You know the “Reset” button? When you’re playing Grand Theft Auto and you get pistol-whipped, you can just hit Reset, start a few levels back, and then resume killing cabbies.
Most of your engagement has a reset button. Not the proposal. You can’t undo it. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Assuming she accepts, she’ll describe every detail–from the salad dressing to the roses to the way your voice quivered–again and again to everyone she has ever met. She’ll blog it. Facebook it. Twitter it.
In some ways, the proposal is bigger than the wedding itself. No pressure, but your life hangs in the balance. Follow the 10 Commandments of Popping the Question:
1. You Shouldn’t Be Surprised…
Like a good lawyer, don’t ask the question unless you know the answer. And if you don’t know the answer, consider whether you’ve given your courtship enough time. (Hint: you haven’t.)
2. …But She Should
You must surprise her. That’s the game. If you talked about getting married last week, then when you say, “Hey. Um. I was thinking…maybe we could go on a hot-air balloon ride together. My buddies were saying it’s fun,” there’s a decent chance that she’ll crack your code. Keep your cards close to your chest. Don’t tell too many friends. Lie.
3. Only Go Public If It’s a Lock
If there’s any uncertainty, popping the question in front of 16,000 Yankees fans could either: 1) be the most humiliating moment of your life; or 2) force her to croak out a “yes” that she (and you) will later regret. In any event, think very, very hard before making a public proposal.
See also: Romantic Proposal Ideas That Don’t Suck
This helps you dodge clichés. As much as you might be tempted to go to www.800uniqueproposalideas.com, there is nothing unique about the ideas you find on the Internet. You already know everything you need for a memorable proposal.
Think about her interests and then tailor your proposal accordingly. It shows that you actually know her, love her, get her. If she’s a tree-hugging outdoors freak, then incorporate a hike, camping trip, or hide it in her bowl of granola. (Kidding on the granola, which brings us to…)
5. Guard the Ring Like It’s Your Precious
No brainer, right? But it’s shocking how many guys hatch some bold, creative plan that ends up with the ring lost in the garbage. Plan nothing that risks the rock. Don’t bury it on a beach. I don’t care how much she loves “The Claw,” don’t toss it in the machine and have her try and get it out. There’s a fine line between creativity and stupidity. Don’t go near that line.
6. Take a Knee
Corny? Maybe a little. But essential. By taking a knee, you fulfill the vision that she’s had since she was a very little non-ironic girl. Also, her girlfriends will specifically ask her whether you got down on a knee. Let her answer the right way.
7. Keep Heavy Eye Contact
It shows you mean it. It shows confidence. Lock onto her eyes and never glance away. Just like in poker, a nervous glance to the side is a “tell” that could lose you the hand. (To clarify: blinking is allowed. It won’t cost you the “yes,” and besides, staring at her without blinking will make you look like a serial killer.)
8. Actually Have a Ring
Remember Lumbergh from Office Space? We once had a boss like him. Even though he made good money and could easily afford a ring, he didn’t feel like waiting for the jeweler, so he popped the question sans diamond. His strategy? He printed out a picture of a generic wedding ring–in black and white, even–and scribbled “I.O.U.” on the paper. Yeeeeaaaaaahh. Don’t be Lombard. Bring the loot. If you’re looking for a ring, we recommend you check out James Allen.
We can almost hear Allen Iverson: “Practice? Practice?!? We talkin’ about practice!?!?!” Yes. Practice. Rehearse your shtick in advance. Look in the mirror. Propose to your dog. Say it in the shower. It’s embarrassing and you’ll feel like a moron, but it’ll give you more confidence in the big moment.
10. The Setting Trumps Size
Ambiance is key. It’s better to have an outdoor, intimate, candlelit picnic than a lavish, $600 dinner at a “hot new restaurant” that blares hip-hop. It can be pricey or cheap, small or big, private or public, but the atmosphere must brim with romance. We’re often wary of the “cheese factor” and shy away from roses and their ilk. But not here.
Guess what? In a marriage, if you’re given 10 rules that really means you have (at least) 11. So here’s one more:
We know. This seems like a paradox. But as long as you’ve thought this through—planned things to a T, ensured she’ll say yes, practiced in the shower—you’ll be fine. For real. Don’t worry about stuttering or sweating or flubbing the lines. Even if you stumble over your words and have pit-stains like Ted Striker in Airplane, don’t worry, she’ll find it endearing. That said, wear an undershirt.
This is it. This is the one moment that belongs only to you and her. Make it last. This is one of the most intimate memories that you will ever share with anyone, anytime, anywhere. This is the calm before the storm, the slice of tranquility before you make 200 calls to the family, friends, and vendors. It’s the final truly quiet moment until your wedding. Savor it. Then follow our advice on how to announce the scary-but-blissful news.
One Note on Timing…
Timing matters. The month of your proposal could impact the length of the engagement. If you want a long engagement, for example, propose in the spring–there’s a good chance she can’t whip together a summer event, so presto, you’ve got more than a year for planning. Conversely, if you propose in the winter, you could conceivably be a husband by the first day of spring. For more thoughts on the length of your engagement, click here.
Need some actual concrete, specific proposal ideas? Get the full rundown here.
Obviously, this all assumes you actually have an engagement ring. Still looking? Check out The Plunge’s ring buying guide.