peteHey guys, me again.

Have you ever watched a woman looking at her wedding band and engagement ring when she’s daydreaming, talking about her husband in his absence, or describing the day she got engaged? Many times, she will put her fingers in front of her, then begin to play with her rings, a loving look in her eyes, an unconscious smile forming on her lips. Why does this happen? Because she’s replaying the day she got engaged in her mind. I have seen this look many times. No matter how old a woman is, I can tell if a proposal was meaningful by the way her eyes light up when she looks at her ring.

A chunk of the work I do at my firm involves helping young men come up with the words to propose to their girlfriends. Our copywriting team does its best to help these men articulate their hearts without losing their voices or personalities. I do this not only because I love all things marriage, but also because as a woman, I understand how much a good proposal means and what a powerful seed it is toward joy in marriage.

In 2011, the Toronto Star published an article that stated that one in four women did not like their proposals, according to a survey by TheKnot.com and Men’s Health magazine. Another article I read a few years ago demonstrated that women who did not enjoy their wedding proposals had a higher likelihood of ending up divorced. Several forums online demonstrate the disappointment and even anger that women feel when their proposals are not romantic.

Now, when I read that latter statistic about proposals in relation to divorce probabilities, I was caught between “Oh, wow, this is serious,” and “Really? So because he didn’t propose with fanfare, you’re going to get divorced?”

But as I’ve grown and as I observed women over several years, I came to understand one crucial thing: Women want to be wanted. And not only that; they also want to be sure that they are wanted by the men to whom they are committed. It’s no use wanting a woman if she doesn’t know it, trust me. Just like every man wants to feel like he actually chased and caught a prize (well, traditionally, at least!), every woman wants to feel like that treasured prize that has been conquered and is fully loved.

I know. You’re squirming in your seat, thinking I’m getting ready to tell you to fork out millions of dollars to please this woman. Well, if spending money on her makes you squirm, you might want to evaluate your love for her. Still, a good proposal does not have to be expensive. So don’t worry, you won’t get that from me.

But you’d better have everything else on point. Let’s get right to it. A good proposal:

1. Is considerate.

Hypothetical example: You love Isaiah Katumwa, so you decide that the best way to propose would be to pay a large sum of money to have him perform at a private event on the beach in Entebbe at night. You will propose at this event with all your family and friends and your coworkers and your girlfriend’s coworkers present. Of course she’ll love it.

Or will she? There’s just one problem: She can’t stand jazz. And she doesn’t like beaches, or being outdoors at night. She is very shy and does not like attention, so having her coworkers there will fluster her. Do you think she’ll enjoy this proposal? No.

Here’s the thing. You’re asking her to marry you. You want to increase your chances of being told “Yes.” If you’re the jazz guy and she’s the anti-jazz lady, this Katumwa proposal just might cause her to think, “After three years, this man really does not know a thing about me.” And that causes doubt. And doubt is the first step on your journey to “No.”

A considerate proposal is the kind where a man has taken the time to understand what would work and what wouldn’t. It is about your journey as a couple. It’s not scary or over-the-top, and it’s in an environment where she is able to take in your words and feel the moment without being flustered or under pressure. It is not embarrassing for her. It does not involve her doing all the work. You are proposing, not her. A considerate proposer has taken the time to know his woman and understand her needs, likes, dislikes, fears, concerns, joys.

2. Involves a ring.

Stop being cheap. Just get her a ring, already. They say an engagement ring should cost at least a 2-month salary. I say that’s hogwash. There are very few men in their 20s and 30s who can set aside a two-month salary just like that. This is one reason many men put off proposing; they think they have to break the bank. But an engagement ring is more about meaning than about money. The minute you prayerfully decide that this is the woman for you, start saving. Trust me on this! Put $50 or $100 aside every so often for weeks as you shop for the ring. As you save, find out her ring size. Observe her taste in jewelry. You might be able to trick her into commenting on different kinds of rings, but just know that the minute any suggestion regarding a ring comes from you, she’ll know that a proposal is in the works and it’s just a matter of time. This isn’t really a bad thing but it can affect the surprise factor, elaborated later on. I say try as much as you can to find the ring details without mentioning the ring to her.

3. Is romantic.

“Romantic” does not necessarily mean the same thing “extravagant”. “Romantic” does not necessarily mean “dramatic”. Now that that’s out of the way: A good proposal is romantic. And what is romance but getting to know your woman and meeting her wants and needs? Telling her exactly why you love her? Appealing to her tastes? You really don’t want to propose in a text message, email, or on the phone. No situation is ever so dire that you cannot propose in person.

Make it personal. Tailor it to her likes. Not every woman likes diamonds. Some women can’t stand gold. Know. Your. Woman. Romance is not candles and petals on the floor. It is about learning your woman as she grows and changes, because in many ways, she is not the same woman on the day you propose as she was on the day you met her, nor will she be the same woman after three children and a decade of marriage that she will be when you propose.

4. Is informed.

Do you see the recurring theme here? Know your woman. Does parental approval mean a lot to her? Would she want her family members to be present? Do you know her schedule, or are you going to plan something at her job, only to find that she does not even work that day? Do you know about any potential allergies or phobias that you want to avoid working into the day? Is there a pet peeve that you can use to throw her off so that she does not think anything special will be going on (element of surprise!)? Do you know her ring size? You want to get a ring that is the correct size – not one that will fall off or not get past a certain point as both these scenarios would affect the romance (see above).

You also need to know where her heart is. Is she truly in love with you? Is she ready for marriage? Is she ready for marriage to you? Try finding this out before you spend that first penny toward a ring.

5. Is practical.

Financially and otherwise. If you have to go into debt and rent the entire Burj Khalifa just to make a woman your wife, then you might want to reconsider marrying this woman. Choose an accessible location. A sensible time – if she’s not a morning person, you don’t want a band singing under her window at 5am. Sure, she’ll forgive you, but… no. Besides, the entire process of getting the band just might be impractical in itself. Comfort is a major part of practicality when it comes to proposals. You don’t want to have her sitting in Uhuru Park eating hot dogs with hawks circling overhead, trying to steal her lunch. You don’t want her outside in the cold with goose pimples all over so that she cannot even concentrate and wants to leave. You don’t want a picnic with safari ants or bees that like the smell of her hair oil (that Venus hair oil, if it still exists, is such a bee magnet. Know your woman!).

Now, I’m not writing this post for myself, but here’s another example just to illustrate this point: The Hudson River Café is one of my favorite brunch spots. However, unless they have some tables hidden somewhere in some quiet corner, it’s a very impractical place for a wedding proposal. Why? There is so much noise! You can barely have a conversation. No matter how far you sit from the band, it feels like they’re playing right in your ears. Not practical!

6. Is creative/original.

Please do not Google your wedding proposal. Use Google just to get ideas, but from there on out, please be original. Bleacher proposals, ring-in-drink proposals, a plane flying overhead with a banner… these are not only often inconsiderate (does she want a proposal in front of a crowd? Do you want her to choke on her drink?), they’re also very cliché. Come on! This is the woman you expect to carry your seed for nine months and push babies out in the labor ward time after time. This is the woman who will cook your meals, make your house a home, and satisfy you sexually. Is it too much to ask that you take some time to think through how you’re going to propose to her, so that it can be memorable and meaningful? Why copy other proposals? Why not make your proposal the one to emulate? Come on, now, dude!

7. Is timely and time-conscious.

A proposal is always a beautiful thing, no matter when it happens, but you don’t want to wait too long because you’ll have a really frustrated girlfriend. You know, or you can know, if you want to marry a woman within three months of meeting her, especially if you are a man who hears the Lord. Definitely within a year, tops. At two years, if you’re still dilly-dallying, then quite frankly, you’re being a joker. Use your dating/courtship time wisely. How many coffees and lunches and movies will you go for before you even know her favorite color or last name? This is what starts all that leap-year-day proposal mess. This is the reason a woman proposing – something she should never have to do – is taken as commonplace in these crazy times. Stop it right now, please. I’m not saying propose to her on week 1 (or even month 3!) but we need to stop that 8-year dating thing because it’s a waste of time.

Another issue with time is you want to be able to plan accordingly. It takes months to get the perfect ring. That’s why I said start saving early. Start visiting those ring stores. Take your time. Time your proposal at least two months after your ring purchase. i.e., time your ring purchase two months before your proposal.

8. Is unpredictable/surprising.

I like to give the example of my friend who wanted to propose at Disneyland. His girlfriend had never been there, but she had always wanted to go. He was ready to go all out and spoil her. There was just one thing, though. He had never done anything this elaborate for her. I suggested that he do a mini-exciting thing beforehand, so that Disneyland would not stand out so much. Because if you keep taking a woman to Njuguna’s, Chicken Republic or that corner kiosk around the bend every date, and then you suddenly take her to the Intercont, she will figure out that you are trying to propose.

Women are good at guessing. I’ll be honest: if she knows you well, it’s very, very likely that she’ll know at least a few minutes before you propose that you’re going to do so. So you want to delay the guessing as much as you can. Proposing at the venue of your first date is only surprising if you frequent that venue on random days, or if you do not do it on a day that’s not your anniversary, Valentine’s Day, or a birthday. Otherwise, she’ll be thinking, “It’s not our anniversary… why are we at the Outback Steakhouse where we had our first date? Hmm… he must be trying to propose.”

You also want to find a very good hiding place for your ring! Your car’s glovebox is probably not a good idea, especially because once she starts to suspect that a proposal is in the works, she’ll probably start looking for the ring. Put the ring box in another box, and put that box in a smelly shoe, and hide the shoe somewhere in a part of your house that she will never try to reach.

9. Is memorable.

A good proposal is memorable. You want her to be that woman I mentioned in the first paragraph; the one who looks at her ring for years with that twinkle in her eyes. You want to be sure that every time there is a struggle in your marriage, mentioning how you felt when you decided to marry her takes her back – takes you both back! – to that day and brings back the warm feelings of joy and love.

Once in a while, people have a little help. Nepa/KPLC/Umeme might “take light”, creating some humor. There might be a beautiful rainbow in the sky. It might snow randomly. Her favorite band might be playing somewhere down the street.

But you often have to put in some work to make it memorable. She has five senses. You have color, flowers, flavors, smells, sounds, etc at your disposal. I usually ask the guys: what do you want her to see on this memorable day? Beautiful colors, an ambient atmosphere, candles? Maybe an album, a poem, or a book made up of memories of your years together? As she flips through the pages, touches the leather cover of the album or the suede frame, or as you hold her hands, you are employing her sense of touch as well. What do you want her to hear? Your voice, saying well-thought-out words soaked in emotion? That one song? The sound of water? Rustling leaves along a romantic park’s path? Even sounds like drilling in the background and traffic could serve to make this day memorable. What do you want her to smell? Fragrant flowers. Your cologne. Rain. Everything she eats that day will probably not be just another meal in the future. That delectable dinner or dessert will mean a lot. Don’t forget to capture the moment – photos, videos, whatever is practical (remember #5). Make it memorable, dude.

10. Is simple.

“Simple” does not necessarily mean “unromantic”.

Keep it simple. The more complicated your proposal is, the more likely it is to be unsuccessful. The less likely she is to remember the details. The less time you’ll both have to enjoy the moment. Life is not a movie and movies lie a lot. You want to be genuine. All this other superficial fanfare usually doesn’t seem genuine.

You don’t need to be extravagant. The proposal is very important – very, very important – but it is not more important than your marriage together, so don’t stress yourself too much. Again, you don’t want to go into debt. You don’t want to get in trouble with the law. You might not want to stop traffic – yes, you love her, but people have had a long day and want to get home or are sleep-deprived and need to get to work on time. You don’t want to wake the neighbors with a loudspeaker, so that she’s so worried after the proposal that she decides to write an apology letter to maintenance and/or all the people in her building.

A proposal does not have to take place in a fancy restaurant or even outside your home. Some of the most romantic proposals are just a conversation between two people in a living room, with the man pouring out his heart and then getting down on one knee and bringing out the ring. My friend’s husband pulled over in traffic because he couldn’t wait any longer to get the proposal out. These women think their husbands are the most romantic men on earth, and these men did not have to rent an entire restaurant to pop the question. I mean, rent the restaurant if you want to – that’s your prerogative – but she’ll probably say yes even if you don’t. Do you want to get the wife, or get the attention? Your choice. Simplicity is key. The better you know your woman, the easier it is to keep it simple.

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Guys, if I had just one tip, I’d say learn from Jesus. He is considerate and makes it personal. “I will make you fishers of men,” He said in one place. “I will give you living water,” He said in another. The woman at the well would not have cared about fishing men, nor would fishermen care, in that moment, about quenching their thirst.

He provided a symbol. Just like a woman can look at a ring and think of the day that a man proposed his love, saying “This man loves me,” so the bride of Christ can look at the cross and say, “This Man loves me.” Both are tangible symbols. Both involve a cost. Both are not about the symbol in itself but about what happened with it, so to speak.

In Jesus, the church as a bride has a very practical Groom. He doesn’t complicate things. It makes no sense to remove a speck from someone’s eye when you have a beam in your own. It makes no sense to be cumbered about with much serving when you can choose a good part that cannot be taken away from you. It is easier to just do as He says than it is to get swallowed by a whale and burnt by the sun because of stubbornness and anger. He keeps it simple; in fact, salvation is so simple that many people reject it.

Get married, guys. It’s good for you.

I haven’t done a non-10-things post in a while. I know. This is easier in this season. Thank you for reading!

Love,

Pea.

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