Four days. Your girlfriend has been looking forward to four days--and, arguably, maybe a few more--her entire life: 1) her wedding; 2) becoming a mother; 3) an event that already happened with some other dude in high school or college; and 4) the engagement proposal. Let's focus on #4. The proposal matters. And you know this. In fact, you're probably over-thinking it, sweating it, getting paranoid.
If you're like most guys, you're having some version of the following inner-monologue: "Okay, this proposal thing needs to be romantic, but I don't wanna be some damn cheeseball. Should I do it in public? Yeah. Yeah. That'll make it memorable. Wait, but then I'll be the mope on one knee in a restaurant asking her to marry me, and what if she says no? And what about the engagement ring, should I hide the son of a bitch? And what are the 49ers going to do with their first-round draft pick? The O-Line could use a little--[etc, etc, mind wandering, interest in subject exhausted]."
Your first move: read The Plunge's 10 Commandments of Popping the Question. That's our overall advice for how to think about the marriage proposal, how to scheme, how to not screw it up. But maybe you need some actual, concrete guidelines. We've rounded up the most common, cool proposal ideas (and the uncool) and given you the Pros and Cons. Good luck.
The Family Gathering Proposal
If she likes: Awkward public moments.
Pros: Very few. If her parents already love you, perhaps they'll love you even more. And you won't have to spend two hours serially calling all of her relatives and repeating how-you-proposed stories and announcing your engagement--they're all there. Whhooo.
Cons: Don't do this. Ever. It puts crushing pressure on her, it's awkward for the family, and it robs the moment of all its privacy and dignity. Plus, proposing in front of the family is what the bad guy does in romantic comedies--Bradley Cooper in Wedding Crashers, Cal from Titanic, and the Soul Glo guy from Coming to America. Don't be that guy.
Airplane Letters in the Sky
If she likes: Attention, avionics
Pros: Can be dramatic. Creates the sense that this is NEWS, something that everyone within a 3-mile radius must know about, and must know about now. Also, if you're truly daring and want to risk some pinpoint timing, you can combine this with any other proposal idea and use it as the punch line for when you're ready to ask the question, "will you marry me.".
Cons: There's risk. Do you know precisely when this will happen? Are you absolutely convinced you can get her outdoors at the right place at the right time in the right weather...and that the pilot spells the right name?
The Sporting Event
If she likes: Attention from 16,000 strangers.
Pros: This one's tricky. Remember that the marriage proposal is about her, not you. So if you're a die-hard Orioles fan and think it would be badass to propose to her at a game, well, don't. Only do it if she's the die-hard Orioles fan, and even then, only do it if she's obsessed. And don't do this in a playoff game. That last "playoff game" rule is less about romance and more about male-etiquette. Dude it's the playoffs. Show some respect for your team.
Cons: If the answer's not "Yes," you'll blow $60,000 on therapy over the next 10 years to heal the scars.
Cook Her Dinner
If she likes: Quiet evenings at home more than trendy hotspots
Pros: This works best for guys who never cook. Seriously. It'll mean that much more to her. And frankly, cooking a meal isn't really that damn hard. You just find a recipe and follow the bastard. Bonus: sometime in advance, get her to confess her absolute favorite dinner ever-including details on side dishes, appetizers, and dessert. If you're desperate for information and she's tight-lipped, resort to the old "What would you order for dinner as your last meal in case you get electrocuted?" trick. Recreate this meal faithfully down to every last detail, minus electrocution.
Cons: You need to dress it up (flowers, a cartoonish amount of candles, wear a tie, etc.) otherwise it might be too ho-hum.
If she likes: Mountain Dew, the X-Games, saying the word "bitchin'"
Pros: We suppose this could work for the certain kind of woman, but you need to be abundantly certain that she has thought about getting engaged, is ready for it, expects it any day now, and the marriage proposal itself is just a formality. A sudden surprise or shock could lead to her freaking out and forgetting to open the parachute, which might cause the not-ideal downside of...
Read the entire list of proposal ideas--including the romantic restaurant, the scavenger hunt, the walk on the beach, and our favorite (the vacation)--in the full article here.