Listen up, folks who are about to propose! Just kidding—you don’t have to listen if you don’t want to listen. We just thought you might be interested to know that not all proposal ideas are good ideas, as is evidenced by the many YouTube compilation videos of proposal fails (most of which seem staged, to be honest). Maybe you can learn from the blunders of others.
We’re not going to preach. We will, however, tell you eight ways that you may be about to screw up one of the most important moments of your life. No pressure!
Proposing With Not a Ring
Maybe if it were a romcom from the 1980s, you could get by proposing with a Ring Pop or something like that, and it would be considered very endearing. But in the real world? That may not cut it.
In one Reddit thread calling for marriage proposal rejection stories, user saltwaterlife27 tells this doozy:
I was in a 3 year relationship with a guy, I paid all the bills, paid off his debt, kept the apartment clean, lost 30 pounds and then he cheated on me so I broke up with him. We met up for dinner one night to end everything in good terms and that’s when he proposed and I said a flat out no. His reaction was to cry and sing me Bruno Mars songs. I’m sure he hates Bruno Mars now. Edit: I forgot to mention he also pulled a Seth Rogan and proposed with an empty box[.]”
An empty box would seem to be a clear-cut nope (can’t they see what terrible metaphors that lends itself to?), but there are other creative substitutions.
He proposed in the middle of a Tim Hortons parking lot with a bread twist-tie,” says FiveFootTerror in the same thread. “I was 18, but thankfully not an idiot.” So, also nope?
Sometimes it’s simply the logistics that get in the way, but, boy, do they get in the way. As Darren, 33, tells Refinery29:
I proposed on a Nile River cruise in Cairo. We were both very ill from drinking local water that didn’t agree with us. Because of the heat, Hannah’s finger had swelled a bit and the ring wouldn’t go on. Then, when she put the ring in our suitcase on the way home (yeah, I know), our luggage was misplaced by the airline for a week. When we got home, her sister had thrown a surprise party for us. We were both still very ill, and only managed an hour-ish before having to go home to sleep. When our luggage finally turned up, the bottle of very dodgy Egyptian wine we had packed to bring home as a souvenir had cracked and soaked everything in the suitcase!”
Proposing When the Moment Is Wrong
Remember that scene in Donnie Darko when Donnie is about to kiss Gretchen, but Gretchen stops him because she wants their first kiss to come at a time that “reminds you how beautiful the world can be” and “right now there’s some fat guy” in a red tracksuit staring at them and smoking a cigarette? That was a great moment, at least cinematically. But romantically, Gretchen was a true arbiter of taste when she was like: Can we not?
When proposing to your potential life partner, the burden of determining whether the mood is right will be all on you, so choose wisely. Observe, for example, this scene, as set by Reddit user Meowschu:
“…I was standing on the stairs at my parents’ house. It was so awkward, my brother had just taken a shower and was walking passed us in a towel. He then stopped and sat on the bottom stair to watch the awkwardness ensue.”
Go ahead and file this under no way, no how.
Proposing Too Soon and to Someone Who Doesn’t Want to Marry You
This may be the winner, guys! It is inarguably a huge faux pas to propose too early—especially to someone who has zero interest in marrying you.
Take this story, as reported in the Huffington Post:
“I had been dating a guy, a bit older than me, for less than a month. I was a sophomore in college. I came home one day and he had convinced my roommate to let him in and I found him in my room, the space covered with paper hearts he cut out, him kneeling on the floor with roses in one hand and a ring in the other.
“I handled it badly in that I pretended I didn’t see any of it and said ‘Oh hi! Didn’t know you were coming over! Be right back, I need to use the bathroom’ and then called my roommate from said bathroom to tell her since she let him in, she can kick him out. I haven’t spoken to him since.”
Wow! Truly a marvel of bad proposal ideas!
Telling All Your Friends (or Bae’s Friends)
Let’s just face it: People love to gossip. That has always been true, and it will continue to be true until global warming ruins the planet and obliterates all of its inhabitants. So if you want your proposal to retain some of its novelty, you should avoid blabbing about it to more than those who are absolutely necessary to the proposal’s successful execution.
If too many people know about your proposal plans, it’s more than possible that your fiance-to-be will catch wind of them too, The Knot points out. “And even if nobody spoils the surprise, she’ll be unhappy if she later learns that lots of your friends (or hers) knew about the engagement before she did (and that she didn’t have the chance to surprise them).”
Also, don’t assume that family and close friends are safe with the secret. As The Knot says: “You might think that the people you confide in would never spill the beans, but information this juicy will probably make the rounds.” Trust no one!
Overtly Ruining the Surprise (Unless Your Honey Really Hates Surprises)
This seems obvious, but, unless your beloved has made the express request—e.g., “Never surprise me with a proposal!”—you should go ahead and assume that your proposal should be a surprise. Don’t ruin it by doing something that will obviously remove any trace of a surprise, as in this proposal story told to Brides by someone named Devon:
“We were heading out of town for a weekend ski trip, and as we were leaving I heard him tell his sister pretty loudly that he’d bought some nice champagne since it was going to be a special occasion. Then he turned and smiled at me and gave me a little wink. Clearly, he wasn’t trying to keep it a secret!”
Devon, you seem a little too chill about this. Here’s another one, as told to Brides by Colby:
“We went ring shopping together, and I picked out the exact one I wanted. After that, he asked me when he should propose. Of course, I told him it was up to him, but he knew the sooner the better. It took a few weeks to get the ring, and then a few days later we were engaged!”
We wouldn’t have been very stoked about this setup, personally—but, Colby, if you’re happy, we’re happy.
Making It a Public Affair
Just because you’ve seen a lot of very public proposals in movies doesn’t mean that’s how you should do your proposal. According to a survey done by The Knot, most women considered “proposing in public” and “proposing in front of friends or family” among the worst possible proposal please nos.
“Once you’ve asked and she’s (hopefully) accepted, you two will want to linger in your own little love bubble for a while—not possible if colleagues, cousins, or perfect strangers are getting in your faces to congratulate you,” says the Knot.
The only exception is if this public place was also the location of your first date, or where you fell in love, or experienced some other important milestone. According to the Knot’s survey, 58 percent of women believed the site of their first date is the best place to propose.
Now excuse us while we consider all the terrible locations we would’ve maybe been proposed to had we been compatible with the past few people we went on dates with—a Canada-themed bar, an old warehouse, and a consignment shop that smelled like sulfur.
Faking Your Own Death and Other Clichés
Forget what we said earlier, this one takes the wedding cake . We are neutral observers who would literally never tell you what to do, but definitely never, ever fake your own death and then propose to someone.
When asked by SheKnows if they’d seen any bad proposals lately, Los Angeles–based wedding proposal planning company the Heart Bandits had this to say:
Wow, where do I begin? The guy who faked his own death was a pretty bad proposal. A guy who faked a plane crash, then proposed. It’s like, why are you trying to horrify your girlfriend and then propose…weird. All sports proposals are pretty bad. All cliché proposals like writing ‘Will You Marry Me’ on a plate and dropping a ring into the Champagne glass are awful. Terrible!”
Yes. Our answer is yes.