New Rule Of Engagement


Proposal Planners Are Now The Order Of The Day - Cardin Could Have Used One

August 21, 2009|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,

Del. Jon Cardin has taken enough heat for wasting scarce police resources on his marriage proposal. It's the bizarr-o nature of the proposal itself that deserves further ridicule.

Cardin popped the question the old-fashioned way - on bended knee.

On bended knee, aboard a boat, in the Inner Harbor, beneath a police helicopter, amid a faux marine-unit raid, before a woman who feared arrest. Weighing a lifetime with a temporarily insane Baltimore County Democrat against a night in Central Booking, she said yes.

Call me prudish, but I say, save the handcuffs for the honeymoon.

"This reminds me of the time my boyfriend proposed to me in a bank during an elaborate hostage situation broadcast on the jumbotron during a Nationals game," a reader wrote on Wonkette.

"It would'a only been better if they'd tasered the happy couple afterwords," wrote another.

Yet another wondered: "Will he take his ladybride to Gitmo for the wedding night stress position surprise?"

Cardin is by all accounts as mild-mannered a lawmaker as his uncle, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin. I'm guessing when Uncle Ben asked for his high school sweetheart's hand in marriage 45 years ago, he did so without a whole lot of paramilitary frippery.

What could have possessed a guy with a genetically under-the-top predisposition to go so overboard?

We could blame the mysterious friend who lent Cardin the boat and reportedly helped him cook up the plan. Or the effects of Everybody Loves Raymond, which had a faux-arrest proposal in one episode, on impressionable state lawmakers.

I say, cherchez la feminism, in combination with retro romanticism and the matrimonial-industrial complex. These forces have conspired to transform the act of proposing from an intimate moment for two into a professionally staged event.

A growing number of brides-to-be - 67 percent of them, a survey by and Men's Health magazine found - pick out their own engagement rings. (What thoroughly modern woman wants to be stuck with a clunker diamond till death or those one-in-every-two odds us do part?)

Yet in the same survey, nearly 70 percent of women stated that "the 'surprise' factor was essential to the perfect proposal."

If we women want to get our way and get swept off our feet, guys have to resort to presenting the pre-approved ring in a surprising way.

"It's become more of a big deal for a guy to come up with the perfect proposal for her," said The Knot editor Anja Winikka. "Some guys are actually hiring professional proposal planners."

You read that right: professional proposal planners.

For fees ranging from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, proposal planners help prospective grooms plan and even execute the engagement.

If the guy wants to pop the question in a park and needs to stash the ring somewhere, the planner and maybe a professional photographer will lurk nearby - "sometimes hiding in the bushes in a stalker way" - to capture the moment and make sure no one makes off with the diamond, she said.

"It doesn't have to cost a lot of money," Winikka said. "It doesn't have to be a big huge party with confetti cannons." But sometimes it is on the order of a small wedding reception.

"He'll propose privately, and they'll go to dinner afterward and, 'Surprise, your entire family and friends are going to be there!'"

An outfit I found on the Web,, offers to plot proposals ranging from "Formal to Casual to Extreme." That last category topped out at hot air balloon and bungee jumping adventures. There was no false-arrest package.

Winikka gave Cardin's proposal mixed reviews.

"Obviously this woman was out-of-her-mind surprised, so he was right on with that," she said. "But I would suggest something else."

Something that, perhaps, wouldn't turn a prospective bride's hair white.

Winikka thinks Cardin could have used professional help. Much of Maryland suspects the same thing.

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