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These 2021 Proposal Trends Totally Revamp Popping the Question

From private, Insta-worthy destinations to custom shopping experiences.
sarah hanlon assistant editor the knot
by Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon assistant editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Assistant Editor, Digital
  • Sarah is an Assistant Digital Editor for The Knot, with special focuses in fashion, pop culture and wedding trends.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated Sep 29, 2020
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An engagement is always an always unforgettable experience—but the coronavirus pandemic has altered the way they'll look in the future. Proposal trends in 2021 will be all about personalization and privacy, and engagements will go far beyond the classic bent knee. Not only will the pandemic change the way couples get engaged, there's also a progressive shift in how they now approach marriage. With less influence from traditional rules and gender roles, engagements today focus on partnership—not formalities.  

From custom shopping experiences to joint proposals, engagements in 2021 will be highly creative and hyper-personalized. Here, we break down the top proposal trends of 2021 that totally revamp the engagement experience. Whether you're planning a proposal or expecting to take the next step of your relationship soon, here's what to expect in the coming year.   

Hyper-Personalized and Creative Proposals

Engagements are different for every couple. Specific details like getting down on one knee, preparing a short speech or including loved ones depend on personal preference. One common theme, though, is intentionality. Because COVID-19 means couples may not be able to travel their preferred destination or have family and friends closeby to celebrate, they'll counteract potential setbacks by planning an experience that's extremely personalized and unique. "We're going to see proposals get really creative because couples can't travel anymore," says Nicole Wegman, founder of Ring Concierge. "Some will plan surprise Zoom calls with their families watching, which is a nice way to do it at home with the support of friends and family since you can't have a party afterwards. We also expect to see a lot of engagements on hikes, at parks, along rivers—anything that makes a nice backdrop." 

Avid travelers who envisioned an engagement abroad may instead bring the destination to their own home. "Some of our clients have transformed their homes into iconic destinations," says Jamie Singleton, president of Signet Jewelers, which represents brands like Kay, Zales, Jared and James Allen. "If they planned to get engaged in Paris or London, for example, they replicate those cities in their backyards using lighting, candles, decorations and props. Others plan an extravagant, five-star-worthy dinner at home. People find a way to make the engagement special." 

At-home proposals are just as meaningful as grand, public gestures. In fact, some couples prefer to savor the moment in private without onlookers nearby. Without the ability to rely on something extravagant, like a jumbotron at a sports game or custom dessert at a restaurant,  couples will think outside the box to make at-home or private outdoor engagements just as—if not more—personal and thoughtful. 

Private, Instagram-Worthy Locations

The location is one of the most defining components of a proposal. Whether it's an international city or the site of a first date, the engagement spot plays an integral role in the planning process. And while location is a personal choice that varies among couples, having an Instagram-worthy moment is a priority—and this is easily achieved with a stunning destination. As a result of COVID-19, couples might not be able to jet off to their city of choice, instead seeking alternative local (and nevertheless, dreamy) destinations. "The destination proposal was a huge trend in 2018 and 2019," says Wegman. "Now, we're going to see a lot of local proposals that will be really creative." 

While the pandemic has resulted in more at-home proposals, couples will also find scenic spots near their home to pop the question. "Lots of people are proposing in nature, on hikes or at the beach," says Olivia Landau, founder of The Clear Cut. "Everyone has been at home for so long, so people want to get outside. Plus, these locations offer great photos." As travel restrictions start to ease throughout the US, couples have more freedom in finding Airbnbs for a local staycation or outdoor trails or observatory spots that allow them to keep a safe distance from others. 

Joint Ring Designs

Nearly all proposals are accompanied by a ring. While it was common in the past for one partner to shop by themselves, more couples now work together to create a design the wearer really wants. "People always ask if it's okay to be involved in the design or contribute money, and it is," says Landau. "Gender roles don't have to play a role. If you're going to wear your engagement ring forever, you should be happy with that investment." 

Adds Wegman: "About half of our clients collaborate on the ring design. They don't share every detail with each other (like the proposal date), but it's an expensive purchase so there's a focus on making sure it's their dream ring. People don't want to guess or do it alone, which is why so many couples come in together." 

For those that are shopping without their partner, Wegman notes that they almost always do their own research beforehand. "If there is someone coming in alone, they're usually not completely blind to what their partner wants," she says. "They usually have screengrabs of the style or notes for the setting or shape. Even if they're not shopping together, the couple has likely talked about it together." 

Because of this, proposals are less about the surprise and more about a thoughtful, memorable experience to share together. "Complete surprise proposals are less common because designing the ring is something couples do together," says Singleton. "Today, customers spend more on their ring and make the proposal a grander gesture."

Enhanced Online Shopping Experiences

Jewelers have pivoted their businesses to aid customers amid COVID-19, with companies offering private in-store consultations and appointments. Not only does this allow for prospective shoppers to work one-on-one with a jeweler to design a custom ring, it's a safer option for those looking to avoid crowds in stores. 

Potentially more appealing than a private shopping session, though, is an enhanced online shopping experience. Brands now offer interactive education sessions on social media and directly on their websites to help clients learn about engagement ring shopping. Those who want to try on different styles without going to a store can also use at-home try-on programs. "Now more than ever, people are shopping online, and we wanted to be able to bring the engagement ring shopping experience directly to them," says Wegman, whose brand recently launched a service that delivers replica engagement rings and wedding bands directly to clients to test first. "Our home try-on program allows couples to see replicas of their dream rings before purchasing, giving them the in-showroom experience from their home." 

Even brands that primarily offer in-store experiences have adapted their digital offerings as a result of the pandemic. To ease the shopping process online, stores now offer virtual consultations, interactive experiences that allow shoppers to change band and diamond styles on the site, and instant messaging chat boxes with jewelry consultants "We have made it a priority to give the customer the level of interaction they want," Singleton adds.  

Keep-Them-Guessing Engagements

Because couples talk openly about ring design, engagements aren't totally unexpected. Those that want to create some element of surprise will plan fake-out engagements to trick their partner. This will be especially common as a result of the pandemic. Since most couples are quarantining together, it's harder for one person to plan an experience without the other catching on. 

To throw off speculation about an impending proposal, some may plan extravagant at-home dinners or scenic hikes to keep their partner guessing. Not only is this an excuse for a fun date night together, it'll help protect the surprise—especially if couples already talked about getting engaged or have designed the ring together. 

Partnership Proposals

Engagements continue to become more progressive each year. Now, in addition to collaborating on the budget and design, some couples plan partnership proposals. This is common among same-sex and heterosexual relationships—after one person proposes, it's not uncommon for the other to propose shortly after (or, coincidentally, even on the same day). In fact, male engagement rings continue to slowly (but steadily) rise in popularity year over year. 

"The new generation of couples are very much a team, and they think about things together," says Singleton. "We've seen a trend in women-led proposals too. In hetereosexual relationships, some women purchase a promise band for their partner. As for same-sex couples, some will also propose back to their partner after the first engagement." 

Virtual Engagement Parties

Virtual engagement parties will be another proposal trend of 2021. While some couples will feel comfortable proposing outdoors in a private location, not all will be able to have family and friends gather for a celebration immediately after. Because of this, virtual parties will continue to be a popular way to celebrate an engagement in 2021. 

"Health and safety is on everyone's mind so at-home and outdoor proposals will be most popular going forward, followed by virtual engagement parties," Singleton predicts. "We see couples continuing to be super creative with expressing themselves and involving their friends and family virtually. They'll use social media and video calls to offset travel setbacks and involve the rest of their family who can't be with them."

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