..Margaret Bristol..

When Barry Schwartz proposed to Yisha Tversky, he didn't have to say a word. Schwartz, 25, who co-owns a Web development business, let Tversky read his marriage proposal on Ask Jeeves (www.Ask.com), the popular Internet search engine.

After Schwartz coaxed her to search for her name, Tversky found a special Web page he'd made with the all-important question. "I figured a search engine would be the biggest billboard out there," said Schwartz, whose friends at Ask Jeeves made his proposal possible.

Schwartz is one of the growing number of about-to-get-engaged guys who are upping the ante on the traditional proposal, doing more than getting down on one knee. This trend seems even more evident now with the start of the peak proposal season -- starting at Thanksgiving and lasting through Valentine's Day, according to The Knot. Some are even hiring a company to help, spending thousands in the process or convincing entire shopping malls and restaurants to go along with their plans.

As a result, many proposals are becoming more elaborate and grand, says Kathleen Murray, senior editor of TheKnot.com and The Knot magazine. "Couples are dating for longer periods these days and often living together before [marriage]," Murray says. "So the pressure to impress and be surprised is even more intense."

Jayme Sitzman, 31, had been dating her now-husband Mike for about five years when he surprised her by proposing when they were high off the ground parasailing together in Hawaii. "When something happens that's spontaneous, it's exciting," she said. Her husband hadn't picked out the ring yet, so they went together when they returned home.

Surprises seem to be a key in proposals these days. Mara Begley, a 31-year-old account supervisor, thought she was going to watch an independent film made by a friend, but instead, her boyfriend, Martino Hroncich, 32, had his own special film to show her at the New Jersey theatre. "All of a sudden, he was up on the screen," Begley said.

Hroncich's friend, who really was an independent filmmaker, had filmed him in different locations that were important in their relationship starting with where they had their first date and ending with a shot of the New York skyline and an on-screen proposal.

"As you grow up...you always think about how you will be proposed to," she said. "[The way he proposed] was something I never would have thought of."

Some men don't want to make it too easy either. "A big trend we're seeing, and each one is very creative, are scavenger hunts," Murray says. Jordan Bratman used this method to propose to pop diva Christina Aguilera, according to US Weekly.

Isabella Mansfield, a 24-year-old Avon sales representative, was sent on a whirlwind day full of clues and pampering. Her then-boyfriend, took her to the mall in San Antonio, Texas, letting her think they were doing holiday shopping, but she was soon surprised with a clues that led her to get her hair done, buy a new outfit and shoes and have her makeup and nails done. The couple was reunited for dinner at The Cheesecake Factory before the final clue led them back to their apartment, which had been decorated with candles and rose petals. Even though Mansfield was shocked, she was happy that his hunt made the day special. "I felt like a million bucks," she said.

These hunts can become quite elaborate and difficult to arrange so some choose to get help from Go Get It! (www.gogetit.org), a company that helps design and arrange "once-in-a-lifetime" experiences, of which many are marriage proposals. After interviewing someone who wants to propose, the company helps to custom create a memorable experience using CD clues. Company owner Jenifour Jones said one recent proposal included a fake tabloid cover, fans, a meal at the celebrity haunt The Ivy in Los Angeles and even "paparazzi." Her day ended by following a trail of roses to meet her fiancé at a lifeguard tower, where he proposed.

Matt Mansfield, a 29-year-old screenwriter, who married Isabella in March, has always considered himself creative and knew he would propose in a special way. But he never figured he'd make it harder for other guys getting ready to pop the question. Apparently, that's the case, according to Isabella. After she posted her story on different Web sites, she got e-mails from women who envied Matt's romantic gesture and one man who complained Matt had "ruined it for us regular guys."

"The proposal story is a story you are going to be telling for a lifetime," said Jones, whose clients typically spend at least $5,000. But there's still a place for tradition, Murray says. Many couples continue to get engaged the old-fashioned way because that's how they've always dreamed it would happen.

Just ask Mark Trezza. He proposed on one knee to Vanessa Asencio in front of her family on Christmas Day four years ago. "It was always going to be traditional because she wanted it that way," he said. "She wanted her family to be a part of it."A few weeks before, he explained his plan to her father. But it was not without some element of surprise.

"He pulled out a bracelet box, and I thought 'Oh! I'm getting a tennis bracelet,'" Asencio-Trezza said. But when she opened the box she found an engagement ring, and Trezza got down on one knee.

Whether it's a private family proposal or a creative event of an evening, Jones says it all boils down to one thing. "It's knowing that the guy you love...has taken the time and thought about the little things."

* * *

This article originally appeared on New York University's Livewire News Service.