A month ago, I was at my best friend’s wedding and joked to my partner about how funny it would be if we took a moment during the reception to propose to each other. We laughed and laughed and laughed. And then we checked to make sure that no one had been sent to kill us. Because no one even thinks about fucking up the bride’s special day without consequence.
But there are people out there; people who are not like me and my partner and not like you. People who will do anything for attention. People who think that imposing themselves on someone else’s special day will somehow make the day more special for the others. People who believe that they have the right to do whatever they want because we live in America and if you want to get married there’s no more romantic place to ask than right before dessert during someone else’s wedding. These people are ill-mannered and ill-bred. These people are gigantic dicks. These people ruin weddings. No, really, they do.
(Before you get angry because your sister totally said it was cool—she probably didn’t mean it, but we’ll set that aside—and you had discussed it beforehand, please let me make it clear that I am speaking about unplanned, unrehearsed and unwelcome proposals, not about a tearful moment everyone was enthusiastically a part of.)
Earlier this week, a photo circulated on Reddit depicting a man proposing to his girlfriend in front of the bride and groom’s table at a wedding. While some believed that the bride looked happy, anyone who takes a look at her eyes can see that there is murder inside them. The motherfucking proposer even put down his goddamn Corona right in front of the bride (like her table was a fucking countertop?) before getting down on his knee to ask his intended to marry him in the middle of someone else’s party. Look at everything that is wrong in this picture:
Those are not tears of happiness on the bride’s face, my friend. Those are tears of anguish. Those are tears that only a woman whose wedding has been derailed by an inconsiderate douche in a badly fitting shirt can cry. Those are tears that she will remember long after her wedding night. And when her friend calls her two months later, asking why they haven’t spoken since the wedding, the bride will remember only that moment when a day she’d planned for months was squashed by the very people she thought to be closest to her (not her horrible parents, not her racist uncle, but her.best.friend.) and flatly say, “I’ve just been really busy,” before making an excuse to get off the phone quickly and search Google for “how to block a number on Sprint.”
But just in case this picture isn’t convincing enough (and it should be, assuming you’re not a monster), I have a whole list of reasons why you should never ever propose during someone else’s reception. (I am of the belief that you shouldn’t even ask to do so because people will feel guilty and let you, but that’s between you and them. This is just about the surprise proposal.)
I understand how some people may not get this and also think that brides and grooms would want to share their special day with everyone they’ve invited, but make no mistake: It’s about them sharing their happiness with you, not about you sharing your happiness with them. You wouldn’t like it if someone strolled into your birthday party and demanded that “Happy Birthday” be sung to them, so others probably won’t like it if you decide that their special day is now just a special day in general. And think about this: You get like 80 birthdays so if one is annoying, whatever. But how many weddings does the average person have? Three? No, those are too precious to be mucked up by your tearful proposal.
A good time to propose is after a wedding, not during one. And if you propose right before a wedding, I’d say keep it on the DL—but, you know, do you as long as you’re not doing it in the middle of a wedding, you know?
Let me give you an example that has nothing to do with weddings but will make sense as an analogy:
It took me forever to graduate college, so when I finally did I planned a graduation dinner at The Olive Garden, invited everyone I loved and went down there and waited in line for two hours because, as you know, the O.G does not accept reservations.
Right before my party, my mom, who was not paying for this or anything, just an invited guest, called me up and told me that she was inviting my brother’s friends and that this was going to be a joint party for the both my brother and me because he was transferring to a school out of town. Girl, what? Yes. She brought my brother’s friends, and she gave a toast saying how proud she was of me but also let’s talk about my brother, since suddenly this was his party, too. Now imagine if that had happened to you. Is it petty to feel shitty about something like that? Maybe. But someone just took away an important moment and no matter how chill you are, your initial reaction will likely be anger and disgust.
So just remember that: It’s not your day. You can have your own day. Just not today. Not in the middle of someone else’s reception.
That’s why people want them to be perfect! Someone is paying $4,000 for centerpieces, they want to make sure that everything is going according to plan. That means the toasts better happen when they’re meant to, that the dance mix will not be made up of audience requests (because how many times can you listen to “Like a Virgin” in one night?) and that the spotlight will be on the happy couple the entire night, even if they’re doing dopey shit like a literal interpretive dance to a country song. Yes, some things will invariably go wrong (the power went out during the dancing at the last wedding I went to), but those things should not be due to the wedding guests deliberately trying to steal the spotlight of someone else’s expensive one-time affair, regardless of whether it cost $200 or $20,000 to put on. (Also: don’t ask about the cost of a wedding, I recently learned that that’s tacky.)
You and I both know that if you get up there and say, “I wasn’t planning on doing this but seeing soooo much love out there tonight has made me think about my own relationship,” you are a liar. You have thought this through every step of the way. You could have stopped yourself at any time. It’s even worse if you have a ring for this “spontaneous” moment. You weren’t planning on doing this? Then how come you got a big sparkly-ass diamond in your pocket? It just fell in there? Is there a positive pregnancy test in there, too? No, don’t tell me! Wait for someone’s baby shower!
My point is that best-case scenario your proposal is a premeditated attack, worst-case it really is a spontaneous decision which means you haven’t thought very much about it and it actually doesn’t mean anything which is even more upsetting and useless. Just eat your Beef Wellington and vinegar salad and propose somewhere else.
Yes, you are! Even if you cleared it with the bride and groom first! There are probably going to be people at this wedding who have no idea who you are and didn’t need to be trapped in this awkward moment. If you really must propose when your entire family is present, at least do it at the brunch after the wedding when everyone is hungover and the happy couple just want everyone fucking gone so they can go home and take a nap. (It’s still a tacky thing to do, but it’s more forgivable? I don’t know.)
After the proposal, the evening will belong to you. The highlight won’t be the bride and groom’s first dance or the cake. It will forever be known as the wedding that was crashed by your proposal. That’s how it’ll be remembered. At my wedding I plan on descending from the ceiling in a sparkle suit (Parisian carnival theme wedding, here I come!) while slowly cartwheeling through the air. That’s what people should remember, not the fact that someone proposed during the toasts in my beautiful Cirque Du Soleil-inspired reception.
People love something new and exciting. If you propose during a wedding, guess what: That’s you! The married couple is now old hat. They’ve been married for like an hour already. BORING! But you! You just got engaged! You’re shiny and new and have so much to plan and everyone wants to talk to you and congratulate you and no matter what you believe there really is a finite amount of attention in the world and it is not going to the people for whom this event is being thrown right now. And that goes double for people who sent out really special invites, save-the-dates that were magnets, or have an Instagram hashtag for pictures.
And to people who say, “Well, my wedding isn’t about, like, attention,” I say bullshit. It may not be about garnering attention for yourself the entire time, but it most certainly is about about your day and your love. That is about you. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t be a tiny bit peeved if an overwhelming amount of the focus went somewhere else.
There are, of course, other ways for you, as a guest, to make the day special and show off to others how cool you are without actually disrupting the day that wasn’t about you to begin with. The best way is to be an excellent or unique dancer who will literally throw themselves on the floor during “Blank Space” (me) or remove their shirt during part of the dancing portion (also me). You could also do your best if you’re invited to do a reading and, most importantly, you can kill it during your toast. Just as long as your toast is about the happy couple and not how awesome you are. (You are awesome. Just less awesome than the couple for today.)
One more thing you can do to make the wedding as enjoyable as possible without being disruptive: Eat until you burst and then also eat as many wedding favors as possible. At a recent wedding I wasn’t invited to do a reading or give a toast and had to do something to curb my undying thirst for attention, so I ate about 25 cookies with my friend’s name on them. That filled me right up until my next therapy session. Try it, you’ll like it.
Update: The bride pictured has informed the public that the proposal was planned and approved. According to her, everyone but the proposee knew it was coming (which comes with its own set of problems that I didn’t even get to) and everyone is really happy (mmm...) about everything. My argument has not changed: Proposing in the middle of someone’s wedding, unplanned, is a douchebag move.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top image via Shutterstock.