By Timothy R. Schulte
The trouble begins when the vision of a Jumbotron leaps to the mind of a young man in love. In his eyes, there's nothing more romantic than the idea of popping the question, in lights, at the big game. In her eyes, says jeweler Emerson Robbins, such proposal is likely to be a big, jumbo-sized mistake.
"Public proposals are dangerous," says Robbins, owner of E.E. Robbins The Engagement Ring Store, Seattle. "A good 'don't' is don't do it publicly with friends and family unless there's no doubt in your mind she'll say yes."
There's no right or wrong way to propose as long as it's creative and romantic, Robbins says, but putting a woman on the spot could complicate matters. "Remember, this is a moment she will remember for the rest of her life; make it special."
As a third-generation jeweler, Robbins has seen about all there is to see in the engagement business. One customer who enjoyed mountain climbing with his future wife trained for weeks with a falconer, hoping to have one of the birds deliver a special "air mail" package during a climb. When the lovebird and the falcon couldn't perfect the routine, he went with a more traditional, intimate proposal over dinner. Another customer decided to bury the ring in the sand to keep it hidden, but when the couple made it to the beach the buried treasure was unable to be found. Hiding the ring at the beach or anywhere else probably isn't the best idea, says Robbins.
In years past, as a service to men gearing up for a proposal, Robbins' store handed out how-to books to help guys with the proposal. After a while, though, he realized the ideas and stories he heard from his own customers were better than the ones in the books. So last year he started a contest looking for the best wedding proposal story. Seven months and more than 1,000 responses later he had a winner.
The top prize - a $10,000 diamond - went to students Joe Springer and Allison Porter: On a kayaking trip during a rare weekend getaway, Joe had a lantern-lit raft set up a half-mile offshore, complete with snacks and wine. Joe presented her with his grandmother's wedding ring as he read aloud a journal entry from three years earlier, when he wrote that he'd just met his future wife: a girl named Allison.
The happy couple and engagement ring expert offer their advice for popping the question:
- Talk about marriage and be sure it's something you both want.
- Make it a surprise. "Our thing is that we feel that the ring is important, but the proposal is just as important, if not more important," Robbins says.
- Remember it's for the both of you. If you can incorporate something you both love and share together, do.
- Make sure your plan works and that you have thought it out carefully. Burying the ring in the sand may not be such a good idea.
- Think more about romance and personal significance rather than something sensational.
- Put time and effort into it and show that you thought about it.
- Don't act like it's no big deal. Asking in the car or in bed certainly won't make any books.
- Don't rush it, says Robbins. Guys have the tendency to just get things done and over with.
- Don't get distracted by having to ask the question. "Asking was a piece of cake," Springer says.
- Don't fret if things don't go as planned, says Porter. The attempt is what's meaningful.
Robbins has put his knowledge - and some stories from his customers - between the covers of "Popping the Question, Seattle Style," a book of 99 real-life proposal stories gathered from the contest that will be published this fall