Guy gets on bended knee. Whips out a rock. Pops the Q. Girl squeals with delight. Well, at least that's the way it used to go. These days, prospective grooms are doing whatever they can—filming movie trailers, rewriting crossword puzzles, following the proposal with surprise nuptials—to ensure that your (their?) big moment spends a month ruling YouTube. (If only they'd put this much effort into the wedding-planning!) Guys, don't stress. We put together a tutorial on how to propose with panache and still make the first step toward marriage feel meaningful.
Men, listen up: All eyes will be on the bride at the wedding, but when it comes to the proposal, the spotlight's on you. Here, our guide to making the most of this milestone:
Wow With Your Proposal
Um, when did proposals become a competitive sport? Here's how to score some serious points.
Not your daddy's proposal
Back in the day, taking a girl to a fancy restaurant and having the waiter slip the ring into a glass of bubbly seemed like the height of creativity. Today? Prospective grooms are enlisting flash mobs, Broadway singers, even celebrities—Ellen DeGeneres helped one guy propose via Twitter—to stage one-of-a- kind and totally over-the-top proposals. Says New York event planner Marcy Blum, "There's lots of pressure on men not to be clichéd and to propose in a way that will make a good story."
Wait, that's a job?
Just how ingrained has the super-proposal become in American culture? We'd like to introduce you to an emerging career called "proposal planning." Yes, there are people whose days are dedicated to helping guys come up with the most jaw-droppingly romantic gesture ever. "Women want to be blown away, but men don't always know how to make that happen," says proposal planner Sarah Pease, owner of Brilliant Event Planning, in New York. "That's where we come in." Not to be outdone, a number of hotels (Miami's Acqualina, St. Lucia's Cap Maison) have begun hiring proposal concierges—the Tides Riviera Maya in Mexico even offers the services of a proposal paparazzo. His job? Immortalizing the moment with stealthy snaps.
Viral or bust
As tempting as it may be to blame the rom-com-industrial complex for the proposal pressure cooker, many feel the real force behind this phe- nomenon is YouTube. "Before social media, women didn't know how other women were being proposed to," says Los Angeles marriage-proposal planner Michele Williamson, owner of The Heart Bandits Romantic Event Planners. "Now, an awesome proposal goes viral and before you know it, nine million people have seen it." Make that 19 million—that's how many hits "Movie-Trailer Proposal" had received at press time since first being posted in May.
The bottom line
So does this mean you have to plan an underwater ring scavenger hunt at the Great Barrier Reef, or start looking into the necessary permits for riding a white horse into your girlfriend's office? That's a big no. "The perfect proposal doesn't have to be expensive or crazy," says Pease. "It just has to be heartfelt." She says one of the most memorable proposals she's planned involved 1,000 paper cranes, each marked with a promise from the guy about their future lives together. (And—you guessed it!—the girl said yes.)
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Choose the Right Rock
Jeweler-to-the-stars Neil Lane, who counsels diamond-hunting dudes on The Bachelor, clues you in on how to buy the perfect ring.
>> Pay attention. Lane advises, you know, listening when she comments on other women's engagement rings or shows you photos in magazines. Still no clue? Grill her BFFs.
>> Take her window-shopping. She'll definitely give you hints on what she loves—and doesn't.
>> Figure out her fave cut. Does she like her rocks round, princess, marquis, or cushion? Psst: Just ask her.
>> Enlist the help of an expert. If you're not up on the "four C's"—cut, carat, color, and clarity—get thee to a jewelry store, where a pro can explain them.
>> Stick to your budget. Yes, the ring is a token of your love. But if she loves you back, she won't want you to go into crazy debt over jewelry. (You still have a wedding and a life to invest in.) Be up-front with your jeweler about your budget, so he can help you find a fab ring you can (really) afford.
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5 Tips for the Perfect Proposal
1. Surprise her
Maybe you've been living together. Talked marriage a time or two. Gone ring-shopping. But even if the fact of the proposal won't be a shocker, the when, where, and how should be—so put some thought into them.
2. Talk to her family
If she's really close with her family, feel free to go the old-school route and ask them for their blessing beforehand. Just make sure you fill her parents in no earlier than a week ahead, says proposal planner Pease. (Otherwise they could let something slip.)
3. Put your heart into it
"The biggest criticism I hear is that the proposal lacked emotion," says Allison Moir-Smith, a bridal counselor and author of Emotionally Engaged: A Bride's Guide to Surviving the "Happiest" Time of Her Life. Think about the moments that led to this one—your first date, kiss, trip—and work them into your big speech.
4. Get down on one knee
It seems a bit old-fashioned, but trust us, girls dig it.
5. Seriously, bring a ring
Proposals are about rituals, and slipping something on her finger is a big one. No ring yet? Bring a faux one (a toy, candy), then shop for a real rock together later on.
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Where to do the deed
Sure, a location that holds meaning (the place you first met, your favorite restaurant, the site of your first kiss) makes for an especially poignant proposal story. But if you're not quite sure of the perfect place, and you're looking to create a special memory at a brand new location, these stunning spots won't disappoint
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More Helpful Hints
Still stumped? We've got you covered:
• Engagement Planning 101: Consult the BRIDES Engagement Ring Essential Guide for everything you need to know.
• Not sure how to pop the question? Check out our Real Proposals for inspiration.
• Browse the Engagement Ring Gallery to find the perfect ring for your bride-to-be.