Thinking about popping the question? Getting engaged is a big step for anyone, and you want to know that it’s going to be perfect. From choosing the right ring to making a splash with your announcement, there are so many factors to consider.
In this guide, we’ll explore every aspect of getting engaged and how to get it right. It’s about more than just picking out a ring and plucking up the courage to ask. There are some traditions to consider and etiquette to keep in mind. We’ll help you to navigate this incredible life event with ease and confidence.
Read on to learn more about the process of getting engaged and how to make sure you’ve ticked all the boxes before you tie the knot.
This advice is written for a man proposing to a woman, but same sex couples can also follow much of the advice contained below. We have also written from a Western perspective, and couples from other cultures might have different rules and traditions for getting engaged.
Decide the time is right
An engagement should not be used to smooth over cracks in a relationship. It should happen at a time when you’re in a good place and you know you are both confident in taking the next step together.
Having a baby together or moving in together are common life events that might encourage you to think about taking the next step and get engaged. Many couples prefer to be married before their baby arrives as it means they will all share a last name.
It’s completely normal to have some small doubts, fears and concerns about taking the next step. But you’ll know when the time is right.
Even if you’re in a good place in your relationship, it’s also normal to feel nervous about asking because you are afraid of rejection. If you’ve never discussed marriage before, it might be a good idea to test the waters and find out if your partner is generally for or against marriage before you take the next step.
Pick the ring
Choosing the ring is one of the most exciting parts of getting engaged. This is when it will start to feel real. Before you start shopping for a ring, decide on your budget.
Remember that the three month salary rule was originally a marketing campaign thought up by a diamond company to sell engagement rings during the Great Depression. So don’t worry if this is a little outside of your budget.
There are no rules about how much you should spend on an engagement ring. Think about your partner and what they would want. If they like expensive things and would want to show off their engagement ring, then you might need a larger budget, or you might need to shop smart.
For example, a halo style ring will look a lot more impressive but will be less expensive than a larger solitaire diamond.
If your partner is more thrifty and wouldn’t want to wear an expensive ring, then you should look for ways to save money while still buying something incredibly special. For example, you could choose a lab grown diamond, or a moissanite stone. You could also shop for a vintage ring to find something truly unique without parting with a small fortune.
If you’re not sure what styles your partner would like, speak to their friends and family. They may even have a Pinterest board loaded with jewellery inspiration that will help you to narrow down your options.
It’s supposed to be bad luck to keep the receipt for your engagement ring, but many retailers would allow you to return it without the receipt if your proposal is rejected.
If your partner is from a traditional family, you might have to consider asking for permission from her parents. You would traditionally ask her dad, but if he is no longer around, you might want to ask her mum.
This would only be a requirement if you know that she is from a traditional family and that she is also close with her family. If there is the risk that her family might let slip and ruin the surprise, then you might want to skip this step.
Asking for permission is a fairly outdated tradition, so it’s not something that you should stress about too much. If you forget this step, you can always ask permission to announce the engagement as a formality and to make her family feel included.
Choose a location
You now have the ring and the blessing of her family. Now it’s time to think about the setting. There are so many choices when it comes to the location. You can narrow it down by asking yourself the following questions:
- Does my partner like to make a scene, or would she prefer something more private?
- Does my partner prefer grand gestures, or does she appreciate the romance of the everyday?
- Do we have a holiday booked that could double as an engagement trip?
- Do you share a favourite place?
There are some obvious places you might choose for an engagement, such as:
- In a romantic restaurant
- At a famous landmark during a city break
- On the beach at sunset
- On a boat tour
- During a romantic picnic
- At a concert or sporting event
- On the plane at the start of your holiday
Some people also choose to propose in a special place, such as the location of your first date, or the place you were when you realised you were in love for the first time. You could also propose at home while surrounded by your loved ones.
If you’re going to propose at another event, such as a wedding or a birthday, make sure you clear this with the organiser of the event so that you don’t seem to be trying to steal the limelight.
Document the occasion
It’s common to document the occasion so that you can look back on this special time. The actual event might be an emotional blur for both of you, so it’s nice to have some documentation of the proposal.
If you are proposing in a public place, you could ask friends or family to hide close by and film the entire thing. If you’re proposing somewhere private, you could set up a hidden camera.
You can also hire a professional photographer to appear after the proposal to get photos of the newly engaged couple. These photographs can then be used for wedding announcements or save the date cards.
Pro tip: If your partner likes to have her nails done professionally, ask her friends to encourage her to get a manicure before you plan to propose. You could offer to pay for her and a friend to get their nails done, and they ask your friend to say that she has a free voucher. This will make her feel more confident showing off the ring.
Tell close friends and family
After the proposal, assuming your partner says yes, you should then start to tell your family followed by close friends. These are the people that you want to tell in person or over the phone, not the people that will find out about the proposal on social media.
It’s important not to skip this step as you could offend your friends and family if they have to learn about your big news on social media. Some people should also be told in person as a courtesy.
For example, if your sibling has recently gone through a divorce, your news might be welcome but also difficult to handle. Likewise, children from previous relationships should also be told one-on-one before the news is broken to the rest of the world so they don’t hear about it from other sources.
Announce it to the world
When your friends and family know about the big news, you can then safely announce it on social media. You can go with a professional photoshoot, or just take some selfies with the ring clearly visible. If you’re looking for the perfect, non-cheesy caption to share your news on Instagram, try these on for size:
- "Forever and always, I choose you.”
- "I said YES to my forever!
- "From the moment I met you, I knew you were the one. Today, I said yes to forever with you.”
- "He asked, and I said yes! Can't wait to spend forever with you.”
- "To the person who makes my heart skip a beat, thank you for making me the happiest person in the world today.”
- "I am beyond excited to start this new chapter of my life with you. I said YES!”
- "To the love of my life, I can't wait to spend forever with you.”
- "I never knew true happiness until I met you. Today, I said yes to forever with you.”
- "I can't wait to spend forever laughing, loving, and adventuring with you.”
- "You are my happily ever after. I said yes to forever with you.”
You could also use your favourite song lyrics, a quote from a movie, or let the photo do the talking. Be sure to check in and respond to comments you get from friends and family.
Start planning the engagement party
The engagement party is a great way to bring everyone together and celebrate your upcoming union with those you love the most. It can also help to set the tone for your upcoming wedding planning.
You can use the engagement party to plant the seeds that you might need help with certain parts of the wedding. For example, if you know a keen baker, you could enlist them to help with the wedding cake. And if any of your friends or family members are particularly green fingered, they might be willing to assist with the flowers or the venue decor.
Your engagement party doesn’t have to include everyone that you would invite to the wedding. It can also just be your nearest and dearest getting together to raise a glass to your proposal. If you’re already worried about the cost of the wedding, keep the engagement party cheap by hosting it at home or in a family member’s home.
Plan an engagement photoshoot
An engagement photoshoot is a beautiful way to document the occasion and these photos can then be used on ‘save the date’ cards and engagement announcements. It’s also nice to have a record of this special time together.
An engagement photoshoot is also a great way to test out a potential wedding photographer. You’ll get a feel for their style and if they can help to put you at ease. You might not click with every photographer, so finding the right one before your big day can be tricky.
By organising an engagement photoshoot, you’ll be able to test out their skills and decide if they are right for your wedding day. Choosing the same photographer for your engagement shoot and wedding day will also offer some continuity of styles.
If you’re planning to pop the question, organisation is key. With some careful planning, you can strike the perfect balance between getting things right, while still keeping it as a surprise. These are the steps you should take when you pop the question:
- Make sure the timing is right, you shouldn’t use an engagement to fix a problem.
- Set your budget and then go looking for the perfect ring.
- Ask permission from their family, if your partner is the traditional type.
- Find the ideal location to pop the question.
- Make sure you document it either with the help of friends and family, or with a hidden camera.
- Let your friends and family know before you share the news on social media.
- Plan an engagement party, book your engagement shoot and make sure you find the time to celebrate your engagement as a couple.
- When the dust has settled on your big news, it’s time to start thinking about planning your wedding, and that means choosing your date.