To that end, there are lots of ways to do this right and have the proposal remembered fondly, but there are many more ways to do it wrong. If you do it wrong, the proposal could become an extended family joke that you can never escape if she says “yes” -- or it might serve as a sad, cautionary tale to others if she says “no.” As with most things in life, there’s a big gray area between right and wrong. In this case, it’s the boneyard of forgettable marriage proposals, where the bland and uninspired methods go to die.
Your marriage proposal is one of those requisite stories that she’ll have to tell her friends and family. If you infuse the following protocol with your own imaginative details, you can give her a proposal story that she won’t mind telling for years to come because she’ll be proud of it. Plus, she’ll have a dynamite proposal story to make her friends jealous and her enemies disgusted.
Proposal Rules And Etiquette
Inform Her Parents Beforehand
The key word here is inform, not ask -- and you should be cautious that your language reflects as much. You can ask for their permission, but you’re not beholden to it if they don’t approve. In the end, if you give her father the opportunity to say no, you deny her the basic ability to make her own choices.
On the other hand, it’s good manners to involve your potential in-laws in the process, since for them it may suggest at least a token involvement in their daughter’s life. While this may seem old-fashioned, give tradition the benefit of the doubt.
Naturally, there may be some exceptional circumstances that would dictate a different proposal course. If she’s estranged from her parents (she hasn't spoken to them in a number of years or they are not a part of her life), informing them is not necessary. On that note, I would advise against any plans or schemes you might be harboring of using the proposal to bring them all together.
Choose The Ring Yourself
Involving your potential fiancée in the purchase of the engagement ring would be catastrophic to at least two of the key elements of a great proposal: surprise and romance.
If you have discussed marriage at some point prior to your proposal, then you should have ascertained what she wants in an engagement ring. If you haven’t, you’re left to your memory and your wits, which aren’t the most reliable things in the world. Whether marriage has been discussed or not, you should consider enlisting the aid of someone you trust -- one of her siblings, another relative or a close friend.
Carefully Consider Your Stage
This is basic: Gear the venue around her tastes and her personality. If you know she would savor an audience, make sure there is one -- the bigger the better. If that’s not her style, practice some discretion and remember that the bigger the stage, the higher the stakes. While uncertainty on your part shouldn’t overly influence your marriage-proposal venue choice, you’re more likely to get a pressured and later retracted “yes” when you use the JumboTron at a crowded stadium as a proposal gimmick.
Additionally, you want a venue that’s conducive to the moment. You don’t want to catch her at a stressful time of the day or at a time when she can’t enjoy it.
Give The Proposal A Formal Tone
In other words, don’t be casual. This is a formal marriage proposal and it requires a degree of formality on your part, beginning with how you ask. You’ll be nervous, but that won’t excuse throw offs like “wanna get married?” or “I ain’t getting on one knee.” Stick to “Will you marry me?”
Formality applies to the traditional gesture of the bended knee as well, although there’s a bit of flexibility here. If the occasion suits it -- meaning you’re in a place that physically allows for it -- bend down onto your left knee and say your piece. The gesture is old-fashioned (some might even call it cheesy), but it has a romantic flair and at the very least you should give it proper consideration. She’ll appreciate it and might even be expecting it.
Be Prepared For Any Answer
Meaning both “yes,” “no” and “I need to think about it.”
This may not seem fair, but this process has afforded you plenty of time to make the decision to propose. Consequently, she deserves equal time if she needs it. Every man wants a resounding “yes,” but not every man will get it -- no matter how well-prepared the proposal is.
Be Present For Her Reaction
Some of the more extreme or elaborate proposal ideas floating around the internet will ultimately result in your lady being asked by billboards, computers and blimps. No matter what the plan is, when the question is popped you need to be with her. Period.
Take A Unique Approach
Finally, tailor your approach to her and to your relationship. Give it a context. In other words, throwing on 100 pounds of armor and riding in on a white horse is only romantic if there’s some greater relevance to it. Don’t be unimaginative and stereotypical. Spending hundreds of dollars on an elaborate proposal with “the works” makes little sense if a well-written poem would better contextualize your relationship.
A proposal of marriage is a serious matter, but the proposal itself doesn’t need to be so serious -- it can be fun, romantic, wild, or all three. Even if your proposal features little beyond a ring and a question, you can still give her a story to tell and earn a ”yes.” And you needn't fear simplicity. In fact, the more elaborate the proposal, the more things can go wrong, which may lead to a detour from your fundamental goal: asking the woman you love for her hand in marriage and to spend the rest of her life with you.