winter engagement photo session gray and green

Photo: Shaw Photography Co.

When you think of a marriage proposal, you usually think of a person down on one knee holding a ring box, with a surprised partner reacting with tears and shrieks. Nowadays, we’re seeing a shift in how proposals happen—with less of an element of surprise. Forty-six percent of couples shop for an engagement ring together, so both parties are clearly aware that a proposal is happening, even if one partner isn’t sure of the where and when. Clearly there are discussions about marriage occurring before the actual proposal, but getting the conversation started can be tricky.


Create an open dialogue
Contrary to what some may believe, your significant other can’t read your mind. Before you make the decision to go to a jewelry store or browse online retailers, make sure you and your partner are on the same page with your priorities in life including: kids, finances, and living arrangements. It’s beyond important to discuss these things before a ring is purchased and someone says yes. Once this conversation about your future, as a couple, has begun things may naturally progress into a discussion of marriage—and ring shopping.

Don’t beat around the bush
Not everyone is good at being blunt, especially when you’re feeling a little bit awkward about the conversation topic. It can be a little intimidating but just remember you’re just talking to your significant other about where you see yourself in the future. That being said, try to get to the point as quickly as possible. The best way to get a more in-depth answer is to ask an open ended question like, “I want to get married at some point in the future, how do you feel about marriage?” This way you’re not placing a ton of pressure on your SO while also putting the ball in their court. Try to avoid saying things like “why haven’t you proposed?” or “are you ever going to propose? I’m not getting any younger.”

Be honest with your feelings
When we’re unsure about how someone will react to a conversation, it’s easy to pretend we’re not as invested as we truly are. However, getting engaged and married are pretty serious topics so don’t be afraid to show your true feelings. When you bring up your honest feelings, your significant other will likely respond with their own. This is the perfect time to see how your priorities in life align. Pro tip: Don’t assume you know how your partner feels about any of these topics. It never ends well.

Avoid setting a firm timeline
Whether you’re starting a general conversation about the idea of marriage or a more direct conversation about your own future, it’s good to not set a firm timeline. It’s hard to live in today’s society and not want to plan everything down to the minute, we totally get it. Having order in the chaos of life is reassuring, but it’s not the way to go when discussing marriage. While this doesn’t mean you can’t say things like “I’d like to get engaged/married in the next years", avoid phrases "I want to be engaged by (specific date)".

Don’t be afraid to drop some hints
We’re totally not suggesting that you make WeddingWire your significant other’s homepage, but it’s okay to drop some subtle hints that you’re ready to consider taking the next step in your relationship. Think about bringing up friends and family members that are recently engaged or married in your everyday conversation or mentioning their positive relationship with the people in your life. They’ll likely put everything together and they may even bring up ring shopping all on their own.