When it comes to marriage proposals that are pure genius, I have just one word for you: speakerphone. That's right ladies and gents, Mr. Romantic here proposed to his lovely wife, Kitty, on a speakerphone.
I had recently changed the focus of my job, and my calendar was getting really, really full. So when I noticed a two-week hole in October, I figured I would check on those dates with Kitty and see if she was also free. I reached over to the desk phone and hit the top speed-dial button. When she answered, I half-shouted: "Hey baby. Got your calendar handy?"
"I'll get it open. What's up?" she asked.
"How does Saturday the 8th of October and the following week look for you?" I asked.
"It's open," she answered. "Why?"
"I was just checking to see if that weekend would work, you know ... for getting married," I said.
"Well, are you asking me to marry you?" she asked.
"Yeah. So that week after is fine, too? You know, for the honeymoon?" I asked.
"Looks fine to me," she said.
"OK, baby. I guess you need to go ahead and put in for vacation that week. I love you! See you at home tonight," I said, reaching to hang up the phone.
"OK," she answered.
And that was it—no flowers, no ring at the bottom of a Champagne flute, no flashing sign at a baseball game. Speakerphone. Believe it or not, it worked. We got married, and we're still married.
For years, I would sit and listen to other people prattle on about sunsets on the beach or romantic restaurants, and I would wait until they finished before pulling out the proposal story trump card of a lifetime: speakerphone.
When Kitty turned 44, we had a birthday party for her on our back deck with great food, lots of friends, a steady flow of wine and perfect spring evening weather. My friend Anne Scott (a big hot mess of a hippie Southern belle) had left a ridiculously huge plastic "diamond" ring in our kitchen, and it caught my eye while I was making a run to the icemaker. I slipped it into my pocket, made my way back to the deck, turned off the music and got everyone's attention. I pulled the ring out of my pocket, showed it to everyone and announced: "A friend of mine once said, ‘If there's a problem with the ring ... the problem ain't the ring.'"
I got down on one knee and took Kitty's hand. As I slipped the pre-school jewelry on her finger, I said simply: "In front of all these people, Kitty: Will you marry me?"
The crowd, all of whom had heard the speakerphone story at least once, let out a cheer. She said yes. Again.
How to Do It the Right Way
Although the speakerphone was efficient, it just didn't have the oomph that the occasion called for. This memory is something that will keep her around long after you have thick ear-hair, a snoring problem, and many other annoying habits or attributes, so get it right. Don't try to be cute or clever; just be sincere.
Go to a place with significance to your relationship such as a favorite restaurant (even if that place is the KFC buffet). Don't wait for the perfect moment. You'll only end up making yourself more nervous.
Once you are settled in to a good conversation, look her right in the eyes, place your hand on hers and repeat this phrase exactly: "(insert name), I can't imagine how I could live the rest of my life without you. Will you marry me?"
When she starts to smile or cry, and you are certain the answer will be "yes," then get on one knee and slip the ring on her finger. If you take a knee too soon, she'll know what's coming next, and the words will be lost in the expectation. Plus, if she runs away, you'll look like a jerk kneeling there on the restaurant floor while some hot lady bursts through the front door hailing a taxi.
You may (at your own peril) ignore all the tips and rules about getting engaged and "do your own thing," but there is one rule you should adhere to as if it was the law of gravity: This is her event, not yours. You can plan it, rehearse it and flawlessly execute it, but if you think for one second that you own it, you have missed the point entirely.
If you can remember this one fact, the "big day" and all your days to follow will be much easier.
This will be a well-documented event so wear something classic: blazer, white shirt, tailored trousers and good shoes. I'm sure you've seen pictures of your parents or other relatives sporting leisure suits, crushed-velvet jumpsuits or poodle skirts—you don't want be remembered as "Crazy Uncle Bobby who wore the Ed Hardy shirts."
Drinks for the Occasion
Champagne (or sparkling wine) is really your only option for this event. That doesn't mean you need to break the bank to enjoy yourself and impress your soon-to-be bride. Besides, if your choice of Champagne could possibly alter the answer to your question, then you have picked the wrong girl.
If you can afford it, go big. After all, this is a truly special occasion. Dom Perignon, Krug and Perrier Jouet are obvious choices for a big budget. If you are looking for something with plenty of pop for less money, go with non-vintage Cavas or Proseccos. Montsarra Cava and Zardetto Prosecco Brut are great choices in the lower price points. If you are unsure about what may be on the wine list where you are going, call ahead and ask the sommelier to help you out. They love to do this and might even bump you up a notch or two as their way of saying "congratulations."