A Guy Who Proposed in Public Explains Himself

Man Up checks in with a couple whose big moment appeared on live TV.

Aymann Ismail and an engagement ring in a box.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Lisa Larson Walker and Sashkinw/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

On a recent episode of Man Up, Aymann Ismail tumbled down the rabbit hole of YouTube videos of men proposing to women in public. In one video, Evie Allen’s boyfriend, Matt, pops the question on live TV on New Year’s Day while she’s reporting at the anchor desk. But there’s more to the story: Evie was auditioning for a full anchor job at the TV station—so his proposal could have gone badly not just for their relationship but for her career. Aymann talked with both Evie and Matt to see how they feel about the proposal now, almost two years later. This excerpt of their conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Aymann Ismail: Evie, did you feel like there might’ve been some extra pressure to say yes, to not completely humiliate Matt?

Evie Allen: In the proposal moment? No. I wanted to say yes. Afterwards, yes. The pressure is: What if we don’t make it to the wedding day? … This was so public. My boss at the time said, “You better get married now.” So the pressure was definitely there.

Aymann: What did you say to your boss?

Evie: I said, “Well, I intend to, I don’t not plan to. I intend to.”

Aymann: Yeah. I feel like saying no isn’t even an option at that point.

Evie: Well, I would’ve said no had I not felt it at all. Just because I’m a really focused woman sometimes and very adamant about “no is no” for me.

Aymann: Matt, when you started to plan the proposal, how did that come about? What was on your mind during that time?

Matt: Well, I wanted it to be special. I’d never proposed before. I don’t think she had gotten any proposals, surprisingly, before then. So I just wanted it to be really nice, really special, and memorable for her. The station that she works at, she was a reporter and getting moved up to anchor, and she had told me maybe a month in advance, two months in advance, of when I proposed that she was going to be anchor in the New Year’s Day show in the morning. And I thought, This might work out. This might be a good idea. So I was kicking around with the guy that she works with, that I’m cool with, the idea of doing it on TV, the idea of doing it when she’s anchoring by herself, at the end of the show so they can get out and hopefully things go well. But if they don’t, they can cut and get me out of there and save some face for me, I guess.

Aymann: “Cut to commercial, cut to commercial.”

Matt: Yeah, exactly. So it was really easy. We winged it almost in the morning with the line, my cue to come in. All that stuff with the weather guy, Tony, they just told me about five minutes before. I said, “That sounds good. We can do it.” And we just rolled with it.

Aymann: So, Evie, let’s just pretend that Matt’s not here for a second. As honestly as you can tell me, what did you think of the proposal?

Evie: We have talked about it, so I’ve been very honest. I had 1,000 thoughts in my head. One was I am not dressed appropriately for this. I would have rather been dressed a little more nice. It’s TV, so I was dressed OK, but I would have preferred to look really, really extra good. I didn’t know what to do because it was live TV and I was trying to be professional.

Aymann: What was the first thought that you had when you saw him?

Evie: When [Tony] said, “There’s some ice coming around the corner,” it didn’t hit me. So I was like, “What?” And then here comes Matt. I can see something in my peripheral, and then I’m like, Oh, my God. You’re not doing this. You are not doing this right now. Because I was so focused on having a good show.

Aymann: You said it real quick: “I’m going to kill you.” What was that about?

Evie: That was about … me getting this anchor gig. I’m thinking, Matt, you dirty dog, you surprised me. I’m going to get you for this. You got me good. Because I really was that surprised. We had just hung out with family for the new year, and I was sad. I was like, “I can’t spend New Year’s with you because I have to go to work.” So I was super sad because I was like, “I really want to be with him.” But at the same time, game face on, I want to be an anchor. I want this gig. So when he did it, I was like, “Oh, how could you embarrass me this way?”

Matt: She was a reporter, so I was thinking there’s so many different opportunities and different things I can do with that depending on the story, what she’s doing. I can get a heads-up from some people and really just go any way I want to with it. And then when I found out that she was going to anchor on the New Year’s Day show, I was like, “Oh, even better. We’ll just do that and keep it that way.” But I did have some pause because I knew how badly she wanted the job and that her mind would be all completely focused on the career and the profession.

Evie: And it was.

Matt: So that was the only thing that I was like, I don’t know. That might not be great. But I don’t know, I was just like, “No, no, we’re going to do it.”

Aymann: So would you recommend that other people get proposed to this way? Would you want your girlfriends to get proposed to in a similar way?

Evie: No. No. Because I wouldn’t want them to be thrown off guard, like I was. [Laughs.] Like I said, I had a thousand things going on in that moment. Hair. When you think about taking that next step, you can’t control it always, but you want to at least look the way you want to look. You know what I mean? I didn’t hold it against him, though.

Matt: Yeah. If I had a regret or if I had something I could change about it or whatever, the only thing was really the comments afterwards that were negative, that were people that we didn’t know and didn’t know us. They just saw the clip that was edited, and it looked like she didn’t—

Evie: Have any affection.

Matt: Yeah. There was no embrace or no kiss or whatever in the short, condensed version that circulated nationwide. But the full clip, you could see how it actually was. So I just felt bad that she was taking some of this heat when I didn’t see it that way, and I didn’t feel any kind of way about it.

Aymann: Kind of putting it on her.

Evie: Yeah. And it did. It did. Because my job is so public, people still come up and ask me about that. “Did you get married yet?” “Yes, we finally did.” And I am happily married.

Matt: I look back on it as a very major memory of my life and something that, given the opportunity to do it again, I think I would’ve. It might’ve been somewhat smoother, or I would’ve really thought about it in detail instead of just being like, “OK, yeah, let’s go, let’s do this.” But no, I’d still … I don’t know, I liked it. I don’t know.

Evie: I didn’t dislike it.

Aymann: “I’m going to kill you.”

Evie: I mean, that was in good fun too. Even though I would’ve done it different or wouldn’t recommend it, doesn’t mean I didn’t appreciate or love the moment, because I loved the man behind it.

Aymann: Matt, do you feel like you were drawn to this idea because it was a grand gesture?

Matt: Maybe a little bit. I think it really depends on the individual and what’s a part of their personality.

Evie: I don’t think it should matter at the end of the day. Because I don’t think it matters how Matt proposed. I think it matters that he wanted to be committed to me, for me, as the biggest deal. … Matt and I are approaching 40, so we could have done it simple and I’d have been happy. … Our journey has been quite the journey. We were going to do it however it was going to happen, no matter what. As long as he was committed to me, it really didn’t matter how he proposed, to be honest.

Matt: Yeah. I love romantic comedies, and I did have thoughts of if I get married, this is how I want it to be for her, and how I kind of envision it abstractly.

Aymann: The idealized movies that I’ve seen always included some kind of romantic gesture that signaled the happiest moment in both of their lives. There was one specific moment that’s supposed to be the proposal that will set the precedent for the rest of the relationship. That’s always what I assumed a proposal ought to be like, before I got married.

Evie: Honestly, our wedding day was the moment for me. The proposal is not really what I consider his biggest pow-bam-boom moment for me.

Matt: Proposal aside, there’s all these chances in your life, whether it’s a random Wednesday or it’s a Valentine’s Day or a birthday or whatever—you can always still do something big and impactful to your partner or significant other in a memory that they’ll always take with them, and it’ll always mean a lot to them.

To listen to the entire episode—including Aymann’s interview with a woman who didn’t take her boyfriend’s public proposal so well—click the player below or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.