How to Organize a Marriage Proposal


So you’ve found your soul mate and you’re ready to take the next step—asking for her hand in marriage. The actual marriage proposal can seem awfully intimidating, with so many questions as to where, when and how. A marriage proposal is a huge step in a person’s life, leading to a major life decision, and it should never be taken lightly or done on a whim. Rather, it takes thought and preparation, and with the proper planning, you can turn the anxiety level down a notch and look forward to a romantic and memorable experience.

Picking the Right Spot

The first step in organizing your marriage proposal is to choose the right place to pop the question. Places range from very public to very private and exotic to simple. While no one can tell you what the perfect place will be for you and your significant other, there are certain considerations which may help guide you in making the decision.

  1. Consider what type of person your significant other is: Is she the private type that prefers intimate settings rather than large gatherings? Or is she the type that likes a crowd and enjoys the attention? This will help you determine whether your proposal should take place in a quiet, intimate setting, or more in the public eye. Naturally, if your significant other hates to be the center of attention in a crowd, she wouldn’t appreciate you asking the question over the loudspeaker at halftime during a football game. It is important to consider things from your intended bride’s point of view before choosing the location for your proposal.
  2. Similarly, consider whether your significant other is more the outdoorsy type or more of a homebody. If she prefers outdoor activities, consider such memorable venues as the beach or a quiet spot in the woods during a camping trip. On the other hand, if your beloved is more of a homebody, she may not appreciate the ambiance of mosquitoes and sweat when considering a proposal of marriage. In that event, opt for more private, indoor settings.
  3. Consider places that are special to the two of you. For instance, what about the location of your first date? Or a favorite restaurant? Or the place where you first met? Picking a spot that already has special meaning for both of you will add to the significance of the occasion and will surely tug on her heart strings.

Places to Avoid

While you are encouraged to use your imagination when choosing the perfect spot for your proposal, there are places that should generally be avoided as they invite trouble:

  • A friend’s or family member’s wedding. What better place to consider marriage than at a wedding celebration, right? Wrong! Making a proposal at someone’s wedding is downright tacky. The focus should be on the bride and groom, and making a marriage proposal, especially a public one, detracts from the bride and groom’s special day.
  • Excessively loud places, such as concerts or sporting events (unless you’ve gotten permission from the management to make the announcement over the loudspeaker). These types of events are very noisy, and the last thing you want is to pour your heart out in a proposal only to have your beloved turn around and say, “What? Did you say something?”
  • A friend’s or family member’s house. Generally, statistics have shown that women want the location of their marriage proposal to be a personal and special place, unique to the two of you. Dad’s back porch, or your best friend’s living room just doesn’t cut it.
  • Any place where you’ve both been drinking a little too much. Again, a marriage proposal is serious business. You don’t want to propose to someone who won’t remember it in the morning, or who will give an answer “under the influence” that doesn’t reflect her true desires.

Timing is Everything

Okay, you’ve found the perfect spot. Now, what about the timing? When should the marriage proposal take place? Again, this is a personal decision, but there are several factors to keep in mind when picking the perfect date and time to pop the question.

  1. Generally, you should allow about 18 months to plan a wedding (Yes, it seems like a long time, but it is the rule of thumb. However, if your intended fiancée is flexible as to the wedding details, you may not need quite so much time). Therefore, if your bride-to-be has been dreaming of an October wedding, it won’t do much good to propose in July. So, if you’re looking to tie the knot in October, 2010, then you pop the question in April, 2009.
  2. Remember that it can take up to six to eight weeks to get the engagement ring once the setting has been ordered. You definitely DO NOT want to make your marriage proposal empty handed (recent polls show that the #1 complaint from women regarding their marriage proposal was that their man did not present them with a ring at the time of the proposal). So, when choosing the date, make sure you allow enough time for the ring to get there.
  3. You must also decide if you want your proposal to coincide with a holiday. There are pros and cons to this. For instance, some women may not want to share their “special” day with a popular holiday—they may want the occasion to stand on its own. Plus, by popping the question on a popular holiday such as Christmas day or New Years Eve, you may lose some of the element of surprise. Still, a holiday may seem like the perfect time to embrace this special commitment, especially if it is a romantic holiday (such as Valentines Day). It is really a personal choice. One easy compromise may be to schedule your proposal for a more obscure holiday, such as Arbor Day or Groundhog Day. Then you get to commemorate the holiday with your proposal, but the proposal won’t get lost in the events of the holiday itself.
  4. Of course, if you’re planning a more elaborate proposal (i.e. renting out a billboard on the highway or taking a ride in a hot air balloon), you need to allow more time to prepare and make arrangements.

Getting Things Ready

Preparation is the key to a successful proposal. Give yourself plenty of lead time to make sure you have everything lined up and ready to launch the perfect proposal. The amount of preparation time will vary depending upon your circumstances, consider the following:

  1. Number one on your list of items to get ready should be the ring. If you’ve already discussed the possibility of marriage with your beloved, chances are she’s told you, in detail, what kind of ring she would like “someday.” Hopefully you were paying attention. If not, talk to her friends, her sisters, or even her mom. They may know what style of ring is on her mind. If you don’t already know a reputable jeweler, ask around—don’t just pull a name out of the phone book. And, when you find your jeweler, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and make sure you know when the ring will be ready once it is ordered. Once the ring comes, make sure you keep it someplace safe, and someplace where she won’t find it!
  2. Although it may seem like an antiquated tradition, it is still considered a nice gesture to talk to your bride-to-be’s parents before the proposal (assuming of course, that they are on good terms and it doesn’t go against your beloved’s wishes). This is not necessarily to ask permission (although, for some cultures, this may still be a necessity), but it is considered a courtesy to at least ask for their blessing. Be prepared to tell them why you want to marry their “little girl.” It never hurts to mention that you intend to spend the rest of your life with her. If you don’t know whether you are prepared to spend the rest of your life with her, then perhaps you should reconsider the whole plan.
  3. Decide what you’re going to say and practice saying it. Many a groom-to-be has become hopelessly tongue tied when during a marriage proposal. Still others have resorted to “cheat sheets” during the proposal, which tends to detract from the romance of the moment. One way to avoid these problems is to determine what you are going to say beforehand, and practice saying it. But regardless of what you say make sure it is straight from the heart and always, always, always, ends with those four specific words: “will you marry me?”
  4. Enlist the aid of friends to help you execute your proposal plan. Depending upon the nature of your proposal and whether it is elaborate or simple, you may need a few helping hands to set things up. For instance, if you plan to propose at a restaurant and then whisk her back to your apartment for champagne and roses, have one of your friends go to your apartment beforehand, chill the champagne and glasses, set out the roses, turn on the romantic music and dim the lights. Arrange this beforehand, being clear as to your expectations, and make sure you have someone dependable. This could be a test for your potential best man.
  5. Prepare for the unexpected. If you’ve scheduled a hot air balloon flight, decide what to do if it rains and the balloon can’t go up (i.e. either wait for another day, or have an alternative proposal location picked out); if you’ve set up your proposal on a highway billboard, decide what to do if she take another route home that day (i.e. find a reason to go out for a drive that night). Remember, the more elaborate your plans the more potential there will be for things to go wrong. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for the gusto—it just means you need to plan ahead for disaster and be flexible if things go wrong.

The Big Day Has Arrived

Take a deep breath. The day of the marriage proposal has arrived! So now what? Well, let the show begin!

  1. Make sure you have your ring with you, and that it is safely in your possession (i.e. don’t wear those baggy pants with the hole in the pocket).
  2. Did you buy the champagne? The roses? If not, go get them! And, while you’re at it, make sure any “assistants” you have lined up are at the ready, and that nothing unexpected has come up to prevent their participation.
  3. Make sure you cell phone is charged and ready to go. Once you’re beloved has responded to your proposal with a resounding “yes!” she will most likely want to tell everybody on the planet.
  4. No matter what else you say during your proposal, when you pop that final question, get down on bended knee! Research shows that 90% of women surveyed hope that, when a man proposes to them, he will get down on one knee.
  5. Don’t forget to present the ring, and put it on her finger the minute she says yes.
  6. Pop a breath strip in your mouth before the proposal as there should be plenty of kissing going on afterward. Oh, and congratulations!

Additional Tips and Advice

  • There are also proposal planning services available for those who want a grandiose proposal such as a jumbotron or at an exclusive restaurant. These companies can help you develop your plan and learn how to execute it without a hitch. For more information see An Exclusive Engagement, The Groom Guide or 2 Propose for some options.
  • Prepare yourself mentally. In all likelihood, if both of you have given marriage the serious consideration it deserves, the answer to your proposal will be yes. But remember there is always a chance that she will need time to come to terms with the idea, especially if the relationship is young and the proposal is truly a surprise. Don’t fall to pieces if she asks for time to think.
  • Don’t be afraid to keep your proposal simple. Some guys really do go all out, hiring marching bands, and skywriting airplanes, and so forth. But a simple proposal spoken from the heart in a romantic setting can have just as much of an impact (and, in some cases, maybe even more) as a wild and lavish set up.
  • If you’re traveling by airplane to the location of your proposal (i.e. Cancun, on the beach, perhaps?), make sure you pack the ring in a safe place and DON OT keep it on you when going through airport security—they will dig it out of your pocket and ruin the surprise!
  • When planning your proposal, try to avoid times of high stress (i.e. someone just starting a new job), and do not plan your proposal for hours of the day you’re not accustomed to. For instance, if you’re not used to staying out past 10:00 p.m., don’t plan to stay out until 1:00 a.m. dancing then go back home and pop the question. You’ll both be exhausted and the moment may be lost to fatigue or irritability.
  • If you’re planning a proposal in a restaurant, make sure you advise the maitre de and the wait staff, so that they can be extra attentive and make sure your evening goes smoothly. If they are cooperative and helpful, an extra tip would certainly be appreciated.
  • Although you generally want a proposal of marriage to be a surprise, the idea of marriage itself shouldn’t be. You and your intended should have discussed the possibility of marriage beforehand and thought about all the relevant issues that go along with it (i.e. children, religion, residence, etc.).
  • As tempting as it may be, don’t brag about your plan to everyone. It will get back to her. Be sure of it.
  • Resist the urge to jump the gun on the proposal. Especially if the proposal is set for later in the day, you may be walking around with that ring just itching to make an appearance. Don’t give in! Just remember all the thought, time and preparation that (hopefully) went into deciding the perfect time and place to pop the question.
  • Most of all, remember to enjoy the moment. It is one of those memories that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Savor it.


  1. Steve says:

    By law, an engagement ring is part of the marriage contract. If she terminates the engagement, he has the right to the engagement ring. UNLESS, the engagement ring was a gift. If you give her the ring on Christmas, it will be considered a gift and is hers to keep.

  2. Michele says:

    Great article. I am a Marriage Proposal Planner and I advise my clients of some of these tips as well. Love the “not proposing at a wedding” lol!

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