And he's going to be my wife
March 30, 2010 2:07 PM   Subscribe

I want to propose to my male significant other. What should I do, and what should I give him?

I am a woman. I want to propose to a man. I want him to take this seriously, and to say "Yes."

First: I have some time to plan the proposal and to save up for an engagement gift. I'd like to propose in a romantic, surprising way, and I could use some ideas. I've seen some earlier posts on ways to propose, but most of them have been man-proposing-to-woman or man-proposing-to-man, and I guess I'd like to do something new or different than the traditional "get down on one knee in a fancy restaurant after hiding the ring in the food." I don't want to get down on one knee; I will probably be wearing a skirt and that's awkward. I don't want to be miming the "male role" here, bringing up years of memories of movies and commercials where a man did the same thing. I want to do something at least gender-neutral.

Second: A man who is seriously proposing to a woman is socially expected to buy an engagement ring. I personally think this is an outdated practice, but it does give the proposal a certain air of gravity and sincerity. I want to give him an equally symbolic engagement gift. I know it's not tradition, and I don't care. Please no "you don't need to get him anything" answers.

  • If possible I would like something that carries the same "this will last forever" symbolic meaning of an engagement ring
  • I don't think he'd wear jewelry
  • He prefers utility over price or pizazz (he likes fountain pens, so I thought about one of those jewel-encrusted Mont Blancs, but of course he'd never use that and so wouldn't really like it)

Men, what would you like to have as an engagement present? Girl-daters, how would you like your girlfriend to propose to you? Women, what ways to propose can you think of that would make you look the least ridiculous?
posted by audacity to Human Relations (46 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
As a dude, I'd like a ring. But if you were going to get him something useful, a car or truck would do. Or a scooter.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:09 PM on March 30, 2010

I had a pair of friends who intended to give each other engagement bicycles.
posted by nat at 2:12 PM on March 30, 2010 [9 favorites]

How about some kind of scrapbook, detailing your relationship, ending with a page at the end with your proposal?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:12 PM on March 30, 2010

Response by poster: What kind of ring would you like, and wear? (Also, I'd get him a wedding ring, too; wouldn't that be too many rings?)
posted by audacity at 2:12 PM on March 30, 2010

Best answer: Well a good watch is a lifetime possession and acceptable man jewelery for men that don't wear jewelery.
posted by clarkie666 at 2:13 PM on March 30, 2010 [29 favorites]

Best answer: I know someone who proposed to his wife with a diamond record player needle (she was into music, and these are apparently high quality?) rather than a diamond ring. You could do some sort of twist like that if you can think of something that he would really appreciate along those lines -- a diamond saw blade, perhaps, if he's into tools?
posted by cider at 2:14 PM on March 30, 2010

Does he wear a watch? I'm not a big jewelry guy myself, but I would surely make an "engagement watch" my everyday watch much like an engagement ring. It also could be engraved, have diamonds on the bezel for the tie-in to engagements, lots of possibilities.
posted by dnesan at 2:15 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

A good option to get past the "too many rings" feeling are interlocking or puzzle rings. Give one part for engagement, the second part at the wedding. You could have a matching one for yourself.
posted by ocherdraco at 2:15 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Could you propose with the wedding ring, rather than with an "extra" engagement ring?
posted by cider at 2:16 PM on March 30, 2010 [6 favorites]

Plane tickets for your elopement would be nice. Many practical guys would love to elope rather than do a large wedding (YMMV).

I proposed using a hermit crab on the beach as the ring delivery vehicle, but it depends if you are both into invertebrates.
posted by benzenedream at 2:16 PM on March 30, 2010 [10 favorites]

To the extent this is at all traditional (not very), I would think a nice watch might be a good choice. A wrist watch (ideally something without a plastic strap!) or a pocket watch could do nicely.
posted by JMOZ at 2:16 PM on March 30, 2010

Get him tattooed with your initials (kidding). Get him a watch.
posted by anniecat at 2:16 PM on March 30, 2010

Best answer: For the gift, maybe a watch, pocket watch or nice, engraved key chain of some sort? They would all have an actual use, but would be a nice reminder of the event.

As for the rest of it, here is a gender-neutral version of what I've told my guy friends when they've come to me for advice:

1. Do not do it in a public place unless you're sure the person wants that. Proposing in at least a semi-private place gives your significant other the opportunity to refuse without embarrassing both of you in front of a lot of people. (Of course, you wouldn't be asking if you didn't think the other person would say yes, but this is a polite thing to do.)

2. No matter what you want to say, when you get to the actual proposal ask a direct yes or no question and look the person in the eye. I think "Will you marry me?" "Will you spend the rest of your life with me?" "Will you be my husband?" etc, are all fine. This gives the other person, who is probably a little surprised and excited, a clear idea of when and how to respond.

Best of luck to you!
posted by shesbookish at 2:16 PM on March 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

Why not get him a Mont Blanc? It doesn't have to be so fancy that it discourages daily use. Along that line, anything he can use very regularly for a long time is great. The more it has the potential to be "part of him" the way a ring is, the better, imho.
posted by slow graffiti at 2:16 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

First: Make absolutely sure a female proposal is something he'd be cool with. I hope this is obvious, but unfortunately the man proposing is one of those assumptions that's very prevalent in society. It would suck if you came across as the pushy girlfriend speeding him along because he hasn't done it yet. I know that's not where you're coming from, but I don't where he's coming from. If he believes it's his job he may already be planning a proposal of his own.

That said, your choice of gift will depend entirely on what his interests are. The first thing that comes to my mind as a practical item that also says "this will last forever" is a set of tools. Maybe socket wrenches. Of course, this is a pretty stereotypical "man thing," so it might not be appropriate in a progressive female-proposal situation. I'm not sure that my advice will be so useful for you, after all. :-)
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 2:19 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I just dropped in to agree that a watch is a great present. It's utilitarian, can be as expensive as you want, and even guys who don't wear jewelry can use a nice watch. There are so many kinds of watches that you should be able to find a nice one that fits his personality. You can even tie the watch into some kind of sentiment like "I want to be with you until the end of time." or something like that. If you get him one of those nice self winding watches you don't even have to worry about batteries dying.
posted by TooFewShoes at 2:23 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

If he would wear a ring- when I proposed to my [now] husband, I got us matching titanium rings that served as both engagement and wedding rings. We're still wearing them 6.5 years later. No double rings to worry about, and one less thing to think about during wedding planning time!
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 2:24 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Watch is the way to go.
posted by spaltavian at 2:31 PM on March 30, 2010

Best answer: For proposal: This is very, very individual. I know couples for whom a lot of the traditional elements (man on one knee, etc) were very important; I know others for whom it was repulsive. I'm not involved with anyone right now; if I were, my inclinations toward proposal run either to the almost-jokingly offhand ("Hey, could you do me a favor? Marry me?") or references to extremely personal things (think of the artists who draw comics to propose, or a games-fond couple using a scrabble board.) That's me, though - and frankly, it's just an inversion of how I'd propose, myself, to an entirely hypothetical girl; obviously if I had an actual girlfriend that'd presumably change my attitude, based on her own personality and preferences.

As for the gift:

Part of the problem in substituting something for the ring is that the ring is something that can be worn/shown off every day. Unless it's jewelry - and you have to be certain he'd love it - it isn't necessarily something he'll use, or be able to use, every day. There really isn't anything I could receive that I could imagine wearing/using as much as a woman wears her engagement ring.

If you were proposing to me, I'd suggest a ring - but rather than jeweled, some kind of custom, ornate engraving or design in the ring itself. The watch is also not a bad idea, it's just a little trickier to buy in advance, if that's what you have in mind - obviously you know your guy's body pretty well, but a couple of millimeters' difference in width or thickness can make a huge difference in how it looks... and a watch isn't as universally-wearable as a ring, and risks looking dated in a way that a more subtle ring doesn't.
posted by Tomorrowful at 2:31 PM on March 30, 2010

This is going to sound silly, but I’m just repeating what a female friend gave her fiancé as an engagement gift, and it seemed interesting and novel because it was a good fit for the two of them. The couple also really was not into jewelry or rings, and in fact, they were opposed to diamonds for political reasons. Okay I don't think this may help you, OP, but someone else looking for may be appropriate.

The man had loved dogs, and a particular type of dog. The woman adopted this type of dog from a shelter, and gave it to him when they moved in together before the marriage. Because they were not going to purchase a ring, they named the dog “Tiffany” and the dog was a symbol of their love and upcoming marriage.

Obviously, this type of gift would only be appropriate for a small part of the population, but a dog sounds more interesting/fun/unique than a ring. This couple loved animals and their life revolved around this.

You probably can't do this because only a small part of the population is involved in this study but a ring made out of your partner's bone tissue sounds symbolic and you are actually sharing a piece of your partner. It would last forever or for the next several hundred years.
posted by Wolfster at 2:33 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am a guy. I do not like jewelry. I did wear a plain gold wedding band.

I would want something long lasting, I could see daily, that had sentimental value and was clearly thought out from you to me. Something unique to us. If he sits at his desk daily, maybe a really nice desk clock engraved with something you wrote. I would also consider something more meaningful like writing him a love poem, having a calligrapher write it on really nice paper and then having it framed in a really nice frame. Be able to hang it somewhere prominent. Maybe add a picture of the two of you. I might also get a money clip engraved with something that he could have with him at all times.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:37 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I like the watch idea, too, but as an anecdata my sister-in-law proposed to my brother with the ring that would be his wedding band. He wore it on his right hand until the wedding. She also proposed at home on Valentine's Day because neither of them was a fan of the holiday, so she knew it'd be a surprise. Worked well for them!

Also, there are lots of expensive and beautiful fountain pens that aren't jewel-encrusted or gaudy, and they can be engraved.
posted by ldthomps at 2:51 PM on March 30, 2010

If we are to believe the evolitionary psychologists, the engagement ring is a show of the worth of the giver so that it can be displayed to others to point to how "fit" the giver is...
posted by Postroad at 2:52 PM on March 30, 2010

What about a really manly, functionally invincible ring? Like this?

Or a really nice watch?
posted by T.D. Strange at 3:12 PM on March 30, 2010

I'd Nth a watch - especially something with an aura of permanence. It would be fairly easy to spend more on a watch than a diamond; but something elegant and Swiss would go a long way in my book. I feel like a pen would be too easy for me to lose; but maybe that's just me.

The other thing that comes to mind would be something like a pendant with some meaning. I for example, don't particularly like jewelery but wear a pendant under my shirt out of view. In my case, its a New Zealand jade carving; but depending on him, some custom design, cross, Celtic Knot, etc. might be cool - something that he can wear every day, remember you by, but not show off.

If he doesn't currently wear rings, then I don't know if I'd recommend an engagement ring and a wedding ring. This would be too much for me.
posted by heh3d at 3:16 PM on March 30, 2010

If possible I would like something that carries the same "this will last forever" symbolic meaning of an engagement ring

There is nothing like that. The engagement ring is the pinnacle. Forget the watch. He can buy himself a watch at the mall.
posted by water bear at 3:19 PM on March 30, 2010

I nth the watch. The very best watch you can afford. Clean, classic, elegant, like the Aqua Terra Chronometer Omega Seamaster. Or a Tourbillon or Prestige De Ville if you want to go mental.

The best way to present it to him? Not in public.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:19 PM on March 30, 2010

I don't think he'd wear jewelry

I think you have a very good chance of being wrong on this. My husband never, ever wore jewelry before we got married, and he happily wears his wedding ring. If you'd prefer that you both wear rings, and you don't know his preference for a fact, give him something like a watch for the engagement and ask him if he'd want a ring for the wedding.
posted by desjardins at 3:20 PM on March 30, 2010

I gave my husband-to-be the gift of health care. Really, that was the gift. But a watch is really nice.
posted by fifilaru at 3:26 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow, there are a lot of answers already! Some comments:

I've already bought him several very fancy pens, so the novelty has worn off.

I'll consider a watch. Any particular brands I should look into?

He is not planning a proposal, and he is not concerned with being the proposer (If he was that worried about his masculinity I wouldn't be interested in him).

I still do not see him wearing jewelry, but you're right; I could be wrong.
posted by audacity at 3:33 PM on March 30, 2010

Response by poster: Aha, I see some watch brands were posted already. Whoops.
posted by audacity at 3:35 PM on March 30, 2010

I proposed and got lizsterr a ring. She got me a nice wheelset for my bike-- two rings. I totally came out ahead.

(I would be blown away if she had beaten me to the punch and given me the wheelset as a surprise alongside the proposal.)
posted by supercres at 3:41 PM on March 30, 2010

I worked with a man who carried in his breast pocket an extreamly nice pen, that fit his style, and that he never lost. I asked him how he held onto it so. He replied that his wife gave it to him.

These days, I practice with my pens to see how long I can hold on to them. It I get to mine drying out, then I pat myself on the back.

An alternative would be either a hand made instrument, or a elegant pocketwatch that would be in the running as a family heirloom.
posted by captainsohler at 3:51 PM on March 30, 2010

What about something like a really nice Swiss army knife that he can wear on a keychain? That or a nice money clip would be something he'd carry with him everywhere.
posted by scarykarrey at 4:29 PM on March 30, 2010

Best answer: He is not planning a proposal, and he is not concerned with being the proposer (If he was that worried about his masculinity I wouldn't be interested in him).

Oooh, ooh, ooh, an excuse to talk about my proposal to the mister! This was us, too. Somewhere over the course of dating, he let on that, while he wasn't ever going to propose because he'd never really planned on getting married when he was younger, he'd be open to saying yes if I did. So I got planning.

He's a very practical dude and has never worn jewelry before. I knew that he wouldn't wear something cheesy and also wouldn't wear anything that wasn't distinctly him. For that reason, things like titanium rings were out (seems too standard and maybe a bit gothy for his tastes). I seriously wracked my brain over something really personal I could get him, and was genuinely unsure of whether he'd wear a ring at all, but I kept coming back to the idea. There's something very weighty about the symbolism of the ring that just felt right.

Front-runners for ring options were wood rings, bone or scrimshaw rings (like a pirate!) or coin rings. But those weren't quite right, either. He's a major history buff (starting an MA in military history in the fall. Woot!), so I started looking into rings that double as historical artifacts. In the end, I found a sterling silver ring on ebay that was being sold as part of an estate sale. It's emblazoned with a lion rampant and the letter V--supposedly, these rings were given to British soldiers to commemorate the allied victory of WWII. And, bonus, it was only thirty-four dollars.

I knew I was a little too shy to come out and ask, and I also thought getting down on one knee was a little corny. So I decided to figure out a way to write him a letter (something I'd been quite comfortable doing over our six years of being together) that would ask for me. I decided I was going to ask on our sixth anniversary. A few years before, I'd gotten him a copy of The Dangerous Book for Boys as an anniversary gift, so I decided that my proposal letter would go on the flyleaf of The Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys, which is awesomely titled "Things to do." I carved out a little hole in the book to hold the ring, and wrote him my letter (which included some insecure hemming and hawing about how I wasn't in a hurry--ironically, we ended up having an engagement of only about a year, but hey, I was nervous!), which, if you want, you can read here. Then I wrapped up the book, along with a mix-cd (which metafilter helped me make--thanks, guys!), and we went out for our anniversary dinner and I almost puked from nerves. After dinner, alone in his room, we exchanged presents. He opened his book, and I urged him to read the inscription, as I always do when I give him books. And then I hid under his blanket.

And he laughed and said "Of course I'll marry you!"

And it was awesome.

Oh, and he wore the ring all the time--we had to get it resized, but he loves it. Nowadays, though, he just wears his wedding ring, but the engagement ring is still something he cherishes. It sits on top of his CPU on his desk and he told me once that he likes looking at it because it reminds him of our engagement. He's cute like that.

So mostly, I just want to say, find a way to propose--and an engagement gift--that's really, really true to both of you. It's a scary process by definition and a little anxiety is natural, but when it comes down to it, have faith that you know what works and doesn't for the two of you. And know that he's bound to recognize that and rise to the occasion. As long as the gift, and the proposal, comes out of a desire to honor your relationship--as long as it comes out of love--he's bound to adore it.

And good luck!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:40 PM on March 30, 2010 [44 favorites]

The sweetest, best, most amazing proposal gift I've ever known was art, made to commemorate the occasion. It was my male friend proposing to his female girlfriend, but they're not the engagement ring type. So it went like this: "Will you marry me?" "Yes." "I made this for you." [swoon]
posted by desuetude at 5:09 PM on March 30, 2010

Just to weight in on the ring idea: I thought an engagement ring was a waste of money, but did want a nice diamond eternity band as my wedding ring. So my husband proposed with my wedding band, and I just wore it on my right hand until we got married, and then I switched it to my left hand.

I thought it was kind of a nice little tradition. It's also what they do in many parts of Europe.
posted by sickinthehead at 6:23 PM on March 30, 2010

I'm as practical, non-jewelry-wearing a guy as you're likely to find, and I'm not at all a traditionalist. But I can't think of anything that could replace a ring in this scenario.
  • A ring is a personal item—almost a part of your body—a way of keeping a symbol and reminder of your love and your commitment with you at all times.
  • But it's small and unobtrusive enough that it doesn't become a nuisance and end up buried in a drawer.
  • It's durable—it will last a lifetime.
  • It is beautiful. (No socket wrenches, please.)
What else meets those criteria? A watch would be the best runner-up, but it's still a far cry from the symbolic gravity and everyday practicality of a ring. I haven't worn a scrap of jewelry since I was a Gothic teenager, but you bet your ass I'd proudly wear an engagement ring from a woman I love.

The cost is immaterial. I'd much rather receive a funky antique made with semi-precious stones and metals than some outrageously expensive thing encrusted with diamonds and gold—something handcrafted that looks like a product of human passion, not something stamped out by a machine. Something exquisite—but quietly so. Only you know your beau's tastes, of course, but I'd love some kind of Victorian thing.

Also, if you can find a ring cast from a meteorite, that would be pretty fucking dope too.
posted by ixohoxi at 7:15 PM on March 30, 2010

"If I was in a coma, I would hate to be kept on life-support."
"I would hate to have to argue with your family about it."

(no jewelry, exchange beach pebbles)
posted by ovvl at 7:34 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Here's some more information in case it wasn't already clear: I want to sweep him off his feet.

My significant other and I have been dating for longer than most marriages last. I want to marry him, not right now (it would be difficult for a number of reasons), but in a few years, which gives me plenty of time to plan and save for a proposal and gift that take his breath away. We've talked about marriage many times and while he says "Oh, we will if you want to, I guess," it is not a priority of his and he is pretty happy with the status quo.

I am also happy with the status quo, but I would like to marry him someday if he'll have me. The important point is that I don't want him to marry me out of a sense of obligation. I've been told to give him a "marriage or I'm gone" ultimatum, but that's terrible and so counter-intuitive. I'm not interested in "getting married," I'm interested in getting married to him. He's the whole reason I'm thinking about it.

So, I want to ask him to marry me in a way that is so romantic, so sweet, and so well-executed that it makes marrying me seem like the best idea he's ever had. I don't want to give him a beach pebble or a scrapbook or anything where the cost is immaterial. I want to buy him something wonderful, durable, and expensive enough so that it's not just another of many, many gifts we've bought each other the years, but instead says "I put thought, effort, time, and money into this to show you how much I love you and how seriously I take our relationship and this proposal."
posted by audacity at 8:03 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

If possible I would like something that carries the same "this will last forever" symbolic meaning of an engagement ring

If there's nothing that you're sure he'll love that meets this criterion, I would suggest dropping it and focusing on the combination of time/expense/awesomeness. If you presented me with a games console or something as an engagement gift I would be doubly stoked because I would know (without needing to be told) that you had prioritized making me happy over picking something boring but long lasting. That's something an awesome wife would do.
posted by tomcooke at 12:18 AM on March 31, 2010

If he might like a watch that is a bit "edgier", I love the types of watches they have at Nixon. They are definitely not traditional, maybe a little too "out there" for a wedding gift, but I know I'd be thrilled to get one (but then again I am non-traditional.)
posted by thisperon at 2:26 AM on March 31, 2010

I want to buy him something wonderful, durable, and expensive enough so that it's not just another of many, many gifts we've bought each other the years, but instead says "I put thought, effort, time, and money into this to show you how much I love you and how seriously I take our relationship and this proposal."

audacity, I've gotta agree with ixohoxi here. I can't think of anything more perfect than a ring, really, for those reasons.

I'm no traditionalist. But I gave my SO and myself rings, which we wear despite not being legally married. I'm a jewelry-wearer, he is not. The small amount of 'bother' required for him to wear the ring makes us both smile. (We'll get around to getting married one of these days when it feels right.)
posted by desuetude at 7:26 AM on March 31, 2010

I ended up proposing to my (now) wife, but I apparently beat her to the punch with not much time to spare, and was given a watch with our initials engraved on it when we got home.
posted by DiamondGFX at 8:04 AM on March 31, 2010

Best answer: I was totally not a jewelry guy - until I got married. Now, I feel naked without my wedding band. A ring is a perfectly acceptable gift - just don't get anything too fancy. I got a really simple beveled white gold band and I like it not because of what it is (though it's attractive in its own right) but rather what it represents.

On the other hand, I also like the watch gift, and/or a hobby-related gift that one could keep for a lifetime - something that will not go out of style, wear out or become obsolete. As an example the best thing for me, personally, would be a guitar. A nice, solid wood acoustic guitar like a Martin or a Gibson will never go out of style and actually improves with age. For this reason, I don't think the pen is a bad idea.

As for a watch, I can't see anyone not loving the timeless Tag Heuer Monaco (as worn by Steve McQueen) or a steel Rolex Daytona. They're the classics.

I'd really encourage you to ask - I would have loved that. I agree about doing it in a somewhat private setting, but only if you're not 100% sure of the answer. I think if you're in the position to seriously ask someone, there's a low chance of it going foul. Good luck!
posted by jimmythefish at 12:40 PM on April 1, 2010

Response by poster: This question from 2009 really has some great answers.
posted by audacity at 10:12 AM on April 3, 2010

« Older Shine on, little bulb   |   Daring Fireballesq. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.