5 AWFUL Marriage Proposal Stories

Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Some people want their proposal to be a full-scale production, complete with skywriting, a string quartet playing Adele, and a flash mob. Others prefer the simple, private, and heartfelt approach. Everyone, however, can agree on one thing: They just want it all to go smoothly.

Unfortunately, sometimes the universe steps in and screws up everything. Rings are lost. Rain clouds form. Lovers become stricken with food poisoning and can barely get on one knee to face the toilet, let alone propose marriage. In short, visions of the perfect romantic moment don't always go as planned.

But, hey, if nothing else, at least a mishap can make for a great story. Ahead, five people share the true stories of their proposals-gone-awry.
Phil, 40
"I took a European trip from Australia with my then-girlfriend, and had intended to propose in the most cliché way possible in Paris. I was going to be down on bended knee in the Place des Vosges, my favorite spot. The day before, however, we both got food poisoning of the worst kind. Taking turns in the bathroom for 24 hours is not a romantic scene-setter. By the time we dragged ourselves out of bed and reached the intended spot, the square had been shut.

"We were leaving France the next day, so I had to hatch a new plan. We were catching a night train to Italy, so I thought that would be romantic. Nope — stiff, white, plastic 'beds' and fluorescent lighting stopped that idea.

"Next, we were in Florence, but I couldn't work out where, when, or how to do it. For a couple of days I ruminated, until I told myself, Today is the day. I was going to take her to dinner and ask her while walking across the Ponte Vecchio. I had the ring ready (my deceased mother's eternity ring, which I was intending to refashion to her liking) and all. At dinner, she says to me, 'Wouldn't it be funny if you proposed right now?' Which totally threw me and made me rethink my plan. Finally, as we went to bed, I plucked up the courage and asked her. She was happy, of course, but due to the nature of the proposal, there was a hint of That was it? For months afterwards, I felt the need to tell people the whole story as justification!

"In any case, we're no longer together. I often wonder whether the food poisoning was a sign from the universe!"

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Kari, 30
"I got engaged about 16 months ago in New York City. My fiancé planned to propose on the pier where we come and go to work together in Manhattan's Financial District. He wanted my best friends of 20-plus years to be a part of it. One of them is an amazing photographer whom he enlisted to photograph the proposal and do a small engagement shoot immediately after. The only problem was, when she jumped out of the bushes where she had been hiding with the camera covering her face, I couldn't tell who it was. I was completely distracted from the actual proposal by this random person I didn't know who was standing two feet away from me taking pictures of his proposal.

"My completely overwhelmed mind went back and forth between excitement and dread/fear that someone was accosting us and taking pictures. As I tried to move away and ask my fiancé what was going on, he refused to answer me, which just freaked me out even more. Then, I saw two more people jump out of the bushes and come running toward us. It's only because he was holding my hand that I didn't bolt. Luckily, once they got close, I recognized them as my best friends and realized what was going on.

"To this day, my fiancé thinks the reason I was crying (which I almost never do) was because of how surprised and happy I was. I don't have the heart to tell him the tears were partially a result of the relief that came with the end of the embarrassment, fear, and dread brought on by our audience."

Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Alicia, 40
"We were living in the U.K. — sort of. I had been spending a lot of time there visiting my boyfriend, but the last time I went through immigration at the airport, they gave me 30 days to leave the country. The immigration agent said he would have deported me, but he couldn’t be bothered to do the paperwork. When I asked him how I was supposed to continue my long-distance relationship without being able to visit, he told me we should just get married. When I passed the message on to my boyfriend, I saw fear in his eyes.

"I was forced to move back to the States, with assurances that we would have a solution to this issue soon. In mime-like fashion, he would point to the ring finger. It felt like he was holding the carrot, and that really pissed me off.

"Still, he was committed in every other way. Together we made plans to spend Christmas in Boston with my family, and New Year's Eve in New York City with my friends. After a nice family Christmas, my boyfriend and my dad were packing up the car, and I saw them exchange some serious words followed by a hug. I didn’t give much mind to it.

"We threw a massive party for New Year's Eve in our sixth-floor walk-up in the West Village. It was wonderful — kind of like the perfect moment to get engaged. Towards midnight, my boyfriend and I had a private moment in the bathroom. I could see he was a little nervous. Oh my goodness, maybe he’s going to ask me, I thought. But no — he just gave me a big hug, and waded back into the crowd.

"The next morning, my dad called and said, 'Happy New Year, and congratulations! I am so happy for you! You are getting married!' I was like, 'Yeah, sure, someday I’ll get married.' I could hear him backpedal. Dad was like, 'Oh no, he didn’t ask you, dammit. He told me he was going to ask you at midnight.' Like a volcano, the lava started to rise inside me. I was furious.

"Some 10 years later, we are happily married, but it took two more excruciating months and two more failed attempts before he finally popped the question."

Darren, 33
"I proposed on a Nile River cruise in Cairo. We were both very ill from drinking local water that didn't agree with us. Because of the heat, Hannah's finger had swelled a bit and the ring wouldn't go on. Then, when she put the ring in our suitcase on the way home (yeah, I know), our luggage was misplaced by the airline for a week. When we got home, her sister had thrown a surprise party for us. We were both still very ill, and only managed an hour-ish before having to go home to sleep. When our luggage finally turned up, the bottle of very dodgy Egyptian wine we had packed to bring home as a souvenir had cracked and soaked everything in the suitcase!"

Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Kelsey, 30
"After almost four years together, I had a feeling that our trip to New York held a proposal. On the second night, we had dinner in Brooklyn and then headed to a bar with some old arcade games. After a few drinks, Simon suggested that we head down to a bar that overlooked the East River, so we could see the Manhattan skyline all lit up.

"When we got there, he wanted to go down to a park by the water to get a better view, but it turned out that it was less of a park, and more of a patch of grass occupied mostly by unsavory characters who appeared to be using and selling drugs. Top-notch romance, that is.

"We decided to walk along the water until we found a nice spot with a good view, except that the entire bank of the East River was a boarded-up construction site. We finally found a lovely promenade, but it was absolutely mobbed with people. Simon kept insisting that we find a quieter place to enjoy the view, and we finally found one.

"We soaked in the view of the gorgeous skyline, and Simon got a little weird, repeating, 'So...so...so...' over and over, until eventually he got down on one knee and asked me if I'd marry him. Through floods of tears, I checked that he wasn't joking, and I said yes! He gave me a beautiful ring, but insisted that it was simply a placeholder and that we'd pick the ring together the next day."
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