Etiquette Expert Tells Us How To Handle The Awkwardness Of Your Partner Proposing At Someone Else's Wedding

When it comes to other people's weddings, there are certain things that you just shouldn't do. For example, as a guest, you should never wear white to a wedding. It doesn't matter how great you look in it — unless you're trying to pull a Kelly Kapoor. You also shouldn't get drunk, insight any drama, complain about the food, or give an awkward, embarrassing speech à la Michael Scott. Basically, if it's something you've seen on "The Office" just don't do it. You should also never, no matter how overcome you are with love and joy, propose to your partner at someone else's wedding.

"It's in poor taste to announce your big news at someone else's wedding or special event," etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore told People. "In short, you are essentially taking the spotlight off the bride and groom and directing it on yourself. This can be perceived as rude, self-centered, and narcissistic. It screams, 'Look at me. I'm important!'"

Although it would be nice to think that no one, especially your partner, would ever in a million years propose at someone else's wedding, sometimes we find ourselves being truly stunned by the actions of the people we love. Then there we are trying to figure out how to diffuse the awkwardness of the moment. It's definitely a tricky predicament, to say the very, (very!) least.

Acknowledge the misguided situation

There's a reason why a bride and groom's wedding day is often called "their big day," and that's because it is. That's not up for debate. "As a planner, I feel [a] wedding day should be just that, the celebration of the couple's love," wedding planner Lea Rhynehardt told The Knot. "This is a day we get to witness two people celebrating their journey of creating this union and deciding to be together for the rest of their lives. A wedding is a time for the newlyweds to be celebrated by family and friends."

It's not just about the love story, but also the financial end of things. According to Zola's First Look Report, the average wedding in 2023 was $29,000 — that's big bucks. So, of course, this means that if your partner proposes, you must acknowledge the severe faux pas and say you're deeply sorry. "The bride and groom should receive a personal and sincere apology," etiquette expert and author of "Going Public: Culture, Custom, and Class for Social Success," Nikesha Tannehill Tyson exclusively told Women News. Even if the bride and groom don't seem to be upset by the proposal, an honest, heartfelt apology should still be made. "The newlyweds put effort into making their day both special and memorable. They should be the only ones in the spotlight, unless arrangements have been made with the bride and groom," said Tannehill Tyson. If you didn't know the proposal was coming, tell them that.

Apologize (profusely!)

The couple getting married has every right to be upset that someone tried to divert what's supposed to be their day and make it their own. When someone proposes, they're making it about them and that's not what should be on the agenda. "Keep in mind that this is a major event in a person's life, and you're creating what's supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime memory," etiquette expert Elaine Swann told USA Today. "It's not about you, it's about the couple." If your partner's behavior upsets the newlyweds, you can't possibly be surprised.

In exclusive commentary shared with Women News, etiquette expert Nikesha Tannehill Tyson explained how a proposal in this setting could be considered rude or disrespectful by the couple. "Offer a sincere apology, after all the proposal has caused an interruption, and the guests pause to celebrate your engagement," shared Tannehill Tyson. "Surely the couple's dream day did not include a celebration other than their nuptials."

When you do apologize, don't get defensive; You should be remorseful and show it. Don't try to toss out excuses or even what you consider to be reasons, because there is nothing that can justify it. In addition to taking a moment to apologize to the couple's face, you should write a letter expressing regret for what happened — not an email or a text, but a letter. This is the exact occasion for which handwritten letters still exist, per OneWed.

Prevent the moment from getting more awkward

If you find yourself being proposed to during someone else's wedding, you'll want to make as little a scene as possible. Even if your gut reaction is to say no because of how and where the proposal is taking place, know that saying no is going to cause more of a ruckus. Jumping up and down, screaming, crying tears of joy — all of it is better saved for another time. Your best course of action is to lay as low as possible.

"Etiquette is about putting others at ease," etiquette expert Nikesha Tannehill Tyson exclusively told Women News. This means not making a scene, she explained. Instead, kindly accept whatever congratulations you receive out of the spotlight. 

While love may be a beautiful thing, it doesn't mean it's something that should be celebrated wherever and whenever. Like everything, there's a time and a place. If your partner's been hinting about a proposal and you fear they may not have the wherewithal to understand that someone else's wedding is not the place for such a thing, then get in front of it so it doesn't end up being a possibility. The best way to avoid awkward situations is to prevent them from happening in the first place and the only way to do that is through communication.