Public marriage proposals and what women really want

Grey’s Anatomy spoiler from last night at the jump – don’t worry, you can read the first part, just don’t click “more” if you don’t wanna know.

A few years ago a friend dumped her boyfriend. After they broke up, he told her about this gorgeous ring he had bought her and his plan to propose: At her brother’s college graduation, with all of her family present.

“I would have had to say yes,” she lamented to me, “if he did it in front of everyone like that. I would have had to say yes and then tried to figure out how to get out of it!”


After I finished lecturing her on how she should never, ever say yes when she means no, ever, I started thinking about it: Why would this guy have put this question on such a display that she’s answering in front of everyone? She’s not one to enjoy the spotlight. And he had to know she has an awful time saying no to people – she can’t even walk past the kiosks in the mall because she will buy whatever they’re squirting or rubbing on you or putting in your hair. And their relationship had been rocky for a few months. Was this trickery? Was he planning on proposing publicly knowing it’d be near-impossible for her to say no? And not to mention: way to go on potentially stealing all the thunder on her brother’s big day!


A couple of months ago Chris told me he got teary during a marriage proposal on “Survivor”. I didn’t watch it, but I immediately wondered why someone would choose reality television as a platform to pop the question. I mentioned this to him, and it was as if the thought had never even occurred to him. “What do you mean? What’s wrong with that?”

“Proposing in front of millions of people? Do you know what kind of pressure that puts on her to say yes? On him for her to say yes?”

“Oh,” he said, “I never even thought about that before.”

Later he thanked me for that and for helping him avoid potential mistake at some point down the road.


“Grey’s Anatomy” spoiler to follow:

Last night I enjoyed immensely the discussion surrounding how Derek should propose to Meredith. Flowers, candles, a big production? “You’re not going to make it a big thing are you?” Cristina asked. “Because she would hate that.”

“But she built a house of candles,” Derek said.

“She built you a house of candles because you like that sort of thing. She doesn’t,” Cristina replied.

Of course, I can’t speak for any other woman than myself, but watching Derek and Sloan fill that bedroom with roses, I was thinking “What a waste of money.” Pretty, yes, but what’s the point? I used to love getting flowers until I found out how much they cost. Pick her some wildflowers, boys, and spend the money on something extremely personal to her and you – and that’s way more touching than any flowers. Sure, it takes more thought, but isn’t that the point?


Women, tell me – am I wrong here? Am I not romantic enough? Am I missing the heart-melting moments of the proposals on the big screen at the sporting events or in the middle of crowded restaurants? Should I swoon when I see $100 in roses show up at my doorstep? Surely I’m not completely off here …

And guys, I know it’s tough. I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes for even one minute, having to decide what we are thinking and make sure it’s perfect – the first question after anyone gets engaged is always: “How did he pop the question?” Followed by: “What’s the date?” and “How many kids are you gonna have?” I digress.

Bottom line: I really think it’s about the love, about the connection between you and her, and never about the spectacle.

P.S. And don’t pop the question on Christmas or her birthday. Make it a day that becomes special on its own. Plus, you’re weaseling out of getting an extra gift 🙂







14 responses to “Public marriage proposals and what women really want”

  1. Chris Avatar

    🙂 I always thought it’d be MORE special by doing publicly. Like, “Wow this guy is proud to be with me and he’s proving it in front of all these people!” But you’re right and thank you!

    Last blog post from Chris – Only sorta LOST

  2. Amy Avatar

    I wouldn’t want it in front of anyone. And I barely let Scott buy my flowers on Valentine’s Day. Such a waste of money. I was very happy with Scott proposing on the beach by ourselves.

    Last blog post from Amy – Victim of OCD

  3. Amy Avatar

    I think it depends. I’m sure some women would like that.

    And going big doesn’t necessarily mean going public 🙂

    Last blog post from Amy – Victim of OCD

  4. Lindsey G. Avatar

    I think the public proposal is sweet in the right circumstances. It’s basically putting you on a stage and telling a crowd that you are loved and will be loved for the rest of your lives! That’s pretty cool when someone puts themselves out there like that!
    In my opinion, if you are not absolutely positive that she is going to say yes then why are you asking??? Why would you propose to someone when you’re not even sure they want the same thing as you?!? I would like to think that if you’re HONESTLY communicating with each other, you would have talked about whether or not you want to get married! The actual proposal may be a surprise but the thought of marriage should not be!!!
    My ex told me that he was going to propose on my college graduation day in front of my family. I yelled at him. Needless to say (and happyily I might add), we are both married to different people. 🙂

    Last blog post from Lindsey G. – Where oh where do we go?!

  5. Lindsey G. Avatar

    Oh and the flowers thing…Harris Teeter flower deparment is lovely! Gorgeous flowers for under $5 most of the time! You want rose petals? Buy 2 roses and rip the petals off! That’s plenty! 🙂

    Last blog post from Lindsey G. – Where oh where do we go?!

  6. Michael O'Neill Avatar

    Dames are easy. Don’t overthink it.

    Last blog post from Michael O’Neill – Qu’est-ce Que C’est?

  7. Jeffrey Avatar

    I love the adds that are showing up with this post (e.g. “Propose in a hot air balloon over the So. California wine country.”) Go figure.

  8. Heather Avatar

    I’m with you for the most part. When I was proposed to, it was not only very public, but not thought out, and the experience made me rather uneasy. Proposing at the beach sounds nice, but when there are asshole tourists yelling down at you to SAY NO!, it kind of takes away from the moment.
    In general though, I kind of feel like a marriage proposal shouldn’t be a TOTAL shock. For me, I’d like to think that when/if I were to receive another proposal, the poor guy won’t be sweating whether I’m going to accept. Ideally, I dunno, the topic will have at least come up at some point, right? It won’t be just out of the blue after we’ve never even talked about it. Of course, I also think that a smart guy would talk to my best friend if he had any doubt, because any guy I’d marry would get along with her and know he could call.
    As for flowers, expensive roses? No. Keep your money, guys. But I am a sucker for a well-timed simple “I’m thinking of you,” and if your style is sending flowers, and you know I love the smell of stargazer lilies & send me one for my desk, well, I’m not gonna argue with that! It’s not the flower though, but the thought. My workspace is wallpapered with Elvis and comic strips and silly sketches sent to me by friends who know how to make me smile.

    Last blog post from Heather – Belated Early Birthday Tidings

  9. Amy Avatar

    Heather, thankfully my beach experience was good…we were basically alone at night with a full moon…awww….
    And for me, the proposal wasn’t a shock because I knew he’d asked my dad’s permission. Maybe old-fashioned but I hope that still goes on today and would if I ever had to do it again. I can’t imagine being shocked by a proposal. Then again, Scott and I dated 3 years before I got a proposal so I’m not really sure we’re a good example.

    Last blog post from Amy – Victim of OCD

  10. Lindsey G. Avatar

    Andrew asked for my dad’s blessing. Not exactly permission but just his blessing and approval I guess. I like the idea of that, too! You should ask my family if you’re welcome in just like you’re asking me 🙂

    Last blog post from Lindsey G. – cakes and a slutty husband…

  11. Heather Avatar

    Amy: See, that’s how you do a beach proposal.

    I feel compelled to add that when one of my uncles pulled me aside one day to show me the ring he’d bought his girlfriend, and told me that he planned to propose that evening, while lots of family and friends were present, there was no question in my mind that it was a great idea. She was already in effect a part of the family, and had traveled to be with us for the holiday. It was done with very little ceremony, and she thanked us all for being there and sparing her the effort of having to call us all to share the news that she’d be “officially” our aunt/sister/whatever!

    Last blog post from Heather – Belated Early Birthday Tidings

  12. Melissa Avatar

    Good point, Lindsey. Asking the dad for permission is a MUST in my book.

  13. Judes_08 Avatar

    Wow. I can see both sides on this one. I think it depends on the couple and situation. For me, I love it when Darren spoils me just because with flowers or cards. But I also love it just as much when he slips notes in my purse or car. I think part of love is knowing a person so well that you would know what,when or how your partner will react to what you give or do for them.

    Last blog post from Judes_08 – Pickles

  14. Elwood Avatar

    I always worry about the Big Grand Gestures, but I do enjoy watching them – especially if they fail. Because I’m evil.

    I have nothing new to add, except that I agree that it’s best a previously discussed thing, done off-other-occasion, and kept simple.

    I did ask my FIL for my wife’s hand in marriage, but it was while we were changing into our tuxes before the wedding.

    Better late than never, huh? 🙂

    Last blog post from Elwood – Friday Funnies: Hey Butt-Head, Where’s Seattle?