This February 29th, are you thinking of popping the big question to your man? Well, look before you Leap, with relationship expert Kate Taylor’s guide to the perfect proposal plan

February 29th is the traditional day that women propose to men. But let’s face it, if you’re the type of woman to take over the proposal, you’re not the type to be bound by convention, so really – the whole year’s your oyster. But make sure your relationship is ready to be taken to the next step. Have you discussed marriage with your partner? Have you agreed how you’ll solve issues that might arise? Do you share the same goals for the future, and are equally committed to reaching them? All the answers to those questions need to be “yes” if the marriage is going to be successful. If you answered “no” to any of them, wait. Use February 29th as a time to talk to your partner about the future instead. Cook them a meal or take them out for dinner and discuss what you’re both looking for, and celebrate what you already have.

There are lots of reasons you might be tempted to take charge of the proposal. Perhaps you and your partner have always had a kooky, non-traditional relationship and this is another way of celebrating that. Maybe you feel your man lacks confidence, and would never have the courage to do it himself. Maybe you just feel he’d love it. I support all these reasons, but if you’re planning to drop to one knee simply because you’re tired of waiting for him to do it, I urge caution! As I said before, it’s important to have discussed marriage before you propose. And if you have, I hope you listened carefully to what your partner said.

Many men won’t feel ready for marriage until they’ve reached a certain level in their career and finances. If your man has said he plans to marry you but wants to wait a couple of years, a proposal from you won’t change that. I’ve heard many stories of men being surprised by a proposal and answering, “Yes – one day.” You can’t rush him. But, if you know he’s where he wants to be in life and just needs a sign from you that the time is right to head up the aisle, then do go ahead and propose.

Even if your partner is a lively extrovert, the chances are very high that he’d prefer to be proposed to privately – far from the madding crowd. You’re bucking the trend by being the one to propose to him, and he might feel uncomfortable sharing that with other people. Also, private proposals are much more romantic!

In general, I’d advise you to propose when you’re engaged in an activity with your partner: walking somewhere beautiful, on holiday, on the side of a ski slope, cooking…etc. Action stimulates and focuses the male mind. A holiday is the perfect time and place. Snap up a winter-break bargain now, and take him away.

Keep the proposal fun, light-hearted and flirtatious. Tailor it towards who he is and what he likes, not what you like! You could spend hours creating what you think is a romantic proposal, with candles, flowers, poetry and a present that took you hours to make… only to find that when the time comes, your partner doesn’t seem sufficiently “moved”. If you know, deep inside, that you’re creating the proposal you’ve always wanted, then you’ll almost definitely feel resentful afterwards because you had to do it all yourself. Instead, make it all about him. If he’s outdoorsy, write a sign saying, “Will you marry me?” and hang it on a tree in a favourite walking spot, give him a map and a compass and leave him to find it. (Be waiting behind the tree to surprise him.) If he’s a wine connoisseur, print a proposal label onto a bottle of wine and book a wine-tasting tour, arranging with the owner beforehand that they’ll bring this bottle out at the end. You get the idea: fun and witty. Keep it light! And don’t worry about rings. If he says Yes, you can go ring-shopping together afterwards. Instead of a ring, create a romantic proposal memento that he can keep forever. You can get anything engraved, so buy him something personal to him (a key ring, cufflinks, a silver photo frame, a special pen, the back of an iPod with all his favourite albums on it) and have it inscribed with your names the date you asked him to be your husband.

…if he says No? First of all, don’t panic! Ask him calmly for his reasons. They could well be practical ones: perhaps he doesn’t feel that the two of you are financially secure enough to marry, or perhaps he feels that you need to have some big conversations about the future and your combined goals first. If that’s true, then work together to set a date when you can get engaged. If you feel that he’s using timing as an excuse, and his suggested engagement date seems unrealistically distant, then I suggest you take some time apart from him and work out what you really want: is it marriage, or is it him? If it’s marriage, he might well not be Mr Right. If there are other reasons why he won’t commit – perhaps he’s got children from a previous relationship and doesn’t want to interfere with arrangements there – then sit down and talk through some possible solutions and get professional advice of necessary.

If it’s just a flat-out “No,” then the relationship may well not be the right one for either of you. If you can’t accept the decision, don’t stay and try to live with your resentment; few couples recover from a rejection of marriage. Instead, try to think of it as a positive thing – you are now free to find someone who does want to say “I do”. And you might find them on…. I’m just saying..