It seems, somehow, that we never talk enough about proposals on APW. Proposals, of course, are the introduction to the huge cultural pressure that comes with wedding planning. There is pressure to Get It Right, to Have A Story, and worse, to Have The Perfect Emotions. Almost none of us can live up to what’s expected, and it’s hard, feeling alone in the imperfection of your emotions. It also might be the perfect introduction to wedding planning, where most of us have to learn to throw out the book of what’s expected, and learn to be ourselves (with everyone watching). So today, we’re bringing you Heather, sharing her engagement story, and letting all of you feel less alone.
When I was studying Sociology at college, my tutor Penny told us that her proudest moment had been receiving a postcard from her daughter telling Penny that she and her fiancé had eloped, signed off with her daughter’s new last name. I was horrified and fascinated. Despite years of WIC fairytales, that story stuck with me. So I decided to buck tradition and I proposed to my man last week.
It was a perfect, private moment, spontaneous on my part. We were so thrilled, we jumped up and down on my bed. Slowly it dawned on us that our families—mine, divorced and complicated and his, disapproving of me—had no idea this was in the cards. As he fell asleep beside me, curled into my body, I laid in the dark and felt a sense of foreboding.
Since we don’t live together, he left my apartment the next day with a goodbye kiss—we would see each other three days later. He intended to talk to my family in that time; I arranged to take his parents out to dinner that Sunday. We had a plan. The enormity of our commitment hit us quickly. Overwhelmed by his work commitments and the prospect of his family’s reaction, he went into his mancave, and I waited, ringless and bound to secrecy, until we had told our families.
My family was thrilled. My father even passed up on his plan to interrogate my fiancé. He always approved of our plans to marry. My grandparents comforted me when I worried what my future parents-in-law would say, regaling me with all sorts of relatives past and present who contended with the same issue.
My fiancé’s parents were vicious in their disapproval, and he refused to tell me what they said for fear of hurting me more. He was weary and hurt, and I was angry and sad. That night, unable to sleep, I laid in a hot bath lit with candles. I had taken a Xanax and my tears rolled off my puffy face and into the water. The champagne toasts, the compliments on my ring, the happy hugs from our families—it all seemed to disappear before my eyes. I felt sad that our engagement hadn’t happened how I hoped and guilty that I had the hubris to hope at all.
In the end, we got the flowers, the champagne and the hugs from the people whose blessing we never even had to ask for. The friends we had rallied around us with offers of venues, a dress, a cake, and minister services if it meant we could marry soon on our small budget. The women gathered around my plastic ring, and a remarkable number of them said they wished they had the courage to pop that question. My grandparents gave me their engagement ring, so we could melt it down to make something we could afford. I was humbled by the love we received.
When I saw my fiancé that weekend, we held each other for a very long time. We were quiet witnesses to our own palpable relief. It was done. As I looked into his eyes and I asked myself if I regretted what I had asked, I could see, more than ever, that to do it our way was the best way to honour what we had. I would go through disappointment, pain, and disapproval for this man, a thousand times over. I had given up the dream—the breathless yes, the shiny ring, the kudos and the seal of approval—and we felt stronger and wiser for it. I traded the fairytale for who we really are, and I don’t regret it.
Photo by: Heather’s personal collection