Getting Engaged - Romantic Surprise or Planned Event?The classic scene from every jewelry store commercial or romantic comedy has the suitor dropping to one knee to present a shiny engagement ring to his gleaming girlfriend.

She puts her hands to her mouth and gasps with excitement – and surprise!

The more I hear engagement stories nowadays the more I wonder whether she was really all that shocked.

Chances are she may have picked out that shiny diamond ring herself and maybe even helped to plan the romantic night out where the question was popped.  I’ve even had friends whose girlfriend basically dictated every detail of their engagement.

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And given that nearly half of couples now live together before marriage, could she really be all that surprised when the night arrives for the proposal?  After all, she may have helped pay for the ring herself.

Yet, the hopeless romantic in me has to believe that there are still couples out there doing it right!

Our Engagement Story

I don’t think I’ve ever shared the story of how I proposed to Bethany, so I’ll give the quick version here.

Keep in mind that we were high school sweethearts (gag if you must), and we’d been together for around 4 years at the time.  I believe I was 20, and she had just turned 19 so we were pretty young…and broke.

While Bethany certainly had some idea this next step in our relationship was coming, I did my best to keep it romantic and tried to surprise her.

We had visited ring stores a few times where she slyly (or not so slyly) hinted about the types of engagement rings she liked…a classic solitaire with a gold band…the bigger the better. 🙂

I bought the ring without her finding out, and I actually took out my one and only student loan to help pay for it.  I do not recommend doing the same, but I was desperate to get this ring!

Before the night came, I very nervously called up her Dad to ask his permission not just for his daughter’s hand in marriage (the easy part) but if I could take her somewhere overnight (NOT easy to ask) – I unwisely chose a time when she was back home on a college break.

I lucked out and got to talk to her Mom instead, which was a bit easier.  The stage was set.

I sent her a letter beforehand using fancy language to explain what she should wear and that she should pack a bag.  I picked her up from her parents’ house and headed to downtown St. Louis for dinner at the fanciest restaurant in town – Tony’s.

At the time, I hadn’t spent much time in the city, and I couldn’t find the restaurant!  We drove all around and finally found it, nearly losing our reservation after showing up 20 minutes late.

We enjoyed an extremely nice and super expensive meal that took much longer than I had anticipated.  I was nervous the entire meal and felt completely out of place with the tuxedo-wearing waiters that swooped in to clear every crumb and tried to help you sit down when you returned from the bathroom.  I was just a simple country boy.

The next part of the night was supposed to happen outside in a quaint river town called Elsah, Illinois where Bethany had mentioned she’d love to visit sometime for a romantic getaway when we were older.  I had reserved a room at a nice little bed and breakfast on the riverfront.

I had plans to take her to a park in town to pop the question, but with my poor planning it turned out to be pitch black dark outside when we arrived.  We walked to the park, but we actually found it eery since everyone in the town was already asleep!

I abandoned those plans and nervously returned to our room at the B&B.  I decided just to go for it, so I gave Bethany a card that shared my feelings, and at the end it asked her to turn around to make me the happiest man alive.

You guessed it, I was there on one knee with that sparkly ring.  Fortunately, she said yes and we’ve pretty much lived happily ever after.

What’s YOUR Engagement Story?

I’d love to hear your engagement story in the comments below.  Was it a planned event or did he surprise you?  Did she do the proposing?  What went right or wrong in the process?

Share your story in the comments!


About the author 


Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

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  1. Your engagement story sounds wonderful, but it’s a bit condescending and closed-minded to say that that’s “doing it right.” Is it so wrong for an engagement not to be a total surprise?

    There’s a lot of value in engagements that aren’t a complete surprise. When it’s a complete surprise, the couple hasn’t talked about getting married. The man (who is presumably the one asking) is ready for marriage, but is the woman? Maybe, maybe not. She might say no (which has a tendency to ruin the relationship) or, even worse, she might say yes *and not be ready.* People can often get caught up in the surprise or emotion of the moment and say yes when they’re not really ready for it.

    Talking about getting engaged beforehand allows the woman to say, “hey, I’m not ready for this.” This prevents the couple from winding up in an engagement / marriage that both aren’t ready for, or from a rejected proposal sabotaging an otherwise good relationship. Isn’t that a good thing?

    My husband and I talked about engagement before he proposed, and I knew he was going to propose sometime in the next few months. We both knew that we were on the same page. When he proposed, it was still a huge surprise.

    Maybe the right thing for your relationship was to ask without knowing what her answer would be, but this isn’t right for every relationship. Respect that.

    1. Guys have to ask a woman (or girl) out without knowing the answer. And we’ll get rejected 100 times be fore someone give him a chance to talk her into bed. She’ll say no to his advances 100 times before she says yes. She’ll say no to him 100 times about many things before he wears her down or gives up. And then, at some point, she wants control. She picks the ring and the time and the manner, and might still say no. Yeah, I fell for that and played that game. If I get married again, she’ll wear the ring I want her to wear, and we will love it because she loves me and knows that’s the ring I want to see her in and show her off with. And if that’s not acceptable, then she can say no, I’ll take the ring back (30 money back) and find someone who’s parents and society didn’t screw up as much. If she appreciates me and our relationship, she’ll love any ring I get her and enjoy any manner I propose. People who don’t appreciate the people who love them don’t deserve them. Let me let you control freak bridezillas into a little secret. We can always adjust the ring later. Surrender, and it will be perfect! When you tell your friend how it happened, how grand the story is will not be as impressive as how you relay how grand you feel about it.

    2. Hi Julie,

      Thanks very much for your excellent comments. I want to clarify a few points:

      – When I said that making it a surprise was “doing it right” I meant from my own perspective as a “hopeless romantic” – that was intended to be a bit tongue and cheek.

      – More importantly, I am referring to the actual act of proposing here and not the whole idea of moving toward engagement. I TOTALLY agree with you that a couple should have talked about moving toward marriage and a proposal shouldn’t be a total shock.

      My wife and I were in the same situation as you and your husband…we knew we’d get married “some day” but the proposal was still a surprise. I had 100% confidence that her answer would be yes.



  2. We’d actually been talking about marriage for a few months. My birthday was coming up and he had mentioned that he wanted to get me a new knife set {we love cooking together and I needed one}. He waited until the night before my birthday to go shopping for my present. Since we’d talked about the knife set, I figured that’s what I was getting. Then he ruined the whole surprise by calling me to ask what my ring size was while he was out shopping! When he got home he just handed me the bag since he figured I knew what he’d got me! I technically never got the “will you marry me” question.

  3. It was a surprise for me. I blogged about it here:

    I knew that my now-husband would propose, but I thought he would’ve waited a few months until after the holidays, so I wasn’t suspecting it. We had talked about marriage in general, but never had the “If I asked you to marry me, would you say yes?” conversation. That seems a little too ‘forced’/’safe’/what-have-you, but we both knew where we were headed.

    We didn’t go ring shopping together – I had a family ring that I wanted to use, so he secured that from my mom when he asked her blessing to propose.

    But planning an engagement has become more popular – men can even hire engagement planners to pull up a big surprise. I think this is becoming more popular because of things like pinterest and youtube and because, for more and more couples, actually getting engaged isn’t a surprise, so the only surprise left is how he actually asks. Just the world we live in, I guess.

    1. Thanks so much, Jayme. I totally agree with your thoughts on engagement planning – it’s becoming a popular business!


  4. Now that’s pretty romantic. Something that I lack.

    I asked my wife to marry me by asking if she thought we were going to get married, while sitting on her couch. She said she thought so, so I told her to pick from a set of dates.

    While that’s the official way it happened, I also took her on a sleigh ride in February and got down on one knee while the driver got out to “check” the conditions of the snow up ahead.

  5. We went to a Charity Ball with two other couples (who were in on it). While we were dancing to one of my favorite songs he talked about our relationship. Then he spun me around and got down on one knee, I actually though that he FELL! That is how surprised I was. Everyone else was screaming, laughing and taking pictures. He even had to ask me twice because I was in such shock. I had it in my mind he would ask me after the holidays, this was early November. It was great because there was a photographer there; we got some really great pictures. This was a wonderful night and special because he is an introvert and I am an extrovert, this was so unexpected of him. He knew that I would love it AND not expect it from him. He also designed the ring himself!

  6. We were living in different places and only seeing each other at weekends. We went out for a drink one night and he asked me. I wasn’t expecting a proposal but I wasn’t totally surprised. I loved him. I said yes. Then we went shopping for a ring the next day and chose one together. I wouldn’t have liked a very public proposal with him down on bended knee in front of an interested audience, or having to pretend I liked the ring he chose and having to wear it for a lifetime. I suppose love is recognizing what your other half would like and making it happen like that! Worked for us – we’ve been married 25 years.

  7. Ours was totally a surprise! Not that it I wasn’t hoping, praying and waiting!!
    We are 22 and 23, in college… we’d never looked at rings together but had talked about our future since the moment we started dating. We went on a weekend getaway, the first we’d ever been on, to a small bed and breakfast in Kimswick. We visited all the quaint town places. He gave me a present, a book (I love to read…). It is called “Love Across the Ages’, inside he’d cut a heart where the ring was, and beautiful sentimental words were written. And I love that it sits on our book shelf. He got down on one knee and asked, of course I said YES!! Later he shared that when he asked my dad for my hand, he asked him if he had a plan for if I said no. When we called to tell the families that we were engaged, my dad was the only one to ask, what did you say?

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