NEW YORK -- The heck with lovey-dovey Valentine's Day. Turns out December, with its holiday cheer, romantic winter backdrops, and family gatherings, is among the busiest months for popping the question.
"It's a pretty time of year," said Jake Nyberg, 31, a video producer in Minneapolis. He chose Christmastime to drop to one knee in a gorilla suit while teetering on ice skates in front of his beloved. "You know you're going to be around a lot of family. You're going to be seeing all the people you'd like to see after something like this happens."
Sarah Pease, a professional proposal planner in New York, usually gets one or two inquiries a week from nervous grooms-to-be, but once Thanksgiving rolls around, it's more like one or two a day, with most guys looking to propose in December.
While she specializes in elaborate surprise proposals, she says the simple engagement-ring-under-the-tree trick is still popular. "That's a great way to have it as a family affair," she said. "It's dreamy. This is definitely the busiest time of the year."
Laurent Landau in New York, a partner in the jewelry site DiamondIdeals.com, also sees the December bump: "October, November, and early December, we probably see a 50 to 60 percent increase in the number of people buying rings with the purpose of proposing during the holiday season."
And it's not just regular folks; celebs confirm the trend too. Matthew McConaughey announced in a tweet that he proposed to his girlfriend, Brazilian model Camila Alves, on Christmas Day this year. And two days after Christmas, a spokesman for John Legend revealed that the singer recently proposed to his girlfriend, model Chrissy Teigen, in the Maldives.
Christmas is considered one of four big proposal days, along with Valentine's Day, Thanksgiving, and New Year's. Thirty-nine percent of proposals occurred between November and February among 20,000 newlyweds surveyed by the popular wedding Web site TheKnot.com. Of those, 16 percent got engaged in December, more than any other month, according to TheKnot editor Anja Winikka.
Winikka's on board. Her fiance, Benjamin Bullington, proposed Dec. 20 by matching a fantasy she'd had "as a child that on my very first date ever I would wear a red dress and we would go to Red Lobster in a red car." Bullington sent a red dress and shoes to her office, then whisked her off in a red car to dine on red lobster.
With help from Pease, the wedding planner, Matthew Fowkes surprised his honey with an impressive yellow diamond on a romantic Christmas week getaway to New York.
"We thought it would be a magical time in the city with all the lights and everything -- and it was," said Fowkes, 35, a Web site founder in Pittsburgh.