How to pop the question (without putting a foot wrong)

We’ve all seen stories of outrageous wedding proposals – just lately there’s been a craze in Russia for hiring scary looking security forces personnel to hold the couple up at gunpoint and then find a ring hidden about the boyfriend’s person or in the back of their car.  Such capers are amusing and entertaining.  But if you, or your partner, are thinking of popping the question any time soon…how does this current trend make you or your other half feel?  More scared, probably. 

You, or they, are nervous enough already without having to think up some amazingly off-the-wall, unexpected, cute, scary or romantic way to wow the other into a “yes”.  To say nothing of planning the whole thing and stage managing it without screwing up.  No (added) pressure then!

In this post we share some common sense advice about a few of the things you should bear in mind.  That doesn’t mean you can’t do something wildly unexpected or hugely dramatic – just that you should also give some consideration to the following.

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Make it meaningful

If ever there was a moment when romance and sentimentality are appropriate then this is it - which is why proposals that scare the other half to death are probably not such a great idea!

You’ll want to find a situation that puts you both in the mood for love – you could pick a particular restaurant, activity or destination that you are both especially fond of or that holds special memories.  Another option is to find some way of incorporating a favourite song, film or book into your proposal plan.  Creatively draw on these special details to, well, make a special day even more so. 

Asking the future in-laws

This is a rather dated tradition but asking the parents’ permission before popping the question is something you should weigh up carefully.  It’s no longer generally considered essential but some families might prefer that you did them the courtesy.  However, if you’ve already been living together for years then it’s kind of academic.  Then there’s the situation where you know the parents don’t approve of you…but your intended loves you anyway.  So the advice on this on is “it all rather depends…”!

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The ring is the thing

It’s unthinkable to propose without a ring.  But what if she doesn’t like the one you have picked out?  And what could be more romantic than choosing the ring together?  With this in mind you might want to buy her a “placeholder” ring that does the job temporarily before you set out, hand in hand, to settle on the real thing.  For instance you could buy a less expensive zirconia ring before choosing the one set with a genuine diamond.

Get the timing right

Try to avoid a picking a moment when your future spouse is likely to be stressed or tired.  It’s probably not a great idea to pop the question just as she walks in the door after her spinning class – right now she just wants a shower!  Over lunch and just before she has to make a big presentation is also less than smart.  In the middle of a chilled out weekend when you are both fully relaxed makes much more sense.

Public or private?

Proposing in front of a crowd, at a major sporting event or with the help of a flashmob may make for a great movie and get a lot of views on youtube.  But remember what this is about – your love for this person and desire to spend the rest of your life with them, not about an ego trip and getting your 15 minutes of fame.  And at what point does true romance become unwanted coercion?

Unless you are absolutely certain your intended would love being thrust into the spotlight in this way keep the occasion private and intimate.  They obviously adore being alone with you so you can’t go far wrong keeping everyone else out of it.

Resist the temptation to be trendy

Today’s hottest new popup restaurant that everyone is talking about may be the perfect option for popping the question.  But what if, a few years later, you want to revisit and celebrate your anniversary?  Looking back you may be glad you chose a historical monument, an outdoor location or a setting that remains largely unchanged.  That way it’s easier to recall the memory and feelings even when you’re old and grey.

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Have a convincing cover story

You can’t tell your intended the real reason you’ve made reservations at an expensive restaurant, booked a weekend away at a boutique hotel or invited them to meet you at the top of The Shard…so you’ll have to make up a plausible decoy story that’ll put them on the wrong track.  Then, ta-dah, surprise, surprise!  So, “we’re meeting X & Y for dinner”, “I know you are really into Thomas Hardy novels so I’m taking you to this charming hotel in Wessex” or “I’ve got to go to a drinks reception in The Shard and partners can come too.”  You get the idea!

Keep a lid on it

The fewer people know what’s going on the less chance that somebody will blow the surprise.  If you have to inform or involve others don’t tell them any more than they need to know.  Then, when they’ve said “yes”, you can share the news together – if half of them know already then it’s not so much fun.

Dress for the occasion

We don’t mean get all dressed up.  Just make sure you are “well presented” and look the way your partner finds pleasing.  Also choose clothing with deep and secure pockets – you don’t want to lose that ring!

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Have a plan B

So, the idea is to propose on a beautiful deserted beach.  Or on the top of Mount Snowdon.  Or in a rowing boat on the Serpentine in Hyde Park.  But on the day it’s blowing a gale and lashing down with rain.  Make sure you have a couple of suitably romantic indoor options as a backup.  

Don’t memorise a script

It’s not enough to just pop the question.  You have to tell them why they are the one person you want to spend the rest of your life with.  You’ve also got to give it some emotion!  Whatever words you choose, whether you remember the moment your eyes first met, the way you can’t bear to be apart from them or the way you laugh at each other’s jokes it has to come across as genuine, natural and heartfelt. 

Trying to memorise and deliver your lines like an actor is likely to come across all wrong.   Obviously you need to pick your words carefully but it’s best to have three key points you want to communicate – any more than that and chances are you’ll get yourself in a tangle.

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Share the news

If you haven’t already cleared the proposal with both sets of parents before popping the question and slipping the ring on her finger then they are the first who need to know.  Even if they were in the picture it’s probably courteous to let them know the outcome before you start broadcasting to the world.  Once the family know where things stand you can tell whoever you like!

What next?

We hope you find these thoughts helpful – and good luck!  Once all the excitement has died down a bit you are probably going to start making wedding plans.  The team at Clevedon Hall is not short of experience in this department so if you have any questions just ask away – it’ll be less stressful than the other question you’ve just popped!


Jim O'ConnorComment