How To Say No To A Proposal – 12 Polite Ways

Relationship Advice | | , Copywriter & Content Writer
Updated On: February 8, 2024
No To A Proposal

“Yes, oh my God, yes” is not always the right answer when someone proposes to you. Your life is not a fairy tale and there is a lot more to it. So, you’ve been dating for a while and one day you notice your partner asking you about your marriage plans, checking your ring size, and you overhear them talking to their friends and family about a secret proposal. You are trying to figure out if you are ready or not, but most of the time you find yourself wondering how to say no to a proposal.

A study states that 30% of the relationships continued (even for years) after the rejection of a proposal. So let’s make sure you know how to politely tell someone you’re not interested when they propose to you. When you love someone but are not ready to take a step further, the best thing you can do is reject a proposal nicely in order to ensure the continued health of the relationship.

How To Say No To A Proposal – 12 Polite Ways

Marriage is a big decision and you cannot just say yes without actually meaning it. Being in a relationship is one thing but committing to someone for your whole life is another. Declining a proposal may seem hard but you cannot marry someone just because you love them. You have to consider factors like your career, alignment of goals and compatibility, money, and personal dreams. 

If you are wondering how to reject a marriage proposal nicely or how to politely tell someone you’re not interested when they propose to you, we have got you. Here are 12 polite ways to turn down a proposal.

1. Don’t lead them on or play along

According to research, out of 95 couples who had a conversation in advance before proposing, 64.2% were accepted. Couples should discuss marriage in advance so that everyone is on the same page. Talking about the nuances of marriage prior to the proposal is an important part of a relationship and ignoring this elephant in the room may cause trouble in the future.

But if you are aware that your partner is ready to take the ‘next step’ in your relationship but you are not, don’t mislead them. Saying no to a proposal is okay! You may accidentally drop a few encouraging hints here and there without realizing it, so be cautious not to mislead your partner.

Related Reading: 15 Clever Ways to Turn Down An Ex Who Wants To Be Friends

2. Reject them the way you would want someone to reject you

Sometimes, you just don’t know how to say no to a marriage proposal without hurting the other person. It is common to run out of alternatives and reasons. But that does not mean you should start thinking about accepting their proposal if you don’t like them. 

Put yourself in their shoes. How would you like to be rejected? This will assist you in not overthinking your response. If you have ever had a breakup you understand the importance of closure and the difficulties of moving on without one. It is preferable to reject someone than to give them false hopes solely based on your guilt. Such a relationship will not last, which will be detrimental to both of you.

3. Don’t leave them hanging when you are sure your answer is no

Yes, patience is a virtue, but not when facing rejection. Do it as soon as you can if you want to decline their proposal. Making the other person wait is cruel when you are sure you don’t want to marry them. Don’t spend days thinking about how to say no to a proposal as it can create the erroneous impression that you’re interested in them.

Yes, it could take you a while to process “what just happened!” if the person who proposed to you is a close friend or someone you weren’t expecting this from, but do respond as soon as you can. It will benefit both of you. Do not run away from turning down a proposal.

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4. Reject a marriage proposal nicely by acknowledging their efforts and staying respectful

Imagine you have prepared everything – from dinner to decoration, flowers, and ring, and then you go down on one knee, confess your feelings, pour your heart out, ask someone if they want to marry you, and they just say “NO!” and leave. How would you feel? 

You have all the right to say no to a proposal of any kind, whether it’s related to marriage or getting into a relationship. However, do it respectfully. This person was expecting a positive response from you. If you are wondering how to break up with someone who loves you, the least you can do is acknowledge their efforts. Don’t just turn down a proposal and storm off. Decline politely and if possible, try to explain to them why.

5. When someone proposes to you, don’t play ‘terms and conditions’

“I will say yes, if…” There are no ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ if you love someone. Marrying someone or getting into a relationship with them with conditions may help you in the present but it will backfire sooner or later. 

Rejecting someone is difficult but giving them hope when you are not ready will crush their heart more. If you are not sure about your answer, take some time. Tell them you will get back to them soon. But if you know your answer is conditional upon them changing who they are or them compromising unreasonably, then it is better to end your relationship on good terms by saying no.

There are many ways of rejecting a proposal nicely and playing terms and conditions is not one of them. It will not only ruin whatever relationship you have with this person but it will also leave a long-lasting scar on their heart. 

Related Reading: 12 Signs That Say Your Best Friend Is In Love With You

6. Do it face to face

When you know the other person and genuinely care about them, don’t turn down a proposal over a text. It’s always a good idea to meet for coffee or take a walk in the park before politely telling someone you’re not interested. 

These are the things you can say:

  • Hey, I’m enjoying whatever we’ve got right now and marriage is not on my mind at all
  • I value this friendship but don’t want it to evolve into something else
  • I like you but I don’t believe we are compatible for a relationship
  • I’m not the right person for you but I hope you find them soon

These should suffice. The best way to get over rejection is by facing it. For instance, my friend Sally once worked in the same department as this man named Javier. They hit it off right away, and their friendship blossomed. They used to spend their weekends chatting or going to plays and movies. He asked her out one day, but she always considered him a friend. So, she decided to decline his proposal over coffee rather than text, and he handled it with great sportsmanship. They remain friends and have a stronger bond now.

Don't reject someone over a text, do it face-to-face
Don’t reject someone over a text, do it face-to-face

7. Be crystal clear about your ‘no’ and use the right words to sustain the relationship

Saying no to a proposal from a friend can be the hardest thing to do. Your dynamic after this can either return to normal or become super weird. You don’t have feelings for them or you are not ready to get into a relationship with them. But if you cherish them in your life, make sure you use the right words while declining a proposal. 

Or you have been in a relationship for a long time and your partner is ready to turn a new page but you are not. In that case, telling them is the best option. Marriage is a big decision and you cannot let your emotions and decision waver. Yes, being friends after a breakup can or cannot be possible. But if you are wondering how to say no to a proposal? Rather than being rude, choose careful words like the following to avoid misunderstandings:

  • Hey, I really enjoy being friends with you but I’m sorry, I don’t feel any romantic spark. Can we still stay friends?
  • Thank you so much, this is flattering, but I think we are better off as friends. I truly hope you find the one you are looking for
  • If you need some time and space away from me after this, I understand. But please know I’ll be here as a friend whenever you need me
  • I’m sorry, I’m just not ready for marriage right now. Do you think you can wait for me until I figure out my future plans?
  • I know I want you in my life forever but I don’t think marriage is for me. Do you think you’ll be okay with staying in a relationship with me without getting married?

8. Handle a public proposal with care

You were just taking a stroll in the mall, enjoying your date with your partner, and suddenly you see them going down on one knee and confessing their love for you. Now you are surrounded by hundreds of strangers staring at you two. You don’t want to hurt your partner but you are not ready to accept their proposal either. What is the best way of rejecting a proposal nicely in public?

Smile and ask your partner to get up. Give them a gentle hug. This will let your partner know that you appreciate their gesture. Once the crowd loses interest and goes back to doing whatever they were doing, talk to your partner in private. 

According to research conducted by Lisa B. Hoplock and Danu A. Stinson, University of Victoria, 45% of the 105 rejected proposal accounts said there were other people present at the site of proposal. On the other hand, other people were only present about a third of the time (32%) when proposals were accepted.

Don’t say yes just to get out of that situation or because you were feeling pressured. It is better to give no response than a fake one because when you will tell them the truth later, it will be more hurtful. 

Related Reading: How To End A Long-Term Relationship? 7 Helpful Tips

9. How to say no to a proposal – Tell them about your aspirations 

We all have our plans to achieve certain dreams and goals, and most of us are not interested in taking a longer route. While you cannot explain your dreams and aspirations to every other person, the one who proposes to you does deserve closure. It will help them on multiple levels. It will rationalize the rejection for them, and it will also help them not feel bad about themselves or feel like a failure. Before turning down a proposal or breaking-up know what to say to end a relationship.

For example, “Thank you so much for letting me know about your feelings, I appreciate this gesture so much. But I am not looking for anything serious right now. I have a few commitments and career goals I need to focus on. I hope you find someone great who wants the same things as you.” This is the most effective approach to rejecting a proposal nicely.

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10. Don’t give excuses

“I don’t think I am worthy of being your partner”, “It’s not you, it’s me“, and “You deserve better”. Please don’t give them these clichés. The other person is not a fool and they deserve an honest and real reply from you. These excuses are more hurtful than a simple no. 

When you are being honest, people understand you better. You would want someone to reject you with gentle honesty, won’t you? They deserve it too. Especially if you have been in a relationship with this person for some time.

So don’t give them scripted replies or false hopes. Tell them why you are not ready to get married or to take your relationship to the next step.  

11. Keep things simple and casual after the rejection

Rejecting someone you like or are close friends with can be difficult. You don’t have to make it awkward, though. Try to be as courteous and casual as you can. Never let one rejection ruin your friendship or relationship. Yes, rejection hurts but learn to deal with rejection.

So, after the rejection, don’t bring up the incident under any circumstance and try to act like this never happened. They could seem a little uneasy or jumpy around you for a few days or weeks, but give them some space and reassure them that you’re still the same person. 

Related Reading: 12 Signs It’s Time To Stop Pursuing The Girl You Like And Back Off

12. Don’t take back rejections 

Some people can be persistent but that doesn’t mean you change your answer. Be firm and sure with your decision. Don’t let them intimidate you or send you on a frequent guilt trip. If it is your ex who wants to get back with you but you’ve moved on, tell them you are not interested anymore. Research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin examines the link between rejection and a person’s sense of self. It says, “Few things in life are more traumatic than being rejected by someone who knows you well and then, with this insight, decides that she or he no longer cares for you or wants to be with you.” 

So, yes, keep your rejection direct but polite. If someone keeps bothering you, block them. Blocking someone on social media and in real life is one of the best ways to avoid them. You’ve already given them an answer and if they still keep bothering you or harassing you, you have all the right to kick them out of your life and get rid of them. If things go overboard, take help from the police. Your safety comes first. Get a restraining order if you feel unsafe. 

Key Pointers

  • Reject someone the way you would want to be rejected, without misleading them or giving them false hopes
  • Be respectful, don’t state terms and conditions
  • Don’t give excuses and keep things simple and casual after the rejection
  • Be blunt and clear but use respectful words

Rejecting a marriage proposal may seem one of the most heartbreaking things to do, but if you are not ready for this huge responsibility and commitment, it is better to turn it down. It may feel cruel and they might feel hurt, however, it is the best thing you can do. Don’t humiliate or mock them and tell them clearly and politely why you are not ready for marriage yet (or at all), as empathetically as possible.

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