5 Big Marriage Proposal Mistakes

It's a big moment, but don't let your nerves get the best of you.
Outdoor gazebo marriage proposal
Kevin Wynn Photography / The Heart Bandits

Once you've decided to you're ready to propose, it's inevitable that you'll be excited and anxious. After all, it's a moment that you both will remember (and repeat the story of) for the rest of your lives. Bottom line: It doesn't have to be perfect. That said, don't let your nerves lead you to make one of these all-too-common marriage proposal mistakes.

Mistake: Asking Empty-Handed

In a recent survey we conducted with more than 19,000 couples, "proposing with no ring" was ranked number one as the biggest engagement faux pas. Sure, your declaration of love and request for a lifetime commitment should be more important than whether or not you're bearing jewelry, but you have to understand that to many, an engagement won't seem 100 percent legit unless she's got an engagement ring to show for it. If you don't feel confident enough to pick a bauble without her input, buy one from a jeweler with an exchange policy or borrow a family heirloom that can act as a placeholder until you go shopping together. (And if you're not dead set on making your proposal a total surprise, you can take her ring-shopping in advance -- more than 50 percent of women surveyed said that they had something to do with choosing their rings.)

Mistake: Jumping the Gun

Your girl's got it all -- brains, beauty, and a willingness to spend Sunday afternoons eating salt and vinegar potato chips in front of ESPN. Though you're understandably eager to seal the deal, cool your jets until you're beyond the dizzy-with-infatuation stage. You won't be truly ready for a lifetime commitment until you've tackled some real relationship challenges, weathered your beloved's every mood, and received unequivocal signs that she's equally ready to commit. Proposing too early may scare her off or result in an awkward "let me think about it and get back to you..."

Mistake: Proposing in Front of an Audience

Though you may be so passionate about your hoped-for bride that you want to shout your proposal for the entire world to hear, it's much more likely that she'd prefer you keep the engagement a just-the-two-of-you occasion. In our survey most women deemed "proposing in public" and "proposing in front of friends or family" as the biggest blunders an aspiring fiance could make (don't even think about a sports stadium unless that's where you met/first kissed/fell in love). She won't be able to savor the moment if she feels like she's on stage. 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. Note: Not all public places are off-limits, 58 percent said that the site of your first date is the best place to propose.

Mistake: Blabbing About the Plan

Getting loose-lipped and telling friends or family members about your intention to propose (let alone the specifics of how you're going to do it) is another big "don't." You might think that the people you confide in would never spill the beans, but information this juicy will probably make the rounds. 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. 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).

Mistake: Not Waiting for the Right Moment

If you're like many guys, once you've made the decision to propose, you want to get it over with ASAP. And once there's a ring burning a hole in your pocket, you may feel like you won't be able to breathe easy until it's off of your person and securely on her fourth finger. But don't let your nerves make you blurt out those four little words before the moment's right -- remember that she's going to be telling your marriage proposal story for the rest of your lives, and you want the tale to sound more epic romance than situation comedy. She asks what's in your pocket in line at the grocery store? Make up any excuse to avoid an express line engagement. She drank too much bubbly at your candlelit dinner and is slurring her words? Better to wait and do it the next morning over breakfast in bed (provided her head isn't pounding too hard).

Looking for a unique proposal idea? Visit our sister site How They Asked for real proposal inspiration, a proposal idea generator, and hundreds of the best marriage proposal videos.

Once you're officially engaged, start by taking our Style Quiz to hit the ground running.

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