How To Propose: The Do’s And Don’ts Of Asking Someone To Marry You

Ready to get hitched? Here’s how to propose and what to avoid when popping the question.

When it comes to relationship milestones, it doesn’t get any bigger than popping the question. Preparing for your wedding proposal is the hardest thing you’ll have to do in your relationship.

There are so many ways this can go wrong, and it doesn’t help that there’s so much pressure to do it right! If you want to know how to propose, this article can help you avoid some of the worst pitfalls.

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What Does It Mean To Propose?

Proposing means asking someone to marry you. The eternal nature of marriage means that this will always be a huge moment in both your lives. That means you need to establish the proper tone, pop the question respectfully, and get it right the first time – because you only get to do this once!

Who Should Propose

Traditionally, it’s the guy who proposes to a girl. However, the gender role subversion of a woman proposing to a man is becoming more commonplace

Woman proposing in a bar
(Credit: Getty)

In truth, there’s absolutely no problem with proposing to your boyfriend if you’re a woman. Of course, it’s also fine to figure out how to get him to propose if you’re more of a traditionalist.

The advice in our article covers both how to propose to a guy, and how to propose to a girl, and it also works if you’re in a same-sex relationship.

How Do You Know That You’re Ready To Propose?

Marriage is about more than just being in love with someone. It means that you’re ready to start a future with this person. Here are some signs that you’re ready to propose:

You’ve Already Talked About Marriage

A proposal can be a surprise – but the idea of marriage shouldn’t be. One sign that marriage is in the cards is a prior discussion about it already, whether the intent to get married has already been expressed, or as merely a ‘what if’ scenario that you two talked about in detail. 

You’ve Discussed Long-Term Issues

It’s also important that the two of you have resolved big-ticket, long-term issues like whether you want kids, where you’d want to live, and how you’d share the finances.

You’ve Achieved Major Goals In Your Life Together

Whether it’s a promotion that brings financial stability or purchasing a home together, achieving a certain milestone or goal in your relationship is definitely grounds for a proposal. 

How NOT To Propose

Popular media has created some unhealthy expectations for proposals, and it has also promoted proposal ideas that look romantic but are potentially toxic.

Here are some things to avoid when proposing:

Woman turning down marriage proposal
(Credit: Getty)

Proposing In Public

It’s a common trope in lovey-dovey films and romantic comedies: The guy corners the girl in a train, a plane, or in the middle of some huge formal ball, and in front of everyone, he gets down on one knee and asks her to marry him. Romantic, right? 

Well, not really.

The fact is, public proposals put enormous pressure on the recipient to say yes, with all the onlookers cheering the couple on. This blatantly disrespects the person’s agency; they should be allowed to say yes or no to their partner without an audience, and then decide how they want to publicly break the news later on. 

And speaking of audience, the very personal nature of a proposal should limit it to an audience of the two people who are actually involved in the moment.

Using A Flash Mob 

It wasn’t too long ago that flash mobs were all the rage. Social media and YouTube turned the flash mob into an art form, and reality shows eventually caught on with one famous episode of Mobbed actually featuring a gigantic flash mob proposal with massive production values.

But for the same reason why public proposals are a bad idea, flash mob proposals aren’t romantic at all. Imagine calling up a bunch of strangers to ‘spice up’ what should be a private, life-changing affair that is already dramatic and emotional in its own right. It’s terribly embarrassing for the person on the receiving end. 

Proposing After A Partner’s Huge Achievement

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Chinese athlete He Zi nabbed the silver medal for her performance in the three-metre springboard event. 

But if you scour YouTube for videos of her performance, chances are you’ll come across news or clips of her being proposed to instead. Her boyfriend actually proposed to her right as she was on the podium receiving her medal. 

Proposing to your partner after something they’ve worked on for months is not romantic by any stretch of the word. It takes away the focus from your partner’s achievement and diverts the attention toward yourself.

How To Propose

Now that you’ve gotten the idea of public proposals out of your head, here’s how it’s really done:

1. Choose A Location

The place you choose to make your proposal makes all the difference in the world. It sets the tone for the entire proposal and will become a memorable place that you’ll definitely revisit some time during your marriage.

Man kneeling down in public place and proposing to woman
(Credit: Getty)

There are two ways to approach the choice of location. The first is to use a place that’s important to your relationship. It could be the place you had your first date, first kiss, or even where you met for the first time. This is the more traditional way of choosing a place to propose.

The other way is to choose a romantic or meaningful location that is completely new to you. A good example of this is to propose while you’re travelling. Doing this allows you to build a future atop entirely new memories.

2. Set The Stage With A Happy Day

Make sure that your proposal takes place after a romantic, stress-free date. Make the day as wonderful as possible; you can throw in a picnic, a hotel stay, a fancy dinner, or an outing with friends as part of it.

3. Have A Photographer On The Ready

Whether it’s a hidden friend with a smartphone or a professional photographer with their camera trained on the moment, you’ll want to capture the proposal for your future memories. 

4. Say The Right Words

You don’t need to go all-out and say your wedding vows right off the bat, but choosing the right words to ask for your partner’s hand in marriage can make the moment so much better. Here are some ideas for what to say when you propose.

“I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

This isn’t just a question, but a statement of intent, and a commitment to an eternal future. It’s also very simple, but the fact that it’s extra-specific adds to the romantic feel.

“I can’t imagine life without you.”

These words can sound a little serious and melodramatic, but their implication is that you want to be with your partner forever. Perfect for a partner who loves the idea of a really romantic proposal.

“Will you marry me?”

There’s a reason why these simplest of words are so often repeated. They’re straight-to-the-point and leave no room for ambiguity. The act of a proposal itself is incredibly romantic, and sometimes there’s no need to embellish things to say with flowery language.

5. When In Doubt, Ask A Proposal Planner

If you can’t seem to figure out how to plan your proposal, there’s no harm in seeking the help of a professional to get the job done. After all, you want to make it as memorable as possible when you propose to your girlfriend or to your boyfriend – and you’ll appreciate the assistance of someone with experience in making these moments absolutely perfect.

Here are some proposal planners in Australia whose services you might consider:

Buy The Cow

Buy The Cow has been on the news a couple of times for their elaborate proposal planning services, which may include flash mob and movie theatre proposal templates. But the best work they’ve done is their more intimate affairs.

The Hattie and Bairn Tribe

Wedding planners The Hattie and Bairn Tribe also offer proposal planning among their services. They can help you find a venue and a photographer, and can style you and your clothes for the perfect proposal.

Unforgettable Proposals

Award-winning proposal planner Unforgettable Proposals provides customised proposal packages that are tailored to your preferences. They even interview you to get an idea of your couple story for the best possible proposal plan.

When All Else Fails, Take It In Stride

The best ‘proposals’ take place long before the question is asked, in the form of open discussion of the future, and expression of intent to get married. 

In this way, a proposal is just a formality between two people who already know that they want to follow through with their engagement. If you’ve come this far, then you don’t need to have a perfectly-planned proposal. Just have a great time together, and ask the question you already know the answer to.

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