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What You Need to Know If You Want Him to Propose In Public

These tips will help make it romantic rather than awkward.

Art Credit: Fergus O'Reilly

My cousin Kristina scandalized half the hipsters in downtown Buffalo when her then boyfriend, Zach, got down on one knee in the middle of a crowded coffee shop and she summarily said no.

It brings up the big question: Are public marriage proposals ever a good idea? Aren’t they the kind of thing that are better done in private?

Zach had arranged a whole event at said crowded coffee shop, where the two had met a few years prior. He convinced Kristina’s favorite local band to play a show there that night. (An amazing coincidence, she agreed as they walked in.) He asked a friend to sit in the corner, camera-phone ready. He even finagled his way on-stage during a cover of Train’s “Marry Me,” which he sang -- sober! -- along with the band.

Despite all these obvious signals of love and devotion, Kristina somehow failed to realize the uncomfortable sing-along constituted an actual marriage proposal. So when Zach pulled out the ring in front of several dozen charmed, flannel-wearing concertgoers, she automatically said no. The coffee shop fell silent.

“I’m totally kidding!” she said. (Kristina has always had an inappropriate sense of humor.) They’re getting married next June, and I already know I’ll be the first bridesmaid to lose it when they say their “I dos.”

But here’s the thing about all public acts of affection: While they express a certain charming confidence and commitment, they also carry a much higher risk of discomfort. And we’re not just talking about your discomfort here -- the feelings of your would-be betrothed are also on the line, to say nothing of the dozens of people who just want to sip their lattes and watch a local band in peace. That being said, there’s some ground rules to follow.

If you’re one of those girls who secretly wants a public proposal, here are some tips to share with your significant other (perhaps by strategically “sharing” this article on Facebook right now? Just a thought).

Know the answer.

Yes, I know, this is disgracefully unromantic -- but life is not a Nora Ephron movie, and no one wants to be that guy who goes viral after being shot down at a baseball game. If you’re planning a public proposal, make sure you have some private confirmation that you’re S.O. actually wants to get married, specifically to you. Most mature adults of the marrying age discuss their futures at some point or another, so this shouldn’t be too tricky.

Consider the venue.

There are two types of public proposals: the thoughtful, self-aware ones that just happen to take place in public, and the bald-faced grabs for attention. If you met your S.O. at the Eiffel Tower, or you often hang out there, or it means something important to the two of you, that’s a good place to propose. If you just think it makes for good Facebook pictures, reconsider your plans. Kristina and Zach met at the coffee shop, for instance, so a public proposal there was actually quite wonderful.

Don’t invite your mom.

I understand some people propose publicly in order to include their friends and family in their special moment. That’s beautiful, and as a girl who calls home over every minor life triumph and catastrophe, I can support it. But I also don’t want to make one of the most important decisions of my life in front of your mother, who I’m trying to impress, or my mother, who is critiquing your delivery in her head.

By all means, invite a couple friends along to Instagram the moment. Everyone else can celebrate over drinks later! In fact, I think my clever, beautiful and very engaged cousin scored a few beers that way.