Most of us are familiar with the (American? Secular?) image of a proposal. The man kneels and says "will you marry me?" and so on. But what does an Orthodox proposal look like? I'm interested in any minhagim people have to share: yeshivish, chassidish, sephardi, etc.
In some more "Yeshivish" circles (this was pretty normal among my crowd in Yeshiva), the custom is to propose with a bracelet, not a ring, and it is usually done with some formulation of "will you marry me." If the "question" is asked, people are careful to do so without any witnesses, to prevent the marriage taking halachic effect. The kneeling thing is discouraged, either as a formal issue of chukas hagoyim or just as a sensitivity to the same issue.
A Rebbe of mine encouraged us to not do big fancy proposals, as they set a standard of excitement which is hard to live up to in real marriage.
I heard that R' Tzvi Berkowitz proposed to his wife by asking her, towards the end of a date, "so, should we schedule a chasuna?"
Several of my friends and I, did an informal proposal at our respective girl's parents' home, at the point that the girl was interested. I suggest doing this, of course, if there is a high assumption that the girl will agree, otherwise, everyone is in for a lot of embarrassment.
Part of doing this, is that it is considered courteous to inform the parents and receive their approval. Sometimes, the parents disapprove. In that case, obviously, you have to use a different plan, which may involve, occasionally, funding your own wedding. (Remember, there is no halacha that says that you MUST have the wedding cost 1/2 an annual salary :-)
I'm getting married in December. After my kallah and I were getting to know each other for some time and we felt more confidently about moving forward we started discussing getting married and asking each other questions that were important to us to find out about the other person. When we got engaged we went to the Ohel to request a bracha from the Rebbe on our upcoming marriage. The closest thing to what you are describing is in the ceremony of the chuppah which is the bracha concerning marriage and then the verse that the groom says while placing the ring on the finger of his bride which reads in English, "with this ring, you are consecrated to me according to the law of Moses and Israel."
There are a few issues with the secular way of asking for marriage for a Jewish person... 1)usually this is not done at the wedding ceremony and is actually the way someone proposes to be married which in effect is the engagement. however, in Jewish law using such an expression especially if followed by a gift may actually mean the two people are married and not just engaged. 2) Just my thoughts on the matter... the relationship of husband of wife is one of mashpia and mekabel. kneeling towards are showing such extreme reverence upsets that balance and makes for an unhealthy marriage. there is a reason that 50% of all marriages in goyish America fail. There is no understanding of what it means to be husband and wife.
I would think that it would be an intelligent move to ensure that both her parents, and the Lady is is acceptable to your proposal before proposing to her. I would further ensure that the actual request would be done in private, as someone earlier mentioned the halachic consequences of there being any witnesses to the proposal. Then in the event of either person having a mind change, there are no complications. Each simply goes their own way again.