Actor Idris Elba proposed to his girlfriend, Sabrina Dhowr, on stage at a screening of his new film ‘Yardie’. While some on social media swooned at his very public declaration of love, hearing those four magic words in front of a crowd is not everyone’s cup of tea.
One HuffPost UK reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, broke up with his boyfriend shortly after he proposed at a work Christmas party. “I was 19, in California, and it was my first Christmas away from home,” he explains. “I thought it was a joke and laughed ‘stop it people are starting to look’ as he was down on one knee... It was not a joke.”
But Sophie Farrow, from Essex, said ‘yes’ when her partner Simon got down on one knee while they were on the London Eye. “There were about 15 other people in there and honestly, not one person even noticed it,” she says. “I quite liked it. I loved the thought that went into it and the big grand gesture of love.”
According to Relate relationships counsellor Gurpreet Singh, the perfect proposal will vary from couple to couple, and while a public declaration of love may be one person’s dream, it can be another’s nightmare.
“It can lead to quite an embarrassing situation if something goes wrong. Just to avoid that embarrassment, people can feel under pressure to say ‘yes’ and later think ‘this marriage is not the thing for me’,” he tells HuffPost UK.
With that in mind, here are the dos and don’ts of popping the question in public to help you get the result you’re hoping for.
Do your research first.
Singh recommends doing some “ground work” to find out whether or not your partner will enjoy a public proposal, by having some indirect conversations about other proposals you have seen. “Test the water, throw in a couple of case studies or stories and see how your partner reacts,” he says.
Don’t steal the limelight.
Proposers should be cautious of popping the question during a moment that means a lot to the other person, because you may be accused of stealing the limelight.: “If somebody was going to get an award, for example, and then you propose, the other person might feel that you’re taking away from their achievement to give yourself attention,” Singh says.
Do avoid clichés.
Picking a location that means something to your partner can ensure a public proposal still feels personal. Tiffany Wright, founder of proposal planning service The One Romance, says you should avoid the “proposing in a restaurant” cliché. “It’s dull and boring. If you are going to propose in public do it properly and arrange something memorable and unique,” she tells HuffPost UK.
Don’t wing it.
While spontaneity can be romantic, Wright says a public proposal requires careful thought to avoid pitfalls. “Attempting a public proposal without planning it is a recipe for disaster. If you are planning to propose publicly make sure you plan, plan, plan, so that nothing will go wrong in the moment,” she says.
Do buy a ring.
If you’re proposing in private, a ring is not essential, but Wright says: “if you are proposing publicly everyone will be waiting to see the ring. Make sure you have one”.
Don’t put on a show.
Proposing via a flashmob may work if your partner is a huge fan of music and dance, but as a general rule, wedding and events planner Cassandra Eyre says you should avoid putting on a show. “It may be in public but you want them to feel special and that it’s from the heart and not about the other people that are there to witness,” she explains.
Do think about your audience.
Our relationships with friends and family are unique, so Singh recommends thinking carefully about whether your partner will want loved ones to be part of a proposal. “Some people are close to their family and some people are not at all. Think about who is important to them. Sometimes doing it in front of random strangers is better than doing it in front of people you know,” he says.
Don’t panic if your partner says ‘no’.
Receiving a rejection from a marriage proposal is never easy, but if you’ve chosen to propose in public, the embarrassment can make things feel worse. However, Singh says it doesn’t mean you need to break up with your partner or that your relationship is doomed for failure. Instead, he recommends open communication to get your love life back on track.
“Speak about whether it was too soon or if the public space was the wrong place to do it,” he says. “People can recover from this and still go on to build a strong relationship. Inevitably, people will get things wrong in a relationship at some point, as long as you talk about it and work through it together, you can move on.”