How to Propose 101: 13 Things to Do for the Perfect Marriage Proposal


Photo by Chuy Photography

Whether you met back in high school, through a mutual friend in college, or on a dating app, you found love—and it’s time to make it stick. But as we're sure you already know, figuring out how to propose is a major undertaking (hello, shopping for a ring and memorizing that speech).

To make your long-awaited moment run as smoothly as possible, we tapped the expertise of proposal planner Alexandra Uritis. Ahead, Uritis weighs in on 13 things you can’t forget to do before you get down on one knee.

Meet the Expert

Alexandra Uritis is an event design and proposal planner for the OG professional proposal planning company, The Yes Girls.

What to Do Before You Propose
Michela Buttignol/Brides 

How to Plan a Proposal

Ready to pop the question? Here are some things to consider first.

1. Make Sure You’re on the Same Page

This might seem obvious, but before you start plotting, it’s important to make sure you both have marriage on the brain. Talk to your partner about the future. Let them know that one day you’d like to be married and ask if they see marriage in their future, too. Nervous about making this conversation feel too much like a proposal? Keep it broad by discussing your best friend’s recent engagement and lead into it that way. Is it a hard conversation? Yes. But hopefully, you’ll come away from it with an idea of what your partner will say when you open that ring box.

2. Chat With Their Parents

Old school? Yes. Important? Maybe. It really depends on the family. If your partner has hinted in any way that you need to ask his or her parents for their hand in marriage, do it. That doesn’t mean your partner is anyone’s property though. Try something like this: “I am deeply in love with your son/daughter, and we want to spend our lives together. I am planning to propose and want you to be involved in this exciting moment.”

3. Buy the Bauble

The engagement ring is a piece of jewelry your partner will wear every day for the rest of their life, so get a sense of what they really love. Snap photos of the jewelry they wear every day, take a peek at their Pinterest boards, or ask a close friend or family member to help narrow it down. As for jewelers, get recommendations to make sure you’re purchasing from a trusted store with great reviews and service. Last but certainly not least, find out their ring size. If it’s not a secret, just ask. If you’re going the surprise route, check your partner’s jewelry. Find a ring that he or she wears regularly (and make a note of which finger it goes on). Then either bring it with you to a jeweler or mark how far it fits on your own finger. Many jewelers can also make a good guess at a ring size based on your partner’s height and weight. And there’s always resizing.

4. Get Personal

Now that you have a ring, it’s time to plan the proposal. Think about the type of proposal your partner will love, whether it’s a grand gesture, an intimate moment, or a surprise surrounded by family and friends. No matter your budget, Uritis says to first hone in on a beautiful, sentimental spot, which you can easily glamorize to set the mood. "Find a cool space that means something to them. It can just be your cozy living room, but deck it out with tons of candles, and it completely changes the feel of the space," she advises. Earn major points with personalization, too, and steer clear of one-size-fits-all ideas.

5. Consider Enlisting a Pro

You know your love best, but sometimes it's worth it to outsource for a bit of extra proposal help. Companies like The Yes Girls take care of everything from logistics to sourcing vendors—just know that such a luxury will cost you. With thousands of proposals under their belts, these planners know a thing or two about making your bent-knee milestone all the more memorable and, most importantly, worry-free. "You can stay calm and collected and enjoy this time because it’s a huge moment for you, too," Uritis says. "We can do all the backend things so you can take all the credit and look fabulous."

6. Take Notes

You don’t need to have your speech totally written out, but spend a little time jotting down what you’d like to say. Getting your thoughts on paper will give you some direction when it’s time to pop the question, even if you end up winging half of it anyway. As for what to say when you actually propose, Uritis's clients typically hit on their partner's best qualities or even recap the moment they knew their S.O. was the one. "It’s just really being genuine and making [them] feel so loved and excited in that moment," she adds. "And it can be short—it can be a couple of sentences. But talking about what they love about them and how excited they are for their future together would be the two best things to bring up." Of course, don't forget to tack on the "Will you marry me?" bit.

7. Plan a Celebration

You don’t need to plan a full-on engagement party, but make sure you’ve got an idea of how the two of you will celebrate the big moment. Book a table at your favorite restaurant, tuck some Champagne in the fridge, or have a few friends waiting in the wings.

Really read into your partner's personality to determine whether a private one-on-one celebration or a full-fledged family affair would make them feel the most comfortable.

8. Set Up a Fake Backstory

To avoid blowing the surprise, come up with a foolproof ruse that leads your S.O. off track a bit. They may know something's up, especially if you're taking a trip or have out-of-the-ordinary plans, but a fake game plan "keeps the proposer calm if he or she feels they're really insecure in this 'lie,'" Uritis says.

9. Keep the Ring Safe

From the second you have the ring in your hands, keep it safe. Invest in insurance and then find a safe place to hide the ring until it’s time. When you’re ready to propose, safety is still key. Make sure the ring is secure in a zipped pocket or safely in the box—somewhere you’ll be able to reach easily without dropping it.

10. Have a Photographer on Standby

Whether you hire a professional or trust your future sister-in-law and her iPhone, your soon-to-be fiancé(e) will love you all the more for finding someone to document the occasion. If they have no idea the proposal's coming, you can expect absolutely epic reaction snapshots. In fact, Uritis highly recommends that her clients book a photographer, "especially in this day and age when you do it for the ‘gram" Bonus: You can even double down for an impromptu engagement shoot.

If you'd really rather absolutely no one be present for the moment, set up your phone in a hidden spot and press record.

11. Discreetly Store the Bauble

Nothing ruins spontaneity faster than your partner seeing the bulge of a ring box from your pocket. To save the day, The Yes Girls actually invented the ultimate proposal hack: the Box Sock. This wearable accessory comes with a small pocket and tiny ring box, ready for immediate retrieval as soon as you stoop down to one knee.

12. Be Flexible

Life happens, so be prepared to go with the flow. Don’t rush the proposal just because the sun is about to set or dinner is nearly over—wait until the moment really feels right. And if you’ve planned something a little more low-key, that very well might mean waiting a few days if your sweetheart is stressed from work or the weather isn’t cooperating.

13. Don't Rush It

Now you're ready to pop the question! When the moment comes, take a deep breath, get down on one knee, and pitch the sentimental speech you've probably rehearsed a million times. According to Uritis, it really doesn't matter which knee you go down on, but if you've stashed the ring in your sock, then kneel on the opposite side. Give your partner a moment—ample time must be given to process/cry/hug it out. Then, once they've collected themselves, figure out when to officially put on the ring. Or your partner may beat you to the punch and hold out their hand for you to do the honors.

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