Proposal Do’s and Don’ts

A man proposing to his girlfriend in an apartment with heart balloons in the background.

You’re about to ask the biggest question of your life—and understandably, you might be a little nervous. Luckily, there’s no right or wrong way to ask someone to marry you, but there are a few things that you can do to make the experience memorable for both of you. With these tricks up your sleeve (and some advice on what not to do) you’re sure to wow them on the way to that big “yes.”

Here are some proposal do’s and don’ts to follow before you pop the big question.

DO Make it Special

Now, don’t get us wrong: the proposal will be special no matter how you decide to do it—whether it’s in a hot air balloon, on top of a mountain, while you’re on a European vacation or during a Netflix binge at home—but you should still give it some forethought to make it special for both you and your partner.

The proposal doesn’t have to be an elaborate ploy with a dancing troupe or an announcement at a playoff game, but it does need to have a little creativity as well as a personal touch to let your partner know that it wasn’t an afterthought or was something that you were pressured into. If you’re hitting a brick wall of creativity, don’t be afraid to reach out to your partner’s parents, close friends, or someone who knows you as a couple to brainstorm some truly spectacular ideas to surprise them.

DO Think about Whether Your Partner Wants it Public or Private

A man in a shirt and tie holding a male wedding band in a red ring box as marriage proposal.

You know your partner better than anyone in the world, so before you pop the ring out at a restaurant or during a family event, think about whether or not she or he would be comfortable answering this very important question in front of a lot of people. Remember: proposals are not any less special if they happen in private or in a quiet part of town. However, if your partner is always watching YouTube video loops of amazing proposals or nudging you in that direction, feel free to make a production out of it.

DO Consider Where Your Partner Will Be Coming in From

There’s no need for the two of you to be wearing your finest evening attire when you propose, but you should still consider your partner and whether or not they will feel like their best selves when you pop the question. For example, if you know that your partner always goes to the gym after work, you may not want to ask them to marry you right when they get home and they’re still sweaty from spin class. If you need advice on how to do it right, take cues from SNL star Aidy Bryant’s now-famous proposal story: her husband knew he only had about a minute-long window to propose when she got home from work—because he knew she’d want to be wearing a bra when it happened.

DO Have a Backup Plan

Like anything else in life, you should have a backup plan in place. Whether your partner is getting off work late or they happened to be in the bathroom when “Will You Marry Me” flashed across the screen, you should always have a second option to go to in case things go awry. No matter what, the most important thing is that you ask. If anything, it’ll make a funny story later of how things went terribly wrong on the way to the “yes.”

DON’T Try to Make Your Proposal Like Others

A firework sign saying

Even in something as classic as a proposal, there are trends that come and go—but whatever you do, don’t try to copy your proposal off someone else’s. It’s best to be as original and personal as you can so that it doesn’t feel too scripted or disingenuous.

DON’T Accidentally Let the Secret Out

If you’re trying to keep the proposal a secret, it’s best to keep it as close to the vest as possible. This means don’t share the news with any family members or friends who are known to spill the beans and definitely don’t keep the ring in a super obvious place (like a closet the two of you share) just in case your partner starts to reorganize.

DON’T Forget the Ring

A man holding out a diamond ring as a wedding proposal with his girlfriend surprised in the background.

The ring seals the deal of the proposal, but in the rush of all the excitement it can be easy to forget it at home! Make a note to yourself to put it in your pocket or your bag before you walk out the door. This is especially important if you are planning on proposing while on vacation. Keep it safely tucked away in your carry-on; the last thing you want to do is stress out about a lost checked bag with your engagement ring sitting inside.

DON’T Hide it in Food

Although this might seem like a tried and true way to propose, we think it might be time to ditch this idea once and for all. There’s just so much that could go wrong. Plus, you never know how hungry your partner may be during the meal, and you really don’t want to spend your first few hours as an engaged couple watching your future spouse get their stomach pumped.

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