Sure, the sunset-on-the-beach proposal is a romantic classic when it comes to proposals, but let’s be honest, it’s also a bit generic. So too is the top-of-the-mountain proposal and the famous-thing-in-the-background proposal. They’re not bad; they’re just unoriginal. Yes, some people love ‘em. Increasingly, however, would-be-grooms are trying to develop unique proposals, or at least creative proposals that have a personal stamp.
We’ve compiled the most memorable proposal ideas we’ve ever seen, whether private or public, supported by family (and dogs) or in front of total strangers, and from simple home ideas to more complex ones — indoors, outdoors, on a beach, mountaintop, garden, golf course, boarding gate, and in one case, on the Titanic.
It’s more elaborate than it sounds: In this case, the groom-to-be, Justin Lebon knew that his girlfriend Michal Ott loved playing Monopoly, but their game was missing a few pieces. Solution: He created a custom board (made of wood) and rigged it with allusions to places that have significance to both of them (replacing “Park Place” etc.). He also created custom “Chance” cards and, for extra cool points, hid the ring in a secret compartment. Read the full proposal story.
Cards Against Humanity
Coming up with a customized version of a game card for your proposal is nothing new, but it takes a special sense of chutzpah to do it with Cards Against Humanity. If you’ve never played the game, it works like this: every hand, the dealer lays down a black card, which features a phrase with one or more blanks. Your job is to fill in the blanks with one or more of the white cards in your hand to create the most hilariously offensive phrase possible. It’s designed for a drunken game night among friends, not a romantic proposal.
Fortunately, there are plenty of sites online where you can create your own CAH cards. The combination pictured here is sweet, but be careful: a slight mix up in the shuffling and your proposal might say something like “The last thing I expected from my boyfriend was assless chaps.” That’s an entirely different type of ask.
The Running Route Proposal
Show you’re really willing to work for that “yes” with a variation of this running-heavy workout. A combination of cutting edge GPS technology and good old-fashion physical sweat, this proposal involves creating a running (or biking, or walking) route that literally spells out your question to your fiancé. Then, you actually have to travel the path in order to register the message on your fitness tracker or phone. Practical considerations will probably limit you to no more than a few words—”Marry Me?” or “Be My Wife?”–but we think she’ll get the message.
Normally, we don’t go for the fake emergency that turns out to be a proposal, but this one is so easy-going that we don’t mind. Clearly, the woman in this video realizes she’s in no danger, but having her boyfriend come in dressed as a fireman and sweeping her off her feet is a romantic moment no matter how you cut it. Quick note: do not attempt this if you think there’s any chance you’ll drop her along the way. It will definitely ruin the mood.
The Internet Meme Proposal
The internet is constantly throwing up new memes and “challenges” that can be fruitfully incorporated into your proposal. While we would advise you to stay away from the more dangerous/disgusting ones, like the “Cinnamon” challenge or the “Shell On” challenge, some of the more tame ones could serve you well. For example, the Mannequin challenge, from way back in 2016. Here the intended proposal target is taken totally unawares by an unexpected pose.
The Taylor Swift Meet-And-Greet Proposal
This one relies on a lot of “ifs.” IF Taylor Swift is on tour, and IF you can get tickets, and IF you get there early enough to get on the meet-and-greet line, and IF Taylor happens to pick you, you MAY have a chance to propose to your partner and end up on Taylor’s Instagram. Of course, there is nothing that says you have to do this with Taylor Swift. People have done it while meeting Rihana, Britney Spears, Celine Dion, and Kelly Clarkson.
Helicopter on a Golf Course Proposal
Certain entrances are, in normal life, intolerably douchey, but somehow work when it comes to proposals. Landing on a golf course in a helicopter is one of them. If you pulled this when meeting friends for lunch, or for a business meeting, we’d write you off as a pretentious, richy-rich coglione. But somehow, it’s just the sort of crazy, over-the-top gesture that fits the crazy, over-the-top step you’re about to take.
Crossword Puzzle Proposal
Nerdy guys know that the way to a nerdy girl’s heart is through her brain. There are many crossword generators online, so you could always create your own and print it out. But real smooth operators leave it to the professionals. This guy enlisted a veteran crossword editor then somehow got the result into the Saturday edition of The Washington Post. Like we said: smooth.
Fake Art Gallery Proposal
Set up a fake art gallery filled with photos of that relate to the two of you. Walk through the show, and, at the end, ask for her hand in marriage. A simple proposal idea, right? Well, the idea is simple, but the execution will of course take a little work. You’ll have to find the space, create the artwork, hire the actors to play the other gallery patrons, and so on. Our advice if you want to do this is to talk to a planner and see if they can help you set it up.
Surprise Party Switcheroo Proposal
One of the best ways to throw someone off the scent is to make them think they’re throwing you off the scent. That’s the secret of this type of proposal: your partner is planning a surprise party for you, completely unaware that you are planning a big surprise for them. You will need some confederates to help with this–a mom is always a good double agent–and a lot of planning. But the payoff will be spectacular.
“Car Karaoke” Proposal
Not too many people have a YouTube channel that regularly feature “Carpool Karaoke” segments. But the principle here is applicable to anyone. Take something that the two of you already do together, and turn it into a chance to propose. This particular example not only combines the strong video coverage of the “Surveillance Proposal” and the excuse to pose of the “Photo Booth Challenge,” it also leverages the American love of cars and driving. Exciting things happen when you get behind the wheel.
Water Ski Proposal
An outdoor proposal at a speed boat pace. The key to successfully proposing while water skiing is to leave the ring on the boat. You can put it on her hand later. It’s bad enough when a guy drops a ring in a waterfall–dropping it in a lake while speeding at 30 mph means it is gone forever. Listen, getting down on one knee during this procedure is impressive enough. Another advantage: if you fall into the water, it’s all just part of the celebration.
Fake Dance Audition Proposal
If your partner is a dancer, arrange for them to go to an audition. All the other dancers will be plants, as the entire thing is a set up for you to appear and perform your own dance routine, followed by a proposal. Advantage: she’ll be blown away by the amount of effort and planning you put into this. Disadvantage: she might be pissed that it isn’t a real audition, but that should pass.
Longest Zipline proposal
Riding a zip line is thrilling in and of itself, but what makes it particularly good for proposals is the way the the proposee is essentially flown into the situation, as if carried there by a particularly fast angel. With friends and family waiting at the end of the line, along with the nervous proposer, it’s like a foreshadowing of the bride’s entrance at the wedding itself. It requires a little planning, and some fortuitous timing, but makes for a proposal your partner will always remember.
The inherent risk of tattooing your proposal on your body is that your intended will say “no.” But if you’re pretty sure he or she will say yes, then a tattoo offers some distinct advantages. For one, it will always be there to remind the two of you of your bond. Secondly, while not legally binding, strictly speaking it is written proof that she agreed to marry you.
The Ice Cream Carton Proposal
There’s something about official product branding that gives an object weight and seriousness. If it comes with a logo and has been mass produced, it means business. So by printing your proposal on an ice cream carton, you’re signaling that it’s for real. You’re also showing that it is sweet and will be immensely satisfying. And, the fact that you actually got an ice cream company to help out will impress your fiancé no end.
Beach Art Proposal
Professional beach art is doubly romantic: firstly because it’s hard to believe anyone can create something so beautiful out of sand; and secondly because you know that it will soon be washed away by surf or blown away by the wind. Remember, we’re not talking about scratching some letters in the sand with your foot: team up with an extraordinary sand artist like Andreas Amador for a customized work of art.
Photo Booth Proposal
The photo booth proposal has several advantages: 1) you don’t have to make your photographer hide in the bushes; 2) if timed right, it allows you to perfectly capture the look of open mouthed surprise that most people lapse into when confronted with a ring; 3) you will also catch the happy flood of emotion when they fully realize what is going down; 4) you won’t have to pay professional photographer rates; and 5) you may not have to pay a videographer either, as a lot of modern photo albums include video.
Street Art Proposal
Get your artist friends to do pieces of relationship-related street art, then lead your intended around your town on a street-art tour, culminating in a special proposal piece. We like this one in particular because it allows all your friends to participate in the proposal, while keeping the actual moment a private one between the two of you.
You know how a gameshow host will always take a moment to ask the contestants a little something about themselves? Well, that’s not spontaneous–the contestants are interviewed by producers beforehand, and everyone agrees on what they’re going to say. So if you’d like to use that moment to ask your partner’s hand in marriage, you’ll need to clear it with the show first. If you get the green light, remember to keep things short–this is TV afterall.
The Message-in-the-Cornfield Proposal
Great for those a-courtin’ in a rural setting, this proposal requires time, land, and, towards the end, a drone or plane ride for photographing the results. Time, because you will be carving your proposal message in a field of just-planted crops, and it won’t become evident until all the non-proposal crops around it have grown in. Land, because this is a large-scale project that you can’t just do in any open field. A drone or plane, because you’ll need to photograph your message from above if anyone is going to actually read it.
Love Outreach Proposal
A nice variation on the “traveling gnome” meme, this genius proposal idea essentially crowd sources your project to people all over the world. Ask your fellow Internet dwellers to photograph a sign with a message to your intended, then show her (or him) how far your love has spread. Who would say “no” after that?
The Titanic Proposal
A solid entry in the “movie-themed/non-DIY” category. The success of James Cameron’s Titanic led to the opening of several Titanic-themed exhibits. If your partner is in love with the story of Jack and Rose, then proposing to her as she walks down an exact replica of the doomed cruiser’s “grand staircase” is a guaranteed slam-dunk. But obviously you can’t do this one on your own. Get in touch with the exhibit staff beforehand.
Bender Binary Code Proposal
We’re not tech savvy enough to understand binary code in either its written or spoken form, but we’re smart enough to know this is an excellent way to propose to a fellow computer/math geek. Anyone who can listen to a string of ones and zeroes and understand the message is worth marrying. And anyone who proposes while wearing a Bender mask is worth saying yes to.
Breakfast in bed already combines two things that all right-thinking people love (laying in bed and eating breakfast food), so imagine the impact of adding a wedding proposal. Just remember that the proposal will force you to elevate the breakfast element. You can’t propose over some hastily scrambled eggs and a cup of Sanka. This calls for hotel room service-level luxury, or the closest you can get to it: present each plate with a stainless steel food cover, then dramatically reveal what lies beneath (the last plate, of course, is reserved for the ring.)
The Boarding Gate Proposal
Waiting for a flight to board can be one of the dreariest of human experiences, for everyone involved. So why not provide a little excitement for your fellow passengers–not to mention your partner–by asking the gate attendant to help you pop the question? Your fiancé-to-be will cry; the older folks will smile; and the teenagers will glance up from Snapchat for a few seconds. Here is how it’s done.
Painting in Paris Proposal
If you’re going to be proposing with anything other than a ring, it had better be good. First, pick an ultra-romantic setting–the banks of the Seine. Next, pick something rare and unique–a 19th century painting of a nighttime landscape. Finally, pick the right moment–a long slow stroll after a candle-lit dinner for two.
Fake Movie Proposal
One challenge presented by a complex proposal plan is how to get your intended to participate without blowing the surprise. In this case it’s easy: he or she won’t hesitate to join your fake film project if you give them a co-starring role. Say you and some friends are going to film a scene for a short film you’re directing, then, at the climax of the scene, get down on one knee and propose. The genius of this is that it gives you license to be as dramatic as you want–your partner will go along with it, thinking it’s all just part of the film. The challenge is that you will need to do all the logistics involved in a real film shoot. But it will be worth it (and you’ll have the whole thing on high definition video).
The Old West Train Ride
This one is easy: get a fake cowboy to hold you at fake gunpoint until you fake propose to your intended. What makes this a genius proposal idea is that it sounds like exactly the sort of thing a performer at an Old West theme ride would do. Except instead of fake proposing, you actually real propose. They’ll never see it coming.
The Surveillance Proposal
Though this sounds like some sort of weird stalking ritual, the “surveillance” here is pretty benign: basically just filming your proposal with GoPro cameras hid around whatever setting you chose. The advantage to this is that you retain the intimate privacy of your big moment, while capturing it from multiple angles which you can edit together later. Your proposal video may end up looking like a scene from a reality TV show, but at least it will be accurate.
The Bookstore Proposal
If the person you want to marry loves books almost as much (or even more than) they love you, then proposing in a book store should be a no-brainer. We’d recommend you don’t do it in your local Barnes & Noble, though (unless that has some special significance to your relationship). Try to find an especially beautiful and classy bookstore, like this couple, who got engaged at a 150 year old book shop in Portugal.
Nerdy Keyboard Proposal
Anyone who has ever tried cleaning a computer keyboard will know the amount of work it takes. If that person is the one you want to marry, they will appreciate the effort you put into altering a spare keyboard to turn it into a proposal. (Keep in mind there are a few double letters in “Will You Marry Me?” so you’ll probably have to cannibalize at least two keyboards. Time to hit the local GoodWill).
Operating Room Proposal
A specialty for anyone who wants to marry a doctor or nurse: you go in for a minor procedure (getting a cut sew up, say) and, as your partner finishes stitching you up, you sit up on the operating table and offer her (or him) a ring. Obviously you’ll need to plan this beforehand with your partner’s coworkers, so that you don’t end up leaving the hospital with a procedure you didn’t need and no closer to getting married.
Surprise After-Show Theater Proposal
This memorable proposal idea involves the classic double-cross, similar in principle to the “Surprise Party Switcheroo.” If your intended is an actor or performer, you find an excuse to be called up on stage after one of their performances (for instance to have the crowd sing “Happy Birthday” to you.) Then, with the pre-arranged cooperation of her co-stars, you switch the attention from you to your partner with a surprise proposal.
The Post It Note Proposal
Creating a Post-It Note art proposal will show your intended that you have several valuable qualities: creativity (to come up with the design); organization (to be able to create your design from a pile of little paper note pads); and stick-to-it-ness (to be able to actually put in the work of assembling your Post-It creation). Now admittedly, the photo above is from a South Korean ad for the manufacturer of Post-It Notes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create your own worthwhile proposal yourself. This guy did.
Police Arrest Proposal
If you want to scare the crap out of your future fiancé, the boys in blue will be glad to help. Cops can pull you over for pretty much any reason, and though not all departments will necessarily go through the whole “hands-behind-your-back” routine, you may still be able to set up a realistic arrest scenario. Make sure you fiancé is not the type to freak out or start citing police brutality laws. They could decide to actually book you, after all.
Proposal Flip Book
If you’re artistically-minded, you can create a flip-book animation as a means of proposing. The animation can show the story of your relationship, a vision of your future together, or whatever you like. Cut out a small square from the back pages and you can create a little ring holder at the end of your story. A simple proposal idea for the crafty.
Baby Goat Proposal
Knowing that your partner is obsessed with a specific animal shows that you’ve been paying attention. It doesn’t matter if the obsession borders on the weird (i.e., actress Kristen Bell’s well-documented obsession with sloths). If your girlfriend has always wanted a baby goat, you get her a baby goat and use it as an excuse to propose. True, you now have a baby goat, which will eventually grow into a full-sized goat that will eat cans and poop all over your lawn. But that’s a concern for another day. (Obviously, if she’s obsessed with bobcats, grizzly bears, or crocodiles, you’ll have to think of something else.)
Balloon Movie Proposal
If your girlfriend is obsessed with the Pixar film Up, then balloons will be part of your proposal. Not enough balloons to make her as airborne as the characters in the film, but enough to get the point across.
This type of movie cosplay is all about attention to detail, whether you’re recreating a scene from Up, The Lord of the Rings, or The Fast and the Furious. You probably shouldn’t attempt this if too many stunts are involved, and make sure that she really, really loves the movie in question. Read more about this particular proposal here.
Legend of Zelda NS Proposal
It’s always good to base your proposal around a shared interest, and this one takes that to another level. Fondness for the original version of Legend of Zelda definitely qualifies as a shared interest. Convince your partner to play through the game with you until they reach the end–and the hack you’ve added, which includes a personalized proposal in glorious 8-bit graphics.