Don’t sweat it. We’ve collected real proposal ideas (from real couples) to inspire yours, plus tips for crafting a personal and successful proposal.
Hot take alert: Proposal ideas don’t really need to be that creative. Most people just want the proposal to be personal and heartfelt. So while your proposal ideas need to be thoughtful, you don’t have to compose a symphony in their honor or create a public spectacle to get a “yes.”
Read on for our simple step-by-step guide to creating the perfect proposal, plus real proposal stories from real couples whose question-popping resulted in marriage.
Table of Contents
Ideas for Planning Your Proposal
You probably get one shot at a proposal, so you need to plan this thing carefully, in step-by-step fashion. Let’s begin.
BEFORE YOU ASK… TALK
Imagine being blindsided by a proposal and having to turn down someone you care deeply about. Hard to bounce back from that.
If you’re not sure how your partner feels about getting married, or about the general direction your relationship is headed, you should make an effort to talk to them about it before you plan the proposal. You might even get some hints about how they would like to be proposed to, and whether or not you should give their parents a heads up (or ask for their blessing).
FOCUS ON YOUR PARTNER
1. This isn’t about you.
Your mission is to give your partner all the feels, the way they like to feel ’em.
2. It’s a great way to generate ideas.
Crafting a meaningful, personal proposal starts by focusing on your partner’s interests or moments you’ve shared with each other. To get started, here are some questions to ask yourself:
– What are their hobbies?
– Have you taken any memorable trips together?
– What are their favorite films, TV shows, or bands?
– Where was your first date and what did you do?
– What is most important to your partner?
– What is their favorite cuisine?
Take cuisine, for example. If they love Italian food, you could work this detail into your proposal by planning a handmade pasta feast, lining up a reservation at the trendiest Italian restaurant, renting out the entire mom and pop trattoria where you had your first date, or booking a culinary tour for two in Florence. If crowds and travel stress them out, you know the trendy restaurant and the Italian trip are no-go’s.
PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS
We’re at our best when we’re doing the things we love, so it can’t hurt to use your talents or unique skills in your proposal. Just don’t make this your own personal showcase (remember #1 above).
Here’s an example of how not to use your skills. You’re a professional knife-thrower, and you force your partner who is afraid of knives to stand still while you throw several knives at them, one of which pops a balloon with an engagement ring in it. You’re not getting married, pal.
BRING A PROPOSAL OBJECT
This could be an engagement ring, but don’t force it.
It’s risky to buy your partner a symbolic accessory that they’ll wear every day for the foreseeable future… without getting any input from them. Maybe you know which of the (at least) 10 different diamond cuts they prefer—that is, if they even want diamonds on their engagement ring. Maybe you’ve chatted about their preference among white gold or yellow gold or platinum or tungsten. But you probably do not know these things, and that’s okay.
Perhaps a stand-in ring would be appropriate. You could use a family heirloom, or give them a proposal ring. Or, if you don’t expect the lack of ring to be a deal-breaker, carefully choose a small memento instead—something meaningful to both of you that you can include in your proposal speech. Then later, go ring shopping (or designing) together.
SAY SOME VERY NICE THINGS
A proposal speech doesn’t have to be Shakespeare, but it cannot be MadLibs. They want the real deal, written by their once and future snuggle muggle. But that doesn’t mean we can’t help you at all. Below are a few tips—all you have to do is be honest and practice a few times.
The short version:
– Tell them the truth about why you love them and want to spend your life with them.
The long version:
– Tell them why you love them—their most admirable qualities, cute little quirks, or a specific time you shared that you’ll never forget.
– Describe how your life has changed for the better because of them.
– Tell them you want to spend your life with them and build a future together.
– Say the words “[Their name], will you marry me?”
That’s it! You can be crying or shouting or laughing, but as long as you cover those items, you’ve done your part. Then… you wait.
TAKE A VICTORY LAP
Assuming they say “yes” (and they will), this is the part where you kiss them, celebrate with family, get a cocktail, have all of the sex—just not all of those things at the same time. Congratulations! You are now one big step closer to getting married.
OR, KEEP THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE
There’s a small chance that even after all of this, you will not be engaged. Our best advice in this situation is to listen. While it’s undoubtedly disorienting, this doesn’t mean you’ll never marry your partner, or that this relationship is over.
Proposal Ideas from Real Couples
If you’re still stuck, it can help to see how other people—real ones—brought it home. Use these proposal ideas as inspiration for your own proposal.
Karly & Dan
“When Dan and I first started dating, we would watch Hulu in bed. There was a commercial with a song by The Lumineers that always played, so that became our song. They never toured during the first few years of our relationship.
We were going to Austin City Limits, and The Lumineers weren’t technically playing, but Dan convinced me to go down a day early. We pulled into this music venue in the middle of nowhere, and as we walked in, I noticed the headliners. Then ‘Ho Hey’ comes on and he grabs my hand in the middle of the concert and pulls me to the back of the venue. I started to see lights in my face, and recognize that my family and my best friends are there. He got down on one knee in this circle of people and everyone got to see it. That’s what I always wanted—to have my friends and family there to celebrate with us.”
Nathan & Matthew
“There had been this long-running joke that I’m not romantic at all, so Matt always said he would have to be the one to propose. We had a big ski trip planned with 26 of our friends, and I knew this would be the event he would target, so I decided to surprise him then. That Saturday morning, we planned a group photo. I had my friends line up and hold memory signs that I had printed that had pictures and phrases from our relationship. I walked Matt down the line of them and ended on the last one asking ‘How will we remember today?’ And I proposed.”
Lauren & Lindsey
“As a same sex couple, we don’t just fit into a male or female role—we are just two people in love, so we both gave each other rings at different times. I proposed in our home town. Later, Lindsey planned a great surprise for me. I had always wanted to see Wicked, loved the soundtrack. While we were in New York on vacation we got tickets, and during the song ‘For Good,’ she just slipped the ring on my finger. I was floored, excited, nervous, and elated!”
Diandra & Sean
“About three years ago, we got a golden retriever named Sadie. She ended up undergoing a lot of medical issues, and we were super, super close with the dog.
Sean’s family owns a large mature tree nursery, and one Saturday morning he was like, ‘Let’s go take Sadie for a walk in the nursery!’ I got out of the truck and noticed something attached to her red harness. I was like, ‘Sean, what is that?’ Then I realized that’s a box. Apparently he didn’t think I would see it as fast as I did, but a red box is pretty noticeable. Inside was my ring, and he got down on one knee and said that he loved me and asked me to marry him.”
Lin & Kelsey
“We got engaged in January of 2017. At the time, we were both living in Manhattan. It wasn’t a question of if, it was a question of when. I also wanted to surprise her, and up until then, Kelsey figured out every surprise I had planned. I proposed to her during a group vacation with some friends, and we had a big party with our friends downstairs.”
Willie & Joe
“What’s great about a proposal is that the person proposing gets to share all the reasons they love you and want to spend your life with you. So we decided we would both propose to each other and had engagement rings designed for one another.
Our friends invited us to a picnic at my favorite spot in the city, the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Joe appears from behind a tree, he hugs me, and I can feel that his heart is beating really fast. He gets down on one knee and he had prepared a speech. He asks me to marry him. I say yes, of course.
When we got home, and I gave him a drink and told him to go sit on our porch. I’m a librarian, so for my proposal, I wrote a children’s book about our relationship that ended with the proposal. We start to read it and he’s overwhelmed. He’s crying, and I’m crying. And our dog Otis is very confused about why we’re crying, so he tries to comfort us. The very last page of the book is a little envelope with the ring was inside. I take the ring out of the envelope, get down on one knee and propose to him.”
Kevin & Kevin
“We were at a resort in Wisconsin. My hotel suite room key wasn’t working, and I was swearing and saying ‘We need new room keys!’ We turned the corner and I saw little white tea lights that spelled out ‘Marry Me.’ I just kept saying ‘Oh my god!’ and then he asked ‘Is that a yes?’ And I said ‘Yes!’”
Kim & Thiago
“She somehow found my original plan in my search history. So within a week I had to come up with this whole new idea. I told some of her girlfriends—one of which is a photographer—to tell Kim they wanted to practice taking photos of her in Liberty State Park.
I went to one of the docks near this huge, beautiful clock facing the New York City skyline. It was October, so my mom and I set up some of her favorite fall things—pumpkins, a crate, some candles. As her friends started to guide her to the dock, they pretended to pose until she turned the corner and saw me waiting at the end of the dock. I proposed to her, and all her friends and family came up behind her. It went way better than what I had originally planned.”
Joe & Gordon
“The whole day traveling from LA to New Orleans was crazy because I had to check 30 times to make sure that ring never left the carry-on. We finally get to New Orleans, and we were supposed to meet up with friends, and I was going to do it then. But I decided I couldn’t wait any longer, so I did it in the hotel room.
As I get down on one knee and ask him to marry me, we hear a knock on the door. It was the security guard—he heard our room was having some problems. So mid-proposal, Gordon invites the guy in and tells him we have problems with the lighting. I handed Gordon the box and waited for my answer.”
Steven & Louis
“Our first date was a Lady Gaga concert—I was a huge fan. Fast forward a few years, and Lady Gaga’s back in town at the very same venue. We were going with some friends. Whenever we take photos he has to approve them, so I had some of our friends sit behind us with signs that said ‘Marry me?’ We took a photo and I showed him the picture. He zoomed in on his face, so he didn’t see it at first. I zoomed out and asked him, ‘Will you marry me?’
The first thing he said was, ‘Did you ask my dad?’ And I go, ‘Of course I asked your dad. He said, as long as you’re happy, he’s going to support you 100%.’”