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How to Plan a Marriage Proposal

Find all the best tips from real couples who've been there.
New York City marriage proposal
Brian Leahy Photography
The Knot
by The Knot
Updated Oct 19, 2020
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The all-important marriage proposal is a once-in-a-lifetime milestone in your relationship. While there's no right way to propose, a few aspects are typically consistent among couples: there's usually an engagement ring, one partner likely gets on one knee, and most include a sentimental detail. 

In The Knot's 2019 Engagement Study, over 21,000 couples were surveyed about their own marriage proposals. The results revealed several engagement and proposal trends, including the most popular ways real couples these days are planning to pop the question. Read on for more details. 

Don't Stress About It Being a Total Surprise 

While your partner probably has their own dream marriage proposal idea, your engagement likely won't be completely unexpected. According to our comprehensive survey results, only about one-third of people who get proposed to say it's a complete surprise. Seven out of 10 proposees have some involvement in selecting and/or picking out the ring, with one in four proposees even going engagement ring shopping with their partner. Additionally, 35 percent of couples discussed the details of their marriage proposal before it happened, like where they preferred for the location to be or whether family members should be included. While half of those who proposed thought their engagement was a surprise, trends show that couples are taking a unified approach to planning their marriage proposal. 

Make the Proposal Personalized

Now more than ever, couples appreciate moments that are tailored to reflect their relationship. Results show that 60 percent of couples say their marriage proposal was unique, and one in three couples planned their engagement around an important event, like a vacation or a meaningful date. One in two proposers felt some pressure to create a highly unique memory, and the good news was that three-fourths of proposals went as planned. Finally, about 75 percent of all couples immediately called their family and friends to share the happy news. 

Pick the Right Location

The spot you choose for your marriage proposal can make or break the mood. Just over half of all proposals surveyed were private, involving just the couple. As for specific locations, 30 percent of couples got engaged somewhere scenic like the summit of a mountain, a rooftop with city skyline views, or a waterfront. Twenty-one percent of couples got engaged at home (à la Meghan Markle and Prince Harry), with 18 percent choosing a sentimental spot like their first date spot, where they shared their first kiss, or where they first met. Picking the best place to propose is no easy task, but trends show that couples are giving up exotic, popular locations in favor of spots that are personalized and meaningful.  

Ask Them About Engagement Rings

While you may want to surprise your partner with a thoughtful marriage proposal, more couples are planning ahead, at least when it comes down to the engagement ring. About 77 percent of proposees drop hints about the kind of ring they want. 

On average, a person drops four clues about the type of ring they want, with the most important factor being the style and setting. Additionally, 60 percent of proposees drop hints about what they don't want, and they are 10 times more likely to show their partner photos of the type of jewel they so desire. And since more couples are taking a joint approach to finding the perfect engagement ring, the results are glowing: 95 percent of proposees say they love their ring after receiving it during their marriage proposal. 

Keep Some Traditional Aspects

You might be nervous, but don't forget to get down on one knee and use the right lingo. Eighty-nine percent of proposers carried out the engagement with a ring in hand, and 87 percent said the words, "Will you marry me?" In keeping with tradition, 84 perfect also did their marriage proposal while on bended knee. Couples still obtain parental approval too, with 71 percent of proposers asking their partner's parents for permission before the engagement. 

Consider Documenting the Moment

Despite the data that shows proposals are largely intimate, involving just the couple, many opt to document the moment. Immediately after the engagement, 72 percent of couples sent photos of the ring to their family and friends, and 69 percent of couples took arranged photos together. Companies like Flytographer specialize in proposal photoshoots, meaning you can have a photographer hidden (or located in plain sight) to capture the moment as it happens. What's more, 39 percent of couples later had (or planned to have) engagement photos taken, proving that documenting the moment remains an important part of the marriage proposal. 

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