The Essential Proposal Guide
The heart’s greatest pursuit is discovering true love. Some know right away when they’ve been struck by Cupid’s arrow – the world seems somehow brighter, the impossible seems suddenly doable, and that hole in your life you didn’t even know was there is suddenly filled. For others, it takes some time.
Regardless of how you discover that special someone with whom you want to spend the rest of your life, forever is a two-way street: you still have to ask them if they’ll take that journey with you. Marriage proposals are some of the most heavily weighed decisions of our life, but they can also be one of the most magical moments, too.
From choosing the setting to buying a ring to actually getting down on one knee, there’s a lot that goes into asking for their hand in marriage; if you want to make your marriage proposal as close to perfect as love can get, be sure to follow this guide to a memorable #ISaidYes moment.
Part One: Are You Sure You’re Sure?
Perhaps you’ve known from the very beginning that you wanted to spend your life with your partner. Perhaps it grew slowly, and now you can’t imagine your life without them. Or perhaps the light bulb in your heart suddenly turned on when you stumbled upon this blog.
However you came to the decision to propose, take sixty seconds – no more, no less – to answer this question: Are you sure?
Don’t waste time Googling “How to know if you’re sure you’re in love” – we just did and are now doubting everything about all the relationships we don’t even have. While there’s a bunch of different experts opining on this topic, the one thing they agree on is this: there’s no amount of research, articles or studies that can assure you that you are indeed in love.
So, whatever answer you landed on at the end of those sixty seconds, stick with it. The heart knows what the heart wants, even if your brain doesn’t always agree.
Next, make sure you partner is sure. That doesn’t mean drop everything and pop the question now! However, you two should probably have a few serious chats about marriage before you spring the idea on some perfect moonlit night. You two don’t have to work out all the details of your life together in advance, but you definitely want to know that when you ask, they’re going to say ‘yes’ and truly mean it.
For some couples, especially those head-over-heels types who knew from the moment they met they wanted to be together forever, conversations about kids and marriage and the white picket fence around the house on the hill (or lack thereof) might come as naturally as discussions about what’s for dinner. For others, taking that leap from talking about planning your next night out to planning your life together might not feel so natural.
While there’s no universal timeline for that conversation, studies by researcher Heather Setrakian, MA showed that on average couples decide to marry 2.8 years after they start dating. Don’t let that number scare you – Setrakian’s participants’ engagement dates ranged from a few months into dating to years. But if your relationship is well into its first or second year, you should at least casually start talking about the idea of marriage, kids, careers and what a future together would look like.
Once you’re sure that you’re sure, and you’re sure that they’re sure, it’s time to let their parents know. While the original function of this tradition has more or less gone away, it remains customary to ask their parents’ permission. In its 2015 “Jewelry and Engagement Study,” wedding site The Knot found that 77 percent of grooms asked permission from their bride’s father or parents before proposing, up from 74 percent in 2013 and from 71 percent in 2011.
Whether or not you’re into the tradition of asking your partner’s parents for permission before proposing, it will at least set your relationship with your future in-laws off on the right foot. Additionally, it provides a great opportunity to ask about heirloom rings in the family, in case your partner is the type to want something traditional or passed down.
But choosing the right ring is a wholly different step in the proposal process, and the next one on your list after getting the go-ahead (or not) from your partner’s parents.
Part Two: Put A Ring On It
It seems just like yesterday that Beyoncé won Song of the Year for her anthem, “Single Ladies,” the lyrics to which put it quite plainly that if a person liked who they were with then they should have put a ring on it.
Most of the rest of us are pretty blunt with our ring preferences, too. According to The Knot’s study, 71 percent of women admitted to dropping hints prior to the proposal, whether by pointing out styles when out shopping, specifically saying what they wanted, or leaving ads and pictures of their preferred styles lying around. It may take some of the surprise out of the moment, but if you want a surefire way to find a ring they’ll love without second-guessing, follow your partner’s guidance.
If she’s not as direct with what she wants, there are other ways to decide which ring to propose with. Take note of her jewelry and overall style, letting that guide you to your decision. Is she always decked out in bling? Does she only wear jewelry for special occasions? Does she have a classic look, or does she have her own unique style? Noticing these things can help you decide between something over-the-top and something simple and understated, and will ensure it’s something she’ll be proud to wear.
Say your bride-to-be is a sentimental person or is a lover of all things vintage. Is there a family heirloom she may be interested in? Even if the style isn’t exactly what you had in mind, most jewelers can place the stone into a setting more aligned with their tastes. This gives your bride-to-be the benefit of having something personalized to them, while also retaining that nostalgic value.
Before taking the plunge in buying a ring, you need to save up some cash. The Knot’s study highlighted that in 2015, the average amount spent on engagement rings was $5,978. As a general rule of thumb, it’s been said that your budget for the ring should be around two to three months of your annual income. While that’s a good guideline, it’s important to stay practical– don’t break the bank on an engagement ring without considering all the other costs associated with getting married.
Next step is to find her ring size. While there are many ways to go about it, the most common is finding a ring from her jewelry box and either tracing it on a piece of paper or taking it to a jeweler to determine the size. With that, there are a few precautions to take: make sure it’s a ring she wears often, and make note of the finger she tends to wear it on. If she’s a rightie, rings worn on her right-hand ring finger will be half a size bigger than the engagement ring should be. If it’s a ring she wears on her middle finger, your engagement ring should be about a full size smaller. When in doubt, ask the jeweler for advice or buy a size slightly larger with the intentions of resizing it after the proposal.
Keeping all that in mind, it’s time to go on the hunt. Search several jewelry stores — from big name brands to local shops — and see what speaks to you. Keep your checklist of criteria on hand, and maybe bring a female friend or two along for some extra help. Most important, don’t rush it. The Knot’s study notes that men have said it took an average of 4.8 months of research and 3.6 months to find the perfect engagement ring, after visiting five retailers and looking at around 25 rings before purchasing “the one.” Such a momentous occasion deserves a sufficient amount of time dedicated to it, so don’t settle.
Part Three: Prep The Proposal
You’re sure about proposing, you’re sure about the ring, now it’s time to figure out how you want that special moment to go.
No matter how you choose to propose to your loved one, there are a few things to keep in mind when considering dropping to one knee.
First, when planning your proposal, make sure to have an open guideline for the day. Book all necessary transportation ahead of time, make sure everything is set, and practice, practice, practice. Avoid as much stress and surprises with a solid plan that covers the whole day and not just the moment of it.
With that said, be sure to schedule in some wiggle room and have a backup plan. Life is hectic, and you can never be sure what curveball will be thrown your way the day you’re planning to ask your partner to marry you. Don’t let one little misstep ruin your proposal, especially if the moment is still right.
Next up, make sure you’re prepared. Other than any big surprises you have in store, be sure to think of all the facets that go into that special moment, like considering what you’re going to say, how to transition to the proposal, and even how you’re going to hide the ring. You can choose to store the box in your pocket, or use a product like Ring Stash, which gives you a sleek and simple alternative to using the bulky ring box your jeweler will provide. Another option is to forego the box entirely, but do so at your own risk — we’ve heard too many stories of losing the ring while en route to the proposal!
While one of the most common times to propose is at night, think about proposing earlier in the evening. You’ll be able to let go of your nerves early on and have ample time to celebrate afterwards, whether it’s with music, flowers, champagne, or bringing in family and friends.
If you want to document the moment, consider hiring a professional photographer instead of handing your camera phone to Aunt Betty, or worse, a nearby stranger! No matter if it’s a big, public proposal or an intimate, private one, hiring a professional photographer to capture the moment they say ‘yes’ will give you genuine and candid pictures of a milestone you’ll both want to remember. By enlisting the help of a professional, you can be certain the pictures will be high-quality and exactly as you envisioned. Another benefit of having a professional is that the photographer can remain hidden, not revealing themselves to you and your loved one, so that the moment is as private for you two as possible and still a total surprise!
One last thing to keep in mind when planning your proposal: a recent study conducted by The Knot and Men’s Health showed that 26 percent of engaged women wished their proposal had been “more romantic, original, or personal.” If you’re thinking about doing something truly big, your creativity and effort won’t go unnoticed. Just make sure it’s something you know she’d love and fits her personality; i.e., don’t do something public if she’s a private person.
Part Four: Bending The Knee
After all your planning, preparing and practicing, the moment you’ve been waiting for arrives — the proposal.
No matter what you say after dropping to one knee, speak from the heart. Going into the moment with a script can lead to awkward pauses as you try to remember the exact phrasing you had written down, while sticking to a general idea makes the moment genuine and special.
Along with that, remember to keep it simple — proposals can be emotional events, and you don’t want to fumble over your words while getting choked up, effectively making them unintelligible. Tell her how much you love her, how you feel and why you want to spend forever together. Anything more and you’ll lose your train of thought.
When you’re in the moment, make the best of the circumstances and don’t overthink things. Planning to propose outdoors before getting rained out? Roll with it and move the plan indoors. If she wants to marry you, she’ll be excited no matter the setting. Instead of getting stressed over things you can’t control, remember what’s most important–you’re in love and are going to spend your life together. If something unexpected happens and kills the mood, don’t sweat it. Stay adaptable.
Last but not least, be sure to actually ask them to marry you. Lots of people get swept up in the moment and move on to the celebration without actually popping the question. Even if you know she’s going to say yes, you want to reaffirm that this is a mutual decision. Much like Bachelor Nick Viall asking each contestant to accept his rose, this is a two-way street, and it’s important that she’s just as enthusiastic about this event as you are.
You did it! Your heart finally discovered its true love. Congratulations to you and your beloved on your journey – it’s just the beginning!
Share your own proposal stories with us in the Comments section! If you’re planning your own big day and want an original song to help make the moment even more magical, tell us your own unique love story and we’ll create a one-of-a-kind song just for you and your future fiance.