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I Proposed to My Boyfriend


And no one made me feel weird about it!

Sometimes I wonder if getting engaged isn’t actually more fraught with cultural expectations than getting married. I mean, if your engagement goes the route of a proposal (and society offers little in the way of an alternative) then the secrecy, the gender play, the pressure to get it just right are almost worse than the expectations surrounding the wedding itself. And since engagement season is almost upon us (and I mean that statistically, not in the way that Kay Jewelers means it. Believe it or not, something like a third of all proposals happen between Thanksgiving and New Year’s each year. Who knew?) we thought we’d take this week to dissect and discuss engagements and proposals, APW style.

So to kick off the week, we have a follow up to a post (yay!) from almost one year ago exactly. M. wrote into us asking for advice on proposing to her partner of eight years and the result is, well, nothing short of awesome. But the thing is, this post isn’t just about women proposing to men (though hell yes, turning cultural expectations on their head). It’s also about debunking the myth that proposals are always as easy as one person doing the asking and the other person saying “yes” (or the myth that engagement even requires a proposal). But what I really hope this post is about is how we’re hopefully moving toward a place where any of these things become just as much the norm as whatever it is they’re selling us in those damn jewelry commercials this time of year. So let’s discuss.

—Maddie for Maternity Leave

I Proposed to My Boyfriend  | A Practical Wedding

C. and I had been together for over eight years when I decided I wanted to ask him to marry me.

Still, even after I’d made the decision to propose, it took awhile before I actually did anything about it. I was surprised to find that, although I loved C. and wanted to marry him, actually going ahead and making it official felt like a very big deal. The vulnerability and finality of it was unexpectedly overwhelming. All of sudden I was having thoughts like, “Everything is so good, why mess it up?” and, “I’ll just wait one more week.” I felt a new and unexpected sympathy for men, from whom proposals are simply expected. Truly, it isn’t an easy thing to do.

There is no one reason I decided to propose. It wasn’t about needing to get married that instant, and in fact I wondered aloud on ATP about whether it was the timing was right. C. and I have our challenges, like any couple. Could we manage them? I thought so. We’d loved each other for a long time already. I’m trying to think of ways to explain, but realize it doesn’t need to be explained. I can’t believe I’m saying this—it sounds so trite!—but once I decided to do it, I felt certain of my decision. It really was that simple.

I’m a worrier, so I immediately began researching about women proposing to men. I found Carrie’s piece on APW about it, which was by far the most thorough and thoughtful thing I read. C. and I are not a particularly traditional couple, and although there were moments when I felt funny about it, ultimately the gender role switcheroo didn’t bother me. Our families and friends are easygoing types, so I wasn’t worried that anyone would be upset that I had scooped him (least of all C., who I thought would enjoy the reversal).

And in fact, that is exactly what he said. But I’ll get back to that.

For the proposal, I had an artist friend draw an incredible Edward Gorey-themed card that I printed along with a matching envelope: a mysterious letter that would find its way to C. in the mail. I let the card burn a hole in my desk for a couple of weeks before doing anything about it. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to present it. A big gesture would embarrass both of us, and a picnic or special trip or candlelit dinner just didn’t feel true to who we are as a couple (and I’m going to go ahead and say that I wanted us to feel free to react however we needed to without worrying about crying in public).

I had mixed feelings about a full-on surprise, but didn’t see a way to give much warning about a non-traditional proposal. Although C. and I had talked about getting married before, and agreed that we wanted to marry each other, it was always in the abstract future. I knew he thought of it, vaguely, as something to be done once you were past thirty, which we weren’t. For all these reasons and more, I didn’t feel at all sure of what he would say when I asked. This was scary. I didn’t really think he’d say no (that’s not true—in some insecure moments I definitely did), but I was worried he might say that he really and truly wasn’t ready yet.

In the end, I proposed on a random Thursday night in December. I was out with some friends, and at the end of the evening I was telling them about an amazing video I’d seen where a kayaker off the coast of Southern California unexpectedly sees a blue whale lunging right next to him. It’s an incredible encounter (go watch it, seriously). The retelling left me feeling strangely exhilarated. A borrowed exhilaration? Perhaps. But I ran home and decided to propose right there in our living room.

I had written a rhyming poem that was also printed on the card. It ended with these lines:

What you want, where you’re going, who you’re taking with you,
Questions wanting answers, there’s no end—only through.

To have and to hold, to love-yet-be-free,
Imperfectly bound,

I was supposed to then say, out loud, “Will you marry me?”

That part was really, really, really hard. The vulnerability was nearly immobilizing. C. read the card twice, silently. I wasn’t sure when I was supposed to talk. It felt like minutes before I said anything. I think my t-shirt was probably soaked, but I did manage to choke it out.

C. started to cry. It sounds bad to say, but I have to admit I liked that.

He was totally surprised and very moved. And he did say yes, right away in fact. But I could tell he was holding something back. I will forever feel proud of how remarkably calm I stayed as I asked him to tell me more about how he was feeling. He said he did want to get married, but he wasn’t ready. He felt terrible. He wanted to make sure I knew this was not a “no,” but a “not quite yet, almost.” We both cried a little more as we talked. I think he felt afraid, which I understood. It’s a mammoth of a decision. I realized that I’d had all this time putting together proposal to prepare for what it really, in that moment, meant. He hadn’t. I explained that he wasn’t alone, and that parts of marriage scared me too, and that I still wanted it. I was disappointed and sad that he couldn’t yet give me a full-on yes, but not despondent. I knew it was a yes in spirit, despite the off timing.

By the time we finished talking, it was late. We did what sensible people do after emotionally demanding experiences: we went to bed. The next morning, after we woke up, C. repeated that he really did want to get married. I said that I knew that, it was just that he wanted to do it on his timeline. And he said, no, he wanted to do it on my timeline. He’d slept on it and realized he would never feel completely prepared for something like marriage. He wanted to be together, and in the committing, he knew we would both become ready. And he was right. We got married at his grandparent’s house in Maine this past August. The letter found its way to him after all.

Photo from the author’s personal collection

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  • Lauren

    That is beautiful. And brave–of both of you. Congratulations to you both.

  • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

    Congratulations! Love the card and the poem. Also, we had the “I want to marry you, but…” conversation, so I know the exact mix of that’s-good-but-also-heartbreaking feelings. I’m glad it only took him overnight to realize that being 100% Ready wasn’t something that was going to happen for him. It took my fiance longer, but we got there.

    • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

      I found the “not ready” conversation really interesting because while it was something my husband and I had as well it was on a very different timeline, coming before the proposal rather than after. And even though he knew I was going to say “yes” I know he was still super nervous when he finally asked.

      Going into a proposal not knowing if your partner is ready yet must be scary, but I think the author here had really thought things out well before she asked and was well prepared for the fact that the immediate response might not all be sunshine and roses. It sounds like she was very well prepared for a variety of possible reactions from her partner though and I’m glad that they got on the same page so quickly.

  • http://minnesota-chic.com PAW

    I started tearing up at the last paragraph – this was beautiful, M!

    Proposing is definitely hard! My husband talked a little bit about the sudden, irrational fear that I would say no (we were waiting for him to propose in person, but we had already started planning the wedding and I had bought a dress), and also the fact that as soon as he tried to say something, every single word he knew flew out of his head–by the time he finally remembered how to say, “Will you marry me?” he said he was about a second and a half from just shoving the ring at me with a pleading look in his eyes.

  • Jessica

    M: You’re story is beautiful and the strength behind it leaves me breathless!!

    When I got engaged about a month ago there was no surprise, not even a ring. We committed to marry each other on the way to the airport and when I dropped off my brand new fiancé, I remember thinking, this is it? We have been dating for 10 months and knew from the start that we would marry each other. Still I wanted some sort of concrete symbol of our changed status.. I wanted a ring. And I’m still waiting.. My intended is brilliant and works incredibly hard but doesn’t have the time/inclination to follow through on the ring we picked out-so frustrating!

    The result of this left me feeling less than engaged. I’ve shared the news with some close friends to mixed reactions. Some are ecstatic and are so happy for me, some feel I’m not really engaged without the ring. I haven’t told my mother because I know she absolutely won’t consider her only daughter engaged without that symbol.

    It’s become hard for me. There are times I feel engaged and times when I look at my empty finger and feel guilty for being so materialistic. He asked and I said yes. Shouldn’t that be all that really matters?

    • Anu

      I got engaged without a ring because I thought that it was an outdated custom, dating back to a time when a woman who had become engaged to a man but who didn’t end up marrying him would have had trouble finding another mate. A sort of insurance, if you will.

      That said, I let my boyfriend know about this well in advance and he asked me repeatedly if I was sure I didn’t want a ring. He felt the same way as I did about rings, but would still have gone out and got me one if I had insisted. The thing that bothers me about what you related is not the lack of a ring per se, but that you went out and selected a ring with your fiance and he still didn’t go buy it for you before proposing. I don’t blame you for being bothered by this at all and I don’t think it has anything to do with being materialistic. It does kind of bother me that your family and friends think you aren’t really engaged without a ring(!!!) but that’s a separate issue.

      • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

        That’s so sad about friends not considering you engaged without the ring. The two of you have made a commitment to get married and be together and if you consider yourself engaged it would be good for your support system to support that.

        The one thing that does make me wonder – did your friends know you wanted a ring and had even picked one out? Maybe that’s why they’re not accepting your engagement (although it’s still no excuse). It kind of sounds to me like you have a few conversations ahead of you, one with your fiance about whether anything’s happening with the ring and why it matters to you, and others with your friends about how their lack of support feels.

    • Jo

      I never wanted or had a ring. Fortunately, no one ever questioned our commitment because of it, but we’d been together for 4 years and lived together for 3 before we announced we were going to “make it official”.
      I wonder if your family and friends question the seriousness of your engagement because they haven’t witnessed your commitment yet after only being together 10 months? And if you’re afraid to tell your mother, I’m guessing you haven’t started planning a wedding yet either? Sometimes people just need to see evidence of what it means that you’re engaged. If you are seriously planning to get married, and are doing things towards that end, they’ll probably “get it” pretty quickly and the lack of a ring won’t matter at all.

    • http://minnesota-chic.com PAW

      I’m sorry that some of your family and friends are not able to look past the expected symbols – you ARE engaged! But signs and symbols are so difficult. One of the things I like to tell myself is, “Life is not like a book. Not everything has to MEAN something.”

      But, as said above — signs and symbols are wily (much like ducks). I know that I have really enjoyed wearing a ring, which was not something I expected. I feel like I’ve reclaimed the tradition to mean what *I* want, to a certain extent. My husband and I both wore rings during the engagement, and so for us, it was a way of saying, “I’m proud to be making a choice to be with this man/woman.” I guess my point is, your wanting an outward sign isn’t materialistic. You may have to do a bit more of the legwork (setting up appointments, etc), but hopefully you and your fiance will be able to go get the ring at some point soon!

    • kyley

      Symbols are powerful and they are never straightforward. Are engagement rings materialistic and part of a dated tradition of insurance to protect a woman’s honor? Yes. But they also have come to represent, to ourselves and to others, commitment and love and a whole host of other good things.

      One of the biggest things I’ve learned in the process of getting engaged is that conflicting things will probably continually collide in your head. For me it has been the dress–I hate that I don’t feel confident in my body, I hate that the wedding dresses I love are so expensive, I hate the whole white/purity thing. And yet I really, really want a beautiful floofy white(ish) dress. The trick is allowing all of things to coexists.

      I guess what I am trying to say is that the things you don’t like about engagement rings don’t negate the fact that it’s important to you. Give yourself permission for both to be true. Hugs.

      • Class of 1980

        Originally, the white dress had no connection with virginity whatsoever.

        Back when brides wore different colors, the white dress was just another choice. It was chosen more often by brides with money since a white dress was so hard to care for back then. Queen Victoria chose white and her choice eventually made the color popular. It wasn’t until much much later that people connected virginity to the color.

        It’s not a concept with much history behind it.

        • kyley

          Oh, yes, I know that part too. I think that’s what I was trying to get at–symbols mean lots of different things all the time, so it’s okay to have a conflicted relationship with a symbol. It’s okay to want something, while also taking issue with some of the various things a given symbol may “represent.”

        • Sarah

          I find it fascinating how few people know the history of the big white dress! In fact, virginal purity was once represented by blue, which was once a very lucky colour to be married in. Perhaps this is why we still have our “something blue” to this day. White was more indicative of purity within the church, or religious piety.
          That Victoria was sure a trendsetter.

    • Chalk

      My closest friend got engaged with a big, sparkling, over sized ring years ago. I stopped taking the ring seriously as each year passed and her “fiance” refused to make wedding plans. They were “engaged” for 5 years before she finally saw the relationship wasn’t going in the direction she wanted, ring or no ring, and she left him.

      I think Sheryl has a good point – when your mom and your skeptical friends start to see you rolling out plans to get married, they’ll come around quickly. For now, just enjoy these days as an engaged couple! They’re numbered!

    • Class of 1980

      You don’t need a ring to be engaged, but you already chose one together. Are you sure he has forgotten about it?

    • http://landlockedlove.blogspot.com Kelly

      We got engaged without a ring as well. My husband had looked but couldn’t find one he liked and didn’t want to put off proposing just because of that. I called my mom to tell her the news, and when she asked me to describe the ring I said we didn’t have one yet. She said, “Oh. Well, when are you getting OFFICIALLY engaged?” I told her that he’d asked a question and I’d given an answer, so it was pretty damn official as far as we were concerned.

  • kyley

    I just re-proposed to my fiance last night! He’d proposed to me about a month ago, and I bought him a gorgeous watch that he’d been admiring. Like a little kid I couldn’t wait, and I asked him within about 45 minutes of being home with the watch. It was all very sweet, and a rather quiet affair.

    It was funny; I think it was harder for him to accept the gift, thinking that it was too much, despite the fact that I’m wearing a gorgeous vintage diamond he gave me. He kept saying, “Woah, you’re crazy,” which was really cute. I had thought about doing something more “romantic,” but I couldn’t wait any longer to give him the watch (which was exactly why/how he proposed to me, too), and I’m ultimately glad for it because if I’d done it any differently I think I would have just made him feel uncomfortable about all the fuss.

    Thanks so much for sharing this; your story gave me goosebumps and the ending, what your now husband said the next morning, it almost made me cry.

  • http://thedilettantista.com/ The Dilettantista

    Mazel tov, what a lovely story with a lovely happy ending!

    Pre-engaged lady here myself. This is my first comment on APW; I’ve been reading since this past September, when I attended two back-to-back weddings that were very, um, WIC in feeling and sort of gave me mild anxiety about what a wedding should be.

    I’ll likely be engaged sometime over the next twelve months. This post gave me some feelings because my boyfriend is adamant that he do the proposing. He knows me well. He knows that I am somewhat non-traditional and feminist-y and he knows that it would totally be within my personality to do the proposing. And normally he’s 100% on board with the non-traditional gender roles thing. However, he very much wants to be the one to propose, so I’m going to put aside my control-freak tendencies and respect his wishes there. Besides, maybe it will make my inner girly-girl squee a bit.

    Has anyone else had a similar experience?

    • JC

      I had a very similar experience. My fiance was also adamant about doing the proposing, and I am a very impatient control freak. It was HARD waiting for it, especially since I knew the ring existed and thus was always on edge: OMG! This is IT! ….nope. We talked many times about how hard it was for me, and that I wasn’t at all enjoying this and why can’t we just tell people we’re engaged already since we have very obviously made this decision? But it was really important to him to get to plan the Big Surprise and have the traditional Male role. So I tried (not very successfully) to bite my tongue and wait.

      In the end, it was GREAT. He did it on his terms and felt great about it, and my inner girly-girl did, in fact, squee a little bit. I think that had I tried to rush the situation and propose to him, he would have felt like he lost out on the opportunity, and I wanted him to feel just as great about this decision as I did.

      Also, the WIC anxiety didn’t hit until after the engagement, when I started to look at price tags. WHOA!

      Hang in there! I’m sure it will be worth the wait!

    • kyley

      Hey, we must be twins! This is totally me and my partner! Once, years ago, he told me lovingly and only partially joking “If you propose to me, I will say no.” I figure if he is excited and looking forward to proposing, it seems unfair to take that away from him.

      The key for me was that we talked about it. I told him what I wanted in a ring (antique); we talked about a general timeline that worked for us (including it happening in time to tell my grandmother, who is very ill) and what “kind” of proposal we wanted (not in public). This calmed the control-freak part of me, because I didn’t feel excluded or like the whole thing was shrouded in mystery.

      As for keeping my feminist self happy: Well, first of all I’m marrying a feminist. So for every decision we make, we spend some time thinking about the gender implications. But a few little things that I’ve done: I refer to it as “when we decided to get engaged” rather than “when he proposed.” This is a little linguistic switch that probably only I notice, but it makes me feel better. (Shockingly, I have an MA in English & gender studies.) Also, last night I re-proposed to him with a really gorgeous watch he wanted. It wasn’t some big trumpeted fanfare event, but I really wanted to honor him with a gift too.

      Good luck!

      • Chalk

        My husband and I approached our engagement with a goal similar to yours: to make it “our engagement” rather than “he proposed.” We had talked about getting engaged, and we decided that I would buy the vacation, and he would buy the ring. He spent the first half of the vacation planning an elaborate proposal. Finally, after returning from a day on the beach, I chilled some wine, noted the sun was setting, and to just do it already. We smelled like sunscreen, were still in bathing suits, and were in the privacy of our room. The moment couldn’t have been more “us.” I like when any big decision has both sets of fingerprints on it. He gave, I gave, and we crafted the experience together.

    • http://minnesota-chic.com PAW

      I had a very similar experience. My husband is very traditional in some ways, and it’s been really eye-opening, coming to understand WHY he operates as he does. Some of it is based on the need to show respect and honor for the things that are important to him, and some parts of his traditionalism are based on the unwritten expectations and confusions of “what it means to be a man.” For instance, he does not believe that he should be the sole breadwinner and I should be confined to the house, but there IS a little voice in his head that whispers to him that, “if you were a proper man, you’d be able to make enough money so that she wouldn’t have to work.” He doesn’t believe that on an intellectual level, but just like there are, “this is crazy, but I can’t shake the expectation” areas for women, there are for men, too!

      It’s all context, really. It has been very clear to me since Day 1 that he honors and respects me, rather than believing himself to be superior to me, and this allows us a lot of leeway in things. I didn’t really care if I had a ring with a rock on it, and I would have married him if he’d asked offhand and given me a bit of twine to wrap around my finger, but for him, designing a ring and giving it to me on bended knee with a formal proposal was a way to show respect for our relationship. (Like I insist on dressing nicely for things like church and concerts, and my friends from other regions of the country think I’m crazy.)

      Anyway, my point is this: squee away! Just because he wants to propose doesn’t mean he’s not also a staunch feminist!

    • http://thedilettantista.com/ The Dilettantista

      Thanks for all the feedback! I’m not particularly impatient, other than that whole “EVERYONE I KNOW IS ENGAGED,” feeling, and also all of the Manfriend’s good guy friends are now engaged and he’s sort of the Last One Standing.

      I also have the very awkward position of having worked in a high-end jewelry store–and not one of those Every Kiss Begins with Kay type stores, but a gorgeous, locally-owned shop that specializes in really unique, unusual, modernist designed jewelry that is 100% AMAZING (moved on about a year and a half ago to work at an arts non-profit). And, of course, wedding rings/engagement rings were the store’s bread and butter and, of course, I pretty much have exactly what I want picked out from my time working at the store. BUT, I also know how much these things cost, from working at a high-end jewelry store, and I don’t really want my boyfriend (who is currently in school with loans) spending all the moneys because, hello, loans, but I also know he really wants to get me that ring I’d casually slip on and ogle whenever I’d be cleaning the jewelry cases because he wants to feel like The Man and also he knows the irrational part of me is all “modernist tension-set rose gold engagement ring sparkly yay!” Awkward turtle right? Sigh.

      Bright side, at least he’d probably get some sort of a discount because one of the owners of the store really liked me…? This stuff is *hard* guys.

      • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.com/ Sheryl

        Awkward turtle! I never realized anyone other than myself and group of school friends used that phrase. You may have made my morning. :D

      • Copper

        I’m the questioner from this post: http://apracticalwedding.com/2012/09/waiting-for-proposal-is-making-me-nervous/ so I definitely know the waiting issue and the traditional guy/feminist girl issue. The way I’ve decided to resolve it is, I’ve got an man’s silver ring that got passed down in my family (but nobody remembers quite how or why) that I’m going to get cleaned, and then I’m putting it on my keyring. That way, whenever he proposes to me, I will pull that out and propose right back to him. That way, everything balances. He gets his traditional manly moment, but I get the experience of preparing for a proposal, figuring out what to say, and the emotional prep that comes with it. Plus I know he’ll be really surprised, which is fun.

      • Alexandra

        If you have your eye set on one particular ring, have you at least pointed it out to him? I know, you don’t want him going into debt because he bought that particular ring, but I know my boy isn’t really terribly good at the whole fashion thing, and was actually super worried he wouldn’t be able to pick out something that I’d like. It’s not a bad thing to point out what you’re hoping for, if you think you’d be crushingly disappointed by the typical “single round diamond in a claw setting on a gold band”.

        Overall, I’m mostly just advocating for conversations. Cause really, pre-engaged is kinda sucky, and the easiest way to move past it for me was just to start saying what I wanted/expected. (Which sounds a whole lot nicer than “I broke down in tears on the way home from his parent’s after Christmas.”)

        • http://thedilettantista.com/ The Dilettantista

          Oh he knows. Also he can just go to the store and open up my client file, where I took copious notes, for future’s sake.

          We did have a conversation in the car a few weeks ago where he was surprised that I didn’t like the idea of a white gold/platinum ring and I was all “please don’t get me a white gold/platinum ring.” So that happened (rose gold all the way! Universally flattering!).

          I’ve actually almost cried during Christmas Mass with his family, but this is only because I am Jewish and I found the whole thing 100% terrible and uncomfortable and I got hit by some Holy Water and I just felt like such an interloper and a betrayer to The Tribe. So we’re beyond that point, ha.

          • Alexandra

            All good then! I just wanted to be sure that the things you were posting here were also known to him, because well, that’s how terrible rom-coms are written.

            Also, being stuck in a religious ceremony you don’t believe in sucks. =( Reminds me of my Nana’s funeral, where the pastor kept going on about what a good Christian she was, always sitting right there in the church, and how she must have passed along her good Christian values to her lovely family and how we should all join that church. And me and my sister (both agnostic) just wanted to hit him.

            But mostly, I’d just ended up dissolving into tears after Christmas while driving home with my boyfriend, after listening to his sister and mother make wedding plans, I realized that all my attempts to not put pressure on said boyfriend I wanted to marry had resulted in him simply not realizing it was a big deal to me. I had brought up the topic before, but mostly just at times where my brain had worked it up to this HUGE issue, and where he was… Well, asleep, because that happens to me at night. So, nothing said there really stuck with him except that he wanted to be the one to propose, and nothing really happened. Bringing it up at a time where we were both actually awake is what actually started the ball rolling.

    • KH_Tas

      Also a pre-engaged lady, also suggesting you talk to him, and to try and get on the same page about the validity of the emotions you are both feeling, and why you are feeling them.

      We started out in a similar position, with him wanting to be the one to propose and me wanting a mutual engagement conversation. After (a lot) of (tense) conversations, it came out that the main reason he wanted a big proposal was for the process of getting engaged to feel special, and now we’re at least at the point of being able to discuss ways to make it special that wouldn’t destroy my mental health (which a super-surprise proposal certainly would).

  • Jo

    I think your essay points out something particularly valuable: That in the one-sided proposal process, one person gets to fully process the meaning of getting engaged in their own time while the person being proposed to has a much shorter period to react and adjust (even if they’ve been abstractly prepared).
    My husband and I skipped the proposal process, so our “not ready” conversation was an on-going one that lasted for quite a while. While we’d been together for years and considered ourselves to be in a permanent relationship, we both had ideological reasons why we thought we’d just be together forever but not get formally married (ie, we didn’t believe in the institution of marriage). So our “not ready” conversation actually took almost a year of back and forth trying to decide whether we would change our stances and get married and possibly have a wedding. Eventually we decided we would, announced it to our families, and proceeded to plan a wedding. What ensued was a horrible period of wedding planning in which we went back to questioning whether this was actually right for us.
    Anyway, no big moral to this story, just sharing. Last weekend we ended our conversation. We eloped.

    • Karen

      Congratulations! It feels good when you are done with the discussion and make a decision. Good for you!

      • Jo

        Thanks Karen!

    • Diana

      This sounds somewhat similar to my husband’s and my situation, but I’m happy we skipped the horrible wedding planning process altogether and just rounded up our immediate family for a civil ceremony. We got away with this because we needed to get married quick (we were moving and I was leaving my job and needed to get on his health insurance), and because we promised we’d have a party sometime during the next year. Now that I start thinking about this party, I realize I’m just getting myself into the wedding planning horror! GAH! We’ll see how it goes. :) Anyway, no real moral here either, just could relate to your story! Thanks for sharing it.

    • Maddie

      Mmmm, this was my experience exactly:

      “In the one-sided proposal process, one person gets to fully process the meaning of getting engaged in their own time while the person being proposed to has a much shorter period to react and adjust (even if they’ve been abstractly prepared).”

      • KE

        Yep, same here. In my experience, being abstractly prepared was not too terribly helpful for processing an enormous life change (even one I really wanted).

        • http://www.seattleflute.com Katie

          Oh man, I could exactly this about a million times. I got engaged two days ago (EEEE!!!) and I thought I was so very BEYOND ready to get a move on toward marriage, but now it’s all real, I’m finding that I really need the transition time of an engagement to prepare for the marriage part.

          • KE

            Best wishes on your engagement!

            Forgive me if I’m projecting (I’m totally projecting), but don’t feel bad about taking time to process getting married now that it’s formally agreed upon and public news. We’d been talking marriage a while. After a one-sided proposal, I was kinda blindsided by the feeeelings. I was totally convinced I was the only newly engaged woman with feeeeelings. After months of quiet anxiety, I finally confessed all this to my married BFF, and she laughed really, really hard, and then I felt better.

  • Copper

    “I realized that I’d had all this time putting together proposal to prepare for what it really, in that moment, meant. He hadn’t.”

    THIS is my biggest issue with the traditional proposal thing. I’m still in the pre-engaged zone, and the one great thing about being here is that we both have the time to arrive at that place. The first time my guy mentioned wanting to marry me, he immediately followed it up with, “Well I guess I’ve spoiled the surprise, huh?” and I had to explain that if he did a genuine surprise, like the type where I didn’t even know he was thinking about it, or had no idea that it was something coming soonish, there’s no question what my answer would be: no. Because for one partner to have all the time they need to make the decision, and the other to be put on the spot and have to have an answer immediately just seems like it leaves a lot of potential for poor decision-making: for saying yes because you’re swept up in the moment, or for saying no because you are scared in that moment.

    On that note, I’m glad that after sleeping on it, your guy came to a better decision. :)

  • Class of 1980

    An Edward Gorey themed card?

    No wonder he could not refuse! ;)

  • http://www.amid Lisa

    Goosebumps.

  • http://www.stefaniecepeda.com Stefanie

    lovely story and such a cute illustration!

  • Shiri

    M, I’m so, so happy to read this! After our emails and all you guys were going through, I’m so happy to know how well and beautifully it all turned out. You handled an incredibly difficult time with such grace, and, from what you wrote here, incredibly calmness and caring. Congratulations to you both. I wish you many healthy and happy years.

    • needlesandpens

      Shiri, thank you! (This is M. again). Your support through a difficult injury (that is still ongoing) meant so much to me. Really. So much thankfulness.

      • Shiri

        Teary happiness over here, lady! Really, really happy for you guys and how this turned out. I hope he continues to feel better.

  • Diana

    Aw, Edward Gorey! Love. It’s strange to read engagement stories since my husband and I never really got engaged. He didn’t propose, I didn’t propose, we just decided it was the right time after 7 & 1/2 years. We still had those strange feelings about marriage – is this really what we wanted? Everything’s fine as it is, do we need to do this?
    Our ceremony was prepared in a weekend over beer and a dog walk. We were fortunate enough to have our immediate families attend on such short notice. I spent $30 on a dress and my husband’s ex-boss, a judge whom we both adore, performed a short ceremony outside. It was lovely and so not stressful! We’ve had simple silver twig rings for the past four years that we simply switched to our left hands.
    I sometimes feel like I’m missing out on something since I wasn’t technically proposed to – the bumbling and heartfelt confession of love accompanied by a lovely but understated ring. But I count the daily affirmations, and wonder why I need a summation followed by a question and a ring? Life doesn’t always lend itself to those plans and we’re happy so, all is well! I’m glad to hear all went well with you, too! There are so many paths to a loving, committed marriage, and it’s one reason I appreciate reading stories like yours.

    • Name

      That is exactly what I want. I don’t really want or need a proposal. But I do want to get married. And a fast and cheap wedding is the way to go in my opinion. Kudos to you!

  • Carrie

    Congratulations!

    I’m the Carrie who wrote the post you refer to. So I want to give you a super special high five :) I feel happy and humbled that my post helped you in the research/thinking phase.

    And thank you for telling your story! It gets at something deeply true about the process of getting engaged — sometimes, one or both people have to work through the feeling that everything should be 100% perfectly lined up, and come to the realization that life very seldom works that way, and it’s okay if not every duck is in line.

    It also sounds like you and your husband have an awesome relationship — that you guys feel safe being honest with each other and really get each other. The way both of you handled the proposal and C.’s initial response to it — that says a lot of good things about both of you individually and together.

    In short, this is an awesome post and I love everything about it!

    • needlesandpens

      Carrie, thank you! (This is M.)

      Your original post was incredibly inspiring. I’m so grateful I found it; it made me feel like like I wasn’t crazy for thinking about proposing. And I’m so glad I did!

      • Claire

        Thanks Carrie and M! Your posts inspired me to propose to my partner of seven years. I started reading APW after coming across your posts and have continued to read APW daily! I proposed to my partner in February while we were living in Mongolia and I expected people to question the twist on gender roles but instead I got resoundingly positive remarks. Both mine and John’s parents were a little shocked, but supportive. But all our friends thought it was awesome and in fact I got a lot of male acquaintances telling me they hope they are proposed to as well! Thanks for helping me smash the engendered act of proposing, ladies! Your bravery made me brave :)

  • Becca

    My fiance and I had talked about marriage for months… almost a year… before he finally “officially” proposed with a ring and all (he’s a traditional guy and wanted the traditional proposal). I had made it clear to him that I would definitely say yes when he asked. We were even talking lightly with friends about where our wedding might be held! Yet after all that, on the day of, he was so nervous and shaken when he took me for a walk in the woods and suddenly got down on one knee. He told me afterward that he still honestly feared that teensy-weensy possibility of me saying no, and I realized just how vulnerable he had made himself in that moment.

  • Megs

    Congratulations! I’m not sure what I love more, the card and poem, the fact that no one made you feel weird about proposing, or this great insight: “It’s a mammoth of a decision. I realized that I’d had all this time putting together proposal to prepare for what it really, in that moment, meant. He hadn’t.” (Luckily, I don’t have to choose!)

  • Marissa

    Edward Gorey! Brilliant. And is that a capybara riding a bicycle?

  • Jess

    For some reason, even though my story has very little in common with yours (my husband proposed to me, I said yes, we got married) something must have resonated – or been incredibly well written – because your story had tears streaming down my face. From me, that’s a compliment! Thank you.

  • Kelly

    Congratulations! What a beautiful story :)

    I just proposed to my boyfriend (now fiancee!) of 4 years three weeks ago, so I’ll throw my little story on to the pile, in case any shy girls out there could use a boost!

    G and I’ve been together a long time, living together that entire time, in that “practically married but not legally” sort of way. About a year and a half into our relationship, he had casually brought up the “do you think you might ever want to get married?” question and boy, did I cut him off at the KNEES. “No, absolutely not, not a chance, don’t EVER ask me this again, I don’t want to hear anything about it.”

    I had previously married, young and impulsively, a charming man who turned out to be a narcissist and an abuser. After barely escaping that relationship with my life, I wanted nothing to do with the institution of marriage ever again.

    So, like a good man, G. never brought it up again. And our lives progressed together quietly, lovingly, and happily. Nearly a year ago, I got a major job offer that required me to move across the country on about a month’s notice. G. put in notice at his good, stable job and uprooted his entire life to come with me. And I started to find my feelings towards marriage softening. Months went by, and I finally resolved to propose.

    I hadn’t anticipated how terrifying it would be to actually bring it up! I knew it would be on me to propose, because of how thoroughly I had rejected him earlier. And even though I was quite sure he’d say yes, I still found myself opening my mouth and no words coming out whenever I tried to ask him. What was I going to say? Was I going to try and be funny? Mushy? Make a big romantic gesture? Something public? Or intimate?

    Well, as I probably should have guessed, I blurted it out over our Sunday breakfast trip to the local diner, over eggs benedict and coffee. “So… I’ve been thinking… that it might be a nice thing… if we… you know… maybe got married?”

    Awesome. Proposal of the $%#^#*# century, there, girl.

    But what I didn’t anticipate, was how even my half assed, jumbly words would make him feel so loved, so CHOSEN, so secure, and so happy. The smile on his face and in his eyes was the biggest and brightest I’d seen in maybe all of our years together.

    “Really??” he asked. “You would do that, with me?”
    “Yeah, dummy!”

    For anyone who might be on the fence, I don’t think there’s a man out there who wouldn’t feel like a million bucks if a woman who loved him decided to just get over the fear– the fear of bucking tradition, fear of the reactions of others, fear of having something other than the classic “proposal story”– and just said, “hey there, man. I love you, and I want to choose you today and forever.”

    Go for it!!!

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  • Sandra Stephens

    I always like a “she proposed to him” story! I proposed to my boyfriend (now my husband of 5 years) using M&Ms: http://reliablyuncomfortable.com/2014/01/12/how-i-asked-him-to-marry-me/