Proposal Do's and Don'ts

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by Jennifer Cram (11/03/2020  | Categories: | Wedding Traditions |
Billboard saying Roger, will you marry
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As you might imagine, over many years as a marriage celebrant I've heard every possible variation on the proposal story. I ask the couple to tell me the story, individually, and sometimes what each remembers differs hilariously from the story told by the other. And that includes who proposed.

In the 21st century more and more women are proposing. For same sex couples, who proposes can be a tricky exercise in timing rather than any notion of who should  be the one to propose.


A large proportion of proposals happen during "engagement season" - December, Christmas, and New Year, and on Valentine's Day.  So, if you're planning on proposing then you might feel pressured to come up with an ingenious way of popping the question. Regardless, there are some definite dos and don'ts to ensure a successful proposal.

DO consider your intended's personality

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Unless you are absolutely positive that your intended adores being the centre of attention, has no wish to keep intimate moments to themselves, and you've had a casual discussion about flash-mobs, on-screen proposals at the movies, billboards and signs hanging over freeway overpasses, or proposals that have involved celebrities etc and therefore you have a good idea that one of those wouldn't cause a complete freak-out moment, propose in private. Bear in mind that, for many people, just being asked in public puts the pressure on to say yes.  And you do want to be sure that the Yes is wholeheartedly meant, don't you?

DON'T over-plan

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Special days, like Valentine's Day, seem to prompt people to really go overboard. You don't need to stuff your proposal full of Hollywood movies special effects, or Broadway musicals castes of thousands, along with every gimmick you can come up with. Maybe one or two "big" surprises. But a few simple, heartfelt, words are also enough - and can be very memorable.

DO think of a way to make it a surprise

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Special days, like Valentine's Day, heighten the expectation that a proposal might be in the offing. So, if you're planning on the romantic dinner, spring the proposal before you sit down at the restaurant. Pro-tip: Don't wait until afterwards because disappointment might have already set in!

DON'T be cheesy or predictable

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Proposing over a romantic dinner in a restaurant with the ring hidden in something the waiter brings? So predictable it is cheesy. Ring wrapped up in layers and layers and boxes within boxes? So cheesy it is predictable once the first couple of layers comes off. Hide the ring in a ridiculous place - in a dessert, cupcake, box of chocolates, in a glass of bubbles? Not only cheesy, but there's every chance that your best beloved could break a tooth, or swallow it.  On the other hand, hiding the ring in a fortune cookie is pure genius - they aren't hard to make. Google. And if you must propose in a restaurant (second most popular proposal location after the home) do it with style. Choose a restaurant with a house piano player, request your song, and then quietly ask the question.

DO consider a photo or two

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Everyone is going to ask for the proposal story, so it would be nice to be able to show as well as tell. In a restaurant or cafe, as a waiter to take a photo as a momento, and pop the question at that moment. Ditto in a public place - better yet a memorable one. Ask a passing stranger. Conspire with them about your intention to propose (if you can without being overheard) so that they know what's coming and be ready for it.

Another way to document the proposal is to create a lasting artefact that is the proposal. Here are some ideas:
  • Make a picture book out of photos and other items that chart the progress of your relationship (like tickets, programs, notes, and cards). You can glue these into a scrapbook, or photograph the items and create a photo book using one of the many on-line sites available. Make the last page or two the proposal.
  • Buy a book of love poetry (yes, that bit is predictable ) and write love notes of your own, memories that you cherish, and phrases of significance to the two of you, in the margins throughout. Include the proposal - and not necessarily on the last page!
  • Start with a blank notebook - you can buy really nice hardbound one's at any newsagent - and write "Will you marry me" in a different language on every page Pro-Tip: Google Translate. with languages your best beloved understands on the last few pages. Intersperse with photos or other sentimental items.
  • Do you play cards? Write Will you marry me? on one of the cards, and make sure it is dealt to your intended. Frame it later.
  • Are you film fans? Present your best beloved with a DVD as you repeat the proposal lines from the movie or TV show episode - for example, Love Actually, Sex and the City, Gone with the Wind, and When Harry Met Sally all have well-known lines that are instantly recognisable. But with a bit of research and ingenuity you can come up with a different perfect choice .

DON'T be  creepy

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Have you ever cringed at one of those clips on social media showing someone faking an accident, serious illness, etc etc in order to scare their intended into saying yes? Just. Don't. Even. Think. Of. It.

DO take it in your stride if something goes awry

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There is every chance that your proposal won't go exactly as you've imagined it.  Whatever happens it will end up being part of your proposal story. And everyone loves those sorts of stories more than the perfect, predictable, proposal. So you might as well laugh and embrace the moment, whatever happens.

DON'T feel foolish if you get emotional

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You should be emotional. It's a big moment, so the asker has licence to be as emotional as the person being proposed to. Your visible emotion will make the moment even more endearing. But also, don't have expectations as to how your best beloved will react. If you've managed to pull it off as a total surprise the reaction could be anything from stunned silence, to full on screaming and jumping up and down, just go with the flow.

DO be considerate

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  • Choose to propose when you know your best-beloved will be nicely dressed and well-groomed (Though I was told one proposal story where, backpacking in India, both got a bad case of Delhi Belly, and were actually in the loo - a communal one - when he popped the question. Not romantic. No pictures, of course. But a great example of sticking together in sickness and for worse!)
  • Don't tell everyone about your intentions - someone is sure to have a big mouth and spoil the surprise
  • Don't hi-jack someone else's celebration. Don't propose at someone else's wedding, engagement party, birthday celebration etc
  • Don't do what looks like a possible big lead up to a proposal unless you actually intend to propose.

Jennxxx Talk to me soon about how
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