A few months ago, I proposed to my girlfriend. I did it at home. Flowers, teddy bears, and a little bit of DIY crafting were involved. She said yes!
But in the months leading up to that proposal (and the months since), I had so many questions about the whole process — and couldn't find many places to go for good answers. If you're reading this, you're probably asking many of the same questions I did.
Here's the good news: I'm batting 1.000 when it comes to proposals, and that makes me a (kind-of) expert in this field. You have questions, I have a limited amount of expertise from which I can offer advice! Here's what I've learned so far about getting engaged and doing it right. I hope it helps.
1. Where do I even propose? Should it be in public or private?
Here's the one — and ONLY thing — the movies get right about proposals: You're going to be a little nervous. And as soon as you pull the ring out, your significant other is going to react, too. (Hopefully well!) So find a place where you feel comfortable. If that's a restaurant, great! If it's a public space, and your sweetheart's family and friends are there, great! If that's at home on the couch, great!
2. Wait, can I really propose at home on the couch?
You can absolutely, certainly, 100% propose at home on the couch. You can be wearing sweatpants. Your partner can be wearing $9 boxers purchased at Target. (I'm speaking from experience here.)
The bigger thing is that you should know what your S.O. wants in a proposal. This is an amazing moment that you get to create just for the two of you. Figure out what your partner wants and try to deliver something worthy of your relationship. It can be as big as you want — but it can also be low-key and still super memorable.
3. How am I ever going to find out what kind of proposal my S.O. wants?
You don't have to directly ask, "What's your dream proposal?" Here's a tip: Use a friend's proposal to figure out what your partner wants (and doesn't want). The next time a friend gets engaged, ask them how they did it. And when you go home, ask your future fiancé about that proposal. Did they like it? Was there anything your partner would have done differently? Listen and take notes.
4. We've talked about it, but I'm still not sure what my S.O. wants. What should I do?
Ask yourself this question: What's the first thing your sweetheart is going to want to do after you get engaged? Will he or she want to laugh/cry/scream with loved ones? Will they want a few quiet moments with you to say your I Love Yous and freak out over the ring? If your partner would be comfortable and happy with either a public or private proposal, then pick the place that'll give you both the chance to do whatever you really want to do in the first hour after you get engaged.
5. Is there anything else that should sway my decision?
There is! If you propose at home, you can have Engagement Sex RIGHT AWAY.
Consider this: You've just done one of the most romantic things you'll ever do. Your partner can't believe how good the ring looks. And…well, you get the idea.
Or: You can propose with your loved ones right there, and spend the rest of your night talking with your future mother-in-law.
Engagement Sex, or the rest of your night talking with your future mother-in-law. Your call!
6. When should I propose? I should do it at night, right?
Another thing you don't realize until the day of: The longer you have to wait to propose, the heavier that ring gets in your pocket. You'll spend the day thinking about exactly what you want to say, and you'll be worried that something might go wrong that day that could mess with either of your moods. It's a lot to deal with.
I personally love the morning proposal — it's SO underrated. You wake up, and the very first thing you do that day is get engaged. Your whole day becomes one big celebration of the two of you. Aside from your wedding day, how many days in your life are a sunrise-to-sunset celebration of you? It's an amazing feeling.
On the other hand: The nighttime engagement is super classy! Again: Up to you. They're both fun.
7. Can I propose at a sporting event? That's OK, right?
8. No? That's all I get? No??
Fine, here's an exception: If you had an exceptionally good meet-cute with your future spouse at that stadium, or if your team is THE thing that binds you two together, then you can…but still probably shouldn't. You know that it can cost upwards of $500 just to propose on the Jumbotron, right? And you realize that once you propose, you have to follow this enormous life moment with another hour or two of sports? Are you sure you want your first moments as an engaged couple to involve five more innings of a Royals-Brewers game? Really???
Also: What if the game's bad? What if you're at a baseball game, and your team's down big? Just remember that you're going to have to tell this story to your kids one day: "I'll never forget it. We were down 9-2 in the fourth, and we'd just pulled our starting pitcher, and I'd eaten a weird hot dog an inning earlier and accidentally spilled sauerkraut all over my pants, and that's when I asked your mother to marry me!"
Don't propose at a game. You're better than that.
9. I'm totally stuck, and I don't want to spend a fortune on a fancy dinner out. How can I still make it feel special?
OK: Flowers. A home-cooked dinner. A nice bottle of booze. Wear something decent. Get down on one knee. Don't make it a big speech — two, three sentences max. It doesn't have to be fancy to say "I love you."
10. Wait, one more question about the proposal: How much should I spend on an engagement ring?
Short answer first: Forget anything the jewelry companies try to tell you about spending a few month's salary. They're the diamond sellers! Of course they want you to spend a lot! This helped for me: Before you start shopping, do some research on the cost of diamonds and popular engagement ring settings, and then get a number in your head that's the absolute ceiling you would feel comfortable paying. If you only want to spend a hundred bucks on a ring — or get one without a diamond, or not get one at all — that's fine! That could be exactly what your S.O. wants, and if so, that's fantastic.
OK, a longer story now: Here's how it happened for me:
A year before we got engaged, my now-fiancé and I decided that when the time was right, we'd like to go ring shopping together. I would keep the proposal a surprise, but we'd buy the ring together. The right time, it turned out, came about 48 hours after BuzzFeed's "19 Engagement Ring Diagrams That Will Make Your Life Easier" post blew up on the internet. (Thanks, BuzzFeed!)
My S.O. had a particular diamond in mind. The diamond was from a very famous store that is very famous for selling diamonds. I won't mention their name, but it does rhyme with Schmiffany's. And at Schmiffany's, they sell their signature cut diamond on a platinum band. It's a beautiful ring. My S.O. wanted this ring.
This ring costs about $25,000.
I was not going to spend $25,000 on a ring. (At this point, I was convinced that I might not spend that much on an entire wedding, and HAHAHAHAHA I was young and dumb.)
But here's what I learned through the process: You can buy that exact diamond and that exact ring — basically, everything but the fancy logo on the underside of the band — for a fraction of the price. On a tip from a friend, we visited a guy in the Diamond District here in New York. We showed him the photo of the ring my S.O. loved. He showed us several loose diamonds and a platinum band. We made our selections. The next day, he let me watch him as he put it all together. (This was unexpectedly VERY cool. There's an entire underground network of people that make your ring, and it's fascinating to see them work.) We ended up buying that exact Schmiffany's ring — but for 75% less. And because my S.O. was involved in the process, we got the exact ring she wanted.
What I'm saying is this: It would be significantly cheaper to find the ring you want, take a photo of it, fly to New York for a long weekend, and buy the ring on 47th Street than it would be to buy it at that fancy department store. (Plus, you'd get a trip to New York in the process!)
Bottom line: do your research, talk with your partner, and pay what you're comfortable paying.
11. Once we're engaged, who should I tell?
Here's something underrated about the day: You get to choose how you tell your family and friends, and that's REALLY fun. Sure, you can throw a quick photo on Instagram or send a mass text, but there's something special about making a ton of phone calls to the people you care about it. Every person you talk to is going to be excited for you — and flattered that you took the time to call. At the very least, do yourself a favor and make a few calls before posting the ring pic. It means more to your friends than you'd think.
12. Do I need to post a photo to Facebook/Instagram?
Up to you! If you're the kind of person who knows exactly how many likes your most-liked Instagram has (**meekly raises hand**) and you're looking to shatter that record, go for it. Just remember: As soon as it goes up, you WILL get a few weird texts and Facebook messages from people you haven't talked to since high school. It happens. It's part of the deal. Sorry.
You can also post nothing, and that's fine, too! But a heads up: At your next high school reunion, you're going to run into those people anyway, and when they find out you're engaged, they're likely going to check Instagram for the engagement photo. They might even get mad at you for NOT posting something. Weirdly, this happens, too.
TL;DR — Either way, Matt from your 10th grade bio class will let you know how he feels about your engagement. (Sorry for not meeting your expectations, Matt.)
13. What should I do about my family? I'm worried that the wedding might make them a little crazy.
You're not wrong — it definitely will! Your family is weird — everyone's family is at least a little bit weird, honestly — and wedding planning brings out the crazy in everyone. Good luck with that!
Also, this is important: You're going to have a handful of relatives who will immediately ask you if you've set a wedding date yet. EVERYONE has an aunt or a cousin who does this, even though you don't have a date yet (or maybe even a city you'd like to get married in). They'll ask anyway.
"Do you have a date yet?" is to engaged life as "Do you have a job yet?" is to senior year of college. It's the worst question, and you're going to get asked it every day until you actually have a date. There is no right answer to this question. Again: Sorry.
14. That sounds kind of awful, actually. Should I really get engaged? Am I ready for this? Is this even worth it?
Look: Do you love your boyfriend or girlfriend? Are you happiest when this person is around? Do you miss them when they're not? Are you ready commit to them for the rest of your life? And most importantly: Have you taken a really big trip to somewhere unfamiliar with them? This is my very Jewish mother's favorite piece of marriage advice, and she's not wrong: If you can travel somewhere unfamiliar and come home still in love, you'll probably be alright. (You don't have to go around the world together, but at least travel to Queens or something and see what happens.)
If you said "yes" to all of that, then forget about everything else and just GO FOR IT. You both deserve it.