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Tips from a marriage proposal expert

By Josh Levs, CNN
August 16, 2012 -- Updated 2131 GMT (0531 HKT)
Josh Levs
Josh Levs
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Josh Levs says a marriage proposal should reflect the personality of the couple
  • A public proposal should be well-thought-out and not for the benefit of observers
  • Public or private, a proposal should be an expression of love and commitment
  • Your proposal is not a performance, but you should be confident enough to seal the deal

Editor's note: CNN's Josh Levs has a side gig helping people plan "magic proposals" for their beloved. He's had a great success rate thus far, and here's what he's learned. Despite the pronouns used below, these tips can apply for women proposing to men and same-sex couples too.

(CNN) -- When preparing to propose marriage, create a moment that's right for her and that accurately reflects -- in a beautiful, emotional and thoughtful way -- what's special about you. If you're a great couple, those two things won't conflict. She loves you, so she'll love you expressing who you are in a moment that's totally focused on her.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking that there should be a crowd of strangers as onlookers. For some women, that's just right. But for most, it isn't.

It's fine for women to drop hints to their boyfriends about the general kind of proposal they would want, i.e., how public or not. Do not dictate the specifics, and remember it's not just about you; it's about him expressing himself in a beautiful, fragile moment of bravery and humility that's all about love. Celebrate him as much as he's celebrating you.

BMX rider Todd Lyons took a knee in April at a national BMX race in Chula Vista, California, and popped the question to Mare Galletti, his girlfriend of three years. "People constantly tell us what an awesome proposal it was and how awesome it is to have it all captured," Galletti said. See more on Lyons' very public proposal on Galletti's iReport. BMX rider Todd Lyons took a knee in April at a national BMX race in Chula Vista, California, and popped the question to Mare Galletti, his girlfriend of three years. "People constantly tell us what an awesome proposal it was and how awesome it is to have it all captured," Galletti said. See more on Lyons' very public proposal on Galletti's iReport.
Public proposals
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Photos: Public proposals Photos: Public proposals

Setting the scene

Sometimes the most magical moment you can create is in a space that you have all to yourselves. I tricked my wife into ending up with me alone on the stage of the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, when it was dark. The spotlight came on, our song played through the room. Magic.

Why I proposed marriage in public

I got another couple into a major league baseball park when it was empty. She thought they were on a private tour for just a few members of her family. When they reached the pitcher's mound, her boyfriend went down on one knee, as their song echoed throughout the stadium and a video about them played on the JumboTron. Then the sprinklers came on, getting them just a little wet. No big crowd. Beautiful. Captured on video. Booyah!

Who got it right?

Of the recent sprinkling of public marriage proposals making the rounds, the "lip dub" video speaks to my point. Clearly it thrilled the bride-to-be and was an expression of the future groom's personality. No big crowd of strangers, just, presumably, people they would both want to be there. It's clever, original, positive, adorable. They're not pretending to be all professional and perfect.

I'm not worried about something going wrong in a plan like that, because it wouldn't have mattered. It wasn't about a perfect show -- it was about joy and a celebration of love.

The problem is that guys see videos like this and feel pressured to do something that's public or viral, and they lose track of the point.

Does it have to be public?

Your proposal is not a performance! It's not about proving to the world how cool you are. And its value does not lie in how many people witness it, watch it later or hear about it. Its value lies entirely in how special it is to the two of you, and the kind of story it gives you both to share and celebrate for the rest of your lives.

What's with public marriage proposals?

That's the potential problem with the proliferation of public proposal events, with men trying to outdo each other and create YouTube moments. If you enter that game, you lose the point.

There's a high that comes from a magic proposal. And no matter how many people see it, only the two of you get that "high." If you're going for magic in that moment, that's the central feeling you want to achieve -- not the ego boost of strangers praising you.

Close the deal

Another important note on proposals: Stick the landing! I can't tell you how many guys plan for the buildup and the question, but then ooze awkwardness and have no clue what to do after she says yes! Especially when there's a crowd of people there and the applause is over.

Have a plan for what you're going to do at the very end of the magic proposal event. For some couples, the simpler the better.

How did CNN's Josh Levs become a proposal expert? Watch his TEDx talk to find out!

Would you propose in public or want your partner to do so? Share your take in the comments section below.

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