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Millennials Make Marriage Proposals Public Affairs

Valentine’s Day this past weekend brought sweets and other treats for loved ones, and for some couples, an engagement. A hard-to-believe 6 million people told American Express that they were either expecting or planning a marriage proposal on the national love holiday.

How many actually materialized is unknown, but chances are that most were not low-key, drop-on-a-knee affairs. Proposals now require a fancy restaurant, flowers, a party with friends — and that’s the small-scale version.

In yet another generational difference, many millennials have turned marriage proposals into full-scale productions complete with flash mobs, singing groups and marching bands. It shouldn’t be surprising that a cohort of people who grew up on music videos and detail their daily lives on social media turns to YouTube to demonstrate their love. Why not go over the top when the magic moment finally presents itself?

An informal survey of online videos found proposals via fire trucks and skyscrapers, on snow-covered mountain tops and crowded beaches, and in police stations and coffee shops. Jimmy Kimmel’s show provided the backdrop for a proposal by a man dressed as Elmo the Muppet. On the TV show The Talk, 50 men proposed en masse. One that has drawn 30 million YouTube views was staged three years ago by a young Atlanta man who proposed to his girlfriend by dubbing a movie trailer. The couple now offer consultations.

A whole industry has sprung up around public marriage proposals, including the wedding site Los Angeles-based Heart Bandits was started when the founder was disappointed that her now-husband had not put more thought into his proposal, including a videographer and post-proposal party. She told the Washington Post that she now plans up to 20 engagements a month, with the cost often running into thousands of dollars.

However, a public proposal runs the risk of failure. And that, too, will be shared online. YouTube features a section of humiliating moments where the answer to “Will you marry me” was “no.” For some reason, many seem to take place at sporting events. A survey by found that some women actually don’t like a public proposal.

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From this admittedly unscientific survey, it seems that the most successful proposals are those in which the groom-to-be really knows his bride. One perfect proposal involved a Canadian newspaper reporter who posted a Twitter query wondering who mounted heart-shaped posters all over town advertising a Sunday event in a local park. Camera and notebook in hand, she headed to the park at the appointed hour, where her boyfriend of eight years surprised her with a proposal in front of family and friends. She said yes and even published a piece about it. Now that’s a story to tell the kids and grandkids!

Mary W. Quigley’s blog, Mothering21 ,  tackles parenting of emerging adults and beyond. 

Photo: YouTube

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