'Tis the Season to Get Engaged

As if Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, New Year's Eve and Festivus weren't enough, more than one in four grooms propose to their brides over the holiday season.

'Tis the season for wannabe husbands to bend a knee and pledge their love. November and December account for 26 percent of marriage proposals, according to a survey of 1,131 brides sponsored by the Fairchild Bridal Group, the publisher of "Modern Bride."

The survey doesn't even consider all those guys, perhaps egged on by too much eggnog, who got less-than-enthusiastic responses.

"It makes sense. You gather with the family, you feel that much closer to the person you're dating, and now you have an announcement to make," says Rachel Weingarten, author of the forthcoming, "Hello Gorgeous" (Collectors Press).

The wedding business has never been bigger, with nearly 2.1 million couples expected to tie the knot this year, and the cost of the average affair ballooning to $26,327. By Fairchild's estimates, there is an average of 40,400 weddings every weekend, with an annual total of 18 million bridesmaids and groomsmen and 295 million wedding guests.

But there can be no nuptial revelry until the groom pops the question. Luckily, contemporary American men have many unlikely sources to turn to for help. The scoreboard at Yankee Stadium alone accounted for 75 proposals this year, though team officials don't know how many perspective brides had second thoughts when the crowd started chanting their name.

Restaurants, hotels, museums, even zoos and parks have a policy of helping guys out when it's time to ask the question, and some go to outrageous lengths. If you're planning to be among the many who get engaged this holiday season, you might want to consider some of these alternatives.

1. Wedding Bells and Sleigh Bells: Cupid's got nothing on the Santa at the Minneapolis Holidazzle parade, who seems to have more than mistletoe in his sack. In the last 14 years, he's popped out of his sled 26 times to help grooms propose. This Father Christmas bounds off his sled-float, rushes into the bleachers, and surprises women by saying, "You want to hear what your boyfriend wants for Christmas?"

While the rugged Minnesota winters have caused parade-day temperatures to sink to subzero levels, that hasn't given grooms cold feet. Parade officials have already started their list of guys this year who plan a Santa special this holiday season.

"It's become a tradition, so people who go to the parade or watch it on TV see others do it," says Kristin Heinmets. "This year, one couple purposely planned their wedding in the hotel where Cinderella, Capt. Hook, Mother Goose and the other 250 parade characters are staying to incorporate the festivities into their reception."

2. The $10,000 Martini: You wouldn't want to find your wedding ring in a Big Gulp, but what about a $10,000 martini from New York City's Algonquin Hotel? Starting last year, the Algonquin's house jeweler, Bader & Garrin, began working with its bar to mix up the "Marriage Martini" -- which features a diamond ring where you might find an olive.

Last December, Joe Imperato, now 29, became the first to pony up for the stiff drink that comes with an even stiffer price tag. This concoction certainly hit the spot with his bride, Melissa Beck, who took some celebratory sips after fishing out the 1.85-carat square diamond. If you purchase your own ring, the Algonquin will serve it up just the same. You just pay the standard $14 for the drink. Just don't go crying to the bartender when your gal swallows her gemstone.

3. Catch of the Day: Take a deep breath if your date orders "Rocks on the Rocks" at Old Original Bookbinder's, a Philadelphia institution since 1865. The waiter will bring a diamond ring on a bed of ice, served up just like a shrimp cocktail. Former Philadelphia Eagles owner Leonard Tose is among those who got engaged this way. You'll have to bring your own ring. But if you want to make sure that diamond is the real thing, the seafood restaurant's nutcrackers come in handy.

4. Fishy Behavior: Talk about taking the plunge: The only bubbly around when Eric Large got engaged came from his scuba gear. On Oct. 16, he surprised his bride-to-be Andria Sannutti at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, N.J., by appearing in the tank during the Ocean Realm Exhibit water show with the rest of the aquatic life. From behind the glass wall, Large held up a "Will You Marry Me" sign.

Aquarium officials say they've helped out with similar stunts over the years, and charge just for cost, on a case-by-case basis.

For some strange reason, getting engaged or married underwater is not that rare. Resorts at Turks and Caicos now offer divers gear with audio headsets, and they say several couples have taken advantage of the ocean depths to bring their relationship to the next level.

"You might ask yourself why people do this, but people want a fantastic story to go with their engagement, so why not pop the question while you're exploring one of the world's largest coral reefs," says tourism spokeswoman Meghan Lee. "One thing's for sure, unlike a restaurant, when you get engaged under the sea, there won't be constant interruptions."

Ocean-loving landlubbers can also turn to the Dolphin Dome at the Indianapolis Zoo to ponder the porpoise of life.The zoo rents out this unique observatory for $1,500 clams and has done so several times in the name of love. They will even let these Romeos jump in the water to pop the question, though a woman might be immediately reminded that there are always other fish in the tank.

5. Lord of the Wedding Rings: When the Indiana State Museum opened its "Lord of the Rings" exhibit last month, it didn't take long before museum officials obliged one anxious groom who needed to catch a second alone with his gal in the "Ring Room" and become the happiest hobbit on Middle Earth.

"There in a darkened room, suspended in mid-air was the ring," the groom later recalled on his wedding blog, which is subtitled "When Geeks Marry."

"I turned to Vanda and asked, 'Do you think this is the real One Ring?'"

"Yeah, I think it is," his bride-to-be said.

"I don't think so," he responded.

"No?"

"I think this one is," he said, pulling out his own sparkler.

6. Jewelers for Nervous Guys: Girls aren't the only ones who know guys sometimes need a little prodding. This month, Seattle jeweler EE Robbins began offering "The Proposer" -- a 6-foot-5 gent, decked out like a James Bond character in all black. He pulls up to a bride's door in a vintage Cadillac limousine, and knocks on her door with an engagement ring he keeps in a steel briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. P.S. He doesn't like hearing "No."

Another major jeweler, Robbins Bros. of California and Texas, now lends out its mobile billboard truck to plaster a personalized "Will You Marry Me" sign in a strategic location. The company began experimenting with the service in the spring, and is now resuming the services for the Thanksgiving-to-Christmas rush.

Still another jeweler is taking on the issue of grooms who fear picking out the wrong ring, but don't want to pop the question empty handed. The old solution was to use a temporary ring that could be returned for something the bride has in mind. But wouldn't it be nice to have something you could keep from the night you got engaged?

Message Connextion now offers the $67 "Will You Marry Me?" bracelet, which contains a locket-like little envelope, to allow a man to have words of love etched on tiny, micro-engraved plates. Technology now allows for 400-word messages that can fit on jewelry. Hopefully, this wrist ornament will get the woman in the ring-shopping mood, and she won't respond with an "I Need to Think About It" bracelet for him.

7. Pretend Marriage: If you want all of the fun of getting married, but none of the commitment, The Avenue Inn in New Orleans will throw you a mock wedding and honeymoon weekend, so you can see how you and your partner react. The $349 two-day package comes complete with a hand bouquet and boutonniere, a walk down the aisle, and an exchanging of vows officiated by a mock minister.

"Ever test-drive a new car? … Taste the ice cream before it goes in the cone? Here's your chance for a non-threatening trial wedding to test the waters of matrimony," says innkeeper Joe Rabhan.

"If your 'almost' significant other is a bit squeamish about tying the knot, or perhaps thinking of running away, this is an experience that's like no other … except the real thing, of course."

Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at ABCNEWS.com. "The Wolf Files" is published Tuesdays.

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