The dos and don’ts of popping the question
Decided that it’s time to take the next step in your relationship, and ask your partner for their hand in marriage? No matter how you’re planning to pop the question to your loved one, here are some tips to help your proposal run more smoothly.
1. Don’t ask unless you’re sure you’re going to get a “yes”: That may be a strict one to start with, but no one wants to give a proposal that ends in a “no”, and no one wants to get that proposal, either. How can you be sure of getting a yes? If you live together, own property or have a child (that is, have already taken steps toward commitment), you can be fairly sure of a positive response. However, your best indicator will be whether weddings, marriage and your future lives together has come up in conversation before, and whether the proposee has seemed responsive to that idea. If that topic hasn’t arisen, ask yourself why it hasn’t. Have you only been together a short time? Do you know the proposee is hesitant about marriage because of past relationships or family life? And if the topic indeed hasn’t come up, you might want to start there – rather than planning a proposal just yet. There are easy ways to get the conversation going. While reading the newspaper, point out a house or apartment you like: “Wow, this place looks pretty amazing! Do you think you might want us to live in a house one day?” Or, the next time you’re at a wedding (or coincidentally watching a funny wedding video on YouTube) comment on something that couple has chosen: “Having a cool first dance at wedding is probably something I’d like to do. What do you think?” Not the most direct of segues, but it will at least start a discussion that will head more clearly toward that topic.
2. To ring or not to ring: The choice of engagement ring is key, because not only will all your friends and family ask to see it when they hear your engagement news, but it’s something your partner will hopefully be wearing for the rest of their life. It’s important that the ring is something your partner loves and is pleased to show it off. And therein lies the challenge! The proposer will be a hero if they choose the perfect ring to propose with, but it gets your lives together off to a bad start if you choose a ring your partner doesn’t love. (Also your partner might never ‘fess up that they aren’t completely in love with it, and they’re highly unlikely to ask to exchange it.) The good news is that you absolutely don’t have to propose with a ring. Here’s how to decide whether or not you should.
Think back to conversations with your soon-to-be fiance. Have they ever mentioned that they’d like to pick out an engagement ring themselves? Have they ever said that their best friend knows their exact taste? That they’d love a ring exactly like some particular celebrity? These are very clear pointers for how to approach the ring decision. Also, ponder any past jewelry you gave them: did they love it (wearing it all the time and showing it off to others is a good sign that your taste is on track), or did it get banished to the back of the jewelry box? If you decide to go for choosing a ring yourself, check out said jewelry box for inspiration on the types of jewelry you already know your partner likes, or casually look in jewelry store windows on your next trip to the mall together and ask what catches their eye. If the signs point to you letting your partner choose the ring themselves, you could propose with a fun plastic toy ring, a ring they already own, or skip the ring as a prop altogether and instead pop the question with a bouquet of flowers. You could even make it part of your proposal-day itinerary to visit a jewelry store to browse rings (though communicate that they’re not under any pressure to find something at that store or even that day).
3. Really consider whether you want to propose in a public place: If you’re considering a public proposal, definitely be sure that the question you pop is going to get a yes. (Getting a no is bad enough, let along getting one in front of an audience… and you also don’t want a public yes only to be told in private later that they only said yes to avoid embarrassing you. Ouch.) As well as the outcome, the other thing you should consider is how shy you and your partner are. If one of life’s most intimate moments taking place in front of a staring crowd makes you nervous, skip it. However, if you don’t mind stares – go for it! People taking photos during it and applauding when a yes comes at the end might make the moment even more special.
Going for somewhere between public and private? Consider who you want present to share in your special moment. Family or close friends are the first obvious options, but choose your guest list carefully. “We were hired to provide a cocktail waiter at an apartment in preparation for a young groom to propose. However, he also invited three of his mates who turned up drunk and spoiled the moment minutes after he had prosed,” recalls Michael Riley, from Kubarz Beverage Catering Sunshine Coast.
4. Don’t steal someone else’s thunder: Golden rule: under no circumstances whatsoever should you propose at someone else’s wedding. Just don’t. Not only will the couple secretly (or not so secretly) resent you for stealing their limelight, but your partner might not feel comfortable celebrating to the fullest knowing that it might hog the attention. Same goes for baptisms, engagement parties and birthdays – unless it’s the baptism of the child you have together, or your parents’ party where you know they would think it was really special to have the engagement there.
5. Make it a great story: As well as asking to see the ring, as soon as you share with others the news of your engagement, people will ask to hear the story of the proposal – so make sure it is one you’re proud to tell, over and over again. (First tip in this regard: proposing during or post getting lucky is an absolute no-no. Make sure it’s an anecdote your partner can tell their mother.) If possible, make the proposal personal. Karl Schwantes, Managing Director of Xennox Diamonds, advises, “Understand that the proposal moment is something that your partner has been dreaming about for some time, maybe even before you met. So it is crucial to find out how she would like to be proposed to.” Again, think back to any past conversations about proposals, ask a trusted friend of your partner, or coincidentally watch YouTube proposal videos and see how your partner reacts to the different proposals. If that doesn’t give you any pointers, consider a romantic spot they’ve been meaning to go to, re-enacting your first date, or tying the proposal into one of your hobbies or interests. Recent bride Rachel explains that her boyfriend proposed with a message in a book: “The fact that he knew how important books were to me made it really personal.”
Can’t think of a way to make it personal? Then, at least make it cool! Michael Riley from Kubarz Beverage Catering Sunshine Coast adds, “One guy hired us to provide a mobile bar and cocktail bartender to set up on a secluded part of the beach, and then he brought his girlfriend to the spot via jetski and proposed. They drank celebratory cocktails at sunset.” Great story!
6. Get down on one knee: Soon after our Reflective Engagement, a colleague’s wife asked for the proposal story. Once I got to the “good bit”, she squealed, “Ooh, did he get down on one knee?” When I answered in the affirmative, she pouted and sighed, “My husband didn’t get down on one knee.” Right in front of her husband. Who I work with. Yikes. The proposal on one knee is possibly a cliche that’s been drilled into us, but your partner will absolutely be expecting you to do it and – clearly – will miss it if you don’t. However, there is absolutely no need to get down on both knees – you don’t want to look like you’re begging.
7. Give “the speech”: This will be one of the most romantic moments in your lives together; if you’re about to ask someone to marry you, now is a great time to tell them why you want to spend the rest of your life by their side. Perhaps it’s another staple of wedding proposals that’s been drilled into us, but again it’s something your partner will miss if you skip it. At my own proposal, I had no idea the question was about to be popped, but I did know my fiance was acting oddly. With a twinkle in my eye, I asked, “What are you up to?” He told me later that my question made him so nervous that he jumped over the speech and went straight to the proposal. I asked him what he’d been planning to say… but he said he couldn’t remember. 😦 I was so gutted that I didn’t get the speech!
So think about why you’re proposing and put pen to paper. Karl Schwantes from Xennox Diamonds recommends rehearsing your speech beforehand: “There generally isn’t a do-over button, so you want to make sure you say everything right the first time.”
8. Make it clear that you’re about to propose: My proposal caught me so much by surprise that I squealed “Really?!” (twice) before I said yes… not the reaction my partner was looking for. I’ve also heard stories of other couples where the proposee first asked if their partner was kidding, and immediately regretted saying it. The easy way to avoid this is to make it clear to your partner that a proposal is about to come; getting down on one knee, showing a ring and then giving a 30-second speech gives your partner time to realize what’s going on and to compose themselves. Remember, you’ve had lots of time to plan this moment and what you’re going to say; give them the opportunity to figure out a little speech as well, especially if you want them to say something more poignant than “Is this a joke?”. If you want to give them even more notice, activities beforehand like re-creating your first date, or going somewhere really romantic should put them on alert for a certain little question.
9. Get the “yes” before you put the ring on (but actually do put the ring on): Don’t put the ring on your partner before they’ve given an answer, in case they need time to consider your question. It will be so much sweeter to slip the ring on their finger when you have already gotten your yes! However, do actually make sure it is you who slips the ring on. My own groom got so frazzled during the proposal that he completely forgot that part, and so I had to take the ring and put it on myself.
10. If you can, get it on camera: It’s not a must, but you will earn major brownie points with your future spouse if you can capture your proposal on camera, especially their reaction and your celebration after the yes. It’s not unheard of to hire a professional photographer or videographer for engagements, though a less expensive option is to ask a friend to do the honors for you, with a telephoto lens from a safe distance. It could be someone with either fairly good skills or a fairly good camera, or perhaps someone your partner wouldn’t recognize – so you don’t give the game away too soon! Too tricky to capture the whole proposal? If you’re in a public spot, ask a passer-by to take a picture of you immediately post engagement (perhaps a waiter if you’re in a restaurant), or if there is no one else around try to take a selfie. Either way, it’ll be a great addition to a photo album, or definitely one to get framed!
Best of luck with your proposal, and for your lives ahead together!