'Marry me Jess?': the genuine love story which became a stunt

Love and deception have walked hand in hand for centuries.

And so it was today, on Valentine's Day, when a grand lady of the sea glided into Sydney Harbour with a giant marriage proposal hanging from its superstructure.

"Marry me Jess?" read the banner on the Queen Mary 2.

The person asking the question is Stefan Libon, whose friend works for Cunard, which operates the Queen Mary 2.

It was a stunt, but initially there was no transparency about it being a Cunard-arranged stunt for Valentine's Day.

Are such deceptions acceptable?

Matthew Gain of public relations firm Edelman Australia said: "I think it's just a bit of fun. It's captured the media attention today around the fact that Cunard has this new ship and it is coming into harbour."

Mr Gain said Valentine's Day was a classic day for companies to promote their products, with many brands jostling to generate coverage.

"What I counsel clients on is, 'Do you genuinely have a story to tell on Valentine's Day?

"Do you have a story that's going to cut through, because everybody else is going to do it, and are we better off holding our story for a more appropriate time or looking at other options out there?"

A spokeswoman for MG Media Communications, the PR company behind the stunt, said they had only been told about Mr Libon's plans two days ago and that Cunard paid for the banner as a "gesture on their behalf".

Channel Seven's Sunrise television program swallowed it up with footage of Mr Libon proposing to Jess McGarrity - she said yes - as they were already on board the QM2, Cunard spokesman David Jones said.

"It was pure coincidence that they were going to be on board when the proposal was taking place. Sunrise was only told last night.

"It's a genuine love story," he said.

The couple, who are not travelling on the QM2, were treated to champagne on board the ship with Cunard's Commodore Christopher Rynd and Carnival Australia's chief executive Ann Sherry.

It was not revealed when the couple will marry, although a media release along with the announcement of the marriage proposal noted that Cunard offers weddings at sea.