Will you flash mob me?
I'm going to propose to my girlfriend, and it seems there's this trend of doing crazy, elaborate things to ask a girl to marry you. I know I can't compete with the guys like the New York City dude I just read about who threw down $45,000 to pop the question. But even if friends help me out for free, I don't know whether I can make my proposal cool enough to go viral like the Portland guy who had his choreographed and filmed. — Don't Want to Disappoint
"Will you marry me?" is a pretty powerful question. Asking this of a woman who loves you can provoke tears, and not because you didn't hire Beyonce to sing "Put a Ring On It" and spend a year training a humpback whale to swim by at exactly the right moment and shoot the ring out its blowhole.
Regarding the proposals you mention, the New York guy is 27-year-old online marketing company honcho Josh Ogle. He wrote on reddit.com that he actually spent around $13K on a lavish proposal evening, starting with his popping the question to Nataliya Lavryshyn on a Manhattan hotel rooftop, decorated for the event with pages of Pablo Neruda's poetry. This price included $3,500 for a professional "proposal planner" and a $1,500 post-proposal private dinner cooked by a celebrity chef. (Media outlets came up with the $45K proposal cost by adding in the $21K custom-made ring and the $10K post-engagement European "honeymoon.") As easy as it is to mock the guy for outsourcing his proposal, Ogle is reportedly a self-made multi-millionaire (apparently, after growing up poor while his dad was in prison), so for him, $45K probably spends like $45 does for the rest of us.
The Portland guy, actor and theatrical director Isaac Lamb, pulled together 60-plus friends and family members in an elaborate (and wildly adorable) lip-synched song-and-dance routine to Bruno Mars' "Marry You." His girlfriend, choreographer Amy Frankel, listened to the song on headphones from the tailgate of a Honda CRV pulling her slowly down the street while everyone danced in formation behind it. Lamb then got down on one knee and said to Frankel, "You have already given me a lifetime of happiness. Will you let me spend the rest of my life trying to give you the same?" (Not surprisingly, she said yes.)
Although the trend toward extreme proposing is surely the lovechild of reality TV and social media, it has something in common with the mythic quest — an epic mission a man would go on to prove his love and worth to a woman. Of course, these days, the most dangerous journey a man can usually take for a woman is a trip to 7-Eleven on bald tires. So, conspicuous romancing can act as a stand-in proving ground — an extravagant display that a man's "all-in" and somebody the woman can count on ... to keep life exciting and to call a singing, dancing, plumbing flash mob whenever the garbage disposal's broken.
That said, you're asking a woman to grow old with you, not auditioning for America's Got Proposal Talent. If you are "all in," you probably show your girlfriend that in a lot of little ways every day. Keep in mind that Ogle's and Lamb's proposals reflected who they are and will likely continue to be — a really rich guy and an artsy, creative guy, respectively. Your proposal likewise needs to reflect who you are and tell your girlfriend that you get who she is — starting with whether she's someone who'd be horrified to have an intimate moment like a marriage proposal take place on the Jumbotron.
The truth is, there's no need for Jumbotrons or trying to hire away the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from some Bar Mitzvah gig they picked up. Even if every one of Lamb's dancers stayed home in bed, his proposal would have been extremely moving simply because of the words he spoke. Put your effort into telling your girlfriend why you always want to be there to hold her hand, even when it gets all wrinkly. Couple that with an essential element from the elaborate proposers — delighting a woman with the element of surprise. You can do this by planning your proposal around something your girlfriend once said (and will be amazed you remembered) or just by serving her toast a slightly different way: with a heart cut in the middle with the ring inside it. This sort of proposal sends a message — "I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you" (not to be confused with "Bet I can get more YouTube hits than that big dog teaching the puppy to go down the stairs!").
Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org (advicegoddess.com). Alkon is the author of I See Rude People: One Woman's Battle to Beat Some Manners Into Impolite Society.