Proposals come in many different packages, from quiet and casual to a public proposal with all the bells and whistles. What makes a proposal perfect is how well it fits your partner’s personality and expectations. Instead of copying the cliché proposal ideas you see in the movies, take some time to develop non-cliché proposal ideas your partner will love.
Why the Proposal MattersThe proposal is just one moment in your relationship, but it’s perhaps one of the most important ones you’ll experience together. That’s even more true if your partner is looking forward to you popping the question with high anticipation. Why does it matter how you propose? Here are some reasons:
- You get one shot: In most cases, you’ll only propose once to this girl. This is your one chance to blow her away with a thoughtful, unique proposal. If you know your partner has high expectations for the proposal, you want that one shot to hit it out of the park.
- You’re taking a significant step: The proposal is the official moment when you move from dating to being engaged. You’re committing to spending your lives together. Making that significant step in your relationship special is important.
- It will become a lifelong story: Have you ever heard women gushing about their proposal stories? Trust us, they do. Nailing the proposal means your partner has a sweet story to tell her friends when she shows off that ring. Plus, you’ll earn some serious points with her friends, who will be blown away at your thoughtfulness.
Narrowing Down the OptionsYou can find endless ideas for marriage proposals online, in magazines and from friends. As amazing as they may sound, none of them matter if they don’t match the personalities and expectations of both you and your partner. The secret to the best proposal ideas is customizing it with her in mind. It’s about taking an idea and putting your own stamp on it to show her how you care. Before you get to the personalization part of the proposal, you need to narrow down some of the major decisions. Here are some things to consider:
- Public or private: Is she the type who loves to be the center of attention, or does she shy away from the spotlight? A grand public proposal is a bad idea if your partner is shy or hates attention. Even an outgoing woman might prefer a private, intimate proposal with just the two of you. Keep in mind that public proposals can sometimes be difficult to coordinate, and you can’t always control the circumstances. And while you hopefully already know she’ll say yes, if she does decline the proposal in public, you have a lot of witnesses.
- Witnesses: Whether you choose a private or public proposal, you may decide to invite people you know. Make sure your partner would want witnesses at the proposal. Some women prefer to make it a moment just between the two of you.
- Camera or no camera: Having a photographer set up to capture the proposal is a growing trend. Having the moment caught on camera helps you remember the moment, but not everyone wants a cameraman sharing it. If you do go with a photographer, have them at a vantage point away from the proposal site so it still seems intimate.
- Location: Once you decide if you want to propose in public or in private, you need a location to pop the question. Add a special touch to the proposal by choosing a spot with significance to you as a couple. This makes the proposal sentimental and adds even more significance to that location.
- Traditional or modern: Tradition says you should get down on one knee to propose. While many women still envision this type of proposal, it’s important to know how to pop the question. Think about your relationship and your partner’s personality when you decide if you should stick with tradition or try something new.
- Holiday or everyday: Holiday proposals are popular, but they can border on cliché if you’re not careful. The proposal can also overshadow the holiday or vice versa. If the proposal doesn’t go well, that holiday is a reminder of it every year. If you do choose a holiday or birthday proposal date, add in personalized touches to make sure it’s not too cliché.
- Timing: You know what day you plan to propose, but what about the timing? Will you propose first thing in the morning so she has all day to ogle her ring? Will you wait until evening, so you can build up the suspense?
- Asking permission: This doesn’t relate as much to the logistics of the proposal as it does with etiquette. It’s not as common to ask for permission from your partner’s parents as it once was, but some families still like this tradition. Will your bride-to-be find it sweet and romantic that you asked her parents for permission to propose, or will her whole family think it’s an outdated move? Know before you propose.
Propose During a Favorite ActivityOne of the easiest ways to customize a proposal is to pop the question during an activity you enjoy doing together. This idea is also a great way to make the proposal a surprise. If it’s something you do together all the time anyway, why would she suspect anything out of the ordinary? If stealth is your goal, plan ahead to make sure things seem normal. Where do you normally do the activity? What time of day is usual? What do you usually do before and after? Keeping it as normal as possible reduces her suspicions that something is up — unless you’re sweating bullets or acting a little more nervous than normal. What type of activities work well for this proposal? Basically anything she enjoys or that you enjoy doing as a couple. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Camping or hiking
- Browsing antique shops
- Playing trivia
- Visiting a local winery or brewery
- Watching a favorite sporting event
Create Your Own Romantic MovieYou don’t need years of experience in the film industry to create a sweet video montage representing your love. Video editing software lets you piece together video clips and photos to create a highlights reel of your relationship. Add in special messages to show her how much she means to you. At the end of the video, ask for her hand in marriage. Make sure someone gets the proposal on the camera. You can add it in at the end of the video and show it at your wedding reception. This proposal idea is sentimental, and you end up with an amazing keepsake to relive that day over and over. How do you present the video? This is part of that customization we talked about already. If she would prefer an intimate screening of this sure-to-be box-office hit — at least according to you — pop it into the DVD player at home. Tell her you want to watch a new movie, and press play while you cuddle up together on the couch. If she prefers a crowd, plan a dinner party for close friends or family. Show the movie to all of the guests before proposing. For an even bigger audience, check with a local theater to see if you can have your proposal video played on the big screen.
Written ProposalInstead of saying your proposal, put it in writing, and let your partner stumble upon it. Write your marriage proposal in snow, with sidewalk chalk, in paint — whatever medium fits your personal style and vision. If you’re the snow bunny type, write out your proposal in the snow. Use a little snow paint or rose petals in the letters to make sure she sees them. For the skiing fans, work with a ski resort to write the message under the ski lift. As you head to the top of the hill, point out the message below — just make sure you hold the ring tightly so it doesn’t fall into the snow. For a spring or summer proposal, write out the message in sidewalk chalk. Write it all as one large message, or write one word at a time along a path you plan to walk together. At home, you can spell out the proposal in a number of ways. Ideas include magnetic letters on the refrigerator, glow-in-the-dark star stickers on the ceiling, lipstick on the bathroom mirror, noodles from alphabet soup on a plate or washi tape stuck to the wall. You can also enlist the help of friends and family to spell out the proposal. Give each person a piece of paper with a word of the proposal. For large groups, give each person a letter from the larger proposal. When the time comes, each person holds up the sign to spell out the message. This is a fun idea when you’re taking a group photo. Place yourself and your partner at the front of the group so she can’t see what’s happening. Everyone quietly holds up their signs behind her as the picture is taken. When she checks out the image of the photo, she sees her proposal.
Romantic Home ProposalYou don’t have to take your partner to a romantic overlook, beach or mountain trail for the perfect proposal setting. Proposing at home offers an intimate option, and you can easily make the moment special and memorable. Start by setting the stage. Dress up the place with flowers, candles and twinkling strings of lights. Add in a personal touch by blowing up some of your favorite images that represent milestones in your relationship. Hang them on the wall, or string fishing line across the room so they hang like banners. Another romantic touch is to write down some of your favorite memories from your relationship. Tie each one to a helium-filled balloon so they dangle from the ceiling. The specific decorations you use all comes back to what you think she would appreciate, but the goal is to blow her away with your thoughtfulness. Give her a chance to look over the photos and read the memories before getting down on one knee to propose.
Outdoor Seasonal ProposalA seasonal proposal is a great way to make the moment special. Capitalize on the best part of the season to make the proposal unique. In fall, hang signs asking for her hand in marriage from trees in an orchard or carve your proposal in a pumpkin and hide it in a local pumpkin patch — with permission, of course. Lead her to the perfect pumpkin spelling out the proposal. At home, invite her to jump in a pile of leaves before asking her for her hand in marriage. For a winter proposal, build two snowmen — a man and a woman. Position a sign on one of the snowmen with the proposal on it. You can also use Christmas lights to spell out the message outdoors, or hang the ring on the Christmas tree and tell her she has to find her gift. When spring rolls around, suggest flying a kite with the proposal written on it. A similar option is to write the proposal on the inside of an umbrella. Take her on a rainy day walk, and wait until she looks up. Head to a local garden or botanical center to use the freshly blooming flowers as the background for your proposal. Summer is full of outdoor opportunities to propose. Write the proposal in the sand at the beach, or write the message on a beach ball. If you want to propose in front of family and friends, plan a barbecue as the setting for popping the question.
Vacation ProposalTake her on a special vacation to pop the question. She’ll think the vacation itself is the gift, but she’ll be surprised when you pop the question while you’re away. The location is up to you. Choose a place you’ve been together in the past. Take her to somewhere she’s always wanted to go. Even a getaway within driving distance is just fine. Scope out potential proposal spots before your trip. If possible, sneak out on your own once you arrive to check it out in person. You can relive the proposal by taking a trip back to the proposal vacation spot on the proposal anniversary.
Special VenueDoes your partner love a particular venue in town? Perhaps she’s enamored by a vintage theater, or she can’t get enough time at the MLB field. You can propose during a performance or game at the venue, but you may also have the opportunity to make the moment more private by proposing in the empty venue. Contact the venue to determine if they can work with you to facilitate the proposal. She’ll wonder why she’s on stage in an empty theater, until the lights come up and she sees your romantic scene. If she’s more of a sports fan than a theater fan, tell her you arranged a private tour of the stadium. While you’re there, get down on one knee to propose. She’ll have fond memories of the proposal every time you go back to the venue.
A Gift in a GiftWho doesn’t love gifts? Surprise your partner with a seemingly innocent gift: a new pair of running shoes, a video game she wants, a gift basket full of her favorite treats. Before presenting the gift, tuck the engagement ring inside. She’ll be excited to open the gift, but she’ll be even more excited as soon as she spots the ring.
Geocaching ProposalWhether or not you are avid geocachers, this is a fun way to make her find her own proposal. Bury a written proposal in the spot where you want to pop the question. Add the coordinates of the location. You can have her go directly to this spot, or take her on a geocaching scavenger hunt first. When you arrive at the final location, she reads your proposal and finally realizes what is happening. You can also do a traditional scavenger hunt. Pick stops around your town that have significant meaning. You can either hide the clues there, or get friends and family in on the action by having someone special at each stop with the next clue. When writing your clues, add why that particular spot is special. This might be places you go frequently, the location of your first kiss, the restaurant where you met her parents or a favorite hangout. If you want to pamper her along the way, send her to a salon to get her hair and nails done as one of the stops. At the final stop, she finds you with ring in hand.
Tips for Making the Proposal PerfectNo matter how you choose to propose, it all comes down to the details. Here are some additional tips for making the proposal go smoothly:
- Ask for input: If you don’t want to ask your partner for information on what she wants from the proposal, check with her friends or family for ideas. Just make sure they can keep a secret so they don’t give away your plans.
- Plan well: So many factors go into a proposal, especially a public one. No matter where you propose, take time to plan the details to avoid problems. Don’t forget to practice what you’re going to say.
- Act normal: It may be difficult, but if you want the proposal to go well, try to act as normal as possible. Your partner will notice if you start acting strangely as you plan the proposal.
- Focus on her: Marriage is all about balance, but when it comes to the proposal, make it about her. You may think something would be cool, but make sure the proposal idea is something she will think is special.
- Make it a surprise: Even if she knows the proposal is coming soon, make the actual circumstances and timing of the proposal a surprise. It makes the moment more special.
- Set the stage with music: The visual surroundings help set the mood, but music can also help set the stage for the proposal. Play a special song with significance, or play a song related to love or marriage.
- Add special touches: Make the proposal special by incorporating meaningful elements. For example, give her a bouquet with the number of flowers matching the number of years you’ve been together, or choose a type of flower that has special meaning to her.
- Have a backup plan: Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. A torrential downpour on the day of your outdoor proposal is one example. Decide ahead of time what you’ll do if something goes wrong. Will you wait for another day? Will you propose somewhere else? Having a backup plan reduces your stress if things do go off course.
- Enjoy the moment: You have a lot of responsibility in the proposal, so it’s easy to get overwhelmed. You’ve hopefully at least talked about marriage before and are confident in her answer, but that doesn’t mean all your nerves will disappear. Still, remember this is a special day for you, too. Try to enjoy the moment and take it all in before, during and after the proposal.
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