A feminist’s struggle (and secret loophole) with an impending proposal

Guest post by abbyrstern
Corey & Wendi Cuc - Rings

While I consider myself a feminist, I fear that I too have fallen victim to the antiquated societal norm regarding wedding proposals. I tend to try to ignore many societal norms and be a generally progressive person, but traditions associated with proposals and weddings are norms that I have been struggling with lately and cannot get myself to fully disregard.

I have recently found myself waiting with bated breath for a proposal that I know is coming soon. My partner and I are very open about discussing our relationship, so I know that we both want to get married and that he plans to propose soon. We have discussed whether a proposal is even something we want, but we both thought it would be nice and a good story to tell in the future.

Despite this, in order to stick to my liberal foundations, I have decided to secretly propose back to my partner after he proposes to me. I feel that it is important for both people to choose to marry one another, and therefore I would like to ask my partner whether he wants to marry me after he asks me the same thing. I hope that he wants to commit to me as much as I want to commit to him.

This has left me in a very difficult position…

Deciding to officially become engaged to be married is a big choice, and I wonder why we have both decided that he is the only one in the relationship who can fully prepare for this event.

I am prepared to propose back to my partner, and I am even ready with special gift for him when I do, but I have no idea when this will take place. I have left the control still in his hands to orchestrate the time and the place when we will get engaged. I do not want to steal his thunder, but I wonder why I feel stuck within his time frame.

Deciding to officially become engaged to be married is a big choice, and I wonder why we have both decided that he is the only one in the relationship who can fully prepare for this event. After becoming engaged, there is a lot of time that must be devoted to speaking to family and friends and getting the first steps of the wedding plans set. Therefore, I find it strange that only one party in the relationship typically knows when this will occur.

One of the ways that I decided to cope with this was to ask for some details about the time frame from him. This will allow me to plan my re-proposal to him and become emotionally prepared. I have asked him to narrow the time frame that I may expect a proposal, and he willingly told me that it would be within a couple of months and that I should expect it soon.

I have also become extremely interested in reading about proposals and wedding preparation on the internet. I find myself on blogs and reading articles about this topic more often than I expected, and sometimes more than I would like.

I have read many articles about not becoming a Bridezilla, how to know if he's “the one,” and how to make a marriage successful. I also frequently speak to my mother about places where my partner and I could marry, and I have even started to brainstorm a guest list. While logically I feel that this is acceptable behavior because I know that planning a wedding involves a great deal of preparation and I want to begin to think about the steps (without doing anything formal or committing to anything). But I wonder whether this behavior is emotionally healthy. Regardless, I feel that I have no choice but to prepare for this big life-changing event in my own way since my partner is permitted by society to prepare and plan the specifics of the event.

Since proposals are typically extremely romantic and sometimes even grand gestures, it is hard to want society to evolve enough to eliminate this tradition. However, I feel that in the long run it would be better and healthier for relationships. If the two people in a relationship mutually decided that they were ready to take their relationship to the next level, neither person would have to wonder whether the other one loved them enough to spend the rest of their lives together. Neither person would be forced to choose to commit to their partner forever or risk losing them. Both people would have control in the timing of the progression of their relationship.

However, I still cannot break myself from the desire to fit in with the cultural tradition to excitedly await a sparkling ring. I reluctantly am prepared to accept this tradition, despite my deep reservations about the validity of the premise. Regardless, I will happily say “Yes!”

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Comments on A feminist’s struggle (and secret loophole) with an impending proposal

  1. This post almost exactly mirrors my own life right now with the exception of a few minor details… how eerie! 🙂

    I’d like to present him with an engagement gift and do my own version of a proposal, but I’m struggling with the gift part… He’s hard to buy for normally, so of course my brain is fried trying to think of suitable gifts (he already has a nice watch and he hates jewelry).

    • My fiancé recently proposed (yay, sparkly emerald ring!) and my engagement gift to him was an xbox one with the latest edition of his favorite video game. We had agreed ahead of time that we liked the idea of both of us exchanging engagement gifts and even discussed whether we wanted a typical proposal (we decided that we did). I’m sure you’ll find something that will suit your soon-to-be fiancé. It doesn’t need to be jewelry.

  2. Oh man, I really feel you! I am going through a similar situation. I know the proposal is coming, probably soon. I even picked out the ring! I had been thinking of proposing to him but my feminist boyfriend surprised me by confessing he really wanted to do it. And I don’t want to steal the moment from him. But by the same token, I am eager to make plans, especially since we set the date for spring. I want to do some counseling, there will likely be travel involved as our families are on different sides of the country, we need to save…blah, blah, blah. Don’t feel I can go forward on concrete planning until the engagement is official. I suppose I am a little traditional afterall? Haha.
    I do think that this private incubation of ideas period might be a huge blessing as it lets me (us) identify what is really wanted without any outside pressure.
    Also, I really love your idea of a counter proposal with gift. So clever and sweet and important. Now, to figure out what the gift might be…Thank you!

  3. I know how you feel. My fiancé and I ended up mutually agreeing we’d like to get married. I just brought up the subject and how I was open to the idea. We discussed it… later in the week we bought a ring off Amazon (I picked it after visiting some jewelry stores) which I paid him half for after much insistance since the ring was all my choice.

    Friends have asked about the proposal, what happend, how, when, etc. We explain we just talked about it and decided to do it. No one seems put off by this. Live your life a you see fit. Don’t worry about falling into a stereotype, classification, or becoming someone you’re not. The fact is no one fits in these boxes and we are always changing. Just enjoy your life with your special person. (:

  4. When one person is ready to commit and the other isn’t, it makes sense that the not-ready person would (in a way) control the progression of the relationship. But when both people are clear that they want to get hitched at some point, then yeah, it kinda sucks not to be able to plan for that as needed.

    For that reason, the “traditional” proposal thing only makes sense to me if the person who’s ready to commit earlier is not certain that the other person wants to get hitched until that person proposes. When both people know that they both want to get married, proposals have actually happened, even if they weren’t formal in some sense. So if somebody acts engaged / makes plans / etc. after that point, I find nothing unhealthy about it at all.

  5. I struggled with this issue as well. We discussed marriage, decided it was in the near future, and went jewelry shopping together. I asked him if he would also like an engagement ring and he declined.

    My secret loophole is that I felt that the proposal was cooperative. I had actually planned the weekend away that we were enjoying when he proposed. We were hiking, and had stopped to enjoy a nice view. We must have been on the same wavelength because I encouraged him a bit by saying, “This is romantic”, which he took as his cure to pull out the ring we had picked out together.

    Not an ideal feminist solution, but hopefully a small step in the right direction…

  6. What if you accept his proposal contingent on his acceptance of a counter proposal :). As in he/she makes an offerfor marriage and you agree provided they accept your offer of eternal love/fidelity/heart/etc. most proposals these days are mutually agreed upon in advance in some form (ring suggestions, talks about the next step, etc) so the proposal itself isn’t so much of a surprise but rather the when where and how. since he has given you a time frame have any gift you wish to present as part of your counter proposal handy ( I had a signet pinky ring made, he wears it everyday) Good luck!!!

  7. I felt the exact same way. Since my fiancee is so romantic I let him propose but as I was reading more feminist literature on marriage, I decided it was super unfair that I got this lovely sparkly thing on my finger, and he didn’t.

    So we bought the ring together (our tastes are very different), and I told him just to be patient and I just surprised him a few weeks later. Even if I knew he had a ring sitting in his pocket, it’d still be a surprise when it happens right?

  8. I too am in this situation. I thought we were weirdos. Whenever we tell people that we have a clear idea of how and when we want to wed but are not as of yet officially engaged they look at us like we are nuts. Like we are not allowed to talk about getting married until he drops to one knee.

    • Exactly! It’s taboo until you’re actually engaged and then as soon as you’re engaged, people ask what plans you have already (even if it’s 1 hour later)!

    • This is my life, exactly. We’ve made a guest list. We brainstorm quite often on wedding ideas (I actually emailed him a link today from one of the featured weddings). We know it will happen. We’ve even tossed the idea of an engagement ring as it holds no significance for us, but instead are going for engagement tattoos for each other. But I told him I wanted him to propose, or at least formally ask me. We’ve both been married, and both of those started and ended horribly, so I want to get back those little bits of joys in a new way.

  9. I UNDERSTAND!I wanted to retaliate immediately to his ring with one of my own. (The Kinect Gear Ring, BTWs). I was told my my best friends that I would be “stealing his moment.” Nevertheless, I carried that ring with me everywhere, waiting, just like you. It turns out that he surprised my at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in FL (my best friend and I went to a conference and took a geek day at Universal) and proposed to me in front of the Hogwarts Express, many, many miles away from Boston where my retaliatory ring was. I just enjoyed the moment, said “challenge accepted” and gave him the ring when we got back home.

    I think that being progressive is a state of mind. As long as you acknowledge your own ideals, and stick with a tradition, you are not be untrue to who you are, but acknowledging that you DECIDED to continue a tradition because you CHOSE to, not because society mandates that you should.

    Congratulations, and have fun planning!

    • Awesome ring! I definitely agree with what you wrote too. Also, “challenge accepted” is awesome.

  10. This sort of situtation happened to me. Except that my partner and I mutually agreed to get married in March or April, and then for some reason I can’t put into words, I waited for a proposal (which happened in June). We had already asked each other, and said yes, but without a sparkly finger enhancer, I felt I didn’t have anything to tell anyone about. Yes, I started planning like you did, but I didn’t announce anything to anyone until I had a ring.

    I did consider proposing to him (because that came up in my research!) but rejected the idea. Not because I don’t beleive in equality, but because in my particular relationship, I went to college, got a good job, bought our house and paid a lot of our living expenses while he searched for work. Sometimes he’s upset that he didn’t get to contribute as much early in our relationship. I didn’t want to take the proposal away from him too.

    A re-proposal was something I didn’t consider, but we aren’t really sentimental enough for that.

  11. I went through this in my own way. We had talked about marriage in a bit of a roundabout way, agreeing that we wanted the proposal to be special and that it would be his. And then we proceeded to plan the wedding, tell my parents that this was coming, etc. We had even jointly come up with where the proposal was to take place (Venice as we had a trip planned that summer). It didn’t happen. We’d both waited but when it came to it, the ring had gone missing (long story, it was found much later), the weather was sucky and we agreed to wait to have the ring he’d picked. So I waited even more. And in the end, our proposal story was pretty prosaic and I informed him that if he didn’t get on with it I was going to be irritated. So we had sushi, I dressed up, we watched Incredible Hulk, and he proposed although he forgot to ask anything and it was not a grand gesture or anything like that. And after I wondered why we waited so long when we were emotionally committed already.

  12. I could just be misunderstanding, but I don’t think the tradition of proposing needs to go away in order to be progressive. To me the diamond ring and the proposal is more of a symbol that is commonly used, but depending on your thought process – the symbol could mean different things. For example the cross was a sign of pain, torture, and death, but now its a symbol for religion. If you played Final Fantasy X the prayer of Yevon used to be the victory sign of blitz ball.

    My fiance and I knew we wanted to get married, and i knew he was going to propose so i told my parents so they wouldnt have a heart attack. It was mutually agreed upon. But he wanted to do the diamond ring and the surprise knee thing. the thought never crossed my mind “He’s making all the decisions” or anything like that. He just wanted to do something romantic and nice for me.

    I think the most important thing is to talk about marriage before the proposal and knowing what you are getting into. Once both parties in the relationship know that they are ready for a life changing commitment and are willing to spend the rest of their lives together then however they choose to “propose” is just flair.

    tldr; the “proposal” part isnt as important as the discussion and decisions leading up to it.

  13. I can’t help but feel like this is over thinking feminism. Obviously to each their own, but to me the feminist thing has already been done. You *both* decided you wanted to get married. You have what you need to begin the early stages of planning, which you even said you’re already doing. The proposal is just a fun way to make it official with something memorable. Sitting down and discussing it isn’t exactly a Kodak moment, you know? Signing paperwork to make a marriage legal isn’t as memorable as a ceremony. Same concept.

    As long as you get equal say in the marriage what does it matter what traditions you keep and which you throw out as long as they mean something to you? If you’re looking forward to the proposal then enjoy it! That’s your choice, your right. You’re not accepting the proposal because it’s expected of you or someone else is telling you to. You’re doing it for you and for your partner and that’s all that matters.

    To me, that’s the real feminist choice. If you let your feminist views stop you from enjoying something then you’re not being true to yourself.

    • THIS:

      As long as you get equal say in the marriage what does it matter what traditions you keep and which you throw out as long as they mean something to you? If you’re looking forward to the proposal then enjoy it! That’s your choice, your right. You’re not accepting the proposal because it’s expected of you or someone else is telling you to. You’re doing it for you and for your partner and that’s all that matters.

    • “To me, that’s the real feminist choice. If you let your feminist views stop you from enjoying something then you’re not being true to yourself.”

      I used to struggle with this a lot! What does it mean if I want to be proposed to? Am I less of a feminist? Failing at being a progressive woman? Nu-uh. Feminism is about freedom to CHOOSE! I wanted the proposal. I wanted the anticipation and the suprise and the question, even though it already had an answer. It’s always good to evaluate your own motivations, and research different points of view. But the whole point of women’s liberation wasn’t to liberate us from tradition, but to allow us to make our own paths…even if that path follows the same route as women in the past. The difference is you’re walking that path on your own two feet, not being dragged down it by someone else.

      • YES! I am not yet engaged, and as such have not become a Tribesmaid, but I am, after MUCH trial and error, with someone I really think is going to be the man that I marry. For me, I tend to eschew the “what everyone else does” traditional path, but at the same time, I crave bits of it. I would love to wear my ring to work and see how long it takes my coworkers to notice it (my current internal bet it 15 minutes), and I want certain specific things that are traditional just because I think they are lovely. Simple as that. I like a (conflict-free) diamond because it is beautiful, not because it is How You Do Things. And in this I really feel strongly about my man proposing to me because in so many of my relationships, including this one, I have been the aggressor or the first to message or the first to say I Love You or whatever. For HIM to propose means he really wants it, and after three major relationships where the guy was passive or dismissive or impotent or disinterested or what have you, it would mean The MOST to me if a man said to me, “I choose YOU and humbly ask you to commit to me.” I want the proposal for the shiny societal movie moment, the story to tell, but most of all for the feeling that he truly wants and chooses to be with me.
        Am I betraying my fellow funky sisters? I don’t think so. If the conventions have meaning to you – if they touch something inside you and feel authentically part of you and important to you, then do them! Do a unity candle or a Bible reading or wear blue panties or get matching tattoos or whatever feels RIGHT.
        Him proposing would be meaningful to me.
        I did get down on my knee and formally ask him to move in with me, so I know I have the stones to do it.
        Hooray for OffBeatBride!

    • For me at least, feminism isn’t *just* about choice. Of course choice is important, but it’s also about giving women equality and agency over their own lives. I can’t speak for the OP, but I personally am uncomfortable with being proposed to (and certainly waiting for a proposal) because it’s taking agency out of my hands and waiting for someone else to make a decision which will have a huge impact on my life. If I want to get married, why don’t I ask? Wanting to leave it up to the man seems un-feminist to me (emphasising those last two words!) even if it’s a choice. Some choices are less feminist than others. I’ve been told by others that if a man doesn’t ask it means he doesn’t really want to marry you, but that’s clearly not true!

      • But that’s exactly my point. If you’ve already talked about marriage and decided you both want to then letting him propose to you isn’t leaving the decision up to him. You are letting him do something nice to surprise you about something you already decided you both want. You’re a team, and if a “traditional” proposal makes you both happy I don’t see anything unfeminist about it. The author is clearly liking the idea of being surprised with a proposal, but is having a hard time enjoying it because she has a nagging feeling she isn’t doing the feminist thing because she isn’t making the decision on when and how the proposal will happen. But why do we feel we need to be equal on every little thing, including something he wants to do for us? Why do we feel we need to be in control of each and every step of a relationship together to the point we cannot enjoy a heart felt surprise from our significant other? If we let feminism dictate every tiny action of our relationships we are doing a real disservice. A big part of a relationship is trust and that means letting your partner take the reigns sometimes. A nice proposal seems like a small thing to “allow” him to take control of if you both know you want it. That’s the key. They both want it, so why not enjoy it and celebrate it as the right thing for them both instead of nit picking if it fits into a feminist mindset?

        I am all for equality of the sexes and am lucky enough to have the most feminist man I have ever met. But I let him take control of some things and he lets me take control of others and we don’t stop and say “Wait. Is the the feminist thing to do?” because we’re too busy asking ourselves “Is this right for US?”

        • Well clearly, it is different for different people. But for me, the feminist thing IS the right and most important thing for me personally, so there isn’t a conflict between what I want and the most feminist choice. So that is why I would have a hard time being proposed to from a feminist POV.

        • I agree with you, Betty, and indeed for most people reading this post I would assume that even if a proposal comes as a romantic surprise being asked to get married isn’t the surprising part!

          My fiance and I have been together for five years. We have discussed marriage many times over the years and indeed from about a year into our relationship knew we’d get married. But we didn’t want to get formally engaged until we could afford to set a wedding date. My partner really liked the idea of doing the whole romantic proposal thing, and so he did! The event was a surprise, but in the sense a surprise birthday party is a surprise – the event is a surprise, but the occasion is expected, if you know what I mean? So I didn’t feel like it was him having the power at all.

          Also, he didn’t propose with a ring, since he knew I’d want to choose one myself. 🙂 And he also knew I hate the idea of proposals in a public place like a restaurant, so he picked a deserted Scottish hillside! Thus the proposal reflected my ideas of romance, not just his.

          Basically: I appreciate the OP’s point that a traditional proposal is about male power, but in modern relationships, when I would hope the couple involved had on many occasions discussed their hopes for their lives together, it’s more a nice gesture that allows you to celebrate your official decision to get hitched.

          • But he still got to propose, so he did still get the power. Why not ask him yourself? There are ways of celebrating an official engagement and/or getting that Kodak moment without the man asking. I just couldn’t allow myself to not have control of such a big thing.

            /just my $.02, YMMV of course

  14. I don’t understand the “proposing back” as described in this post, so I hope someone can clarify.

    If your partner proposes to you, isn’t it assumed that the person wants to marry you and commit to you? That is, isn’t the “proposing back” therefore unnecessary in terms of determining his intentions (though I understand the act of asking him and creating a nice re-proposal experience has its own value).

    • you’re right that it’s not practical, but it was just for the sentiment of the moment. A lot of commenters are saying that a proposal is nice, which I agree with, and I thought it was be a nice gesture to propose back. Neither of us had any doubt that the other person would say “yes,” but the proposal(s) were done as a gesture to one another.

  15. we didn’t really have a proposal. we knew we wanted to get married, and after he ordered the ring for me i asked (because i wanted to do it, but i wasn’t sure if he would) if he’d like a ring too. he was totally down with it, but it’s a good thing i asked because i would have gotten something totally different from what he wanted. in the end we wound up just exchanging rings at the right moment…promise made. no questions, no answers. we already knew, so what was the point in asking?

  16. I went through something similar. Good idea to ask for a narrowed time frame; I was told “a year” so not to spoil it and I was walking on eggshells for a while. I had his ring ready (for me, that was the most egalitarian option–why should I be the only one to have a label of my non-single status?) before mine was finished. I think the other thing I did was refute the idea of a “bridezilla”. I think that’s more reactionary to women speaking their own mind than an actual negative trait, so I gave my guy my priorities for a proposal and a ring (cameras present, and a gold and star ruby ring). When the time came, I had the ring in my pocket after we climbed a via ferrata, I was so excited I gave him his ring (and put it on the wrong hand) before he got a chance to give me mine.

  17. My first engagement my boy and I agreed to propose to each other at the same time. We did and that went awesomely. We broke it off before getting married for… complicated reasons I won’t get into here.

    My second engagement my boy REALLY wanted to surprise me so he didn’t say ANYTHING beforehand. If he had said something like “I’m planning to propose to you in the next couple of months” I would have insisted it be a mutual thing again. Actually, no, I would have told him to please wait because I wasn’t ready for that yet. But when I was actually faced with him asking directly with a ring box in his hand I couldn’t say no. I know surprise doesn’t work for everyone but totally worked on me. Clever boy, knows me well!

  18. I literally cannot THIS this article enough. Holy shit. I think…I think I might be in love with you.

  19. Huh. We talked about getting married for years. We discussed the wedding details. We worked on logistics. We “got engaged” when his step-mother asked us if we were planning on getting married, and I said “probably next year at the ranch”. And so we were engaged. We then called his mom and my parents and told everyone we were engaged.

    Six months later, we went shopping together and found my engagement ring. I’m the breadwinner in our relationship, and he wanted to give me something that demonstrated that he had a financial stake in this marriage too. (I own the house, the car, the bulk of our assets.)

    I love my ring, and I love that our engagement was a mutually decided upon thing.

  20. Have you thought about possibly having a betrothal/engagement ceremony? I don’t mean a public one necessarily (although you could do that, and have the engagement party as part of that!), it could just be the two of you in a place that’s special to the two of you, but both of you asking and promising at the same time seems like a logical solution. I’m single at the moment, but I’d prefer that to being proposed to.

  21. As an egalitarian, I had struggled for a long time thinking about whether I wanted a proposal or not. I have always been uneasy with the idea that the man gets to plan when and how the proposal is going to happen while the woman just sits and waits. Even though my man was the one to initiate marriage-related convos between us, we have made mutual decisions on when and how we will get married.

  22. Oh thank G_d you wrote this post! I struggled with the same concerns and when voicing them everyone looked at me like I had three heads or with the contempt society reserves for “uppity women”. UGH!

    Your proposing back idea is lovely.

    My partner and I discussed together getting engaged and went and designed a ring together. When it was finished I let him decide how and when we would give it to me. He surprised me with it a few weeks after we ordered it by proposing to me on a nature walk. No one was on bended knee- just two people standing as equals, hugging, and letting all the joy fill them till it leaked from their eyes. Sap-tacular!

  23. I’d been planning on doing this – had a pendant that I carried with me every where on the off chance that he would propose.

    He went through a tough time, and I ended up giving it to him without a proposal instead though.

    Then… he kept *almost* proposing, then backing off because a small detail wouldn’t go as expected and the whole thing was stressing him out (and me, by extension!!)… so I proposed to him myself. With a ring pop (and a home made 7 course italian dinner).

  24. Thank you for this post!

    My boyfriend and I had been talking about getting engaged for a year now and I told him straight away that I wanted to get him an engagement present – a watch because I didn’t want to be the only one to receive something as a symbol of our promise to commit to each other. And he loved the idea! I got to pick my own rings (he’s getting me two!) and he got to pick his own watch, and looking forward to giving them to each other. Heck, we’re asking each other’s respective parents for their respective blessings.

    I know that he’s going to propose on our trip to Vegas next year and he knows that I want to do my own “proposal” – we’re only doing this once ideally so I don’t see why he gets to have all the fun! – most likely when we get back. I can’t say that I’m doing it for any other reason other than I just want to, and he doesn’t feel that it’s taking anything away from him because I understand how much it means to him to be the one to propose so I have no qualms about him doing it first. And he knows that it would mean a lot to me to reciprocate.

  25. I was totally in the same boat as you a few months ago! We had discussed getting married in the months leading up the the proposal, and I had wanted something ritualistic to mark the occasion when we decided for real, no joke, let’s do this (the inner gender & religion studies major in me shining through). I picked the ring while on vacation (it was just a pretty elephant-hair ring I wanted to buy myself anyways) but he insisted on buying it and proposed later during the holiday near the place we first met. Squee inducing for my girlie-side, but with enough pre-planning so that it wasn’t a total, freak-out surprise. And it let him take the initial glory and be all traditionally masculine, which I knew we both wanted.

    In the months that followed, I had the urge to get him an engagement gift as well, but had been putting it off for various reasons. He actually surprised me when he said he really REALLY wanted an engagement ring, because women get to have this little reminder to look at and get excited over regarding the upcoming nuptials, but the men did not. I ended up ordering him a nice silver ring and proposing to him on a mountaintop (and nearly losing it over a waterfall!). His attitude towards our engagement really evolved after that, and he became more invested in wedding planning and pre-marital counselling etc. It was an interesting side effect of equalizing the act of proposing.

  26. I am glad that we all share the struggle. I found my brain wanted to tear itself in half, with one “this is what I should feel” and one “this is what I do feel” portion. I had no use for marriage. I could not understand why more and more people were saying the dreaded “you’ll be next” to me.

    Then a light turned on in my tiny brain and I realised I did want this, despite my gender studies marinated brain feeling uneasy about the whole thing. I sat about wondering if the Boy would ever consider it. Then we had several chats in the dead of night (always the time we pick to discuss the essential things) and eventually concluded that this is not just what I want but what WE want.

    The penny dropped in the early hours, then neither of us could sleep at all through excitement, so we chatted it all through and set ground rules (keep it under 50 people and in the next three months, organise it then tell people). Then after a wierd week of knowing we were planning it and not telling anyone, combined with trying to stick to our rules and realising that wasn’t right for us, WE CRACKED! Another meltdown, me storming out the house (I never ever do that) and a reconciliation, then a down on one knee, in pyjamas in our sitting room PROPOSAL. We stopped worrying about keeping things secret, and did the rounds of everyone we know to tell them. Tears all round, but in a good way. Now being engaged is great! And the wedding, next year, more than 80 people, couldn’t be more excited, nothing like the ground rules we first set. However you do it, the word “should” doesn’t come in to it. Just feel it. Loved this post.

  27. Thank you very much for this. I have been in the “pre-engaged” state for awhile now and it can truly be an emotional roller coaster. This very thoughtful post on the subject actually has me leaning towards not becoming engaged, but just focusing on having open communication with my partner, and when we are both ready, getting married. We’re headed towards marriage – we know that, and discuss it fairly often, I just think for us the grand gesture, that act of becoming engaged might be too much pressure. It may actually be pushing the marriage part (which is the real fun part, I hope) farther away. This is definitely an interesting train of thought, I can’t wait to discuss with my partner. I previously thought that skipping the engagement was only for those who elope or marry spontaneously… I quite like this idea of doing away one person asking the other, and just going into in jointly – although, I love your re-proposal idea, and if that works for you, awesome (and I’d love to hear details on how it went, what you end up doing, etc.)!

  28. Hmmm. Amusingly though I share your feminest ideals I actually asked for an engagement. My partner and I are anything but heteronormative and since I’ve given him a permanent collar, something he has wanted for a long time, I’m good with the engagement thing. He gets his bit of romance, I get mine. Romance and Joy, allowing our more normative friends to celebrate in our love (the idea makes one of my friends squee in ways I never have), are all very worth it.

  29. My husband and I went through this. We both talked about getting engaged and decided together to have rings made. As we were waiting for them to be completed I had this feeling like, “hmmm–so, what are we going to do here? Are we just going to get them in the mail, trade and say, “okay! now we’re engaged!” I felt like I was betraying my feminist self by admitting that I kind of wanted to be surprised and proposed to. And it was really, really important to me to have it be equitable where I ask him and he asks me and we both wear rings while we’re engaged. Luckily, my guy knows me well and got my ring ahead of time without my knowledge and surprised me first. It was so lovely and memorable and I was truly happy it worked out that way! I guess deep down, despite my feminist beliefs, I really wanted to have that moment of being asked. And then I got his ring a few weeks later and surprised him with a proposal that was equally fun and memorable. We wore engagement rings the whole year we were wedding planning and it just felt right.

    Moral of the story: if you’re a feminist and he supports you, the rest will work itself out as part of your story. You’ll find ways as you are getting engaged and later planning a wedding to honor that part of yourself despite the societal bullshit that goes along with the whole shebang. Congratulations (in advance!) 🙂

  30. Gay perspective::: In my same sex relationship my partner naturally takes on a slightly more masculine role, while I feel comfortable in the more feminine role. It’s not something we plan or discuss….just naturally happens. I think the whole issue of who proposes first has less to do with sex and way more to do with our natural dynamics as human beings. Typically one person in the relationship takes on a more “dominant” “masculine” role, and usually it’s that person who pops the question first, regardless of sex.

    If you happen to be in a straight relationship the male will most likely biologically be destined to take the lead. Just do what feels natural. And if you want to have your girlie proposal moment, soak it up! I did 🙂

    My partner and I proposed to each other. She proposed to me at home first with a beautiful diamond ring (total shocker!) and I said yes. 🙂 Then, a couple months later, I surprised her with a really fun public proposal and sparkling diamond ring at a drag show in Fire Island. Both moments were super special and we’re enjoying showing off our bling together. We made up our own rules!

  31. We decided to get married together after a discussion one night. A couple days later we talked about how we both felt like we were in limbo, waiting for (or to make) a proposal that would somehow make this official. It was then we decided we were being silly. We had decided to get married and that decision wasn’t going to change anytime soon, therefore we were engaged! We left it at that.

  32. Man, I really feel you here. I’ve been getting really wrapped up in the idea of the sparkly ring/proposal/wedding idea despite it going completely against my nature to do so. We are also open about our marriage plans. In fact, I have a good feeling this weekend I’ll be getting an engagement ring and he’ll be getting an engagement mini fridge. Lol!

  33. We learned that making the “traditional” choice has nothing to do with feminism. We are both staunch feminists, and planned our whole wedding starting with zero traditions and adding back in or adapting traditions that meant something to us (or inventing our own, when none would do). We’d planned on when we’d be planning the wedding (not when we’d be having it, just when we’d be planning that portion of our lives), then had a discussion about proposals.

    He said he was attached to the idea of being the one to propose, and that he would be disappointed if I did that move instead, because it’s something he’d wanted to do. Just like he likes to do most of the driving on long road trips because he likes to drive, do all the dishes because he likes the moments of quiet, not have a first dance because he simply didn’t want to, etc. Not because he grew up thinking he “should” propose, not because society says he should, but because he simply wanted to. I was fine with that; I had no strong feelings either way.

    I’m no less a feminist because of our actions, and I don’t feel “guilty” or “weird” or like my feminism is in question at all. Sure, the way we did it was the traditional party proposing, but we did it because that’s what we discovered we *wanted*, for no reason at all.

  34. Hmm, I’ve been going through the same thing, and finally decided ‘Why not ask him myself?!’

    I seriously can recommend this to anyone…I bought him a special necklace whilst on our trip around the world, and kept it hidden in my backpack. One morning when we were in New Zealand, the sky had turned pink from the rising sun, so I headed out to the beach to take some pictures.
    I decided NOW was the moment, so I wrote my proposal in the sand and lured him out of bed. 🙂
    When I proposed I could see that it meant so much to him, since I had always been the one most reluctant to marry. His reaction: ‘You little feminist!’;)
    The funny thing was that he had planned to propose to me as well, on the Cook Islands, but I beat him to it.
    I think that when it feels right, just do it and screw traditions!

    The only down side is that I ended up without any blingbling, but it was totally worth it!

  35. We discus everything else like where we live, what we do, what we eat so it made sense to me that something as major as getting engaged was also a discussion. Sat on the sofa one night watching tv. Total not traditionally romantic and we can’t afford a ring but it all feels totally right to me.

  36. Thanks for this post. I know exactly how you feel except for one thing. My partner of 7 years has told me he has no interest in marrying me. As a feminist/independent woman I feel like I should be ok with this, plenty of couples can’t get married because of the stupid laws in this country and their relationships are just as valid. Additionally traditionally marriage is pretty misogynistic although it’s evolved to mean different things now. Anyways while i feel like I should be ok with not getting married or proposed to, I find myself crying at every stupid proposal commercial or stories of proposals etc because it makes me sad that I’ll never get to experience that. It’s so stupid, I don’t need some man to make some huge romantic gesture for me or want to spend the rest of his life with me and I totally don’t understand why I care so much but I do. Anyways thanks!

  37. My fiance completely surprised me by proposing on the year anniversary of the day we met. I didn’t see it coming at all, so I had no way to prepare. However, not long after we got engaged, we went to pick out his engagement ring (or as I like to call it, “man-gagement ring”).

    It’s just a simple thin gold band that he’ll wear until we get married, but it was always something I wanted to do because I felt it wasn’t fair that the woman has something that says I’m taken” and the man doesn’t. It always felt sexist to me, and luckily I found a wonderful, modern man who agreed with me.

    After we picked out and bought the ring, the jeweler told me to put it on his finger for him. For the rest of my life, I’ll never forget the way his face lit up when I put his ring on.

  38. Ugh! This! My partner and I have been together for four years. Going into the relationship we both said that marriage wasn’t a big issue and neither of us felt it was terribly important. A couple of years passed and we started talking about getting married and we both agreed that we would like to get married at some point but we would wait until I’m finished college and we both have saved up enough money for a small wedding. He’s never been terribly romantic and he hasn’t given a time frame for when/if he proposes so I’m torn between popping the question myself and letting him do it.

  39. Have you considered making a proposal date? Like, agree on a time and pretty, romantic, or meaningful place to meet, and then ask each other? I think the formality of it would make it feel a lot like a betrothal, not just an engagement. And more than that, you’re meeting on neutral ground, as two independent parties coming together, a lot like what will happen a few months after the proposal. 🙂

  40. I found myself in a similar position before I got engaged. We actually thought for years that a traditional proposal would be the way we would go but after a while we both realized it didn’t really seem to fit us anymore. (No judgement on anyone who goes the traditional route BTW.) It felt weird to just make it a non-even though and we still wanted to have some kind of a fun moment that felt like a special occasion. After much brainstorming we decided to create an infographic (you can see it here: http://corinneforthewin.com/2015/06/07/getting-engaged-in-a-way-that-fits-us/) that we used to surprise our friends and family. It was loads of fun watching people slowly figure out what it meant and it was a really special day for us. It still had all the elements of planning and surprise but we got to do it together and surprise everyone else. I was a little worried that it wouldn’t go over well but everyone was so excited by the news they didn’t seem to care.

    In general I think getting engaged is really personal and it should be done in a way that reflects who YOU are as a couple. This is different for everyone. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut and don’t be afraid if it isn’t the way it’s “supposed” to be done.

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