I Messed up My Own Proposal Story (but I Love It Anyway)

Maddie's proposal story

woman holding glass of champagne

When Michael proposed to me, I remember the first words out of my mouth being a panicky refrain of, “What is this?! What is this?! What is this?!” followed by a brief pause before I very hesitantly squeaked out, “Can I see it?” and pointed to the tiny box clutched in Michael’s fist.

It was, possibly, the least romantic reaction I could have mustered for the event. My tone fell somewhere between Jack Skellington discovering Christmas and David After Dentist discovering that this is real life. And then, before I even said yes, I picked up my phone and called my best friend, asking/telling her, “I’m engaged, is that okay?” (Because nothing inspires confidence in your partner like asking for an outside opinion.)

In short, I whiffed my own proposal.

Truth be told, the reality was that I only barely understood how to process the experience of getting engaged (not to mention I wasn’t entirely ready for it to be happening yet), so this combination of incredulousness and wanting to see the shiny thing in the box was frankly the best that I could come up with on short notice.

But still, I felt pretty crummy.

It’s not that I had unrealistic expectations for our proposal. In fact, quite the opposite. You see, Michael and I are not exactly… good at surprises. Actually, scratch that. I am terrific at surprising other people and terrible at being surprised myself. (I watch a lot of Law & Order, what can I say?) Meanwhile Michael, on the other hand, experiences severe physical discomfort at the very thought of lying to me (generally a quality I love about him, except for at Christmas, my birthday, and getting engaged) so his ability to keep a secret for very long is unimpressive at best, nonexistent at worst. So given our predispositions to the art of the surprise, I just assumed we would get engaged nonchalantly, maybe lying in bed one Saturday morning or while making coffee before work.

But when I caught onto the fact that Michael would be proposing one weekend while we were home in Maine, suddenly my expectations shifted and I felt a responsibility to protect all of the hard work he had put into making this experience special for us. And I didn’t know how to do this authentically while also acknowledging that I had sort of figured out the game… (Again, bless him, but he is a terrible liar. And there was no way I was going to believe that he was just going to go to my father’s house “to visit.”) And finally, I didn’t know how to admit to myself that I’d bought into the idea that the proposal set the stage for, well, everything else that would come after it. Because that would mean part of my wanting to do right by Michael was also wanting to do right by myself.

Of course, the obvious answer is that I should have just talked to him about it. Or shit, we both should have been talking to each other about our expectations for the proposal (we’d talked about marriage before, we just never discussed how we were planning on getting there). But somewhere along the line we’d fallen victim to the WIC expectation that talking about things ruins the magic of them. And I didn’t want to be the one responsible for ruining the magic. (Instead, by the way, I opted for the very subtle choice of saying things like, “Boy, I’m glad you’re not proposing to me today, because I really don’t want to have to change my Facebook status,” all weekend long, with the hopes that it might open up a healthy conversation on the subject. I was wrong.)

Plus, the obvious answer isn’t always the sexiest one. Part of the reason our engagement unfolded as it did is because secretly I think I wanted to believe that magical marriage fairies would be standing by waiting to sprinkle us with fairy dust and turn us into the kind of people who can pull off a traditional surprise proposal. I mean, that’s how everyone else does it, right?

Alas, getting engaged can make people do strange things. Michael and I didn’t buy into the expectation that proposals have to be grand gestures, but we did accept the more subtle pressures of the institution, and as a result we went pretty far outside of our normal comfort zones to give each other what we thought we wanted.

Which, no wonder I whiffed it. I didn’t even see what I was swinging at.

Eventually I let myself off the hook for not having a great proposal experience. I was pretty young when we got engaged, and it was easy to believe at the time that the minutia of a single day could radically change the course of our future together. But as the past few years have gone by and the proposal itself moves further into the distance, it becomes clearer to me that even the important days are still just a few among thousands. And we’ve got plenty more to go.

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  • Laura

    Heheheeh this post is so true! When my fiancé proposed and I said yes, we both sort of stood there looking at the ring for like, a minute. Then I said, “I think you’re supposed to put it on my hand?” and he said, “I am?” I mean, he’d just planned this lovely romantic proposal. I should have let him off the hook and just done it myself, but I had really bought into the idea of how everything was “supposed” to be.

    • meg

      David forgot to ask the question. He just showed me the ring (I’d asked for a surprise proposal). After I broke through the shock, I said, “Um, do you have anything to say?” And he looked confused and then said, “Oh right!”

      So there you go. In retrospect, funny, touching, typical of us.

      • Another Meg

        That is pretty much happened to me. B got down on one knee and opened the box… and just sat there, grinning at me like an (adorable) idiot. I finally reminded him that if he didn’t ask a question, I couldn’t give an answer. It was a great question, though: “Wanna get married?”
        Ad, yeah, pretty much perfect for us. :)

        • Steph

          Lol, this happened to us in reverse. He asked the question, while down on one knee, romantic surprise the whole nine yards. I squeeeeed a bit, grabbed the ring and put it on my hand, to which he then said “I didn’t actually hear a yes…”

          He still teases me about it to this day :)

      • Louise

        Ha! Yep, us too. Nick reached in to his pocket and plopped the ring on the table. I said, “did you have a question you wanted to ask me?” We never did get less awkward at being engaged or planning a wedding… But we’re pretty good at just being married, as I suspected all along.

  • Ashley

    I hear ya… I’m the queen of ruining surprises… I just don’t know how to respond! When my husband proposed the first words out of my mouth were “You better not be fucking with me!” Smooth hey!? We still laugh about it, and I imagine we always will.

  • BB

    My fiance and I had discussed getting engaged a few times, and he knew my preference for not having a public engagement (I just feel on principal that the person should feel *able* to say no, even if that’s not what I was planning to say to him). Thus, the only way he could surprise me was to propose while I was sprawled on the floor studying for a final after coming home from the gym, which, let me tell you, really surprised me! I mean, if a guy can propose to you while you look and stink like the gym, he must be a keeper! In reality though, we were both a bit embarrassed about our “engagement story,” even though it was so authentic to us, because it wasn’t a WIC fairy tale story. I know that I quickly got over that sentiment because, who cares? This was OUR engagement and I was COMFY, which has to count for something. I hope that he can get past all of the cultural expectations put upon men that his proposal wasn’t elaborate or expensive, he just couldn’t wait to give me the ring!

    • efletch

      My fiance proposed to me on the couch after he had gone to the dump and I was in my bathrobe having just come out of the shower. It’s not the best story to other people but the moment was romantic because it was us together deciding to spend our lives together. It’s hard to describe to people but I definitely agree with you that being comfy was a big part of the awesomeness!

      • Allie

        I vaguely remember a story from one of my sister’s friends that he proposed when she had the flu and had just returned to the couch after puking…

    • meg

      David had hugely strong opinions about how proposing in public (something I’d always assumed was romantic) was unfair, because you were backing someone into a corner where saying no was almost impossible. I fought with him about it for awhile, but in the end, I respected the fact that he felt that way. I mean, way to protect my feelings!

      And then I heard about someone proposed to under the Christmas tree, in front of the whole extended family, who said yes when they WANTED to say no, but said yes because HELLO AWKWARD, and later had to call off the wedding. Then I got what David had been saying in the first place.

      I mean, there are plenty of public proposals that are great (heck, I thought I wanted one). I’d just never considered the flip side.

      • I totally get David’s perspective, and I think that before I got engaged I was a little bit anti-public proposal. But then I ended up with a public proposal and it was brilliant.

        What happened was that my David told me that he did not want to propose, nor did he want me to propose (which is too bad because I could have come up with a killer proposal.) I didn’t really care about proposals one way or the other, so we agreed that we would officially get engaged on our one-year anniversary. And by get engaged, we basically meant tell other people that we were getting married, since we both knew we were getting married anyway.

        So then we started ring shopping in advance of our one-year anniversary, and as luck would have it we ended up finding a ring a month before our set “engagement date.” And of course, once we had it, I wanted to … you know, wear it, and tell everyone we were engaged. But Dave was weirdly set on sticking to our plan and he convinced me it was so romantic that we were “secretly engaged” (which it kind of was actually and we shared many joyful private moments while ring shopping and drinking champagne to celebrate that night.)

        This went on for a week, and the next weekend, Dave’s parents were in town on a long-standing planned visit. On Sunday, we went to meet his parents for brunch and there were his parents, my mom and sister (who flew in from New York), and our best friends (mine flew in from LA). It was totally and completely confusing to me, and then he proposed. And it was perfect, even though he said, “Will you marry me,” in a sheepish and “this is a totally stupid question” kinda way, and I grabbed the ring and stuck it on my own finger and I’m not even sure I said yes.

        So I totally get why some people are against public proposals, and in different circumstances I think I would have been very upset to have a public proposal. But I guess it depends on what the proposal means. For us, we were already privately engaged (not pre-engaged, we both legitimately felt engaged) to each other and the “official engagement” was really more about telling our community. So in that way the public proposal was really lovely and perfect actually.

      • ProjectWed

        Yeeaaaahhh… I said “Yes” to my first engagement because he proposed in front of 300 people.

        It was my first engagement, but not my first marriage. I give David major props for instinctivly knowing to avoid it!

        • meg

          300 PEOPLE? (Excuse me while I go have a panic attack…)

  • E3

    Hahaha thank you for sharing this! I actually had about as perfect of a proposal as I could ever ask for, but I definitely relate to the fear of “OMG what if the ring doesn’t fit and it ruins in the moment? What if I say something stupid? What are we supposed to do once I say yes?”

    In reality, the guy I love was asking me to make a forever commitment – you can’t ruin that :)

  • Kara

    My now-husband, who is practical, not particularly verbal, and relies on funny/goofy birthday cards and the like, sat me down on a bench in the woods near a lake and said all kinds of wonderful nice things. I said something along the lines of “yeah, yeah, whatever.” Oops.

  • Lynn

    My poor, sweet PA tried so hard, and I just kept missing the clues.

    We’d gone camping at the beach, and he kept saying he wanted to go for a walk along the beach when it got dark. OK. First clue missed.

    We’re walking along the beach at night, chasing sand crabs, looking at the full moon, etc. He’s saying things like, isn’t this a romantic place? Second clue missed.

    I’m kinda wandering ahead of him when I notice I don’t hear him talking anymore. He’s like 20 feet behind me, on one knee, waiting for me to pull my head out of my ass. *sigh*

    So wasn’t prepared for it.

  • Oh, Maddie, “David discovering this is real life” – hahaha, I was literally giggling out loud at this because I can SO relate.

    “secretly I think I wanted to believe that magical marriage fairies would be standing by waiting to sprinkle us with fairy dust and turn us into the kind of people who can pull off a traditional surprise proposal. I mean, that’s how everyone else does it, right?”

    Again, totally relating here. I’m not engaged yet (again) but I remember feeling so strange during the first proposal. My now-ex-husband had set up this elaborate scavenger hunt around my parents’ home on Christmas Eve morning that included a phone call, me hunting through the house for scrapbook pages, my parents listening from the top of the stairs, and a video camera. And I felt SO awkward and out of place! Like … I’m participating in this? Shouldn’t I be basking in it and sprouting glittery hearts or something instead of feeling weird?

    So now I kind of just have to expect that getting engaged to Matt might not look or feel perfect, but whatever it looks like, it will be just one day among many in our life together and the end result will still be the same. Thanks for sharing, you made me laugh and made me feel less alone, two great things :)

  • amc2

    There is something so charming about the imperfect proposal. It’s so real that it’s almost painful. I had a similar experience and I always cower a bit when someone asks for our engagement story.

    The short story is: my curiousity got the best of me and I searched for the ring in our shared apartment in the days before he actually proposed. (I don’t think I’ll ever tell him that!) Then I found it and I immediately felt terribly. Talk about immaturity. In hindsight though, it’s just another quirk of being in our relationship. We own the funny moments, the loving moments, and the “not at our best” moments.

    • KB

      I was tempted to do EXACTLY this and knew that I would be so disappointed if I snooped, so I didn’t, but it took all of my willpower not to…and I wouldn’t have found anything anyways because my fiance KNEW I was going to snoop and gave the ring to a friend to hide because I’m nosy!!! Ha!

    • Copper

      I just found the ring this past weekend… I don’t think it’s getting on my finger for another couple of months. I’d sort of figured that I would tell him after it was all settled, and it could be funny? It really was a non-hiding-spot. I saw the return address on a mailing envelope (sitting in plain sight, albeit a little high up) and recognized it as the jewelry store that carries the world’s most perfect ring, and of course had to take a peek. So, never tell? or, it’s ok to tell once the moment has passed? I won’t say anything in advance of the actual proposal, because I don’t want to have him getting all self-conscious about it. The secret’s way more his thing than my thing.

      • meg

        I know what your ring looks like! (From previous comment discussion, not say, rooting through your house…) and I’m pretty excited for you.

        I suspect one day you’ll tell and it will be funny. But I’d wait at least a few months after the proposal, if he’s into the secret :)

        • Copper

          haha, you can tell how excited I am, I’m commenting all over the place. It’s like I’ve got permission to be excited about it again! Cause it’s actually going to happen.

        • Copper

          Well, I wound up telling right after the proposal. Because I had to explain how I knew to have a ring ready for him :) But he took it well, and I’m here to assure you Meg, that ring is even prettier in person.

      • Lan

        My fiance had called my father to ask for permission, which isn’t a cultural tradition for us. So my dad had immediately called to tell me (he thought he was being liberal) so I knew a few weeks prior. I didn’t tell him until a few days after he actually proposed, and now its part of our engagement story!

    • I didn’t find the ring but I found the texts he sent to his family saying that it would happen in the next few hours. So when we went out for a walk just the two of us, I totally knew what was going on. I felt so awkward the whole time thinking, “will he ask at this stop? Is this the moment? How should I react so I look surprised”. Ugh.

  • Daynya

    Hahaha, imperfect proposals are the best! Mine was also a surprise, but, I really felt like I messed it up, and felt bad for a long time. We went ring shopping together, and so I knew it would be coming. After a few false alarms (on my end, assuming that things like a romantic New Years, or a romantic walk through the cold and snowy streets of Montreal on a trip together were going to end in engagement), he finally did really surprise me, because I’d stop setting myself up like that. He always said he’d never propose on a holiday, and so when he made plans for us for Valentine’s Day (a holiday we don’t ever really even do anything for!), and wouldn’t tell me what they were, I was slightly suspicious, but let it go. It was freeeezing that night, and he was like, ‘Let’s just walk”. So we did, for a loooong time. Eventually, he said we should have a seat on a bench, and I was like, uuuuuuuuuh…okay? So we did, and he pulled out a box, and I was like, ‘SHUT! UP!’. Not my proudest moment. It was sweet, and I know it was important to him to surprise me, I just, was really caught off guard and unsure of how to react! I felt bad for a long time that I didn’t cry, I didn’t scream ‘YES! I’M GETTING MARRIED!!!’ while running through the streets and giggling, I didn’t immediately call everyone I know to break the good news. I just said ‘of course!’, and wore my ring to dinner, and let it all sink in. I felt like I messed up by not being ‘happy enough’, but then I realized that my life is not a movie, and it’s appropriate to say/feel whatever comes up. I’ll take my imperfect proposal though, it goes along with our relationship, and each of us just perfectly!

  • So glad to see this post, especially since so many proposals seem created for the purpose of sharing on Youtube. My husband proposed to me one evening after work–we went out for dinner (I insisted on a less expensive place since I thought it was just a Wednesday night) and took a walk through the small park near our apartment, where he ended up proposing. There weren’t bells and whistles–it was just us, doing the kind of thing we tend to do on a normal evening. (I also told him “You should put the ring on me.”) When people asked for the proposal story, I felt like they kept asking for more, like they expected my husband to have planned for an orchestra or a sky diver. Even though there wasn’t much “story” to it, it was perfect for us. Now, whenever I go running through that park I remember that special moment and it makes me really happy. You don’t need some big moment for a proposal to be perfect.

  • Claire Elizabeth

    Scene: Tiny Ethiopian restaurant in Toronto, A tells me the bank called and we’ve been approved for a joint mortgage. I start flipping out – the girl who doesn’t even have a mobile phone contract is on track to being a homeowner.

    Me: Is this really a good idea? I mean, really?
    A: Of course it is.
    Me: But, but, we’ll be all legally entangled and stuff.
    A: Maybe we should get more legally entangled.
    Me: What?
    A: Maybe we should get married.
    Me: What? Wait, are you asking me?
    A. Yes. Will you marry me?
    Me: Shit. [a beat] Yes.

    I then started to cry, wiped my eyes with my hands that were covered in spicy Ethiopian sauce, and then started to REALLY cry because of the sauce in my eyes.

    Sparkly and hallmark-ish, it was not. But it was totally and completely us, in a way that less spontaneous proposal would never have been.

    • awww This is the sweetest proposal ever!

    • Maddie


    • meg

      I think with both things happening at once, I would have completely fallen apart. And that sounds perfect.

      • Claire Elizabeth

        I totally did fall apart – neglected to mention the 48 hours of nausea that set in almost immediately. A proud member of the APW almost-barfers club!

        And it was awesome. As are all of the stories on this thread. So, so awesome.

  • kaitlin

    Ours was not a WIC proposal, but very us. I was clueless about it until 5 mins before it happened because we were getting ready to go to dinner and he said something to the effect of “you are the best thing that has ever happened to me”. Being the classy girl that I am, I disagreed and gave him a hard time about it. Then as I was getting ready I realized he might be proposing to me that night. I did a little dance in the bathroom and when I walked out, he was sitting on our bed and asked me. I was literally in shock. No tears, no jumping for joy, just disbelief. I said yes and we sat there and soaked it in.

    Now here’s the funny part. He then said he wanted to ask my Dad for his blessing b/c I come from a close family and am he knew it was important to me, but he couldn’t figure out how to get my Dad’s phone number. So he called my Dad AFTER he asked me but played it off as he was going to ask. My folks still don’t know that part of the story. I thought it was adorable and I know it took a lot for him to call my Dad.

    We then went to eat at a little dive-diner that we had been wanting to try. Not traditional, but very us.

  • Yvi

    I was totally the one doing the imperfect proposal to my husband – it was our anniversary, we were on holidays in the Southwest of Germany and going on a day trip to a tiny, beatiful French village with a wonderfully romantic castle – and I was too nervous to do it.

    So in the end it was on the balcony of our flat the same evening, after I almost changed into my nightclothes. And I told him we needed to go outside and he was confused and I stammered around and after a few minutes I finally got out the question. No ring, no romantic speech, no dropping on a knee or anything, just a question, a “yes”, kissing afterwards and watching “How I Met Your Mother” episodes in bed afterwards.

    It was very “us” :)

    For 1.5 years now I have been wishing people would ask me about the proposal and so far… I think one person did.

  • Kate

    I am one of those who may not have actually said the word “yes” according to my husband. Much as I thought the reaction was silly, I was one who kept exclaiming “is this really happening?” In so many other ways it was wonderful, but I can definitely relate to wishing my reaction was “better.” At any rate, that was our proposal, and it will always be a fond memory. I also knew the exact two week period in which it would happen, but hubby did achieve the element of surprise as to exactly when and how, so that was a good compromise for the surprise part of things.

    Also, in telling the story I usually leave out the fact that we had just shared a bottle of wine at dinner, so things were quite warm and fuzzy, and I can’t remember exactly what he said before he got down on one knee. Then again, we had already decided to get married, very soberly, so I should probably just let myself off the hook for that one. :-)

    • KB

      Oh my god, I was waiting for someone else to post something along the lines of we-were-drunk-when-we-got-engaged. I remember the proposal and everything but I am SO embarassed that we were that tipsy for what is supposed to be such a “sober” moment – I actually cringe when I think back on it, even though it was very sweet and planned out on his end and everything.

      • Emily

        You’re not the only one! We didn’t have a proposal, exactly, but we decided to get married after a very long conversation over cocktails in a bar. I wasn’t drunk, but I certainly wasn’t sober. haha

        • Kristin

          Yeah, our engagement discussion happened over a bottle of white wine and cheese on the beach, and concluded with him saying “So I guess we’re technically engaged now?” and me saying “Yeah, I guess, sort of.” But people really like that story, so yay for imperfect (and tipsy) proposals!

        • MTM

          We decided to get married during a conversation in rocking chairs on a porch sipping old fashioneds.

      • Let yourself off the hook. After dating for *maybe* a year (forget exactly how long, but certainly not more than that), I uttered the phrase “You know I’m going to marry you someday, right?” while we alternated hugging the toilet. Not a proposal story, really, but shit happens.

        • love it! I did almost the exact same thing, except stone cold sober, but didn’t realize until months later that he considered that my proposal!

    • Amelie

      All I could say was “Is this REAL?!”. Not eloquent, but the reality was rushing in.

    • Lan

      We were a bottle and a half in and I don’t find this embarrassing at all!

    • AnnDee

      I was drunk enough when I proposed that my husband asked me if I was serious (and then said yes). I proposed again the next day once sober, just to make sure (he said yes again). He loves telling people how we got engaged. I had been thinking about asking him for months!

  • CPM

    I had a hard time dealing with the surprise aspect, too. I knew that he had the ring, knew where it was in the house, even… but also knew that at that point it was out of my hands. I mentioned a few days ago that in our long, long journey toward getting engaged (I was ready 3 1/2 years before him), the last, decisive step had to be all his. But he’s about as bad at secrets and surprises as it sounds like Michael is.

    I had a good idea of where he would propose, and we’d made plans to go there one weekend. When that Saturday rolled around and he wanted to go somewhere very different, I was disappointed and sulked for most of the morning. Total brat move. Sunday afternoon, though, he proposed exactly where I thought he would. It still surprised me! I think I said yes? I was crying– that’s what I remember. He had to tell me to open the box and put the ring on. It’s really all a blur– at some point I went from crying to permasmiling. We got somebody to take our picture, then went out for tacos, margaritas and cupcakes. I left a 50% tip. We spent the evening on a combination emotional/sugar high (we rarely have sweets). It was delightful!

  • CarbonGirl

    I love all these stories! Mine was not a surprise because the week before it happened my husband actually talked about it in his sleep! You can imagine my surprise as I was lying there reading a book and heard all about the ring he had just picked up. I waited until after the proposal to tell him his subconscious had given away the surprise, which we still think is hilarious.

    He likes to tell about how when he did propose, my first reaction was to quickly take the ring out of the box and put it on my own hand because I was so worried it wouldn’t fit!

    • that is the best thing i have ever heard!

    • meg


    • Ahahahahaha! YES! Best spoiler EVER! That is definitely unique :)

    • Claire Elizabeth

      This is AMAZING! Love it.

  • Emily

    YES to imperfect engagements! The engagement was great, but he popped the question the night before my 30th birthday party when I had no idea what I was going to wear to said party and was in a shitty mood about everything in my closet. So after the emotion subsided, I kicked into full-try-everything-on-and-reject-it-and-lose-my-cool mode. He was like um, can’t we just sit and relax? And I was like, nope. Stuff to do. I still feel bad about it. Looking back it seems vain and stupid, but at the time it seemed like a reasonable priority. The silver lining is that if he can love me in all of my intensity and occassional craziness, including that which ensued directly after him asking me to marry him, this is real deal.

  • haha, wonderfully told! And puts some perspective on things too.

  • Kt in KC

    I suspected my soon-to-be-fiance was going to propose, not only because we had been talking about it in a “This is 100% going to happen – we are 100% getting married” but because our Halloween party that we host annually was approaching, and what a better time and place to propose than on home territory, in front of all our best friends and closest family. It just made sense.


    When he proposed (by reciting a poem he composed himself!), my brain was like, “Wait – are you sure this is happening? After talking about it for so long, this is REALLY HAPPENING?!?!?” Which meant that out of my mouth came only the words, “ARE YOU SHITTIN’ ME?!?!?”


    My fiance – not a naturally romantic guy in the least – made the effort to propose with a poem. And all I could say was, “ARE YOU SHITTIN’ ME?!?!”

    Once my brain and mouth were able to get on the same page, I started crying, sobbed yes, and did the typical shakey-happy “OMG I’m ENGAGED” reaction.

    Fortunately, my friends and family think this is hilarious. And fortunately, when we have kids, I’ll be able to tell this story in a more G-rated language.

    • Ashley

      Love it!! I am pretty sure my thoughts ran directly in line with what you said out loud :)

    • katieprue

      Best engagement reaction EVER!

  • JESS

    Oh boy, my poor husband had to propose twice. The first time, we were just casually laying in bed when he told me he wanted to get married in the next year. I said, “Oh really? Are you asking me?” and he said yes, but when I told my mom, she promptly burst into tears and accused me of doing everything wrong. No matter what I told her about not having to have a traditional proposal, she wasn’t having it. Her discomfort made me burst into tears and I explained to my husband why girls needed that moment – not just for them, for everyone – and he finally did surprise me on a romatic weekend getaway when I’d all but given up hope that he ever would. I’m pretty sure my face was pure shock rather than gleeful smile. It didn’t matter in the end, because we’re married now, which is all it was really about anyway.

    • Copper

      I’m sorry. I’m feeling not very happy with your mother for making it seem like the man you love asking you to marry him, in whatever way it happened, was not good enough. Sheesh.

  • Cass

    I totally agree with everyone saying that our proposal was not the magic feel good moment that I thought it would be, but it turned out to be perfect and so us in its own way. My fiance proposed to me in Ireland (at the cliffs of insanity if anyone likes Princess Bride), after me arguing with him earlier in the day about where we we at in terms of ducks aligning (turns out he was trying to throw me off). He proposed and I was clueless, my first answer was something along the lines of what the heck?! (after the day’s agreement) then are you sure?! then yes!! Turns out I had pneumonia at the time and spent the night after and rest of our trip being sick, sleeping 22 hours a day, or in the hospital. In hindsight, I learned about how much I can depend on him to take care of me through that experience and confirmed everything I love about him even more.

  • Jessica

    My poor fiance tried so hard to make the proposal everything I had dreamed of, and well, it wasn’t. Though, that wasn’t his fault. Due to lack of funds the ring was ordered later than planned, and didn’t get here until the week he had to move to england. So while I was really happy to get engaged, I do kinda feel like my excitement was a bit dampened by the fact that we then went home and went back to trying to fit everything he owned into one 50lb suitcase.

    Also, he had to wait for me to get out of school before we could go do anything that day, and by the time he picked me up I was starving. He drove me to the park by our apartment to propose, but the whole time I had our dinner sitting in my lap in the car and I was slowly picking pieces off and eating them. As soon as I had that ring on, I started inhaling my dinner, I was too hungry to cry. Though I did start crying later when I told my dad.

  • Ashley

    Adding one more to the imperfect proposal stories and how the whole engagement process can make you feel, and sometimes act, crazy. We talked a lot about getting engaged before it happened. We bought the ring together and then it just sat there in his bedside table – for MONTHS. I am not a patient person in general and this didn’t not help me sleep well at night. My SO allowed me to wear my ring for an hour here or there but only on my right hand. Seriously?!?! Seriously… Are you seeing the crazy come out yet.

    We planned a lunch w/ my parents for him to ask them together. I went to the restroom, where I stayed an appropriately long amount of time, for him to ask them. When I came out the bathroom they congratulated me… but weren’t quite sure what to congratulate me for… for giving their permission maybe? We didn’t actually feel like we needed their permission, but he wanted to tell them his intentions, without me there. It was just awkward. My dad left saying “Let me know when it is official and you have a rock on your finger”. ugh.

    And then I waited some more. Waiting sucked for me. We had the ring, we had permission, and now we were waiting for….??? First, we were waiting because my SO didn’t want to do it during the holidays – too cliche – whatever! Then it turns out he hadn’t told his parents yet and his dad had the audacity to travel out of the country for a few weeks – doesn’t he know I was trying to get engaged? I felt like the world was conspiring against me. At this point I was freaking out. Everyone of my friends, and of course my mom, was on proposal watch 2012. Everytime I called I’d start with – no we’re not engaged yet. It kinda sucked.

    So jump to a saturday morning when my new puppy had diarrhea – yep, going there – you need to know this to understand my state of mind. I spent all morning cleaning up shit – literally. I had a feeling he was going to ask that weekend, like I had for weeks up until this point, so I jumped in the shower. After I got out of the shower I put on some scrubby clothes to finish washing down outside. My SO said we were going to head out for dinner that night – dinner at an unspecified place must be where he’ll propose right? So I go to the kitchen to get myself some OJ. I ask him if he wants some Mountain Dew and he says to me “Will you marry me?” HUH?!?!?! My soundtrack of how this is suppose to go down screeches to a halt.

    Me: “Are you serious? Are you really asking me now” I put down my OJ
    Him: “I love you will you marry me? should I get down on one knee?”
    Me: “Woah, is really you asking me for real, yes get down on one knee” thinking to myself oh crap I haven’t mopped the floor – he is proposing on a dirty floor.
    Him: on one knee “Will you marry me?”
    Me: crying “yes”

    Then he went back into the room and went and got the ring.
    Him: “Please don’t call everyone yet. Can we just lay down and enjoy being engaged before you start talking 1 million miles a minute to everyone you ever met?”

    We lay down and snuggle for a few hours – the end!!!

  • I’ve shared my proposal story in APW comments before (on the couch, no pants, jam in my hair, David went ring shopping but came home with a suit instead) and I was very surprised when it happened, even though the “surprise” part was questionable.

    About two weeks before the proposal, David and I went to dinner before I dropped him off for a camping session in the boundary waters. We were just chit-chatting about this and that, and David pulled out a list of things he needed to do, because he is the King of List-making. I, however, am the fastest fast reader who ever read fast. Reading supremely fast is my superpower/party trick/natural talent (which, helpful, since I work in book publishing). So David had only opened his wallet a crack and barely reached for the list before promptly snapping it shut and looking embarrassed, but I’d already read the entire thing several times over. And the last item on the list was “Get a Ring.”

    I had spent so much of my pre-engaged state ruining every possible moment (My birthday! Thanksgiving! Our anniversary! Date night! Monday! Tuesday! Wednesday! ANY OLD DAY, COME THE FUCK ON) waiting for a proposal that didn’t come that I actually convinced myself that David needed to get a new ring tone for his phone, and felt it was so important he needed to include the task on a list. I’m not kidding. That’s how burned I was by my previous expectations.

    Later on, after the proposal, I admitted I’d seen the list over that dinner, and he was shocked. “But my wallet was open for less that a second!” he said. “I didn’t even take it out!”

    Speed readers for the win!

    • Ashley

      LOL – love it!!! and what a perfect combination of the F word and ALL CAPS!!

  • Claire

    We decided to get married after a long, late-night conversation in bed. There were no rings, no surprises, nobody asked the question; we just talked and talked and at the end of it, we agreed it was decided and we fell asleep. That is what I consider our engagement.

    My husband then immediately started the process of designing and manufacturing my ring. Because of the machine shop’s safety rules, he had to have another person in there with him at all times and that person was usually me. Looking over his shoulder, supervising him, as I liked to tease him. My brother happened to be in the shop with us when he finally finished the ring. They both love to tease me that once I got the ring in my hands, I did a perfect impression of Gollum from The Return of the King. Nice.

  • Alison

    I recently got married (10/14) and still struggle occasionally with our proposal(s). We actually had two. The first came in January ’11, and was a total surprise to… both of us. We had spent the afternoon looking at some rings, and had been talking about getting engaged and eventually married for long before that. That night, we had a conversation about whether my then-boyfriend would would “ask for my father’s permission” that went something like this:

    Him: Should I?
    Me: Nah, he said he’d just tell you to ask me and he’d be like, “Hope she says yes!”
    Him: … would you say yes?
    Me: Of course.
    Him: Would you say yes… right now?
    Me: Uh, yes?
    Him: Even though I don’t have a ring?
    Me: That’s so not the important part. Of course I would say yes.
    Him: Will you marry me?
    Me: …. wait, really? YES!

    (kissing ensues)

    Him: Are we engaged?
    Me: I guess so???

    We actually didn’t tell people for awhile because we didn’t want to deal with people saying that we weren’t “really” engaged (we so were) and asking about rings etc. A few months later, we picked out my ring together, which he picked up without telling me, and on vacation in Key West (in July ’11), he “re-proposed” at a bed and breakfast we had stayed in on our first vacation together.

    I guess there’s still a part of me that wanted that “perfect” surprise proposal and like I somehow feel “less than” because ours was so non-traditional. It’s good to know that so many smart, happy, sane, people out there also had “less than perfect” proposals and that no one thinks they’re “less than”.

  • Stephy

    My fiance had the whole thing planned. He borrowed my car to buy my “birthday present” and for some reason I had a feeling. I knew it was coming. A week went by and after we uh…ya know… we were laying in the bed and I was jokingly asking and guessing what my present was. Finally he broke down and said, “Okay you can have it early.” I immediately felt bad and said, “Never mind! I don’t want it! I was kidding I’m sorry!!!” He looked really sad, went to take a shower and returned saying he was going to give me my present anyways he couldn’t wait. He pulled out the small box and honestly, all I could think was “Oh no!” Mainly cause I feel like people my age have been told that we are above getting married at a young age and it’s looked down on now. Brad had actually planned to propose on the beach, on our anniversary at midnight. He was too excited and you know what? I’m glad he did it in a non-over the top way but a simple question in the house that we first met each other at.

    • Jenny

      Haha! My fiancee and I did the exact same thing! I had bought the ring in secret and was working out how to do my proposal, but one night we were uhm… “up late”… and afterwards were having this really deep discussion about our relationship and I just couldn’t wait! So I leapt out of the bed, ran to my hidey-spot for her ring, rushed back into our bedroom and asked her to be my wife.

      Naked proposals ftw! ;)

  • Ashley

    Just noticing the stories in the comments and letting them sync in. Sometimes I feel like I need a place to share these big events in a public way. I mean, of course my friends know my story, but it is nice to somewhat anonymously post the good and the bad of the process. The lead up to engagemnt and the wedding planning process were much more impactful than I epected. I like planning, I like parties, I wanted to get married, but this felt like way more than I expcted and I need people to witness and acknowledge it.

    It just feels like the more collective story telling we are able to do, explaining how it felt and unravelled in each of us, the more my view expands to what it could feel like or how it might happen. That is what I love about this site – they currate a few stories that highlight an aspect of relationships and then leave space for us to fill it out with our own expierences in the comments so we have a much broader idea of what is out there. Comments are the best!

    p.s. not that I don’t also love your engagement story Maddie – because I do.

    • meg

      Don’t worry. That’s basically the point of half the things we do here, so you’ve totally figured us out :)

  • You’ve clearly struck an chord :) I know we’ve had discussions here about various proposal “disasters” (doing it without a ring, swapping gender roles, doing it buck naked on the couch, etc…), but the more mild concept of “whiffing it” seems to be almost universal for us mere mortals.

    My husband and I both whiffed ours, and it’s impacted him far more that me. He set up a cute proposal-y scenario, which he whiffed by panicking and just grabbing a ring box out of his pocket, shoving it at me, and staring at me expectantly. I whiffed it by looking askance at him and going “….are you sure?” and then “……..really??” after he nodded vigorously at me.

    I’ll occasionally watch those amazing and “perfect” proposals on You Tube, or read a perfectly captured story on a photographer’s website, and he’ll occasionally still ask me “Are you disappointed I didn’t propose better?”

    No! It was fine and we got engaged and it’s a funny story and now we’re married! I’m disappointed that he feels like there’s something to be disappointed about. Maybe if we’d talked about the actual moment of deciding to get married more, we still would have wiffed it, but this feeling of “oh…we let the Universe down by being bad at this” wouldn’t be here.

  • When people ask about how we got engaged, I joke that I traded a kitten for the ring. What really happened was that we had talked for MONTHS about getting married, and there wasn’t really a “will you marry me?” moment but more of a “do we want to do this?” discussion because I made it clear I wanted to be involved in the decision instead of being surprised (this is just for me personally, but I never understood being surprised with one of the biggest, most important, most legally binding decision you will make in your entire life!)

    So the day after getting the ring sized (I already had it, a giant amethyst ring that belonged to my grandmother) we were lying in bed talking and he said “want to get married and shit?” and I answered “only if you get me a kitten!”

    • meg


      They are the new engagement puppies.

      • Emily

        I’ve been seeing a lot of kittens on Pinterest in the wedding category. NOW I KNOW WHY.

  • Kat

    Completely have to share our story… it’s bizarre/I feel awful now/it’s not what I tell people.

    My sister’s wedding was the weekend before we got engaged this past August, G and I had bought the ring together in July and a proposal was just NOT happening…which was driving me nuts. The day after my sister’s wedding we were leaving for the family cottage to join extended family on a week-long holiday there. I picked up a sweater off the floor next to our bed to pack a sweater for G knowing he would need an extra one, underneath it was the ringbox…. so I picked it up and threw it in his duffle bag figuring “sunsets, walks along beach, sitting around the fire…there’s lots of romantic opportunities for him to finally do the deed!”

    He stayed for only two days and took my cousin back to the city to catch a flight home and so he could work… no ring… I was so disappointed. Saturday rolls around and I’m heading back to the city with family and I have this feeling that today will be THE day… but of course we take the 5 1/2 hour scenic route instead of the 3 hour direct route home. Finally I get home and G pops out with a single red rose… suspicions confirmed! He cooks a great dinner, there’s a really nice bottle of wine, we watch a great movie… and THEN! and THEN! WE GO TO SLEEP!?

    My mind is reeling. REALLY! ALL that and NO proposal!! I can barely sleep, all I can think is “How does all that not equal a proposal!” Finally I start crying and G wakes up to me a sobbing mess and saying to him “I was so sure you were going to propose!” He laughs and sighs and flicks on the light and reaches under the bed to pull out the ring box and says “I WAS going to wait until we woke up, BUT seeing as it’s already morning (2:55am to be precise) and we’re now both awake…” and then he opens the box and says “do you wanna?”

    Me: Do I wanna what?
    Him: You know, do you wanna?
    Me: Uhhhhhh
    Him: Do you wanna wear this?
    Me: Really? That’s how you’re gonna ask!?
    Him: Uh well what am I supposed to ask?
    Me: You know, that line they always say in the movies!
    Him: OH! K do you wanna go steady?
    Me: WHAT!? NO! We’re already going steady silly! We’ve been doing that for almost 2 years!
    Him: Uhhh, okay then, do you wanna go double steady?
    Me: *Laughing my head off* Yes, okay, I want to go double steady with you.

    AND THEN!!

    Me: Okay, no really, you HAVE to get on your knees and say “K will you marry me?”
    Him: Seriously?
    Me: Please!? This is the only time I’ll be proposed to! I just would like to hear those words!
    Him *crawling out of bed and kneeling next to it*: K will you join me in holy matrimony?
    Me *laughing my head off and happy crying at the same time because this is all ridiculous now*: YES!

    I feel awful because I ruined his morning surprise, and then on top of that I was all demandy about HOW he did it.. I laugh now, but still part of me feels badly.

    • Copper

      “double steady,” I love it!

  • all of these stories are so cute!

    i totally accidentally pressured my wife into proposing. she is the worst at keeping secrets, and so i came home from work one day and she was just obviously exploding with her “i have a secret that i am trying so hard to keep” expression. so, naturally, i was all like “what? what? whatwhatwhat!” (which, actually, i don’t always do, because i *love* surprises, and it’s so cute when she tries so hard to be sneaky that i usually try to help her out. but i didn’t that time.) so, she couldn’t hold out and proposed right there, sitting on our bed, half-changed for going out to dinner. i suspect that was not precisely her plan. sometimes i wonder what her plan *was* (i suppose i could ask…), and i kind of felt like a jerk for screwing it up, but it was great because, hell, we got engaged, how could that not be great? and it meant we got to call our already-planned evening out a celebration. it also meant we were home, so i could awkwardly shuffle off to where i had socked away a ring for her for whenever it became relevant.

  • La

    I loved reading these stories! I don’t think they’re imperfect at all. When my boyfriend proposed to me I asked him if it was a joke. It was also pouring with rain, we were soaked and muddy and sheltering in an old gun emplacement leftover from WWII (but I put these things on the more romantic side of things).

    I hope over the coming weeks we will talk about coming to terms with your engagement a little (beyond the proposal). I am a confident and outgoing person, but when it came to telling people that we were engaged (for the first time in my life) I was nervous and hated all the attention. My boyfriend was equally nervous (when it came to things like ring shopping, or thinking about all the things that made up a wedding). By all accounts, we were meant to be over the moon and excited.

    • Claire

      Yes! I was the one proposing but I surprised myself with my emotional response. After we got home and it was all said and done. I cried. In a really bad way. I was terrified of telling people (for lots of reasons). We held off for a few days to let it sink in, for me. I was the one who proposed and yet I needed time to process it. It was very odd.

  • Maddie

    You guys, these stores are Making. My. Day. It’s weirdly normalizing to see them all here. (I guess that’s what APW is for).

    There were so many more things that went wrong in the leadup to our proposal that I couldn’t really fit in my story. That my dad gave him a three hour long lecture about waiting to have kids when Michael let him know he’d be proposing. That the waitress at the restaurant he took my mom to thought he was proposing to to MY MOTHER. That I actually did say that Facebook line word-for-word about five minutes before we got engaged.

    But just like a lot of you, once I got over feeling guilty about not getting my moment (I’m a moment junkie, I can’t help it) I really relished that I got an amazing story out of it. Because stories are a very close second to moments in my book. :)

    • Another Meg

      That’s how I feel so often on this site. It’s kind of fantastic to know that the staff also benefits from this community. You guys built it, you’ve earned it!

  • I knew it was coming because we had looked at rings together, but I honestly thought it was still a couple of months away, so my fiance’s proposal was a total surprise. And because it was a total surprise, when he got down on one knee (in our candlelit dining room, while I was in my pjs (he had told me he wanted to watch some more TV and to go to bed, only to ask me to come back downstairs half an hour later with some ruse about the dog)), what I said was, “Oh FUCK.”

    Yeah, not the breathy “Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!” Pride and Prejudice-style moment I had imagined.

    I then followed up my profanity by answering, “Yes? I mean, yes! Yes! Shit! I can’t believe this is happening” when he asked the actual question. And of course, I immediately felt bad for not having the romantic, lovely reaction I thought I should and said as much. And I was kind of shaking. And then we had to talk nonstop for 25 minutes about all the ways he thought I knew and all the ways I didn’t know now and how crazy it all was.

    But you know what? That’s all okay. In fact, I kind of love it as a story because it’s so REAL. That’s exactly how I react to big things. I love hearing people’s non-perfect engagement stories not just because I feel a personal connection to it (having one myself), but because I feel like I get such an honest glimpse of each person in the couple.

    When I told the story to my parents, my dad said, “Maybe you can leave out the swearing part when you tell the story in the future.” And I was like, “No fucking way. That’s the best part.” Because really, what’s real and genuine experience is always what’s best.

  • Ann

    I am a part of one of those couples that didn’t do a “proposal.” Our story is that we were out at dinner in the city where we went to college (we met in college), and when we were talking about my grad school plans, he just said “So I think it would make sense to get married next summer.” He said it how you would say “I think it would make sense to split an appetizer.”

    We had already talked a lot about getting married and even what we wanted for our wedding, but I thought it was 2-3 years away from feeling like his ducks were all in a row. Turns out, he realized that it might be 5 or more years, and he wanted me to be his herding partner. He swore up and down he had vocalized this to me before, but I had no idea he was ready to get married.

    It took about two weeks to go from that to having much of the wedding planned, since the start of the academic year means that we’re both very, very busy. It was two months before we had a ring (it took a while to get it custom made).

    A couple people have asked me about the proposal, and when I explain, they seem to get that what happened makes sense for us. He, on the other hand, has been asked quite a lot how he proposed, and he’s been given a very hard time about how things happened. In our experience, a lack of a proposal story has been harder on him than me.

    • Herding partner- yes, please.

      Awesome word choice :-)

  • Yep. I knew it was coming from a mile away. I love our crazy engagement story of not-perfectness, so indulge me while I tell you.

    We’d known we wanted to get married in June of 2013 since about June of 2008, our first anniversary. And I was fine waiting for the engagement, but as 2011 was about to become 2012, and as an intense planner I NEEDED that finality. I suggested we just call ourselves engaged, but he couldn’t shake the “put a ring on her finger on one knee” narrative, and, hey. I like shiny things.

    I told him what I wanted (rose gold, solitaire, blue topaz) and that I wanted my dad to make it. So when they started designing it together, I knew. When he asked my parents (both) for their blessing, I figured it out. No one in my life is good at secrets, me least of all – I tend to drag them out of people. Heh.

    Chris is a hopeless romantic, so I expected something elaborate and cheesy on Christmas Day. But, when the doorbell rang four days “early,” I knew in my gut it was him.

    Long story short(er), I went on a solo scavenger hunt around town to all of our most important places, where his brother and sister and brother’s girlfriend were waiting with more clues. Being the dolt I am, I asked them if they needed rides to other places. Other places where they would give me more clues later. And because I was so flustered, I actually skipped a clue because I misinterpreted another one and went straight from clue three to clue five.

    On the way to where I knew he was going to propose (a park, where we have our names initialled on a tree) I called my best friend and cried to her about how excited I was. But by the time I got to the park, I just said “YES. OF COURSE.” really loudly and calmly. I didn’t cry at all to him. I actually spent the next few minutes apologizing about pressuring him into it.

    It ended up I got more excited and thrilled as the day and night went on. But in the moment I was just being a dork and awkward. And did I mention I hadn’t showered? And was putting together a frustrating office chair with no directions when he rang?

    Anyway, it’s the best story because it’s so us. He’s Mister Cool and Suave (Attempted) and I’m Miss Clumsy and Awkward. Perfect.

  • ANON

    Just want to say thanks for sharing your stories, and please keep them coming! From a pre-engaged gal who can see an imperfect proposal on the horizon. :)

  • Emily

    I love reading these stories! Similarly – my fiance and I talked a LOT about getting married before we got engaged. I had months where I would broadcast that getting engaged was “off the table” – it took me a good long while to work through my feelings about marriage in general after thinking through my parents’ (and his parents’) divorces.

    Eventually – marriage was on the table and we were both feeling really ready for it. My fiance did some secret steps toward ring buying, and because we share a computer and aren’t great about logging out of things like Facebook, I discovered he was ring shopping (I confessed that I knew immediately, can’t keep anything in).

    The night he proposed, I wasn’t expecting it. He started to tell me about how as a kid he would imagine his wife and that her name was Emily. I told him that sounded like bullshit and we should buy wine! Then.. “ARE YOU PROPOSING?” Yep.

    It was lovely – he had written me a very cute song and sang it to just me on our street corner, then surprised me with having my parents meet up with us after (they live 6 hrs away, but he knew I’d want to tell my mom immediately).

    I would never think my proposal was anything but perfect to me, but maybe not my most graceful moment. :)

  • I’m loving reading all of these stories!

    I suspected that my fiance was planning to propose during our trip to Belize last spring. So when he suggested one night that we go up to the bird-watching tower on our hotel property at sunset, I was sure it was about to happen. And then it didn’t. So I was sure that he hadn’t brought the ring to Belize and I’d have to wait until after we got back. (How did I know he had a ring? Because I had a meltdown during a weekend trip to NY when I was sure he was going to propose and he didn’t. And he told me that he’d been planning to propose, but the ring didn’t come in time. Awkward.) So then when we were swimming in a waterfall pool and he held out a ring and said “Want to get married?” it actually was a surprise. I said yes and then kissed him and we high fived. And I put the ring on myself. I give him a hard time about that, not because handing it to me was unromantic, but because I drop things and I might still be there looking for it if I’d dropped it into that pond. He was just really relieved to be rid of it. He’d been carrying it for most of the trip and had actually intended to propose earlier after we’d gone caving, but when he stopped to untie the ring from his swim trunks, I kept walking to catch up with the group. The one time he didn’t have it was when we went up that bird watching tower, because it hadn’t even occurred to him to propose there, but he could totally read my disappointment when we were climbing down.

    Fortunately, a friend of mine (whose reaction to her own proposal was, “Are you shitting me?”) prepared me for the “is this it?” feeling. After having it built up for so long, you really do expect some sort of sparkle magic, when in reality, I’m not a terribly emotional person and we both needed to breathe and adjust to the reality of it all. The short version of ours (he proposed under a waterfall in Belize) sounds all fairy tale-like, but in reality, it wasn’t. For instance, his follow up to “Want to get married?” was “I didn’t ask your dad because my dad asked my mom’s dad and he said no.” Well then.

    • Claire

      Exactly! It’s still reality even if it’s a special moment. I find the most sparkly magic moments are usually during really mundane activities that take you by surprise and you just get a burst of ‘Fuck yeah! I’m in love!’. Whereas there’s so much expectation to feel like that during big events like a proposal.

      • I agree! When we’re stopped at a red light and he kisses the back of my hand? Sparkle Magic.

  • Catherine B

    I love these stories so so much!

    Our official proposal story was “perfect” for us. He surprised me by proposing a day earlier than expected, at our local BYOB Thai restaurant with a bottle of Moet & Chandon after yoga. It’s fun to hear other stories of people being proposed to in sweats!

    The more interesting story was a month earlier. I had said over and over that I didn’t need a ring, just a twist-tie. He gave me my Christmas present on Christmas Eve, before heading back to Illinois to be with his family. As he was leaving to pack, he said in passing, “You missed something on the package.” The tag with my name on in it was attached with a green twist tie he had shaped into a ring. I got teary and wore that ring for the next month. He told me later that hadn’t meant it to be an actual proposal, and was surprised that I wore it. We had some interesting conversations; what to tell people who asked, and what it signified. I think we settled on it meaning we were privately engaged, but he still wanted that official proposal.

  • Lan

    The first words out of my mouth were “I’m not wearing pants!” And I repeated that for a while. It took a while to say yes and get over the fact that I was in our back yard not wearing pants!

    • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

      LAn, I want your full story. Bottle and a half of wine + No pants + Backyward? Teasers. (Also, sounds fun.)

  • Alyssa

    My now-husband and I were on our yearly anniversary vacation, and we had talked extensively about marriage and I knew that it was coming. We went on a hike to a rock jutting out over the ocean, full moon…obviously perfect. And the poor boy, knowing full well given extensive conversation that he didn’t need to be nervous, stammered out, “I had a really good speech prepared…I swear…do I really have to get down on one knee.” To this day, I feel bad for not just giving him a hug then and there.

    Then we hiked and biked back into town and had the best beer of my life (regular old Lagunitas IPA, but so awesome with that extra exhilaration). After expecting the proposal to be the happiest moment of my life, I think it was actually while drinking that pint that I experienced such wonderful joy, with my finally relaxed awesome hubby.

  • I, like the others, am totally digging all these stories. I mean, WHO KNEW that I wasn’t the only one?! (Because Lord knows that I’m the only person that experiences things. Ever.)

    Slightly convoluted story warning… my partner and I have actually been engaged twice, with the same ring, though he has given the ring to me three times.

    The first time around, I was graduating from high school and had this project for a marriage and family class where we had to plan a proposal. Perfect! I dutifully and enthusiastically sent him many pictures and proposal ideas, and when it rolled around the proposal was sweet, simple, and perfect.

    Well, after I broke off the engagement and left, he wouldn’t take the ring back. He said it was mine. And I kept it. It did a stint on a ribbon around my rearview mirror, spent some time in my lock-box, and then ended up on my keychain. While I was living in Idaho, it fell off my keychain on our rocky country driveway one snowy winter’s day and got run over by a Ford Expedition. The band was mangled, but the details and gemstone were perfectly intact (miraculously!).

    We got back together February of 2012, and we decided to marry sometime in April, I believe it was. Sometime in there, I showed him the mangled ring and expressed my sadness over it. I couldn’t afford to have it fixed. So I gave it back to him with the understanding that he’d get it fixed someday and use it again to propose to me later. In June, I took a trip back up to Idaho to visit my friends/family. He had taken the ring in to be fixed (which I knew because the ring shop called him while we were sleeping, and against the backdrop of silence, the ring lady’s voice was very, very loud!), and I was totally expecting a proposal. Totally. We were pre-engaged, and I hadn’t discovered APW yet, so I was going bananas. Naturally.
    When I came back from my trip, the ring was waiting for me (with a little “treasure hunt” activity accompanying its discovery), but without a proposal. Hmm. Confusing.

    Months pass, and I’m still stressing the pre-engagement. Then, after reading and digesting several articles (and their accompanying comments) on the subject, I came to terms with the fact that no, I did not in fact need a proposal to make our relationship and its commitment level legitimate. What we have is what we have, whether there was a “moment” to accompany it or not, or even a shiny accessory. (I HAD the shiny accessory! lol) So I actually sat him down and gave him my “I don’t need a proposal to be happy with this relationship or to validate what we have or to look forward to marrying you, and I accept the fact that we’re planning to wed. You’re off the hook” spiel. And you know what? That’s what he was waiting for! He was waiting for me to stop waiting for a proposal! Hah!

    One morning a little over a month ago, my ring went missing. I’d gone on a camping trip and left the ring at home to avoid damage or loss, but it disappeared anyway! I figured I’d just ask C about it later.

    When he got home from work that night, we were snuggling on the bed when I asked him oh-so-innocently, ‘Where’s my ring?” He tried to play innocent- “What ring? What are you talking about? Ring with a purple stone? Huh?” So then he gets up and sits in his computer chair, facing me, and says that I have to find it. Well, it wasn’t hard to find… it was behind him, on the bookshelf. I pointed it out to him and he picked up the box as if to put it back on the desk, which is what I was expecting. Instead, he held it for a few minutes with this funny look on his face, then he slid to his knees and knee-walked to the bed where I lay sprawled. (Oh, the look in his eyes and on his face could have melted a stone statue!) “I do want to marry you. I love you.” As he slid the ring on to my hand, I said, “I do love you too, and I want to marry you too. Wrong hand.”

    ‘Sorry, I’m dyslexic.” We kissed, he was shaking, and then I basically dissolved into a fit of giggles and foot-thrashing.

    “Wait, so… you really just proposed to me?”

    “I assume so. I’m pretty sure that’s what that was.”


    “Now you can show off to all your friends.”

    And then I went off to work on homework, and he played a video game. Classic. He HAD a super-WIC proposal planned out, but I went camping that weekend not knowing that it was the weekend he wanted to propose, and then he just didn’t want to wait any longer to ask me! So at first I felt a little bad, like, Hey, that super fancy proposal would have been a GREAT story, why didn’t you wait? But as I thought about it and processed through it and held it close to my heart, I realized that our proposal was so authentic and sincere and SO “us” and so very genuinely, humbly loving that I could never wish for anything else.

    • ItsyBitsy

      OMG knee-walk. Sweetest image ever.

    • Caroline

      Ok, am I alone in thinking that was a pretty weird assignment to give to a bunch of high schoolers?
      Also, I love your proposal story, and how he was waiting for you to stop waiting.

  • Claire

    I’m pretty sure every proposal is imperfect. We all have the edited and polished news-edition style story, and then there’s the real story with all the awkwardness and swearing.

    My polished version – I proposed to my partner of seven years while we were living in Mongolia earlier this year. We hiked a mountain before dawn to watch the first sunrise of the lunar new year – which is a special tradition of Mongolians. We had a picnic blanket and a thermos of coffee. I got down on one knee and asked him to marry me and he was shocked and super happy.

    The real story – I proposed as per all of the above in -25C. I waited until the last possible moment to propose because I was so incredibly nervous. What’s more there were about two hundred people up on the hill with us but I didn’t account for other people being around at the Soviet monument of all places. John said, ‘hurry up let’s go I’m too cold’. I said ‘wait I just have to…’ (mumble mumble struggling to kneel because I was wearing my super long coat)… and I can’t remember the rest but I think I said ‘Will you marry me?’. John says so anyway. I kneeled for all of about half a second because I could feel the ice through my layers and it was cold on my knee! John promptly said “Yes” and then said “you’re a wally” (an Australian slang term I’m not sure I can translate into international English, but this instance meant I was silly). And then we got off the hill as quickly as possible because we were starting to lose feeling in our hands and then hurried home because we were both busting to pee after all that coffee!

    It didn’t feel romantic. I tried to make it romantic. John was grumpy and tired the whole morning before I proposed and then I was just, I don’t know, emotionally wrecked afterwards and because I’d barely slept with worry. It certainly wasn’t how I imagined it would go, and a hell of a lot less romantic, but it’s done and it’s imperfect and it’s us. What more can I ask for?

    • Taylor B

      I totally underestimated my partner’s nervousness! I was always kind of relieved that he insisted on being the one to propose, but I was really surprised at how nervous he was when it came time to actually ask. He had known for years that I wanted to marry him, we’d been talking about timelines for years, but he says he was still really nervous about asking (and I know he was because I could feel his heart beating out of his chest right before he knelt down in the sand!). He knew I was going to say yes but getting the words out was difficult. At first I felt kind of responsible for this, but I was also really surprised at how overwhelmed I was by the experience. We need to give the proposers credit, it seems no matter how confident you are in your partner’s answer, asking this question feels very vulnerable.

      • Claire

        Exactly! I knew his only answer could be yes because he’s been the one to want to get married and have babies ASAP, which is why I wanted to propose because it was my way of telling him, okay let’s do this now, I’m ready. And even though I knew his answer I was terrified of the whole act, and I think a lot of it is because it’s so damn public! Our relationship has always been our own business but with the proposal and engagement suddenly everyone wanted in on very private details. That in itself was nerve wracking on top of everything else!

  • It took me a year of APW wisdom after my wedding to feel less bad about how I handled our engagement. I mean, I rolled my eyes and said “I suppose.” Who does that?

    • Claire

      Ha! That’s great

  • Elena

    I must admit that imperfection of our proposal was hunting me for some time. It took me a while to get comfortable calling him “fiance” instead of “boyfriend”. I thought that if I had a perfect proposal with surprise ring and stuff, the fact that we’re now engaged would sink in quicker. I wanted a memorable event to signify the change, to be a kind of “rite of passage”.

    Instead, he sent me a text message during lunch break, asking to decide on our wedding date. And than later that day we went ring shopping. He was a little resistant to go shopping the same evening, and we paid for it with our joined credit card that I later paid off myself… Very romantic, I know.

    The thing is, after some time it doesn’t matter any more. In fact, it was probably a good thing! He wanted to make me a custom ring, although he had no idea that engagement and wedding rings can be 2 different ones. When we went to look for an engagement ring, he though that the wedding ring usually comes with a big rock, and the engagement ring is just a band (a placeholder of a sort).

    So imagine us coming into a store:
    Him: “Could we please look at your simple thin white gold bands”
    Assistant walking towards wedding bands display.
    Me: “No, no, no, please show us the rings with rocks, engagement rings”
    Assistant looking at me puzzled
    Him: “No, it should be band, we’re not buying wedding rings yet”
    Me: “You don’t understand, engagement ring IS the one with the rock”
    Him: “But you only get to wear it until the wedding, what’s the point of having it more expensive then a wedding ring?”
    Me: “I didn’t make the rules”
    Him: “Are we just blindly following the rules then?”
    At that point the assistant walked away to help other customers.

    In the end he agreed that the main point is for me to like the ring and be happy about it. As I was looking through choices, he got very excited, the idea that we’re getting married kicked in, so he went ahead and got himself an engagement ring too. All in all we spent 5 times more than we planned for, but got home very happy with the result. We proposed to each other with our new rings later that day.

    Only about 2 months later the fact that we’re engaged started to feel real and the whole proposal is now an endearing story.

    • Taylor B

      Picturing this scene makes me laugh! I was very verbal about not wanting a traditional engagement ring but could never really describe or find an example of a style I liked. We looked at rings together nearly two years before the proposal, and I tried on lots and kept pointing out details that I liked but he still had no idea what style. He ended up proposing with an anniversary band (thank you respectful salespeople who listen to their customers) which we ultimately returned to the store for a much smaller version (again, how awesome is a salesman who doesn’t make you feel guilty about a huge refund?) I was so worried that I hadn’t given him enough information, when he’d been listening all along and knew enough to a) not give me what we both knew I wouldn’t want and b) knew that the ring he proposed with didn’t have to be the perfect ring. He really is the perfect partner for me, the worrier ;)

    • Kat

      Thank god I’m not the only gal out there who had to explain the difference between a wedding ring and an engagement ring.

      Classic G response “you mean you have to buy 2!? but why!? Can’t you just wear one plain gold band?”

      Me: But I’ve always wanted something sparkly!

      So we compromised, plain gold band as my engagement ring, gold band with channel set diamonds as the wedding ring… cuz it’s actually kinda fun that the huge monumentally life changing vow reciting moment gets to have the sparkly one.

  • rys

    Reading these stories is delightful!

  • Sadie

    My now-husband is really a romantic, and planned a wonderful surprise weekend to propose. He picked a beautiful spot, and because I was starting to catch on to the surprise, I started to get really excited… so much so that when he started to propose, I just leaped in and started saying “yes, yes, yes!”, cutting him off completely! Just like that, we were engaged, but I’ve regretted not giving him time to finish, I wish I would have heard every word of what he was saying! I’ve told him that since I got so overenthusiastic, he’ll just have to propose again someday, and I’ll listen! Our second proposal hasn’t come yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

  • Pippa

    Loving all these stories.

    When we got engaged, he had spent the whole day spoiling me under the guise of congratulations on surviving my exams. By the time I was getting ready for dinner though, I’d figured it out and was trying so hard not to trust my gut because I couldn’t bear for it not to be true. But then I had to spend the rest of the night acting clueless while he said gorgeous things to me and almost crashed the car cause his mind was elsewhere and running around in the dark in the rain trying to find ‘the right spot’ in a park. (Him: There’s not enough light over there, let’s go somewhere else. Me: Not enough light for what?? Haha)
    When he did propse he gave a beautiful speech and got down on one knee and I burst into tears and said “Of course” and we cried like crazy people. But then we split up and I kept the ring.
    When we got back together, he said he wanted to propose again and I should give him the ring back when I felt ready for that (we had a lot of healing to do). I ended up getting down on one knee in the middle of an empty street on NYE at midnight holding it up to him and saying awkwardly that here was the ring and you can do with it what you will. He asked if I was proposing to him (with some trepidation) and I had to reclarify what the hell I was doing on bended knee if I wasn’t proposing. He wanted to re-do the whole shebang when it came time to get re-engaged (surprising me and everything) but after re-reading a lot of APW I said hell no to that idea and we ended up deciding to propose to each other at midnight the following NYE sitting on a bed in a holiday house, not wearing any clothes, listening to our drunken neighbours singing through the wall. Perfect.

  • Sophie

    My proposal story is, like others, low key. I was at home sitting with one of our cats on my lap and he knelt down and asked me to marry him the minute he came home from picking up the ring. Although we had talked about getting married, I was completely surprised and gasped and fanned the air like a winning beauty queen. A “yes” and much kissing and hugging followed. I will never forget the joy of that moment.

    It was perfect.

  • Ali

    My now husband had told me I wasn´t allowed to even say the word marriage. Then about a year before we got engaged, I did have a talk with him about how I still had time in me to wait for him to be ready, but I wouldnt have that time forever. He told me that he sees us together forever, but didnt feel ready for marriage. Then several times throughout that year, he would just suddenly talk about us getting married (usually after a few beers). My heart would soar when he talked like that, but I stayed calm. During one of those talks, we talked about the timeline and (I thought) that we had set a deadline for about when he would propose (so we would have enough time to plan the wedding for when it would make sense for us to have it.) There was one time that I though maybe he might propose, but he didnt and I wasnt really dissappointed. It really helped calm me down to have that timeline. Imagine my surprise that now when I tell him about this – he doesnt think there was a deadline. (Thank god he made the deadline exactly…..)

    Anyway one sunday morning (about a week before I thought he would ask.) He asks me to go to church with him (about 30 minutes before). He NEVER is willing to go to this church, so I was so excited and got ready in a hurry. We were walking back from church and I wanted to go to Dunkin Donuts for coffee. He got a call from his sister who wanted to do a picnic in the park. I thought it was a little weird, but didnt suspect. Then when we got there and saw this elaborate picnic, I began to suspect, but could not believe it. I asked him why his sister would do this. He said that he had told her that I felt bad that she only texted me for my birthday last week and wanted to make it up for you. I got soooooooo mad at him for telling her that even though in the back of mind I knew that wasnt true. Anyway yes….. we got a little confused in there for a few minutes, but eventually he just asked me.

    It was so weird that it finally was happening after wanting it to happen for so long. And I also have to admit that I was embarrassed about all the people in the park looking at us. It was beautiful all of his efforts to set it up and plan it – I couldnt believe, but my own reactions werent exactly perfect! It really hits you that it is still a regular day and each person is still themself!!

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  • Jannell

    My imperfect proposal happened last night, around 1 in the morning. And it was discovering APW and reading the stories from you all that helped me be prepared to roll with things as they happened… thank you all for making me ready for this. Seriously. Thank you. Here’s the letter I wrote my fiance today, after our imperfect proposal late last night…

    “I guess if I’m writing letters to you, then writing something the day after we get engaged is probably a good call. So, here we go.

    I love you. I couldn’t be happier to be engaged to you. And I couldn’t be happier about the way it happened. I’m happy that it just kind of happened while we were sitting on the couch on a Friday night. It was imperfect. And a little accidental. And that’s so much better than any fairytale bullshit you could have planned. I don’t remember every word we said… but I do remember you telling me how you’d loved me since the beginning. And how every word you said was so perfectly sincere that I almost cried but didn’t, and then you were asking me to marry you, and then I was saying yes, and then I was telling you to just get the goddamn ring already… and then you did. And then you cried. And then we went to Strange Brew and you asked me again. Except the first time you asked me was perfect in and of itself. Because it was real. And the second time… well, that was good too. Because it made me remember how far we’ve come since the first time we sat on that bench. But the first proposal was perfect. Because it was a combination of wine and whiskey and us being so ready that I don’t think either of us could wait anymore. And I’m glad we didn’t. Because I just want to be your fucking fiance. No matter what anyone else thinks.

    I love you. I want to marry you. As soon as possible. I know I’ve been scared in the past. I know I was a little freaked out today. But that doesn’t mean I’m not ready for this. I want you to know that. Yes, it feels weird. But it only feels weird because we’ve been waiting so long for it to be official, and now, all of a sudden, it is. It’s been pretty damn close to official for awhile. And now, being able to tell people, for real… it’s a little overwhelming. But in such a good way. Please don’t think that I don’t want this or that I am overwhelmed in any way other than, “oh my god, I really do get to marry him, don’t I,” kind of way. I’m overwhelmed in a good way. This is weird, in a good way. I promise. I love you.


    • Catherine B

      Congratulations! Thanks for sharing your freshly minted story! It sounds perfectly imperfect.

    • Eden

      I love your letter – could be writing something very similar to it this week after proposal last weekend! I felt a little underwhelmed, then overwhelmed, and to quote someone above, like David in the YouTube “is this for real?” video. One friend who I wrote the next day said “Shell-shocked? I’m still shell-shocked 10 years later!”

  • JessicaM

    After a few months of reading all the pre-engaged sections of APW, I’m happy to say we had an imperfect proposal last night! We’re on holidays where it’s supposed to be sunny and the reality is overcast and raining. So we’re sitting inside, I’m painting my nails, he’s watching TV when he suggests opening some champagne. I think why not we’re on holiday! After a glass he calls to me from the bedroom and said something about since my nails were so nice, maybe I should put a nice ring on as well! So he’s standing there with the box and I’m looking at him, looking at this beautiful ring and said I’d love to if you ask me the question! And so he did! Turns out this was plan b after the weather cancelled his plans to propose cruising down the river in a boat. Plan a was perfect but plan b was even better for us!

    • Catherine B


  • Sam

    These stories are all so great to read. It’s making me wonder if part of my reticence to tell our story is feeling like it’s ‘not good enough’ for the WIC expectant people out there. But also, I do want it to be kind of private, because it was a private moment when we sealed our lives together once and for all… But now I’m going to tell you about it. I’m weird.

    Our engagement was in the bathroom. My partner was in the shower and I was in there futzing and chatting with him. He was so scared about the whole thing so for weeks, no months, I had been reassuring him that it didn’t have to be anything specific. No more diamonds for sure, b/c I have BOTH my grandmothers diamonds. I offered to give him the ring and he could have it reset. Then I just showed him where I kept it so he could do it. But bless him, he can’t even plan a birthday party for me for fear of messing it up. And I think he wanted to do the whole surprise engagement but he just couldn’t figure out what.

    So eventually it just turned into talking a lot about weddings and marriage. Which, I’m totally for communicating the expectations of the future, but not straight out wedding planning before we are engaged.

    So back to the bathroom, he gets out of the shower, we are still talking. Then we are talking about concrete wedding plans.

    “No, I’m not talking about weddings before we are engaged!”
    “Ok, want to get married?”
    “Are you serious?”
    “Are you sure?”
    “[blubbering] Yes!! [more blubbering]”

    And now I’m wet from his shower and my tears.

    So yes, whiff (esp. because that first quote was kinda me yelling at him for not proposing already!) but also, it was a moment that was totally comfortable and simple and sweet.

  • Jessica

    This post is just what I needed!

    My boyfriend (fiance…such a weird word) proposed last night. It was low-key, on his parent’s front porch as we sipped our martinis. I knew it was going to happen. Why? He told me. I had a moment of shameful panic as my mother, father, and BF’s sister all got engaged in a matter of weeks. We’ve been together for four years, and part of he was deathly afraid that it would never happen. He saw this fear and told me to wait a couple months.

    So even though I knew engagement was around the corner, my heart still skipped a beat when he dropped to one knee with no preamble. The first words out of my mouth before the ring box was even open? “Holy sh*t.”

    I was mortified that I said that – way to kill the moment. But the BF just laughed, smiled, and asked me to be his. As soon as I said yes, he goes to put on the ring, and it’s waaaay too small. At this point we’re both laughing hysterically and, of course, this is when his father barges out onto the patio (completely unaware that his son was proposing.)

    It was not “romantic”. There were no sweet words, no gazing into each other’s eyes. No grand gesture. Nothing that (I am embarrassed to admit this) part of me had dreamed of. For a brief moment I was mortified of my reaction, annoyed with my boyfriend for not sizing the ring right (I was engaged, but I couldn’t wear the ring), and flabbergasted with his father for not giving us our privacy (he never does).

    But in a moment all of that was gone. My BF and I love telling stories, entertaining others and making them laugh. How perfect that we can do that with the story of our engagement. And if I had any doubt how true to us our engagement was, that all went out the window when I shared my slip of the tongue with my father, who immediately replied, “That’s my girl!”