How to avoid every groom-to-be’s nightmare.
Years ago, as I mentally prepared myself for proposing to my then-girlfriend, now-wife, understandable relationship anxiety set in. I’d known for a long time that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her—that wasn’t my problem. The idea that disturbed me more than being stuck with her was getting down on one knee, offering up the flowers and little velvet box with her ring in it, and realizing the look on her face was one of horror instead of happy surprise.
That might be every groom-to-be’s nightmare, especially since proposals are getting more public. “Not every proposal, no matter how elaborate, begets an engagement,” the Huffington Post reminds us. And then proceeds to give us a slide show of some of the most gut-wrenching rejections submitted by Reddit users, just in case we didn’t get their point.
There are some things you can do, though. Maybe they won’t guarantee a resounding “yes,” but you might, at the very least, be able to stave off anger and disgust from your significant other, and maybe save face if she does say no. As a seasoned pro and successful proposer, I offer you this simple advice.
- Don’t Do It In Public
Public proposals are trendy (partly because people seem to want to leverage their very-personal proposal into minor YouTube fame), but if you’re uncertain whether your girlfriend is going to say yes, then putting extra pressure on her by making it public could make her react in ways you wouldn’t expect. Embarrassing her with an elaborate scene can make the question seem more like a joke than a request for commitment, and no matter how considerate she usually is, she may answer more curtly than you’d like.
I proposed to my wife in our living room. I made her baked salmon and glazed brussel sprouts (which are her favorite—thank God I can cook), and bought dessert (since I can’t bake). It was simple and the memory is still very special to both of us. If you can’t stomach a completely private proposal, I would keep it low-key. Take her to her favorite restaurant and give her the ring over dinner. Don’t worry: people will still applaud even if you don’t stand on the table and serenade her.
- Pick The Ring Carefully
Again, the right answer for this isn’t “go big or go home.” Buy an engagement ring that you can afford, but that also fits her personal style. This can be rough—I couldn’t even tell you what my own personal style is—but it’s not impossible. Look at your girlfriend’s clothes. Is she the sort of woman who dresses in elaborate patterns? Or a lot of ruffles? Maybe buying her something a little more ornate is in order. If she’s happy wearing t-shirts and jeans, or sticks to simple dresses, then maybe a simpler ring is what she would like. You can choose this way no matter how much money you have to spend (or how big the main rock is).
In the end, the fact that what you chose for her shows her you’re paying attention to what she’s like will make a bigger difference than whether you follow the three month’s salary rule. A $20,000 ring that she thinks is ugly will only make her feel disconcerted.
- Prepare Yourself For The Best (And Worst)
No matter what you do, you can’t force her to marry you. And there’s always a chance that she’ll say no. But it’s important that you remain positive and feel secure as you ask her. It could be, after all, the beginning of your life together. Don’t let it start out with anxiety and mistrust. Have faith that she does, in fact, love you and you’ll be able to ask her without mincing around, freaking out, or getting weird. No woman wants to remember her proposal as that-night-my-husband-threw-up-on-my-nice-dress—remain calm, have a couple drinks if you have to, and take the plunge.
Steve Carell recently told Princeton students that rejection is good for them, that it provides “the humiliation and self-loathing a young man or woman needs for growth.” I know it’s a joke, but it’s true too. Do what you can to make sure your girlfriend is receptive: buy her flowers, light candles, put rose petals on the bed, whatever. But if she does say no, it’s not the end of the world. It’s, instead, an opportunity for growth, change, and finding the (new) girl of your dreams.
photo by iStockphoto.com