How to Plan the Perfect Restaurant Proposal

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

Updated 10/30/19

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Chances are you’ve witnessed a proposal in a restaurant, either on-screen or in real life. The nervous date acting 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. Well, say no more. From the level of intimacy of your engagement to the overall ambience, here's what to think about before dropping to one knee at a restaurant.

01 of 09

Go Fancy or Keep It Casual

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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."

02 of 09

Decide If You Want to Go Solo or Include Family

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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. Whether you decide to keep it intimate or throw a big bash, take some time to think about how you’d like the day to play out.

03 of 09

Make a Reservation and Talk to the Manager

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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.”

04 of 09

Consider Whether You’d Like to Be in a Full Dining Room or in a Private Space

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Similar to 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 or she is 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.

05 of 09

Let the Restaurant Help You

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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

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“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

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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, 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.

08 of 09

Consider Combining It With an Engagement Party

<p>couple surrounded by friends at engagement party</p>

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Why not tackle two major to-dos with one event? After you pop the question, consider surprising 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. Many restaurants have a private room where the guests can “hide” while you drop to one knee. Talk about a celebration for the books!

09 of 09

Don’t Forget the Bubbles

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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. Have the restaurant 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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