Smart Thinking

Public proposals – charming or cringeworthy?

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Idris Elba set a precedent with his, but maybe think twice before you follow suit

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, we feel like it’s our responsibility to hold back anyone who’s hired a flashmob for the day. Ever-rugged Idris might have put the bright idea in your head to seize the moment and make a romantic gesture like no other, but for us mere mortals, that’s a high risk strategy.

We know it’s a gooey time of year, and yes, we’re also sick of tripping over displays of chocolates and roses in every other store in town, but let’s just take a moment to cool off.

Time for an awkward (but crucial) question: is your partner going to say yes? I know you hope so, but if you’re even the tiniest bit unsure, cancel the pink bi-plane you’ve hired to propose in skywriting. Sure, it could work out. Your partner might be delighted and say ‘let’s do it’. But, there’s a second way this story could go. Public proposals run the risk of pressuring your partner into agreeing in front of a crowd, before backtracking later on. Or, if your partner is brutally honest, you could have to face a moment of crushing rejection, captured by a hundred awkward iPhone videos. No one wants that.

‘If you’re even the tiniest bit unsure, cancel the pink bi-plane you’ve booked for skywriting’

Even if you do feel completely confident, are you sure your future fiancé won’t be mortified by the presence of an audience? Let’s not forget the valuable life lessons upheld in that most sage of television documentaries Friends. Reflect on Phoebe and Mike’s almost-proposal. Just when he’s about to pop the question on the big screen at a basketball game, she announces how tacky and impersonal she finds public proposals. And you know what – we can’t help but think she’s not wrong.

Let’s face it, Idris’s drop down on one knee at the screening of his film Yardie didn’t exactly scream thoughtfulness. Naturally, at his own premiere he was the centre of attention, and the proposal only served to generate more Idris-focused headlines. The moment ceased to be something shared between two equals – it became a publicity stunt.

So guys, we’re not saying don’t do it, but we are saying approach with caution. And whatever you do, be absolutely sure this kind of proposal will go down well. And if you don’t know your partner well enough to tell, maybe tomorrow isn’t the best day to ask.