Q&A: Should I Propose Before Or After Dinner?

Dinner proposal - Before or after?

You've decided to propose. You've made reservations at your favorite restaurant — or at that aspirational spot you've talked about going to. You have the ring. And all the nerves that go with it. But now what?

Sure, it could all go perfectly. You drop to one knee as the waiter delivers champagne and chocolate, and all the other diners start to applaud as she says "Yes." Or maybe you're plagued by visions of everything going wrong — You hide the ring in the soufflé and your partner chokes on it. Or you're so nervous that you forget what to say.

No matter what you anticipate, you need a plan. To start, you need to decide just when to propose. Before dinner or after? (Or even in between courses.) The answer's not so simple. Here are some important factors to consider as you plan for one of the most romantic, most important evenings of your life.


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Does Your Partner Like Being the Center of Attention?

Remember everyone applauding in your imagination as you drop to one knee? If that's something that will embarrass your partner or make them want to sink through the floor to disappear, perhaps you should avoid any big displays. No dropping to your knee, no elaborate popping of champagne or gathering of waiters.

If, on the other hand, your partner enjoys living a second life on Instagram, go for all of it, probably at the end of your meal when the restaurant's the most packed with people to cheer you on.

Are You Going to Be Able to Keep Your Cool Until the Moment to Propose?

How well do you keep a secret? Are you going to be able to sit there quietly, having a normal conversation, until the waiter has cleared the plates? Or is your partner going to realize something is up, maybe even misunderstanding your reluctance to talk as a hint that something's wrong (rather than very, very right)?

Or maybe you're feeling so anxious about the proposal and everything going right that you'll be a bundle of nerves and not be able to enjoy your engagement dinner at all. If you think your own emotions during dinner might derail your enjoyment of the evening, not to mention your partner's, it might be best to propose before you start to dine. That way you can celebrate during the whole meal.

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Are Friends and Family Going to Join You to Celebrate?

Are your friends and family going to meet up to celebrate with you? If so, think about their role in the evening as you make your plan. Maybe some good friends will want to make their own reservations to join you after you've popped the question — in which case, an early evening proposal might be the right choice. But if you're dining at an uber posh (i.e., expensive) place, perhaps you want to save your proposal to the end of dinner so you can go elsewhere to meet up with your co-celebrators, just so they don't have to incur the extra expense.

What Are Your After-Proposal Plans?

Do you have something special planned for the rest of the evening? Maybe instead of meeting up with friends to celebrate, you'd like to enjoy a little private time. You might even have reserved a special hotel room for the occasion. In this case, save the proposal for the end of dinner so you're that much closer to being able to slip off together to enjoy the rest of your evening privately.

How Much Do You Care About the Actual Meal?

If you've chosen a Michelin-starred restaurant or a place with an elaborate tasting menu — you know, the kind of restaurant where the food really matters — you should lean toward proposing at the end of the meal. Once you've popped the question, you'll be so excited, you may not taste another bite. (Or you may want to throw everything in takeout bags and head for that hotel reservation.)

If you're commemorating the first coffee date you went on by proposing at your local diner, your engagement meal probably doesn't matter. But if you've chosen a special restaurant, take the time to enjoy the meal, and let your proposal serve as an extra serving of dessert.

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A Few Tips to Make Your Restaurant Proposal Smooth as Silk

While a restaurant is a time-honored venue for a successful and beautiful proposal, keeping a few tips in mind for the evening can help everything flow like, well, champagne.

  • Have some tissues on hand. The overwhelming emotions involved with a proposal can lead to happy tears. Sure, you have a napkin on hand, but some tissues are a good idea, too. Heck, if your proposal is beautiful enough, you may need to hand them out to the waiters, too.

  • Don't hide the ring inside food. It's one thing to propose dramatically as the waiter sets down a beautiful dessert with your engagement ring sparkling on the top. But don't try to hide the ring inside, say, a chocolate lava cake to be discovered as your partner eats dessert. Imagine the crisis if they swallow it or chip a tooth on it. Even dropping the ring into a glass of champagne is risky.

  • Plan your photos in advance. If you want commemorative photos of your big night, don't count on handing your iPhone to the nice couple at the next table. Ask the restaurant in advance for a table location that's particularly photogenic — maybe they can suggest a spot with an especially beautiful or dramatic backdrop, such as a fireplace, or perhaps they'll hold an outdoor table for you and help you time your proposal for sunset. If you're going to incorporate friends and family into your big moment, turn over the photography duties to someone you can trust to get it right.

  • Make sure your partner's dressed for the occasion. Maybe you'll consider your engagement photos humorous if you're dressed to the nines and your partner's looking casual — but maybe you won't. Remember that the photos of your proposal will probably be seen by hundreds of people via social media, and do your partner the favor of making sure they look their best.

  • Work with the restaurant. Most restaurants love being part of proposals, and you'll find the staff happy to help you make the moment perfect. Perhaps the maitre d' can suggest a special table that has just the right lighting for the occasion. The restaurant will certainly be willing to work with you regarding the presentation of the ring, the arrival of any friends and family, and even the timing of the meal courses. Ask as well about menu and drink suggestions to make the evening perfect. Remember, everyone at the restaurant has done this before, and they're likely to have plenty of suggestions on how to make your evening perfect, so lean on their good advice.

At the heart of any great proposal, whether it's before or after dinner, is the ring. At Alpine Rings, we're always ready to help you find the perfect rings to help you and your partner take your relationship to the next level. If you're looking for some inspiration, check out our tungsten rings for men that are sure to make you the talk of the town.