It’s called the summer of love for a reason; perhaps because it’s the most popular season for weddings, and indeed the four little words that start it all.
Research conducted by vintage jewellery specialists William May has found that more than one in three people believe that summer is the best time of year to pop the question.
The reasons for asking your other half to marry you during the summer are endless: the weather is almost guaranteed to be better (even in the UK), it’s holiday season (meaning better locations are available to visit), and the sunsets undoubtedly make more beautiful backdrops. But whilst popping the question on a beach as the sun goes down is romantic, has it become somewhat of a summer proposal cliché?
So this summer, if you’re thinking of cementing your relationship with your partner, why not do things a little differently? In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about coming up with a unique proposal that’ll truly make it a moment to remember.
Four alternative ways to pop the question this summer
Got plans to propose this summer? Congratulations! No doubt there are a million and one thoughts running around your head about the when, where and how, and you’ll be wanting to make sure it’s something truly unique! To get you started, here are four ideas to consider, build on, and truly make your own.
On holiday... but with a twist
There’s no denying that popping the question abroad is a fantastic route to take; in a foreign country, indulging yourself in food and relaxation, just the two of you. It really does paint the perfect picture of romance. But let’s throw out the rulebook that says the only holiday proposal you can do has to be on a tropical beach, and instead create something a bit more personal and unique.
Tiffany Norris, founder of proposal planners The One Romance says that people shouldn’t discount a foreign holiday proposal because it seems a little cliché. All it takes is a bit of creativity!
“We recently arranged a proposal on a beach but ‘with a difference’. The couple had met on a beach, hence why he wanted to propose there, but he also told us the first time he said ‘I love you’ was on a skiing holiday. We therefore took a corner of the beach and covered it in fake snow and set up an alpine theme.”
Are you planning to climb a mountain? Or are you getting up close and personal with wildlife on a safari? All these still count as a holiday but are unique and creative enough to make a memory.
At a festival
Does your other half love music? Then why not set the scene for an additional surprise by proposing at a gig by their favourite artist or band, or even at a festival?
If you’re wondering how to pull it off, follow in the footsteps of Ben Keating, who enlisted the help of his closest friends to make the festival even more memorable by proposing to his girlfriend, Beth.
Ben had his friends hold up letters to spell out the phrase “Marry me Princess” - a nickname that has followed Beth around for a number of years.
“The day required quite a bit of planning on my part,” Ben told us. “Making the signs took me about a day, and then obviously getting everyone to the top of the hill on the day at the same time required a couple of bossy mates to take control while I diverted Beth’s attention elsewhere.”
Rather than just dropping to one knee in the middle of a field, Ben pulled out all the stops to really make the day as special and unique as possible...
“The New York Brass Band agreed to come out after I popped the question after I sent them a bit of a soppy email telling them how it’d make it such a fantastic day, and I really can’t thank them enough for agreeing. A few of my mates went to meet them an hour or so before the proposal to help them carry the instruments up the hill. One mate also got speaking to a press photographer shortly before the proposal, and that’s how it ended up all over the news.”
The rush of feelings and happy emotions you get from proposing to your other half and having them say yes is unlike anything you’ve ever felt before. So why not combine that with another adrenaline-fuelled activity?
In 2013 a couple from Utah did just that. Adam proposed to his girlfriend Kenzie after their first skydiving experience. He sought help from his family to hold a giant banner that said “Kenzie, will you marry me?” as the two landed safely.
While we certainly wouldn’t recommend proposing during the dive, along with the risk of losing the ring, there’s also a chance your partner wouldn’t hear you over the rushing wind in your ears! Play it safe and surprise them when you’re both back on solid ground; the moment will be just as memorable and magical as it would have been mid-air. Or why not pop the question on their favourite rollercoaster? Or in the middle of a game of paintball? The possibilities are endless.
With a proposal like this, you’re guaranteed to have a story that will delight for years to come.
After/during an event
Nowadays it’s on everyone’s bucket list to finish a marathon, triathlon or some kind of strenuous sporting event. So when the endorphins are flowing and the muscles are aching, why not transform a great day into one of the best of your partner’s life?
Chris Barton from Maidstone, Kent pulled off the ultimate surprise when he proposed to his girlfriend during the London Marathon. But rather than opting for dropping to one knee at the finish line, he did something a little different...
“Mine was actually halfway round!” Chris told us. “I’m not really sure how I came up with it. My girlfriend always said she wanted it to be a surprise so I thought she’d never see it coming halfway round the marathon!”
To pull off his surprise, Chris called upon those closest to him for help. And it seems that the biggest challenge was keeping his nerves in control, for both the 26.2 mile run and the biggest question of his life, as well as making sure he didn’t lose anything important en route.
“It didn’t really require much planning on my part,” he added. “I just had to make sure I kept the ring in my pocket and run 13 miles. My friend Jess on the other hand had to try and get my friends, family and Louise’s family to the spot we had said without letting on. She did a great job as I didn’t have to search at all; they were in exactly the right spot!”
How to pull off the perfect summer proposal
Now that you have a few ideas floating around your head and starting to take shape, it’s time to put your plans into action. Of course, there’s no wrong way to ask the love of your life to marry you, but just follow our dos and don’ts to make sure that everything goes off without a hitch.
Do make it a surprise
While we highly recommend discussing marriage beforehand, because that way you’re likely to already know the answer, nothing says romance like a surprise proposal. Make sure you keep your plans to pop the question tightly under wraps. And if you do have to tell people, make sure they can be trusted to keep the secret.
Do think outside the box
Tiffany’s number one piece of advice when proposing is to let your imagination run wild.
“If you are thinking of proposing make sure you tailor it to your partner. Instead of proposing at the top of the Eiffel Tower because it seems like a romantic thing to do, think about your partner and the memories you have together. Perhaps your first date was a picnic in the park and you also know she loved the book Alice in Wonderland when she was young. Combine the two and create an Alice in Wonderland-themed picnic for your proposal. It shows you have really thought about your partner and what they love, and then have incorporated it into the most important moment of your lives.”
Do tell them why
While the location, timing and ring are undoubtedly all features that make a proposal unique, what will really make it one-of-a-kind are the words you say to your partner.
- Say what you love about your significant other. Be specific; pointing out unique characteristics as these will be what really makes them smile.
- Tell them what you thought when you first met.
- Talk about where you see your future going. How do you envision your life together?
- When did you know they were ‘The One’? If you told your best friend that you were going to marry this person after your first date, then add that bit of gold dust to your speech.
Top tip: avoid reading from a piece of paper word-for-word. Whilst you’ll definitely say everything you planned to, you’ll lose that element of spontaneity and the connection formed only by looking deep into their eyes.
If you think nerves will get the better of you, scribble down a few key phrases on a “cheat sheet” that you can have in your pocket beforehand. Just don’t forget to speak from the heart and really tell them how you feel. You only get one shot at this!
Do practice, practice, practice!
“Will you marry me?”
Only four words make up this sentence, but it’s one of the most powerful and poignant phrases in the world. And it’s one that can leave even the most confident of proposers tongue-tied. So the key is to practice asking the question as much as you can. Don’t worry about sounding silly and just say it out loud a few times. While nothing will get rid of the nervous jitters and butterflies on the day, having a few private rehearsals are only going to help.
Do drop to one knee
Who ever said that chivalry was dead? While times have certainly changed, getting to one knee is a timeless gesture that will help to make the moment even more perfect. There are no rules or guidelines on when you should take a knee; you might choose to do so before saying a few well-chosen words, or you might give your speech standing
before dropping for the final question. However you choose to do it, it’s a classic move that will certainly be the cherry on top of your proposal.
Don't do a cookie cutter proposal
We’ve shared several unique and inventive ways to pop the question. Don’t forget, this is a moment that you and your partner will remember for the rest of your lives; a cliché just isn’t going to cut it, as tempting as it may be. Think about hobbies, special memories that you share, likes and loves, interests and dreams to get a few ideas flowing.
Don’t go public
If you’re confident that they’ll say yes when you get down on one knee and you know that they want something splashy and extravagant, then by all means plan a public proposal. But for the vast majority of people, a proposal is a very intimate moment to be shared between a couple - so why not keep it that way? It doesn’t mean it won’t be memorable, as your significant other will be asked to recount the story dozens of times!
Don’t go for a cliché
We’ve already talked about the importance of creativity, and why it’s important to think outside the box when planning a proposal. But if you really want to knock their socks off and leave them with a moment to remember, we would highly recommend avoiding a few common clichés. This includes: at a restaurant, hiding the engagement ring in food, on Valentine’s Day, or at a sporting event on the big screen.
No matter whether you’re a hopeless romantic or not, get those creative juices flowing and give them a proposal that’s completely unique to you as a couple.
Don’t make it too complicated
If you haven’t guessed it already, the main thing we advocate about proposing is that it is as unique as you are as a couple, and creative enough to capture the essence of your relationship. But you don’t want to go overboard. Keep in mind, at all times, what’s really important: the proposal itself. If at any point you find yourself worrying, like about whether the sunset will be perfect enough for your hot air balloon ride, then you’re concerned about the wrong things.
The more complicated elements that you introduce, the greater the risk of something going wrong.
Consider a photographer
A trend that has recently appeared on the proposal scene is hiring a proposal photographer. Completely discreet and able to capture every moment, these emerging eagle-eyed specialists will hide nearby, ready to capture their reaction and give you a keepsake of that special day.
Having someone to capture the moment is something that Tiffany has seen a lot more of recently…
Speak to their parents
We’ve come a long way since marriage arrangements and dowries, but many people still see speaking to your other half’s parents as a classic gesture, especially if you and they are relatively traditional. The key is to do it right.
Rather than asking for their permission to marry your sweetheart, ask for their blessing instead. This simultaneously shows respect to your partner, and helps to form a unique and meaningful bond with your future in-laws.
Here are a few tips to help you plan out and pull off asking the parents…
- Call ahead and ask if you can stop by. Alone. This will likely cause them to suspect your intentions, but that isn’t a bad thing.
- Arrange to call round at a time that is convenient for them, depending on how far away they live.
- Speak from the heart. Tell them why you love your partner, and that you feel it is time to take your relationship to the next level. An example could be: “I love them very much. I couldn’t imagine spending the rest of my life with anyone else. I am going to ask them to marry me and I am here today to ask for your blessing.” Short and sweet.
Practical tips for proposing
Try and find out their ring size
You may have a proposal idea already formed and a ring in mind, but there’s one thing still standing in your way: you don’t know their ring size. But don’t despair, here are a couple of tips you can put to the test to (discreetly) discover their ring size.
- Use another ring - If your other half already wears a ring on their left ring finger, or even the right one (although bear in mind that dominant hands tend to be slightly bigger!), borrow it discreetly and take it to a jeweller, who will be able to determine their correct size. If it’s a ring that they wear regularly, you’ll have to be a little more cunning. When they’re showering or sleeping, press the ring into a clean and whole bar of soap, or trace it. This will leave an accurate impression, which the jeweller can then compare with a range of ring sizes. Another last-ditch option is to try the ring on your own finger, and see where it lands (whatever you do, don’t get it jammed on your finger!)
- Get their friends involved - This one requires trust and discretion on the part of their friends. If a close friend doesn’t know off the top of their head (they might surprise you!), bring one of them in on the surprise. Ask them to arrange a jewellery shopping session “for fun” where you can get it professionally fitted. Just be sure to ask the friend who is a budding actor!
- Speak to the professionals - If all else fails, you might just have to take a guess! Speak to the jeweller at the store where you are buying the ring, and they will advise on whether you should opt for bigger or smaller. Depending on the style and design of the ring, some can easily be expanded whereas others can be made smaller in no time.
Choose a style that suits them
Whether you’ve already picked out a ring or are planning to choose one after they say ‘yes’ (a growing trend amongst the newly engaged), it’s important that the ring reflects their style and individuality as much as the proposal does.
Now’s the time to dive into some research and learn everything you need to know about engagement rings. There’s a lot to decide on: what kind of style? Are you looking for a particular cut of diamond? What kind of metal do they love? Do they prefer classic vintage rings? These are all things to consider before you buy. Our advice? Think about their personality, and you can always look to other pieces of jewellery in their collection for inspiration!
Insure that rock!
Okay, so this isn’t the most romantic tip out there, but it sure is one to keep in mind! What if your ring gets damaged, lost or stolen? You want to make sure you are protected, especially if you’re planning to pop the question abroad. Many jewellers will partner with an insurance company to offer specific and tailored policies to protect your ring if you have it valued through a gemstone appraiser. This last part is essential to ensure that your engagement ring is properly covered.
It doesn’t have to cost that much, but it can give you complete piece of mind should the worst happen.
Getting through airport security
So you’ve got your destination proposal perfectly planned. The flights are booked, everything is going according to plan and your other half is none the wiser. But you know what would really ruin the surprise? Having an airport guard reveal the ring as you go through security.
Our first suggestion is to store the ring in the suitcase that you check in - if you’re packing separate cases that is. But we can understand your reservations; sometimes luggage gets lost and you may prefer to have it on your person at all times.
The second option is to keep it in your hand luggage, but this runs the risk of being opened at security. Fortunately we have a few tips for you…
- Avoid placing the box on top, so at least it’s not the first thing to be seen should your luggage be opened.
- Place the box into a pair of your socks or gloves. Not only does this give you another protective layer against your other half should they unpack your luggage, it also isn’t an unusual item to have in your bag to begin with.
- Attach a note to the box with tape or an elastic band with writing saying something along the lines of “Engagement ring inside. Please be discreet.” This should encourage any security guard to play along and not give away the surprise.
- Keep a close eye on your bag as it goes through the x-ray machine. If you see a security guard stop and prepare to take a look inside, see if you can distract your significant other before it gets opened and the game is given away.
Getting through customs
This particular tip is tricky, as it depends where you are travelling to and from. The majority of countries will not require you to declare an engagement ring with customs if it is worth under a certain amount. We strongly advise that you check with the border agency of the country you are travelling to well ahead of time to see if you will be required to declare the ring.
Be sure to check with HMRC prior to your journey, in case the ring will be subject to customs duty and import VAT upon your return.
Ask for help!
And last but not least, whilst the proposal itself is an intimate moment between you and your partner, don’t be afraid to ask for help throughout the entire planning process. From initial ideas to the final execution on the day, and as long as they can keep the secret, get the help of friends, family and even professionals to help make it a day to remember.
There’s undoubtedly a great deal to think about; you are proposing a lifelong commitment after all, but we’ve just about covered everything you should be thinking about for one of the biggest days of your life.
No matter how much you prepare and plan, when the moment arrives you will be wracked with nerves and jitters, but try not to let them get the better of you. Ride it out because, if everything goes to plan, your perfect proposal will end up forming a story that you will be telling people for the rest of your lives.
Above all else, remember to breathe and focus on what’s truly important: the unique love that you share with your partner, and that will continue to grow for the rest of your lives together.
Everything else will fall perfectly into place.