Congratulations! You found her. She’s the ONE. (…cue Love Actually…) And you’re thinking it’s time to pop the question. Well, know this, we are cheering you on! But, before the nerves set in, let me share with you the 5 W’s of proposal advice that might help a brother out.
First things first, I have to ask one very simple question that might haunt you for the remainder of your marriage: have you been listening? (I kid!) No matter how shy, how private, how unexpecting your future fiancé may be, there have been clues. And if you’ve been listening, (sometimes we’re all together too obvious about it, so don’t blame us too much for unconsciously overcompensating), you might have an idea of the expectations your significant other has for the proposal.
What I love about the “getting engaged” process is that this is all about the propose-er. This is all you. (For conversation sake, we’re going with groom and bride roles here, but if you’re in a same-sex relationship, whomever is the one proposing, this article’s for you!) The one being proposed to is in the dark (hopefully!) until the question is popped. It’s one of those moments in life that’s equally nerve-wracking for both parties, but totally worth it. So, future brides out there, this one is ALL the groom. So relax, it’s going to be awesome, give him some space.
Okay, grooms. So, you’ve been listening (good work!). You know this is a big moment in life, no matter how understated the scenario, it’s still big. You’re getting married! The next biggest thing to consider is your future fiancé. What would make her feel prized? understood? swept away? dream-is-coming-true-right-now-so-don’t-cry-too-much kind of way? She may have dropped hints, but I know you’ve got some ideas of your own. The times that I’ve heard of the greatest proposal success is when both people’s expectations meet in that one amazing moment: his grand schemes were executed brilliantly, her dream is realized AND she said yes! And after that, it’s your own little fairytale to tell (ad nauseam for a while) and retell to your kids someday. So, since it’s really that important, let’s get you ready for the big dance!
When you're first talking about whether to take this relationship to "the next level" it's good to know about the ring situation. There are a few options, and it's likely your lady will know which way she wants it.
Family Heirloom: whether it's just the diamond or the whole thing, the ring may already be ready for the big ask. If she mentions this, don't press into her about the details, go to the source of the ring, be it mom or grandma, etc. It may need resizing, cleaning up, checking to make sure the prongs are strong. They'll help guide you, as well as the jewelers.
Ready-to-Buy: This is the most common scenario. Most of the time the ring/setting is designed and is sitting at a jewelers ready to be bought. Many times the diamond (or stone) is separate and will be placed in the setting once it's bought. The best way to find out what style of ring is right is to go shopping. I think it's a lot like wedding dresses: you think you know what style you want, until you try it on. Not all girls want to go ring shopping and want it to be more of a surprise than that. So whether it's shopping or photos, unless she has no preference in ring style, you'll at least want to know what she's attracted to before you proceed with purchase!
Designed by You: You may have already gone shopping and it turns out nothing is just right. Or you're so creative, you already know what you want the ring to look like. Awesome! Work with a jeweler or ring designer and custom make something amazing for her. Isn't that romantic?!
As for sizing, be sneaky if you aren't going ring shopping! (Hint: she's bound to have other rings that fit that finger...) If you're shopping, the jeweler will size her finger and you'll need to remember that size if you're hoping for her to wear it after you ask. (And a close match is good enough for the proposal, it's easy to get the fit just right after you're engaged).
Who will you involve?
There's two sides to this question: who will you involve on the journey and who will you involve in the event of the proposal. Likely different answers!
Since most proposals are pretty secretive, (I don't suggest keeping secrets from your soon-to-be-spouse, but this one is pre-approved by them!), it's best only to share your thoughts and plans with trustworthy confidants. I think it's too nerve-wracking, complicated and life-altering to do completely solo. So pick at least one pal to help you plan, or at least listen, to what you've got cookin'. It'll help with your confidence levels, too!
The other question is who will you involve in the proposal itself. Would you like it just between the two of you? Would you like family and/or friends present? Is she the type would would love the whole restaurant to go silent when everyone realizes what's happening? Hopefully you've found the answer to this question by asking or listening, this is one wish you should respect, as the experience is completely different with different levels of intimacy.
Another person to contemplate involving is Dad. "Asking for her hand in marriage" is still a sweet time-honored practice that most Dads appreciate, even expect.
What will you say?
There are two courses of action: script it or wing it! It totally depends on you and your comfort zone. This part is ALL you. It's what you want to say, how you want to express yourself and your love, and how you want to ask. The only specific thing I would suggest: make sure you actually ASK her to marry you!
I'd say it's pretty common for a proposal to have some of these elements, or some of them strung together:
The "why I love you" speech
A story or a recounting of the moments leading to this moment
Words, lyrics or music that are sentimental or near to your heart
Nothing but down on a knee and the ask...
The timing of the knee, the ring, the ask, that's all you. My only suggestion: practice... a lot.
Where will it happen?
Once you've figured out "who" you can more easily figure out where I think. There are some elements contingent on how many people you'll need to accommodate or if you're having to time things out specifically. The "where" may be affected by those elements.
The where is wherever is memorable, significant or beautiful to you both. Most girls won't want to be proposed in at a Yankee's game if they aren't even baseball fans (and remember, it's not only about whether you're a baseball fan)!
Note: if you've figured out your "who" and it's in public, you will want to make sure your public situation still creates enough space/quiet/opportunity for your fiancé to not only realize what's happening, but not have to feel like she's competing with the surroundings to be present in this moment.
When to pop the question?
It's not true in this situation that timing is everything, but it is certainly an element to consider. Beyond time of day or days of significance (like holidays), take a moment to realistically think about the time in your lives. Not only with upcoming wedding plans (like if you want to get married soon after being engaged, but your preferred season for a wedding is a year away), but more so, is there space in your lives for this event to happen?
Just like so much in life, there's no use trying to wait around for a perfect time, they don't exist. But there are better times than others. Big transitional time, overcoming loss or major victory, moving, job changes, etc. are not the best times for popping the question-- if you can help it. Sometimes this life step just has to become a leap, and you roll with it. But if in considering when to propose, and your gut says "wait," I would. Having margin, space, time to process and enjoy the milestone, is a beautiful thing when it's afforded to you.
How to keep composure while leading up to the moment?!
Isn't that the burning question?! Well, I know a lot about calming nerves. Here are a couple tricks:
- Tell yourself, very honestly, there is nothing to be nervous about. Nerves come when something is unknown, uncertain. Sure, you don't know how it's all going to pan out, but you have to trust your plans, the moment, the outcome, will be amazing. -- and come to think about it-- who's nervous?
- Get rid of excess energy if you can: go for a run, do some pushups, where ever you keep your extra energy, do something specific to pump it out.
- Sleep! You'll be tempted to stay up late thinking about things, or letting your brain wander into worst case scenarios-- simply don't do it. Same goes for day dreaming, don't let your mind wander into the negative.
- Visualize victory! Visualizing how things will go, every plan, detail, word-- do it in a relaxed way. Stay super positive and then let it be- don't overanalyze!
- Practice surrender. (This is all very zen of me, isn't it?!) Whether you pray, whether you breathe deeply or meditate, whether you simply respond to your anxieties with a phrase that makes you chill, do it over and over again until you've achieved peace of mind.
Biggest tip: stay in the moment. Once you think too much about something that didn't go as planned or about what will happen in a future moment, you've got yourself out of the now. Your attention to the moment, the multitasking of being present as well as anticipating what's to come, and your continuation of breathing will all make this possible. YOU CAN DO IT!
Are you ready now? I'm so excited for you! She is going to love whatever you have planned, but the best part? She's going to love being your fiancé even more. Keep your ears open to hear her heart, let the creativity flow, stay present and don't forget to breathe!