Ultimate Proposals on a Budget by Sarah Pease, The Proposal Planner™

ultimate proposals on a budget sarah pease

image courtesy of Maggie Harkov and Sarah Pease

Planning a dream marriage proposal when you have thousands of dollars can be easy.  But what if you’re pinching pennies?  As a marriage proposal planner who designs and plans marriage proposals all over the world, I’ve still maintained that a great proposal truly doesn’t require thousands of dollars.  If you don’t have deep pockets, the two most important things you need to create a perfect marriage proposal are extra time, and the ability to get creative. 

The biggest cost of any marriage proposal is always the location so try to find a special place for free, or transform one of your regular spaces into an engagement wonderland. Just by removing that expense, you’re already ahead of the game.  Your next biggest expense is usually on the décor – setting the scene.  Save by using piped-in music from your iPod or Pandora, and forgo any kind of fancy limos or vehicles unless you know that it’s a critical piece for her.

Finally, remember that the true secret to making a fantasy proposal come to life is making it personal.  Take the extra time and effort to incorporate reasons why you love her, promises for the future, or your favorite memories.  Those are the things your partner will remember when you’re celebrating your 50th anniversary, not the pricey bouquet of flowers!

Here are just a few creative ideas for marriage proposals that would cost under $250 but would blow any lucky guy or gal away:

One Thousand Paper Cranes.  Ancient Japanese legend tells us that any person who folds one thousand paper cranes is granted one wish from the crane.  The key to making this proposal happen is setting aside a realistic amount of time to create the cranes.  Let’s assume you can fold one paper crane per minute so folding one thousand will take you roughly 17 hours.  If you do one hour of folding per day then it means you’ll need to set aside just over two weeks to complete this.  Or, you could recruit family and friends (who can keep a secret!) to help – I love this idea because the support of her family and friends for your proposal really makes it super special.  The average cost of origami paper is about $5 for a packet of 100 so you’ll spend about $50 on paper.  Add roughly 75 tea light candles for $40 and the entire, incredible proposal costs under $100. Imagine her surprise when she steps into your home one random weeknight and the entire space is filled with exactly one thousand paper cranes, either all in one color or grouped in varying colors and zillions of candles.  You share the story of one thousand paper cranes with her and reveal that your wish is to spend the rest of your life with her.  Surrounded by the delicate birds, you drop to one knee and propose!

Extra Credit: Pick out a handful of birds and write reasons why you love her on them and enjoy discovering them after she says yes.

Visit a Faraway Land (sort of). Everyone dreams of seeing the Eiffel Tower of Paris at least once in their life. Instead of waiting for months to save up and propose in Paris, bring Paris to her by transforming your home into the City of Lights!  Get creative and start doing your research: music, cuisine, décor—all the elements to makeover your humble abode into a European city.  First, no Paris proposal would be complete without the Eiffel Tower, so hop online and find a prom supply store that sells these. Stumps Party has some great options on a budget that come complete with twinkle lights for around $200 – don’t forget to measure your ceiling height before you order to make sure your assembled tower will fit inside!  After doing a little more research, you’ll come across the famous Lover’s Bridge where couples put a padlock with their name on the bridge and throw away the key.  Recreate this by purchasing a padlock of your own from your local hardware store and tying on a beautiful satin ribbon.  Next, turn your sights to food.  Instead of spending big dollars on an expensive French restaurant, go authentic French and pickup a fresh baguette from you neighborhood bakery, an incredible piece of French cheese and a bottle of wine or Champagne.  Make it super special by selecting a wine that is from the year you met! For the extra added touch, create a beautiful display of the food – a large cutting board, wrap the bread in red and white checked paper, and put out a stem of grapes for that true Parisian authentic touch.  Finally, set the mood by putting a few candles around the space, turning the lights down low and pressing play on a Pandora mix of French-inspired music like the soundtrack from Amelie or Chocolat.  As she steps in the door, she’ll immediately be transported to Paris where you’ll pop the question!  Toast with your French wine to your future.

Extra Credit: Purchase a used book of French poetry and write a special inscription to her inside the front cover.

It doesn’t take a lot of money to make a huge impression on the love of your life. With a little thoughtfulness and personalization, any girl or guy can feel like a million bucks, and the more likely they’ll be sharing the story with their friends and family for years to come.

Still hoping for an over-the-top, all expenses paid proposal for your match? Enter the Propose Perfectly with Match.com contest for your chance to win a full proposal concierge, including $5,000 engagement ring from Robbins Brothers, professional proposal planning from Sarah Pease, and a videographer to capture every special moment. Enter today!


Sarah Pease, The Proposal Planner™ is the foremost expert on marriage proposals and is the pioneer of Marriage Proposal Planning. Sarah is the founder of Brilliant Event Planning and Proposal Ideas, and has designed and produced dream engagements for countless lucky couples from across the world.

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