Proposing is a wonderful thing, but it’s also a challenge. You basically have to conceive, plan and pull off something that is going to be enormously important to someone else, without getting their input in advance. You know it has to be supremely romantic, but that may mean one thing to you and something else to your intended.
Some women think the fading evening light on a bridge across the Seine is the magical place for you to ask for her hand. Others may prefer an expensive candlelit dinner. Some will want a man to propose by taking a bended knee, while others would prefer you to ride into her village on a white horse and sweep her off her feet (which, if you think about it, is basically abducting her. Women are strange.)
The point is, there are infinite “right” ways to propose. Here are 9 wrong ways.
Number 1: Don’t Go Public (Unless She’s An Exhibitionist)
A wedding proposal is among the most intimate moments in life. Even if she’s been pushing you to pop the question, she will be nervous. So give your proposal the privacy it deserves. The most public you want to go is a booth in a romantic restaurant, ideally one of the semi-circular curved booths so that nobody can see her as her mascara starts running from all her tears of joy.
(Of course, if she is the type of person who gets self-validation from the reactions of large crowds of complete strangers, then by all means make it public. The bigger the better. Try to get on the Jumbotron during a football game, or crash a presidential press conference, or propose in a white Bronco during one of those slow Hollywood police chases. If she’s up for it, all bets are off.)
Number 2: Don’t Treat Your Proposal Like a Comedy Routine
We understand: you’re funny. But even if you are Jerry Seinfeld, this isn’t the right moment to crack wise. You have to be serious for at least 45 seconds. She may have been dreaming of this moment since she was a little girl, so don’t play it for laughs. You can, of course, keep that smile in your eyes, because that’s why she fell in love with you in the first place. But resist the temptation to end with a joke.
Number 3: Don’t Get Physical
It is never wise to propose on a unicycle or while performing acrobatics of any kind. Likewise, do not propose while on top of a ladder, or hanging from a rock climbing harness. You should never get down on one knee while riding a skateboard, unless you are very good at that sort of thing. Do not propose while hang-gliding, parasailing or kite-sailing. Basically, if getting distracted can get you killed, don’t get distracted.
Number 4: Don’t Be Ambiguous
You can surprise her, but don’t confuse her. If she even thinks for a second that the whole thing is a setup, that you’re filming an episode of Punk’d for instance, the moment will be ruined. First of all, that show’s been off the air for a long time. Second, what she expects is a clear, serious, honest declaration of love.
Number 5: Don’t Take Unnecessary Risks
Do not propose on a dangerously threadbare rope bridge in the mountains of Peru. First of all, rope bridges are notoriously unreliable. There is a high probability that when you take the engagement ring out, the bridge will begin to shake violently, the ropes will snap and you, your ring, and your girlfriend will fall into a jungle chasm. At night, when you forage for food on your broken legs, you will be struck in the throat by a poison dart fired by an irate member of the indigenous population. Engagement ruined.
Number 6: Don’t Be Too Clever When Presenting the Ring
The best way to give her the ring is to hand it to her, either while standing or on one knee, while looking directly into her eyes. Don’t try to slip her the ring in some elaborate way you can brag about later, such as hiding the ring in the crème brulee while she is in the restroom. Either she will choke to death or, worse, not notice that she has swallowed your ring. Recovering that ring without letting her know about it will be an extremely difficult, unpleasant, and potentially relationship-ending process.
Number 7: Don’t Propose in Zero Gravity, During a Total Eclipse, or at the Top Of Mount Everest
Don’t try to combine one “once in a lifetime” experience with another. For most people, zero gravity will be something they experience once–if they experience it at all. Such an experience should be savored to the fullest. Equally, the first time a woman is proposed to is an experience that she should be allowed to enjoy without distraction. It’s an amazing moment: don’t detract from it with another amazing moment.
(A special note specific to zero gravity: not everybody takes well to sudden weightlessness. You may find yourself and your beloved drifting slowly in a nauseating spin, unable to discern the floor from the ceiling. Beware of losing your orientation. Your instincts will take over, and your brain will tell you, ‘You’re falling, reach out and catch yourself.’ Your arms and legs will flail wildly. Eventually, of course, weightlessness will cause your bones and muscles to weaken, and, after several months, both you and your bride will be reduced to puddles of space Jell-O. This, too, will ruin your proposal.)
Number 8: Don’t Risk Someone Else’s Life
If you ever watched ER or Grey’s Anatomy, you know there’s always one scene where a doctor declares his love for a nurse while in the middle of some complex emergency procedure. Refrain from such astonishingly unprofessional behavior. If you are a cardiothoracic surgeon, for instance, do not propose while performing triple bypass surgery. There is a small but serious likelihood you will drop your ring into the patient’s superior vena cava, which can impede blood flow to the heart and increase pressure in the veins of the face and arms. This causes edema and phlebitis. Nobody finds phlebitis romantic.
Number 9: Don’t Propose When You’re Mentally Impaired.
Don’t propose while you are drunk. It’s understandable to have one or two or three or four cocktails, just to relax and loosen up. But stop while you are still able to walk without holding onto a railing. If you black out, and suddenly come to and don’t know where you are, don’t propose. You are talking to the leg of a table.