Now, guys – a proposal of marriage is always going to be a nerve-wracking speech to have to make, no matter how long you’ve known that your lady is the one you want to spend the rest of your life with. It can also be a pretty emotional experience – as we saw with Monica and Chandler on Friends, there’s a reason that girls aren’t usually the ones proposing!
Basically, you need to get this right – so who better to ask for tips than a professional speech writer? Lawrence Bernstein runs Great Speech Writing, and has written words for all types of occasions – we asked him for his thoughts on how to propose.
Keep it personal
“Two words spring to mind when I think of proposal speeches – relevance and appropriateness,” says Lawrence. “What works for one person may not work for another. It’s all about how the person you’re proposing to is going to look and feel – ask yourself, is this someone who won’t mind being asked in a public place, or will they be embarrassed?
Lawrence suggests building your proposal around your partner’s favourite things – so, if they’re a huge tennis fan, you might want to treat them to Wimbledon tickets and ask there.
“If they love Shakespeare and are the literary type, maybe you could build your proposal around a quote,” advises Lawrence. We love this romantic idea – but only do it if it feels natural. “Most blokes don’t go around quoting poetry and you don’t want to look unnatural,” says Lawrence. “Proposing is difficult at the best of times, so don’t start spouting a sonnet if it’s not your thing!”
“Remember weddings are a means to an end and should end in a happy life together – it’s not just about having a big wedding day. The proposal should be all about your future together.”
Yes, no or maybe?
Many couples have discussed marriage in depth before the proposal, so the answer will essentially be a given, but there’s every chance that popping the question will come as a complete surprise – in which case, you need to plan accordingly.
“If you’re taking a chance on your partner’s response, then you don’t want to be asking in public!” agrees Lawrence.
“I’ve heard some extraordinary stories. One man flew his entire family – parents, siblings, the lot – out to a resort in secret. He proposed to his fiancée there, and his whole family then jumped out shouting ‘surprise!’. That’s a high-risk strategy in my book. The moment after a proposal is meant to be a private moment – it’s the last time you have to celebrate together before the two of you become public property. So the more private and personal the proposal the better, in my opinion.”
Where to pop the question
You can add a personal touch to the big moment by choosing a venue that means something to the pair of you – like the restaurant where you had your first date, or somewhere you’ve taken a romantic walk together in the past. Don’t splash out on a flashy gesture that doesn’t mean anything. “It’s a bit weird if you suddenly get tickets to Mauritius and then go down on bended knee on a beach,” says Lawrence. “However, if you first met in Paris or had a first memorable holiday there, then that might be a great proposal location.
“I have heard of some lovely ways of proposing that have been really thoughtful. One man met his girlfriend at a festival. A few months later, he realised she was ‘The One’ and he took her back there in the winter. The festival was long since over and it was just a muddy field by then, but he took her back to the exact spot they had met and popped the question. Now I think that is sweet and thoughtful!”
“Mind you, there are no rules. It’s all about the words that are right for you – but I would advise that you keep it brief!”
Have some private time
“Once you announce your engagement, you’ll be facing an onslaught of wedding-related questions from friends and family. If she says yes, have an hour to yourselves before you start calling people – give yourselves time to breathe.”
“My final thoughts: you never want to regret having asked, even if the answer you get isn’t quite what you want. You know what they say – ‘don’t ask and you won’t get,’ so go for it!” says Lawrence.
Here are a couple of things to bear in mind:
- List the reasons that you love her – it’s a simple way to make the proposal personal to you as a couple, and she’ll love the thought you’ve put into it.
- You don’t always have to have a ring ready – especially if you know that your partner would prefer to choose her own.
- Many people might think it’s old-fashioned, but if your partner or her family are particularly traditional, consider asking her parents for permission first.
- If it’s practical, go down on one knee. It’s a timeless romantic gesture and will make it very clear what your intentions are.
- Practice makes perfect! Make sure you practice what you’re going to say first to avoid getting tongue-tied in the moment.
If you’re still looking for inspiration, then check out our Engagement section for engagement shoots, real-life proposals and ring advice. Good luck!