Steve Robbins, Chief Engagement Officer

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Courtesy of Robbins Brothers

As Chief Engagement Officer at Robbins Brothers, Steve Robbins knows all about planning the perfect engagement. Here, he shares his top tips on proposals, choosing a ring and how to pop the question. —Kathryn Papanek

How should a groom decide if it's better to pick out an engagement ring with his girlfriend or surprise her with a ring?

It really depends on your partner's personality and preference. Some women prefer a complete surprise which allows their mate to choose the ring on his own, and others wish to partake in the ring-selection process. The goal here is to surprise your partner with the one perfect ring she'll love and cherish for years to come.

What factors should you keep in mind when deciding where to propose?

Think closely about the memories that are significant to your relationship like where you met, your favorite place or where you shared your first date, kiss or "I love you." Incorporate details...

There's more!

that show you pay attention by considering whether she prefers something private and intimate, elaborate and attention-getting or openly shared with family and friends.

Is it better to have a plan of what to say or just to wing it?

From the moment you know you'd like to propose marriage, start thinking about what you'll say and how you'll say it, but realize that once you're in the moment the script goes out the door. Be sure to look your partner in the eye, speak from the heart and let the words flow genuinely. This is the perfect time to share exactly why you love her so much and would like to spend forever together.

If you choose to surprise your partner with a ring, how can you find out what style she would like without tipping her off?

Pay close attention to your loved one's taste in jewelry: is it simple, ornate or classic? Also factor in her personality and lifestyle: is she traditional or contemporary? Secondly, when out window shopping take note of the ring styles that light up her eyes, and also listen to her comments on any friends' rings that she loves. Solicit the help of one of her best friends if needed and be sure to choose one that can keep a secret. And lastly, you can visit an engagement ring store together for browsing, and then urge her to make a Wish List with her top picks. When solo, visit the store with that list and choose the ring of her dreams!

Many people say they would like a proposal "do over". What's the biggest mistake people say they make when proposing and how can you avoid it?

Hopeful grooms often don't put enough time into planning. What matters most to her is not the size of the ring, but that he gave it some thought and wanted to create this special, unforgettable memory for her and for them as a couple. Also, guys are sometimes so nervous they forget to say the actual words: "Will You Marry Me?" If you forget everything else, please remember these four important words. And of course, don't forget the ring!

Bonus: What advice would you give to a woman who would like to propose to her partner?

Go for it! More women are stepping up to the plate to propose marriage, and I think it's fantastic. If you're sure he's "the one" and you two have discussed spending the rest of your lives together, why not be the one to pop the question? Most men will feel special and will then reciprocate the emotion. You can propose to him with a nice men's band and the two of you can later shop for your ring together. One thing I've learned is that when it comes to matters of the heart there really aren't any set rules.

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