So, a genuine question, not a rhetorical one.......
I don't know about you, but my Facebook and Intsatgram feeds have been full of beautiful stories of romantic wedding proposals and love has certainly been in the air. As a wedding celebrant who is never happier than when talking about all things wedding ceremony, then this is a wonderful thing to see.
This year however, I paused to reflect. I had an initial telephone interview with a couple who are getting married in February 2020. The bride to be told me that she had waited for 4 long years for her partner to propose. They had been ‘dating’ as she called it, for 9 years. I began to wonder. Are there any other occasions in life where we would wait so dutifully for something we longed for so much? Not many was the answer that I came up with. Research in 2017 by The Knot revealed that less than 1% of recently married brides proposed to their husbands. I asked around family, friends and a few of the couples that I’m currently working with. No ground-breaking international research, but certainly some very interesting views on what is essentially a tradition rooted in the ancient Catholic Church and the throw back to a time where women were seen as lesser beings to their male counterpart. Whether or not the latter still stands is a whole other blog!
So why does this particular tradition remain such a stubborn part of our collective consciousness? So, the big question. Should a woman propose?
Ayes’ to the Right .……
Ok. So after 4 weeks I got bored of looking at my husband across a pub (O’Neill’s, Sutton Hight St, Surrey, to be precise), and asked him out. Would I have proposed to him had he not asked me? Hmmm. Not sue. I’d like to think that I would have, but it was nice to be asked too! If you are wondering, the proposal actually came over the phone when I called him from Java en-route to New Zealand to take up a nursing post. Not exactly romantic as far as these things go.
Well, here’s a sassy and uber classy woman who did ask her now husband, the witty and entertaining radio 1 DJ Greg James, to marry her.
It was whilst listening to women’s hour on the radio in the car that I first heard Bella Mackie speak publicly about what prompted her to propose. (link below if you fancy a listen but it may not stay on iPlayer for long). She took control and she invited her then boyfriend to stop and consider the true meaning of their relationship and to share with her hopes for the future of it.
He said yes immediately describing Bella as “The smartest, funniest and most beautiful person I’ve ever met”. The dominant story here is one of love, of commitment to each other and of equality. I can’t help but feel that the fact that Bella was the one proposed should not really be a story at all.
Of the 16 female friends, family and brides to be that I asked, only 1 of those married or engaged had proposed to their husbands/fiancés. Only 2 out of the 10 of those not in a relationship or in a relationship but not engaged said they either would, or would at least consider proposing to their boyfriend.
“Why not” said one single friend. “If I meet the one and I’m sure and I think he feels the same, then what’s the point in waiting. I think it would be romantic”.
“I’d certainly consider it if it felt right. I’d still want a ring though….a big one. Come to think of it, would I have to buy him one? That needs some thought. Haribo or ring pull maybe – scratch that. Beer can pull ring (laughter)”.
Angela, my oldest and dearest friend and Godmother to my two children did propose to her wife, Sarah. Now as it was a same sex marriage, did it level the field so to speak? Angela had all sorts of anxieties before the romantic proposal in France (more about this below), but she would champion 100% either one in the relationship regardless of gender, proposing if they felt it was the right time for them as a couple.
No’s to the left……
Out of interest, I asked 13 (unlucky I know) married or engaged male family, friends and grooms to be 1) How they felt when they proposed and 2) How would they have felt if their wife/girlfriend/fiancé had proposed to them.
All of them were nervous prior to the proposal event - ‘what if she say’s no?’. None of them had considered that their fiancé/wife may propose to them but if she had, and importantly, if it had been at the same stage in their relationship, all 13 said that they would have said yes. Interestingly though, of those 13, 9 admitted they thought that they would have “got a ribbing of my mates” or similar sentiments.
The reasons given by my female friends/relatives and brides to be for not wanting to propose were not at all surprising:
“Everybody would think I was bossy”
“What if he say’s no?” (familiar right)
“I want to be proposed to. I’d never trust that he really wanted to marry me if I’d asked him”
“It wouldn’t be as romantic if I did it would it?”
“I’d have to wait until a leap year as it’s more acceptable. Still don’t think I would though”
I was a huge Sex in The City fan back in the day. Who remembers Miranda proposing to Steve over beer in a café. It was kind of spontaneous, shocked them both and then there was the ‘awkward moment’ when the “WTF just happened” dropped. It was brief though. The realisation that they wanted to marry, hang out and grow old together dawned and he responded with a “Hell yes”. It was romantic, it felt right and the fact she’s asked him seemed irrelevant. I’ll just leave that there……
Edit18/02/2019: So, I shared my ponderings on in professional celebrant group. One of my wonderful celebrant colleagues has very clear views. Shared with her permission from the marvellous Inga auðbjörg straumland. If you think a proposal from a woman is not romantic, then take a look at her proposal………