The Marriage Proposal Etiquette That Every Gentleman Should Master
Meeting the right person is difficult enough and then comes the bonus of asking this person to spend the rest of their life with you. Hollywood and romantic novels have raised expectations around this special moment to the point that many men dread it. On the positive side, it’s the type of thing you’ll (probably) only do once!
So what’s the marriage proposal etiquette that every gentleman should know? Follow our tips and start a happy life together on the right foot.
9 top tips on how to propose
1. Can I be spontaneous?
If by spontaneous you mean popping the question without preparing an extravagant setting, absolutely. If, however, you mean spontaneously proposing to someone you barely know, the old saying warns “marry at haste, repent at leisure”.
2. The perfect time and place
Contrary to what movies may have you think, there’s no “correct” way to do this because the “perfect” proposal is the one that was planned with your partner’s personality in mind. Some may want an audience and others privacy. Some will be dreaming of a Parisian restaurant and others of a secluded beach or the comfort of home. Do what feels right for you and use words that come from your heart.
3. Put a ring on it
The engagement ring will become an expensive permanent fixture in your partner’s finger so don’t take this decision lightly. Whether you buy one or offer a family heirloom or propose without the ring and suggest you buy it together, don’t leave it for longer than a couple of weeks. If you present the ring when you propose, don’t fret over size as it can be adjusted. When it comes to cost, the only advice we can give is to buy the best you can afford and, if you’re going ring shopping with your new fiancée, either set a budget or ask the jeweller to present rings within a pre-agreed price range.
4. Please don’t make me ask for permission
In the past, a gentleman would ask his future father-in-law for permission before proposing marriage. Although this is no longer required, most parents expect to meet their child’s partner before any discussion of marriage and appreciate to be amongst the first to hear after the proposal is made. Do note, however, that some cultures still require permission to be sought from the bride’s father.
5. Is anyone getting the groom something?
One would expect so. Following the presentation of an engagement ring and within a reasonable time frame, the bride or her family will usually reciprocate with a gift.
6. Shout it from the rooftops
Tell your parents, close family and friends as soon as possible. Widowers should politely inform the family of their deceased partner and divorcees should notify their former spouse, especially when children are involved. Then the update will slowly make its way around your entire network but you shouldn’t feel obliged to tell your colleagues or other people you’re not close to. An announcement in the papers is only expected in certain social circles but, for the digital savvy bride and groom, a short update on social media may be appropriate.
7. Wedding bells
Just to be clear, an engagement isn’t a “phase” in your relationship. A gentleman proposes marriage with the intention of proceeding to a wedding ceremony within a reasonable timeframe. 6-12 months is sufficient time to plan the wedding and anything beyond that may indicate hesitation from either or both sides. Equally, in terms of social interactions, engaged couples should be considered as good as married.
8. What happens if the answer is NO?
One would assume that, in an intimate relationship, people know how their partner feels so a negative response is unlikely. Provided you didn’t ambush them with a proposal, e.g. because you were worried they were going to break up with you, it’s perfectly understandable to express your surprise and disappointment. Accept the decision with grace, don’t attempt to change their mind and, if you need an explanation, leave it for another time. On a positive note, you’ll be delighted to hear that most jewellers will offer a refund if you return the ring.
9. Breaking off an engagement
Inform close family and friends but don’t feel obliged to provide an explanation. Both partners should offer to return any gifts they received on the occasion of the engagement. If wedding invitations have gone out, notify guests and return any wedding presents.
Now that we’ve got the etiquette of your forthcoming proposal sorted, how about we start thinking about what you’ll wear to the wedding? Luckily, we have a beautiful collection of wedding suits and you can book an appointment to receive personalised advice from our stylists.