Ah, the proposal. At the same time both the most nerve-wracking and most exciting moment in any man’s life. But what do you say? What do you not say? How long should it be? Should you just wing it?
We try to answer all these and more in our guide to what you should say during a proposal.
- Prepared vs Spontaneous
- What to Say at the Proposal?
- What NOT to say at the Proposal?
- Telegraphing Your Intentions
- How Long Should the Proposal Speech Take?
- Mentioning Other People
Prepared Proposal vs. Spontaneous Proposal
In the same way that some people can cook a gourmet dinner without skipping a beat, so some people are good with words. For the rest of us, planning is the order of the day. It takes a certain flair to say the right words without giving the subject some serious thought. Add the nerves of a once-in-a-lifetime proposal, and the internal tension is off the scale for a lot of people. Even the coolest, most articulate of us would be challenged in such a situation.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t just run free. Just that you should give it some thought before unleashing all the words in your head on a (hopefully) unsuspecting partner.
Also, having the proposal all planned out properly will really help your speech run smoothly.
What to Say at the Proposal?
Mark Twain once said that it took him at least 3 weeks to prepare an impromptu speech. Even with so much preparation, it’s almost a given that you’ll forget to say something you would have liked to. But here’s a thought you shouldn’t forget. Nobody ever complained that a speech was too short. Yes, say all the things you need to, and even in the right order if there is one. But don’t get bogged down. You haven’t won a Grammy and nobody has voted you president of anywhere. Keep it short(ish), but make your points.
Tell her she makes you happy, and how much she means to you. Tell her that you can’t imagine your life without her. If it’s appropriate, tell her how your life is different (and better) with her in it. If you needed saving from yourself, and she’s the one who threw you the lifebelt, tell her that as well.
Finally, and you’d be surprised how often this gets forgotten, actually ask her to marry you. And wait for her to say “Yes!”.
What You Shouldn’t Say at a Proposal?
If you stick to what we say above, you should be able to prevent a wonderful moment from turning into a train wreck. She will understand if you stumble a little, but there are still things it’s probably unwise to put in your proposal.
Don’t say that you know she’s probably been waiting for it to happen. That makes it sound like you’re doing her some sort of favor. We’re actually pretty certain she’ll be the one in credit on just about all fronts.
And don’t end with some inane question like “So, what do you think?”. You’re not buying a new TV, you’re asking the most important, most emotional question of your life. And probably hers, too.
Don’t Telegraph Your Intention
The aim is to be completely natural. The surprise is your friend in this instance. It doesn’t matter how ready she may think she is, for you to propose. Don’t let her see it coming.
She will, of course, probably get what’s happening by the time you’re a sentence or two in (or as soon as you’re on one knee). But that’s okay. Try and be confident when you start your speech. Lots of “umms” and “aahs” will let her know something unusual is going on. This is where the tradeoff between your level of confidence and your speech comes in. If you are ultra-confident, a slightly longer proposal is okay. If nerves threaten to destroy you, try and get to the point a little sooner.
It is also noteworthy to mention to be careful when planning the proposal preparations. You don’t want to be discovered but you also don’t want her to think that you are hiding something from her.
Plan your planning carefully.
How Long Should the Proposal Speech Take?
We’ve talked about how long your proposal speech should be, but not about how long it should take. The distinction is subtle but it can be important.
A short speech needn’t be over in a flash. Emotion will play a huge part in both of you. Go with the flow and use the emotion to include natural short breaks. You don’t need to just throw all the words at her at once. Even when she’s figured out what you’re up to, you’ll be surprised what impact a short pause and a little smile can have.
If we had to give a time limit, we would recommend anywhere between 5-seconds and 3-4 minutes.
Mentioning Other People
Unless you have real reasons to mention others during your proposal, you don’t need to include anybody other than the two of you.
If you have a good relationship with her family, though, and her parents, in particular, it’s okay to mention that. Her family will be important to her. If she knows you want to be a part of it, she’ll be very happy about it. If you don’t really know her family, or you just plain don’t like them, don’t mention them.
To just bring things down a little after the sudden and inevitable tidal wave of emotion, you can mention any of her friends who have helped you get to this point. Whether it’s by helping you choose a location or even just by not making plans with her for that day, knowing you’ve even spoken to them without her will be a thrill.
We said it earlier on in this guide, but it’s so important that we’ll say it again. Don’t forget to actually propose.
You will actually have to ask the all-famous question, “Will you marry me?”.
If you need help with other parts of the proposal, don’t worry, we’ve written loads of articles on the topic: