I love proposals. I love them almost as much as weddings. Traditional down-on-one-knee with a ring setup? Love it. Chill, spontaneous proposal on the couch? Yes. Scavenger hunt around the city that leads to your beloved offering you a sword instead of jewellery? Can’t get enough.
(That last one was a true story, though. My friends are cool as hell.)
If you’ve made the decision to propose to your partner, congratulations! Welcome to the first stages of proposal planning. While you’re here, I’ll be offering you a ten-point guide to get your creative juices flowing and start narrowing down the aspects of your proposal. Ideally, this will help you create a framework for what will become a beautiful memory for you and your partner.
If you find that you’re really struggling, and you have the time and the money, consider a consultation with a wedding planner. Many of us are happy to help you put together (or execute!) a proposal plan. I know I am!
1. Are you certain that your partner will say yes? Look, I’m not here to tell you how to live your life. But unless your proposal is meant to be a joke that fits comfortably into the context of your relationship, I would suggest NOT popping the question unless you’re positive that your partner will say yes. This may seem like a given, but it’s extremely awkward for both parties when someone proposes and their partner says no. That’s exactly why this is point number one on this list.
2. Is there anything that you know your partner specifically DOES NOT WANT? This may seem like a no-brainer: Don’t propose on a camping trip if your partner hates camping. Don’t propose in a hot air balloon if your partner is afraid of heights. But there’s more to it than that. For example: Some people hate surprises. That would be a good place to start. Another example: Some people are uncomfortable with public displays of affection, which leads us to…
3. Public, Private, or Semi-Private? This is really important to think about. Does your partner love grand, romantic, public gestures? Or are they easily embarrassed by that type of thing? Would they be happier with a private moment, with no onlookers? Or would they prefer a middle ground? Some people love the idea of a proposal in front of family or friends. Others might cringe just thinking about it.
4. Do they want to look cute? Some people don’t care what they’re wearing when they’re being proposed to. But it’s extremely common for people to want to look nice (or at least not be wearing pajamas) when they experience something so important. This criteria can range anywhere from, “I just don’t want to be wearing sweatpants” to “I want the perfect outfit, styled hair, AND flawlessly manicured hands.” It’s an entire spectrum- and all preferences are valid!
5. Think about location. Are there any important spots for you and your partner? The locations of first dates, first kisses, and first meetings are all tried and true ideas. Alternatively, is there a particular aesthetic you’re going for? A park full of Autumn foliage or flowering trees; a private booth in a dim, wood-panelled steakhouse; a Summer pergola draped with string lights; a bridge covered in snow and candles… What comes to mind when you think of proposing?
6. What are your partner’s interests? Do you want to give your proposal a “theme”, or do you just want to add a little flavour to your plans? For example: If your partner loves cats, you could rent the space in a cat café, give the staff a collar for one of the cats that says “MARRY ME?”, and make a game of learning the cats’ names until they come upon the one wearing the special collar/tag. (This is all just off the top of my head… honest! Also, if you choose to do this, I will not be held responsible if you decide to adopt the cat afterwards. But I WILL accept pictures. Lots of them.) Alternatively, if you only wanted a touch of feline flair, you could present the ring (or other gift) in a cat-themed box or package, or you could give the evening’s dessert an impromptu pair of edible cat ears or drawn-on whiskers. Have fun with your ideas, whatever your partner is into!
7. What is your budget? Take a look at your bank account and think about what a realistic budget for your proposal would be. Don’t get discouraged if it’s small (or nonexistent)– you don’t need a lot of money for something memorable and romantic! In fact, there are plenty of free things you can do that would have a big impact. And don’t be afraid to ask for help!
8. Look to your loved ones. Who has skills that you’re able to draw on? More importantly, can they keep a secret? Don’t be afraid to talk to your (trusted) artist friends, or anyone who may be able to help you pull off your proposal. If they don’t offer to help you for free and you’re unable to pay them with cold, hard cash, ask if they would be open to a trade or an exchange of some sort. And as always, be prepared to accept no for an answer! You never know what’s going on in other people’s lives, and everyone deserves fair compensation. If they aren’t able to give you what you need, thank them for their time and try another avenue. It’s nothing personal!
9. To ring or not to ring? Does your partner like the idea of a ring? Would they prefer a different type of jewellery? Would they prefer a different gift altogether? Or would they rather do away with the gift thing entirely? Don’t be afraid to stick it to tradition. Whether that means getting a non-diamond ring, an axe (again, true story. Again, they’re awesome), or nothing at all! If you do choose to propose with a gift, however, do give some thought to how you want to present it and how you’re going to keep it hidden until the right moment.
10. Should you hire a human with a camera? Some people don’t really care for the idea of having their proposal photographed or filmed. For others, it’s extremely important. Not everyone hires a photographer or videographer for the big moment, but it’s worth thinking about if you have the budget for one. Having the memory of the moment your partner officially said “yes” captured on film is wonderful. It’s an image or video you can cherish and revisit years in the future, and something you can show your loved ones (and if you’re into having children, you can show them, too!).