Why So Many Marriage Proposals Are Actually Disappointing

bad proposal

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“That is so cliché!” my friend Sophie declared, rolling her eyes.

We are flicking through her Facebook feed (an inevitable part of our hangouts), when we spot the engagement post of our friend Charlotte. Her now fiancé popped the question during a hike by spelling out “Will you marry me?” in the snow. Flashing her barely-there diamond ring in a kissing selfie, Charlotte looks the epitome of post-proposal bliss.

Before I can comment on how happy Charlotte looks, Sophie interjects.

“Every girl gets that ring. If Jeremy proposed like that, I would not say yes.”

“I’ll start preparing the ‘how to’ binder now,” I replied, laughing. “Rule number one, get a big diamond.”

Sophie stares at me, dumbfounded.

“I expect you to.”

I should’ve known better than to joke around. A perfectionist to her very core, Sophie has every aspect of her life planned and her proposal is no exception. She’s mapped out the setting (somewhere private), the method (no flash mobs), and the ring (diamonds around the band, please). There is simply no way that she would leave an important milestone like this entirely in someone else’s hands, even if they are her fiancé-to-be’s.

And who could blame her?

A quick search for “proposal fails” yields plenty of cringeworthy results. One Reddit user recounts her less than stellar proposal that took place in the middle of a Tim Horton’s parking lot with a bread twist tie instead of a ring. In an attempt to propose creatively, another man bought 99 iPhones and arranged them in a heart shape – she still said no. And who could forget this video of a man proposing in the middle of a basketball court? Thousands (mascot included) looked on, horrified, as she backed away slowly before bolting from the stadium.

According to a survey by The Daily Mail, 21 per cent of women are disappointed by the way their men proposed, with 13 per cent of those polled becoming so upset that they burst into tears. Letdowns include their men not asking her parents for their blessing, not arranging a proposal that’s “special” enough, and not getting down on one knee as tradition demands. But the proposal sin that offended the most? A small ring or – cue the Jaws theme – no ring at all.

So how come so many men get it so very wrong?

Karen Lee of Just Because Vancouver, the west coast’s premiere proposal planning service, has a theory.

“[Men and women] are designed very differently,” she explains. “Women think about things as a whole, but men think of things as parts.” He might know her favourite colours or flowers but, Lee insists, “they can get stuck on how to put it all into one plan.”

A lack of creativity can also be an impediment to a successful proposal. “A lot of the calls that we get are [ones where] the men have a very basic idea, like ‘I want it outdoors and I want a picnic’. But they don’t know how to cap it off and add that special personalization to it,” she notes.

So how can a proposer avoid turning this important occasion into a utter disaster? Lee has five foolproof tips:

Practice the speech
“We’ve had a lot of men that say ‘you know what … I’m just going to say it from the heart’, which is amazing. But what they don’t realize is that the pressure from the moment is so huge that it usually completely blanks them out,” she explains.

Consider the ring’s location
“Is it going to be sticking out of your pants’ pocket? Is your jacket going to be too thin [that] if she hugs you [she] can feel the box?” she asks. “These are the little things that could really blow your surprise if you don’t think about it.”

Keep it natural
“You might have this plan [that you think] is foolproof … but you tell someone else and [they say] that you might as well tell her that you’re going to propose,” she explains. “Run it by one other person. Two heads are always better than one.”

Hire a photographer and/or videographer
“Oftentimes the moment literally breezes by you. Our brides-to-be in the past have said to us that they don’t really remember what happened,” she notes. “When they realize it’s recorded, they’re super grateful because [they] get to look back on this beautiful moment.”

Personalize it
If you have the help of a proposal planner, great. But if you’re planning on your own, Lee suggests going to Pinterest for inspiration. “Next, I would find the perfect venue, because your design has to fit into it.” Then, top it off by recreating how you met or a scene from her favourite movie.

Lee adds that proposees with particular expectations shouldn’t be timid about making those expectations known. “If you know what you want and you know what you like, then that actually makes it easier because then your guy won’t be guessing,” she states. “He’ll likely be happy to accommodate because he just wants [you] to be happy.”

Being upfront ultimately means avoiding disappointment down the road, while helping your fiancé-to-be create a proposal that you’ll never forget (in a good way)!

And to Jeremy – the binder is on its way.

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