She Said Yes! Go Behind the Scenes of My Surprise Proposal

Written by Charles Ngo
Written by Charles Ngo

If you read my “Turning 35” year old post last month, you might’ve remembered reading about my doubts about proposing and getting married. 
Surprise, surprise…I’m engaged!
The truth is that I’ve been planning to propose to my girlfriend, Fiorella, for the past six months.

I wanted it to be a surprise. The problem is that Fiorella has an amazing spider-sense, and it’s hard to sneak things past her.

I know that she reads my blog, so I wrote some things to throw her off my trail.
Other ways I kept the secret:
1. I opened a new credit card and charged all proposal items under there
2. I casually asked her opinion on engagement ring styles the night before I proposed
3. I share a detailed 3-year plan where I planned to propose in 2021.  

You have to make thousands and thousands of decisions in life. But there’s an 80/20 of the 80/20 where if you get these decisions right, then you’re going to have a pretty good life.
I can say that choosing to get married, and your choice of a partner are some of these.
I haven’t talked much about Fiorella or my relationship for the past several years. I’ve shared so much of my life publicly that I wanted to keep this part of my life private.

I’m excited to share this news with you guys because some of you have legit watched me grow up over the past decade online.

Something I’ve noticed is that there’s not a lot of people sharing their thought processes on love, proposing, etc. There’s a TON of it from a female perspective, but it’s not something I’ve seen a lot of men talk about.
So I know that the vast majority of readers are men in their 20’s and  30’s and I hope this post helps some of you out.

How I Knew She Was the One that I Wanted to Marry

It has never been my goal to do the marriage and kids thing. There was a time when I first moved to Asia that I never thought I’d “settle down” to be honest. 
I love the freedom to do whatever I want.
I love the freedom to pack my bags up and travel.
So many of my older male friends never ended up “settling down.”
And part of me was pessimistic about marriage. I’ve seen so many couples from my generation already get married and then divorce shortly after.

I did feel some pressure from society, getting older, my culture, and family to get married, but I promised myself that I wouldn’t get married unless I 100% wanted it. 
I met Fiorella several years ago when I lived in Miami. I thought she was gorgeous, but neither of us in a million years thought we’d end up marrying each other. Everything was so casual and no pressure in the beginning. 
It wasn’t love at first sight – but a relationship that grew stronger and stronger the more we got to know each other. Fiorella’s friends have mentioned so many times that we’re #couplegoals.
What most people don’t see is that relationships take a ton of work. I’ve had to “soften up” and become a more empathetic person. You guys know that I have no fucking chill in anything in my life, so she has had to adapt to some of my systems. (She’s adapted well, but I still can’t get her to wake up at 5 am and do cold showers with me).
So how did I know that SHE was the one? There wasn’t a pivotal moment where I was like, “Oh shit, I’m gonna make her my wife.” 
I think of it like I had different “criteria” that I wanted in a wife. And throughout the relationship, there were various moments where she showed it. 
I’ll give you one example.
Something important to me is to be with someone that would be a good mother to my children. I don’t want someone that views children as a burden. I don’t want to be with someone who still wants to go to the club every weekend after she’s a mom. 
Her cat was diagnosed with cancer over a year ago. The doctors gave him a few months left to live. It was a difficult time because my dog Romeo just passed away from Spleen cancer.
The Vet said that Euthanasia was a humane option because all the treatments and blood transfusions would be expensive, and it wouldn’t guarantee he’d live long either. 

She was willing to go into debt to give him the best treatment possible. She had no issues spending several hours a day with his feeding him through his tube. Greco ended up living an extra half-year because of her.

That’s when I realized she would be an amazing mother one day.

I’m aware of my mortality.
Unfortunately, life’s fragile, and not everyone gets to live until they’re old. If I were to die and have young children, I’d be at peace knowing someone like Fiorella would be taking care of them.
You have to prioritize what your values are and find someone who fits them.
We have strengths and weaknesses that are different from each other. I feel like I found that one weird-ass Tetris piece that fits into my fucked up shape.
We’re better together.
Time to buy a car? She’s the one that is kind and can get them to really like us. I’m the pitbull who comes in when it’s time to negotiate.
1+1 = 10.
I know it’s fashionable to say don’t settle for less, but don’t be a nickel chasing a dime.
You can’t expect to be a couch potato and find a partner who’s in peak physical shape. Like attracts like.
Work every day to be the best version of yourself possible, and your dating/marriage pool will open up.
I don’t have it all figured out, and we could get divorced within a few years. Nothing’s guaranteed, but I always choose to be an optimist, and we’ve done everything we can to make sure that the odds are good. 

Buying an Engagement Ring

Purchasing an engagement ring has traditionally been a part of the engagement process.

First things first…

  • You don’t need an engagement ring. It’s a luxury. 
  • You don’t have to buy a diamond. There are plenty of other beautiful stones out there, like birthstones. (Rubies, Sapphires, etc.) 
  • A diamond is NOT an investment. Diamonds do not go up in value. These salesmen will try to tell you that a diamond is an asset and will only offer like 25% if someone tries to sell a diamond back to them.

Your relationship is uniquely you. If you want to propose with a ring pop and that works for you guys, then go for it.
I knew I wanted to get a beautiful diamond engagement ring for Fiorella. I had no pressure from her on the size of the ring or that it was a diamond. Her only requirement was that if I went with a  diamond, that I make sure it was a “conflict-free diamond.”
The first thing that you need to figure out is what’s your budget.
The “formula” of spending three months salary on your engagement ring is the result of a marketing campaign by Debeers that has somehow become part of American culture. 

It doesn’t even make sense if you’re an entrepreneur since some business owners pay themselves a smaller salary and higher distribution!
Here’s my formula: how much would I realistically spend on a beautiful watch for myself? That’s the budget for the ring. I figure that watch is typically the most beautiful piece of jewelry that a man would buy for himself, and the engagement ring is the nicest piece of jewelry on her.

Is your dream watch a $15k Rolex? Then that’s your budget for her ring.

Now I realize this formula doesn’t apply to everyone since some guys don’t give a shit about watches. I’m just sharing how I came up with my method.
Don’t get too much into debt for the ring. You can always start with a smaller stone, and then upgrade down the line. Remember there’s still a wedding to pay for after this!
Next, how do you figure out what kind of ring she wants?
My #1 best piece of advice is to ask her what she wants in an engagement ring.

Imagine that you were going to wear a piece of jewelry every day for the rest of your life. Wouldn’t you want to wear something that you love?

Seriously, the majority of guys have doodoo taste in jewelry. 
Asking her mom, sister, or best friend isn’t a great idea because they don’t know for sure, and her tastes might’ve changed since.

Also, if you’re planning a surprise proposal, “three can keep a secret if two of them are dead.” If you want to keep it a secret, don’t tell anyone.
So around 1.5 years ago, while we were living in NYC, I told her there’s a chance we might get married one day.

I’d like to know precisely what kind of ring she wants so that I don’t have to guess.

I went to various stores in NYC, and I discovered a few things about her style:

  1. She prefers white over yellow or rose gold for the band. 
  2. She prefers a round diamond over the oval, princess, and other shapes.
  3. We measured her exact ring size. Saved me the headache of tying a piece of string on her finger while she’s asleep.
  4. Her name is Fiorella, which means little flower in Italian. She would love a ring that resembles a flower.

Guess what? The proposal was still a surprise.
If and when I would propose would still be a surprise.
The design of the engagement ring would still be a surprise. 
The difference is that I got her a ring that she’d be 1000% happy with.
Ok, are you interested in getting a diamond ring?

Make sure you do your research, so you don’t get ripped off. Buying a diamond is like buying a car – you’re going to get eaten alive if you haven’t done your homework.
I’m not a diamond or jewelry expert. Just someone who has done a ton of research, and well…I’m not trying to sell you an engagement ring.
Jewelers evaluate Diamonds by the 4 C’s: carat, cut, clarity, color.
You start with your budget, and then you have to figure out the right balance of the C’s.

I’ll share what I learned and how I rank them.

#1 Cut:
The cut of the diamond is the most important C, and this was the hardest for me to understand. 
Diamonds are mined as small rocks. It’s up to the person “cutting” it to decide how they want the rock to look. Some will focus more on making it “big” as possible, but that means it wasn’t in a cut in a way to make it “sparkle.”

The cut determines how much light goes through the diamond, which affects how “sparkling” the diamond is.
Trust me, a smaller diamond that is cut well is more impressive than a larger diamond that’s dull.

Go for Ideal cut and don’t settle for less. This is the most important of the “C’s.”

#2 Carat:

Carat is the weight of the diamond. This is probably the first thing people ask about a ring.

The size of her finger determines the right carat. A 1-carat ring can look huge on a smaller finger but can look tiny if she’s has sausage fingers.

One carat seems to be standard.
1.5 carat is a great balance and looks enormous on smaller fingers.
2 carat and up gets a ton of attention but might look too large.
#3 Color:
The whiter the diamond, then the more expensive it’s going to be. You need to go to a store to compare diamonds side by side to figure out what’s your sweet spot. 
G and H are the sweet spots.

#4 Clarity:

Diamonds can have imperfections such as blemishes. I think this is the least important because most of the defects can only be seen under a microscope.
SI1, VS2 is a sweet spot.

Some places to buy rings:

  • Jiangmi: I went to their shop in NYC and was impressed by their staff and diamond quality. If you are in the tri-state area, check them out.
  • Costco: Did you know Costco sells engagement rings? I’m impressed by their quality, and they have the lowest profit margins.
  • James Allen: Make sure to stop by their showrooms if you can.
  • Brilliant Earth: Interested in a lab-created diamond? They’re identical to mined diamonds, but slightly cheaper and more ethically created. This company is  #1 for them.

I wish I could give more details about her engagement ring, but I have to respect my fiance’s privacy. 
Once I got the ring in my hand, I kept it secure in my safe for a few weeks to hide it from her. 
I went ahead and bought a custom ring box from Etsy because standard ring boxes are so bulky. 

Planning the Proposal

I brainstormed a list of places that I wanted to propose in. I knew that I wanted to travel outside the USA for it, and I wanted it to be “picturesque.”
The easiest way to get ideas is to search hashtags on Instagram or to look up proposals on Pinterest.  
Once I came up with a list of places to propose, I had to narrow it down.
Some of my ideas that I didn’t go with:

  • Eiffel tower in Paris – I felt it would be too familiar and obvious that I’d propose. 
  • The Northern Lights – Difficult to time.
  • Cherry Blossoms in Japan – Unpredictable to time, and I didn’t want to wait until April. 

I had some other great ideas that I discarded because the logistics would’ve been hard. 
In the end, it boiled down to either the Great Wall of China or the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest in Japan.
I went with the Bamboo forest because I felt that it had this Asian fairy tale vibe that I liked, and we preferred visiting Japan.

I wanted to capture the moment so that her family could see it.
I opted for a photographer instead of a videographer. Having a photographer, there was a nice compromise because I still wanted some parts of this to be just between us.
Next, I needed a photographer and found an excellent website to hire one called Flytographer.
She’s always wanted us to do a couple’s photoshoot, and I told her Kyoto would be a fantastic place to do it. This way, we could have a photographer capture the moment without looking suspicious.
Also, it was an opportunity for her to do her nails, makeup, dress beautiful, etc.

The Proposal

We got up early like 4:30 am early. She needed to wake up early to get dressed and do her make up.
Also, the first hour after sunrise is called the “golden” hour, which is the best lighting. We also needed to get up early before there are people at the Bamboo Forest because it gets CROWDED.
I made a video of the proposal that you can watch below.

Let’s say that a lot of things didn’t go according to plan. I imagined that we’d be there so early that we’d be the only ones there.

Even at 6:30 am there were already people there! 
I got down on one knee to propose, and a crowd started to gather. Fortunately, the crowd was quiet and respectful when they saw I was proposing. I didn’t expect so many people to start taking photos and recording footage.
I got nervous once there was a crowd, and I couldn’t remember the speech that I memorized. On top of that, I had to convince Fiorella that this wasn’t a prank! 
Fortunately, she said yes, and everything worked out in the end!

Post Proposal

It’s been about a month since the engagement. 
The reaction from everyone has been overwhelmingly positive. I’m glad that I put in so much effort into the proposal and creating the video.

Some of her family have never met me before, so I think they can see from the proposal how much I love her and how detail-oriented I am.

The downside of proposing is that you unleash the floods of wedding planning.

  • When’s the wedding?
  • Where is it going to be?
  • Is it going to be a Chinese or Peruvian wedding?

We’ve already hired a wedding planner so she’ll be handling all those details. We’re aiming for a Fall 2021 wedding in Atlanta, but nothing finalized until venues are booked!
It feels surreal to be writing this post.
Real talk – I was constantly depressed about women in college. It seemed like every girl I had feelings for was only interested in being friends with me. It led to a lot of depression and insecurity in me.
I thought to myself…
I’m too short.
I’m too broke.
I’m not confident enough.
The worse was hearing from some Asian women…”I’m not into Asian guys.

The fuck am I supposed to do? Break my legs with the height surgery and dye my hair blonde?

But I never let those feelings make me bitter. Instead, I channeled all that energy into going Super Saiyan. I embraced who I was, and focused on becoming better in every way.
Never in a million years would the younger version of me think I would end up in my financial position, or end up marrying someone like Fiorella.
I know a lot of young people are reading this.
Trust me, don’t waste your time chasing love. Don’t place your entire happiness on someone else. Focus on yourself. Step into the hyperbolic time chamber if you need to and level yourself up.
And don’t ever let bad relationships turn you bitter – love’s worth fighting for.

You may also like

                The posts published by Charles are prepared and analyzed, including the author’s own experience…

The posts published by Charles are prepared and analyzed, including the author’s own experience…

I Send
My Best Stuff
Through Email

                 I’m obsessed with everything marketing, business, and productivity.

Whenever I come across a knowledge bomb, I’ll share it with you in email? Interested? Sign up below.

You're 1-step away from exclusive content and cheat sheets

By clicking 'Free Instant Access', you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin