Marriage Proposal Dos and Don'ts

Marriage proposal between two people

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If you've decided to propose to your partner, you might be feeling nervous and worrying about how to do it the "right way." Getting engaged is a huge milestone. So, before you get down on one knee, learn some dos and don'ts of traditional marriage proposals.

The Dos

  • Test the waters: Before you propose, the two of you should have already spoken about getting married. Make sure marriage is something that each of you wants, and verify that you both agree on major issues, such as having children. A proposal is a big question that shouldn't come out of the blue. You don't want your partner to be taken completely off guard.
  • Make it a surprise: Even though you should discuss getting married, the marriage proposal itself can be a surprise. Find a moment and a manner that your partner won't be suspecting.
  • Prepare yourself: "Will you marry me?" is a simple question, but it's a weighty phrase that leaves many proposers completely tongue-tied. Practice! It might feel silly, but say the words out loud a few times. Also consider writing down and memorizing exactly what you want to say to make sure you're as smooth and confident as possible.
  • Find the right engagement ring: Because wearing an engagement ring is a lifetime commitment, make sure it's the right one. Try to find an opportunity to window shop for rings with your partner to see what they like, or bring it up in conversation. You can also ask your partner's parents, siblings, best friends, etc., to help choose the ring.
  • Know whether they want to pick out the engagement ring: Some people are particular about their jewelry and want to be a part of the selection process. Honor that by going ring shopping together. Sure, you'll lose that element of surprise, but you can still surprise them with the proposal.
couple shopping for jewelry
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  • Talk to their parents: We've come a long way from the days of dowries. But there's still something respectful about asking for the parents' blessing.
  • Pick a personal spot: Think about your favorite romantic places, and choose a meaningful spot to pop the question. It can be as simple as in your living room or as elaborate as whisking your partner away for a weekend in Paris—whatever is significant for you as a couple.
  • Be creative: Incorporate yours and your partner's personalities, hobbies, etc., into the proposal. Make it unique and memorable rather than a cookie-cutter proposal.
  • Drop to one knee: There is something so charming and romantic about a person getting on one knee and asking the love of their life to marry them. Even if you're not traditional, it will make the proposal more momentous.
man proposing on one knee to woman
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  • Tell your partner why you want to marry them: Don't just utter those four little words. Tell your partner why they are the one for you, what marriage means to you, and what your hopes for the future are.
  • Share the news when you're ready: Don't feel like you have to blast the engagement right away to all your family and friends. Take however long you'd like to reflect on your engagement and togetherness, and then announce the news.

The Don'ts

  • Make it public: Unless your partner has said they want a splashy proposal with an audience, it's much easier to make the proposal special by keeping it intimate. Have that magical moment between just the two of you.
Man on one knee proposing in Times Square
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  • Hide the engagement ring in food: Unless you have a personal reason for doing so, hiding the engagement ring in food is a tired idea. It's been in many movies and TV shows, so you won't win any points for creativity. And there's the possibility they could swallow it.
  • Propose at a sports game: Sports games generally aren't the best proposal venues unless that's your partner's preference. They're loud and distracting, so you likely won't be able to have any of the romantic reflection that such a momentous occasion deserves.
  • Do it in front of their family: Proposals in front of family add yet another layer of stress that you don't need. Make this moment just between the two of you. Your families will merge with your marriage by default, but they don't need to be present when you pop the question.
person holding a ring in front of a woman
skynesher / Getty Images
  • Make it too complicated: Try to be unique and creative with your proposal plan, but above all, keep the focus on what really matters: the proposal itself. If you can't focus because you're worrying about whether the limousine will make it to the balloon ride in time, then you're worrying about the wrong thing.
  • Propose too early in the relationship: When you're swept up in a new relationship that's going especially well, it's hard not to do impetuous things. However, make sure you really know each other and what each of you wants from a marriage before you commit.
  • Expect them to say "yes" immediately: Asking someone to marry you is a big deal. If your sweetheart says "maybe," take it in stride. Give them some time to consider the proposal. You want them to be as sure about their decision as you are in yours.