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Once you’ve settled in long enough with your significant other, you might come to think that you’d like to spend the rest of your life with them, too. In such situations, what usually follows is marriage – but before that can happen, there needs to be a proposal.

It’s something you’re ideally going to do just once in your life – so you had better be sure that you’re doing it right! Let’s look at some of the strategies you might consider if you’re going to embark on this task.

Since you’re only going to be doing this once, you should ensure that you’re doing it in a place that you’re going to enjoy remembering – and that’s most conducive to a positive answer. Don’t take her to a place that you know she hates. If there’s a place in particular that’s proven especially significant for the two of you, then pop the question.

If you’re going to propose publically, then you’re risking enormous embarrassment – especially if the love of your life doesn’t appreciate crowds and attention. Take the experience of this poor unfortunate, whose humiliation is now forever immortalised in YouTube for the world to see whenever it fancies a sadistic chuckle. Now, optimists might counter that this might have gone the other way – but since it’s clearly desirable to minimise pressure on your significant other, and proposing in this manner is difficult to recommend.

Closely related is the gimmick. The gimmick, despite the negative connotations surrounding the world, is simply a trick designed to attract attention – in this case, your would-be-bride’s attention. Now, there are many different gimmicks to choose from – or you can come up with your own. A good gimmick will allow you to surprise your bride without humiliating her. Let’s take a look at a few suggestions.

Helicopter ride
Perhaps you might take her on a helicopter ride, and have a team of collaborators write the words ‘marry me?’ on a suitable piece of landscape. Naturally, sand is a great surface for writing a proposal in enormous letters, so this gimmick is best employed on a beach holiday.

Another, more frugal means of proposing while on a beach holiday is when building a sandcastle. Once you’re collaborated to build something truly unassailable, then divert her attention with a little guile and finger pointing, and place the ring atop the highest battlement. When she turns back round again, the diamond will be obvious. You should certainly do this very carefully – and somewhere far from the sea. The last thing you want to happen is for the ring to get lost!

Have you ever had your image drawn by a cartoonist while on holiday? So have most people – it’s an amusing, though commonplace, way to spend a few minutes of your break. But what if the cartoon comes with a surprise twist? Just have a word with the cartoonist beforehand – or, better yet, get an accomplice to pen a sketch, and include the words ‘will you marry me?’ in there. For best results, try to ensure that portrait is a flattering one!

There are few better ways to get in the mood for romance than with some musical inspiration. Consequently, many seek to incorporate a band into their proposal. Hire a choir or band to play an impromptu song for your significant other – if you’re to surprise them, you’ll need to do this at least a little bit publically, but the results should be worth it. With a little forward planning, you can even get the name of your significant other into the lyrics of their favourite song – which will surely make for a proposal to remember.

We’re all familiar with skywriting – that practice of billowing smoke from the back of a plane in order to spell out a message. It’s something that requires a great deal of skill and equipment – after all, you need to be sure that the message will be legible from the ground – but the results are worth it.

If you’re thinking of proposing then there are few more spectacular ways to do it than by writing a message in the clouds. What’s more, despite the fact that everyone will be able to see it, only two will have any idea who the intended target is – and this allows you to make a grand public gesture without having to put your significant other on the spot.

In a Restaurant
A fancy meal is the classic setting in which to propose – and this is especially so if the person being proposed to is a committed foodie. Be sure to book a restaurant that’s worthy of the occasion – review sites like TripAdvisor can be very useful in this regard. On the other hand, you might prefer to return to a place that’s had special significance for you – perhaps the location of your first (or best) date?
Once you’re there, you might use a gimmick to get the message across. Of these, the most popular is to have the ring left somewhere in the food – perhaps on top of the dessert, so that when the cover is lifted, the proposal is obvious. If you’re going to do this, then it’s perhaps better to server the dessert separately, and so eliminate the possibility that the ring might become lost or, worse yet, swallowed. This is especially so if your date’s favourite dessert is custard.

In your own Restaurant
If you want to do something a little bit different, then you can always hire a chef and some waiting staff for the night and have the restaurant experience come to you, of course, it’s a little more expensive to do it this way – but this is a very special occasion, and deserves a little extra something.

Luminous Letters
If you’re feeling more frugal, then you’ll be delighted to learn that there are still options available. Secure yourself some glow-in-the-dark lettering and use it to spell the words ‘will you marry me?’ on the ceiling of your bedroom. That way, when the lights go out, the message will be displayed for all to see.

If you’re looking for that extra element of romance, then you might consider repeating this trick with candles – miniature tea-lights are most effective thanks to their low profile, which ensures that any complex shapes like letters will be visible. You might consider leaving a trail of them through the house, so that your lover can arrive home and be led through semi-darkness to the romantic scene you’ve prepared. Who couldn’t resist such theatre?

Another thrifty gimmick involves chalk (or, if you’d prefer, a spray can). Simply write your message on a suitable piece of wall and arrange things so that you and your date will walk past that same wall. If you feel like it, you can even include a tick box at the foot of your message, in order to make things that little bit more fun.

Jigsaw Puzzle
Alternatively, you might pen your proposal into a jigsaw puzzle, and then, on a rainy day, contrive to do it together. That way, when the puzzle is nearing completion, you’ll be able to read out your proposal – whether you then go on to finish the thing is entirely down to you.

The only downside is that you’ll need to finish the puzzle at least once beforehand – but if you’re a patient person, it can be a unique means of doing things. Make sure that the letters are obvious enough that they can be seen, but not so obvious that she’ll smell a rat before the jigsaw is complete.

What about Money?
If you’re considering proposing to your girlfriend, you’ll have also put some thought into how much you should spend. Like so many things in life, there is no fixed answer to this question – but there is no shortage of voices keen to part you from your hard-earned cash, and so it’s worth proceeding with caution.

For example, there’s a long tradition of presenting a diamond ring on proposal, which sceptic and comedian Adam Conover has famously critiqued in a (NSFW) four-minute YouTube video – and some of his arguments are undeniable. That said, you’re unlikely to convince your significant other of this if she’s got her heart set on a glittering rock.
Marriage is seriously big business, and there are a whole lot of vested interests out there, looking to part you with your hard-earned cash.

They’ve helped shape a culture where frugal weddings and proposals are seen as a sign that the relationship is not valued – and it’s easy to see why this would be desirable for some. After all, if men didn’t feel as though diamonds were a girl’s best friend, diamond merchants would probably spend a lot less time sipping champagne beside a Monaco swimming pool.

It’s worth therefore ending on a reminder that the two most important components in any proposal are not the setting, the ring or the gimmick, but the people entering into the agreement. However much you decide to spend on your engagement, the relationship should be priceless.