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Should I Propose Before or After Dinner?

While the time and place of a proposal isn’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.  

Suggesting a romantic dinner can allay suspicion or build anticipation. 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 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 Advantages

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

If you are reading this because you are nervous about the proposal, then going through the whole meal with the 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.  

Propose right away, and enjoy the relaxing dining experience as a newly engaged couple. Make the dinner a celebration instead of an endurance test. Or at least have pity on your intended fiancé, who seems to get keyed up every time you reach down to pick up your napkin.

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 in pretending to be in the dark. So just make your move, already!

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 a 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.”

After Dinner Advantages

After Dinner 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 picks up on that newly engaged buzz, patrons and staff will likely be stopping by to offer congratulations and unsolicited advice. That can be heartwarming. Or it can be intrusive.  

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 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 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 aren’t worried about ruining the surprise — watching your significant other puzzle out what is going on when the ring didn’t show up right away is part of the game you began when you started playfully talking about what your life together would look like.  

couple running in the street

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

Again, every couple is different. Some couples might treasure the meal as 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 right away. Or take a beat and go somewhere that is a little more intimate than a bustling steakhouse.

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 let the ring burn a hole in your pocket until you get the check.   

Proposals are often paired with dessert, both because dessert is associated with special celebrations and because dessert is when guests are left to themselves. If you plan on proposing at the beginning of dinner, and you don’t find the right opportunity until the end, that’s fine too. And if the ring falls out of your pocket ahead of schedule while you are ordering a salad, just consider it a providential nudge.

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

The Star Light in Rose Gold

Featured: The Star Light in Rose Gold

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. That doesn’t mean that you have to pinch pennies; just don’t get distracted by extravagance for its own sake. We promise that the interval between the proposal and the wedding will provide opportunities for complicated logistics and big spending.

Be mindful of where you put the ring.

We suggested pairing a proposal with dessert, but we don’t recommend putting the ring itself in the dessert. Or in any other part 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? 

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 a 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. 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 ambience. 

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 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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