Proposal Do's and Don'ts
(11/03/2020 | Categories:
| Wedding Traditions |
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
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?
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
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
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
DON'T be creepy
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
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
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
DO be considerate
- 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
- 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.