So you’ve found the woman you want to spend the rest of your life with. How do you ask her to be yours — forever? You should push your nervousness aside and remember that, once you have a full plan and know what to expect, you’ll be able to propose to your girlfriend without any blunders at any stage. You don’t have to do anything over-the-top or crazy unless you think that’s what she wants and its what you want. When you know it’s the right time to tell your partner how you feel about them, you should also ensure that you convey your message in such a way that they just can’t turn you down.

The most important thing is that you speak from the heart and that you find the perfect way to let her know how much she means to you. Remember, you may wish to, or have to, ask her parents if you can marry her first, otherwise they will not be happy with you and buying an engagement ring might be useful. Proposing marriage is a big step, get started at step one below.

1. Make sure she’s the one – You’ve probably already been thinking this over for some time. The important thing is to know that you love her and consider her to be “the one”. Write down or think through a list of all the reasons that make you want to marry her. This will be important for expressing your love to her at the proposal, as well as confirming to yourself that you’re making the right decision. When you see your girlfriend, you should feel that you absolutely want to share the rest of your life with her and that the time is right for you to tell her that.

2. Be as sure as you can be that she’ll say yes – Though it’s impossible to be able to predict with 100% accuracy that she’ll say yes to you, you should have a pretty strong sense that your girlfriend loves you and wants to spend the rest of her life with you. See if she’s dropped hints that she wants to get married (to you), that she wants to move into a house with you, to have kids, to make you a part of her family, and so on. If she’s never mentioned these things, then you can try out some feeler conversations to get a sense of her feelings; if she acts uncomfortable or deflects your questions, then she may not be ready to get married.

3. Decide when to propose – It’s important to get the timing right, and timing is really only something that you can work out. It’s not possible to say that there are perfect times to propose, but it is important that you propose at a time when you’re not rushed and when you feel calm, sorted, and ready. Once you’ve planned the proposal in as much detail as possible, then the time will be right. Sometimes the time chooses itself by sheer practicality, especially if the two of you are living in different cities and come together for a special holiday event and this is your only chance to ask her.

4. Decide where you will propose- The place and atmosphere of the proposal will be remembered forever and the most important thing to remember is that you are the principal creator of the atmosphere! Naturally, you can propose absolutely anywhere, but it helps to choose a place that will be meaningful for both of you and where you can feel comfortable, calm, and natural. With long and eventful years of courtship, sometimes you tend to forget the very first moments that started it all. For a simple yet special way to speak your heart out, take your partner to the place where you saw each other, the first time. You could arrange for the classroom where your eyes first met or simply the friend’s house you first bonded at. If you have pictures of those good old days, place them all over. Behind those pictures write your question, in a series. See how that works for you. Or simply hold her close and slip the ring onto her finger!

5. Decide how you will propose- Once you’ve decided the when and the where the intimate details of the how need consideration. Naturally, there is the ring to produce, but what other elements do you want to add into the mix to make this an especially memorable and romantic occasion for her? Bear in mind that the manner in which you propose will be retold by her many times over, so make sure it’s good! Try the traditional pose. Bend down on one knee, take her hand in yours and ask her to marry you. The beauty of this gesture is that it’s universally recognized thanks to the movies, and it can be performed anywhere. Just note that if there are other people around, they’ll be eavesdropping (kindly!), so expect their interest and support.

Or, this is another popular method for proposing. Hide the ring. Request her to find the ring, and then you do the proposing. Places to hide a ring include inside flowers, chocolates, or a special gift. Be sure to ask her to open the gift at the time, or you might be waiting for ages! And take great care not to hide it somewhere that she can accidentally swallow it; that’ll put a big dent in the occasion.

Be creative.

6. Look for a ring – If you know what kind of ring your girlfriend wants, then great. But if you don’t know or don’t want to ask, get a temporary ring, and then get another after you propose; for many women, choosing their own ring is the preferred option. But if you know exactly what kind of ring she wants, then you should try to sneak out a ring she usually wears to get it sized and to find out her ring size. She’ll be touched that you remembered exactly what she wanted — and that you got it in the correct size! But if you have no idea what kind of ring she wants, asking her about it “casually” will pretty much let her know what’s on your mind.

7. Be dressed in your best according to the occasion and choice of placeDress well to be sure that you’re as handsome and attractive as can be. This is a very special occasion and it deserves to be “picture perfect”. She’ll appreciate the effort you’ve gone to. Naturally, this only applies where you’re planning to propose somewhere elegant and you have time to change beforehand. If you’re proposing on the beach, during a hike, skiing, or as you’re skydiving, use your common sense about what to wear!

8. Practice – If you’re going to propose, it pays to practice. Practice asking, and practice explaining the reasons as to why you love her so much that you want to spend the rest of your life with her. Keep the proposal simple, to the point, and from the heart. This will help you avoid being tongue-tied when the important moment comes up. This doesn’t mean you should put a lot of pressure on yourself. Though it helps to make your girlfriend feel extra special, in the end, she may only remember the words, “Will you marry me?”

9. Propose – Bring her along to “the place” and start unfolding your plans. Be sure that you don’t give things away by touching the ring in your pocket constantly, or saying daft things. If you’re bringing her to a place she’s never been before, or somewhere extra romantic, and you have a feeling that if you’re there for more than thirty seconds, she’ll know exactly what you’re up to, then try to propose as soon as you can, so you don’t lose any of the surprise factors.

If she says yes, end the proposal with a kiss or a hug. And don’t forget to put a ring on her finger!