By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Feb 14, 2008 at 5:47 AM

While throngs of Milwaukee men hit the flower shops, candy counters and lingerie stores on this Valentine's Day, a smaller group will swallow hard, drop to a knee and utter those four life-changing words:

Will you marry me?

According to the Diamond Information Center, roughly 10 percent of the more than 2 million couples that get engaged each year do it on Feb. 14. That makes sense. Valentine's Day has been associated with love and lovers long before Hallmark came along to produce many of the 1 billion cards that are distributed each year. Geoffrey Chaucer wrote about it in "Parlement of Foules" in 1382 and it gathered steam as the decades turned to centuries.

If you've decided that Valentine's Day is going to be "the day," congratulations. If you're not sure how to pop the question, relax and read the following tips from the editorial staff: Test the waters: If you're not sure what the answer is going to be, it might not be the right time to ask the question. Sound out your bride-to-be, her family and her friends to make sure you're on the right track.

The ring is the thing: The proposal doesn't have to be silky smooth and dashingly delivered if the ring is a stunner. Make sure you buy all you can afford (if not a little more), because the shiny bauble will make up for you ripping your pants when you drop to a knee.

Timing is everything: It's probably best not to propose after you and your sweetheart have had a major fight, when the puppy just ate Grandma's handmade potholder or at another stressful time. You have to do a little planning to make sure the mood is relaxed.

Tradition matters: If your sweetheart is from a traditional family, you may want to go "old school" by asking permission from the future in-laws before you pop the question. Look at it this way: ‘Dad' might be touched at the gesture and it might get you an extra hour of open bar at the reception.

Creativity counts, but don't overdo it: This is a story that's going to be told forever, so you'll want it to be memorable. The problem is that virtually everything under the sun has been attempted. Hot air balloon rides. Bungee jumping. Moonlit strolls. Rings tucked inside fortune cookies or desserts (which can be hazardous). You see those guys propose on the JumboTron at Brewers games all the time (it costs $250, which goes to charity), and that's kind of played out.

Why not go back to the site of your first date, or to a favorite restaurant? How about doing it in front of a warm fire? The bottom line is that you can be romantic without being elaborate. Just find a way to tell her why you want her to marry you and then get ready for the celebration.