If holiday jewelry ads are to be believed, peak engagement season is upon us, and in 2019, simply dropping to one knee in front of the Christmas tree isn’t going to cut it.
As Pinterest-inspired weddings escalate to new heights of Insta-friendly spectacle, the over-the-top trend is spreading to engagements as well, and question-poppers are increasingly turning to professionals to ensure their proposal checks all the boxes without becoming a cog in the great Instagram recycling mill.
“When you think about all of the Instagram proposals or Pinterest proposals circling the web, there’s really nothing less authentic than copying the rose petals and light up ‘Marry Me’ sign on a rooftop simply because it looks romantic,” says Megan Ellis, a proposal planner and designer with The Yes Girls. “Instead, we steer our clients towards a proposal set up that’s completely unique to them, so that when their partner walks into the space, they know it was created just for them,” she tells InsideHook.
Launched in 2008, The Yes Girls pioneered the custom marriage proposal trend in a distant, pre-Instagram era when a then-nascent social media space was just beginning to reshape traditions surrounding major life events. (What is widely considered to be the first viral gender reveal party took place the same year.) In the eleven years since, the company has planned thousands of elaborate customized proposals, from day-long, multi-step events to dramatic rooftop spectacles complete with flower altars and fireworks.
The company offers multiple proposal packages, from the base-level $400 offering that includes a consultation and two custom proposal ideas to a full-service VIP package complete with a personal on-site coordinator. Ellis says the typical budget for The Yes Girls proposals comes in around $4,000 to $5,000, but they’ve planned proposals that cost upwards of $50,000.
So who’s dropping thousands on a custom marriage proposal? “Our clients are all over the board,” says Ellis, though she does add that many tend to be in the tech and financial industries. “We have men and women looking to propose from all walks of life. We see men over 50 that are looking to do things right the second time around, and we see nervous 23 year-olds that have scraped together their savings to put together this one romantic gesture for their partner.”
While outsourcing one of the biggest milestones in a couple’s relationship may strike some traditionalists as devoid of a certain level of authenticity or intimacy, The Yes Girls maintain that their services can actually make a marriage proposal more personal. “We don’t have go-to proposal ideas,” says Ellis, who explains that each proposal is tailored to each individual client’s needs and incorporates personal aspects of their relationship. “Since no two couple are exactly alike, no two proposals are alike either.”
While cobbling together various aspects of other Insta-worthy proposals for your own DIY question-popping event can leave a partner essentially “walking into someone else’s marriage proposal,” as Ellis puts it, a professional can ensure that an engagement is not merely ’grammable, but also one of a kind.
“The proposal is still an intimate moment,” says Ellis. “We don’t interfere with the proposal at all, but rather, we do the stressing for you so that you can stay present and enjoy the moment as it comes.”
The same goes for what is arguably the most enduring aspect of any proposal: the ring. That part falls to Michelle Demaree, the founder of Beverly Hills-based boutique concierge service Miss Diamond Ring. Tapping into the vast network of top diamond specialists and wholesalers she’s built throughout a storied career at luxury jewelers including Tiffany & Co. and Harry Winston, Demaree sources diamonds and gemstones for high-paying clients seeking a truly unique engagement ring.
According to Demaree, whose clients receive a complimentary proposal planning session with The Yes Girls, ring and proposal outsourcing isn’t just a flashy way for the ultra-wealthy to phone it in. “It doesn’t make the ring any less special. It’s just a smarter way to shop,” she tells InsideHook, noting that traditional ring shopping takes an average of 60 hours. “If you can skip that time, connect with someone who can do it in five hours, why wouldn’t you?”
Moreover, enlisting the help of a ring concierge may actually reflect a greater personal investment in a partner’s wants and satisfaction — a testament to a growing transparency Demaree has noticed between partners when it comes to popping the question. “Men are realizing that if they get it wrong, it’s not worth it,” says Demaree, who says she’s seen an increasing number of women taking on a more active role in the ring selection process in recent years. “It’s not worth the, ‘I want to do it all by myself.’ They’d rather have their woman be happy.”
It’s the same with the over-the-top proposals, Demaree explains. “It’s all about making it incredibly personalized to their love story. If you can integrate your history as a couple into that proposal, it is unbelievable what it does for your brain, your memory, your future together. It’s the foundation for your future.”
Meanwhile, the brides and grooms-to-be aren’t the only ones who benefit from these luxury services. Demaree’s clients have an average budget between $40,000 and $50,000 (though some have reached the six- and even seven-figure mark), and a portion of the proceeds from every sale go to the Los Angeles Food Bank. The company has also partnered with the Women’s Global Empowerment Fund, an organization dedicated to ending child marriage in Uganda and providing women and girls with better educational and economic opportunities.
“It adds another level of purpose to what I do,” says Demaree. “When people fall in love and they take this step with me, their love for each other is a gift of love to another child.”