Marriage Proposal 101: A Practical Guide to Popping the Question

Proposals: The gateway to “I Do!”

Many little girls dream of a perfect proposal before they walk down the aisle. Everyone has his or her own idea of what a proposal entails, ranging from simple to flashy. Whether your future fianceé fantasizes about an intimate beach proposal or a flash mob extravaganza, it’s important to know this information and plan accordingly.💋

What factors should you assess when planning the “big ask”? Let’s look at some major considerations when proposing, 7 details to prepare ahead of time, and helpful tips for the best marriage proposal that she’ll talk about for years to come.

Table of Contents

What to consider before marriage proposal planning

Planning a proposal can be dizzying! Before jumping the gun and making any plans, start with the basics. Lead with these 4 initiatives prior to popping the question:

Before Proposing: Make Sure You’re Both on the Same Page

Make sure you’re both on the same page

We’ve ALL seen the videos of girlfriends rejecting marriage proposals.😭 It’s easy to question the women in these scenarios, but often they never see the proposal coming! Make sure you’re both in agreement about what each of you wants out of a proposal before actually getting down on one knee.

Ideally, you and your partner should have MULTIPLE conversations about marriage, timing, and scenarios before you actually pop the question. A little communication can save potential grooms the heartache of a broken relationship or awkward “second” proposal when things don’t go quite right.

It can be tough to glean information from your significant other to figure out what she wants, but asking family and friends is a great starting point for gathering those details. Or, you can utilize a friend’s recent engagement to start the conversation without awkwardly asking pointed questions.😊

Conversations With Girlfriend About Marriage

Here are some questions for you to consider to get the right info over time:

  • Does she even WANT a proposal? Would she prefer to just skip to wedding planning?
  • Should you ask for her father/mother/parental figure’s permission?
  • Is she looking for a traditional proposal or something unique?
  • Should your proposal be planned or spontaneous?
  • Does she want a public or intimate setting?
  • Would she want her family and friends to be there? Would she like them to be involved?
  • Do you need a photographer to capture the moment?
  • What does her dream ring look like? Does she even WANT an engagement ring? Would she rather pick it out herself?
Talk to Her Parents Before Planning the Proposal

Talk to the parents

Not every bride expects her future groom to ask for her parents’ blessing, but it’s something to consider if you’re looking to propose. If anything, they may be an excellent source of information regarding what type of marriage proposal their daughter may like!

Families come in all shapes and sizes, and so it’s crucial that you understand who you should ask, whether her parents are still married, divorced, widowed, etc. Having respect for the family dynamic and including anyone your wife holds dear in a parental role is the best way to go about asking for blessings.

Finally, go into the conversation prepared to answer any questions they may have. It’s expected for family to become excited or curious when marriage comes up, so be ready to have a respectful conversation regarding your intentions and how you plan to proceed. More often than not, parents are just excited their daughter has finally found someone who loves her so much!😘

Make Note of Your Partner's Taste and Expectations

Make note of her personal taste and expectations

You probably know your future fianceé better than anyone, so utilize that knowledge to concoct the perfect marriage proposal! While you may not have all of the pieces, you can start the process by assessing what you already know and coming up with ways to fill in the blanks.

Does your partner prefer understated aesthetics or is she bold and brash? Does she prefer intimate date nights at home or extravagant nights out? Is she a beach bum, a city slicker, or a country gal? While these questions may seem superfluous, they can help you select important proposal details such as setting, attendees, and even engagement ring styles.📝

Incorporating details from your relationship is another way to show her you’ve loved every second together so far. Your proposal should be an extension of your commitment to your significant other, and showing her you care with minute details that display your excellent listening skills can mean the difference between “Umm...” and “Yes!”.

Think About Your Proposal Budget

Think about your budget

According to The Knot, the average American wedding costs just under $35,000! Budgeting before proposing can save you some cash as well as frustration when your expectations and your future spouse’s don’t match.

When budgeting, be sure to level set with yourself and your partner. It’s important to have financial conversations before you propose to get an idea of what your budget should be.

Once you have a loose understanding of your wedding budget, adjust the budgets for the engagement ring and proposal accordingly. In the US, engagement rings cost an average of $7,500, so this may leave little room to plan an elaborate proposal for many.

Most proposals aren’t expensive and require little capital, but make sure you account for props, hired personnel, dining expenses, and more in your proposal budget. Overall, try to place more money into the engagement ring and wedding, and follow the preparations list below to get an idea of what to budget for.

7 preparations for the perfect marriage proposal

Now that you’ve taken the preliminary steps for planning your proposal, it’s time for the big set up! Here are some decisions you’ll have to make before proposing:

Determine the Date of Marriage Proposal


One of the first things to think about is WHEN you are going to propose. By now, you and your partner should have had several conversations about your ideal “life timeline” and when she would like to get engaged, how long your engagement may be, and when you’d like to get married. Having these conversations ahead of time means less planning on your part when it comes to the actual proposal.

Many people propose during “Engagement Season” or the time between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. These months are popular because couples are usually home for the holidays, surrounded by family that is sure to shower you with congratulations.😝

However, some brides feel this timeframe is cliché, and a Valentine’s Day proposal may not be for you. If you don’t want to propose on Christmas or New Year’s Eve, try a date that is special to the two of you.

💡It could be the anniversary of the day you met, your first date, the first time you both said “I love you”, or any other date that’s meaningful to you both. Choosing a date that’s special to your fianceé shows you cherish all of the significant days you’ve spent together and are looking forward to many more.

Things happen suddenly in life, and it’s important not to become too attached to a date in case of an emergency. Any recent loss or sickness can really affect how she may react, and your chosen date may end up not being the right time. Be sensitive to what’s going on in her life and flex your date accordingly if necessary.
Where to Propose? Pick Memorial Location


Much like buying a house, proposals are about location, location, location! Your proposal location sets the mood for the entire evening, so pick one that suits your future bride’s personality. Think about whether she’d prefer a cityscape at sunset, a sunny winery, or a cliffside near the beach for the backdrop.🌅

Or, maybe your significant other has a favorite hobby, like sports or performing arts. Consider whether you can plan a surprise engagement at your next baseball game, opera visit, or trip to the local theater.

Proposing to Girlfriend on the Beach

Another factor to consider is spectators: think about whether she’d like a crowd of people gathering to cheer or a more intimate setting where you can bask in your newly engaged glow together.

Arguably, the best locations are personal to both of you. Try proposing at the spot you first met, the restaurant where you had your first date, or any other place that carries significance. Doing so amps up the emotional side of your proposal, and your partner will be so touched by the gesture!🥰

If you’re stumped on a good location, you can also fire up Google to help you in your search.  Googling “popular engagement locations in [City]” can yield thousands of resources to help you narrow down ideal locations.  Pinterest is also an excellent source of information on engagement locations, so start pinning and get an inspiration board going!

Clothing for Proposal


While it seems unimportant, what you’re wearing when you propose can mean the difference between a happy future bride and an upset girlfriend!  

Think of a proposal as a sort of job interview: you dress for the job you want, and you should treat the role of husband just the same! Plus, it’s important your future fianceé is able to dress in a way she feels comfortable and that she’ll appreciate in photos.

Ensuring the right wardrobe can be as easy as having a solid backstory. Make sure you play up the necessary energy surrounding your secret plan to make sure she’s dressed in something she loves.

Ultimately, what you wear that day is much less important than how you feel. The other aspects take priority, so if you both dream of a proposal in front of the TV with baggy sweatpants and t-shirts then make that happen!

Shop for the Engagement Ring She Loves

Engagement Ring

The ring is typically the largest portion of any proposal budget, so you’ll want to shop smart! This is the ring she’ll wear for the rest of your lives, so you want to balance finding something she’ll love with what you can afford.

Take into account diamond specifications, side stones, accent stones, and metal type when deciding on a ring budget.🔍 If your significant other wants to help pick out her engagement ring, just make sure you save enough to afford the style she likes best.

To learn how to save money when buying a quality engagement ring, take a look at our article regarding tips on ring buying.

Prepare the Proposal Speech


Even if you’re surrounded by loud music, cheering onlookers, or a busy city street, those sounds will fall away as she hears you say those magic words. But, what exactly should you say?

You don’t need to plan a speech, but have an idea of what you want to say. It may even be helpful to write the important points down and practice them before the big day so you don’t get nervous.

You could just stick with “Will you marry me?”, but it’s even sweeter if you really drive home WHY you want to marry her. Highlight her best qualities, reveal the moment you knew she was the one, or just tell her how excited you are about your future together. Whatever you choose, making it personal is an easy way to create a unique proposal.

If you two have a favorite movie or song, you may even want to try adding a few lines from it to create a fun yet romantic moment! Doing so says you value the things you share as a couple.💞

Do You Need a Crew to Involve in Your Proposal?


Once you decide whether your future fianceé would want friends or family involved, it’s fun to find small jobs to include them in your big ask. Doing so says you value the relationships your partner has with them, and you see them as your friends and family as well.

If you think she’d want them to share in the moment but may not want them around while you ask, have them hide in a nearby location to run out and cheer once she says yes.

Friends and family can be helpful for setting up a fake backstory as you get everything prepared. Plus, they can distract your partner so you have enough time to get ready!

If you want photographs or a video to remember the moment, hire a professional to capture the moment. In doing so, you take the burden of hiding behind a lens off of anyone who may want to watch the proposal firsthand!

Celebration After Marriage Proposal


Once she accepts, it’s time to celebrate!🎊 You’d don’t need to plan an engagement party, but have an idea of what you two will do for the rest of the evening to celebrate your engagement properly.

Celebration After the Proposal

Consider proposing earlier in the evening so you and your fianceé can bask in your newly engaged glow. Then she can flash that ring to everyone while you enjoy your night together!

You can go all out and plan a party with family and friends if you feel your fianceé would like that, but you know her best. Dinner reservations, a boat or carriage ride, or even popping a bottle of champagne in the comfort of your home are just a few ways you can make the night special without going overboard.

Helpful tips for a unique and unforgettable proposal

No matter how you decide to ask the question, you’ll create a unique marriage proposal and your fianceé will love any effort you put in. If you’re still looking for more advice on how to plan, here are a few tips to guide you to a creative proposal:

Don’t overthink it

Don’t stress yourself out over your proposal! If you do, you may end up flubbing the execution or accidentally outing your plan to your partner. Take it slow, plan ahead, and feel confident when you get down on one knee to create the best proposal memory ever.

According to The Knot, most proposers spend about 4-5 months preparing, and 7% even spend as much as a year planning! As such, unless you’re in some sort of rush, take your time and think about how you want to propose.⏳

Overall, while your partner may be eager to get engaged, she ultimately is just eager to spend the rest of your lives together. She’ll understand if you need a bit of time to get things just right!

Avoid stressing over the “surprise” element

Only about one-third of proposees said their engagement was a total surprise, so don’t panic if you’re unsure whether you can keep the secret until the big day. In fact, think about whether your partner may want to be involved in some way.

It’s becoming more common for couples to both shop for engagement rings and discuss a partner’s dream engagement plans. Plus, even if she’s involved in planning it, you can still make the date a surprise!

Personalize your proposal

Roughly 60% of couples feel their proposals were unique, but much of this can be attributed to the personal touches used during the big ask. For example, one-third of couples centered their proposal around a special occasion in their lives, which gives them a significant meaning.

There are several ways you can personalize your proposal without spending your entire budget. 🧸Incorporate a favorite song, write a poem, bring her family along, or think about hobbies or traits you two share that you can include in your big moment. These are the factors that make a proposal truly unique!

Think about which traditions you want to incorporate

Even in the most creative proposals, some traditional pose or wording makes its way in to keep with the sentiment of a marriage proposal. Adding a few traditions keeps your proposal in line with expectations while making the personalized details stand out effectively.

The Knot says about 87% of proposers say, “Will you marry me?”. Additionally, a staggering 89% got down on one knee for the big ask. These are traditions that are easy to incorporate, but you can still enhance your script and do other activities before officially getting down on one knee.

About 3 in 4 grooms also asked for permission from mom and dad. While this isn’t a requirement, it can have both cultural and emotional meaning to many families and you should think about whether your bride would like her parents involved.

Save most of the budget for the ring

While a flashy proposal is nice, keep in mind that most of your engagement budget should go toward the ring. Ultimately, this is the part of your proposal that your partner will keep forever, so make sure that keepsake matches her expectations as well as your budget.

Nowadays, one-third of couples shop together for an engagement ring. As such, think about whether your bride would want to help pick her ring, which can help you understand what your budget needs to be.

Most importantly: NEVER spend more than you can afford! You can typically find your fianceé’s preferred ring style in most budget brackets.

Document the memory

The Knot’s research shows that about 70% of couples take photos of the engagement ring as well as couple photos after the proposal. Think about whether you’d prefer to leave that work to a professional photographer, who can capture the moment for you to treasure forever.

Woman Hugging Her Boyfriend

Having a photographer hidden in plain sight is the best way to get natural, realistic photos.📸 Plus, the photographer can join you post-proposal for any posed shots your new fianceé may want for the ‘gram!

Picking your proposal

Proposals can seem so nerve-wracking! What if she says no? What if I mess up? What if things don’t go according to plan? At the end of the day, the most important part of any proposal is the love you have for your fianceé. Whether you’re able to execute popping the question perfectly or stumble along the way, the love you two share is the true heart of this experience.💝

A crucial piece in any proposal is the engagement ring. Have you already found her ideal ring? Or are you still sorting through the thousands of options and feeling a little overwhelmed? Take a look at our engagement ring guide for inspiration based on your future fianceé’s preferences.

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