How do you know when you’ve met that special someone. How do you know that your current beau is not just the hottie du-jour but the one? It’s a difficult question to answer because the experience of realizing that your current girlfriend or boyfriend is the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life is different for different people. Some absolutely believe in love at first sight while others balk at the notion, insisting that love is something that couples must earn together rather than acquiring it out of thin air. There is no right and wrong way or time within which to make this decision. When the decision has been made, however, it’s important to start as you mean to go on. While trends and fads come and go in wedding planning, your marriage will belong solely to you and your partner, and it’s important that the planning of the wedding and the engagement itself is as unique and idiosyncratic as your relationship.
While there are many ways in which couples choose to personalize their wedding, it’s equally important to personalize the engagement. Lots of couples feel social and parental pressure to approach the engagement a certain way and although honoring tradition may be important to you and / or your partner it’s certainly not something to which you should feel beholden if it doesn’t work for you. There’s no right or wrong way to get engaged. It can be a long engagement or a short engagement, it can be a flashy and ostentatious proposal somewhere exotic or it can be a modest and private affair, it can be splashed across your friends’ social media feeds or personally divulged to a select few.
Here we’ll look at some ways in which you can make your engagement your engagement; injecting your own sense of personality into the proceedings and laying the foundations of your marriage entirely on your own terms.
Do it because you want to
Before we go into specifics, it’s important to take a moment to make absolutely sure that this is what you want. Engagement pressure is a very real phenomenon experienced by both men and women and while your partner is completely entitled to be honest about it if they have a burning desire to marry you, they should not pressure you into an engagement that you don’t feel ready for. Although it’s not uncommon for people to feel that the clock is ticking, especially when your friends start to get engaged, an engagement ultimatum is rarely the most successful first step for a marriage. If your love is real, your partner would rather wait for a meaningful proposal that comes from the heart rather than rushing into a half hearted proposal just to keep up with the Joneses.
A marriage is a momentous commitment and while attitudes towards divorce have become much more tolerant in recent decades, it is still not a contract which should be entered into lightly.
Having definitively made the choice to propose to your significant other, your first port of call is likely your search engine of choice to look up ways to make your proposal as special as possible. Unfortunately, however, while there’s lots of advice out there on making your proposal and engagement unique, there’s also a lot of cliches being perpetuated out there in the digital realm. There are many ideas for proposals and engagement photo shoots that look impressive on a website but are rarely the ideal way to pop the question to your special somebody.
Just to be on the safe side, it’s probably a good idea to avoid any of the following cringe-worthy cliches (unless, of course, your SO has intimated otherwise):
- Popping the question at a sports stadium- Even if your loved one is a huge sports fan, this is probably not the place they imagined being proposed to… Especially not on the jumbotron- which could go horribly, horribly wrong.
- Putting the engagement ring in their food or champagne- This is not sweet or classy, it’s unhygienic and gross! If you’ve spent a month’s salary on a diamond ring, the last thing you want to do is smear that rock in marinara sauce.
- Proposing on or in a famous monument- A proposal on the Eiffel Tower or the Empire State Building sounds far more romantic than it actually is. Long lines and sweaty, irate tourists do not make the perfect backdrop to the perfect proposal.
- Proposing on Valentine’s day- Again, this may seem romantic but very rarely is. The trouble with proposing on Valentine’s day is that it’s never, ever your day.
- Proposing at someone else’s wedding- Yes, the sense of romance is infectious but not only is proposing at someone else’s wedding tacky, it’s also incredibly rude. Your friends deserve their perfect moment and if you propose at their wedding you could end up trampling all over it.
Personal over prestige
It’s understandable that many brides and grooms to be feel the pressure of the relentless one-upmanship that transforms weddings into circus acts. Not only can couples bankrupt themselves with flashy and prestigious engagements and weddings, they probably won’t even have a particularly satisfying experience at the end of it.
Remember who this engagement is for. It’s for you and your partner, not your social media following. Very often something small and personal will trump something flashy and ostentatious. Just keep asking yourself, is this something your SO would want or is it just something that’d look good on your Instagram story?
Proposing is often considered most romantic if it’s a surprise. But here’s the thing… Not everybody likes surprises. If your partner has issues with anxiety or simply doesn’t appreciate the unexpected, a surprise proposal may not be the way to go.
Your engagement ring
The engagement ring is the perfect opportunity to bring some of your partner’s personality, history and sense of style to bear on a piece of jewelry which will serve as a reminder of the commitment you made to one another for the rest of your lives. If your partner has given you no indication whatsoever of what she or he expects from an engagement ring, don’t be afraid to ask questions about what style of ring they’d like, what metal they’d prefer it to be made of, what kind / cut of stone they want in there and how much they would expect you to spend. This last point is fairly important. The one month salary rule is still a pretty good indicator and while you may want to go a little above and beyond to demonstrate your love, your partner may be mortified if you’ve maxed out several credit cards to get them a rock the size of Gibraltar.
Wherever possible opt for jewelry that tells a story. You can’t go wrong with something that’s unique and crafter to the tastes and preferences of your loved one. You may even want to incorporate elements of a family heirloom into the piece or inscribe it with a hidden message just for them. A good jeweler will be able to find the perfect way to do this to suit your budget and your partner’s tastes. If you’re completely in the dark, here are some things to bear in mind when choosing the perfect ring.
Now that you’ve got the perfect ring hidden away somewhere for the perfect moment to announce your engagement to the world, it’s a matter of choosing the right time, place and moment to propose. Again, your knowledge and love for your partner should be your guide here. Many blushing brides or grooms to be will love nothing more than to come home from work one day to find a cab waiting to take them to the airport for a romantic weekend getaway. For others, however, such a whirlwind of the unknown could trigger a stress induced breakdown. If marriage is on the cards, there’s a good chance that your SO has Some specific ideas in mind, but if they haven’t been forthcoming with the specifics, the following may be viable for you…
- Sending your loved one on a treasure hunt, the object of which is to find the ring.
- Hiring a skywriter to declare your intentions to the stratosphere. Yup, it’s a thing!
- Taking them on vacation and proposing on the plane. Nothing’s more surprising than having your engagement announced at 35,000 feet! Just remember to ask for an aisle seat if you plan on getting down on one knee.
- Take out an ad in the local paper if you really want to give your SO a jolt with their morning coffee.
- Have your engagement announced on local radio for a drive to work they’ll never forget. Although, it’s best if you call their work to get them the day off beforehand. Going straight to the daily grind after a proposal is the very definition of anticlimactic.
However you choose to pop the question, just remember that you’re beholden neither to tradition or trends. The only thing that matters is your relationship!