There are pros and cons to public proposals — here's how to know if it's a good idea

Ekaterina Pokrovsky / ShutterstockSome people dream of a romantic proposal.
  • Everyone likes different things.
  • This is the same with showing affection – some like gifts, while others like being told they are loved.
  • A public proposal isn’t for everyone.
  • But you should know what your partner wants before you get down on one knee.
  • You should probably know what kind of ring they want too.

There are five love languages, and every person uses one primary and one secondary love language to express how they feel.

According to the book “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate” by Gary Chapman, the languages are receiving gifts, spending quality time together, words of affirmation, devotion, and physical touch.

Everyone expresses their love for someone differently, and this means they may not respond to the same things their partner does. For instance, one partner might require being told they are loved every day, while the other only feels appreciated when they’re given presents.

The same goes for a proposal. Some people dream of all the bells and whistles – fireworks, red roses, and a massive public display of affection. For others, this is their worst nightmare.

It might feel like this adds to the anxiety of asking someone to marry you. But Erika Ettin, founder of dating site A Little Nudge, says it shouldn’t be a concern, because you should already know what your partner wants.

“My main piece of advice is know your audience,” she told INSIDER. “At a certain point you should know a person well enough to know what they would appreciate. So you have to think to yourself does my partner like this kind of thing?”

You shouldn’t approach the proposal by doing what you want, she said, but what they would want.

“You’re not doing it for you, you’re doing it for your partner,” she said. “The person proposing shouldn’t do it the way he or she would appreciate it, you have to do it the way your partner would appreciate it.”

It’s nobody else’s business

ProposalNAK Photographer / ShutterstockFor some, it’s fireworks or nothing.

It’s also nobody’s business either way, Ettin added. Earlier in November, a man was criticised for proposing to his girlfriend when she reached the 16 mile point in the New York Marathon. A similar wave of criticism occurred when China’s silver medalist He Zi was proposed to by fellow Olympic diver Qin Kai on the podium.

The argument is that a proposal outshines the accomplishment. So rather than thinking about how they ran their first marathon, or won an Olympic medal, they will forever associate the day with getting engaged.

But as Ettin says, we don’t know these people. A proposal is a very individual, personal thing.

“I don’t think it’s anyone’s right to criticise,” she said. “Maybe that was her dream to be proposed to at the end of a marathon. We don’t know that.”

Everyone wants something different, and the one proposing should understand their partner’s preferences before they pop the question.

“I was thinking about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s interview – he proposed over chicken at home, and she seemed to love it,” Ettin said. “They probably discussed that they wanted to do something private. Whereas if you asked me, I would love fireworks and sirens and sky writing, so everyone’s personality is different.”

All eyes are on you to say yes

There’s also the argument that getting down on one knee in public means the proposee may feel obligated to say yes.

“I would advise most couples, if it’s going to be a surprise, you should know first that you’re getting a yes before you ask,” said Ettin. “You should be having those hard conversations, those ones about children, and religion and all of that stuff. So while I love the idea of a surprise, the answer shouldn’t be.”

Even if the partner gets it wrong, the proposal is secondary to the relationship. If you’re right for each other, an embarrassing or underwhelming proposal shouldn’t matter all that much, Ettin said.

“Ultimately, the marriage is more important than the proposal, so I wouldn’t let that be the focus of the rest of your life,” she said.

And the same goes for the ring – talk about it first, know what your partner wants, but don’t worry too much if it isn’t exactly what they wanted. If the relationship is right, exchanging the ring won’t be a big deal.

“Do I think you should say something at some point to make it more to your liking? Absolutely,” Ettin said. “But in the moment, if you love the person, accept the proposal and you can communicate about the ring later.”

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