Surprise proposal ideas

Marriage proposal rejection: What if she says “no”?


When you’re planning a marriage proposal, there’s lots to think about. How you’re going to propose, what you’re going to propose with, what you’re going to say and where you’re going to propose are all probably at the forefront of your mind right now. But another thing that might be taking up a lot of your mental space is – what happens if they say no?

Marriage proposal rejection, although much less common than them saying yes, is still a possibility when you’re asking your partner to marry you. But, the fact that you’re thinking about it is actually a good sign – acknowledging it as a potential outcome most likely means you’ve thought properly about the significance of what you’re about to do.

How to minimise the chance of a marriage proposal rejection

Let’s be clear: you can’t force someone to say yes if it’s not right for them, so the only way to minimise the chance of a marriage proposal rejection is to ask the right person at the right time in the right way. Simple, right?

Making sure you are on the same page as your partner and know what they not only want from a proposal but for their future too is the best way to know when and how to propose.

However, in the event that they do say no, here’s our guide on what to do after a marriage proposal rejection:

Common reasons for a marriage proposal rejection

They’re not ready

Arguably the most common reason for a marriage proposal rejection is that the recipient is simply not ready. A relationship is a thing of two halves, and even if you feel ready, if your partner doesn’t: you’re not ready as a team. It’s really important to remember that a no doesn’t necessarily mean no forever: for some people, it really does just mean not right now.

Wrong time and/or wrong place

Another common reason for a marriage proposal rejection is that the question was posed by the right person, but in the wrong place or at the wrong time. Emotions are very strong forces, and sometimes can take over completely – an (in)famous example of this is spontaneously proposing to your partner whilst at someone else’s wedding.

Do you want to try proposing a second time? Read these articles for inspiration. You can also download our proposal guide to help you prepare.

It’s not sincere

Some marriage proposal rejections occur when people feel like the proposal is not all that sincere. Maybe you’re proposing as a kneejerk reaction to something, or maybe you’re proposing because you think it’s the ‘right’ thing to do, but actually, not necessarily what you want to do.

They’re not financially stable

This might not seem like an immediately obvious distinction, but it’s a really important one: your partner may not be rejecting the engagement in and of itself, but instead rejecting the idea of a wedding in the near future. Many people want to be financially stable to afford a particular style or level of wedding, and proposing before they’re at that point can induce feelings of claustrophobia, rather than excitement.

You’re not on the same page

We don’t want to keep banging the same ol’ drum, but we thought it’s worth repeating: it’s so important to ensure that you and your partner are on the same page before you propose, to avoid possible situations like this. Are you confident in what your partner wants from a marriage? Do you know for sure that they want to get married at all? These are all questions you need to ask before you pop the question.

What to do after a marriage proposal rejection

If you do experience a marriage proposal rejection, the most important thing to do in the aftermath is treat the situation with the delicacy and respect you both deserve. Of course, your feelings will probably be desperately hurt, and you need to make sure you hold space for this and honour your emotions, but your partner is probably feeling all sorts of confusion too.

The best thing to do in this situation is to prioritise honesty. Ask your partner why they’ve said no – not because you want to try and change their mind, but because you want to know what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling. You can also take the opportunity to explain how this has made you feel, so that you’ve both got all the information.

Some couples may take some time apart after a marriage proposal rejection to get some room to breathe and try and clear some headspace. For some people, this may be a couple of hours, for some a weekend, and for some a couple of weeks — everyone has a different processing time. During this time, it’s really important to respect their boundaries; don’t overwhelm them with messages, hound them with calls or bombard them with reasons they should have said yes.

How to move on after a marriage proposal rejection

The good news is: a marriage proposal rejection is NOT a death sentence to a relationship. It’s not even close! Plenty of couples endure a marriage proposal rejection and have a full and flourishing relationship together afterwards. Indeed, a lot of couples also get happily married at some point later in their relationship, because it really was the wrong place or wrong time, not the wrong person.

That honesty that you implemented in the previous step? That’s going to really serve you well here. With this as the foundation, you can start to move on together as a unit. This way, you know that the next phase of your relationship is built on a shared understanding of where you’re at.

Sometimes, however, it does end up in the breakdown (and breakup) of a relationship. In these cases, it’s important to honour your feelings – don’t bury them deep, ignore them, and pretend they don’t exist! It’s totally natural to feel hurt by a marriage proposal rejection. Don’t beat yourself up by imagining other scenarios or outcomes, either – just focus on what you can control, which is how you’re going to look after yourself and come back strong again.

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