thursday they were on stage together, hand-in-hand with near 1-year-old baby in arms and the whānau supporting haka Tika Tonu around them in what was already a unique-enough moment without the opportunism that followed.
"Honestly, it wasn't planned at all," he said. "For some reason it was in that time and space that it was right for me."
"The whānau were doing the haka, but for me in that moment the whole space went quiet," he said.
Three days later Mohaka seemed to be getting a tentative nod as the venue, but a date was still up in the air. "We're just focusing on baby's first birthday," he said.
Māori Graduates provides students with an opportunity to celebrate their academic success with whānau and friends in a Māori way and is renowned for its stirring haka and waiata tautoko (songs of support). But this is the first time the audience has been brought to tears by a marriage proposal.