How to Plan the Perfect Restaurant Proposal

The simple steps pretty much boil down to eat, propose, celebrate!

Man proposing to woman over meal

Koh Sze Kiat / Getty Images

Chances are you’ve witnessed a proposal in a restaurant, either on screen or in real life. The nervous date acts awkward because he or she is about to pop the question. Dinner seems to drag on and on until the ring finally arrives "hidden" in a soufflé. The recipient screams with joy, and all the restaurant’s guests applaud the happily engaged couple.

It’s a scenario you want to create when you propose but may not be sure where to start. And rightly so, as public proposals can be all the more nerve-wracking. Well, say no more. From the level of intimacy of your engagement to the overall ambiance, here's what to think about before dropping to one knee at a restaurant.

01 of 09

Go Fancy or Keep It Casual

The first step is choosing where to go. Hint: It doesn’t have to be the closest Michelin-star restaurant. Sure, white tablecloths convey 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 or the pizza spot where they first said “I love you." Perhaps, it's even that one dive bar or late-night joint that you always gravitate to on the way home.

02 of 09

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 with the family holding up “will you marry me?” signs.

03 of 09

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 speak with the manager to ensure that your perfect moment goes off without a hitch. “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,” explains Dina Nili, the events manager of the Malibu Beach Inn’s restaurant in Malibu, California. “That can make it really tough to execute.” Communicating well in advance will ensure the smoothest proposal.

04 of 09

Decide Between a Full Dining Room or a Private Space

Similar to the decision to involve friends and family, some couples prefer to take in the moment sans audience. Ask the restaurant about private rooms, terraces, or nooks that offer exclusivity. This can also calm the nerves of the proposer since it’s not like he or she is performing. (Of course, renting out a restaurant or reserving a special space may immediately give away the surprise.) 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.

05 of 09

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 a 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 says. “There's nothing worse than having them come at the wrong time.”

06 of 09

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 spouse's heart,” Nili says. 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.

07 of 09

Pop the Question at Dessert or Near the End of the Meal

The idea of eating a few courses while you anxiously twirl the ring in your pocket may not be your first inkling, but trust us, it’s better post-entrée. You’ll be so overjoyed and want to spread the news that 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.

Consider speaking with the cook prior to the proposal to coordinate a special dessert to arrive after the big question is popped.

08 of 09

Consider Combining It With an Engagement Party

Why not tackle two major to-dos with one event? After you pop the question, surprise your future spouse 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 popular way of christening the big news. (Plus, it will save you from having to call everyone to spread the good news.) Many restaurants have a private room where guests can “hide” while you drop to one knee. Talk about a celebration for the books!

09 of 09

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 isn't your thing, that’s cool too. Tell the restaurant to bring over your go-to cocktails, chilled pints of beer, or delicious mocktails to say cheers to the next chapter in your lives together.

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