Stunned crowds were treated to a wedding ring with a difference at the weekend after a pair of clowns agreed to tie the knot in a packed circus tent.
Professional clown Silly Tilly, also known in some circles as Downpatrick woman Noeleen Breen, was left reaching for her giant hanky during a performance at the Holbaek Clown Festival in Denmark on Saturday.
At the end of her routine at the gala show, her boyfriend and fellow clown Jarl from Skanderborg, Denmark got down on one knee in the circus ring and popped the question.
A blushing Tilly sought the advice of the audience in the packed tent before proclaiming “Yes”. There was then an eruption of clapping and cheering when the crowd realised the proposal was not part of the act.
As well as the 250 people in the tent, the proposal was live streamed via the Clowns International Facebook page to fans around the world.
The couple are now planning to marry in Tilly’s Co Down hometown in February 2017. Clown tailors are already busy working on the wedding dress.
One of the big decisions the pair now face is what song to play for their first dance as husband and wife, although ‘Send in the Clowns’ is sure to be a hot contender.
When asked about the plans for the ceremony, 43-year-old Tilly told the News Letter: “It is all still sinking in so I really haven’t had much of a chance to think about the actual wedding.
“It was a real shock when my other half got down on one knee and proposed during our routine. I had a suspicion that I was in for some sort of surprise, but I definitely wasn’t expecting that.
“I tried to stay in character as much as best I could but it wasn’t easy.
“I couldn’t have imagined a better way for Jarl to propose.”
Since training with the Belfast Circus School in the early 1990s, Tilly has dedicated herself to becoming an entertainer who makes children and adults alike laugh. What started out as a hobby soon took over her life.
Having worked as a teacher for eight years, Tilly one day decided to take the leap and pursue clowning full time.
“I felt there was more to life,” she added. “I don’t regret my decision to quit teaching one bit. After all, I never would have met my other half if I had not devoted myself to clowning.
“I don’t earn anywhere near what I used to as a teacher, but the quality of life is just amazing.
“I try to keep my clowning life and my private life separate, but on this occasion I was glad to make an exception.”
Tilly is the current chair of Clowns International, a worldwide organisation founded in 1946.