Viral TikTok Engagements Are Costing Some Men Over $100K To Plan

A marriage-material man doesn’t need to shut down Paris’s Trocadéro steps for a 3,000 rose petals display, this I promise you.

By Andrea Mew5 min read
Pexels/Laura Oliveira

When I got engaged, I literally didn’t know it was going to happen. Here I thought this was the norm, but supposedly, as many as three in four engagements have some amount of conspiracy in advance – from the ring itself to the actual moment the man drops to his knee.

It was Christmas morning, and I was not dolled up, just cozily enjoying a quiet holiday morning with my longtime boyfriend’s parents, his sister, and her husband. We began with stockings, all of us hastily unwrapping small cosmetics, snacks, simple toiletries, and, well, I was the only one who ended up with a jewelry box at the bottom of mine.

Behind my back, my boyfriend had worked one-on-one with a designer to customize a band reminiscent of the leaves of Lorien wrapping around my finger and adorned by a 1.2-carat diamond. The clarity on the rock was impeccable. The timing was unforeseen. 

But, I was a happy camper because the man I had been dating for several years had the wisdom to know that all I needed was my loved ones nearby and the pièce de résistance to wear for years to come. Other than my ring – which I’ve never felt compelled to inquire about the price – our engagement cost nothing. 

I guess we’re a somewhat atypical couple, however, because lately, engagements are becoming a big business worthy of their own industry, separate from weddings. Would you be cool with your man spending over $100,000 to arrange a proposal? You might be surprised to learn just how much people will pay today for their fairytale, picture-perfect proposal.

Go “Bigger, Bolder, and More Instagrammable” or Go Home

Professionals are increasingly stepping in to help couples fulfill their picture-perfect proposals, reported Bustle writer Kelsey Mulvey earlier this year. The trend for unforgettable events such as engagements, Mulvey explained, is “bigger, bolder, and more Instagrammable than ever before.” 

Wedding planners have been part and parcel of “the big day” for a long time, but because social media is driving people to desire extravagance during their engagement, you’re about to start seeing many more “proposal planners” as well.

Proposal planner company The Yes Girls starts by charging a minimum of $5,000 for custom proposals, but they’ve allegedly planned proposals as costly as $150,000. Back in 2017, ABC 7 reported that their curated packages started at $299, but after our economy has hit peak Bidenflation (oh, pretty please, let it be the peak), it looks like the minimum investment is now $499.

Another company called The Heart Bandits reportedly made as much as $70,000 planning a travel-inspired event. Of course, not all proposal planners will open up your veins and bleed you dry. A few years ago, one proposal planner posted an “Ask Me Anything” thread on Reddit and explained that his prices started at $750. But, his most extravagant moment allegedly included shutting down the Trocadéro steps in Paris, France, to foot traffic and laying 3,000 rose petals on it for “the perfect scene.”

Are you a Disney adult? Disney has its own dedicated department for planning proposals at its parks – starting at $7,500 at the Walt Disney Resort in Florida and $10,000 at the Disneyland Resort in California.

Proposal planning company Kiss In Paris dissuades people from their services if they’re on a “tight proposal budget” of less than €2,000 (about $2,141 USD), and while this may seem over-the-top, let’s be honest – you do probably get a good amount of bang for your buck. On their website, they list out reasons why you’d want a good proposal planner for Paris – from managing vendors (florists, photographers, musicians, entertainment, transportation, etc.) to navigating crises (sickness, flight delays, etc.) to day-of execution (surprise hotel suite embellishments, luxury transportation, fireworks, etc.).

Woah woah woah, wait. Fireworks? Entertainment? When you start to scroll through viral videos of extravagant engagements, you might naturally ask yourself: Is this actually about getting engaged to the love of your life and starting that next chapter, or is this more about getting the perfect photo or a TikTok that will go viral and make you (fleetingly) famous overnight?

Optimizing Your Life for Digital Validation Is a Slippery Slope

One of the cringiest things about engaging in obvious digital narcissism, especially around anything related to tying the knot, is that it’s easily brushed off as a nothingburger because “everyone does it.” Incrementally, this is becoming true. After all, you can find articles making similar complaints to mine from 2016, which even report on how the concept went as far back as 2007, but slow down! It’s not yet the norm. But if we keep acting like engagements designed to boost digital engagement are the norm, then it might become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Brides, one of the most prestigious wedding publications, published an ultimate proposal guide listicle of location and situation ideals. “Create an Insta-Worthy Moment” was, sadly, quite high up on this list. Many women are even providing their boyfriends with virtual mood boards, drawn up on Pinterest or in an Instagram "saved" folder, that show the "aesthetic" they want their proposal to match.

Another high-ranking wedding company, The Knot, reported that naturally beautiful settings – like iconic outdoor locations, rooftops, yacht trips, or heart-shaped arches – are trending. Drones in the sky, candles covering a beach, live instrumentalists custom scoring the evening – these elements, they said, create an “ideal photo backdrop for the big moment.” And people will spend on average $2,900 to make it happen, ring not included.

“The goal here is twofold: to plan an extra-special, hyper-personalized moment that wows the proposee, and of course, to create amazing content to post on Instagram, TikTok, and other social media platforms,” The Knot wrote.

But planning your life for “the ‘gram” or for TikTok clout isn’t fulfilling. Some researchers believe all this fuss over prioritizing photographing (or videographing) moments rather than living in the moment will lead you to feel less happy. 

Don’t get me wrong – I completely get the “twofold” concept. Some women like myself are low-key, but others are extroverted, and “gifts” could be one of their most prominent love languages. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be “wowed,” but clearly, there is an entire industry being built up by a growing desire to have insanely beautiful content to post on social media. Worse, it comes off as being less about sharing a special moment with your friends and family and more about one-upping all the other gals.

Instead of feeling ashamed for wanting a princess moment, I actually just want you to come away from this with a new weapon in your arsenal. Practice a little bit more introspection and always ask yourself, “Why?” 

Why would it be meaningful for you to have a fireworks display? Is it the buzz you feel in your heart knowing that your man would light up the night sky for you, or is it because you know you could get some quick validation from online users after posting a Reel or TikTok of him doing it? Is the validation from your man asking you to spend the rest of your life with him not enough?

Back in the 1920s, nationally syndicated newspaper columns posed the question: “How did he propose?” All of the responses were shockingly understated (and yet, somehow more personalized and sweet) compared to the extravagance that people make out to be normal on social media. One couple was just sitting on the porch discussing dreams, another had just returned home from an amusement park (yep, not at it!), and another was looking through an old photo album.

Does a Higher Investment Reap Higher Benefits?

Correlation doesn’t equal causation, but it’s just fascinating to me that in an era where people are spending more money than ever before on engagements and weddings, marriage rates are plummeting. Fewer Americans even want to get married in the first place than ever before, and “can’t afford a wedding” or “not having a stable job” are some of the most common reasons why.

Frankly, we need to stop normalizing outlandish, over-indulgent weddings because the power of suggestion is too strong for some to resist. If Gen Z gets it in our heads that we need all the elements of a social media wedding we see on social media, why should we feel emboldened to tie the knot? 

$30,000 is reportedly the new national average for a wedding, and many of the most costly wedding items are highly unnecessary for marital success – a DJ, makeup artist, or additional obligations like luxury bachelor and bachelorette blowouts. Many are already frightened into making trade-offs in their day-to-day lives (like limiting grocery purchases) just to get by.

It may seem harmless to spread over-the-top viral proposals and wedding content, but what many don’t realize is just how psychologically impactful these videos and photos may be. Media shapes perceptions, creates expectations, and influences our behavior without some even being consciously aware of what’s taking place. 

The result? You’ll likely see a lot more people going into debt, becoming slaves to BNPL loans, or living frugally just to balance their daily lives while planning for one big bash. And since expensive weddings don’t guarantee marital success – in fact, they could worsen your likelihood of divorce – that big bash might not be worth it.

Closing Thoughts

Marriage, in the Western tradition, is meant to be one of the first steps you take with someone on the journey to spend the rest of your life together. Knowing this, why set the standards so high for extravagance so early on? You certainly don’t need to pinch pennies (unless you’ve got a circumstance in which you completely have to), but you also don’t need to cave to the societal expectation to go all-out and above your means or your man’s means.

When my husband asked for my hand in marriage, all that mattered in the moment for me was being present and basking in my newly-engaged glee while we all continued to open Christmas presents. Now, what fits one person doesn’t fit another, but before you set your expectations super high based on what you see take place online, consider just how much self-validation you will feel based on the act of the proposal alone. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to experience a totally unique adrenaline rush or share that precious milestone after the fact, but just make sure through your engagement process that you’re doing it all for yourself and your man – and no one else.

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