The proposal

Penni Pappas takes a look at the do’s and don’t’s of that all important question: will you marry me?

With Valentine’s Day upon us; love, love hearts and soft cuddly teddy bears are in our general consciousness. And for those of us in long-term relationships, try and pretend as much as you will but the truth is you are all wondering is this the one, is this the Valentine’s Day that I go from being someone’s girlfriend to someone’s fiancee? Is he going to propose?

A marriage proposal doesn’t have to take place on Valentine’s Day, in fact it might be an old fashioned and cliche if it does. It does have to happen when it feels right and when you and your partner are ready to take the next step in your relationship. A marriage proposal is ultimately asking someone to be your wedded partner for the rest of your living life, so it’s not a decision based on what Hallmark Cards tell us to do on February 14.

The proposal should be a reflection of your relationship, a reflection of not only each other’s personality but also a reflection of where you are at, and where you are headed in your life together. You should already have a mutual understanding that you both want to take the next step in your relationship and have an understanding that you both want to get married.

Here’s a few do’s and don’t’s just before you are about to pop the big one:

DO get traditional

Every girl has always imagined her proposal and although the where and with whom may change in her mind (remember, we are talking prepubescent fantasy proposals here) one thing never changes, he always says ‘will you marry me?’ and he is always on one knee. Now I am not an anti-feminist here, if you are a woman and want to propose then go for it. But a traditional surprise proposal is a sweet way to ask someone to be theirs forever. And ask her father for permission too.

DO make it a surprise

Oh look, there is nothing funnier and more exciting than really catching a bride-to-be off guard, having said that, I am not saying ruin a proposal by catching your lady of five years coming out of the shower and with dripping hair ask her if she’d like to get hitched? The element of surprise needs to be done well. Think about how many couples you know that go on holidays and you know, yep this is the time. Too predictable. But wouldn’t it be fun to propose on the flight back from a joyous trip to Fiji? Okay maybe not on a Virgin flight because goodness knows what the cabin crew will do to embarrass you, but you get the drift. Think outside the box and turn the predictable right on it’s head.

DO make it personal

“And then, I got the waiter to put the ring in her champagne and as she took a sip… she had to suck our her ring from the bottom of the champagne flute so I could propose to her… and she said yes!” How many times have you heard of a proposal taking place in a restaurant, in front of people and using a combination of either alcohol or food? What would make these cookie cutter proposals slightly bearable was if you went to a restaurant where you first went on a date, or you know is your partner’s favourite place to eat, even if you don’t like it. When proposing think about what she likes and let yourself get creative. If you know your girlfriend loves Napoleon Perdis eyeshadows, why not use that as the placeholder for the ring instead of a jewellery box, or if you know she loves animals make the zoo your place of choice for the proposal.

DO be prepared

Know what you are going to say, how you are going to say it and when you are going to say it. Even the most self-confident person gets plenty of butterflies in their tummy before they propose. So the more prepared you are the better. Really think about what you are going to say as the proposal truly is one of those magical moments in life, and a moment you will play over and over in your head – forever, so you really want to make sure you say what you want to and say it well. Think about why you want to marry her and say so. There’s nothing more romantic then being told by someone reasons why they want to spend the rest of their life with you.

DO pick the right ring

Some bride-to-me, heck most brides-to-be know exactly how they want their ring to look. So if you are at the marriage stage of your relationship, you should really know what ring your lady would like. And if you don’t, then don’t risk it. Ask her best friend, mum or sister to help you. Women tend to speak to each other a lot about the all important engagement ring. They will know her style and what she will be looking for. And when in doubt, use a placeholder ring to propose with and then pick one together after you’re both engaged.

DON’T propose in front of people

Awkward alert! If proposals are to be spontaneous, a surprise for your bride to be, then asking her a question that will affect the rest of her life in front of a packed restaurant, your family and friends or at a concert when even the singer has stopped singing, is just setting yourself, and her, up for disaster. It’s just mean, plain and simple. As much as you want to share the news with others after it happens, when it is happening, it’s best for you both to be in your own world.

DON’T propose to early in the relationship

When you are in the throes of passion early on in your relationship, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and think this is it! This is who I want to be with forever. You should really wait because although you could be right, there’s a slight chance you might be wrong. To build a better marriage, it would be better to have some time with the other person to get to know them better and really work out if you want to spend your life with that person.

DON’T make it too complicated

With the pressure of making a proposal memorable, many lose sight of what’s really going on. You’re asking the person you love to marry you. So ditch the three-tiered cake with the ring in the fourth piece in the second layer and stick with the traditional “pull out ring from pocket” proposal. You will be nervous enough without having to worry about specific timing to ask the question.

Top five proposal ideas:

1. The place your first met
Try and think back to the place where you first met and take her there. Either the venue of your first date or the bar where you locked eyes for the first time. It’s a great way to talk about the journey you’ve taken so far in your relationship, and a great segue into popping the question by talking about where you’re headed together.
2. On holiday
Proposing in an exotic location is a great way to get away from the rat race of life and work and together, relaxed you can focus on each other and no one else. And don’t worry if you can’t afford Paris, Phillip Island and the little penguins will make the Eiffel Tower pale in comparison.
3. At your favourite restaurant
Proposing over a lovely dinner is a nice sophisticated way to pop the question. And if she says yes, then there’s always a fancy bottle of fizz on sale.
4. Adventurous
Try sky diving your way to telling her you love her or scream it out while holding her hand in a tandem bungee jump or with some cheese and crackers in a hot air balloon. If you’re partner has nerves of steel and loves a good adrenalin boost, then screaming ‘will your marry me?’ while taking the plunge is the most literal way you will ever propose.
5. Born romantic
Stick the ring in a fortune cookie while you are at home eating take-out Chinese food and watching Notting Hill for the hundredth time, or send flowers for 11 days straight and on the 12 day, when she’s expecting a rose, surprise her with flowers instead. Breakfast in bed and a proposal is sweet but make sure she’s at least downed half the coffee before asking her the life-changing question.