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Should I Propose Before or After Dinner?

While the time and place of a proposal aren’t as important as being in tune with each other, dinner often feels like a natural fit for many of the same reasons that dinner dates do so much to nurture romantic relationships. A dinner date is an occasion to dress up, an opening for uninterrupted conversation and an opportunity for celebration over a delicious meal. Suggesting a romantic dinner can allay suspicion or build anticipation as well.

So, you’ve made the reservation, whether that means calling the restaurant months in advance or putting a picnic blanket down in the backyard. You’ve finally chosen a champion from the final bracket of halo style engagement rings. You’ve planned exactly what you want to say. Everything’s set. Except, wait. Does a “Dinner Proposal” mean “before dinner” or “after dinner”?

The good news is that either can work, as long as you are confident that you have judged the right point in the relationship arc to make your move. If that’s what has been occupying your attention, then you’ve got your priorities straight. However, since we can tell you are a little bit panicked about figuring out this last detail for your special moment at the last minute, we’re happy to give you the benefit of our experience. 

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Ultimately, you and your partner are in charge of your proposal schedule. And your wedding calendar. And your married life itinerary. But we understand that when the ring is burning a hole in your pocket, it's easy to second-guess your own internal timetable. Even if you are the kind of person who makes up your mind after a glance at the menu, it doesn’t hurt to hear the waiter describe the specials. So we’ll lay out some of the common reasons our customers tend to put a proposal at the beginning or the end of the meal.

Before Dinner Advantages

Before Dinner Marriage Proposal Advantages

You don’t have to be nervous the entire meal.

If you are reading this because you are nervous about the big moment, then going through the whole meal with the perfect engagement ring in your pocket might mean wasting a culinary triumph on a knotted stomach. And it might seem awkward to have a conversation about the mundane details of the week while dancing around the fact that you are in the middle of one of your life’s most momentous occasions. This thing is nerve-wracking enough as it is — just go for it already. That way, you have the rest of the evening to enjoy, and you might actually be able to consume the food in front of you.

You don’t have to keep it a surprise for long.

If the proposal is meant to be a surprise, your partner is understandably suspicious. A table strewn with roses. The oddly coincidental manicure with a mutual friend the day before. Time is not on your side, so put the ring into play before you accidentally pull it out of your pocket when you go to look something up on your phone, which also happens to be full of pictures of affordable engagement rings.  

There’s a good chance that your cover is already blown and the person across from you is having to give an Oscar-worthy performance pretending to be in the dark. So just make your move already and ask the important question!

You both will be looking your best.

No need to sugarcoat it — you can be a messy eater. You never have to tell people what you had for dinner. They can see the pasta sauce on your shirt sleeve and the cilantro in your teeth. Most of the innumerable photos that follow the perfect dinner proposal focus on the finger with the ring on it, but it’s an added bonus if there isn’t food splatter on your clothes. 

Consider this scenario — you don’t want the love of your life to say something like this when you propose: “Yes, but also you’ve got a little guac on your cheek. You’ve made me so happy — yeah, it’s still there.” The perfect way to get the pictures looking exactly how you want? Don’t consume food before proposing. Maybe have a snack beforehand, so you aren’t some horrid combination of nervous and hangry, and propose early in the evening. It’s got its perks.

After Dinner Advantages

After Dinner Proposal Advantages

You can spend quality time together beforehand.

You know that as soon as the proposal happens, there’s going to be a flurry of activity, right? Phone calls. Maybe even big-picture wedding planning convos, or serious relationship talk. Do you want that to be happening in the middle of ordering and navigating this fancy seven-course meal? Oh, and bear in mind that if the restaurant waitstaff picks up on that newly engaged buzz, servers and even patrons will likely be stopping by to offer congratulations and unsolicited advice. That can be extra special and heartwarming. Or it can be intrusive. If you think the attention is romantic, lean into it. If you’re going to get frazzled by it, maybe propose around dessert or just after dessert, champagne glass in hand. Or somewhere private honestly. Just know yourself and your significant other and adjust accordingly.

You can fully enjoy the night you planned.

For some people, it might be hard to enjoy the meal on account of being anxious about the dinner/restaurant proposal. For others, the meal is a chance to unwind with your best friend in the whole world before tackling a major life event. Together. On a full stomach. A romantic dinner at your favorite restaurant is also a chance to remember all the reasons you are about to ask the question that put the ring in your pocket in the first place. 

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You can ride the wave of excitement into your after-dinner plans.

Again, every couple is different. Some couples might treasure the meal as a time to really spend with each other (the way the first dance at a wedding might be their first chance at a private conversation). But, especially if this has been in the works for a while, you might want to head out to the party with your close friends and families right away. Or take a beat and go somewhere that is a little more intimate than a bustling steakhouse, or similar type of restaurant.

Like we said, every couple is different (which is why some of this advice probably feels a bit contradictory), so time the moment for what works for you. Even phrasing like “before dinner” and “after dinner” is pretty fluid. You don’t have to blurt out “Will you marry me?” the second you walk through the door or hide the ring in your pocket until you get the check.   

If “just pick what’s right for you” seems a bit vague, here are a couple of general dinner proposal guidelines.

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Dinner Proposal Tips and Considerations

You don’t need elaborate staging.

Trust us — we are all about symbolic, romantic gestures at Modern Gents. That’s what engagement rings are. But part of our mission is making sure that the process isn’t harder than it has to be and selling the kind of rings that won’t trouble the wearer’s conscience.  

If you keep checking for updates about that string quartet you hired that is stuck in traffic rather than checking in with the person you are about to ask to marry you, you’ve got your priorities a little befuddled. Yes, the romantic candlelit dinner and the serenade and all that jazz make things quite romantic. You want this special occasion to be as perfect as humanly possible, and we get that. However, at its most fundamental, asking the big question is really the only non-negotiable here.

That doesn’t mean that you have to pinch pennies. Just don’t get distracted by extravagance for its own sake. What makes a successful proposal is the love that is displayed between you and your partner.

Just be mindful of where you put the ring.

A lot of times you’ll see a proposal paired with dessert, but we don’t recommend putting the ring itself in the dessert. Or in any other part of the rest of the meal. After all the paranoia you’ve felt about misplacing the ring leading up to the proposal, now you want to stash it in the soup or something? Your best bet is to just keep it on your person. Alternatively, if you want to call the restaurant ahead of time and explain what’s going on, they might have a place you can stash it. We do recommend doing that only if it’s a place you frequent, and you know the restaurant staff. Or if it’s super romantic and they’ve got a protocol for these things.

Modern Gents makes hypoallergenic rhodium-plated rings that are designed to stand up to the elements and sit comfortably on the skin, but they are meant to rest on a finger, not lurk in finger food. If you really want points for creativity, think outside the bento box for a strategy that doesn’t send your new fiancé to the dentist or the ring to a repair shop. Of course, if the ring does still go missing in spite of your best efforts, we are ready to rush in with an affordable replacement.

You don’t need to pregame

You don’t need to pregame the proposal. 

It can make sense to calm your jangling nerves with a good meal and a glass of wine. But if you think “taking the edge off” will result in a slurred, incoherent proposal, then it's best not to wait too long. This is one of those potential cons of proposing after dinner. Really, it’s a potential con of just proposing late in the meal. 

If you know you like to have something to sip on when you’re nervous, maybe make that a water. It’s way better to be a little over-hydrated than a little over-served in this scenario. Save the champagne for toasts instead of liquid courage. And consider some alternative ways to relax. Maybe order a soothing beverage of the non-alcoholic variety. Or just lean into the excitement and imagine the butterflies that seem to be fluttering around in your stomach are just part of the romantic ambiance. Consider them a decorative part of the perfect restaurant that you just happened to bring from home.

Plan a Dinner Proposal That Feels Right for You

There are some science-backed suggestions about when to take ring measurements: during the middle of the day, so as to account for constant fluctuations in finger size. But there are no hard guidelines or wrong answers for exactly when to give a ring as a proposal of marriage. There’s no lack of advice on the subject, but the important thing is for the couple to be in charge of their own timeline. 

So feel free to propose out of the blue while sky-diving. Or take a knee in the restaurant from your first date exactly three years before. Just make sure you are in sync with your partner, even if you are surprising them. Take care of that, and whether the proposal happens with the appetizers or the desserts, it will be a moment to savor.

How Soon Is Too Soon to Propose?

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