The Complete Proposal Checklist: Everything You Need to Do Before Popping the Question

These 10 steps will help you prepare for this milestone moment.

Man proposing to his girlfriend on a dock

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Once you’ve decided that you want to spend the rest of your life with your partner, it’s time to start thinking about how you want to pop the question. Since asking for your partner’s hand in marriage is such a life-altering question, you’re probably feeling a lot of pressure to make sure your proposal goes perfectly. If the process seems daunting or if you’re at a loss for where to begin, we’ve accumulated a step-by-step guide to prepare you for the moment you get down on one knee. This list of steps has everything you need to keep in mind, from getting the stamp of approval from your significant other’s family to throwing a party. Ahead, a complete proposal checklist to help you plan the ultimate surprise.

Meet the Expert

Marvin Velazquez is the co-owner of The Heart Bandits and a proposal planner based in Orange County, California with 13 years of experience.

Ask for Permission

Receiving a blessing from your partner’s parents might seem like an antiquated tradition, but many couples still ask their significant other's mother and father to give their blessing ahead of a proposal. Although it isn’t a requirement, having a conversation with your partner’s family about your decision is a sign of respect and a considerate gesture that will include them in the process. Looping in loved ones also demonstrates your commitment to your partner and may even lead to some valuable proposal ideas. “If your partner is the traditional type (or their parents are), be sure to get their blessing before you spend any time or money planning the proposal,” Velazquez advises. When you plead your case, remember to be intentional, honest, and heartfelt.

Find Out Their Ring Size

Since purchasing an engagement ring is a big investment, getting the sizing right is an essential step. While your partner can always resize the ring later, it makes things a lot easier when the size is right from the get go. Plus, your future spouse will probably be so excited about the engagement that they’ll want to slip on the ring as soon as possible, not hand it off to a jeweler. It goes without saying that you’ll want to be sly about finding the right fit, so ask your partner’s friends and family or borrow a ring your significant other already owns for comparison.

Buy the Perfect Ring

After you’ve found out the correct ring size, it’s time to browse potential styles. Maybe your partner has already mentioned their favorite design. If not, chat with members of their inner circle for potential ideas or take note of the jewelry they wear on a regular basis. Once you have a general sense of direction, purchase the item online or in person at a jewelry store. Some couples shop for engagement rings together, but if you’re keeping the proposal a surprise, buy the ring at least one month beforehand. Velazquez says to allow for an even wider window if you’re customizing the sparkler. Don’t forget to buy a box to store the glittering jewel.

Insure the Ring

While engagement ring insurance is probably the last thing on your mind while you’re getting ready to pop the question, it’s a step you don’t want to skip. Since these pieces of jewelry are valuable and sentimental items, you and your partner would most likely be devastated if anything happened to it. In the event that your precious gemstone gets lost, stolen, or damaged, having insurance will offer financial protection and peace of mind. You can purchase engagement ring insurance through a company that specializes in jewelry insurance or as an extension for your renters or homeowners policy. 

Hide the Ring

To keep the proposal a surprise, find an effective hiding place for the rock and ring box. Your sock drawer or kitchen cabinet just won’t cut it. Instead, think of unexpected spots where your partner never goes near, such as your toolbox, empty luggage if you aren’t traveling any time soon, or the pocket of a garment that’s out of season. Remember to keep the receipt out of sight as well. 

Figure Out How You’re Going to Propose

Getting down on one knee is a once-in-a-lifetime moment, so you’ll want to ask for your significant other’s hand in marriage in the most touching and memorable way. From arranging a scavenger hunt to creating a photo album with your favorite memories, there are so many creative ways to propose. If you want to incorporate an activity, make sure it’s something that suits your significant other’s interests and personality. “Spend some time brainstorming how you met, what is special about your love story, and what would really resonate with your partner,” Velazquez suggests. “Then, create a proposal idea that will let them know that it was truly made for them.”

Select a Time and Place

Once you have a general idea of how you want the proposal to unfold, choose when and where you’re going to make it happen. To make the event as personal as possible, the setting should reflect your relationship in some way. Maybe you decide to pop the question on your favorite hiking trail, at your go-to restaurant for date nights, or during an annual getaway to your favorite beach destination. Velazquez warns that you’ll need to get a permit to propose in a public space and sign a contract for private venues.

Another key logistic is finding the right time. Of course, you’ll want to pick a day that fits both of your schedules. If you want to go the extra mile, ask the ultimate question on a noteworthy date, such as the anniversary of the day you first met or went on your first date.

Finalize Any Additional Touches

There’s nothing more romantic than getting down on one knee on a bed of rose petals, surrounded by candlelight. If you want to make your proposal setup extra special for your future spouse, consider using statement-making décor to transform the space. In addition to balloon arches and neon signs, maybe you’re thinking about giving your partner a bouquet of flowers or celebrating with a glass of Champagne. To set yourself up for success, make a list of every additional element you’ll need to take care of prior to the special moment. 

Practice Your Speech

While you don’t need to memorize an entire speech, having an idea of what you want to say is always a good idea, especially once nerves come into play. If you aren’t sure what to talk about, describe how you felt the first time you met, when you knew your partner was the one, the qualities you admire most about them, how they’ve had a positive impact on you, and what you envision for the future. Include personal anecdotes where you can, but most importantly, speak from the heart.

Pop the Question and Celebrate!

After your partner says “yes,” take a moment to enjoy it—just the two of you—whether it’s grabbing dinner or popping some bubbly. Then, FaceTime and call your friends and family to share the news. You may also want to host a larger celebration with all of your loved ones. This might look like surprising your future spouse with an engagement party on the night of the proposal or planning a soirée at a later date.  

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