We spoke to Matt who chose a trip to Barcelona to propose to his partner Louise. He had some hints and tips that he learned whilst planning his proposal that he says everyone planning a destination proposal should know.
“I always knew that I was going to spend the rest of my life with Louise. I didn’t actually ever really think too hard about it, it was just a given in my mind. And then people started asking if we were getting married and if I’m honest, it freaked me out a bit. So when I made my mind up that I wanted to ask her, I wanted to do it my way, but a way that I thought she’d love. That’s harder than you’d imagine!
My oldest friend Mark and I must have gone through hundreds of ideas – we trawled the internet (on his phone not mine! – I was already scared of ruining the surprise) looking for unique ways to make a proposal and all of them seemed either too extravagant for Lou’s taste or very niche. If you’re into cos-play or you’re a sports star, you have some elaborate things you can do and that’s great, but it wouldn’t fit with us at all.
What we have always loved to do together is travel and explore… in fact we met travelling during university. It seemed pretty logical (and thankfully Mark agreed) to book a holiday somewhere and try to integrate something a bit special into the trip.
The whole proposal trip in Barcelona was amazing and we’ll both remember it forever – we talk about it more than our actual wedding! I did learn a lot in the process and these are the most important things you need to remember when you’re planning on proposing away from home.
#1 Pack the ring properly
If you’re getting a ring for your partner rather than choosing one together, get a ‘travel ring’ – one that looks similar but isn’t the real deal. If you take the real thing it’s just another layer of pressure in case you lose it, it gets stolen or your luggage is lost. Just get a cheap one but remember to tell them not to get attached to it! Also if you’re travelling by air, go behind your partner through airport security. If you get stopped and searched for any reason and they’re in front of you, they’ll be too busy putting their own bags back in order and their shoes back on to be worried about you. However, most airport security are pretty switched on so if they see it on the x-ray machine, they’ll likely know what it is and be discrete. If you’re only using a travel ring, you can get your proposal manager to source a cheap ring for you at your destination and you avoid this completely.
#2 Choose a sunny city
I picked Barcelona partly because of the weather. Not too hot, not too cold, not too wet… I just didn’t want to have to ‘deal’ with weather. I wanted to be pretty sure what I was getting and know that my plans wouldn’t be disrupted by a monsoon.
#3 Find someone to help you on the ground
This is even more important if you don’t speak the language but make sure it’s someone who fully understands what you’re trying to do. If you can, find an event agency or a planner who is a specialist in organising proposals. Working with Valentina saved me money and I avoided several avoid costly mistakes. She organised upgrades and special treatment which could never have arranged myself. Valentina’s experience and contacts mean that if you’re short on ideas, she’s going to be able to help you with those too and eve make you think all the ideas were yours to begin with! You won’t need to do a recce either because they’ll have that covered for you and if you’re a complete control freak like I am, you can get them to do a skype rehearsal with you so you know how it ‘should’ all pan out!
#4 Set up a web based email account
You’re always going to run the risk of your partner finding out about your proposal plans before you manage to surprise them but you can reduce that chance. I agreed no text contact with my proposal planner, Valentina. I didn’t want Lou thinking anything sinister was going on with me skulking off to reply to messages so I set up a totally different gmail account and never accessed it unless I was on my own.
#5 Getting permission
If you’re asking a parent for their blessing, don’t do it until you know that your partner will not be seeing them again until after you get back! Some people do not have a good poker face and this is especially true when they’re excited about something. Lou’s Dad nearly blew the whole thing with a flippant comment about the trip – something only Lou and I knew about so he would have to have had inside knowledge and that would have raised too many questions. Luckily Lou wasn’t paying attention or the whole thing would have gone south very quickly.
#6 Try not to have rigid plans
If you set a timetable of events, your partner will either get mad at you for odd behaviour or guess something is up. The more ‘normal’ you can be, the better. Trying to time things so that on the stroke of 9pm, a firework goes off and a band strikes up and doves emerge from a box in a perfect fan… is a recipe for disaster. A planner will help you with this but unless you’ve got a staff of 20 who normally keep you on the straight and narrow, you’re better off working to windows of time and not to a stopwatch.
#7 Plan what happens the day after your proposal
There’s a tendency to focus so much on your actual proposal that you don’t plan anything else for the holiday. If you want to avoid an anti-climax, have a variety of options for the following day or both of you might end up feeling a bit flat.
#8 Choose your place with care
It’s somewhere you’re probably going to want to revisit for anniversaries if not your wedding so make sure it’s somewhere with enough going on that you can enjoy it for years to come. A cosmopolitan city like Barcelona is the perfect choice because not only will have hundreds of things to do and see but you’ll have a huge choice of incredible bars, restaurants and accommodation to try over the years.
#9 For goodness sake enjoy it.