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Chinese marriage proposals gone very, very wrong

Last week, the internet was ablaze with news that a China Eastern Airlines flight attendant had been fired after receiving a mid-air marriage proposal. The ill-fated romantic gesture took place on a flight from Xi’an to Yinchuan, while the attendant, Ms. Jiao, was on duty.

To get down on one knee, Jiao’s boyfriend had to take off his seat-belt, and other passengers, who wanted to stand and film the spectacle for their own WeChat Moments, quickly joined him. After the video went viral, the unlucky bride-to-be was let go by the airline for “neglecting passenger safety” and creating a disturbance.


While this romantic gesture prompted a rather draconian response from China Eastern Airlines, it is hardly the first incidence of a marriage proposal gone terribly wrong.

One reason is that “public displays of affection are frowned upon by the older generations—hence the novelty of conspicuous proposals, which in many cases go viral… The craze reflects a tendency among the younger generation toward flamboyant gestures, particularly romantic ones—but it’s also symptomatic of just how high the stakes have become for the modern Chinese marriage,” notes The Atlantic. “An extravagant proposal is now one more way for a prospective groom to enhance his desirability and status.”

Whether it’s a humble suggestion, or a full-blown public proposal, here are six tips to make sure everything goes smoothly (or simply not disastrously) when popping the question.

1: Make sure your house has a toilet

In 2017, a Guizhou man’s proposal was met not only with rejection, but also a tirade about his living conditions. “Your home doesn’t even have a toilet, it doesn’t even have bathing facilities!” his girlfriend yelled. As the proposal video went viral, netizens were torn—was she being too materialistic, or just practical? Regardless, most agreed that the man shouldn’t have proposed publicly—and should certainly have ensured his plumbing was in order.

(The Daily Mail)

2: Don’t choke 

In 2015, a Wang from Guizhou province thought he’d come up with the ultimate romantic ploy when he slipped the ring to his girlfriend Zhou inside a small cake. But Zhou was so ravenous that she didn’t find the ring until it was stuck in her windpipe. After the ring was successfully removed in the ER, it’s not known whether Zhou said yes after she so thoroughly choked on his proposal.

3: Don’t give yourself 99 problems

In 2014, a programmer from Guangzhou decided that one iPhone wasn’t enough for his coworker wife-to-be. Instead, he spent an estimated 440,000 RMB to buy 99 iPhone 6s, which he arranged in a heart on the ground. His intended wasn’t impressed and rejected him. Even sadder? The incident happened on Chinese “Single’s Day” (November 11).

4: Don’t play with fire

In 2016, a student at the Zhengzhou University of Finance and Economics decided to light candles in a heart shape on the ground, witnessed by friends, and pop the question. However, campus security guards put out the candles with fire extinguishers before the girl even arrived.

5: Don’t make your prospective spouse lose face 

In 2016, a man in Sichuan province gave an elaborate speech, offering to put his girlfriend’s name on the deed to his house. At first excited at the proposal, the offer apparently caused offense, with her saying, “It’s not like I can’t afford it myself. I’m not going to marry you just for this house!” The video showed her throwing his flowers back at him and walking away.

(the Daily Mail)

In 2018, a woman from Zhengzhou decided that she was going to pop the question and conquer her prospective husband’s fear of heights at the same time.

So she stood on a glass bridge at Fuxi Mountain, 350 meters above the ground in a wedding dress, with a 100,000 RMB dowry in a suitcase, white car, red banner, and megaphone, urging: “If you dare to walk across the bridge, I’ll marry you.” Although she claimed she loved him, they couldn’t marry because, “You have a weakness that I can’t bear at all – cowardice and a fear of heights!” The man stormed off, vowing only to break up with her.

When your marriage proposal is on the brink of a mighty fall… (via South China Morning Post)

6: Don’t Be a Daredevil

In 2016, a man from Hubei province decided that he would propose by parachute. The only catch? The wind started blowing and he reportedly got stuck in a tree for over an hour; after he was rescued by a crane, his girlfriend was so mortified by the production, she simply turned away.

This was, still, a much-happier ending than a 2017 failed proposal when a Jiangxi man attempted to rappel from the roof of a building to propose to his girlfriend on the 28th floor—unfortunately, his hand slipped and he plunged to his death.


Emily Conrad is a contributing writer at The World of Chinese.

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