Choosing the right time to propose is probably one of the most complex decisions you will have to make. You need to be ready for married life and sure that you both want the same things but you also want to make a big romantic gesture to show how you feel. Balancing these things all comes down to preparation and timing.
Proposing today is nothing like proposals of old. For a start, the two month’s salary (or three month’s salary or any month’s salary) is gone, mainly because this was an impractical marketing ploy that would be way too expensive these days. Another big difference is that most couples talk about getting married before someone pops the question. And you get to date for as long as you like, in fact, not getting married isn’t as weird as it used to be.
Talk About the Important Stuff First
Before you think about proposing, you must talk about the most important things, namely money, children and whether you want to get married at all. Every relationship has a foundation in honesty and trust so you need to be able to talk openly about what you really want. If you can’t agree on the most fundamental things, marriage probably isn’t the best course of action.
Equally, your conversations shouldn’t be limited to surface issues. Talking about whether you want kids or not isn’t enough, you also need to talk about how you would want to raise those kids, the expectations you have of parenthood and even how you were raised. Over the course of your relationship, all these things will probably come up at some point, so don’t feel pressured to have a serious discussion. However, if there is some disagreement, talking it through now and finding a common ground early on will prevent a lot of issues later on.
One important conversation that many couples don’t have is about how to solve problems together. Lots of couples argue and disagree about things (this is totally normal, no-one can possibly agree on everything!) but how you resolve those arguments is critical to a healthy, long-lasting relationship. Talking about disagreeing might feel uncomfortable but if you can do it calmly before there is a real issue, you will stand yourself in good stead for a healthy argument, and resolution, later on.
Saving for the Ring
So now you know that marriage is on the cards and you are confident that your relationship is ready, you need to turn your attention to a more practical matter: saving for the ring. The vast majority of women expect to be presented with a ring when they get engaged and choosing the perfect one can put a lot of pressure on you.
Saving for the perfect engagement ring is one of the biggest problems for guys. On the one hand, they need to save enough to get a beautiful ring that will suit their girlfriend and make her happy; on the other hand, they earn a fixed income and don’t want to spend a small fortune!
Here, you really do need to make sure that you are on the same page about the budget. For some women, the ring is a really important symbol of love and commitment and they might be expecting you to spend accordingly, but for other women, it’s not so much about the ring as it is about the sentiment. They may well prefer to spend the money on other things and some women might want to return the ring, even if they have accepted the proposal!
Only you know how much you are willing to spend on a ring and what your girlfriend expects but there are a few ways to save money on the ring you buy. For example, avoiding holidays will probably save you some cash as demand grows for rings (but that doesn’t mean you can’t buy early and wait for the special night). Equally, diamonds may be traditional but you can get other similar stones that work out much cheaper and still have the same brilliance. Going for a ring that isn’t being marketed as an engagement ring will also help bring the cost down.
Plan Your Proposal
Preparation is key for the perfect proposal and a huge 1 in 4 women want to go ring shopping together, taking the pressure right off their boyfriend to pick wisely. Interestingly, while 89% of women wanted the proposal to be a total surprise, 40% also wanted to have a fresh manicure, so you might have to treat her to getting her nails done a few times before you propose to make sure she doesn’t suspect anything in advance!
Again, proposing is so personal that only you can really decide what the perfect way will be. However, choosing a location that means a lot to both of you, setting the mood with a romantic activity (or even short getaway) and giving yourselves time to revel in the moment will really help narrow down your ideas. Most women don’t want a public proposal, so do bear that in mind before you get down on one knee in the middle of a restaurant.
People document everything these days so if you want to get some in-action shots of your proposal, you need to think carefully about how you will achieve that without coming off as creepy or ruining the surprise. Hiring a secret photographer is one option but let’s be honest here, stopping for a selfie and putting the camera on a timer is far less obvious and intrusive. Just choose the backdrop you want and make sure that the lighting is ok. Also, if you can’t guarantee a handy ledge at the right time, you should take a tripod (and develop a sudden and keen interest in photography!).
Buying the Ring
You’ve talked, saved and planned and now it’s time to buy. Buying an engagement ring on your own can be really daunting (even after all this time) so don’t allow yourself to be bullied into buying the first ring you see. Take your time and shop around a bit, looking at lots of different styles and ideas before settling on the perfect one. Shopping for a ring is much like working out who the one for you is – when you know, you know, and it’s probably not quite what you were expecting.
If you are feeling particularly nervous, asking her friends is definitely a good idea. Women tend to let their friends know more about their expectations than they let you know. They will probably have been talking about the perfect ring since they were kids and while their tastes may have changed, they can at least as questions more subtly than you can.
One option that more men are going for now is buying a cheap ring to propose with and then buying a more expensive engagement ring together. This is a nice solution if you want the proposal to be a surprise but you also know that your girlfriend wants to choose her own ring. A cheaper ring could also open up some proposal options – you might not want to propose with an expensive ring on a boat, for instance!
Whatever you do and however you propose, this is a moment that you will remember for the rest of your life. Only you can really know that you are ready to buy an engagement ring and only you can know what that means to you as a couple. Trust your instincts and go get her!