In need of logistical help to pull off a Movie-style marriage proposal!
February 18, 2016 3:52 PM   Subscribe

I have a running joke with my girlfriend regarding an over-elaborate way that I want to propose to her, what I'd love to do is catch her completely off-guard by actually pulling it off!

So, the basic premise is this: We are walking on a beach during off hours when no one else is around, when out of nowhere, a glass bottle washes ashore. Inside this "Impossible Message in a Bottle" is the engagement ring as well as a weathered note saying "will you marry me?". The neck of the bottle is too narrow to get the message or ring out, so it must be carefully broken to be retrieved. At this exact moment, the song "Message in a Bottle" by the Police starts playing (from beneath the sand). Once the music starts, I take if from there and yada yada yada she hopefully says YES!

So hive-mind, here are the challenges:

How to get the bottle to appear to wash ashore on cue
How to get a ring inside an "impossible bottle"
How to obtain a costume-replica ring to be placed in the bottle, that can be swapped via sleight of hand for the real ring
how to auto-cue a small speaker system buried under the sand to play "Message in a Bottle"

Thanks in advance for any help or advice you might have!
posted by 777 to Human Relations (23 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think the bottle part could be accomplished by using some clear fishing line. Tie one end to a rock and the other to the neck of the bottle. Toss bottle in the sea. Either it washes up on its own or you stumble on the line, ask what's this and then pull it in. A portable blue tooth speaker could be buried in the sand near the line in a plastic baggie. Have your phone pre loaded to play or have it in a loop playing and when you connect to the speaker it automatically will start up. I would just get a costume jewelry ring and not worry about swapping. First put that on and then reach into pocket and say here is the real one.
posted by AugustWest at 3:59 PM on February 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

Came in to say fishing line as well. Enlist a friend to hide behind a rock (or dock, or boardwalk) and hold the string and pull it at the right moment, as well as play the song for you (not to mention take photos, if possible).

A fake rock for him / her to hide inside could also be obtained.
posted by Mchelly at 4:11 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: To get the ring in the bottle cut the bottom off; stuff whatever you want inside; then glue the bottom back on with a clear UV set adhesive.
posted by Mitheral at 4:19 PM on February 18, 2016 [8 favorites]

Having a friend pull the bottle in is a great idea. Having another to video the whole thing is pretty important too. A false rock Bluetooth speaker wouldn't need to be buried. Don't worry about the ring switch. Get a decent quality costume one though, as she'll probably want to keep it. Congrats!!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 4:23 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Use a placeholder ring. Please do not put the real, expensive ring anywhere near the ocean or on the boardwalk. There's far too many people who have lost rings in the ocean because of that. Maybe use a cute seahorse or shell ring or something as the placeholder. Don't worry about swapping it out on the sly.

You could also get a wide-mouth bottle. A "milk bottle" may be a good search term. Then you can just pop everything in. I'd also consider a jar as well. Wrap the note tight with some string or ribbon in a bow so you can easily pop it out and it open it without it getting stuck in the bottle.

I'd use a small camping stake in the sand under a rock with fishing line and a bluetooth speaker somewhere nearby. You could set up a little bluetooth boombox on a towel nearby just as normal beach stuff. Have a friend send the music. Test beforehand so they're not too far away.
posted by Crystalinne at 4:30 PM on February 18, 2016 [6 favorites]

Best answer: For weathering the note, tear and/or burn the edges of the paper then stain it by wetting it with tea, letting it dry, and repeating until it's as dark as you want it to be. Regular printer paper will look surprisingly convincing, but you could also use writing parchment or linen.
posted by cmoj at 4:31 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm finding the suggestions not to do the ring switch to be very ill-considered.

If you can pull of the ring switch, you totally should. If you're going to the trouble of setting a scene in which a bottle with a ring and a proposal magically appear along with music from the ether, any kind of acknowledgement with a lame, "Haha! Here's the real one!" can only be detrimental to the atmosphere. I'm not saying it would ruin everything, but it's a simple switch with a palmed ring, and you want this to be as immersive as possible.

Her experience should be that somehow this bottle shows up, and the bottle gets broken and she puts the ring from the bottle on her finger and that is her engagement ring and holy crap how did this happen it's magic!!?!

It's showmanship and a magic trick, and it's worth doing right.
posted by cmoj at 4:40 PM on February 18, 2016 [17 favorites]

This is just me being hyperaware of things that cause injuries, but I strongly suggest making it possible to get the message out of the bottle without breaking it. Broken glass on the beach is not a good idea for you or for anyone else who's going to be passing by the area. You'll never get it cleaned up. It doesn't sound like having to break the bottle adds anything to the romance and if anything I'd foresee it really stalling the show and losing you some momentum.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:41 PM on February 18, 2016 [33 favorites]

You could get/have made a rubber ring, which could squish down into the bottle.
posted by Vaike at 4:54 PM on February 18, 2016

Just have a small scarf or something to wrap the bottle in when breaking it to minimize broken glass on the beach. It looks like you're set with the suggestions above. I think you can pull this off without a friend involved.
posted by studioaudience at 5:19 PM on February 18, 2016

Here are some other things to consider:

-- hire a photographer to capture the whole thing from afar in both photo and video form
-- make sure you do this at a time where you could safely hide a wire mic on your person in order to pick up solid audio
-- maybe even consider getting a lapel camera or make an excuse to have a go pro with you so you can capture some first person footage, too
-- enlist friends and family to help unless your GF is opposed to a non-private proposal

Mazel tov, and may your plans go off without a hitch whenever and whatever you decide!
posted by Hermione Granger at 5:55 PM on February 18, 2016

minimize broken glass on the beach

Minimal broken glass on the beach is still too much broken glass on the beach.
posted by Candleman at 6:09 PM on February 18, 2016 [12 favorites]

If you have a confederate to pull in the bottle, they could also have a speaker and trigger the music for you. This has the advantage of having the music waft in from afar and seem serendipitous.

It might be weird to have other people actively participating in your private moment, so I suggest that your confederate should not reveal themselves. They should look like an ordinary beachgoer, lying on a towel, reading a book or something. Once the piece is done (ie, when you are rapturously kissing), they should pack up their stuff and walk away, with the music still playing, as if they are a normal beachgoer.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:36 PM on February 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: You can get a breakaway bottle - this site says they can custom make a shape, which could also mean they could potentially make it with the ring inside or with a wide enough mouth for you to put it in and then stopper in some way to make it seem like it's stuck.
posted by Mchelly at 6:54 PM on February 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: These are all amazing suggestions! Fishing line...brilliant. I was thinking I would have to find a friend who was SCUBA certified and have them swim the bottle to shore! A few more details:

-I plan on proposing while the beach is relatively empty
-I will be able to have a friend or two help me in this, and stay hidden for the duration
-I have some experience with sleight of hand, so a ring switch is feasible

Does anyone have a good resource for costume jewelry? Specifically a halo-style diamond ring with a smooth band?
posted by 777 at 7:26 PM on February 18, 2016

Best answer: If you're going to be filming/photographing this for posterity, please PLEASE make sure you time this so that your girlfriend looks her best. Don't just go for a casual stroll on the beach where she's allowed to throw on whatever ratty beach clothes, no makeup, etc. Make the walk after an event for which she got all dolled up. You don't want to be watching the video years from now only to have your wife's enjoyment of the memory diminished by focusing on flaws in the way she looked. Almost everyone wants to look their best for big important moments like these, and she's not going to know beforehand that strolling on a beach is going to be a Big Important Moment (TM) that will be captured on film.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 10:21 PM on February 18, 2016 [8 favorites]

For costume jewelry, I just did a quickie search on Amazon and found this. Amazon is a surprisingly useful resource for el cheapo costume jewels!
posted by nerdfish at 1:34 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just in case you weren't aware and might want to incorporate it into the proceedings, Sting's Il Palagio estate in Tuscany makes a red wine called Message in a Bottle. It's available in the US.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:19 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 1. Maybe try a breakaway bottle to minimize any damage to yourself or other beachgoers? You'd have to test it to make sure it could withstand being dragged ashore.
2. Have the friend practice pulling the bottle ashore to make sure the line is not obvious, and the motion of the bottle is realistic.
3. The sleight-of-hand would be quite easy if you use the idea of breaking the bottle in a scarf or napkin, regardless of whether it is breakaway or real glass.
4. Rehearse the playing of the music on the speaker many times to get the timing right. Bluetooth speakers can be finicky. The bottle-pulling friend can be in charge of cueing the music as well.
5. Definitely have a second friend (or hired professional) on hand to get video, and a hidden mic is a great idea.
6. Keep in mind that as soon as she sees the bottle wash ashore, she is going to know what is going on, even if she doesn't know how you are accomplishing it, so move quickly from finding the bottle to the actual proposal.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:33 AM on February 19, 2016

nthing the breakaway bottle idea. I'd like to add that if breaking the bottle is part of the discussed scenario, you MUST break it. Just like cmoj's point that the "haha just kidding" moment at the end is unacceptable, so is leaving out any aspect of the fantasy as previously discussed.

4. Rehearse the playing of the music on the speaker many times to get the timing right. Bluetooth speakers can be finicky. The bottle-pulling friend can be in charge of cueing the music as well.

Yes. In fact, rehearse everything two or three times, at least!

6. Keep in mind that as soon as she sees the bottle wash ashore, she is going to know what is going on, even if she doesn't know how you are accomplishing it, so move quickly from finding the bottle to the actual proposal.

If you play dumb and say "oh, gee, what could that be?" she will instantly know what's happening. But you might be able to string her along a little longer if you're careful. You'll have to play it by ear to a certain extent, and depending on your usual demeanor and sense of humor, this may or may not work, but here's how I would play it: Let her spot the bottle first. As soon as she draws your attention to it, act interested and surprised for just a tiny moment, but then go deadpan and tell her that oh yes, that's the bottle with the ring and the engagement note in it. She will assume, if you're lucky, that it really is just a random bottle and you're going into your usual joking around about the scenario. As you're fishing the bottle out (and pulling the fishing line out of the blob of wax you used to affix it to the bottle so you don't have to fumble with untying it), you can call back over your shoulder "any second now the police will start playing!"
Then, when you turn around and she sees you trying unsuccessfully to shake the ring out of the bottle's neck, the realization will hit her, hopefully much harder than it would have if you copped to it right away.
posted by Krawczak at 1:52 PM on February 19, 2016

Just chiming in to say this is adorable, and please post in Projects when complete!

Also: the ocean is louder than you think at the wrong moments. Test for volume in advance.

Be sure to include tide level at estimated time of proposal in your planning! Because if you and said friends test this at a different time, your results will vary.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 5:34 AM on February 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you every for all the amazing advice and suggestions! I will keep you all posted with how it goes... (should happen in April) !!!
posted by 777 at 9:04 AM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

posted by Rock Steady at 2:46 PM on May 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

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