It used to be that when a guy was ready to pop the question, all he needed was a ring and a ready knee. Engagements today are evolving into an event almost on par with the wedding itself.
"The only thing we see consistently is just the four words 'Will you marry me,'" said Regina Bagdasarian, owner of The Bridal Bar in Bird Rock.
Every new customer who enters her shop shares her engagement story, and Bagdasarian said some of the proposals are extreme.
"Some men arrange destination proposals and even have a videographer follow along," she said.
With TV shows and celebrities flaunting flamboyant proposals, Bagdasarian said she believes there is some pressure on men to make their own proposal distinctive.
"Men are very ego driven and they know their story is going to go down in history…so they want it to be special," she said.
Pamela Ann Noxon, creator of the Wedding Party Bridal Show, SanDiegoWedding.com and Pamela's Parasols, shared some of the proposal trends she's been hearing about: a surprise "proposal" party with friends and family, travel proposals where the bride-to-be is literally swept away to a romantic destination and women proposing to men.
While Noxon has her doubts about some of these trends, she said the important thing is that the proposal fit the personality of the couple.
Noxon said there is something to be valued in both spontaneous proposals and those that are well planned.
"There's a lot to be said for the power of being in the moment, being caught up in the moment because you're…so swept away by love for this person," she said. "But there's also a lot to be said for the man who goes to great effort. Men communicate love through action more than through words."
Wedding and event planner Paul Bott said proposals have changed dramatically, even in the last three years.
"I see more and more (men) taking time out to plan the actual proposal," Bott said. "I think men more and more are coming out of the emotional closet. Men have just as much emotion as women and they're starting to show it. I approve it; I applaud it."
Some elements that seem to have remained consistent include the most popular days to propose - Valentine's Day, Christmas and New Year's Eve - as well as most women wanting to be surprised. According to TheKnot.com, 88 percent of women surveyed said the surprise factor was important.
When preparing to propose, all three wedding experts agreed that the event should contain elements important to both the man and woman, such as a favorite dating destination or the location of the first date.
Bott said he sees today's engaged couples abandoning the prepackaged proposal standards and creating their own traditions.
"Focus on what's in your heart and that will be what guides you," Bott said.
Dazzle her with a stunning proposal
If you're ready to ask for her hand in marriage, follow these tips from the experts:
-Know yourself and know your girl. Does she like surprises? Does she embarrass easily? Does she like to be the center of attention? Does she like elaborate occasions?
-Ask for advice from a trusted source like your girlfriend's sister or best friend.
Talk to a wedding planner for creative ideas. Many will work with you for free in hopes of getting your business later.
-Pick a romantic setting: the beach, a mountaintop, The Marine Room Restaurant in La Jolla or the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe.
-Think outside the box. Are you movie buffs? Buy advertising time from a local movie theater and have your proposal run between the previews and the main feature.
-Have the ring. Not sure what to buy? Find out her finger size, a general idea of style or design, and what shape diamond she likes. A reliable jeweler can help with the rest.
Prepare to be nervous. Rehearse your words, take a deep breath and remember you love her. Afterall, that's the most important part.
A diamond is worth a thousand yeses
No proposal would be complete without a ring. Like engagements, these tokens of love and devotion go through trends also.
What's hot right now
-Round, cushion-cut solitaires
-Micro Pave diamond accents
-Diamond eternity bands
What was hot
As in many areas of design and fashion, engagement ring trends are cyclical. During the 1980s, engagement ring design was primarily big and flashy. The trend was bigger rings, larger diamonds and busier designs. Yellow gold was the predominant metal of choice, with a sprinkling of two-tone mix of white and yellow gold.
The 1990s ushered in the era of the white metals in engagement ring design. Platinum and white gold became the metals of choice, with yellow gold essentially disappearing from the bridal ring market. The trend in design for engagement rings during the 1990s moved rapidly toward simplicity and elegance. Unlike the busy, flashy designs of the 1980s, women of the 1990s preferred the more subtle look of a solitaire or three stone ring.
The 1990s also saw the popularity of fancy cuts of diamonds explode. More geometric shapes of diamonds such as princess, radiant and emerald cut diamonds enjoyed high demand.
In the new millennium engagement ring design has returned once again to a bigger look. The bling is back.
Sources: Jim Lavi of Daniel Jewelry and Gifts, La Jolla and designer of Alyssa Milano's engagement ring. Jeffrey Martin of John Franklin Fine Jewelers, San Diego.