In theory, all a proposal really has to include is a ring, at least one of your knees landing softly on the ground and the words "will you marry me?" emerging audibly from your lips.
In reality, if you want to leave the situation with a strong "yes" and a happy fiancée with lifelong memories of your thoughtfulness, it's best to put a bit more thought into it.
That means going all out, if they're into it. But it may also mean an intimate one-on-one in a meaningful location. Or a destination trip where you'll pop the question at the precise second that the sun disappears into the sea.
There are a million ways to propose and no one way is the right way. But there sure are a few wrong ways. And to help everyone avoid one of those, here's a definitive list of proposal dos and don'ts.
Do: Make it personal.
You want to spend the rest of your life with one, specific, unique human being. Reflect on who they are and why that is, then involve a personal element to shape the experience and endow it with extra meaning. Perhaps that means proposing at the first restaurant you went to together or referencing lyrics they like. This will make things special between you no matter what else you do.
Don't: Make it too obscure.
You want them to immediately get the reference and its meaning, right? So if the first time you took them to Yankee Stadium was a real moment for you, think long and hard about whether it really was for them, too.
Do: Impress them.
Whether it's the spot you choose, the speech you make or the post-proposal Champagne toast you've planned, you want this moment to be memorable. And not just a surprise game of catch where you toss a box in their direction while American Ninja Warrior is on commercial break.
Don't: Forget who they are.
If they're a private person, proposing on a Times Square Jumbotron or making them stand up in front of others at an Italian restaurant may not be the best move. Know your audience.
Do: Come up with an excellent ruse.
For some reason, keeping this whole thing a big surprise is the generally accepted idea.
Don't: Forget to consider where they're coming from.
The best time to surprise them might not be after a long day at work. Or after SoulCycle. They want to look the way they've always imagined they'd look when the moment arrives. Not in yoga pants.
Do: Consider getting others involved.
If they're a family person, maybe you can surprise them at a gathering where the parents or siblings can watch the big moment go down or pop out from behind a wall to share in your joy.
Don't: Maybe don't do that.
The more people who know what's going to happen means the more people who can spill the beans. And these are important beans.
Do: Consider her personal style when choosing the ring.
It’s something she’ll wear forever, so put some thought into it. Ask her mom, her friends or her sisters if she has a style in mind. (Trust us, she definitely does.)
Don't: Think you can't talk to her about the ring.
Maybe you could even choose it together. The Will You? Ring allows you to pop the question without having to take a wild guess on what she wants. Then, the two of you can pick it out together. Adult-ing at its finest.
Do: Remember the ring.
Nothing will ruin your proposal like forgetting the ring box. Or losing it through an unseen hole in your surf trunks right before you're set to redefine romance in the Caribbean. Treat it like you're Gollum. Oh, and think twice before proposing on the edge of the grand canyon, on a ski lift or in a similarly precarious location. We’ve heard too many stories of dropped rings.
Don't: Put the damn thing in your front pocket.
Is that a ring box in your pocket, or are you jus... no, yeah, that's just a ring box. Surprise?