Advice For Proposing In A Restaurant

Popping the question over dinner out is a part of our culture. According to The, a whopping 58% of women said they would want to be asked at the site of their first date, while 31% said they'd want to say yes at their favorite restaurant, or the one they've always wanted to try. Whether you're thinking of asking for her hand at your corner sushi spot with no fanfare, or jetting cross-country for a one-night, no-holds-barred surprise meal, there are some things to know first.


1. If You're Going to Do It Over Dinner, Do It Out

Proposing is stressful enough. If you do it in a restaurant, asking aside, there is nothing the proposer has to worry about, according to Megan Vaughan, service director at Eleven Madison Park (below, left). "Unlike at home, you don't have to cook, there is no wine pairing to fret over, and you'll be doted on to ensure the evening is something you both will never forget." Louis Risoli, a 30-year veteran of L'Espalier in Boston's Back Bay, thinks it's also fun for the couple. "Why not combine this special event with a special place, doing something you both enjoy greatly?"

Even though you'll have the restaurant team on your side, don't forget to add your own signature touch, advises Chad Bertelsman, senior dining room manager at Chicago's Spiaggia (below, right). "Proposing in a restaurant has become part of our culture," says Bertelsman. "The best proposals include something that is special to the couple from their time together — a photograph of a trip taken together, a special poem, a favorite flower." Just as if you were proposing somewhere else, it's these little details that matter most if you want to make the moment truly unique.


The first thing to do is get the restaurant on your side. Contact them and explain what you're envisioning. "Ask them if there is special seating they would recommend, perhaps something a bit secluded," says Risoli. If unfamiliar with the restaurant, Bertelsman suggests asking them what table they'd recommend. "Most of us have handled thousands of proposals and can help advise and inspire you." Once the management knows, they will often work with you to make special requests — like pouring Champagne right after s/he (hopefully!) accepts — happen. Others will also do something special just for the occasion adds Vaughan, like giving the couple an exclusive tour of the kitchen or preparing a special course, or series of courses, that isn't on the menu.

It's common for the question to be popped over dessert, while others just want to get it over with and share the meal with their betrothed in the know. Risoli agrees. "The proposer is bound to be very nervous beforehand, and is unlikely to enjoy anything until the ring is on the finger! I always recommend doing it earlier in the meal, perhaps after ordering, but before the food arrives."

Bertelsman recalls one man who planned to propose over dessert who was so nervous, he was drinking Scotch to manage the stress. "His girlfriend noticed he was drinking more than usual and began to question him. He of course got defensive, she got mad and left — all the while the ring was still in the restaurant's safe." (Photo courtesy of Tiffany & Co.)

Remember, the restaurant is on your side here, so let them know your plan. They'll be on the lookout, delaying the meal, popping open a bottle of Champagne, whatever you want and need to make the event as memorable and personal as you wish. Too nervous about figuring out when the "right" time will be? Let them take it off your hands completely. "Many proposers will give the ring to the restaurant manager in advance and it brought to the table at a specified time, perhaps on a small domed tray, with a beautiful flower or two," adds Risoli. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/dplanet)


4. Ways to Make it Memorable

When proposing, how it's done and the small details are what make for lasting memories. Vaughan recalls one more unconventional proposal where the man wanted to pop the question dressed in a full server uniform. He had asked his girlfriend's boss to take her to lunch. Once seated, he approached the table with a tray of hors d'oeuvres — and the ring. She was so immersed in conversation she didn't even realize it was him until he started talking — and got down on one knee. (And yes, the boss left the two of them to have lunch together.)

Bertelsman remembers one particularly lavish proposal with a carefully selected eight-course tasting menu. The ring — along with a great bottle of Champagne and a dozen roses — was served first, but with each subsequent course, a dozen more roses were presented. While there was room for the 90 roses at the end of the meal, when they left to get in the horse-drawn carriage, she only took one stem.


5. Important Advice to Heed

Aside from making sure your loved one will say yes (which is somewhat out of your control), call the restaurant the day before and re-confirm any plans. Checking, and triple checking, that everything will go as planned will let you rest just a bit easier. Bertelsman and Risoli agree that keeping the moment private, just between the two of you, is best. Bertelsman adds, "don't bring your mom, your best friend, or your attorney. I've seen all three."