This Is What You Should Say in Your Wedding Proposal

I promise not to get bossy in this one

engaged couple eating ice cream

First things first: When it comes to wedding proposals, I’m a big believer in saying what you feel, what you believe, and what makes your heart ache in all of the good ways. I am not about to deliver 1,500 words spelling out exactly what you should or shouldn’t say, because that’s fundamentally absurd. I don’t know you! You know you. You know your partner. You know what your partner would like to hear. Right?

I am, however, totally into helping you get ideas on how to create a perfect proposal for your person. (Because, you know, if you’re reading an article about wedding proposals, chances are you want some tips beyond asking, “Hey, wanna get married?” in your jammies while you watch Sunday morning TV. Which, for the record, is a totally valid way to do this thing.) So think of this like that Creative Writing 101 course you might have taken. I’ll give you a broad idea, and you get to fill in the details.

So, behold: tips for what you should think about saying when you’re proposing marriage.

1. use the first time you met

Here’s the thing. Your “how we met” story doesn’t have to be storybook perfect. My husband and I met in a sociology class, and my first thought about him was, “Oh wow, his handwriting is unnerving.” Neither of these things are super romantic, but they’re funny to think about ten years later. Another tidbit about when we met? I had my foot in a walking boot to treat a tendon injury. He loves to bring that image to mind whenever he can, and did so when he asked me to marry him.

2. what’s important to the two of you?

Most people marry someone who shares their values and goals, so… what are yours? What matters most? Does the way your partner always donates to the World Wildlife Fund really make your heart sing? Is his commitment to finishing grad school super inspiring? Are you both volunteers, or activists? What moves each of you, and why do you love it? You get the idea.

3. When did you realize you wanted to get married?

My husband had two moments in a 24-hour period that prompted him to propose. They’re both a little personal, so I’m not sharing them, but it means a lot to me that these two moments were the turning point. My hope is that most couples who are getting married have these moments as well—and it definitely doesn’t hurt to bring one up.

4. how has the relationship enriched your life?

If you guys have been together for months or years, what was your life like before you met? What is it like now? How have you grown, and what part of that growth happened because of something your partner brought to the table?

5. make it feel like “us”

I think it’s tempting to go big with the proposal in some way, and if that’s you guys, then go for it. Fly yourselves across the world and propose somewhere amazing, under a gorgeous sky, with the crickets and birds singing songs to you (seriously, it sounds incredible). But if your version of “us” is all about hanging on the couch, eating popcorn, and watching Scandal… well, maybe don’t propose during the middle of Shonda (because hey, don’t interrupt Shonda), but don’t worry about making your proposal a wildly out-of-character thing. Whatever your “us” is, keep it feeling like that.

What do you think, APW? What should you say in a wedding proposal—and what should you steer clear OF?

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