Think about the first time you ever saw a wedding proposal in a movie. It was likely a grandiose display, perfectly planned and timed with an impossible Hollywood budget. However, those types of proposals set the bar for many people, and they created expectations that are often unattainable.
Wedding pros are here to tell you that you can have the proposal of your dreams without the unrealistic movie magic. Real proposals require planning and being mindful of logistics, but they can also be completely in the moment and spontaneous. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ type of marriage proposal.
We rounded up some top industry experts to help extinguish any misconceptions, plus some best practices for popping the question.
While it varies from couple to couple, there’s likely a default checklist that comes to mind when you think of what a proposal should look like – even if that list doesn’t necessarily match up with your expectations.
Jen Avey, VP of Marketing for Destination Weddings Travel Group, says that people often assume a destination proposal is too difficult to plan. “It’s easy to think planning a vacation proposal is more difficult than it’s worth, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Many all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean have dedicated packages and staff to help plan the perfect proposal in paradise. Special details such as rose petals, candlelight, champagne, and even writing ‘Will You Marry Me?’ in the sand will be taken care of for you, so all you have to do is relax and enjoy the moment.”
According to Juliea Bowers, Support Team Manager for Classic Photographers: “[Some think that] engagement rings have to be diamonds. Yes, diamonds are [everyone’s] best friend, but maybe you want color with sapphires, rubies, or even your birthstone. It’s a ring you’ll love that expresses your personality and style.”
Then, there’s the idea that gender roles should be involved. Sarah Blessinger, Owner, and Designer of Kindred Weddings and Events, notes: “For decades, a wedding proposal was usually seen as a proposal from a man to a woman. However, each individual (and relationship) is unique and brings its own intricacies that allow for this cultural norm to be revitalized. Either partner can absolutely propose, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. We are seeing more proposals from women in heterosexual relationships and double proposals as well! A huge shift in wedding proposals has come on the heels of the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community. Love is love, and all relationships should be upheld with honor, dignity, and respect. The marriage covenant is between the two individuals promising life and love to one another.”
How did they come to be?
So, where did these ideas come from? We can guess some of the obvious culprits, but the reality is that the tradition of a wedding proposal has been carried on for many years. Of course, the act itself has been modernized and customized to each couple, but it’s often easier for some to follow suit with what’s historically been done before.
Bri Marbais, Bridal Stylist of The Bridal Finery, adds to this, saying: “The common misconceptions of wedding proposals have been carried through over time. Never have they ever been questioned until most recently. Things are changing and evolving more now than ever with wedding proposals.”
Laura Maddox, Owner of Magnolia Celebrates, touches on social media’s role. “In an Instagram society where it didn’t happen if you don’t post it online, and your life is only as good as the number of likes you receive, it’s very easy to see how proposals became more and more of a big show! However, ultimately, what every woman wants is to hear how much they are loved by the one they love and that that person wants to spend the rest of their life with them.”
Maddox continues: “I also don’t think it’s commonly known that you can propose with a faux ring. Most people want to have the groom make the effort and read her mind on what her perfect diamond will look like, but I think it’s so pragmatic and practical to have her shop with you.”
What you can do to combat these misconceptions
It comes as no surprise that couples today are aching to break the mold and opt for a more personal proposal. This isn’t to say that you can’t follow the lead of what’s been done before, but if you’re looking to go against the norm, here are some things to be mindful of.
Unfortunately, this can be difficult at times with a friend or family member that is overly involved. Nora Sheils, Co-Founder of Rock Paper Coin and Founder of Bridal Bliss, suggests: “Keep in mind that a family member or friend that is overly involved is likely just excited about the union and the big surprise. Have someone that wants to make it extra special? Give them jobs – they can be the surprise decoy or set up the proposal site before you arrive. Anything to keep them distracted and off your back!”
Lynne Reznick, Owner of Lynne Reznick Photography, agrees, noting: “The more you can share about why you are planning the proposal to be a certain way, highlighting how it speaks to your relationship specifically and is unique to you and your partner, the more likely they’ll be to support your ideas and abandon their own agenda when it comes to how you propose.”
Reznick adds, “Getting down on one knee and asking the person you love most in the world to marry you is an incredibly personal act. Proposing can feel vulnerable because you’re laying your emotions bare. Don’t let pressure from family, friends or social media make you doubt how well you know your partner. Focus on your relationship and find ways to make the proposal thoughtful and meaningful to the two of you.”
If you or your partner are planning to pop the question, it’s important to navigate the process without unrealistic standards or expectations. The only thing that truly matters is the final answer, and you’ll be much happier when you look back on the moment and realize that the proposal was all about the two of you – not what others have done before you.
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.
We’ve partnered with OFD Consulting to bring you this great advice from their collective of wedding professionals.