I used to think engagements were simple: you wrote a cheque to Cartier, asked her father for permission, and went out for some pasta. Perhaps there was a handshake near the end; it certainly didn’t hurt to have a lawyer present.
But a recent slew of nearby engagements has convinced me I’m living in the past. Here’s how to propose in 2019, according to my friends on Instagram and all my other friends who went suddenly very quiet when they heard the news.
- Don’t worry about waiting until you’re 100% sure
We’re not talking about getting married here — we’re talking about getting engaged. The former is a quiet, personal, lifelong commitment you make to someone under the gaze of God. The latter is something you do because your girlfriend cried a lot when it happened to Poppy.
The only way you can be 100% sure you’ll be happy with someone for the rest of your life is by spending the rest of your life happily with someone — but then it won’t count because no-one was told about it in advance by a big ring.
Plus, the longer you wait, the less impact your engagement will have. Desired reactions: panicky smile; mild existential dread; “they haven’t even lived together you know”; “apparently she’s having three hen parties”; and “Poor chap.”
2. Make sure you’ve designed the ring yourself
Listen, you can either go to someone who’s spent twenty years making jewellery and has more than three decades of experience working with precious metals and cut gems — or you can have a stab at designing the thing yourself, alongside your fiancee and her worryingly colonial views around diamonds.
It’ll look pretty much the same as the shop bought one (and exactly the same as everyone else’s) but the crucial thing is that she’ll be able to tell people (during the two week window when everyone is obliged to pretend they’re interested) that you designed it yourself — when really she sketched it out personally three years before she knew you existed and this is the first you’ve ever seen of it.
3. Choose your location wisely
Everyone knows that you have to get engaged outside or it doesn’t count. No-one proposes indoors anymore (apart from the Swiss) and if you’re doing it at a restaurant or hotel, you better be damn sure there’s a balcony or rooftop nearby.
All engagement locations ought really to be backed by some rolling hills and sweeping horizons (arrived at after a completely-not-out-of-character suggestion of a ‘walk), as if to imply that your new life together knows no bounds.
Really, of course, it knows quite a lot of bounds: the limits of human affection; the halflife of sexual attraction; the realities of school fee inflation; the tedium of domesticity; that problem with your knee. But we came all the way to Tuscany so it would be odd to back out now.
- Make sure someone’s there to take a photo
Nothing screams sacred and intimate joy like a commandeered Bahraini tourist near the infinity pool at Hôtel du Cap (“can we just do one more? you’ve missed out our heads”.)
Suggested moods: knowingly ironic and silly; misty-eyed and poetic; slightly sunburned in bad Raybans; caught off guard and laughing at the nineteenth attempt.
(Some people like to pay a professional photographer to follow them around, but then you’ve got to think about catering and things, don’t you, which will eat into the budget.)
- Get the caption right
Your Instagram caption is your first joint press release as a merged company, so make sure it captures both your shared sense of humour and your highly original form of love. It helps to address your new partner directly in the second person, so everyone else feels really honoured to be eavesdropping on what essentially could have been a quick 30 second face-to-face chat. It’s also good to call the person your ‘best friend’, even though they’re not, really, at all, are they.
If you’re short on time (well, this lukewarm Möet won’t drink itself!) just refer to your new life partner as ‘this one’, which is really helpful in case people don’t know which one it is you’ve got engaged to. ‘She said yes!’ Is a pretty handy legal clarifier in the current climate of consent politics (and quite right too), while ‘the future Mrs X’ should remove any further doubt.
(‘You surprise me every single day’ is also useful, though it sounds exhausting to be honest.)
- Start thinking about wedding hashtags (and a countdown) now
A big part of your big day is how well people can track, quantify and rank your love. A good hashtag will help immensely. A few ground rules: It must contain both of your names but not enough of either of your names to be functional; it must make you feel a little bit sick if you say it out loud; it must be fun.
(Also, a countdown is very useful once the initial excitement and attention has subsided. Start at 450 days and punctuate every increment of 50 with champagne flutes, meals on roof terraces and inexplicable gold balloons.)
Remember: you can’t be content without content, and happiness ought to be optimised for search.
Now read this: How to tell your friend his other half is a bad egg