Chances are, you’ve seen a proposal in a restaurant, either on screen or in real life. The nervous date acting awkward because he or she is about the pop the question. Dinner seems to drag on and on. The ring finally arrives in dessert. The recipient screams with joy, and all the restaurant’s guests applaud the happy couple. They’re engaged!
It’s a scenario you want to create when you propose but are not sure where to start. Well, we got you. Our experts advise on what to think about before dropping to one knee at a restaurant.
See more: 13 Romantic Restaurants Worth the Trip
Go fancy or keep it casual
The first step is choosing where to go. Hint: That doesn’t have to be the closest Michelin-star restaurant. Sure, white tablecloths exude classy, but that’s not always authentic to every couple’s love story. In fact, some of the sweetest proposals take place at eateries that hold special meaning to the duo: the taqueria where they had their first date, the pizza spot where they first said “I love you,” their favorite neighborhood pub, or even, the local In-N-Out.
Decide if you want to go solo or include family
Some couples like the privacy of an engagement with just the two of them. Others prefer to include friends and family. You’ve probably seen the surprise engagement photos where the family holds up “Will You Marry Me” signs. Think about how you’d like the day to play out. Want keep it intimate or throw a party? This is important for organizing the plan for the day with the restaurant.
Make a reservation and talk to the manager
Of course, you’ll want to reserve a table in your name. But beyond that, be sure to let the restaurant team in on your plan. Call and ask to the speak with the manager, preferably before prime dinner time. They are pros after all, and will have guidance to share about what works and what doesn’t in their establishment to create the perfect moment. “Every once in a while a well-intentioned proposer will try to coordinate an event involving the bulk of their shared family and friends, but won’t let us in on the secret,” explained events manager Dina Nili of the Malibu Beach Inn’s restaurant in Malibu, California. “That can make it really tough to execute.”
Consider whether you’d like to be in a full dining room or in a private space
Like the decision to involve friends and family, some couples prefer to take in the moment sans an audience. Ask the restaurant about private rooms, terraces, or nooks that offer you exclusivity. This can also calm the nerves of the proposer, since it’s not like he’s performing. Other couples, however, are perfectly comfortable having a go at it from the corner table. Consult the manager about the best tables for popping the question, be it a spot in front of the fireplace, by a window, or in a cozy booth. Whatever you choose, manage your expectations by gathering the best practices from the manager.
Let the restaurant help you
Even if it’s a casual bar, the team will be more adept at organizing a proposal than you—they’ve likely done this before! Give the hospitality pros the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the dos and dont’s, says Alexandra Andronesi of Evo Kitchen & Bar in Portland, Maine. She suggests giving the team clear direction on how you want it to play out, so that they can assist in any way. “Be sure to tell the staff appropriate go and no-go signs so they know when to help do their part,” Andronesi said. “Nothing worse than having them come at the wrong time.”
Include decor and thoughtful details
“The most successful proposals are those with enormous attention to detail, where the proposer really knows their soon-to-be’s fiance’s heart,” Nili said. Details, however, don’t have to be red roses, flower petals, and Champagne, unless that’s what you really want. Nili suggests including framed photos from your relationship, playing favorite songs, lighting candles, or choosing a place based on the view, especially if you are in a particularly scenic destination. For Nili, it’s the massive Pacific. “The only thing you need to worry about is matching the ocean,” she added of couples who propose on their terrace overlooking the water.
Pop the question at dessert or near the end of the meal
The idea of eating a few courses while you twirl the ring in your pocket may not be your first inkling, but trust us, it’s better post-entree. You’ll be so overjoyed and want to spread the news, you won’t want to sit through the rest of dinner. Plus, popping champagne on an empty stomach won’t bode well for a night of celebration. Suck it up during the few plates of pasta. We know you can do it.
Consider combining it with an engagement party
Why not tackle two to-dos with one event? After you pop the question, consider surprising your now-fiance with a party, complete with family and friends. Even if they weren’t present for the actual moment—you wanted to keep that private—an after-party is a very popular way of christening the big news. Many restaurants have a private room where the guests can “hide” while you drop to one knee. You both can enter for surprise! Hugs, kisses, and toasts.
Don’t forget the bubbles
What says celebration more than Champagne? Plan to have the restaurant serve up a bottle of predetermined bubbles after the recipient says yes. If you have friends and family waiting nearby, have a bucket full of chilled sparkling wine to kick off the party. If frizzante is not your thing, that’s cool too. Have the restaurant bring over your go-to cocktails, chilled pints of beer, or delicious mocktails to cheers to the next chapter in your lives together.