Dos and Don’ts of Marriage Proposals

Silhouette of Young Man with Engagement Ring Proposing to Woman


Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.
Disneyland Paris
Don A./Yelp

Planning to Pop the Question?

Deciding you want to spend forever with your significant other is a huge, exciting step. And planning a memorable marriage proposal takes a lot of time and thought. According to The Knot’s 2021 Jewelry & Engagement Study, engagement planning is back to pre-pandemic trends, with a majority of proposals planned more than a month out. Still, even the best-laid plans can go awry in the moment. One elaborate proposal was thwarted recently when an employee whisked away the engagement ring as well as the couple, who made the mistake of standing on a stage at Disneyland Paris. Here are some tips on what to do and what to avoid when asking that life-changing question.

Related: Romantic Vacation Rentals Across America

Young couple in a park

Make It Personal

There are so many ways to personalize your proposal and make it special for both you and your partner. Your relationship is unique, and that should be embraced, not overlooked. Think about going to a location that holds significant meaning, including your song, or emphasizing something that’s exclusive to the two of you. 

For more great lifestyle stories and tips, please sign up for our free newsletters.

Marry Me

Avoid Being a Copycat

With so many proposal videos circulating all over social media, it’s easy to become inspired. While it’s fine to take that inspiration and put your own spin on it, you should stay away from completely recreating something viral you’ve seen on the internet. Chances are, if you’ve seen it, so has your significant other. The last thing you want them to feel during your big moment is insignificant, which is the likely result if you replicate someone else’s milestone.

Related: Celebrity Marriages That Have Stood the Test of Time

Excited Gay Male Proposing To Metalhead Boyfriend In Park

Pick an Intentional Location

Both you and your partner will always remember the day you proposed. If you want to take things up a notch, think about picking a spot that you can revisit in the future. Proposing at a trendy restaurant might hold allure, but if that restaurant is gone one day, so is your chance to go back and bask in the nostalgia. Consider proposing at an outdoor location like a beach or a park so you can return one day for an anniversary or other romantic celebration.

Happy African American couple toasting during Thanksgiving meal in dining room.
Drazen Zigic/istockphoto

Don’t Put the Ring in Food

The ring comes in a box for a reason. It’s secured and safe inside the box you get from the jeweler. While it might seem cute to hide the ring in your loved one’s dessert or tie the ring to your dog’s collar, those ideas are mishaps waiting to happen.

Man is preparing to propose his girlfriend on a picnic

Consider Keeping It Private

Not everyone feels comfortable with a public spectacle. If your partner isn’t big on being the center of attention, it’s best to keep your proposal private. On the other hand, if they are someone who appreciates grand gestures, proposing in public might be the way to go. If you’re unsure which type of proposal your loved one would be comfortable with, it’s always safest to keep things intimate, especially since you know they enjoy alone time with you.

Telling her a little secret to keep

Keep Your Plans to Yourself

Engagements are exciting, and the thought of proposing might give you the urge to share your plans with friends and family. The unfortunate reality is that not everyone is good at keeping secrets, so try to avoid oversharing because it could spoil the surprise.

Friends on new year dinner party

Prioritize the Element of Surprise

When you’re planning your proposal, don’t forget to come up with a solid cover. Think of things that your future spouse would be excited to do or something they would be sure to participate in, like meeting family or friends for dinner or attending a party as your date. You might even be able to involve a trusted person to help throw your partner off. An unexpected proposal is always thrilling.

Businessman Ready To Depart Office Building On Bicycle

Consider Where Your Partner Is Coming From

Are you thinking about proposing on a weeknight to catch your partner off guard? Don’t overlook what the timing of your proposal might mean. If your significant other is meeting you for dinner right after work, they might be exhausted and craving a change of clothes. If they hit the gym right before your special plans, chances are they would prefer a shower before your life-changing moment. Try your best to keep them in the loop just enough without giving away what’s to come.

wedding portrait photographer taking photos of honeymoon couple on the beach

Arrange for Someone to Take Pictures

You don’t have to hire a professional photographer to capture your proposal, although that move is definitely becoming more common. Whether you commit to a professional or you rely on a trusted accomplice to snap some shots with their phone, having pictures of your proposal will give you and your beloved something tangible to remember your special moment.

Happy diverse couple walking on a rainy day

Ensure You Have a Backup Plan

Much like outdoor weddings, if you plan on proposing outside, you also need to plan on the weather working against you. While “The Notebook” made kissing in the rain look romantic, a downpour with thunder and lightning during your long walk on the beach could hinder your big plans. Make sure you think of an indoor alternative in case sunny skies are nowhere to be seen.

Young female leader, asia people lady or mba student happy standing smile look at in front of mirror pep talk for sale pitch hold paper document script public speak skill for job career self improve.

Practice What You’re Going to Say

You don’t need to have the perfect words and the most meaningful speech your future spouse has ever heard to make them feel your love. You should, however, think about what you want to say to them in that moment and practice it a couple of times. After all, you can’t exactly hold a piece of paper to read from, the ring box, and their hand all at once (not to mention eye contact is essential during your proposal). It’s natural to get nervous before you ask someone to marry you, and you don’t want to draw a blank or fumble your words.

Happy couple toasting with Champagne during dinner at dining table.
Drazen Zigic/istockphoto

Try Not to Sound Scripted

Yes, you want to practice what you’re going to say, but you also want your words to be heartfelt. Do not go into your proposal and sound like you’re reading from a teleprompter. Have an idea of what you want to express, but make sure it comes from your heart.

Woman proposing to her female partner in a city square

Do Not Stand

This one is a given: Get down on one knee. If you’ve ever watched a proposal and listened to someone’s heartfelt speech as they stand and look their partner lovingly in the eyes, you’ve also probably felt the anticipation of waiting for that exact moment when they reach into their pocket for the ring box and get down on one knee. Your significant other will more than likely know you’re proposing based on your words and the scene you’ve set for them, but once you kneel down, everything becomes real. That gesture is timeless and highly anticipated, so you definitely don’t want to miss the mark.

Sad black man complaining looking at wedding ring
Pheelings Media/istockphoto

Remain Calm

This one is easier said than done. If you allow yourself to be overcome by nerves, you might sweat profusely, develop a stutter, black out entirely, or do any number of embarrassing things to spoil your moment. Hopefully you have confidence going into your proposal and know that your significant other will say yes, so harness that awareness and keep your composure.

Summer dinner party

Think About What Happens After the Proposal

So much thought goes into the proposal itself, it’s easy to forget you’ll want to relish your happiness at getting engaged. Factor in some time afterward to celebrate together and to share your big news with family and friends.

Related: Gifts That Say 'I Love You'