An Analysis of the Perfect Proposal in 2021

Many couples dream about what the day that one of them gets down on one knee might look like. Will it be a hot summer afternoon on the beach or a crisp autumn evening in the woods? Will it be a public spectacle for everyone to see or an intimate ritual shared by just themselves? In this survey, we sought to piece together a picture of the perfect 2021 proposal by asking our respondents all about popping the question. 

Methodology

We surveyed over 1,200 Americans across four days in December 2021 and asked them questions about their ideal proposal setting, their thoughts regarding classic proposal elements like the proposer getting down on one knee, and what parts of a proposal they could do without. Read on to see what we found out!

Setting the Scene for the Perfect Proposal

A series of charts that display respondent opinions regarding the ideal proposal setting

Competition among the top three proposal locations is fierce, with the beach edging out the first date spot (wherever that may be) by just 0.2%! The third most popular location, the mountains, is then behind the first date spot by just 3.8%. The least popular location is an amusement park, as just 1.7% of our respondents say it’s their first choice. So unless you’re dating the biggest rollercoaster fan in the world, probability suggests that you do not propose at your nearest Six Flags if you’re looking for a “yes.”  

The early bird does not necessarily get the worm when it comes to proposals. While 18.9% of our respondents do think the morning would be a good time to pop the question, the majority would sooner opt for a proposal later in the day. Opinions regarding seasons are a bit less divided, however. Spring and fall are the favorites, with spring beating out fall by a margin of just 1.5%, and then summer is only about 10% behind that. This leaves winter as the proposal season underdog, but with just under 25% of our respondents reporting as pro-winter, it really isn’t that unpopular! 

Americans’ Thoughts on Classic Proposal Elements

A series of charts that display respondent opinions regarding traditional proposal elements

If you’ve ever wondered whether a proposal should be agreed upon ahead of time or a surprise, our results tell us that 77% of people prefer a surprise proposal to one that’s previously arranged. This probably doesn’t mean that your partner wants you to propose to them in the grocery store three weeks into the relationship, however! 

Times change, and some evidence of this lies in over half of our respondents agreeing that parental permission is no longer a requirement of engagement. Also, if you go from the oldest generation to the youngest, the opinion on time that couples should be together before marriage becomes more conservative. For example, about 85% of Gen Z thinks that a couple should be together for two years or longer before they get married, while only about 50% of baby boomers think the same. 

It might be best to avoid donning your good pants when you’re planning to pop the question. While a bit of dressing up is surely required, 69% of Americans still think the proposer should get down on one knee, and if you’re proposing in the mountains or your first date took place on a hiking trail, a dirt spot on one of your pant legs might be inevitable. 

Considerations for Planning the Perfect Proposal

A graphic that displays respondent opinions on what would make the perfect proposal

There are a lot of different opinions surrounding the specifics of the ideal proposal, so let’s start with the most popular ones: 65% of our respondents think a proposal should take place in a meaningful location. This is likely why 21.7% said the first date location would be their location preference, but even if that’s not where you end up, that 65% is a good indication that the chosen location should have some sort of meaning attached to it. 

Our second highest percentage here is the 56% of our respondents that think what is said prior to the proposal is more important than the question itself, so proposer, make sure you have some choice words ready to go before popping the question! But at the same time, 44% of our respondents think that reading a pre-written speech makes a proposal worse, so just try your best to walk that line between preparation and improvisation. 

36% of our respondents say that a proposal should be seen as an event instead of just a question, which probably explains why almost a quarter also say that they’d like for there to be a party afterward. There’s also a small percentage that would like a photographer to be present (10%), and another small percentage that would want their pets nearby (11%). 

The Not-So-Perfect Proposal

A graphic that displays respondent opinions regarding the elements of a bad proposal

You’ve now spent the last five minutes or so reading all about what people think makes a good proposal, but what do people think makes a bad one?

For starters, over 90% of our respondents are against putting the ring in any food or drink at a restaurant. Perhaps it’s the messiness of it all, or maybe it’s the potential choking hazard? But the biggest takeaway from the entire survey might actually be just how opposed many people are to public proposals. A whopping 90% of our respondents think that public proposals pressure the proposee to say yes, and 56% would hate to be proposed to publicly. And if you want to get specific about the public location, 85% of our respondents say they’d rather be proposed to in a parking lot than at someone else’s wedding. So be careful with public proposals in general, but especially if they’re going to take place at another wedding! 

Closing Thoughts

According to our survey, more than three out of every four Americans would rather propose or be proposed to without parental permission than without a ring. While we can’t guarantee that the future in-laws are going to love you, we can make sure you’ve got the perfect wedding ring for your perfect partner. Shane Co. has a variety of engagement rings in every price range and even the option to buy a ring customized to your loved one’s liking. 

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