"Before you ask, make sure your loved one is not a commitment- phobe and doesn't laugh hysterically at the `M' word. Do your research and be 90 per cent sure you will be accepted. A refusal will embarrass both of you. Make sure they understand the question. Say, `Will you marry me?' or `Shall we get married?' Anything less clear, such as, `I don't suppose you'd care to throw your lot in with mine,' and you might end up sharing a mortgage and credit card bills but not a wedding list or a name. Frame the question so a yes or no will suffice. If you're a woman, it's perfectly OK these days to take the initiative and ask, or if you're too shy, manipulate the man into asking you instead.

It's not really necessary to present a ring when you ask, but if you feel that no proposal is complete without one, make it out of the foil round a (recently opened) champagne bottle, plaited strands of hair, or the right kind of toffee paper. At least then you haven't spent a fortune if you're turned down. Do not embarrass your loved one. Will she welcome violins, a cake and the entire staff of Pete's Pizzas serenading her? Probably not. If she is shamed into accepting you, she will break it off in the morning or make you miserable for years prior to an expensive divorce. Do it in private, and not on one knee, it's silly. Open air is best. It's free, romantic, and you can usually avoid an audience. As usual the advice is KISS. As in, Keep It Simple Stupid." Interview by Fiona McClymont

Katie Fforde is vice-chairman of the Romantic Novelists Association. Her book `Life Skills' is published by Century on 6 May, price pounds 10