If you didn't know it, we are in the midst of Engagement Season. The majority of wedding proposals in America take place between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve meaning that there are a lot of people about to "put a ring on it" in the next couple of weeks. Some of us, through no choice of our own, may find ourselves bearing witness to some of these engagements as couples take to the streets, parks, stadiums and TV shows to ask the "big question".
After that disastrous -- though potentially fake -- proposal on the "Ellen Show" last week, where the guy asks his girlfriend to marry him she says no, it got us thinking a bit about public proposal etiquette. Sure, the talk show proposal may have been a hoax, but it's as good a reason as any to give some tips on popping the question in public AND responding to it.
There are right and wrong ways to propose in public. That said there is proposing in small p "public" (think members of your family, or the patrons of a restaurant or people strolling by in a park) and capital P "Public" (think outside the Today Show or at a stadium sporting event). In public, you are pretty safe just speaking from the heart and being sure that she can hear what you are actually saying. If he or she is terribly shy, you may not want to do it in any way that makes them feel the center of attention, as it's meant to be a PLEASANT experience, not one to cause trauma. If he or she is a fainter, you may just want to be sure that they won't hit their head. Try hard to not "surprise" he or she with the ring in a way that might cause loss or injury: i.e. hiding the ring in the dessert or dropping the ring off the Brooklyn Bridge.
Things are a bit more complicated in capital P Public. Frankly, it's just fraught with problems. First of all, as the guy on Ellen can tell you, you run the risk of being rejected. Making not only YOURSELF feel badly, but everyone alongside of you AND everyone else who will then watch it and feel horrible about it on websites like this one. Additionally, unless your chosen public forum has major significance to your partner, you are taking something super personal and making it into a bit of a spectacle. Typically, it's a spectacle that is in the long run probably a bit cheesier than the prospect of your lives together. "After the Knick City Dancers came out we got a beer, watched the free throw contest and then somebody got on the court and popped the question."
For the person being ASKED for their hand in public, the rules are much less rigid. If at a restaurant, museum or library, it's actually totally OK to scream. The usual rules of public decorum as it pertains to noise don't apply to you in the moments following a proposal. People will think that it's cute that you were so excited. What they will not think is cute is launching into heavy petting in public. Somehow, that goes from being witness to something sweet to making people feel weird.
Now, when it comes to responding to a proposal made in Public with a capital P, I'm going to suggest something controversial. Just as we tell white lies to be polite, "You look better now that you've gone gray, you're a silver fox!", it's only polite to say yes to a Public proposal, even if you rescind in the car ride home. First, I'm assuming that if you and your partner are at the stage where they felt they SHOULD propose then you don't hate this person. And the only reason I could imagine humiliating someone on national Television that will likely go viral is if you really didn't like each other. Secondly, from a self-preservation standpoint, you don't want to be the girl everyone is watching on HuffPo and Jezebel and YouTube saying, "WOW, she really dissed him! Wow." Finally, admittedly you didn't choose for him to make a room or a nation of people feel uncomfortable by being made a part of your intimate moment, but you could be the bigger person and not make them all feel even MORE awkward. Just say yes. It doesn't even need to be that enthusiastic. Just a quick yes for the cameras. I promise that video will get a lot less re-play than if you had said no and for that, you'll both be grateful.
For some unfortunate public proposal videos, click through the slideshow below.