Congratulations — you’re ready to ask your partner to marry you! An engagement is the first step to spending forever with your special person. While you may already be dreaming of romantic ways to pop the question, there are still a few things you need to know about how to propose like a pro.
Even the most simple proposals tend to require advance planning. But don’t stress! Whether you’re popping the question during engagement season — the festive period between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day when a majority of marriage proposals take place — or aiming for a warm weather proposal, our guide will help you get started. Here’s everything you need to know about how to propose (successfully!), from choosing the perfect location to deciding what to say during the actual moment.
Table of Contents
- Pre-Proposal Conversations with Your Partner
- Talking to Family Members
- Getting Their Ring Size
- Setting a Budget
- Buying a Ring
- Hiring a Proposal Planner
- Choosing a Date and Time
- Selecting a Proposal Location
- Planning a Photographer
- Deciding Who Will Be There
- How to Propose with the Right Words
- After the Proposal
Pre-Proposal Conversations with Your Partner
The first step is to talk about marriage openly with your significant other. Ask them how they feel about your relationship and the prospect of spending the rest of your lives together. Try: “How do you envision our future together?” or “Do you think this is the right time in our lives to consider marriage?” You can also inquire about milestones or experiences they’d like to experience before getting married. It’s an easier, more casual way to gather insight and also help establish a potential timeline for a proposal.
It’s very possible to keep the engagement a surprise while still making sure they’re aligned on your future plans. Getting engaged is a major step in your relationship, so taking the time to have an honest conversation with them will help prevent an unexpected “no.”
Talking to Family Members
Informing your loved ones (on both sides) about your proposal plans is a courtesy they’ll deeply appreciate. Your spouse-to-be may even want you to ask for their parent’s blessing. Remember to speak from the heart and tell their parents how much you love their child. If there’s a chance you might not receive the reaction you want, have the conversation in private rather than public. Be mentally prepared for all scenarios.
Talking to your families also means that you can let them know about your proposal ideas in advance. You may even want to involve them in the actual event or recruit them to help you pull off the ultimate surprise. Avoid divulging too many details about the proposal, however — we all know that loved ones can have a tendency to overshare when excited!
Getting Their Ring Size
Some couples prefer to try on rings together in person, which makes quickly jotting down their ring size a breeze. If you’re committed to preserving the element of surprise, discreetly obtaining their ring size is an essential step. You will likely need to get creative in your approach, so here are a few ideas:
- Purchase an inexpensive ring and have your partner try it on
- Borrow one of their rings that’s similar to the size of their left finger
- Draw a circle on the inside and outside of their ring on a piece of paper
- Enlist one of their friends to ask them nonchalantly
Setting a Budget
When budgeting for your proposal, costs can add up. Allocating funds for the engagement ring (if you’re buying one) and ring box are often at the top of the list, but you may need to utilize outside vendors as well. It’s common to book a professional photographer to capture the special moment or even hire a proposal planner to help execute your dream vision.
Other miscellaneous proposal costs may include transportation, accommodations or additional elements like flowers or decorations for the actual proposal. Setting a budget within your financial means will help eliminate any surprise expenses. It not only contributes to a stress-free proposal experience, but will give you some practice in creating a wedding budget!
Buying a Ring
If a ring is in the cards, think about whether you’d prefer a custom style or one that’s already designed for you. A bespoke ring should be purchased at least two to three months before your proposal date, while a pre-designed ring can usually be bought the month before. Always consult your jeweler to get an accurate timeline while you’re shopping.
As for how much to spend on an engagement ring, the exact number depends. Our experts reveal the average cost of a one-carat diamond ring is between $3,500 and $6,500, but there are myriad factors that can influence that number. The type of stone you choose, such as natural vs. lab-grown diamonds or a diamond alternative, as well as the material of the band can both dramatically change how much you can expect to pay.
Hiring a Proposal Planner
Yes, proposal planners do exist! If your budget allows, hiring someone to oversee the planning process could be extremely helpful if you’re envisioning an elaborate setup. A professional planner can also help brainstorm marriage proposal ideas and turn your romantic vision into a lower-stress reality.
From scouting locations and coordinating vendors to ensuring the event unfolds smoothly, it’s a proposal planner’s job to take care of the intricate details. While this service is an extra cost, proposal planning provides peace of mind and assurance that your moment is being expertly handled.
Choosing a Date and Time
When selecting a date for the perfect proposal, you can choose a specific day with personal significance or align it with another major event. A date filled with meaning can make the proposal special, but don’t feel pressure to find the perfect day. Sometimes, the most magical moments can unfold unexpectedly.
The location, season and your personal preferences are just a few factors to think about when setting your proposal time. For instance, if you want your proposal to be outdoors, you may want to take advantage of a sunset or sunrise to capture the natural ambiance. Some couples may like the idea of daytime proposals, while others may appreciate the charm of evening proposals. A few popular dates to pop the question include:
- Anniversaries: Invite them to be a part of your forever on a special anniversary. This could be a day commemorating your first date or the moment you both realized you were in love. Another heartfelt option is to propose on the anniversary of either of your parents’ weddings.
- Birthdays: The celebratory nature of birthdays makes them an ideal occasion for marriage proposals. It also presents the chance to involve loved ones in the festivities. Consider leveraging existing plans or hosting a surprise party to make the experience one to remember.
- Holidays: The holiday season is a festive and joyous time for engagements. Embrace the celebratory spirit and pop the question during Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s Day. What makes this time even more special is that you’re likely to already find yourself surrounded by loved ones.
- Major Milestones: Other notable milestones include celebrating a personal or professional achievement, such as completing a degree, landing a dream job or achieving a personal goal. You could also honor a big moment in your relationship, like moving in together for the first time or purchasing your first home.
Selecting a Proposal Location
When thinking about how to propose, choosing a location is crucial. Some people may prefer a private and intimate setting for an engagement, while others enjoy the idea of a public proposal. The key to success is focusing on where you feel the most comfortable and confident (and it doesn’t hurt to have a plan B in case things don’t turn out exactly as planned!). Another idea is to select a place that holds significance in your relationship, such as your favorite vacation destination. To get you inspired, here are a few of our favorite proposal locations:
- Home proposal: Whether you’re cooking their favorite meal or setting up a backyard picnic, your home is perhaps the most personal place to pop the question.
- First date proposal: Return to the place where your love began. Proposing at the location of your first date is a sentimental way to honor the beginning of your relationship and celebrate how much your love has grown.
- Outdoor proposal: Nature provides a breathtaking and budget-friendly backdrop for outdoor marriage proposals, from glowing beach sunsets to picturesque mountainsides.
- Destination proposal: Planning a destination proposal adds an extra layer of excitement. You could revisit where you took your first trip together or venture to a new location, symbolizing your next chapter as a couple. Need inspiration? We’ve compiled a guide to the best places to propose in the U.S., from Arizona’s high desert to Zion National Park.
Planning a Photographer
To get those picture-perfect candid shots, consider hiring a proposal photographer to capture the surprise. Many wedding photographers also shoot proposals, so you could even use this as an opportunity to test-drive a vendor for your engagement photos or wedding day. Once you’ve hired someone, tell them about your vision and your proposal location.
Another cost-effective option is to ask a family member or friend to take photos of your proposal or record a video on their phone. (Remember, you’ll also have the chance to schedule formal engagement photos later with your partner.) If you prefer to have a private proposal at home or in a location without any documentation, that’s okay, too. Always do what feels best for you!
Deciding Who Will Be There
Some couples may want this romantic moment to unfold in a private space so they can savor the moment without outside distractions. But if having your family present is significant to you both, there are creative ways to involve them while maintaining the element of surprise.
In the case of a flash mob, surprise party or family photo shoot, for example, family inclusion is not only appropriate but often vital to the plan’s success. Your loved ones can also play a supportive role in helping you organize and carry out the proposal, be it running errands on the day or keeping your significant other occupied for a few hours while you decorate a space.
However, telling others your plans means you’ll need to be discreet. Maintain the surprise proposal by only sharing information on a need-to-know basis. Emphasize the importance of the proposal and how you’ll need secrecy from them to not give away the surprise. Also, remember to openly communicate with family members and future in-laws throughout the process, especially if plans shift, to preserve the magical moment you’ve been anticipating.
How to Propose with the Right Words
After finalizing the proposal details, it’s time to consider what you’ll say during the big moment. Your words should be not only memorable and thoughtful but also deeply personal and tailored to your relationship. Some may find it helpful to prewrite their sentiments, while others may want to fully embrace the spontaneity of the moment.
Before you pose a version of the question, “Will you marry me?” remember to articulate your feelings for your spouse-to-be. Expressing these emotions can be overwhelming. Whether you’d prefer to keep things brief or present your thoughts with a lengthy speech, here are 5 top tips for what to say.
- Declare your love: Begin by expressing your love and appreciation for your partner. Highlight what you love about them and explain how your affection has only deepened over time.
- Reflect on your journey: Take a stroll down memory lane and reminisce about your relationship together. Acknowledge significant milestones as well as any challenges you’ve conquered together that have made your bond stronger.
- Share your intentions: Communicate your intentions and express why you’re ready to take the step toward marriage. Speak from the heart about the vision you have for your shared future and what you hope to accomplish in life together.
- Present the ring: If a ring is part of the proposal, present the sparkler to your partner. Share any symbolism or sentiment behind it, whether it’s a family heirloom that was passed down or a piece that you picked out together. Share why this engagement ring represents your commitment.
- Pop the question: Conclude with your heartfelt proposal. Whether you opt for the classic “Will you marry me?” or craft a personalized statement, make it clear to your partner that you are asking to marry them. Once they accept, place the ring on their left hand on their ring finger.
After the Proposal
Once the question is asked and they say “yes,” it’s time to celebrate! If it feels natural to reflect on the moment’s significance in private with your partner, that’s perfectly fine. But you may find joy in being surrounded by family and friends. Check out a few ideas for what to do in the hours, days and weeks following the big question.
- Share the news: Whether it’s FaceTime with family members or a small gathering with close friends, your loved ones will want to express their congratulations and well wishes. Pro tip: A personal phone call or message goes a long way. Don’t post on social media until your closest friends and family have heard the news straight from you.
- Go out to dinner and celebrate: Dine at your favorite restaurant or try a new one to commemorate the occasion. A romantic dinner provides an intimate setting to reflect on the engagement, your relationship and exciting plans for the future.
- Stay in together: Staying in for a special, intimate evening can be just as meaningful. Cook a favorite meal, enjoy a cozy movie night or simply bask in each other’s company as you enter this new and exciting stage together.
- Throw an engagement party: Want to celebrate your engagement on a larger scale? Plan an engagement party! This offers a chance to bring together friends and family and formally announce your marriage plans.
When you’re ready to start prepping for the big day, Joy can be your go-to resource for all things wedding-related. From designing a personalized wedding website and creating an all-in-one registry, Joy’s easy-to-use tools will help make your wedding planning experience easy, enjoyable and uniquely personal.
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