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Ask Team Practical: Spoiled Proposal


Did I ruin the moment?

by Liz Moorhead, Ask Team Practical

Ask Team Practical: Spoiled Proposal | A Practical Wedding

My boyfriend and I have talked about getting married for about two years, and in that time we have talked about everything we want or don’t want, we picked out a ring and have more or less declared ourselves soon to be married, pending the proposal. Our relationship in general is a team effort, so few things get left unsaid or discussed.

That’s been all well and good. But I recently found out more details about the proposal than I would have liked—we share computers and I accidentally found out the when of it. Should I say something? Should I pretend I didn’t see anything at all? It seems silly because frankly the proposal is not much more than a formality at this point. Our friends are getting engaged left, right, and center—so yeah, I think I am putting undue pressure to compare myself to where our friends are. And sometimes I sort of feel like we are holding the phone for this big tadaa! moment, when we could just delve in and start planning. It is about us being married at the end of the day, after all.

I think I am just looking for some insight about how to handle the pre-engaged anxiety, pressure, and expectation about this “moment” of a proposal—and asking myself if I’ve ruined it now…

Somewhat Sad And Perplexed

Dear SSAP,

What I’m supposed to tell you is that engagement isn’t about a special, perfect surprise moment. It’s about the beginning of a relationship, one built on healthy communication and honesty. In light of that, who cares if the surprise is ruined? Just be honest about what you found.

That’s what I’m supposed to say. That’s the advice column answer. But, as a lady in a relationship myself? In my own life? I gotta tell you, I wouldn’t say anything to your partner.

The surprise moment is ruined for you already. Why ruin it for him? Even more than you’re invested in this happy-surprise (and I know you are), he’s probably super invested in planning and plotting and getting excited at the anticipation of just melting your face off with surprise. I wouldn’t spoil that for him. I’d even go so far as to feign shock and maybe force out a tear. Go for that Daytime Emmy, lady.

There’s possibly some bit of healthy relationship advice in there about putting your partner before yourself or some such. But the reality is that it’s probably just not that big of a deal. If you don’t tell him you found out? You’re disappointed that it’s not a surprise, but the moment still ends up being awesome and special because, girl, you’re engaged and you’re getting married and that’s emotional whether you read his email or not. If you tell him that you found out? You’re disappointed, he’s disappointed, and you both move on and figure out a new special way to have a moment (or he just gives you the ring, or something) but either way you end up engaged and you’re getting married and that’s still big.

But see, in your email? You also threw in that bit about comparing yourself to your friends and wondering if you shouldn’t be farther along, and it just makes me wonder if instead of asking, “Should I tell him?” what you’d really like to ask is, “WHY AREN’T WE ENGAGED YET?” You saw the date of the planned proposal, and instead of getting excited about that day rolling up, you started freaking out about why it hasn’t happened yet and, “What are we waiting for?”

THAT. That is the stuff that you guys need to talk about. Whether or not you glanced at an email that could possibly ruin a surprise—meh. Who cares. That’s probably not make-or-break. But, this stuff about dissatisfaction in where your relationship stands and how quickly (or slowly) it’s moving to the next phase is the stuff you need to specifically vocalize. That’s the sort of thing where honesty and communication are necessary. That’s a conversation that shouldn’t be left unsaid.

So if you are genuinely writing in to ask if you’ve ruined anything and if you should tell him you know the date? The answer is, “No,” and, “Depends.” But, if there’s a chance that instead all of that stuff made very real insecurity surface about how your relationship is (or isn’t) progressing. Talk about it. Yes, yes, yes. Talk about it.

But, no, you still didn’t ruin anything.

*****

Team Practical, have you ever spoiled your partner’s plans to surprise you? How do you decide what to discuss honestly?

Photo by APW sponsor Vivian Chen Photography.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her son.

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  • http://irvingplace.net Kayjayoh

    If it makes SSAP feel any better, my FMIL emailed to congratulate me on the engagement fully a week before my fiance proposed. Talk about awkward.

    • Kathleen

      Exact same thing happened to me!! Haha :)

    • Cali

      Haha, one of my husband’s aunts sent me a birthday message signed “Love, your aunt-in-law.” Fortunately, I thought she was just being weird till he proposed later that day.

  • banana

    I accidentally found out about my engagement “surprise” before it happened too, but I didn’t say a word and I’m SO GLAD. I still balled my eyes out, and all sorts of other unexpected things happened that day that neither of us could have planned and were so lovely and memorable. And later, you can just say “Yeah, I sorta expected it,” or something equally vague.

    • M

      I didn’t ruin a surprise plan, but I knew it was coming within the week (his self-imposed deadline before a family reunion), and we had talked at length, for months and months, about getting engaged this summer and married next spring, and I knew the ring had shipped, etc. It was an open discussion except for the exact moment itself. We were at home, where I knew it would probably happen, and STILL I burst into tears and was SO EXCITED and overwhelmed! even if not surprised. It was more like, OMG YES IT’S HERE YAY!!!! Plus being very moved and feeling so loved.

      So, I agree. Keep it a surprise for him, and don’t worry too much. It will not be ruined at all! You’ve waited a long time for this and it will be all that you hoped.

      • TeaforTwo

        That sounds very similar to my proposal. We had planned last Christmas that we would get engaged this summer (there were some ducks that he really wanted to have in a row). I hated, HATED waiting, and wanted to just start telling people and skip over the whole proposal business. I didn’t need a ring or a surprise or a big moment, but he wanted to propose, and it’s not like I could just overrule him and declare us engaged.

        I knew it was coming, because he had said before my birthday. I had been giddy the whole week leading up to it, interspersed with “why are we waiting? just do it now now now.”

        The proposal was no huge big surprise or event. He made breakfast, and handed me a wrapped present. It was a ring, like I had known it would be. He didn’t make a speech, he just asked “will you marry me?”

        And then I cried big huge tears of joy, and I wouldn’t trade that morning for anything.

      • Aubry

        I knew it was coming too, and that the ring had shipped! Ha! Every day was “sooo, any mail today???” with just that many question marks. But, it was still a surprise, and we were just making dinner. He was so sweet.

        I also had planned for a trip we did in the winter that year. He told me on the trip that he had planned to propose but it just didn’t come together. I was obviously disappointed, but everything worked out a few months later!

  • http://www.readingisfunagain.com Pamela D

    This question reminds me of my proposal. My boyfriend (now husband) and I were at Dunkin’ Donuts eating breakfast prepping for a day of going to IKEA and to the beach to fly kites when we started talking about something. I don’t remember what it was, but I remember say, “So you are proposing today?” He got quiet and then said don’t ask me that. I immediately thought. Oh my goodness, he is going to propose. Throughout the day, I would thought about this as we shopped at IKEA and hung out at the beach. As we watched the sunset on the beach, he proposed. Let me tell you, even though I knew that he was going to propose, it was still surprising and amazing. My husband says that he was freaked out when I didn’t immediately start talking, but he decided to carry on with the proposal anyhow. The proposal took all my words.

    What I am tying to say is that you are going to be surprised and amazed and happy even if you know all the details of the proposal.

  • Laura C

    I’ve started typing a comment like 6 times and deleted because I don’t want to come across as too negative about the whole endeavor of the big surprise proposal.

    But I guess to the advice part, I’d tell him. Because I don’t really see starting off your engagement, however much of a formality it may be, with the equivalent of a dramatically faked orgasm as the way to go.

    But I have to say, the whole surprise proposal thing might be the WIC/patriarchal wedding thing I’d ditch first if I got to choose. It makes me a little furious, actually.

    • AshleyMeredith

      I can understand that. My thing was, “If you ask my dad before you ask me, you’re dead.” But the qualified-surprise (we had announced to our families, “we’re getting married this summer” and I had bought the dress already) was kind of fun. And it makes for a good story.

      • Laura C

        It does matter a lot how it happens and how the surprise aspect is treated. I, for instance, know a couple who had totally explicitly talked about getting married — I know the groom had talked to the bride’s father (which I am also not on board with) and I think the bridesmaids had even bought their dresses! — and yet the proposal involved him faking her out, taking her to a big fancy dinner during a trip and she thought surely this was it, even told some people it was coming that night, and then nothing. So that he could surprise her a couple days later. But as much as I like these people, the idea of the proposal as a prize to be dangled and awarded by the man is, to me, antithetical to the idea of marriage as an equal partnership. As recently as a couple years ago I didn’t feel strongly, but the more times I watch it, the more it feels like a power play. Not that it’s always treated as such! But that it increasingly seems like the big moment in the whole wedding process where male power is most explicitly asserted, even as things like veils and being walked down the aisle by your father fade into just stuff we do that doesn’t have even as much symbolism as it once did. (Not that I’m doing either of those.)

        • Copper

          I really dislike the fake-out thing, as well as the “if we talk about it you’ve RUINED the surprise!” thing that a lot of people get into. I didn’t want a surprise, but I wound up letting him think he was surprising me. I told him afterwards because he was really obvious (yeah let’s go to this place that’s special to us, then take a walk on the beach… even though it’s november and it’s probably going to rain. No special agenda there, lalala…). But he’s the one who wanted the surprise, and it really frankly didn’t have much to do with me or his views on me or his views on marriage—it was him trying to live up to some idea in his head about how to “do this right.” We talked about it and I knew he fully understood that I needed it to be equal, and I fully understood that he got that but still felt this extra pressure on himself. So I let him have his “surprise” but when I saw that it was coming I started carrying a man’s ring on my keychain, so that it would be there whenever it happened, so that I could propose right back to him. So, I tried to work it as best I could so that he could “do it right” but that I could also be equal. As for surprises, he got one.

          • http://balancingmeanderings.blogspot.com/ Margaret

            Oh, I love that idea of carrying around a man’s ring to propose right back! My bf and I have started having discussions about the possibility of marriage, and I think by the time we’re ready to get engaged he’ll know and be comfortable with the concept of “engagement as a mutual discussion and decision”, but if I ever get the feeling that he’s going to do an actual proposal anyway, I’m totally going to steal that idea.

        • Liz

          I wonder if it would have the “power play” feel if it was any other sort of surprise aside from a proposal? I could totally see doing this to my husband regarding, like, a big surprise birthday party. Set him up so he thinks it’s happening this one day, so that when it does actually happen he’s so surprised he poops his pants. Not because I want to dangle this tantalizing birthday party in front of him- just because I want to make for dang sure that he’s SUPER surprised when it happens, and hopefully that makes the surprise part even more enjoyable.

          Actually! I sort of did that this last birthday. On the morning of, I gave him a big fancy wrapped package that had…. drumroll…. foot powder. (A boring gift, but also sort of insulting.) I pretended that this was it, happy birthday, ta-da. Then, later that night I surprised him with his ACTUAL gift: a leather portfolio case. Hopefully the real gift was sweetened by the fake-out surprise.

          I don’t disagree that there are DEFINITELY times when the surprise proposal is problematic and could be telling of an inequality in the relationship. I just wonder if that’s always the case.

        • Liz

          Oh, also, I think my opinion of the “surprise proposal” as well as the “fake out” changes depending on how anxious the folks are to be married. I’ve known some girls who were just painfully waiting for that ring to come along, which is 1. certainly an inequality and 2. just cruel to pull a, “PSYCH! Faked you out.”

          • K.

            Yes, I agree with this a lot. It’s the Power of Least Interest – the one who has less desire to get engaged holds most, if not all, of the cards. And to use those cards to “fake out” or otherwise ‘mess with’ is, as you say, cruel and it’s especially egregious to do to someone who is supposed to be your life partner. The fact that women are more likely to be the ones to have the Greater Interest is a major societal issue that is, yes, patriarchal and worthy of ongoing examination. But I still don’t think a surprise-like proposal and open, honest communication are mutually exclusive. It can just be harder, for the reasons the OP has said and the reasons you outline here.

        • http://seasofgales.wordpress.com KH_Tas

          @ Liz on the fake-out thing: I think it also varies with the personality of the person being faked out. I know lots of people who would find the situation you describe hilarious, but for me and my feelings of being unwanted and unlovable it would be devastating. Know yourself and the other person, as usual, is the rule here I guess

          (Hope that wasn’t too harsh or anything)

      • KTMARIE

        I know this is kind of a tangential conversation to the OP, but I feel like I have to chime in here. I had also always thought it was awful that my parents would know when he was proposing before I did if he asked them permission to propose, I just never, ever supported the ‘asking the father’ part, even though my Dad and I have a fantastic relationship. But lo and behold, after my (now) fiance proposed, I found out he had called and asked my dad first earlier in the week. And hearing my parents talk about how exciting that night was for them, and how honored my dad felt that he had called, and how he didn’t sit down for an hour after the phone conversation because he was too worked up and excited, I realized how glad I was that he had called my dad, because even though it is just *us* and our decision, he’ll be part of the family and it was a really nice start.

        • GreenBeans

          That’s so cool. I hope that my dad will react like that if my partner calls him. I feel a little weird about the “asking permission” thing as well, by my partner grew up in Oklahoma and in the church, and my dad also comes from a conservative background, even though he raised me to be a fiery feminist. I’m a little worried that he won’t be excited though, maybe even angry and disappointed…

        • Stephanie

          I have never wanted any potential husband to ask my father (or parents, in general, though the tradition is to ask the father) for permission to marry me. I’m not his property; he has no permission to give. *I* have always been the only one whose “permission” was key if someone wanted to marry me.

          But it was really important to my now-husband to ask permission, because he thought it was a way to show respect to the man who raised me. For my husband, it never had to do with trying to *actually* get “permission” to marry me, and had nothing to do with the concept of a transfer of “property.” He just wanted to honor my dad.

          And my dad was so thrilled. So, SO thrilled. I know that my dad also knew that the “permission” really wasn’t his to give. But he was honored all the same.

          Knowing all of that, I realized that even though I don’t like the practice of asking the dad for permission, it was something that was important to both my husband and dad. And I needed the reminder that, when it comes to family and marriage, *my* opinion is not the only one. And it turned out to not be a problem for me at all.

          • Angie

            I always told my husband that if he asked anyone before he asked me, the answer would be no, because that meant he didn’t really know me very well. My dad knew I feel that way, and he respected that a lot.

            My older sister on the other hand is very traditional. She had a traditional wedding. My brother in law called my dad, and my dad was really thrilled. On the other hand, my husband proposed to me on Father’s Day, so we called and said, “You have another son!” and he was thrilled with that, too.

            Different strokes for different daughters.

            That said, my sister changed her name, and I didn’t. I think my parents are secretly proud that I feel enough love for my upbringing that I insisted on keeping my (and their) name.

            Plus, my mom felt left out of my sister’s wedding because she didn’t get to walk her down the aisle or get a special dance like my dad did. I made sure both my parents walked me down the aisle, and while my mom is too shy to dance in front of everyone with no one else on the dance floor, I requested the DJ play “Child of Mine” by Carole King, which she used to sing to me as a lullaby. We had our own dance (just not in the spotlight since she would hate that.)

            So, my point is, don’t assume that your parents will be offended if they’re consulted pre-proposal or not. It seems like parents may want everything to be “done right” and “proper” but then you get my mom on the sidelines feeling left out at the traditional wedding and thrilled to be included at the offbeat one….

            I guess my point is you never can win? :) Nah, my real point is, be happy. Do what’s right for you and your partner, keeping respect and inclusion in tandem, and everything will work out in the end.

      • Paige

        LOL, my dude told me he was going to ask my dad first and so I texted my dad. To which my dad called me, had me put him on speakerphone to say “I appreciate the gesture, but don’t ask me. She hasn’t lived in the house since she was 17, this is her choice, not mine. Plus in all honesty, what would you do if I said no?” LOL, my dude was really upset about that…but my family isn’t really into all the traditional aspects of a wedding.

        • rys

          Love this. I’ve been telling my parents for years that they are to refuse any guy who calls them because I do not approve of such moves, gesture/honor/whatever, it still makes me feel like a piece of property. I don’t know if my dad would respond as awesomely as yours unprompted, however.

          • TGal

            I thought the point was to ask for the blessing of the parents, not to explicitely ask for their permission? The former is a honourable gesture to the family; the latter is a creepy antiquated contractual obligation.

          • http://seasofgales.wordpress.com KH_Tas

            @ RYS – I should have done this. Fortunately my guy knows how I feel and understands
            @ TGAL – It depends. I agree in that the blessing is ok (in my case I would require that it happened after asking me), but the permission thing isn’t. However, you still see both around a lot

          • http://seasofgales.wordpress.com KH_Tas

            Editz because I realise that there are very few people who *actually* treat the asking for parental permission thing as real permission/property transfer stuff – I could come across that way and don’t wish to cause offense

        • http://balancingmeanderings.blogspot.com/ Margaret

          Love that! That’s so how I hope my parents would react.

          My issue with the asking for permission – or honestly, even asking for a “blessing” is that (1) it’s usually phrased as asking for the dad’s permission/blessing – hello, what about my mom? There isn’t a “dad who raised me”, it’s two parents who raised me together. and (2) even if you don’t truly see it as asking permission, even if you phrase it as asking for a blessing – if getting an answer of no wouldn’t change anything, then you’re really just doing it as a nod to tradition, a tradition steeped in patriarchy. Why is that a tradition that it’s important to respect?

          • Ashley

            My mom always said “if he’s going to ask permission, he better ask me to” and lo and behold when he popped by their house, they were both there. And so was my sister. It turned into a whole family affair and I know that my parent’s really appreciated it. They loved chatting with him about the ring and when it would happen and they swore to him that it would burn a hole in his pocket – which it did. We were engaged less than a week later when my sister was away on a cruise – which she explicitly told him not to do, ha!

    • K.

      I like to say that I was surprised but not shocked by my fiance’s proposal. We had been discussing it for months, looked at rings together, told our families that we were it for each other, and had all of the important conversations well in advance of him actually ‘popping’ the question. Then it was just about the fun and romance of getting swept away by a ‘surprise’ proposal (in Paris, no less – we kind of secretly love cliches). So while I wouldn’t argue that there’s nothing problematic from a feminist standpoint — there obviously is — I don’t think it’s fair to assume that everyone who had a ‘surprise’ proposal buys wholesale into the patriarchal aspects or thinks of it as anything but a sweet gesture. And especially on this site, I don’t think it’s fair to assume that both partners hadn’t actually been talked about and agreed to it ahead of time.

      • Laura C

        So this is why I tried to separate how I’d answer the question — don’t be deceptive in starting your formal path to marriage — from how I feel about the general thing.

        For the record, it’s not that I assume people who do the surprise thing buy wholesale into the patriarchal aspects. Absolutely I know that not to be the case. But, as I said in my other reply just now, increasingly I am seeing this moment become the thing that feels like it retains real patriarchal muscle, even among couples I know and like, couples I know to have talked in great detail about their plans, couples who are super-feminist in all sorts of ways. I mean, the professional left, people who go on to hyphenate their names…yet their proposals have a lot of elements of gendered power play, apparently unnoticed. It’s been shocking to me, really, watching it.

        • Rachel

          I tend to agree…particularly the way women are reminded not to bring it up, less their asking a guy about it makes him not want to marry her. The whole “just sit quietly and patiently and it will happen” thing makes me see red, as does the idea of the guy choosing the proposal date without a woman’s input. But! I know not everyone who is getting engaged feels the same way and the surprise doesn’t feel like a test or a weird power imbalance. I just want all women to feel comfortable opting out of the surprise proposal if they don’t like the dynamic it creates.

          • MK

            The only ones that REALLY make me uncomfortable are those reality TV engagement-turned-instant-wedding, where she says yes and IMMEDIATELY gets walked in to some big “surprise” wedding ceremony right then and there. That scares the pants off me.

    • meg

      I actually totally love that it makes you furious. LOVE. But, I do want to make it clear that I think you can be feminist and understand all the issues, and still want a surprise proposal. I did. I wasn’t my most feminist decision, but it’s one I’m perfectly comfortable with.

      So yes. Would I tell him? Nope. But that part has nothing to do with feminism for me. That’s just part of the endless negotiation of partnerhood, and how I don’t believe that total honesty is good for… humans… let alone partners.

      • meg

        (Would I tell him LATER? Oh, I’m sure I would.)

    • Rachel

      I think Liz makes a good point below when she asks whether any other surprise would be as problematic. I totally see where you’re coming from – I think the ‘traditional’ surprise proposal can absolutely be perceived as patriarchal in many ways, and I can totally understand a desire to have nothing to do with it.

      However, I also think a surprise proposal can be part of an equal, feminist, respectful relationship. My now husband and I openly discussed marriage and made a shared and equal decision that it was something we wanted. In many ways, I would consider those formative discussions our ‘engagement’, more-so than the surprise proposal. Despite this, we still had a more ‘traditional’ proposal as well, not because we felt it was necessary, but because my not-conventionally-romantic husband really, really wanted to surprise me with a heartfelt proposal that he’d put his heart and soul into. He didn’t ‘propose’ on one knee with a ring – it was on a picnic bench at the side of the road with a book – but it was beautiful. It showed a deep understanding of who I am and what I value, was incredibly respectful, and at no point felt even the slightest bit patriarchal or unequal. For him, it was really important that he mark this significant milestone in our lives with a tangible gesture, and I don’t fault him for that, nor do I think it was done to exert power or control.

      • Rachel

        *Note: Liz’s comment that I referenced is actually above, not below. I can’t get comment editor to work, so I’m adding a footnote.

        • KC

          *Footnotes are awesome. :-)

      • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

        Yes this. My husband and I both agree that if the actual question is a surprise, then you have a problem. You should have already discussed marriage and agreed to it.

        When he proposed it was because he wanted to do something nice for me. Had I figured it was coming? Yup. But I didn’t know how he was going to do it. He put a lot of thought in to doing something meaningful for me, even picking a place in the solar system that would be meaningful to me (I love astronomy, he proposed at the solstice, so we celebrate it at the solstice, not the calendar date).

        And the next day when we got on the web cam with my parents to tell them and my mom jumped in to congratulate us, he stopped her mid sentence so he could “ask my dad” and I could tell that was a special moment for my dad, who replied that as long as I said yes then he was all for it.

        I doubt my husband will ever do another surprise like that for me. He is incredibly thoughtful in a thousand other ways, but for that moment he wanted it to be a surprise.

        • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

          “…if the actual question is a surprise, then you have a problem. You should have already discussed marriage and agreed to it.”

          This is exactly what I’m thinking. The decision about “are we going to get married” and “what’s our timeline for that” really need to be made together, and ahead of any sort of surprise proposal. But a surprise proposal where there has been no discussion is very different from a surprise proposal that has been discussed ahead of time. Are there still some problematic elements? Yes, absolutely. And I think that the time leading up to a proposal is one of the most difficult times in a relationship in terms of working through the growing pains.

          My husband did the “surprise” proposal (though I’d already guessed it) and while waiting for him to get his ducks in a row was incredibly frustrating it was also super important to me that do the asking, precisely because I was ready first.

          • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

            That’s why I waited for him to say he loves me before I said it. Which is why my reaction to when he did actually say it was a brief pause followed by “really?” Which makes for more of a humorous story than a romantic one, but that’s life.

          • Liz

            I said, “No you don’t.”

            Oops.

          • del678

            can’t reply to Giggles for some reason.
            “really” was my response to the proposal…
            I was asleep when he said he loved me for the first time… didn’t find out until the next night when he was acting kinda weird…

        • scw

          “He put a lot of thought in to doing something meaningful for me, even picking a place in the solar system that would be meaningful to me (I love astronomy, he proposed at the solstice, so we celebrate it at the solstice, not the calendar date).”

          What a cool idea!

    • Michelle

      Laura, I could not agree more! Having the whole “how do you want to get engaged” conversation in very clear terms not only clarified a lot of things about how we would move forward, but also a lot about our relationship. I didn’t want to be asked a question, and my now fiance agreed that a proposal was not in the cards for us. I think that lots and lots of choices for how you want to get engaged are valid choices, and the discussion of how you want it to happen will tell you a lot of things about yourself and how comfortable you are talking about some pretty big stuff in your relationship.

      I absolutely LOVE the comment above that you shouldn’t start your engagement as the equivalent of a fake orgasm. If having a true surprise is important to you, then tell him. Don’t go through the process self-sacrificing because “the surprise is ruined.” THIS IS YOUR ENGAGEMENT TOO. And your feelings are totally valid. We know that weddings are important cultural markers that help us move into the next stage of our relationships, and they are incredibly meaningful, and engagements can serve the same purpose.

  • http://landlockedlove.com Kelly

    My husband is a ferocious list-maker. And he himself totally pulled out his To Do list in front of me one night and started rattling it off, forgetting that Get A Ring was an item on the list. He realized before he read it outloud and quickly stuffed the list out of sight, but I had already seen it.

    The funny part? He didn’t end up getting a ring. Proposed without one. (we bought one together about a month later). And he still thought he’d been quick enough that I didn’t see his list and get spoiled for the whole thing.

    While I didn’t know the exact date, I knew it was coming. And knowing in advance didn’t spoil the magic at all. (And for our proposal I had jam in my hair, and my husband had no pants on. And he bought himself a suit instead of a ring. It was still perfect).

    • Stephanie

      I am laughing my head off at this, because my husband cannot function without his To-Do list! I’m wondering if he had “propose” on his list for the day he proposed! :) I should ask him that. I kind of hope the answer is yes.

      • Liz

        If so, I hope he kept that list!

        • Stephanie

          Ha! I am definitely asking him when he gets home!

    • anon for this

      HAH, mine was also a pantsless proposal (on his part)! It’s one of my favorite parts of the story that I don’t tell anyone else, but so appropriate for us.

  • Jenny

    It sucks that that was ruined for you, especially since it seems like something you were looking forward to. But if it makes you feel any better, I feel like the big surprise is mostly not all that surprising to a lot of people. Most of my friends had an inkling that something special was going to happen, I had a pretty good hunch, so big that in told my supervisor that I thought I was going to get engaged over the weekend. The thing is, a lot of times you know your partner really well and can tell when they are feeling nervous, or pick up on subtle cues and it ends up not being a gigantic surprise, but at least for me – I figured out not only the day, but where and how- knowing didn’t ruin the moment, it was still really emotional, because I was still surprised but what he said and how I reacted to actually hearing those words. I’m with Liz, it sounds like he’s put some effort into the surprise, so I’d play a long, I’ll be you’ll end up feeling some level of surprise anyway. You don’t even have to lie (people will ask were you surprise, did you see it coming), I ended up saying I thought something might be up, but it was still _______ (emotional, lovely, perfect).

  • Another Kate

    I gotta disagree, but I think you know your boyfriend better than we do. For me, I think of how I’d feel in the situation, and I’d want to know. I’d much prefer a spoiled surprise to a fake reaction for my sake. If I thought I was surprising my husband and found out he’d known and was faking the reaction, I’d be really hurt.

    That said, I knew about a “surprise” engagement party my MOH threw for us last year and haven’t said a word, and I think that’s for the best. So I’m not practicing what I preach, I suppose. And actually, that same MOH got engaged recently, had found the ring before she was supposed to, and told her fiancé. He was upset and said he’d rather not have known that she knew prior to the proposal. Which to me seems so odd, but everyone is different.

    • http://landlockedlove.com Kelly

      I guess the only thing I would say is that the reaction doesn’t need to be faked, just because you might know ahead of time. I mean, maybe don’t scream out “OH MY GOD, I HAD NO IDEA!” or anything. But you can still be extremely moved and have a genuine reaction to a proposal, even though you know it’s coming.

      I think the “faking” aspect would bother me too, if I were on that side of the coin. I guess I just never considered that the reaction would be fake or somehow false or less genuine, just because the person knew ahead of time. (Again, short of making a big deal about the fact that you DEFINITELY DID NOT EXPECT IT).

      • Another Kate

        Yeah, I getcha, but Liz did make the suggestion to “feign shock,” in her answer, so that was what I was referring to there. I knew my proposal was coming at some point within a month or so, and I was still completely stunned at the moment, so I totally see how it’s still going to be emotional and meaningful regardless.

        • Liz

          Kate, that’s probably better put than what I said. The emotions are going to be there, I was just trying to be cute with the Emmy thing. (fail)

          • Abby Mae

            I thought that was hilarious. It made me think of girls pulling a Sally-Field-at-the-Oscars type reaction.

  • MK

    I was surprised by my proposal, but I have a similar story about a birthday. My then-boyfriend-now-fiance had arranged for my friend to come in from out of state. He’d been super sneaky and worked it all out…and then he blurted it out one day. (He’s really not good at keeping secrets from me!) I was overwhelmed and didn’t believe him, but my birthday was still a month and a half away. We decided together to let my friend think it was still a surprise.

    And you know what? I WAS still surprised. I knew she was there to pop out, but when she did, I was completely blown away that she had gone to all that effort just for my birthday, so much that I started to cry and hugged her SO HARD—she still doesn’t know that he’d revealed things too soon. It was still great. Getting engaged will be a lot like that.

    So I’d only tell him if you no longer want there to be a proposal and would like to just get on with wearing a pretty ring already….but I think it’s worth the fun of the surprise.

  • Anon

    Totally in a similar situation, we’ve been talking about getting married for a while and he really wanted to propose (sweet that he wanted to do something nice for me, because he’s not a romantic gesture kinda guy). What was supposed to be a surprise proposal didn’t end up happening because of a whole string of events that led to a cancellation of a weekend getaway where the proposal was going to happen. He told me afterward that he had intended to propose, and I told him I kinda figured that was his intention, but I was not at all upset about it because, life happens. So, here we are, not quite officially engaged yet. I acquired a family heirloom ring and we even had it sized (which was really exciting). But the proposal hasn’t happened yet. A little impatient, but also a little nervous because now it feels like it has to be perfect since it’s been in the works for so long.

    • http://colormegreenanew.blogspot.com Julia (Color Me Green)

      Also in a similar situation…we’ve talked about how we both planned to be engaged already, but life got in the way of having time to find a ring. We considered not having a “surprise” proposal, but interestingly, I realized that I do care about having that moment when he formally asks. I surprised myself on this, as I’m with Rachel that it infuriates me that the girl is just supposed to wait around forever for a surprise question without having a say in the timeline. So here I am impatiently waiting, and it’s awkward to know we’re getting married next summer and not be able to talk about it.

  • SarahG

    As others have said, I feel like very few people are truly TRULY surprised by proposals — most people know it’s coming (the only times I’ve heard of true surprises have been when it’s been unwelcome…). Like you, even before you figured out some details, you already knew it was happening. So if it was me, I’d just let it be, have my reaction (which, since I’m a really emo kind of gal, will always be a “big” reaction, even if we are co-proposing and pick a time to do it and Google Calendar it and everything), and then maybe tell him later. I often pick up on surprises and my partner usually knows I picked up on them, and then we do this whole Let’s Pretend It’s Still Kind of Surprising thing, and then he’s like “aww, you knew, didn’t you?”, and we get cute about it. (The things we do to keep long term relationships exciting, eh?). For our relationship, that wouldn’t be inauthentic; I am sure we would both still be excited, emotional, and happy. BUT you have to do what feels authentic to you and your relationship; it doesn’t really matter what would work for the rest of us. And I totally agree that the bigger issue is your unhappiness with the timeline…

  • KC

    I might look at the do-I-tell-or-not as “will this require actually lying in word or deed, or not? And what’s my best guess as to how will he feel about it and future trust-occasions if he does ever find out that I knew?”. If someone buys you a gift, and it’s the wrong size, you’re not required to tell them it’s the wrong size unless they ask whether it’s the right size (or color, or you-already-have-three-that-you-don’t-use). But if they do, or if there’s more involved, then it’s best to come clean asap.

    I would not fake a reaction, but honestly, you’re getting engaged, you’ll probably have *a* reaction anyway (if nothing else, you can say “yes” and “thank you” or “I love you” or “I’m so looking forward to getting married to you” or something like that).

    (I was surprised at my now-husband’s proposal. My reaction was definitely not one for the Hallmark Channel, but was hilarious in retrospect. Surprise does not guarantee picture-perfect hysterics. :-) )

  • Gina

    My fiance and I shopped for the ring together and I was with him when he took it home. I obviously knew the proposal was coming soon, but I didn’t know when.

    I also have a problem – I CANNOT help but try to figure out surprises. Since I was a kid, I have been known to snoop around to find birthday presents and shake/weigh/measure Christmas gifts to find out what they are. So, when we went to his hometown for a weekend, I had a feeling that the proposal would happen, but wanted to know for sure. When he wasn’t in the room, I snuck a peek in his bag for the ring box and there it was! I spent the next few hours before he actually proposed trying to contain my excitement. (I later admitted what I did).

    So, even though I knew the proposal was coming, I still had some desire to have the whole “surprise” story, and played along, because that is what is expected. I think there is definitely WIC pressure to have a surprise story to tell when in reality, I think a true surprise proposal (like never discussing marriage beforehand) would be more than concerning. Where does the need for a unsurprising surprise come from??

    • Ella

      Hahahaha I’m the same way. I made myself not look for the ring…but it turns out my fiance knows me so well, he never brought it to our apartment until the day he proposed. :)

  • phira

    I think it’s really smart what Liz figured out.

    My partner and I both planned our engagement together. Neither of us proposed to the other one, and it went just as wonderfully as we hoped it would. As the day of the engagement started creeping up, my only reaction was, “AAAHHH I am so excited!”

    The only, “I want it already!” reactions I had were more like … “Aaah I can’t wait to tell everyone!”

  • Anon for this

    My husband was SO DEEPLY THRILLED to have pulled off “surprising me.” ;)
    I would definitely agree with NOT spoiling it.

  • Caitlyn

    So I didn’t read every comment and perhaps someone else suggested this, but it seems like the obvious answer to me is that YOU SHOULD PROPOSE TO HIM!! Why not? From your own description – your relationship is a team effort. There is no way for you to un-know what you know – therefore there is no way for it to be a surprise. Instead of essentially lying by pretending it is a surprise or telling your boyfriend thus either forcing him to re-plan the event or accept that his plan is blown – beat him to it. Propose to him yourself and after the dust settles explain that you accidentally ruined his plan so you decided to “fix” it by planning your own surprise. That’s what I would do.

    • Beth

      I don’t know if I would suggest this route, just because if someone really wants to plan a surprise, half the fun is, ya know, getting to see the other person’s reaction and feel like you succeeded at pulling it off (even if you find out later that they knew). I would be sad if I had something all planned out and was looking forward to it and then the other person turned it around on me.

    • Ashley

      I don’t know, it really depends on your fiancé. The proposal was really important to mine and he flat out told me he would have been devastated if I had proposed. I guess he’s a pretty traditional person, but he felt that most of the wedding planning and details would be my decision (because he doesn’t care about a lot of them) and the proposal was the one thing that he had complete control over.

  • Lauren C.

    I forgot where I originally heard this, but I think it’s great advice: When you’re trying to decide whether to come clean in a situation like this, figure out whether you’re doing it for your own sake or the other person’s. If it’s for your own sake (i.e. just so you don’t feel guilty about knowing), then leave it alone. You didn’t betray his trust or do anything wrong, so I don’t think there’s anything gained by “confessing” other than relieving your guilt. It might be kinder to forgive yourself and move on, rather than making him feel bad too.

  • Lan

    My dad called me immediately after my now-husband called to ask his permission. (Nice gesture, but not a Vietnamese tradition so my dad didn’t think he was ruining a surprise). I didn’t tell my husband about it until after he proposed, but I knew about it approximately 1 month prior. I didn’t know how or when, but I knew it was going to happen.

    • http://thevanillabride.blogspot.com Sonarisa

      My fiance asked my father for his blessing over the phone. We were having brunch in my apartment and the first thing my father did after giving his blessing was to ask if I was there. So Badger passed the phone to me, and my father yelled “Congratulations!” and then realized that he didn’t know if my fiance had already proposed or not.

  • Stephanie

    My dad actually dropped a huge hint — inadvertently — that made me pretty sure my husband was going to propose that night. The day of our 7-year dating anniversary, I had lunch with my dad. My dad isn’t known for making small talk, but in the middle of lunch, he casually asked, “So, do you have plans tonight?”

    Since it was a Tuesday, I said, “Probably eat dinner on the couch and surf the internet until I fall asleep, like every weeknight.” And I didn’t think anything of it at that moment.

    But once I got back to the office, his question kept nagging at me: why DID he ask me that? He has NEVER asked what my plans on a given weeknight are. And, since *I* knew it was our anniversary, suddenly 2 and 2 put themselves together in my mind, and it sure looked a LOT like 4.

    I knew my husband really wanted to ask my dad permission to marry me, whenever the time came. So I started suspecting that he HAD done that, and my dad knew that the proposal was going to be that night.

    At that point, I got really excited and couldn’t get much work done for the rest of the day. I told only one co-worker of my suspicions, because I was just *bursting* and needed to tell someone.

    My suspicions were right, and my husband proposed that night. We called family that night to tell them, and when I called my dad, he didn’t answer the phone with “Hello,” but by saying “Congratulations!”

    I told my husband later that I had a suspicion he was going to propose, both because it was our anniversary, and because of my dad’s “casual” question. He didn’t mind that my dad let that hint slip. However, related to the original question, I would never have mentioned a thing to my husband BEFORE the proposal. He deserved the excitement of proposing with no spoilers.

    And the thing is, hearing that hint from my dad and having that suspicion didn’t spoil the proposal for me at all. I was glad to have the time to anticipate it — it gave me time to get excited about it, and then, oddly, extremely calm and assured.

    And my dad’s hint has now just become part of the proposal story, which I love.

    • Violet

      Stephanie, first of all I will be using “suddenly 2 and 2 put themselves together in my mind, and it sure looked a LOT like 4.” Too funny!
      Secondly, I totally agree how the hints that clued you in become part of the story later on. I figured out the week my husband was going to propose, and I confided in one friend as my suspicions were cropping up. A few days after the proposal, I told my partner all the things he said that clued me in. And he smiled, remembering how excited he’d been and how I picked up on it. So not saying anything in advance and treasuring the knowledge afterwards worked for us as well.

  • anonymous

    I can relate so much to SSAP on this one. I would have to agree with Liz’s advice to not ruin the ‘surprise’ for him by telling him, and to keep open communication about her frustrations.

    I have been dating my boyfriend for nearly 10 years, we have been living together for 5, and talking marriage for 4 years. We have very open communication about my emotions and his hold-backs about getting engaged, our expectations surrounding it, as well as the details involving our future ceremony and reception. This has been enormously helpful in managing my struggles and has helped him to figure out the root of his hesitancy (which he is now seeing a therapist to work on) . There have been breakdowns and an end-of-the-year ultimatum, but ultimately, he has reassured me that there is a plan and I am putting my faith in him because I believe this is something he truly wants. He has also made it clear that a traditional proposal is very important to him. I personally think it’s a silly formality and I’ve told him that it’s unlikely he’ll be able to completely surprise me, given that I’ve basically been anticipating something every time we’ve gone out alone together since January. Also, I know he’s had a ring for almost a year (his mom can’t keep her mouth shut). However, I haven’t told him that I know because he would be very upset. After years of living together and talking openly about marriage, there aren’t many surprises left, and I know it’s important to him to think that he can still surprise me despite all of that. I figure our emotions in that moment of it finally happening will be where the surprise truly lies, and nothing can ruin that.

    • http://thevanillabride.blogspot.com Sonarisa

      I agree with this. My fiance and I decided to get married a year and a half before he popped the question. Waiting was hard. Anonymous said that she expects things every time they go out, and I did too. It got pretty stressful and emotional for me, so definitely keep the lines of communication open. Pre-engagement is rough. Waiting is hard.

  • Rachel

    I actually think knowing the date of the proposal is a loophole to the pre-engagement anxiety. I think knowing WHEN it is happening but not knowing WHAT is happening is kind of awesome. I look at it sort of like a birthday or anniversary…if your partner says he or she is planning something cool for your birthday but won’t tell you what, it doesn’t ruin your birthday, not even a little bit. It makes it more fun and exciting to know something cool is coming! So I kinda feel like you could tell him you know the when and tell him that’s OK (or not OK if you want to talk about that, which it sounds like you might), but tell him you don’t want to know any of the details and that the surprise isn’t at all ruined (because I really don’t think it is!). I feel like choosing an engagement date together is a great way to do a team effort, and it leaves a little wiggle room for fun surprises.

    • Marie

      YES. I was extremely nervous about being proposed to because it took me a long time to come to terms with even the idea of marriage – I guess I thought when he proposed I would freak out and suddenly not be ready. Luckily, he was about to move to our new home about 7 weeks before I would follow him, and our anniversary was a few days before he was planning to leave, so I used my incredible deduction skills to guess that the proposal would probably come on our anniversary. The fact that I knew it was happening that day but I didn’t know how it was happening made me feel much better, and excited instead of anxious. (As I type this out I am realizing how much of a control freak I really am…) But I was still happy and pleasantly surprised when it happened!

      • http://seasofgales.wordpress.com KH_Tas

        I don’t think you’re a control freak, I think you know yourself and are willing to look after yourself. Shame-blast

  • Casey

    I love my husband, but he is not so good at keeping secrets. He didn’t blatantly divulge any information about his proposal plans but I knew he had been ring shopping and was working on something. We had talked about getting engaged so I knew it would happen eventually. As it came closer, he accidentally dropped more and more hints, and I kind of figured out what day it would happen. That morning, I could tell he was freaking out inside but trying to stay calm, so I just went along with it and it was actually kind of fun : ) Luckily I had NO idea how the actual proposal was going to happen so it was still completely emotional and magical…and I think even if I had known every last detail, it would have still been special.

  • Jillian

    I actually ended up botching our proposal. My now-husband had been hinting for awhile and we were snuggled in bed watching Love Actually when I reached over to hug him and I felt a box in his pocket. I lost it, shrieking. He was going to wait until the end of the movie but went ahead with it in the middle (actually during the scene when Colin Firth discovers his gf is cheating on him-we still laugh about that). He was a little disappointed and I actually beat myself up about it at the time but now? We laugh hysterically about it. It was still very special and at the same time, very “us”.

  • AG

    I knew about my “surprise” proposal beforehand and somehow in the moment I was still surprised. The beauty and emotion of the moment will by far eclipse any idea that you had leading up to it. Promise that when all is said and done, you won’t care that you knew.

    Also, I truly believe we all have two engagement stories. The happy, romantic, funny, easy stories that we share at dinner parties, and the personal, messier ones that involve all that anxiety we don’t talk about. They’re both the truth, one is just a little more fun to talk about. Your friends who are getting engaged left and right will also have both of these stories, even if they only choose to share one. Don’t beat yourself up comparing your whole story to what’s mostly likely only the sparkly, happy half of theirs.

    • http://thevanillabride.blogspot.com Sonarisa

      This is perfect. I’ve been struggling a lot with my two engagement stories, and I just wanted to say thanks for writing this. I needed to hear it today.

  • http://sweetandwildchild.blogspot.com Jackie

    I totally knew my proposal was happening. No one tipped me off, no surprises were revealed; I just kind of knew that Ben would drive down to New York and surprise me and that he’d probably bring a ring with him. Then as soon as I saw him on that bridge in Central Park, I knew he was going to propose.

    But to this day, I hold fast to my story that I had no clue. I LOVE surprises and he tried so hard to surprise me, planning it with my friend, doing it in NY, etc. So I went with it. He was proud of that proposal and that surprise! Why ruin those feelings? Just so I could be “right”? I love hearing him tell the story of how surprised I was and I love seeing the pride in his eyes that he pulled off. So in my mind, he pulled it off. I want him to have that.

    • Abby Mae

      “I love hearing him tell the story of how surprised I was and I love seeing the pride in his eyes that he pulled off. So in my mind, he pulled it off. I want him to have that.”

      Yes to that a million times over!

    • Manya

      YES.

    • KEA1

      YES!!! I’m speaking hypothetically here, but if this is the man with whom I’m building a future, then I care about him enough that I want him to be able to take that kind of pride–and I don’t want to ruin it just for the sake of “being right.”

  • http://www.thankyousummer.com Caroline

    My boyfriend and I have been together for 8 years and talking about marriage for at least 5 of those. We bought a ring two weeks ago and were planning to get engaged that weekend on a trip to the beach. Because of previous circumstances, we had decided to plan the moment together as a team and forgo the traditional surprise proposal scenario. But my grandma died on the exact day we had planned to get engaged. Obviously, we wouldn’t be calling family with the good news that day, and we didn’t want to go to a funeral right after getting engaged.
    SO, now he has the ring but has decided he DOES want to surprise me. As much as it bugs me that he has complete control of the situation, I know seeing the look on my face when he finally proposes is worth the wait.
    He was nice enough to buy me this amazing piece of jewelry, not to mention wanting to spend his life with me, so if getting the chance to knock my socks off is important to him, why would I take that away?
    For this reason, I agree with the advice not to tell him the surprise is ruined. I think many men really look forward to the chance to blow their mates away and they deserve that chance!

  • Katie

    I saw a ring box in one of my now-husband’s drawers and had a minor freak out because I had been convinced up until that moment that he really meant it when he said “I’m never getting married again” (post super difficult divorce). I didn’t open the box (willpower…and the desire to leave something for a later surprise). I hemmed and hawed about telling him for over a week. Ultimately I told him that I saw the box because I felt like we needed to talk about whether the marriage door was now open (it had always been for me, although I’d made my peace with the fact that we would be together but unwed). He wasn’t upset that I saw the box, was glad I hadn’t opened it, and was mostly relieved that he wouldn’t have to hide it all during an upcoming trip to the Florida Keys! In fact, I ended up carrying the ring box in my carry-on. His proposal was still a surprise in that I didn’t know when or how exactly it would happen, but I was glad to have had the time to emotionally process before it did.

  • ART

    I’d say…don’t say anything, don’t fake anything – I think whatever real emotion you have at the moment will be perfect :) My then-boyfriend sort of…suggested that “we could get married” one day while I was doing dishes, and I kind of laughed it off. Then about a month later he told me he was going to ask my mom for her blessing on a particular weekend. Then the weekend came and went and everyone was acting pretty normal so I wasn’t sure if he’d done it. In the end, a solid month and a half after that, he asked one night while we were sitting in our living room, no ring, no big display, just asked. I loved it. I could barely speak, even though I’d been half expecting it for three months. After we picked a ring and called everyone to tell them, I found out that EVERYONE knew it was coming, down to my 12-year-old cousin, but didn’t know when, and didn’t know if I knew…in some ways it was no surprise to anyone, but in others it was a huge surprise to all of us when we could all finally talk about it to each other :) I don’t think you can spoil the moment, it will be lovely no matter what.

    • ART

      Also, I mean I could have asked him rather than “waiting patiently for a ring,” but the truth is that he was ready before I was. I was thankful for the few months to figure out if I was ready to make that decision (by the time he asked, I had gotten on board). So I never felt like he was dangling the possibility in front of me, I think it was part shyness and part reading me to see if I’d made my part of the decision yet.

  • Kathy

    What disturbs me the most is the increasing attention surrounding “a story” or that there’s even a need for a big surprise. It seems that, like many things in our world now, there’s a competition for an engagement story/You Tube video/flash mob/big surprise. People are now hiring planners to plan elaborate and expensive engagement surprises and I can’t help but wonder… why? Is it because it’s important to the relationship? Or is it so that it one-ups someone else and can make for a (“better”) story?

    For making the decision about whether to disclose that the information was seen ahead of time, I think the question goes back to “What is important to your relationship?” And each person will find their own answer. Whenever there’s a decision to make, I usually ask myself two questions: Which of these paths has a heart? and What will make me most proud of myself?

    For me, I could never fake a reaction. I’d tell my partner what I knew, and I think that can be done in a very kind and gentle way. But each person has to find the path that feels right for them and honors what is most important to their relationship. For my husband and I, trust and honesty are more important than a surprise.

    • Margaret Thatcher

      I don’t understand how agreeing to spend your life with someone got conflated with “surprise,” either. Why does everyone expect it to be a surprise, so much that they put on this huge dog and pony show for something that has been discussed extensively beforehand anyway?

      Plus, sometimes men abuse this. I am on a wedding forum with a Pre-Engaged section, and there have been several girls who have talked about how the man won’t propose until the woman stops talking about it. Controlling much?

  • Amanda L.

    This letter made my heart skip a beat. After talking about getting engaged and one disastrous trip to look at rings, we were in that ‘pre-engaged’ state. We had friends over, and my husband had been urging me to get a new phone, so I asked a friend to play with his phone. I scrolled through a few pages, and he must have had it set to automatically go into his email on one screen. The email was from my husband to him and said ‘I’m going to propose to Amanda on…’

    I’m thankful that that is where it wrapped to the next line and I had the foresight NOT to read farther. For other reasons, I was pretty sure he was proposing on a certain day (made hotel reservations and dinner reservations without me, which was odd. Made plans for his mom to watch our dog. Even odder.) So I had convinced myself that he was proposing on a certain day, at or around dinner. Turns out he proposed 6 hours earlier (tears! surprise! happiness!) and surprised me with an engagement party with friends from all over the country.

    All that to say, I’m very glad that I didn’t tell him that I suspected/knew what day he was going to propose. There are so many variables, that you are bound to be surprised by SOMETHING. Just try to live in the moment of that day, not in ‘waiting mode.’

  • Claire

    I guess you have to think about how much the surprise means to you, and to him. Like others have said, if you don’t say anything, there will still be other things about the proposal that will surprise you.

    I knew my now husband was going to propose the weekend he did, and I was still surprised by it, not because of how he did it, but more because of how vulnerable he made himself to ask me that question. And the question meant more to me than how he asked it. Despite having talked about our future together, I was still amazed at the fact of him asking me to marry him meant that he wanted to spend the rest of his days with me.

    As much as females are known to think a lot, I would say try to quiet your mind, and just let yourself completely experience being proposed to. It will be a great moment no matter what.

  • TeaforTwo

    My partner and I decided 6 months before we were engaged that we would be getting married this Christmas, and that he would propose this summer. He wanted to propose, and I thought that it was silly and unnecessary.

    A lot of our disagreement was about making it public. I wanted to be engaged, and to tell people, and to start planning. He was finishing law school and studying for the bar, and wanted to wait until his ducks were in a row. I hated it.

    Sometimes those six months were excruciating. But also, in retrospect? There was a lot about them that was really lovely. It was nice to have our little secret. To be able to talk about the wedding and about married life privately, without anyone else’s expectations butting in, and without any spreadsheets to tend to. Ours is a relatively short engagement (just less than six months from official proposal to wedding), and so it has been pretty full-tilt with dress shopping and venue booking and address-gathering and all the rest of it.

    So those secret six months mean even more to me now, as a time when I could be completely confident in our commitment, feel perfectly loved, and daydream about marrying my sweetheart. It kills me to admit it, but making the engagement public did let it take over in ways that surprised me, and I understand now why he didn’t want to deal with this while studying for finals or the bar.

  • Sarah

    I totally expected my husband to propose on our vacation. We had picked the date, the location, bought the ring and I knew it would be in before we left on our vacation. By the end of the vacation I had worked myself into a frenzy waiting for this proposal and I burst into tears. Luckily, my husband is awesome and he talked to me, calmed me down, and promised me it would happen soon. And when he did it was the best, most “us” proposal ever. SO much better than any of the places we went on our vacation. I realized then that in that case I didn’t have the best idea, that his was better, and I should have just left it with him and trusted that he would come through. My advice is just that. Leave it with him. It will happen.

  • LMC

    This is the BEST conversation. I found out beforehand too, and have felt SO guilty about it for so long! So I’m glad I’m not alone in this!

    I still haven’t told my husband, which surprises me daily. I’m a terrible secret keeper and pride myself on honesty. But he was just so proud of the whole thing, and of how nobody had told me (I too found out from an e-mail left open on the computer we sometimes share) and about the ring he’d had made for me, etc… And I knew it meant a big deal to him to do it right. In the end I decided that getting rid of the guilt I felt about knowing wasn’t worth ruining his happiness. It was still a lovely moment, and the timing itself was a bit of a surprise, and he still loves to tell the story.

    Do I feel bad about this? Yes, often. But do I think it was the right decision for the two of us? Yeah, I do.

    The other difficult part of this for me was indeed feeling like I was ready to get married, and was just waiting for him. But we talked about it a lot, and I knew enough about what was going on in his head, so we figured it out. It can be hard for guys to shake those societal expectations too, even if they know they’re kinda wrong.

  • Ariel

    Well, I proposed to my fiance and after he said yes, he said, “you really couldn’t wait a day or two?!” Turns out he was planning on proposing to me. So I may have “ruined” the proposal he had planned for later that week, but what really matters is that we’re finally getting married!

    • Ariel

      Also, I was pre-engaged for what seemed like forever (at least 3 years). After he didn’t propose last year (we even went to Paris!!! Guess who didn’t want to come down from the top of the Eiffel tower?), we started having a lot more conversations on where each of us stood, why this was taking longer than I had hoped for, why it was so disappointing to me, etc. The actual timing of us getting engaged turned out to be pretty awesome, we were definitely both on the exact same page.

  • Abby Mae

    I knew about my surprise proposal before it happened. My poor husband was trying to be so secretive and I didn’t have the heart to ruin it for him!

    So, I pretended to be surprised. He even arranged a photographer and there was a crowd of asian tourists snapping pictures. (It was at the Wildflower Festival in Park City, Utah)

    Looking back, I am SO glad I didn’t tell him that the jig was up. He’s so proud of our engagement story and I count it as one of the most precious moments of our relationship. If I told him I knew what he was planning then I’m pretty sure that the magic of that moment would be diminished for both of us. Insead, I got to giggle to myself when he got nervous, and fumbled with things. And, I got to smooth those fumbles over and make it my mission to keep that day special.

    • Abby Mae

      Also, I have told him that I knew it was coming.

      But, he’s so proud of his proposal he really truly just thinks I’m saying it to tease him. So, I figure, why fight it? I like to see him taking pride in things he does for me. =)

    • LikelyLaura

      “And, I got to smooth those fumbles over and make it my mission to keep that day special.”

      Love this!

  • TeaforTwo

    I just love reading this thread and hearing about everyone’s proposals. Getting engaged is so much fun, you guys!

  • Ang

    How do you know your guy didn’t leave the date on his computer on purpose just to throw you off?

    • catherine

      i like the way you think.

  • Katherine Harrison

    We had already decided to get married but the “giving of the ring” was a surprise – and occurred while I was drinking my colonoscopy prep. Gotta love some romance

    • KC

      You know it’s for better-or-for-worse when a colonoscopy is involved…

      … that is pretty awesome, frankly. :-)

  • http://www.maddiemalone.ca/ maddiemalone

    We had already decided to get married.

  • B (the other one)

    I would definitely say DO NOT SAY anything to your boyfriend. I happened to uncover my boyfriend’s plans to propose TWICE in 6 months and each time there wasn’t a chance to pretend that I hadn’t seen anything. It really killed him that things didn’t work out and everything was ruined, and instead of just going through with it and blurting it out in the ruined moment, he was hurt and angry and hard on himself and it took months for him to think about proposing again. Needless to say, it took a year and a half before we finally got engaged and in the end he simply asked over a cup of coffee, partly because he knew that there was no way he could plan something.
    So while I’m glad that we are engaged, it was a horrible experience for us both. It was a full roller coaster ride of nerves, excitement, apprehension and than disappointment and hurt. Instead of a proposal story I have several failed attempts, a lot of arguments (because it dragged on so long) and in the end, just a simple question that kind of felt like a let down. I knew that the engagement was such an important thing for me, but what I hadn’t realized is how much pressure there is on the guy and how hard it can be on them.

  • Malorie

    If I were you, I’d tell him that I knew, but I agree with a lot of the other commenters that it really depends on the person your partner is. My fiancé would be devastated if he found out that I’d kept my knowing from him after the proposal, far more so than he would be if I told him before it occurred. And I don’t personally think I could keep something like that from him for the rest of my life. So I’d tell.

    I really find the whole “surprise” proposal thing very puzzling when the decision to get engaged has been made together. My fiancé and I decided on a date and started planning and just became engaged from then on. I don’t even know what the date was, because it had been an ongoing conversation since three weeks after we got together and transitioning to this phase of our relationship just felt very natural. In our situation, it really would have felt very inauthentic for him to plan a proposal for me and I likely would have been very annoyed if he had decided to do that. However, we did go and buy an engagement ring for me: I put it on as soon as we got in the car to drive home, but I later gave it to him for a closer look and, as a joke, he got down on his knees next to the couch in our living room and asked me to marry him. It *was* very sweet, and we both got a little emotional, but we’d already been telling everyone we were engaged for months, so I don’t really count it as a proposal. The decision to get married was one we made together, and I think we’re both very happy that it happened this way.

    • Joe

      I second the puzzlement around a “surprise” proposal when you’ve already figured out you’re engaged; I’m equally confused by “pre-engaged.” If you decide you’re getting married, you’re engaged. You may not have announced it or , but that doesn’t make it less real. To quote George Carlin on his dislike of the phrase “pre-heated ovens,” “there are only two states an oven can be in, heated and unheated.” To each their own, but “pre-engaged” comes across as more than a little bit odd.

      • Alyssa M

        I felt exactly the same before I was “pre-engaged.” I laughed at the idea when my sister in BIL planned a trip to New York so they could “get engaged.”

        The problem with that (and the reason I’m now pre-engaged) is that people (men and women) have life long fantasies about romantic proposals and “that moment.” In a modern healthy partnership that really doesn’t make sense. You need to plan for your future together and be sure you’re on the same page.

        So to mesh the two ideals there, we rely on the “you’re not engaged till you have a ring and a date” saying. We’re planning to “get engaged” in that sense, and it’s how we’re pre-engaged.

        • JulsSW

          We were the exact same way. Making our decision together, in this day and age, was important to me. We knew we were getting married (in the fall), but were ‘pre-engaged’ until I officially had a ring. It was our compromise. He felt that would make a ‘truly engaged’ and I felt that it was unimportant. However, we both got our way. We picked out the ring together, picked out e-day, and both got to ask each other!

          Communication is key in a relationship!! Communicate about your engagement too!!

  • Audrey

    I’m so sorry I missed this thread yesterday!!!

    I could smell something was up from a mile away with my husband. He asked me to go on a mystery date with him one night shortly after we moved in together… Hadn’t done that before, hasn’t done that since. I called my best friend a day or so later to wonder about it with her.

    He also ‘hid’ the ring box in his sock drawer, which he forgot to close one day. I closed the drawer, freaked out with excitement, but didn’t look at the ring.

    Night of the proposal: We walk out to the car for our mystery date, get in the car. I look over at him, and he’s put the box in his jeans pocket that was right next to me. Clearly at this point we both know what’s up. I start laughing the whole way to the mystery date. -AND- playfully trying to put my hand on his lap. Couldn’t help it.

    So my husband thought he was taking us to a professional cooking class, something we had always talked about doing together. But instead this class was at some lady’s house. We go, we cook, we eat with a bunch of strangers. It was nice. Afterwards I grab him and kiss him and thank him. He thinks I feel the ring box I had obviously previously seen.

    I suggest a walk along the nearby river, but he says “F-it, I’m doing this now” I laugh. We get engaged in some random lady’s yard. I laugh more.

    I don’t think that knowing the plans are a recipe for disaster. I had even told my husband that I thought he was proposing on the mystery date, which he denied. He wanted it to be a surprise and on his terms, which was fine, if awkward. Enjoy it, let him know afterwards. Laugh.

    Later on I told him he should have watched his sock drawer or found a better hiding spot, which he took in stride. :-)

  • Margaret Thatcher

    I knew mine was coming.

    But after falling in love with a ring that was $2k over budget, and at least two “meltdowns” in which I had convinced myself that since he had had the ring for 3 months, maybe he had changed his mind and OH MY GOD WHAT IF HE TOOK IT BACK TO THE STORE AND DIDN’T TELL ME BECAUSE HE WAS WAITING FOR THE RIGHT TIME AND WHAT IF ME PICKING OUT A RING WITHIN BUDGET WAS A TEST AND NOW HE DOESN’T WANT TO MARRY ME OMG (I struggle with generalized anxiety disorder….can you tell?)

    He asked me to go camping over a long weekend. Suddenly this realization dawned on me and I just knew. I have no idea how I knew, but I knew with a Biblical certainty that it was going to be that weekend.

    I had to make a choice like you. I finally decided since I had messed up the rest of it, the least I could do was give him this. To let him think he had pulled one over one me in a way he could be proud of and tell his friends and family about. We both struggle with self-esteem issues and I couldn’t bear to let him think he had failed me in this, because he is hard enough on himself as it is and I know making me happy means so much to him.

    So I acted like I had no idea, and he was so happy when it happened. The only people who know I wasn’t “so surprised!” are strangers on forums.

  • Paranoid Libra

    I saw the bulge of the large ring box in my husbands pants as we drove to Easter dinner. He probably should have had it in his other pocket since he drove and put it in his right pocket. I spent most of the day on edge as to when he would do it.

  • SSAP

    First of all- holy shit! I was so not expecting to see my question on Ask Team Practical- wow. Second, thank you all so so much for the positive words and insight- and thank you Liz, for your thoughtful answer. I am actually on the “other side” now- he proposed at the end of August. Even though I did know when, and in some respects, what was coming- I can promise you nothing was faked. I was still floored- I could hardly talk! It was wonderful, and private, and very “us”. Our joke about it is, when I realized it was happening, my eyes went cartoonishly big and all I could say was “duh”. So, future potential grandkids, that’s right, I said “duh” to my marriage proposal.

    Before the proposal, we talked about my pre-engaged anxiety a lot which helped. I am a planner- I love spreadsheets, lists, color coding. And not having control was so hard for me. I was feeling so confused as to why, if we both plan to be married, and neither of us have hold ups, we can’t just be engaged. But it did make sense that he wanted to plan something, and it was an exercise in patience for me. Which I faltered at in some moments. We have no secrets, and decided together how our relationship would progress a long time ago- this summer was just a part of the challenge that is transition. And now we are faced with the joys and challenges of planning- which are many and varied. Thank goodness for the APW community, my constant source of sanity!

    • LB

      Oh wow! We are the same people! I JUST dealt with this issue (as in, found the ring over Christmas and felt terrible, wrestled with what to do, but was ultimately shocked when he proposed over the weekend). I, too, felt that feeling of anxiety about the engaged, so the whole process felt complicated. I was anxious in part because I wanted control, and in part because I knew the process was difficult and I felt bad laying the whole thing on my partner. Then to accidentally find the ring after he had put in so much work- it made me feel terrible! But he definitely got his surprise, and now it’s on to the world of wedding planning!

  • KimBee

    I totally understand where the OP is coming from. My partner and I have totally upended the proposal because I couldn’t handle this one-sided timeline. We’d talked about getting married, and I knew he was planning to propose at some point. But I started to get really upset because why should he get to decide when this happens? Why have we made all of these other decisions jointly but made this completely his choice? All of this came to a head where he explained that all he really wanted was for me to be joyful and happy and for us to be married at the end of it all. So, we started planning our wedding…the planner in me stopped freaking out. We told our friends and family and started booking vendors. He still wants to do a special “proposal” where he does something super romantic and gives me a ring, and he wants it to be a big surprise. And, I’m totally good with the surprise romantic gesture.

    If a big surprise works for you, more power to you, but I can tell you that it didn’t work for us. And, people have been super supportive of our approach. In fact, it seems to have had a calming effect on other people who thought they had to do things the traditional way.

    I think you should tell him that you found out about the date. I mean…would you rather have some one feign surprise for something you were planning? I agree with the comments above that heading into your marriage with the white lie/faked orgasm hanging around is just bad juju. Be honest about how you’re feeling and don’t keep secrets. It’ll just stress you out and make you a little crazy.

    • Sarah

      I know how you feel! I felt the same way about him getting to decide the exact timeline of one of the most important decisions as a couple. It’s like me just saying one day “Surprise! I’ve decided it’s time to have a baby” and leaving him out of the discussion. As it happens he did get to propsoe the way he wanted but we had picked out the ring and the wedding date and location beforehand :)

  • Anon

    Late to this post, but there should be a post (if there isn’t already) on disappointing proposals. It’s kind of like hating your wedding; it’s embarrassing to talk about. I really wanted the surprise proposal (despite knowing how much those expectations are built from years of WIC inundation), but after years of engagement discussions and broken deadlines, the proposal was so lack luster, like F for effort. I feel so childish that even now after we’re married, it still stings that he couldn’t even plan something at least a little bit special. Yes, yes, it’s all in the past, and we have a great relationship, but still, my least favorite question ever is “so how did he propose?!?”

    • J

      I’m with you…it’s terrible describing “I was finishing a TERRIBLE day at work (with a terrible review) by drinking beer, eating pizza and watching biggest loser alone in Christmad PJ pants when he came sat down and gave me a ring. It DID make the day better, but I sort of wish it would have been a better day to begin with. But even though I may not love my proposal, I do love my husband

  • http://www.printablepress.com Kimi

    I have someone else’s story to tell—a friend knew her boyfriend was going to propose, and began suspecting when. So she made a surprise for him. When he proposed she responded by taking a letter out of her pocket, letterpressed on gorgeous thick paper in his favorite font (obviously this is fairly specific to designer geeks), and read out her heartfelt feelings about why she wanted to marry him.

    He was pretty baffled at first but then started tearing up. Then they both cried. Surprise him right back.

  • http://twitter.com/mollyepollard Molly

    My fiancé proposed to me at a Christmas light show at a public garden in my hometown. We had gone to pick out the ring together in October and I watched him buy it, we had discussed it and everything, so I knew it was going to happen eventually. I was not prepared for it to happen then, though.

    What tipped me off was when we were eating Thai food before going to the garden and I was sitting next to him. His jeans were tight enough that I felt the ring box in his pocket.

    The surprise was spoiled in a way but it didn’t make it any less special for us. :) It was great!

  • Annie

    I just wanted to share that my (now) fiance was the one who “spoiled” the proposal and it was kind of perfect. We picked out the ring together about a month ago, we made a big deal of that part, flying to San Francisco to visit a special jewelry shop. The engagement has been imminent for some time now. He was going to plan a surprise proposal, though, or so I thought and so he said. But literally the day the ring arrived, bless his heart, he just could not wait. He’s terrible at keeping secrets, even good ones. So the surprise came in the form of “Surprise! I didn’t plan a big surprise so it’s still surprising!” And it was exactly what I wanted. Any other way, I would have been too embarrassed or pressured to really enjoy the important bits. To sum up, it was very “us” and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I love that it was a normal day, doing normal things.

  • Manda

    This reminds me of the situation I was in. We’d been talking about getting married for a year before he proposed, and around July of last year I figured out he had a ring picked out. From there, it was a sort of downward spiral until I knew pretty much every detail. But he knew I was clued in to an extent, because he’s terrible at secrets. I didn’t tell him everything that I knew/guessed, because I didn’t want to disappoint him – and I knew I’d love it surprise or not! So it was obvious. And then (and this time I was totally clueless), at the very last minute, the whole thing changed. It was in the single digits outside, so ice skating (an essential part of the original plan) would have been miserable, and a family member of his was in the ER that day, so he (with some input from our families – both sets of parents were there, as well as his godparents and quite a few other relatives) changed the whole thing. He ended up putting the ring in my champagne glass and making a toast at the end of the night.
    I now somewhat wish I hadn’t known so much about the proposal he had originally planned. In the weeks leading up to it, I worried so much about what I would wear that day (yes, I knew the exact day), hoping we would get good pictures, that someone would get it on video, etc. I stressed so much about an event I shouldn’t have even known about. The day of was an even more stressful occasion, because all of a sudden I had NO IDEA what was happening. I knew it was too cold to ice skate. Ian was acting strange all day. And I couldn’t do anything about it! And now that it’s done, I sometimes think about that would-have-been proposal and how it would have been different.
    But you know what? All that worrying and confusion and last-minute change made it ours. It wasn’t perfect by the standards of my obsessive Pinterest wedding board or the wedding magazines, but it was perfect for US. I remember the look on his face when he got on one knee and asked me to be his wife and I can’t imagine it any other way. It was a beautiful part of our story and I can’t wait to continue it with him.
    I suppose what I’d like to say is that whatever goes “wrong” isn’t going to ruin the fact that you’re agreeing to spend the rest of your life with the person you love.

  • Darryl Richard

    After going through all these gorgeous engagement rings, now I am a lil dicey about the ring I secretly bought for my girl. I wanted to make it a unique piece so opted for Yellow gold and red rubies.http://bit.ly/1duKuE7 Hope it is a yes!

  • JulsSW

    Having just got engaged over the past weekend, I understand all the “pre-engaged anxiety!” Oh my goodness, we too talked about everything beforehand. We picked out the ring together, and he felt that we couldn’t be engaged until we officially had it on my hand, so I patiently waited until we could order it and then for it to arrive.

    However, I felt that everything in our relationship is a choice we make together. In saying that, I wanted to be part of the engagement too. I felt that because we don’t live in a society that I’m moving at 18 in with him, it would be “our style” and not “old fashioned.” There was no asking my moms hand. We ordered the ring and picked a day to get engaged, together. It was important to do something for him, since I would have the ring. I spent a week making a blurb book of the “101 Reasons I love x!” We went to Tahoe, night before said e-day. We were going to go for a big hike but then changed our minds at the last minute to do a smaller hike. E-day came and it was exciting for both of us to know what was going to happen! My only request was that I got to do my thing first since I knew the ring symbolized something to him. Before our walk, we decided to scout out the site I’ve seen that I thought would be perfect to get married. Well, we found it, and I sat down on the rocks. I took out my book, he read the first three, then I read the next 98 to him, and cried. The last one said, “I love you x, will you be my husband so I can spend the rest of my life loving you?” We cried some more. I actually expected him to wait because he had mentioned the “best view” at the end of the hike. He took out the ring, we sat their soaking in the moment. He was scared and didn’t know what to say that hadn’t already been said. Finally, he asked me to marry him.

    I LOVE that our engagement is so uniquely us. I know many people are saying don’t tell him. But I say, do something too. Let him know. If you do everything together, make this day about you both asking. If your relationship is built and works as you say, then he won’t be upset and may feel less anxiety!

    Whatever you decide, enjoy the time, and congrats on your pre-engagement/engagement!!