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proposal ideas

Going Public
Does he like surprises, have a great sense of humor, lots of self-confidence, and an easygoing nature? Most importantly, is he definitely marriage material? We're talking very public proposals not for the faint of heart.

  • Hoodwink Him
    One of the best ways to surprise your fiance -- and get him to help you with your proposal -- is the ol' party reversal. Have a friend contact him about throwing a surprise party for you. They will invite all of your friends and family themselves, so he won't get suspicious, and you can secretly help your friend organize the food and decorations. When you arrive at the party (last, of course), everyone will yell surprise -- your cue to reveal the real surprise.
  • Grab the Mic
    Contact his favorite local band and arrange for them to preface your fiance's favorite song by saying something like, "A woman in the audience would like to dedicate the next song to her boyfriend. (Your name), come on up." Once on stage, keep it short and sweet: "This song is dedicated to (his name), the most wonderful man I've ever met. I'm here to ask him to share the rest of my life with me. (His name), will you marry me?"
  • Put It In Writing
    Advertise your love in the local paper. Be sure to take out a big ad (so he won't miss it), in color if you can afford it. Create a collage of your cute couple photos and include a lovey-dovey message.

Keeping it Private
If he's the shy, quiet type, respect his private personality and plan an equally private proposal. A low-key affair is also recommended for old-fashioned types who may be taken aback -- albeit pleasantly so -- that you are taking the reins.

  • Think Sentimental
    Take your honey on a walk down memory lane. Either buy a big, beautiful blank scrapbook or actually make a book (you can find guides to book making at the book store or library), then fill it with photos, souvenirs from dates past (the matchbook he wrote his number in, the torn movie ticket from your first date, etc.), diary excerpts, poems, love quotes, and revelations -- or observations -- along the way. On the last page, propose.
  • Spell It Out
    Call a party planner or caterer to arrange for a candlelit champagne dinner to be served right on the beach near the water. (If this is too public, pack your own gourmet basket.) Have them write "Will You Marry Me?" in the sand with shells or rose petals, or write your proposal inside a shell.
  • Butter Him Up
    If you're dating a foodie, nothing will make him happier than a night of his favorite foods and wines culminating in a proposal from you. Reserve a cozy, private booth and put your proposal on the dessert plate, to be revealed when the waiter whisks off the cover; have it painted on the inside (at the bottom) of a specially made coffee or espresso cup; or etch it into the bottom of a clear glass dessert plate.
proposals - how to ask

Marriage Proposals: How to Ask Him

When you're ready to take the plunge and do the proposing, read on for our eight man-friendly proposal hints.

Photo: Paige Eden Photography

The best part about proposing to your man? You decide when it happens. No more waiting around for Mr. Slowpoke to get in gear. Better yet, this is relatively uncharted territory, so there are no pesky rules or protocols to follow, unless you want to ask his mom for permission!

That said, we polled experts for their advice, including Paul Alden, president of Will You Marry Me? Proposal Planners, and Christy Anderson, who authored Down on One Knee and proposed to her boyfriend a year after he had proposed -- unsuccessfully -- to her (she wasn't ready at the time and, out of respect for his feelings, decided it was her turn to put her neck out). Here are our eight hints for planning your proposal perfectly.

If he's old-fashioned or doesn't like surprises, parachuting into his softball game in a wedding gown is definitely a bad idea.

Be Sure You're Ready

First things first. Take your relationship's temperature: Is it truly time to make it official? If you're still feeling significant uncertainty, concentrate on strengthening your relationship first. If you two are the model of a marriage-ready couple, forge ahead.

Be Honest About Your Motives

Don't propose because you want to see where your relationship stands. If you don't know, wise up: Alarm bells, not wedding bells, are what you're hearing in your head. Never propose out of desperation for feedback; resorting to this type of ultimatum on such an important issue means you're not ready to tie the knot. You should ask only when you're positive he'll say yes.

Know Thy Mate

By far the most important part of planning a successful proposal is to remember that this is not about your dream proposal, it's about his. Just as a man should know better than to broadcast his proposal across a blimp to a girlfriend who is quiet and shy just because he thinks it would be cool, you should cater your proposal to his personality. This goes double when proposing to men because it's so unusual for a woman to do the asking (Alden estimates that only 6 percent of his clients are women). If he's old-fashioned or doesn't like surprises, parachuting into his softball game in a wedding gown is definitely a bad idea.

Be Sensitive to His Ego

Kudos to you for being the first to pledge faith in your future together, but keep in mind that he may be a little disappointed that you stole his thunder, whether he was planning a proposal or not. If this is the case, Anderson suggests reminding him that your proposal doesn't mean he can't ask you back when he's ready (with a ring)!

Buy a Gift for Both of You

On that note, don't expect him to go out and buy you an engagement ring and don't give him a ring -- or any other form of promissory jewelry -- without buying one for yourself. Some of the items Alden's clients have used include matching necklace pendants, I.D. bracelets, and simple gold bands. It doesn't have to be expensive, just meaningful.

Think Unique

Plan a proposal with your shared history in mind. Choose a meaningful day, significant location and theme, for example, and be very attentive to details. Take the time to make it special and personal so that he'll feel cherished and understood -- and realize that you're taking this idea very seriously!

Keep It Simple

Alden suggests that people planning their own proposal keep it simple so that the proposer isn't distracted by too many details. The point is to enjoy the moment! After all, where and how you propose is important, but in truth, you will be all your sweetie sees when you ask, whether you're sitting on the beach in Bali or on the corner bar stool of his favorite local dive.

Plan for Success

Be smart about the logistics: Plan ahead, have contingency plans in case Mother Nature or traffic decide to wreak havoc, and choose a day and time of day when he'll be relaxed, and far from any looming deadlines at work or school. It's also smart to check and double-check reservations (restaurants, hotels, hot-air balloons, monkey costumes) and, if you've recruited friends or family to help you, to be sure that they understand their "lines" or roles in the event.

All things considered, the when, where, and how of proposing is much less important than the who! (In this case, one very lucky man!)

-- Lori Seto

See More: Popping the Question