Day 6

Wait until she's done the marathon and other good advice for popping the question

When a man stopped his girlfriend to propose to her while she was halfway through the New York City Marathon, the internet wasn't impressed. Lisa Hoplock has plenty of other cautionary tales from the world of public proposals.

Kaitlyn Curran's boyfriend proposed when she was at mile 16 of the NYC Marathon, and remarkably, she said yes

Lisa Hoplock has studied the success and failure of marriage proposals. (University of Victoria)

When you get down on one knee to propose to that special someone, the last thing you want is for everyone around you to cringe.

That's the challenge with public marriage proposals: they're risky and unpredictable. While many public proposals go off without a hitch, even successes can be met with criticism.

Take a proposal last week during the New York City Marathon, when a man stopped his girlfriend, Kaitlyn Curran, 25-kilometres in, and proposed.

She said yes — but the internet said no.

"He couldn't propose to her at the finish line?" asked many on Twitter. Others expressed frustration about how the mid-race stop would affect her race time.

"That proposal is not the ideal proposal for everyone and possibly not even for them," Lisa Hoplock told Day 6. "It looked like he wanted to keep hugging his partner and spending more time with her." She, of course, was busy.

Hoplock is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Manitoba and her PhD dissertation was an analysis of accepted and rejected marriage proposals.

After watching and reading more than 1000 proposals, Hoplock is somewhat of an authority on what makes a good — and a bad — proposal. 

Location, location, location

A fancy restaurant or on the Champ de Mars beneath the Eiffel Tower both make lovely settings for public proposals. A porta-potty does not, which is where one man chose to offer a ring to his partner.

"They could hear people going to the bathroom and he was quite drunk," Hoplock said.

Despite the smelly spot, the woman in the porta-potty proposal said yes. It's a "unique story" for the woman and her partner, Hoplock says.

Post-doctoral fellow Lisa Hoplock most memorable marriage proposal was one that took place outside of a porta-potty. (Shutterstock)

Nevertheless, she checked in the next day to make sure that the to-be-husband was sure about his offer.

"He kind of wishes that he had done something a little more special or memorable," noted Hoplock.

It's also good to note that, according to Hoplock's research, mall proposals — especially those in food courts — are more likely to be rejected. More on that later.

Hold on tight

Asking someone to spend the rest of their life with you is nerve-wracking at best, and sometimes nerves can get the better of you. Hands shake and people describe hearts pounding.

"There's an area there where mistakes might occur, like dropping the ring off the side of a cliff into some water," Hoplock said.

In her research, Hoplock described the story of a man who rented a gondola as a romantic vessel for his proposal, but dropped the ring into the water as he pulled it out of his pocket.

Others, Hoplock describes, have fallen off cliffs or been swept away by water.

"It's a hazard people don't really think about, but it's something that they have to be careful about," she said.

Know thyself

Rejections most commonly happen when one half of the couple thinks they're on the same page and, well, they aren't.

"They were less likely to talk in advance about marriage," Hoplock found.

One conversation may have been the saving grace for a man who proposed to his girlfriend in a mall food court to an audience of dozens.

"She seems quite horrified and really wants to get out of that situation," Hoplock said, and indeed she did. The bride-to-be took off as the crowd around her encouraged her to say yes.

"The proposal script of bending on one knee and offering a ring is something that's instantly recognizable and so people they often start clapping. They'll cheer."

But when the proposal goes off the rails, the crowd can become confused and they often boo the person being proposed to, while comforting the person who initiated the proposal.

So, if ever in doubt, Hoplock has a simple solution.

"Propose in private with the ring — and have a firm grip on the ring."


To hear more from Lisa Hoplock, download our podcast or click the 'Listen' button at the top of this page.

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