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a man proposing to a woman on the beach

Source: Dean Drobot/ 

You’ve been dating for a while, and you know it’s high time to pop the question. Fantastic! Here’s the issue: You have zero clue what to say, and you’re a bundle of emotional butterflies and Crunchwrap Supremes. We’re here to fix that.

In proposals, as in many parts of romance, you often hear the phrase “It’s the thought that counts.” Yes, it is the thought that counts when you’re proposing; that’s true. There’s a caveat, though. If that thought comes out as incoherent babble, it may no longer be a thought that counts for very much.

First off, we recommend straying away from “Uh, so, do you wanna?” Just in case you were thinking about going that route, let’s just nip that one in the bud. Fear not, though, friend, if you need a little pre-proposal prep (and potentially pep), you’ve come to the right place. 

Now, we aren’t going to tell you exactly what to say (though we will tell you what not to). However, with a few simple guiding principles, we’ll help you craft the perfect proposal for that special someone! 

How Soon Is Too Soon to Propose?

Make It Unique to You Two

Generalizations are your enemy here. Yes, all the classic love story cliches probably apply here, and that’s not bad. However, err on the side of specificity. If what you’re saying could be used equally well by someone else proposing to their significant other, it’s too general. 

a woman wearing the rose engagement ring with her hand on a mans chest

Featured: The Rose

If you need some help, get started by considering these points:

  • When you knew – The more specific the moment, the better 
  • Why you love them – Yes, they’re nice and smart and all, but get into the little things
  • How you’ve grown together – How are you two different now than from your first date?
  • How they’ve made you better – What are you thankful for?

Take the ring into account too! If you’ve selected a specific single stone engagement ring, mention what that symbolizes. If you’re selecting a more affordable engagement ring, maybe go for the “dollar and a dream” vibe. Not many things are more romantic than that one!

Shop All Affordable Engagement Rings Here

Talk About the Future

Yes, you’ve had a storied past that you want to celebrate. However, this is just the beginning. What future do you envision together? Children? Travel? Important moments? Tax breaks? Maybe skip the last one, though it’s entirely fair to be excited about.

Write It Down

You don’t have to pen the Declaration of Independence. In fact, independence probably isn’t the vibe here. Just start spitballing. Throw out some ideas and see what works. Whatever comes into your head, get it down on paper. Don’t worry about the quality just yet — jot down whatever comes to mind. 

Once you feel like you’ve got a general idea, take a break, sleep on it, and come back the next day with fresh eyes. That’ll help you weed out the good points from the ones you can leave out.

If you’re still really stuck, there’s no harm in looking up some proposal phrases to help you get started.

It’s About Word Choice, Not Word Count

Keep it simple and sound like yourself. If your emotional range is more Ryan Reynolds than Ryan Gosling, don’t try to make yourself gush; it’s just going to sound stilted. If you’re a fan of The Bard, then soliloquy away, my friend, but don’t force anything.

You don’t need to spend paragraphs saying what only needs to take sentences. While it shouldn’t be a PowerPoint presentation, focus on honesty and simplicity above all else.

Pop the Question

a woman holding a flower wearing the elena in silver

Featured: The Elena in Silver

Okay, you should throw out the classic four words at some point. You don’t have to say “Will you marry me?” exactly. Get as creative as you’d like, as long as you get the point across coherently.

Look, it’s going to be an emotionally charged moment. Let’s just assume that you’re going to start the process, blackout (at least partially) and wake up at the end of the sentence with a fiancé. Will that happen? No guarantees. It may very well not; you may be completely conscious for the whole thing. Kudos to you if so! However it goes down, practice your speech, let it come from the heart and the rest will be history. 

Should I Propose Before or After Dinner?