Christina & The Un-Fairytale Proposal

Well, December is upon us, and as non-traditional as APW-ers are, December still means proposal month for lots and lots of you. So! In light of that, the APW team felt like this was the time to re-open the conversation on engagements and proposals. Over the last year we’ve had some fascinating conversations on the subject, including this amazing article on women proposing to men. But the most important conversation that we’ve had is demystifying the fact that, for many of us, our proposals were not a fairytale. I knew mine was coming, and had helped pick out the ring… but I still went into shock and started sobbing in an ugly way when it happened. Did I say ugly way? Yeah, it was not a happy cry. Perhaps the best Team Practical engagement story of all time is the girl who threw up all over her brand new fiance, feeling a little… overwrought. Or my mom, who told my dad she needed to think about it for a week (spoiler alert: she said yes in the end). So when Christina emailed me her un-fairytale proposal story, I was thrilled. Here is your engagement shame-blasting. It might not go like it does in the movies, and that’s ok. Here is to real life, in all its gritty glory! And with that, I bring you Christina.

This past weekend, my boyfriend proposed. Hooray! Except, I couldn’t say yes. I had walked into the bedroom and there was the ring. My gut reaction was just to turn around and walk back out. Instead, I sat on the bed with my back to him (and that ring winking ominously at me) and finally squeaked out that I wasn’t ready. Me and the man had been having six months of tumultuous times, including a move I didn’t want, to a city I don’t want to be in, which was all preceded by a feeling that our relationship was off track and we were out of sync. The night dragged on with me trying to explain what I was feeling and him trying to understand. We both got mad, we both cried, we finally just went to sleep with big question marks hanging over our head. Here was the thing: I didn’t say no. No was definitely not my answer, but I just couldn’t bring myself to say yes.

So the proposal happened, and the next day we continued on with our weekend, relaxing, enjoying the little coastal California town we were in, and trying to act like things were cool. And, truthfully, things felt good. We had some time for quiet reflection and some time to talk things through a bit. We blew off fancy dinner plans for onion rings in a brewery and after a pint and several hours of talking, laughing, and enjoying each others company, I said yes. Officially, for sure, yes. Because this is the man I want to marry. And this is the man I want to build a life with.

To  be honest, he has always been the man for me, and I knew if he proposed, I would say yes, but it had been a frustrating day in general: we sat in a lot of traffic, had a terrible, overpriced meal, the bottle of wine that we had with dinner wasn’t very good (as a result, he drank most of it…). Then, throw in this quasi-proposal, in which we were both wearing bathrobes (awkward), I was cranky, he was drunk, and it all just felt wrong. I know I want to marry this man, and I consider myself fairly low maintenance, but really, I hate that things happened the way they did. That night I was worked up, and frankly, a little freaked out because I had been saving up some “big talk” fodder that I wanted to get out of the way before he asked. I had been having some preemptive cold feet which I let get the best of me (yo, marriage is scary, who knew?).

After we got back, things still felt rough to me. I was on a roller coaster of feeling happy and excited and then completely terrified and irritated. I felt a pang of frustration anytime I have to tell the proposal story (which had been edited down to exclude the 18 hours after the proposal and just jumps right to the yes), both at the way it happened and the fact that I felt it should’ve been different. It was hard for me to call my best friends and tell them we were engaged, because for the last 6 months, they’ve been hearing about how frustrated and unhappy I was.

So then the brilliant shame post popped up and I realized that I’ve been feeling a bit of shame over the whole thing. I’m ashamed I couldn’t have that moment where I cried tears of joy and shouted YES from the rooftops. And then I’m ashamed that I feel that my proposal had to play out that way. I’m working on letting go of the shame and accepting that that’s how it went, and you know what? I feel pretty brave that I didn’t say yes right away. It actually gave us a reason to talk about things we had been sweeping under the proverbial rug, and after hours of talking through it (and agreeing that maybe we should see someone to help us learn how to talk to each other) and a day of hanging out doing what we love to do, the yes came easily.

I wanted to share this all with APW because I don’t know that we ever hear a story other than fairytale proposals and the exuberant yes, or he pops the question, she says no, they break up. And really, how often do you hear about brides being ashamed of the start of their engagement? I’m just here to say it happens, and it’s ok, and while it’s not a story I tell with great pride, it’s a story I feel is important to tell. Mostly, as with many things on APW, I wanted to let any other brides-to-be who might have or have had that moment other than the overwhelming exuberant “YAY!” at their proposal know that it happens. And then you move on and you’re still with that person who 99.7% of the time rocks your world.

Picture: Christina says, “Taken after I said yes in the brewery while the ring was chillin’ in our hotel room. It’s my absolute favorite.”

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  • Mary Jo

    Thank you! A year and a half ago I was in the same place! I was able to say yes immediately, but before the night was over I was sobbing and asking him to propose again! Almost as soon as I said yes I was feeling disappointed that this moment was over, never to happen again, that he hadn’t made an amazing speech, that he hadn’t bothered to get the ring sized (even though I had found it ahead of time and made a point of giving him my ring size because I knew it wouldn’t fit as it was, and thought he’d be thoughtful enough to take care of that before proposing). Stupid, stupid little things that triggered panicky feelings about bigger issues in the relationship–Is this the most romantic he’s ever going to be? Does he not care about little things like making sure my ring fits? Why was his little speech all about how HE finally feels ready and not about how much he loves ME? (And yes, these issues are silly and childish and decidedly UN-practical. I’ve grown up since.)

    Thankfully, as we got used to being engaged, it grew into this feeling of permanence about our relationship that just felt great and right. That was what I loved most about being engaged, and what has intensified since our wedding, and what really overshadowed any mediocrity in the proposal that he really did think hard about and put his heart into.

    I agree that so much of our shame and angst over this proposal moment has to do with the idea of having to tell the story to others. There’s so much pressure to perform this great romantic story, and if your feelings about it were at all ambivalent it’s so hard to make that performance again and again for everyone you know! If we could get around that somehow I think we could be a lot more relaxed about the whole thing.

  • Marie

    Christina, thank you so much for writing this. I immediately forwarded it to my fiance because it resonated with me and was so similar to our story in a big way. I thought we were alone with our un-fairytale proposal, and what a relief to find out that we’re not!

  • I think this may be one of my most favourite stories. Because it is so freaking honest and real. It is messy, it is awkward, it is unpleasant, and it has a happy ending despite all of that. It reminds me a little bit of my “non-proposal” that occured during one of the worst times in our relationship.

    Thank you for sharing this. It gives me hope. Real life is so much better than the movies anyway.

  • Carrie M

    I also have a proposal story that includes an edited version. I also hated telling it in the beginning because I was ashamed.

    I knew my then-fiance had the ring (because the silly guy had it mailed to our house and I signed for it!) but he never would admit that the thing in the box was the ring. After several days on pins and needles, I had one really long stressful day followed by dinner with his friends. On the way home I broke from all the tension, stress and tiredness. I sobbed at him and asked, “why are you being so mean to me? Why are you keeping the ring, have you changed your mind?”

    The discussion continued at home, until I said something that he took to mean I didn’t want to be with him (in retrospect, it was a really poor choice of words on my part, but I was TIRED), and he went to sleep in the guest bedroom. I came in to apologize and cry some more and he finally sighed and said those magic proposal words. He stumbled to the dresser in the dark to get the ring. When he handed it to me, I whimpered (jokingly), “thanks for not having me having committed!”

    After a couple of months of editing the story as much as possible, I finally just told people the truth. Because it’s kind of funny, and it is just part of who we are as a couple.

    • ugh tired upset is the worst upset.

      I appreciate the play on “committed.”

    • Um, ditto. To almost all of it. My husband had the ring sent to my parents’ house (so my mom could sign for it), and so I knew he had it and it DROVE. ME. CRAZY. I struggle with anxiety, and the whole NOT KNOWING had me on pins and needles. I felt like every time I opened the door to our apartment I was waiting for an explosion (….or rose petals everywhere, whichever). It was horrific. I was embarassed and ashamed of it for a long time, until I finally broke myself of it. And now I just tell people the truth: I was crazy, he forgave me and asked me to marry him anyway. It’s almost MORE romantic. :)

      Blog post with details and APW-style reflection over here. :D

      • KA

        Oh god, yes, the anxiety! Our proposal process dragged on for months and the entire time I felt like a crazy person. I know I brought it upon myself having “proposed” and given him my grandmother’s ring to give back to me. And I wasn’t exactly very clear about any kind of timeline (since he had previously asked me to marry him almost daily, I thought it was a done deal!)…

        It took me quite awhile (and I think it was reading the first post here on imperfect proposals that really solidified it), but I came to terms with our convoluted proposal and I’m good with it now. (Details, and slightly watered-down reflecting over here: I’m so glad for this post, shame blasters pew pew, Christina and anyone else still struggling with this!

      • Carrie M

        I have the anxiety stuff too. Thanks for linking to your blog post, I read it and loved it!

    • I had the same situation!! We own a home together, which makes certain “romantic surprise things” difficult when you share a checkbook. I knew when the ring was purchased, but he waited TWO MONTHS to pop the question. I so respect that he did it his way, but at the time I was like “This is just MEAN. I know you’ve bought it and you just don’t want me to have it. Are you having doubts? Do you really want to get engaged?”

      Am I ashamed of that? TOTALLY. Do I respect him more for having the balls to make me wait? Hell yes. It just further verified that he is the man strong enough to put up with me. ;)

      • Shotgun Shirley

        I totally feel ya… I had to wait 5 months for the proposal! We altered his parents’ rings, so we got them together; I actually dealt with the jeweler more than he did because the guy was right by my office. We had a couple of fights between the May purchase and the October proposal because I wanted my diamond stop sign and he didn’t want to rush.

    • Sveta

      Our proposal didn’t quite happen this way (we decided to leave out any sort of rings out of the whole deal), but after talking about getting engaged for months and months and knowing that my boyfriend told all of his family that he planned on marrying me, I spent the better part of the summer waiting for him to propose. When he didn’t, I created horrible arguments with him, not knowing all along that he was planning on asking within days. This was such a good post, and so good to hear everyone’s commments, your story included.

  • Mary Jo

    Thank you! This was me a year and a half ago! I was able to say yes immediately, but before the night was over, I was sobbing and asking him to propose again (with the whole 9 yards)! Almost as soon as I accepted, I was disappointed that it was over, never to happen again, that the ring didn’t fit (even after I found it accidentally and gave him my size). Stupid stupid little things that brought up worries about bigger issues: Is this the most romantic he’s ever going to be? Will he always forget about little things that are pretty important to me? Why was his speech all about how HE is finally ready and not about how much he loves ME? (Yes, I know, very childish and selfish and decidedly UN-practical. I’ve grown up since.)

    Thankfully, after this night, being engaged grew into this feeling of permanence about our relationship that felt so good and secure, and that has only intensified since the wedding.

    I agree that the pressure to tell a great romantic story can really distort the whole experience of a moment that should really be pretty private.

    • Ali

      This sounds so much like my story! After he proposed, I was sad it was all over, so I asked my fiance to write me a sweet letter so I could keep it forever. Oh and I cried about how he didn’t do something more romantic. And he proposed without a ring.

      Thank god for growing up – it has become less and less of an issue as it gets further away. I’m we’re getting married for heaven’s sake, it shouldn’t matter how we got there!

      • Mary Jo

        Thanks! And like the above ladies, I had found that ring over 4 months before he proposed, and somehow managed to keep it a secret from him that whole time that I knew he had it! So maybe my breaking down had something to do with the stress of that waiting and withholding!

    • Carrie M

      Yep, I had all those thoughts about our “botched” proposal too. I asked him for a redo but he wouldn’t go for it. For the rest of my life I’ll have to wonder how he would have proposed had I not had a nervous breakdown before he got around to it. He’s not romantic at all, so maybe it’s better this way!

    • Mary Jo

      Sorry about this comment double-posting. I think I thought that the first one didn’t go through, so I re-typed it. Oops.

  • Meredith

    Thanks for sharing your story. I felt so humiliated and unloved with the proposal I got from my ex-husband. Who basically looked at me and said ‘so are we getting married before or after I go to Korea’ (he’s military). When his friends found out we were engaged, they gave him hell about me not having an engagement ring and he bought me one out of the pizza places quarter jewelry gumball machine. 2 Sentences to describe something that made me feel so resentful and unloved. A story that pretty much encompassed our whole relationship – should have seen that coming.
    I hadn’t bought into the fairytale princess bullcarp of the whole happily ever after Cinderella wedding. But it seems I fell for the mooshy tears of joy proposal stories.

    • Morgan

      I totally get you. I’d been with my ex-boyfriend for 6 year when he got send to Saudi for work. Things were rough before he left, and when I went to visit him a few months later, I wasn’t sure if we were going to break up when I got there or not. After being awake for +56 hours (work day in Canada, sleepless red eye flight, full day in London, sleepless red eye flight, full day in Bahrain, two drinks), he proposed. I was so tired and trashed that I don’t even remember what he did, really. I do remember he proposed with an ugly rusted junk ring, with the real one hidden in a suitcase. When I left, I made him write me a letter telling me about the proposal I didn’t remember.

      We broke up for many reasons, but part of it was for his inability to factor in my feelings and needs.

      It’s interesting how a bad proposal from a past relationship really can give you a snap shot of why it failed.

      (This is not to say that an unromantic proposal will equal a bad realationship!! Just that in hindsight it’s another lens to examine things with.)

  • B

    First up, congratulations Christina!! Saying yes can be scary but waiting to do so must be even tougher. The second night you described sounds like a much happier start to an engagement though – good call :)
    I was lucky enough to have a dream proposal but that only came after a couple of ‘don’t you dare ask me now’ situations – we always leave them out when we tell people our engagement story though. Good on you for having the guts to share (and thank you!). Hope your wedding and marriage leave you with plenty of awesome stories you’re happy to share!

    • “I was lucky enough to have a dream proposal but that only came after a couple of ‘don’t you dare ask me now’ situations”

      Exactly this, for us!

  • I LOVE this. I want to hear more messy proposal stories; I’m sure there are lots of them out there. Thank you for sharing yours. Also, that picture is absolutely fantastic.

    When we got engaged, I wasn’t sure *how* to tell people, especially my family, who I knew didn’t really like my fiancee. There are all the things that WE are “supposed” to do as newly-engaged women, but there are also the ways that the other people in our lives are “supposed” to react, and I wonder if anyone has the experience of both of those things happening the way they were supposed to.

    When my fiancee proposed to me, we had just gotten back from a frenzied grocery run, my hands were full of groceries, my dog was jumping exuberantly around me because we’d just gotten home, and she walked into the room with the ring and asked me. Not a fairy tale, I think, but right for us (I mean, would it be a real proposal if there WASN’T an exuberant dog present?).

    • You want to hear more?? Why didn’t you say so?! Over here, mamacita.

      ….and by the way, it’s Sarah from the Boston meetup (with the great Coverse). We should totally just get drinks and rehash all the greatest APW posts in person. :)

    • “There are all the things that WE are “supposed” to do as newly-engaged women, but there are also the ways that the other people in our lives are “supposed” to react, and I wonder if anyone has the experience of both of those things happening the way they were supposed to.”

      YES. This is exactly what I was thinking. For us, the actual proposal part was pretty neat. I thought my fiance had meetings all day, but in actuality he’d flown to Texas from DC to retrieve his grandma’s ring. When he got back to our apartment that night, he was (understandably) exhausted. Although he’d meant to wait a week or so before proposing, the day had just been so long and he hated keeping up the lie so much that he just looked at me for a moment, announced “Oh, what the hell,” pulled the ring from his backpack and asked me to marry him.

      I said yes and everything was good…until I called my family 10 minutes later. My dad started crying (not in a happy way), my mom was seemingly 100% apathetic, and one of my older brothers wouldn’t really respond but just kept repeating that he thought marriage in general was stupid. To make matters worse, my best friend was traveling abroad at the time so I couldn’t even call and tell her the news. Ultimately, as much as I wanted that joyful/magical “shouting from the rooftops” thing to happen, I just felt totally deflated. In retrospect, I think we should have waited a day (or ten) to tell anyone so that the two of us could have just settled into the fact that we were engaged.

    • Ara

      Mine is like this too. Non-fairytale, any old day sort of story. My boyfriend planned to ask on an upcoming European trip in the most amazing place imaginable. Perfect plan. However, four months before our trip, after eating at the most unromantic greasy spoon ever (there was bologna involved), in our living room, in his underwear, we were laughing at some dumb joke, and he decided to ask right then. I was so shocked, I kept repeating “Seriously? Seriously?” I said yes and acted happy. And I am happy to marry him; I really love him. But deep down I’ve secretly felt disappointed that no planning went into it. No romance. No poetry. Just shucked the plan; this’ll do.

      People ask excitedly to hear about the proposal, and I tell it enthusiastically, but they always seem a little shocked and disappointed at how it happened. Then they try to cover it up, by squealing excitedly to see my (small-but-selected-with-love) ring, and then, seeing it, drop my hand and change the subject.

      About 15 of my friends have gotten engaged this year (not exaggerating) and hearing all of their romantic engagement stories and seeing pictures of their giant rings on Facebook, I have to consciously stop myself from feeling bad. Because as much as I’m a little disappointed, I also know, deep down inside where only the true things live, that the fact that he was so in the moment, that his asking was so genuine and heartfelt, is more important than any big romantic plan.

      • Morgan

        Maybe think of it as more that he was so excited that he couldn’t wait 4 more months? That he loves the day to day life and the silly jokes and being the couple you are that it felt right to him? I don’t know. I do know that to me, it sounds really sweet.

        • Dana

          Our proposal was pretty every-day boring. He had been wanting to propose for about a year but had been waiting for everything to be JUST right. And I had been freaking out that entire time wondering if he actually wanted to marry me (we had been together for 5 years, living together for 3 of them) and I would occasionally break down sobbing asking him why he was taking so long.

          Finally, he had a plan and was going to do the whole romantic thing with flowers everywhere and our pug in a bow-tie but the weekend before he was going to do it he just couldn’t wait any longer and he just did it.

          We had spent a very wonderful, very lazy, very boring day at home. I remember we hadn’t been doing much of anything but had been really happy together and were just laughing and joking the whole time. And then, we had amazing sex (I generally leave this part out). After the bliss wore off I told him I was going to take a shower and he said that after my shower he wanted me to pick something out off of a website. I thought it was a gift because it was the weekend before Valentine’s Day.

          Anyway, I get out of the shower and he has pulled up on the computer screen a website for an antique ring store! He tells me to pick something out but that it didn’t “necessarily mean anything” and then he disappears nervously. After looking at EVERY. SINGLE. ring I had it narrowed down to three but couldn’t decide. He emerges from the bedroom and asks me if it would be easier to decide if I saw them in person. I start crazily nodding my head and grinning and his voice breaks when he says, “Dana, will you marry me?” and then he starts crying a little and quickly gets down on one knee like he just remembered. Oh, and by the way, I am wearing a bathrobe with wet hair from the shower and am sitting in our raggedy computer chair in front of the computer. So, then I start crying and launch myself out of the chair, tackling him to the floor saying, “YESYESYESYES!!!”. And then our dog jumped on top of us.

          At times I have felt a tiny bit of disappointment about the proposal when hearing about someone else’s “grand gesture” story but mostly I think it is totally perfect and sweet how he couldn’t wait a second longer to ask me. I think he might still feel a little guilty about it though. Right after the initial excitement of the proposal, he actually apologized. He told me that he hadn’t even meant to do it. He had just been really worried about the ring and wanted me to pick it out so he could give me the RIGHT ring the next week at the “official” proposal. But then… I couldn’t pick one and he got “too excited” and the words just burst out… which I think was way better anyway. I will definitely always remember the way that his voice cracked.

          • this IS totally perfect and sweet – you made me all teary eyed!

          • Alexandra

            Dana, that is completely adorable! I got engaged without a ring, too, since it had to be just right, so we waited to find one together. (& we’d been together nearly 8 years when we got officially engaged!)

    • We had a messy proposal, too. It was right for us, but I have to be honest, I wouldn’t have minded a nice dinner in a pretty restaurant dressed up in a pretty dress. When I blogged about our proposal, I called it “The Proposal-Ish.”

      By the time Tony proposed, we already knew we were getting married. The decision had been made, a ring chosen together. But I really wanted him to ask when he was ready to ask. The proposal, then, was more of a ring presentation than a suspenseful question. When he did propose, it was … imperfect … and I didn’t care.

      I had just gotten home from work, which drains me. I walked into our bedroom and curled up on the bed for a few minutes before I got up and started to leave the room to find Tony. The room was messy. There was laundry that needed to be put away, the bed was unmade, the furniture dusty. I was in my wrinkled work clothes and feeling meh.

      Tony guided me over to the bed and made me sit down. He kneeled down and pulled a ring box out of his pocket. I already knew what the ring looked like; we had picked it out together. In my head, I was thinking, “Not here. It’s a mess.”

      Then he pressed his forehead against mine and said, “I’ve been thinking about what I would like for my birthday, and what I really want is for you to wear my ring. Will you marry me?” And the mess and the drab circumstances melted.

      I kissed him and cried and could barely speak when I tried to say “yes.”

      • Zoe

        Oh my goodness, your story just made me tear up at the office. The birthday line just killed me. That sounds really nice.

  • Faith

    Thank you for sharing!! It just goes to show that real life is not at all a fairytale…but, in the end, it’s better:)

    My proposal was beautiful and romantic…and about the only day of the almost month that has followed that we were enjoying this engagement. Stress, tears, and zero decisions have filled the last few weeks. Can it just be over already??

    • Chelsea

      It’ll be over when you get married!

      Seriously, being engaged can be fun, but (for me, at least) most of the time it felt like that summer between high school and college, where you’ve left one world but haven’t really crossed over into the other yet, and you feel sort of weird and awkward and unsure of yourself. It’s MUCH better once you cross over to the married side!

      • Rasheeda

        Yes to ALL of this…but especially to this Chelsea! Thank you so much for the wonderful analogy, this is the perfect description of this time. The HIT (Husband In Training) has picked up on this and it only brings about more arguments and strife soon followed by wonderful blissed out moments. We (as a society) need more honest real talk about proposals/engagements being a powder keg of emotions not just a wonderful times of rose filled rooms and candlelight dinners.

        As always Meg and Team APW- Right On Time!

      • Mel

        Oh my, yes, it was that feeling of the summer between – thanks for this. I do not miss it a bit. But there is no way around living those transitional times.

      • Faith

        It totally feels like that summer! What an accurate way to describe it!
        And the other good thing about this time is all that we are learning about ourselves and each other…it all comes out…the good, the bad, and the ugly;)

    • Faith, don’t worry. I was ecstatic when we got engaged and then I cried every single day for the next two weeks. And not, wow-this-is-so-overwhelming-in-a-good-way crying, but wow-a-whole-world-of-expectations-and-unpleasantness-has-descended-on-us, being-engaged-is-miserable kind of way. We decided pretty early on that this would be a long engagement, and I was having some concerns about spending the full two years in tears. It does get better. In our experience, people (especially parents) needed a while to grieve the “loss” of their children and totally freak out (mostly in hurtful ways) and then they settled back down to being something closer to their normal selves (not perfect but not deliberately hurtful on a regular basis). Hang in there!

      • this is totally what happened to us! parental meltdown immediately following their total cooperation in an engagement party. our first two months of engagement were HELL. stressful, sad, sleepless. the wedding was totally unplanned as a result. but, five months in, things have settled to near-normal on the family front. having a kid get engaged must be a really huge experience, and i think some parents (in our case, his) are not emotionally prepared to deal with it.

        • It does all get better after a while, but I was totally blind-sided by all the “EVERYONE WILL HATE YOU IF YOU DON’T DO THE ELECTRIC SLIDE” conversations that were really fears and concerns about big life events hidden under vehemence about meaningless wedding-related things. I’m praying I can keep some of this in mind for when we’re parents of the bride/groom, and I’m tempted into similar meltdowns.

  • Jen

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Christina, and congrats on your engagement. That photo is so great! :)

    I can really relate to “un-fairy-tale” feelings, even though our proposal is pretty “fairy tale” by some standards (the last night of a trip, by the river, with a ring (that didn’t fit), etc.) I said yes right away, but my emotions were decidedly un-romantic; I felt awkward, embarrassed, and silly. And after what I consider (or want) to be an extremely private, intimate moment, we had to immediately rejoin our friends, who’d kindly left us alone for a few minutes! Moreover, the gooey romantic stuff just isn’t the way we are, generally, so that just added to the awkwardness and discomfort of it all.

    I certainly was not prepared for all the retellings of the proposal story, either, and each time I’d tell it I’d feel awkward and silly all over again. Part of that is because the story is not a reflection of how we function in daily life or how our relationship is, and part of it is also the problem of making the private public. Good preparation for the wedding, I guess, since that’s what those vow things are, after all. I was also not expecting to go through some crazy emotions (doubt, regret, shame, confusion, and so on) immediately following the proposal. Happily I think we’ve worked through most of what’s confusing and troubling, but it definitely took me by surprise to feel such “negative” emotions when this was “such a happy time!!!!! omg!!!”

    Anyway, I just wanted to share that even kinda pretty engagement stories aren’t always so pretty underneath.

    • Aly

      I completely agree about the awkwardness of telling people about the proposal! I always thought I’d be excited to tell the romantic story, but all of a sudden I wanted to keep this private moment for just us. We actually had a pretty great proposal (I few things weren’t perfect, but they never are!) but when people asked the story, I completely balked. So my proposal story is this: “Well, we went out to this pretty spot, and then, you know, proposal type things happened.” Most people aren’t thrilled with this recounting, but they’ll get over it. To me, the wedding is for public, but the proposal- that can just be for us.

      • Mel

        “We went to this pretty spot and proposal type things happened” — LOVE this!!!

      • IppyHooray

        We say exactly the same thing! The thing is, our propsal wasn’t Hollywood romantic but it was very us. I don’t want eveyone’s else’e views to taint the experience so I play it vague too. Some people have pressed for more and I’ve just said “It’s private but all you need to know is that it was perfect and we are very happy”. That keeps ’em quiet!

    • Re: the retelling being awkward . . . guh. Yes.

      When we told everyone, they almost immediately asked ME to tell the proposal story. I finally got sick of it, and so when people asked me about it, I’d tell him to tell it. And then I’d get myself a drink and. (No, really, I would.)

      • Faith

        Love this.

    • YESYESYES to “pretty proposals” not always being pretty underneath. ours was cute – great story to tell, and he does it well – but i was uncomfortable, annoyed, ashamed, and critical throughout the entire experience. i would never repeat it, and i hate being asked about it, and i also always make him tell the story. ugh!

  • Morgan

    What a great post, and I’m sure so needed for women like myself. My situation was a lot more like Mary Jo’s. I said yes immediately but was feeling so happy and so disappointed at the same time. I had told him I didn’t want crazy theatrics and he really took that to heart and proposed in a very simple way. Which was gorgeous, but a little less of a moment than I had dreamed of. To top it off I had this silly desire to be completely surprised (despite our long relationship and purchasing the ring together) and he had tried so hard to surprise me but I ultimately saw it coming.. . which is now a secret I have to keep from him since he is so proud to have “surprised me”, which sucks.

    This is hard for me as a rational adult because there’s the side of me saying “you’re engaged to the man you love, that’s all that matters!” but then there’s the silly bratty side of me saying “but I wanted MORE!”

    I obviously don’t have any advice as I still struggling with the issue myself, but it’s good to know that there are other people who didn’t have that fairytale proposal either.

    • i totally saw it coming, too. i accidentally saw some emails and text messages (plus i could tell that he was stressed out). i felt SO awful that i eventually broke down and told him, about a month later, that i had known the plans all along.

      his reaction? no big deal. he was still proud of what he had planned, and just laughed about how i’m difficult to surprise. it felt like a huge burden got lifted… i really ruined the day for myself by trying to pretend i didn’t know what was going on.

    • Amanda

      You will get more – with the wedding, with your life together. Afterall, what good would it be to have the proposal be the very. best. part. ?!

  • I LOVE THIS! This is possibly my most favorite APW post ever…it’s just so damn real and good and has a happy ending. Love it.

    My proposal wasn’t the fairytale that I had anticipated – he made dinner arrangements for restaurant week, I had psyched myself up for “this won’t be the night he proposes”, I get gussied up, he’s dressed in work clothes, we get in the car and I see that there is a jewelry box in his pocket. I knew from that moment that he was going to propose that night. So, I spent an entire wonderful dinner waiting, ate dessert and drank wine (waiting), walked through the streets of our town (waiting), got cranky at his lack of proposal (waiting), got mad at myself for getting cranky because i couldn’t ever see him just dropping to one knee in front of everyone (still waiting)…

    We got home, I changed into my pajamas (you know, the oldest and most unattractive fat pants with some giant stained ratty t-shirt), go downstairs and lay down on the sofa. I was waiting and waiting and knew that I wouldn’t be able to go to sleep at night knowing that he had the ring, was ready to propose and just couldn’t do it. We held hands, he played with my hair elastic and moved it from my wrist to my ring finger, and I said (read: prompted) in the joking way I had said for so long “Yes! OF course I will marry you!”. He then knelt down before me and said “Really? Really, will you marry me?” I played dumb because I knew how important it was for him to surprise me with the proposal and said “Of course. I love you.” and then he gave me our ring.

    It wasn’t anything like I expected. I didn’t sob or scream or faint or laugh or cry. I just said “Yes.”.

    BUT (and this is a big huge but), looking back, it was perfectly us. It was exactly how it should have happened, even though my vision was no where close to my reality.

    • My husband faked me out just like that! We went to a romantic dinner, out to dessert, etc. etc. etc. on our third anniversary of dating. I suspected he had the ring, but by the fourth hour of the date I figured he wasn’t going to propose after all. He finally asked when we were standing awkwardly in the kitchen of my apartment, while I was putting away the to-go boxes from dinner. Apparently he was too nervous to ask in public or at a more romantic spot than in front of my fridge!

      I found out later that homeboy had been carrying that ring around for 6 months. He carried it in his pocket to work, to dates, on two vacations we took together. Now that we’re happily married I get a kick out of thinking about him carrying around that ring.

    • Sarah

      This reminds me of two stories actually … mine, and a close friend’s…

      His first. He’d planned to propose on their second anniversary. Had the ring, and made arrangements to talk to her dad. (Adorable!) Made big anniversary plans and everything … and then her dad rescheduled. They still went to the big plans, but he didn’t take the ring. She (his now-fiancee), expecting a proposal, was angry about it the entire night. (She didn’t know the details of why he wasn’t asking). He ended up asking in a much simpler way about a week later, and everything worked out in the end.

      Ok, mine. We’d been talking about marriage, and had purchased a ring, together. Though, in a fit of wanting-to-be-surprised, I asked him not to tell me when it was ready, or picked up. A month passed. We were both working insane hours, and had one day off … during which we planned to sleep. (As in, “Call me when you’re coming over so I can get up and take a shower.” “Why would you do that? We’re just going back to sleep when I get there.”) I jokingly said to a friend the night before that he would be smart if he proposed at some point that day, since we were going to be running in circles the next month straight. And yet, he still managed to completely catch me off guard when it was the first thing he did upon getting to my place. (Complete with me in my ratty pajamas, and not being able to see, since I didn’t have my glasses on … it’s become a joke that I couldn’t see the ring and took him on his own merits. Which is totally true, and hilarious at the same time.)

      Thinking back on it … sure, I’d have loved to have been prettied up and prepared. But really … it was perfect for us.

      And yes, we really did go back to sleep directly after I said yes. We had our priorities after all. =)

  • angela

    thanks christina – we all, engaged, married, single, hoping, anti-marriage, whatev, need to read stories like this to remind us that what seems perfect isn’t always, and that the story that has more jagged edges can in fact be the fairytale. my fiance planned a beautiful, surprising, christmas eve engagement (last year!) that moved into a too-fast, stressful, heartbreaking wedding planning extravaganza that led to us postponing the wedding… indefinitely. it was beautiful and a good story, but maybe shouldn’t have happened right then. so. fairytale engagement? sure, ok. did it make the marriage-readying process easier? hell friggin’ no. but we’ll get there.

  • Ali

    Thanks for sharing, Christina. My fiance’s proposal occurred after he’d gone out for a couple of drinks at Hooters with his friends. He came in the door and asked me to marry him (WITHOUT a ring). I was kinda disappointed. I said yes, but I was sad, and I cried about it for a couple days.

    Then I got over it…because, well – he wanted to ask me to marry him, and that’s what he did. He didn’t have to convince me to say yes by decorating a mountainside with rose petals. Although in the end, I do wish he’d put a little more effort into it. But it is what it is, and there’s no sense dwelling on it.

    • memery

      ha, my reaction was about the same on the “wish he’d made more effort” front. my fiance proposed at home after we’d eaten dinner. With his grandmother’s ring, which didn’t fit at all, and which he gave to me saying “this is just for the diamond, we’ll have it re-set.” So part of me was really excited to get to essentially choose my own ring, and part of me was disappointed that he couldn’t have even planned ahead enough to get it done himself (this is probably just a reflection of our biggest issues as a couple — he doesn’t follow through on enough things, and I end up doing the work.)

      The funniest part of this (or most disappointing? I dunno) was that I found out later his parents had given him the ring about 3 days before he gave it to me. He didn’t ask for it — they just gave it (we’d been together over 4.5 years at this point and owned a house together, so they were prompting him a bit.) I sometimes still wonder if they hadn’t prompted him, would he have gotten his sh*t together even yet? On the positive side, though: I now have a ring that I absolutely ADORE because we designed it together and it’s exactly my taste (and a family heirloom to boot.) It’s also nice to think about the fact that once he had it, the ring burned a hole in his pocket. :) I guess that’s a good sign.

      • Mel

        I’m loving these stories. Just wanted to add that we designed a ring that uses my grandmother’s diamonds from her ring, and that’s really special. But it also led to a ring-less proposal, which was fine by me but weirded out some other people.

        • “But it also led to a ring-less proposal, which was fine by me but weirded out some other people.”

          Right, Mel. Why is this? As if shiny metal and mined gems had anything–really–to do with starting one’s life together and expressing love.

          Do you think others feel sorry for us, the ones who had ringless proposals? Like it meant less? Hum. I know my Dali Lama would beg to differ.

      • KA

        I just wanted to say that you are so not alone in this: “this is probably just a reflection of our biggest issues as a couple — he doesn’t follow through on enough things, and I end up doing the work”, definitely an issue of ours too that reared its head big-time in the proposal process.

        • memery

          thanks, KA. I’m glad I’m not alone. And not only the proposal process… It continues to rear its ugly head all throughout the planning process… the filing taxes process… the “what’s for dinner tonight” process.. etc, etc. :)

          • I hear you on the filing taxes process. Yeah…the contrast of my spreadsheets-and-planning approach and his I-hate-to-waste-time-planning-and-doing-paperwork approach shows up as a dynamic all the time in our married life.

          • ka

            Hahaha, I’ve actually accepted the taxes. I like doing them (no really, it’s sick but true), so I don’t mind and at least this way I know they’re done right. It’s “what’s for dinner” that KILLS me. We both hate coming up with things to eat, but I will cave and make something because I know eating is uhh, kinda necessary. And he just. won’t. eat. I’m not kidding. 75% percent of the time if I don’t insist on it, he’ll forget to eat. Or he’ll eat a bowl of cereal. So then sometimes I get all, “I *cannot* be responsibility for policing basic human functions.” But, he hasn’t starved himself to death in 40 years, so I should probably just let that go… :)

  • Alicia

    Love this! I’m impressed it only took you 18 hours – I had a pretty similar story but it took me about 9 months to get it together to say yes! And when I did it was awesome, as was our totally wonderful wedding 6 months ago.

  • I feel you! How I got Engaged:

    After months of playfully and sometimes not so playfully asking my (now) husband to marry me and him always requesting a deferral, I started getting stabbing pains in important places. I didn’t have health insurance, so I called a nurse line and was told to drop everything and go straight to the emergency room. Once there, after waiting in crummy a room for 45 minutes I was told that I didn’t really need to be there, a jerk Dr spent 30 seconds looking at my junk and told me to follow up with MY doctor (I dont’ have a doctor). Before we left we got a bill for over $2000 (I’m still wondering: how? why?).

    As we walked home from the emergency room, I jokingly said “are you sure you don’t want to marry me so I can get health insurance?” and he said “okay” and I said “really????” and he said “yes.”

    It would perhaps sound better if I could say that instead of a ring we paid the bogus emergency room bill, but we didn’t… that happened, and is still happening over a long period of time .

    We were broke (him: gradstudent, me: just finished americorps term… we were that kind of broke), so I didn’t get a ring, which was fine because I didn’t REALLY want one. Occasionally I feel like the odd married lady out, but I’m also a little proud that I don’t have/need a ring.

    Occasionally I also feel like my engagement story sounds a little sketchy, like the only reason we got married was because I emotionally black mailed him into it. But I know that’s not true. He’s not the only man I have ever been in love with, but he’s the only man I ever asked to marry me, and there are loads of good sappy romantic wonderful reasons for that, as well as very pragmatic reasons.

    In the end that’s what will make our marriage work, I think. We are pragmatic people who love each other. Our engagement story is far from romantic, but it was the moment in our relationship when we started making decisions as a family. Your engagement story sounds like a moment in your relationship when you decided that you wanted to make your relationship stronger, better, and one that would last for the rest of your lives, and I for one think that that is really awesome.


    • shorty j

      see, I love this story! I think sometimes people get so caught up in the idea of Epic Romance that they forget there are also pragmatic reasons for getting hitched as well. :P

    • KA

      I just wanted to say that your story made me tear up a little. I read it as your day in the ER made him confront just how much he cares about you and needs you to be OK. But I tend to find the embracing the legal and societal benefits of marriage pretty romantic. It’s funny how fairytales are all about perspective. :)

      • ann

        i am so on board with this comment. i also married my then-boyfriend, now-fiance/husband (haha…ha…) for financial/legal reasons. now that we’re actually planning a life together and a wedding to kick it off, i also feel embarrassed telling people about it, as if we’re just keeping on cause, i don’t know. cause it’s easier or something? at least i did feel embarrassed until i realized that our decisions to link our finances/legal statuses together in the first place was a remarkable display of love in the first place.

        • ka

          I’m glad you got past feeling embarrassed! I think that many of us make big commitments in our hearts and minds before being legally married–moving in together, combining finances, incorporating into each others families–that some of the focus needs to be on the legal/financial ramifications for marriage to be/feel like the next step. I get pretty mushy thinking about how marriage means I’m choosing my fiance to be the person who’s legally allowed to be there for me in the case of an emergency or illness, and all those other protections offered by civil marriage. (One reason why I’m incredibly pro-gay marriage, but that’s another discussion.) And we get to celebrate that with a wedding? Bonus!

    • Melissa

      Reading your comment, I totally took his “yes” as an indication of how worried he probably was about you and how he loved you and wanted to help support you when you needed him. So… that would not be emotional blackmail!! :)

  • Leona

    Ugh, the edited proposal story. Almost as painful as the “how did you meet” question. (Does anyone else hate that? We were friends who met through other friends and he thought I was pretty. Give it a rest already, prying-hairdresser.) Like Meg, I knew the proposal was coming and I picked the ring and Husband tried to be sweet and romantic and took me to this tree we used to climb in the park when we wanted to get away. It was a little unfortunate that it took place after a long shift at work (it was around midnight when I finally closed shop) and he could barely get the words out but I still jumped in his lap and said, “Yes. Just, Yes.”

    Another un-fairytale story: the first kiss. I hated our first kiss so much that I didn’t speak to him for about two months afterward. I know, terrible, and I still feel guilty but we were super casual back then and I was seeing a few other people. I came back around, though! I just knew that no one else would ever treat me as well or love me as much as he did. See, I’m not a terrible person…but I still don’t tell that story unless really pressed.

    • Sarah

      Ah, the edited how-did-you-meet. Ours is, depending on the company. The scrubbed version is “We met at an art gallery open house. He’d rented the place a couple times, and I was there with friends.” The actual version isn’t far off, but details were changed (it was an art (photography) studio, I was there because I’d modeled there, the studio has a well known rep for being an available safe place to shoot art nudes, etc.) … our meeting was innocent enough, but something tells me people would try and connect too many dots (that were never connected to start with) and it wouldn’t go over well.

      ::sighs:: Gotta love dealing with other people’s sensibilities.

      • Morgan

        Oh, man. I totally get you. The clean version of ours involves meeting in university, occasionally seeing each other at parts in the years after school, and then me inviting him to a hockey game. The real story is infinitly messier and I only tell it if I’m feeling super trustful with the person I’m talking to, because it’s no one’s finest hour, the real things that also happened.

        • Morgan

          * by parts I mean parties. Sigh.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      Yeah, people never seem to want to hear about the way that relationships start in real life. We don’t dress up our ‘how we met’ story, but a lot of people are sorry they asked when I answer, “Yeah I was an undergrad at this toga party thrown by a friend of a friend of a friend. I was suuuuper drunk and gave grad-student Husband my number but I don’t (and didn’t) really remember meeting him at all. Shameless as I am I agreed to go out with him anyway when he called me a few days later.”

      Luckily, very few people ask about the next chapter in which Husband totally falls for me but I spend three more years playing the field before finally getting exclusive with him. That’s an awkward thing that only comes up when people ask how long we’ve been together. Husband counts back to our first date since we’ve never *stopped* seeing each other since then. I only count back to when I committed myself to the relationship, 3 years later.

      And that’s why I never ask people for the story of *how* they met, I just occasionally ask *where* they met. It’s a question I’d simply answer with “in college”.

      • ka

        Oh man, solidarity and shame blasting! I continued seeing my now-ex for about 6 months after starting to see my now-fiance. They both knew about the other and it was all very upfront and what not (and now, years later, they can both be in the same room together, haha)… My fiance is also older than I, and I now maintain I needed that little bit of “scandalous” (lol) in my life to catch up. But yea, we don’t have a proper anniversary–one of the reasons I can’t wait to get married! I tell the story now, when prompted, after having had several girlfriends come running to me when their own love lives got messy. I think if there’s one thing this post has reminded me, it’s that life is generally a lot messier than most of us let on.

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          Yeah, all the editting and cleaning up of stories just continues to add to the pressure and expectations of having a neat and pretty life story. So I keep on telling the toga party story and won’t lie about my wild ways. The men in my life during that post-meeting, pre-committment time were part of the process of realizing Husband was the man I wanted forever. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now – happily married to a wonderful man.

      • Alexandra

        Love this story. So much. My story has some messiness, too, and it’s still beautiful. ;p
        Shame blasters, activate!
        I’m reminded of hearing that Dan Savage encourages people to tell their stories if they met in “slightly seedy” ways, because it needs to be normalized. ;-)
        FH and I met through a friend [normal], but our first kisses were drunk, at a party, over a year before we started dating. Awww. ;p

    • elyse


      we met through a mutual friend – boring

      our first kiss (after 4 or 5 dates which were really us hanging out with his friends) was terribly awkward and unromantic and generally not very good. – boring

      he proposed on a saturday morning when we were both in sweats, glasses and the like. – boring

      somehow all those boring moments add up to a whole lotta awesome.

      • Lisa B.

        Oh man. This is an issue for us, haha. See, I’ve been dating Sean since Sept. of 2004. In like, March? April? of 2004, I broke up with my current boyfriend because he figured out that he was gay. Gay ex-boyfriend? Totally Sean’s brother. Try explaining *that* one to relatives at Thanksgiving. (Sean’s brother and I get on famously now. Much better as friends, all things considered.)

        • Jess H.

          wow. That’s quite awesome.

    • Oh my good lord, the edited how did you meet story. Well, my friend decided she wanted to be in ‘The Vagina Monologues,’ which my now fiancee was directing. My friend hosts a monthly stitch ‘n’ bitch, and we both went to one and eyed each other and then three months later, she invited me to a housewarming party, where we fell into bed together with hilarious & sexy results (Hilarious -> somebody else had decided to crash in her bed and was upset that my fiancee was trying to, you know, use her room). After the next morning, we didn’t see each other for a month due to work/family/vacations but picked up right where we left off when we did.

      Or, um, we met through a mutual friend’s monthly knitting circle.

      I kind of hate editing the story because it’s hilariously awesome (no, there was another girl! In her bed! That we didn’t even know! Who then bitched about lesbians disturbing her sleep to other partygoers!), but, you know, parents.

  • Chelsea

    I know I’ve shared at least part of this story on here before, but I still think it’s funny… our proposal was very sweet, but the night before was not. I spent it in bed at my parents’ house, crying on the phone with Hugh, having a circular conversation that went something like this:

    Me: Are you proposing tomorrow?
    Him: I’m not going to tell you that.
    Me: Then tell me that you aren’t, because I’m not ready yet.
    Him: I’m not going to lie to you.
    Me: But it wouldn’t be lying if you really aren’t going to, so just tell me that you aren’t so that I’ll feel better and can go to sleep.
    Him: I can’t do that.
    Me: So that means you ARE proposing tomorrow.
    Him: I’m not going to tell you that.

    We went around in that circle for a while until he finally talked me down from the ledge and I realized it was nerves, not serious reservations, talking. Still, the next night when he got down on one knee, the first thing I said was “I can’t believe you’re doing this.”

  • Eat Broccoli

    Yay for not saying yes right away!
    Deciding to get married is a big decision! For me it is important that that decision is not a surprise. Our decision happened over 3 hours of conversation lying in our bed (get your mind out of the gutter) there was crying and laughter. We weren’t ready to tell the world yet and waited for 4 months before we figured stuff out enough to tell people.

    The thing about having this kind of engagement is you don’t have a “proposal” story to tell people. You get alot of static when you try to explain that it wasn’t that romantic and you decided together. In the end I just made up a story cuase I was sick of explaining our decision, which doesn’t feel right but is easier and seem to make other people happy. I know how it really happened that’s all that matters.

    thanks for talking about this, I was starting to think I was the only person who didn’t have this awesome story to tell with big romantic gestures!

    • KT

      I have a similar story, where we discussed getting married for months and then I knew he had the diamonds (from his grandmother’s earrings) and we looked at rings together, etc. We already had the wedding planned in our heads but we didn’t tell anyone we were engaged until we decided to just “make it official already”, a conversation that happened in the shower. Tough story to spin for your mum!

  • You know, had you just said yes the moment you saw that ring, you might be feeling a far different kind of shame with all the things that were unsaid at that point. I think the way things went down for you is exactly what marriage is all about. And I love that photo too!

  • Sophia

    THANKS FOR THIS! We had a fairly un-fairy tale proposal without a ring after 8 years of dating with some rocky long distance years that are behind us. I felt weird telling the story (and also edited parts).

    The responses we got were difficult to deal with a lot of:
    Rude person: Where’s the ring?
    Me: There’s no ring
    Rude person: There isn’t a ring? I’m confused…
    Me: We decided not to do rings
    Rude person: You got engaged without a ring?!?!?! I don’t get it
    Me: you see, we’re planning to get married… *sigh*

    So yeah, the engagement wasn’t magical and our relationship isn’t magical. But you know what, our wedding was better than magic. It was real and full of love, laughter, dancing and amazing people who loved us enough to pull it all together. It was so much more than anything I could have concocted in my mind. And just shy of 2 months into marriage, I can say that it’s better than anything I could ever have imagined but it’s no fairytale either.

  • Benny

    Yes. Let’s break the myth of perfect, shall we?

    I often feel like I have two engagement stories: one that I consider “perfect” and the wider, more encompassing story of what actually happenend. And we’re coming up on our one year “engageiversary,” so i’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

    Fiance and I have known since we started dating that we were in this for life (after two years of friendship, the second year being inseparable.) Since I made the first move and asked her to be my girlfriend, it was a running joke that she would have to be the one to propose. And then she proceeded to ask me to marry her probably four times in our first 1.5 years together. One of these occurred at the 6th month mark in a carriage ride in NYC. Each time, I laughed, kissed her, said ‘you’re crazy.’

    I knew last Christmas she would be getting the family rings (yes, she inherited two engagement rings…destined for gayness) from her parents. But I didn’t expect anything. One night she asked me to go for a walk in the ohio town where she grew up…in the middle of a blizzard…and she hates walks. After she almost developed frostbite from a very poor choice of shoes, we engaged in a very non-scripted but Lifetime-esque conversation, which ended in her pulling out her grandmother’s ring. I was actually totally surprised by her love and vulnerability in that moment. And cried. And it happened to fit me.

    But the WIDER story…the next morning, we had a 3 hour cryfest/fight about what being engaged actually means for us, what we would tell our families, when we would actually want to get married. And then in the months that followed, in the midst of other major life transitions and decisions, both of my parents, aunt, and uncle privately pulled me aside to tell me that I am making a huge mistake, and ask me what I’m trying to prove. The 6 months after our engagement was honestly the most difficult period we’ve had thus far. Fairies and butterflies? No. Am I still thrilled to pieces about how our engagement happened? Yes.

    • Froggy

      It is SO nice to hear that these upsets, freak-outs, moments of anxiety, provoked arguments, and crying jags are NORMAL! I sometimes felt so alone, as if no one else was having a hard time during this happy time, and maybe even that I was wrong for having my turbulent feelings. But NO. It is so normal, and so okay, to have wild feelings of all sorts. What a relief!

      Now married and feeling much calmer. Most of the time. (When not putting too much importance on our new used couch, or feeling directionless, for instance. This too shall pass.)

    • Oh wow, yes. Part of our engagement story involves a discussion my fiancee and I had about 8 months before I proposed about how I felt we wouldn’t be married if it wasn’t validated by the federal government. (Little did I know my fiancee was off looking at rings and planning on popping the question – the result of that conversation was to tell me to propose when I was sure) It took me a long time to understand that filing joint taxes does not a marriage make. Not to go all ‘I’m specialer than you,’ but I feel like it’s harder when you’re gay because you have to censor so much about other people’s religious sensibilities. Not to mention announcing you’re going to marry your partner invites everyone to start debating gay marriage with you (obviously I’m fucking pro-gay marriage, I’m about to get one!!!).

  • YAY! An unfairytale proposal. While I knew it was coming, it was still pretty funny to get proposed to in a parking lot over a “pricey” dinner of Taco Bell while I was crying because my parents and I had just gotten in a HUGE argument (which of course, was about the wedding).

    Who cares how it happens and what or how long it takes to get to whatever decision you make…as long as you are being true to yourself in the end!

  • Cody

    My fiance proposed to me while I WAS DRIVING. I burst into tears, but not necessarily from a “yay!!!!!” response, but more of a “you could have killed us!!!!” response. Then what followed was the furthest thing from a fairytale first week of engagement (literally the hardest week of our entire relationship horribleness).

    At some point, I made the mistake of telling someone on the phone “You know, we’re not really that romantic, so it wasn’t a particularly romantic proposal” and my fiance firmly corrected me later by saying, “We’re romantic. We’re just not stereotypical.” It was frankly more important to him to completely blindside me by asking at a time that I definitely would not expect it than anything else. And from Christina’s story and all of the awesome stories here, I can see that the proposer’s priorities (and personalities) are all a little different, and I feel like there’s value in that.

    • “We’re romantic. We’re just not stereotypical.”

      I LOVE this. Romance isn’t always, and often isn’t ever, flowers and down-on-one-knee-proposals, and I think it’s funny and strange that even those of us who don’t WANT that sometimes feel like we’re missing it.

      I’m loving reading all these stories! (also not working. oops.)

      • EXACTLY. Everyone has their own definitions of romance. And, actually, if you find someone who gets you well enough to know your definition (for me: someone who loves me even when I’ve been an anxiety-riddled control freak), then that’s even more romantic than flowers and candlelight and big epic proposals.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        Totally, totally, totally on board with this. I know a lot of people with romantic (to them) engagement stories that involve fancy restaurants or exotic locations or big scenes. One of the thing my husband and I love about each other is being at home, just the two of us. He hates crowds and I hate big scenes. We’ve always been very private about our relationship and so him proposing in my living room with takeout was *much* more romantic to me than anything fancy, public or extravagant.

        Not everyone is impressed that he had the forethought to order take-out, but he and I know that excitement makes me hungry and low-blood sugar makes me cranky. Food was a critical part of our engagement. The memory of looking at my shiny new ring over a box of lo mein is precious and romantic to me.

        • mere…

          I LOVE your story. I feel like the perfect proposal for me would be while my boyfriend and I are in the kitchen cooking dinner together (one of my favorite times of the day – when we’re away from everything & just spending quality time with one another) and he asks me to get the parmesan out of the fridge and when I open the door there’s a ring box open and waiting for me. I get a ring, I get to be wearing my slippers AND I get to eat a home-cooked meal with the man I love after – now THAT’s my idea of romance.

          • abby_wan_kenobi

            That’s perfection!! Since we decided to get married long before we were engaged, and we picked out my ring together, the proposal was always going to be a bit anti-climatic. Husband told me he wanted to do it up traditional-style, so we agreed he’d wait until after my bf’s wedding and the rest was up to him.

            But even with all those decisions being made, I was still kind of wigged out about “becoming engaged”. I think it’s because my friends’ engagement stories seemed so foreign to me. If he’d done it at a romantic dinner or on a mountain-top, or (GodForbid) in front of my family, I would have been faking it. It wouldn’t have been us, it would have been us pretending to be people who make big decisions in a romantic public moment of passion. But we make decisions slowly, in front of crappy late-night tv and empty pizza boxes. So his proposal with take-out in a messy house was something I could participate in fully, genuinely. And *that* is fucking romantic.

          • Elizabeth

            I had to respond to your comment because that is almost exactly how my grandparents got engaged. My grandpa was at my grandma’s house, and he asked her to get him a glass of water. She told him to get it himself (fears about gender norms are not unique to our generation after all). He kept asking, and finally she gave in, walked over to the fridge, and took out the water pitcher; the ring was, of course, inside the water pitcher.
            I always loved this story growing up because my grandma has always been rather feisty, and my grandparents had, by all accounts, an incredibly happy marriage.

  • Sarah M

    I pretty much ruined the whole proposal.

    I had come to the conclusion that he was not going to propose in 2009. That a 2010 wedding was not in the cards and was happily continuing on with life.

    I had the afternoon off one Friday in August. He had suggested that we go out for dinner, but I said I would cook him something tasty. I was being lazy and didn’t get to cooking until way too late so when he got home he was really disappointed because he had plans to go see a movie and now we couldn’t because dinner was happening too late. I was in no mood to go anywhere…I had already taken my pants off for the day!! So we ate dinner and then he started whining about wanting ice cream. After much begging I finally conceded. I looked a mess, ripped jeans, no makeup, messy hair.

    We went to an ice cream shop out near my parents house which is across the river from a beautiful park. We wandered in to the park and spent some time hanging out by the duck pond. At this point he started acting weird and my brain started going insane. We had one of our very first dates at this park and he started talking about it in a very sappy and sentimental way. I started having an internal argument with myself about whether or not he was going to propose. So I got all antsy and freaked out. This internal argument turned in to me acting weird outwardly. I was mocking his sentiments, complaining about wanting to go home, having to go to the bathroom.

    We wandered back to the foot bridge that crosses the river. We’re standing on the bridge and I can tell he’s stalling, I notice that he’s pulled something out of his back pocket because the lining is all hanging out, he’s standing weird. I’m freaking out. And then, not 10 ft away from us another couple gets engaged. Talk about awkward. And all the while, I’m thinking, don’t propose here! One of my good friends got engaged here and his wedding never happened! He’s still stalling, I eventually just asked if we could please go home. And then he’s down on one knee and the first words out of my mouth are “Oh Shit” and I made him stand up. I don’t remember him actually asking, I don’t remember anything he actually said. I’m not sure I actually even said yes. I just hugged him and he gave me the ring.

    We definitely told an edited story. Basically that I was cranky and ruined the whole thing but that I was totally surprised and elated. I don’t think he even knows the entirety of what was going on in my brain that evening. I always ruin surprises so I figure he doesn’t need to know that I knew exactly what he was up to for most of the night.

    I spent 4 months freaking out about being engaged, feeling badly for ruining the proposal and wishing things could have been different. It wasn’t until January of this year that something clicked and I was just full on excited. But, we got married in September so this story has a happy ending. We’re married!

    • Mel

      I just want to say that, the way you describe it, everything you did and felt sounds completely understandable and reasonable.

      • Sarah M

        Thank you. I guess I still harbour guilt over that proposal because reading your comment just felt like a weight was lifted off my chest. Thank you. I am so glad I wandered back in to these comments this morning.

  • katie

    Love this post! Thank you Christina for kick-starting it. I definitely had some high hopes for the proposal – I’m a girl’s girl. Years before I met my husband I’d talk with my friends about it. A lot of the surprise went away when we finally picked out the ring together – he was not going to do it on his own. The proposal itself did catch me off-guard, but it was at night at home and I was tired and confused as to what was going on.
    So I don’t have an amazing memory of the proposal, but that’s okay. His romantic display came instead at the wedding -when he read his vows and got teary-eyed in front of everyone while trying to tell me how much he loves me. Now we have our handwritten notecards and plan to frame them once we get wedding pics.

  • THAT PICTURE! I was SO hoping it was you two in the brewery, Christina. I absolutely love it, and think it is such a great proposal picture. I’m glad you feel brave for waiting to say yes – you so totally are, and you’ve done a wonderful job sharing your story here. Thank you, and congratulations.

  • Cowgurl_cutie

    Finally!! Its great to hear stories of un-fairytale proposals… it makes me feel so much more normal!

    My proposal came at Christmas last year. But the story starts in late November after a close friend of ours passed away. We had been vaguely talking about getting engaged on Christmas, but then my husband decided to take me to the jewelers to custom order my ring after the funeral. Talk about feeling upset and emotionally drained, then trying to summon enough strength and excitement to not make the clerk think I was dreading a proposal.
    So Christmas came, and once I got back from work that morning, he plucks the ring from its hiding place in the tree and says “Here ya go!” Umm… unromantic much? Then I replied, “You SOB, you hid it in the tree??” I proceed to open the box, and put the ring on my finger. Then he says “Oh, I guess I should ask you to marry me, hon?”
    Maybe I felt a little cheated on not having the “fairytale, surprise!! proposal” but I have since long gotten over it. That’s how he is, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t care, its just not his style.

  • Abby C.

    Yay, for messy engagement stories! Thank you ladies, for sharing all of these.

    I’m a messy proposal bride too, although the proposal was mine. We were laying in bed, almost-arguing over some relationship issues that had been plaguing us (due mostly to failures in communication, not really incompatibilities in belief systems). He complained that he couldn’t tell where our relationship was going, and that it scared him because he’d completely fallen for me. My response was to sit up in bed, blurt out that I wanted to marry him, and promptly burst into tears. We’re talking snotty, swollen eyes, really ugly cry. After I calmed down and he told me that he wanted to marry me too, we spent the rest of the night talking giddly and only getting 1.5 hours of sleep, we were so excited. Now, a few months later, I’m not disappointed by this story at all, but sort of proud. I hate the idea that it’s the girl’s job to wait around patiently on tenterhooks until the guy gets his stuff together, and a big flowery, elaborate proposal scheme (as some of my girlfriends got) would just make me feel silly and awkward and embarrassed. Our proposal story fits us, and telling it makes me feel calm and peaceful.

    My FH asked for my father’s permission in person a few weeks after that late-night proposal. It wasn’t something I felt he needed to do, as obviously only I can give myself permission to get married. But it was important to him to show his respect for my family that way, and it was easy for me to agree to go along with it, since it obviously meant so much to my FH.

    What I’m really struggling with is my family’s cool reaction to the proposal. I guess I projected my fairytale dreams into the stereotypical squealing, excited “OhmiGOSH” moments when the big reveal came around. With my folks, what I got instead was worry and skepticism. I appreciate that they love me and I do know that they’re not honestly trying to sabotage my relationship, but the fact that they’ve made clear that they’re not enthusiastic about it really still hurts. I think what hurts the most is that the only legitimate reason they can come up with is that they think we’re moving too fast. Granted, we haven’t been dating long (less than a year total, less than 6 months before the proposal) but we do plan a long engagement, and also plan on premarital counseling and financial counseling before the wedding. I think we’re being responsible about building our life together. Ironically, my parents have been married 30 years (still going!) and they walked down the aisle barely a year after they met each other! The hypocrisy stings me.

    • Benny

      Solidarity, Abby. After 24 years of trusting me to act older than my age and never questioning one decision or the timing my career path, my parents are suddenly entirely obsessed with me “focusing on the wrong thing,” and “taking things too fast” and “trying to prove something” by becoming engaged when I did. Although I knew they would react poorly, it still really, really hurts to have such messages come from your family.

      I mean, when you get engaged, isn’t everyone ELSE in your life supposed to be deliously happy for you?? Isn’t your mother supposed to become obsessed with table arrangements? oh, wait…

      • Leona

        You know, I had the same reaction from my family– that complacent, “Well, I guess it’s happening but we don’t have to be excited,” attitude. I think there’s also an almost-arrogant feeling among family members that a future-spouse should prove himself/herself to them. I wrote about my issues with family opinions during husband’s deployment and how tough those times were for us but afterward, when we finally got through everything all on our own, my family suddenly couldn’t be supportive enough. They brought him to Disneyworld with us for Thanksgiving and my parents hung a stocking for him in their home on Christmas and my mom especially bubbled over with compliments all the time. Frustrating? Of course. But in the past when my brother had serious girlfriends, I was always miffed if they didn’t make any attempt to connect with me.

        Soooo, I think that reaction may be a very natural and loving kind of possessiveness that needs to be soothed with time and maybe even comforting attempts to say, “I’ll take care of him/her as well as you do.” It may not be fair to think or behave that way but it’s the job of your family to try to protect you.

        On a side note, my husband never had a talk with my father about marrying me before or after our engagement and I really kind of wish he had. I’m really close to my dad so I constantly looked for approval from him. It would have calmed me down a lot to just know his feelings outright. It came eventually but in the meantime there was a lot of shiftiness for me.

        • Brenda H

          Haha, I know what you mean! I’ve had a friend do the intense “I must approve him first” schtick and at the time the thing going through my head was ‘really? okay then…’

          That philosophy got left by the wayside sometime around when everything clicked for her and her list of things she liked/didn’t like spontaneously ceased to exist. ;) Now to coax my parents through this stage…

        • B

          I also struggled with my family’s reaction to our getting engaged. They’re not excitable people (unlike my future in-laws) but I really wanted them to be excited and was disappointed (and hurt and concerned) when they weren’t. In hindsight it wasn’t fair of me to project my expectations onto them but it’s sometimes hard to help how you feel! It probably also didn’t help that The Boy asked dad’s permission so they already knew it was coming, which I appreciated but it definitely ruined the element of surprise! They’ve definitely warmed to the idea of us getting married which has taken ages, (and there’s still no excitement!!) but they’re much more supportive now :)

      • “After 24 years of trusting me to act older than my age and never questioning one decision or the timing my career path, my parents are suddenly entirely obsessed with me “focusing on the wrong thing,” and “taking things too fast” and “trying to prove something” by becoming engaged when I did. Although I knew they would react poorly, it still really, really hurts to have such messages come from your family. ”

        Ugh, YES. No one actually *said* these things to me, which meant I was struggling with whether to respond to the sentiment (“Am I crazy or do they feel that way? Am I paranoid, or can we be adults?”). I finally (drunk on wine… mixed with new antidepressants. Whee!) wrote my mom a long email explaining why my fiancee was the person for me. And now, over a year later, we are all feeling like family. I’m glad I trusted myself and went for it.

        • Abby C.

          I did the same thing – wrote my parents a long email about it. My dad has (mostly) come around but my mother has not.

        • Benny

          I’m happy to hear that the email worked some things out! Also, I was at the Boston meetup, too, and I second what Sarah said about us meeting up again outside of structured bookclub. ha.

    • Faith

      While my family couldn’t be more thrilled, I struggled with all of them knowing before I did.

      Isn’t it a private thing between us, and not all of those other people? And heck, I wanted to be the first one besides him who knew! Not really any bigs deal, but just things my little brain thinks about.

  • Chelsea

    The more of these I read, the more I think they should be required reading for anyone planning a proposal. The takeaways:
    ~Have a plan
    ~But know it probably won’t go to plan
    ~Even if the proposee acts weird chances are it’ll end up fine anyway.”

  • Ahhh, yes, Proposal Shame. I’ve got in spades, girl, so you’re not alone. Months ago I wrote about this when the shame first started to overwhelm me. I’m still dealing with how things happened and working on accepting it (all these stupid diamond ads with Big Fancy Proposals makes a tiny part of me curl up and wrinkle its nose), but I’m no longer ashamed of it.

    Meg shame-blasted it away with her amazing words of wisdom. I had actually emailed her about it, and she responded with, “The only point of the proposal is to decide you want to spend your lives together, and you did that. You can throw some awesome magic romantic moment later, and it will be SO MUCH LESS STRESSFUL.” And that first line makes it better– we got the job done, we got over it, and we’re okay. We’ve had romantic moments and big sweeping gestures (like, um, the entire wedding) and we got married. Our lives roll on, and that one day hasn’t messed up anything.

    The reason for a proposal is to make a Huge, Life-Altering Decision (i.e., to marry someone, to say you want to be with them for the rest of your life), and those decisions are rarely all rainbows and bunnies and perfect movie moments. And I’m okay with that.

    Blast that shame, Christina, and good luck. <3

  • Mel

    I had a proposal story that needed to be edited down for public consumption. I found out at my wedding rehearsal dinner that, apparently, my story got so vague that a certain uncle had taken to assuming that there was a reason for the vagueness. Right there, with my sweet aunt next to him, he clearly implied that my guy had popped the question while we were going at it. I said, “no, really, we were just in my apartment and there’s not a big story – we just were there, and then he asked me.” My explanation just made it worse as he said, smiling away, “Well you don’t have to convince ME.” I now find this hilarious but at the time it was pretty awkward. I should mention that most of this rehearsal dinner was filled with Catholics who would not find such a thing funny.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      This is awesome, it reminds me of my parents’ engagement – Dad proposed at Thanksgiving-time and they decided they really wanted to go skiing on their honeymoon. That meant a wedding in February at the break between trimesters at the college they attended. EVERYONE in my dad’s family assumed my mom was pregnant and hoping to have the wedding before anyone would notice.

      The whole family wasn’t convinced that it wasn’t a pregnancy-motivated marriage until their first anniversary. At which point they were all “Where are my damn grandchildren already?!?!”

  • Jessie

    This article went straight to my husband. We’ve been fighting shame for about a year now because our engagement was a tear-filled, angry event followed by a stressful planning process where everyone wanted to hear the story that was only half of the story. I’ve spent a lot of time being sad that I’ll never have the proposal my friends had or that I see on TV and my husband has spent a lot of time thinking about how to make it right. But, what better way to make it right than having a REAL, full-of-love marriage? Thanks for this!

  • margiemive

    Oh, I so relate to all of this and then some! I used to feel awful that our engagement wasn’t picturesque or romantic at all. It was, to use one of Meg’s favorite words, gritty. I was FREAKED OUT, and rightfully so, by the hugeness of it all. The details (our messy bedroom, my trembling boyfriend) were not pretty. But the eventual decision to stare my fear in the eye and say yes (…eventually!) was not so much pretty but huge and beautiful in its own way. It’s crazy to commit to someone for life and yet we do it anyway. I love that and I loved that about our proposal. But yeah it was definitely not the kind of picturesque, hiding-cameraman-in-the-bushes (oh no thanks!) that people romanticize.

  • Kristen

    Thank you for sharing this story with us. I also had an unfairy-tale proposal and then wedding and marriage. It all could have been great except we are real people with real problems and those problems sometimes come up at not the greatest of times.

  • shorty j

    here’s my TOTALLY AWESOME story: B and I decided to get married (not a proposal, just a discussion) when we were both incredibly sick with some sort of Death Cold, totally whacked-out on Nyquil, and lying in bed unable to sleep. It was basically “I kinda want to marry you.” “Sweet, I kinda want to marry you too.” “Awesome, we should totally get married then.” Sneeze. Cough. Zzzzzzz. People gave us a fair amount of crap for that, especially for the not getting a ring part. When I told my parents I had big news for them, they thought that I had gotten laid off or promoted or something, and when they found out the news was actually our engagement, my mom was like “Wait, what? You’re serious?” (Nevermind that we’ve been together for years, we live together, and she was already referring to him as “my future son-in-law,” haha.) She did later apologize for that, but there you have it. :P

    He did actually “propose” once we got the rings (we both wear ’em) because he wanted to, except it turned out EVEN BETTER: I got our rings in the mail while he was out of town, and I thought it would be cute to tie them to our dog’s collar because whenever he comes home, the dog goes nuts and jumps all over him and he would see them then. Except somehow he didn’t notice when he got home, even though the dog was all up in his face and they were RIGHT THERE with a giant ribbon tied to them and everything. Finally I was like “um, I think the dog has a present for you…” and he looked RIGHT at her and STILL didn’t see them and was like “um, did she get a new collar? Anyway I really have to pee, sorry.” And then he leaves the room.

    I am DYING at this point. He gets back, and I finally have to explain to him exactly what he’s looking for. He finally sees the rings, and tells me to put mine on, and I’m like “hell no buddy, you said you wanted to propose so you darn well better do it.” And then he decides to propose right that minute. Bear in mind that it is 10pm on a weeknight so I am sitting on the couch in my huge stained sweatpants, watching Top Gear.

    So he gets the ring, goes to get down on his knees, and then stops, cocks his head, and says, “um, which knee am I supposed to get down on?” At that point, the dog must have realized SOMETHING was up, because she ran in between us and started bouncing. (She’s a Jack Russell mix and can jump like 4 feet in the air.) So he’s going “will… you… um…” and pretty much in between every word, the dog is flinging herself into the air between us, boing! boing! boing! I thought I was going to throw up from laughing so hard.

    That’s about as far from a fairytale as you can get, but honestly, I think it rather neatly sums up exactly what we are like as people, haha. I wouldn’t have it any other way. :P

    • That whole story had me snorting all over my keyboard with laughter. Thanks so much for sharing it!

    • Ali

      I love this! We have a Jack Russell Terrier too :)

      • shorty j

        we call her our Jack Russell Terror for a reason, haha :P

    • Jen

      “my mom was like “Wait, what? You’re serious?” ”

      MINE TOO. When I called and told her, she said, “really?” Even though a few months earlier I’d told her we’d been talking about marriage, and even though we’ve been together 7 years, and living together for 5… She’s now excited about the wedding, which is fantastic, but her lackluster response was pretty disappointing. Not even a “congrats.”

    • Paranoid Libra

      OMG you watch Top Gear too?!?!?! My boyfriend and I love that show! And your dog is just hysterical.

      I do want a sweet and romantic proposal. But I know my boyfriend doesn’t even have a dime to spend on a ring care of student loans and bad credit card debt. And we talked about it and for him it’s really important to have a ring and surpise me. Thanks to APW he also realized he doesn’t have to spend a ton, but until he can scrape up a little for my non-diamond e-ring I just sit here and read APW and it reminds me it’s ok that we have been together for 4 years and it hasn’t happened yet.

      I’ll just go back to dreaming of my proposal now and cross my fingers I’m engaged before I’m 30. (I’m 25 fyi)

      • shorty j

        yay! I think it says a lot about what an awesome show it is, because I don’t even own a car and I still watch it religiously. :P

        and for what it’s worth, our rings are silver and mine has a blue topaz in it, they’re gorgeous and custom-made and cost us literally $50 a pop. (thank god for etsy, haha.) I know it’s tough (my best friend is in a similar state–they’ve been together for 5 years, she wants to get married SO BADLY but they have a lot of debt and he won’t propose until he can buy her a really nice ring), but good for you two for (a) communicating about what matters re: the proposal and all that, and (b) wanting to get your financial house in order before you get started on the complete insanity that is wedding planning. :P

    • Ha ha ha. This story KILLS me. I love all these unromantic proposal stories. They are so much more fun than: the waiter brought it out on a plate; he led me on a scavenger hunt; he hid it in my medicine cabinet and la de da, it was all perfect! It’s the imperfections that make us laugh and giggle and beautiful.

      Love that you can tell your story with a huge can of anti-shame whoop a**, Shorty J!

  • Morgan

    I knew Dave was going to propose on vacation, because half way though the trip he asked me to grab him some socks from the suitcase and I did. Then, without thinking, blurted out, “there’s something hard in these socks.” (The ring box, of course.) He quickly said not that pair, another pair, and we both pretended it hadn’t happened. But I relaxed, because I knew it was coming.

    Almost two weeks later, at a Paleolithic portal tomb in the west of Ireland, he proposed and it was very sweet.

    But. That night, I had to ask for confirmation that he meant this for real. “Like, forever and babies and stuff?” For some reason, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that he was serious – that he wasn’t about to change his mind or take it back. Even a more traditional proposal doesn’t mean it’s going to feel like a fairy tale.

    (We have a picture from 20 minutes later that I love, because I’m wearing the ring on my thumb, we’re grinning like maniacs, and all 4 knees are soaking wet from kneeling on wet rocks for so long.)

  • Anon

    Thank you for this. I was too afraid to say anything other than “yes”, and while I have no regrets because I married a wonderful man, I’ve been wondering how my post marital life would be different had I had the guts to say “not yet”.

  • I love reading all these stories. It does me good to know how many un-perfect proposals there are that lead on to good engagements and good marriages.

    Our engagement story is actually beautiful but in a really simple way and he didn’t use the four standard words, we just kinda agreed we wanted to get married. And it was romantic and lovely and I cried (happy tears).

    And then wondered for the next two months if it “counted” as a proposal or if we should do it “properly”. I’d heard so many incredible proposal stories on mountain tops or with all-singing, all-dancing casts, with the ring of his great great grandmother… I wondered if somehow the way we did it was wrong.

    And then I finally realised how dum I was being. Coz we were engaged and we were both happy about that fact and nothing needed to be added to make it more right or more real.

  • Meghan

    Love. This.

    My husband proposed in Cape Cod, and I was expecting some big production because that’s generally how he rolls. But on the first morning I was putting on my mascara in the bathroom, half dressed, when he asked me to turn around and had the ring out. I nearly poked my eye out with the mascara wand, grabbed the sink, and eventually said yes. We made some calls, then went about our day. Fireworks and butterflies? Nope. But it happened that way because he could not wait another minute, mascara be damned, so I love it. I do get the “Huh. In the bathroom?” reaction sometimes, but I don’t feel like I missed out on the fairy tale at all.

  • Danae

    I have a great one from a friend of mine. She had just gotten married to an American guy, and about six months into the marriage, his parents and her parents decided that it would be a great idea to get the whole set of families together and go on a 3-week road trip across the U.S. So she, her parents, her sister, her sister’s boyfriend, and her husband all flew over to the states to hook up with husband’s family.

    As you would imagine, the road trip had its ups and downs, and then the sister’s boyfriend tells the dad, “I’d like to propose to your daughter.” The dad is delighted, tells the mom, she’s delighted, etc. Everyone is in on the secret apart from the sister.

    So they drive to the Grand Canyon, and have what my friend described as a hellish evening sleeping on the floor of some terrible cabin that ended up having a squirrel trapped inside it, so nobody got any sleep, everyone was testy, and it was all generally a mess.

    Finally, that morning, the boyfriend brushes off the bad night, says let’s go for a walk to watch the sun rise and winks at the dad. The dad ushers everyone away and says oh we have things to do, everything is great. But then! The mom suddenly goes completely weird and insists that she come along on the walk too, knowing full well what the walk is for. And the boyfriend valiantly brushes her off, only to find that she started following them down the path! The dad finally came to the rescue and pulled mom away so the boyfriend could FINALLY propose.

    From there it went well, but holy shit, the moral of the story is never propose on a 3-week road trip with your future in-laws, because people clearly start going a little mad!

    • Morgan

      Best moral ever! I love it.

    • Celeste

      I’m loving these engagement stories! Here’s mine.

      I got engaged at the Grand Canyon, and it was a bit of a mess as well. I was going to a trade show to exhibit, and I was bringing my honey with me to help out. Since the trade show was the day after Valentine’s Day in Las Vegas, and since I’d never been to the Grand Canyon and honey had been and raved about it, I thought it would be a fun side trip to drive over to the Grand Canyon for Valentine’s Day. The plan was to get off the plane, rent the car, and drive over there, getting there just in time to see the sunset and then check into our little cabin on the rim and explore the next day.

      I stayed up all night the night before leaving however, making stuff for the trade show and packing, and he stayed up with me, sweetheart that he is. We were both cranky as hell the next day, and he always gets irritable when traveling, especially when he has to help me carry my heavy bags of displays and such. I almost fell asleep on the drive to the canyon, and by the time we got in it was just past sunset. Being Valentine’s Day, I thought we should go out and get dinner, but he wanted to go right to sleep, and we fought. I dragged him along to dinner anyway and we went right back to the hotel and bickered before we fell asleep.

      I insisted that we get up early enough to watch the sunrise over the canyon the next morning, so we woke up and trudged through the snow to get to a vantage point just in time to miss the sunrise! Then I very unsubtly asked him what he got me for Valentine’s Day and why he didn’t give it to me the night before. So he handed me a box of chocolates and a card, and the card said, among other things, that he needed his best friend (me) to help him pick out an engagement ring for his girlfriend (yes, also me). When I read that part, I just broke into tears and couldn’t stop crying and he was so flustered like he had done something wrong, so I just hugged him and said yes in his ear, that was about all I could manage.

      So now we tell our friends and family that we got engaged on President’s Day because we just that patriotic.

  • I don’t think ours went too badly, but it also wasn’t fairytale. For one I was crying so much by the time I actually asked the question he was totally freaked out that something bad was going to happen. I tend to get round the ‘how did he propose?’ question by saying, ‘he didn’t, I did’. After thay no-one seems bothered about how I did it…

  • Jessica

    All these expectations of how getting engaged should occur really screw with our heads and cause so much anxiety. I guess that is how many fairytale expectations work.

    My fiance awkwardly proposed to me at the beach during a sunset. Not only did I feel like barfing because of how generic it all was, but he was also incredibly uncomfortable as well, seeing as how this whole cheesy scene was not “us” in any way. The walk back to the car was a silent one, to say the least.

    After arguing/crying in the car, I gave him the ring back and told him to just tell me why he loved me and then ask me to marry him. It was a beautiful moment that actually felt like “us”.

    After reading this blog for about 6 months, this is my first comment! =)

    • This made me laugh! I was totally mortified that my boyfriend proposed on Valentine’s Day, but, in hindsight, the cheesiness is pretty freakin’ cute.

      • Meant to add, too, that I’m glad you got the more genuine experience you wanted. I hit submit too hastily…

      • I got a Valentine’s Day proposal too! At a place called “Lover’s Point,” no less!

        It was quite clever on his part actually, because I figured we were just doing a regular romantic Valentine’s Day outing, and was therefore completely surprised when he proposed.

        It was funny too–earlier that day, I was freaking out because I hadn’t gotten him a Valentine’s present, and I kept asking if he wanted various things in the shops while he would just kinda brush it off. I realized later that of course, that would have been the LAST thing on his mind.

  • Brenda H

    Thanks for this, it’s been on my mind a bit recently. While the moment we first seriously talked about engagement had elements of the fairytale (in a gorgeous park at night while visiting Montreal) it is not very ‘fairytale’ to have that moment be uncertain since there were external things that needed to be worked out before that could be possible.

    The phrase “let’s get married tomorrow, does that work for you?” has become a running joke between us and we’ve half-joked about how long ago we would have been married if things weren’t so complicated. Part of me really wishes that could have been our fairytale moment and we could have got on with things and part of me wishes I could not care as much since there’s more waiting yet. Things are close to working out now though, even if he is still without work. For us now, messy situation and all, it will be the moment where things come together will be finally being “official” rather than our closest friends knowing it’s in the air.

    Maybe it’s our realities that’s better than the fairytale — for all of us across the spectrum. Better because in our relationships we all draw closer and know each other deeper from each of our personal stories than some Hollywood “moment” could ever give us.

  • These stories are fantastic – and Christina, I love your picture!

    My proposal was also complicated – we went to Napa for a few days, and while I had a good time, I was a little bummed that the proposal didn’t happen while we were there. I mean, we’d been together for 6 years, and it’s wine country!! What more incentive did he need? Anyway, we came home and I decided that Dave’s bathroom at his house was filthy, so I told him that I was going to clean it and that was that (he’s a great guy, but not the tidiest) . So, on Saturday, I got dressed in ratty clean-the-house clothes and went over there and started cleaning the bathroom . I finished that, we decided to get some ice cream, and then later we crashed at my house with tacos for dinner and episodes of the Office. We were both just relaxing and that’s when the proposal happened. It actually surprised both of us, since Dave said he wasn’t planning to propose then (although he had been thinking about it and planning to do it in the near future), but he decided to go for it then because it felt like the right time. The moment was, actually, magical despite me smelling like bathroom cleaner, but we had a rough couple of weeks after that. I think the enormity of what we were doing hit both of us and neither one of us knew quite what to do with those feelings. Also, he had proposed without a ring, so we needed/wanted to go ring shopping, and that was super stressful. And yeah, telling people you’re engaged but you don’t have a ring but you will at some point in the future but you don’t know exactly when? It’s kinda rough.

    We got over the weirdness eventually, when we started making concrete plans for our future – both the wedding and our actual lives. We figured out how to work as a team on that stuff and then it became awesome again. I think we really needed that transition time, awkward as it was, to force us into working together and figuring out how to make the big decisions together. Prior to being engaged, we were both pretty independent, living separately and with separate bank accounts and such, so hashing out the ring budget, the wedding budget, where we would live, stuff like that was a big priority for us. And it brought us closer together.

    I think I actually found APW by googling something like “engagement anxiety” the week after the proposal, since I felt bad that I was feeling so conflicted and strange about being engaged.

  • So I had, maybe not quite a fairy-tale, but a beautiful proposal with the immediate ‘yes’ (well, I kissed him first). And I’d like to say that it’s not necessarily a fairy-tale either.

    I’d known to a certain extent that it was coming. Between a hint he’d given a couple months earlier and something he’d said in an argument we had the day before, I’d guessed. But I hadn’t properly wrapped my head around it, and I’m still in this crazy “OMG what-if-this-is-a-huge-mistake-what-if-he’s-totally-wrong-for-me” phase.

    He’d known for a couple of months that he was going to propose. He’d had time to think about it all and work through all the OMG beforehand. And I just found out last night–literally, last night–that he’d in some ways been thinking about it since we met.

    It’s a lot of pressure! He proposed on vacation, while we were wandering around a gorgeous island in Sweden. And when months of forethought go into it (not that he’d planned anything elaborate, it was still a when-the-moment-was-right thing), it’s kind of scary to be on the receiving end of that and have seconds to make this huge decision that I hadn’t had all that time to mull over. Not that I said yes just because it was a beautiful place, but it’s scary to have him be so sure that he thought about it since he knew we were going on vacation, and to, myself, be kind of terrified of the whole thing.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      This is a really nice insight, thanks for sharing. I can’t say that I shared this experience, since Husband and I decided together to get married long before we actually got engaged, but it puts something in perspective for me about a girlfriend’s reaction to her proposal.

      That “boy proposes to surprised girl” model really does allow for the proposer to go through a lenthy process at his own pace (be it emotional, logistical, financial, whatever) and expects the proposee to work through the same process in a matter of seconds. Even after deciding that I wanted to marry my Husband, it took me months to understand the decision, make peace with it’s impact on my life and feel really comfortable with it. And I had that time to myself before we decided it was time to get engaged.

      Not every bride-to-be has that. It’s no wonder there’s so much shame around engagements, you know you’re supposed to be blissfully happy, but there is so much other legitamate stuff to work through. Plus, it’s probably the last time (or even the first time) you’ll have to work through it on your own instead of *with* your partner.

      • Barbra

        I think the reason for that is that it’s stereotypically supposed to be an easy decision for the girl. Like, she’s dying to get married and bugging her boyfriend until he finally proposes, so what is there to think about? She’s won!



    Wow, this is great! I thought I was the only one who felt awkward in the period after our engagement! So here’s our little story for those who enjoy reading such things: The night before the FH proposed we went out for one of the best nights of our life with his cousin, brother and brother’s friends in NYC (we live about 20 min away in Jersey) and stayed in a fancy-smancy hotel with his cousin. Sounds like a set-up to one of those romantic movie proposals, right? Let the real life begin.

    The next day we get home and I go straight to bed for another nap to sleep off the hangover before we go out to one of our favorite restaurants with all of our immediate family to celebrate my 23rd birthday (I protested for weeks leading up to this since I didn’t want my parents spending so much money on my lame 23rd birthday, but I got veto-ed down for engagement reasons which are very clear now). Still hungover and very tired, I tried to walk out the door dressed down and my hair pulled into a utility-bun for the dinner but the FH asked if I won’t want to put on something nicer, coming from a guy who usually doesn’t care if I wore I potato sack out the door. Shit, he’s gonna propose, I thought (we had been together for 7 years and have been discussing marriage for 2 by that point), but decided that he would never on a day I was so tired and looked so messy.

    Well from everyone’s actions at the restaurant and the building excitement of the evening I figured that this would be it and I pulled a fast one on everybody and insisted on having dessert at our house. We went home and he gave me a cello for my birthday (I dabbled a bit in HS where we met), on which the ring box was taped onto the bridge. He asked me to “Be his symphony” and I told him laughing and crying that it ‘Was the corniest thing I ever heard, but yes, of course I would’. I was filled with so much emotion and knew without a doubt that this was the guy I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, but I REALLY REALLY felt that I was missing the joy that was supposed to be in the moment. I thought I was disappointed at the time and didn’t understand why I would be, but I think it was discomfort at having such a private moment so public, and I don’t consider myself shy to the public eye. Awkward Moment #1.

    I called my grandmother who was battling cancer at the time and got my aunt on the phone who told me if I wanted to tell her I had to get over to her house right away because she probably wouldn’t make it through the night. I went out in front of 10 people, crying hysterically (and feeling VERY awkward for ruining the mood) and insisting FH and I had to make the trip to see my grandmother. Awkward Moment #2.

    Everyone tried to talk us out of it (my aunt has a penchant for drama) but I insisted and we hurried out together to make the 10 min trip. My grandmother was so happy to see us, stood up to hug us (one of the last times so could get out of bed) and was tearing because she was so happy. We got back and the mood at my parents was definitely dampened and everyone left feeling with a weird feeling in the air. Awkward Moment #3.

    I was told for the rest of the week repeatedly that everyone was actually really upset with us (especially me for being so insistent) on leaving because they felt they got robbed of a special moment which was supposed to be between our two immediate families. I was outraged that people could feel robbed of the moment, because I felt robbed of joy that night, only to start feeling joy when we did see my grandmother and I got to have a private moment in the car with my FH, a moment I ‘wasn’t supposed to have’. VERY Awkward Moment(s) #4. My grandmother ended up passing away five days later (I saw her one last time on my birthday that week) and I would not trade that moment with her and my FH for anything else in the world.

    The months after there was a definite discord in my engagement and I was worried that I was missing out on this fun and joy that everyone in the world was telling me I should be experiencing. The awkwardness of the night and sadness I felt missing my grandmother would be brought up every time I told the story after people would ask to see “The Ring” and want to know about “The Moment”. Sorry this post was so long, but positing it was like therapy for me, I am finally able to see the endearing moments in the night and realize that I did experience joy, it was just mixed in with a bunch of other more negative emotions which made me confused about the ‘absolute bliss’ that was supposed to come with being engaged.

    Moral of the story: Live in the moment and do what you think is right. Time will give you some perspective and hopefully cast a rose-tinted view on the moments that truly merit them.

    • Mel

      Wow, thanks for sharing – that sounds like a really overwhelming night with a lot of complex emotions!

    • Abby C.

      So great that you got to share with your grandmother before she passed. I’d be willing to bet that 20 years from now, that “Moment” will matter the most to you and the moments of unhappiness from your family (while you may still think of them) won’t hurt so much.

      Or at least, that’s what I’m hoping for you, and for my own situation as well.

    • “I did experience joy, it was just mixed in with a bunch of other more negative emotions which made me confused about the ‘absolute bliss’ that was supposed to come with being engaged”

      it only now occured to me that i need to realize this, too. thanks :)

  • Christina

    Ladies, I am overwhelmed. I wrote this post hoping it would help someone who was working through their own less than ideal proposal, and here it is helping me too. It’s been a month and I’m over the moon with my man and my engaged status, but your stories have helped me feel such peace about something that’s still a bit tender. Yay for engagements in all their awkward glory and yay for shame blasting!! Thank you.

  • YES, to all those ladies out there that had MESSY leading-up-to-proposal proposals! I feel like (the lack of) that stupid ring brought out the craziest side of me I’ve ever experienced in my life,

    • (I got a little enter-button happy, oops?? only posted like half my comment)


      I’d known that ring was coming for an ENTIRE year. We had some messy fights, a 3-month long breakup, got back together, went to Barcelona together, etc. Once we got back together after all of that insanity, I knew it was for good. He knew it was for good. We went ring shopping. He got a huge Army signing bonus for the Officer Medical Corps after college and medical school (yeah, I’m marrying a doctor AND an Army officer :) ) so I knew he had the money. I just didn’t know when it was coming. I got so anxious and stressed over it … I don’t even know why. I picked fights for no reason to test him, I guess, and bless his heart, he took them all in stride. I cried a lot. My poor maid of honor got a lot of 5-page-long texts. It took a while, but I’m glad he did it when HE was ready and it ended up being perfect. It was sooooo incredibly un-perfect getting there though… :)

    • And, Meg, kind of like your parents… In the wedding-planning process I’ve found out a lot I didn’t know about my relatives’ weddings. My dad’s parents got engaged like this:

      My grandpa was a teacher, and got two job offers. One in the town he and my grandma lived in in Indiana, and one in Georgia. He was in the Army and wrote a letter home to grandma telling her that if she married him, he’d take the job at home but if she didn’t want to, he’d take the job in Georgia.

      Romantic, huh? He took the job at home :)

  • I LOVE this! I spent the first 4-5 years of my relationship with my guy telling him that I didn’t want to get married, did he know that I didn’t want to get married, and I wasn’t ready to get married, because I was terrified of finding myself in your scenario, sans the ability to say yes after 18 hours. Eventually, I grew into the relationship and the idea of marriage. We’d talked about it before he proposed, I’d said he could use the family ring that was already in my possession. He surely agonized over it — making sure the light would be just right on the Brooklyn Bridge on Valentine’s Day — but it still felt surreal and anti-climactic for me. We’d just had a big fight. It was super windy. I wanted to keep walking, to move into shelter, but he was down on one knee. I said yes, but no jumping or tears, and that felt weird. I am the kind of girl who cries at commercials and cheesy sitcoms (not to mention every single APW post), so it was strange that I just felt so…quiet…

    Even though the details sound beautiful — my great-grandmother’s ring, incredible light on the bridge, en route to the restaurant where we have spent every Valentine’s Day since we’ve been together — I loathed telling people the story. I wrote a blog post about it just so I could email it to the friends who kept insisting on hearing the story so I wouldn’t have to tell it, and I got super annoyed when I listened to voice mails that said “I read your blog post, but I want to *hear* the story.” I just kept feeling like a) I was going to get burned out on my own story, and b) my version was slightly different than the one people wanted to hear. By telling people over and over about the light, the bridge, the ring, the YES, the story became just a little less honest, and something in it felt hollow.

    So thank you for the honesty and the shame-blasting and the acknowledgement that relationships are work, that the path to marriage, like marriage itself and like all of us, is riddled with imperfections, and that said imperfections are part of life and are totally acceptable.

  • nutkin

    Hi – long time lurker, first time poster…just feel like sharing today.

    I knew my FH was going to propose at some point. We’d talked about marriage, I’d picked out an antique ring, he’d ordered it in not too sneaky fashion, then we had it sized and cleaned up together. But then it sat on the bedside table in its little blue envelope, mocking me daily.

    I tried to be patient, he told me he was waiting for a certain date to come around, not too worry, it would happen. But at times it did feel mean, being made to wait. I let him know how frustrating it was, sometimes seriously, sometimes jokingly. I started telling him, “it doesn’t matter when you ask because I’ve already decided that I’m going to marry you.” And I meant that completely. Our one year anniversary was coming up, certainly that would be the day…

    Our anniversary was on a Thursday. We have this habit of going out on Wednesdays though. We also decided we’d go out on Friday night that week. The options were endless and I was an anxious mess. Wednesday was at our first date restaurant. A lovely night, but not THEE night. With the plan to go out on Friday, Thursday night was left for projects. I had some painting to do and he had to fix the toilet (romantic!).

    After I was done painting, I checked on him. He was still working on the toilet and there was beer spilled on the carpet. He said he’d take care of it after the toilet (which I knew he would). But I got a rag and started scrubbing. And crying. I knew we weren’t doing anything special that night, but seriously? This was our anniversary? He comforted me, and we were okay – he knew what was upsetting me and let me know it wouldn’t go on much longer. The next morning, the little blue envelope was not on the bedside table.

    I don’t remember much about the actual proposal. We had dinner at one of our favorite places then he asked me to go for a walk. I knew where we were going – a nearby place by the river that was special to us. It was freezing cold and we walked together very closely, holding hands. Those are the few moments I remember – walking together, really going somewhere. The ring thing happened, I’m pretty sure he said some really nice things about me too. I must have said yes at some point.

    I was happy, but mostly I was glad that “the asking” was done with – we got to move on the next step – getting married! I loved that we were getting married.

    I don’t have any shame about our engagement story, but I was never that thrilled with sharing it with others. I just didn’t like others looking disappointed when they heard the details – or the lack thereof. It was just not the fairytale stuff that people expect.

    • Heather

      We had the ring for a while first too. And our anniversary passed. And a trip down to where we met. And a few other big events. And each night, we came home and I was disappointed, and yes, I sulked. Not my most flattering behavior, by far.

      While a friend of mine was in town visiting, he proposed…while I was looking up train times to go into the city and she was in the shower! His goal was to surprise me, and all I could think when he asked me, was “SERIOUSLY? now?!” He got down on one knee (behind the couch, no less), and said, “marry me?” And that was it.

      It wasn’t a horrible proposal, but it wasn’t fairytale. I usually edit to say that he surprised me (which was his goal) when I least expected it.

      To be honest, I struggled a long time with being disappointed in it. I’d anticipated that he had this grand plan, and that’s why he waited. I think it was A Conscious Bride that talks about disappointment in the proposal being OK. It was like a wakeup call for me.

      But I agree with what you said — I was relieved that the “Asking” portion was over. We’ve stayed in the engaged stage for almost 2 years, but I would take that any day over the waiting and anxiety stage.

      • nutkin

        I think a little sulking is justified. :) Constantly expecting something to happen and then it not happening day after day is hard on us.

        I should mention that he did have a plan that made sense to him. He wanted to wait until the day after our anniversary because he wanted us to complete a full year first. It was a cute idea – it just also happened to drive me bonkers.

        I also found the pre-engaged state to be much more anxiety filled than the engagement period. Of course, we set a date right away so that left me with little to be anxious about – other than planning a wedding. :)

  • Ruth

    I love this post! What a great reminder that so many other people also did not have a perfect proposal.

    For me, the real moment we got engaged was when we decided together right after waking up one morning, that we wanted to get married. But he still wanted to propose with a ring a few weeks later. He tried so hard to make it romantic, surprising me after work, going to a park…but we were both acting silly and nervous. When he pulled out the ring, the first words out of my mouth were, “it’s so small”, and I spent months feeling awful about that. Because of course I love my ring and love him and should have just said yes.

    I wanted there to be jumping up and down, tears of joy, excitement but there we were with me wishing I could take back those words and him laughing at me and saying it was ok. So it goes.

    I’m happy to report that while we dealt with a lot of those living up to perfect stereotypical proposal/ring/wedding during our engagement, we are now happily married and I rarely think about how I “ruined” his proposal.

  • Audrey

    Thanks for this. We had designed the ring “together” (really, I designed the ring since he just kept saying “you’ll be wearing it, whatever you want”) and then I gave it to him for him to propose with. And then he took 2 months, so I was kind of thinking he had grand plans or something…

    His low key Christmas morning proposal was nice and us (and I messed things up by being just so happy that he finally proposed that I went straight into hugging him and he prompted me “You need to say yes”.) But there wasn’t a grand speech where he said how much I meant to him and there are so many cool proposals I thought up myself while I was waiting and our friends’ proposals seemed, just, more unique and thought out and I felt… a little gypped because of all this pressure to have an AWESOME OMG !1!!!1 engagement proposal.

    So thanks for all the stories. I rather enjoyed being engaged (except when I was wedding planning) and am enjoying being married. That’s what counts in the end!

    (Also, I was happy, but I swear the first female friend I called was WAY more excited than I was, which was kind of weird.)

    • IppyHooray

      (Also, I was happy, but I swear the first female friend I called was WAY more excited than I was, which was kind of weird.)

      Yes this absolutely. My sister screamed for what felt like 2 minutes. I was just happy but not excited.

  • Bloom

    Yes! This made my day. I’m six months into an engagement and five months away from the weddding. Completely in limbo land – not single, not married. APW has been my saving grace since I found it last week, letting me see that “cold-feet” is okay. Loved “yo marriage is scary, who knew?” That’s exactly how I felt.

    My engagement was super romantic, with so much planning and thoughtfulness going into a suprise trip to Tuscany. I mean, really? Amazing. It had all the ingredients for the perfect fairy tale engagement… except me… The moment he surprised me at the airport and I found out where we were going I knew the proposal would come sometime on the trip. I was ecstatic, totally happy and probably the most joyful person ever to go through airport security. But once the excitment passed I started to feel the OMGs come over me. My fiance from day one was very serious, and I knew he wanted to marry me from early on in the relationship. He was ready and willing as soon as I was ready. I felt overwhelmed by his certainty, because I was so uncertain and three steps behind him. It felt like I didn’t have a choice to say no or leave the relationship, it was just yes now or yes later. (I did work through all that eventually, and knew it was “yes later” :) All these scary questions came up during the flight, like, am I thinking I’m ready for marriage just to please him or am I really ready myself? Is this too fast? How do I know for sure that this is exactly what I want? And the list goes on and on.

    His proposal was romantic, but it was at the end of our very first day in Italy we were totally jet lagged and just about to fall asleep after a long long day. He surprised me with the ring as we were getting ready for bed. A beautiful, exciting but exhausting day. I was surprised and scared because I didn’t feel the earth move, or fireworks, or whatever it was I was expecting. But I did know that my whole heart wanted to say yes, so I trusted myself and that’s what I said. Then the most wonderful and unexpected part was that we had a whole ten days, just the two of us, to bask in the engagement in a beautiful country, with good food and great wine. It felt like us, and I was happy in my own way. Not jumping up and down screaming excited, but it was totally me and I was totally content with that.

  • Emily Elizabeth

    Thank you for your story Christina, and this is (obviously!) something it seems we all have the need to talk about. I also really don’t like the “so how did he propose!” requests, but they have declined rapidly now that we are married! Last winter my husband made a nice dinner, had some sweet music on, and there in the kitchen with our dog by our side, he did not propose – he asked me if we could start talking about getting married in the summer. There was his grandmother’s beautiful ring (which he’d hidden in the house for six months), but what I remember most about that night is being so happy, and sitting down together, and talking it out. What it would mean to us, what we thought would change with getting married, the whole deal. We also took a day before telling anyone (especially difficult when we went to a friend’s house that night), but that made it our secret, even for that short period of time. A part of me wishes I’d kept that secret for longer, because the rest of the engagement was a whirlwind of planning and pressure from my family (“If you’re getting married this summer, you need to book ______ NOW or else there will be no one left!!”), who wanted many things at the wedding that neither of us did. Engagements are apparently not as fun as we are told they will be, but the good news is, being married has been awesome so far!

  • Anonymous

    I was hungover when my husband proposed. He’d gone all out with a surprise trip to a nice bed-and-breakfast and planned to propose at a romantic dinner. Instead, I had 3 glasses of wine at the social hour, we went out with another couple and I proceeded to get really drunk (maybe I was nervous because I knew he was up to something). We stumbled home and I couldn’t stay awake in the jacuzzi. I was up all night and sick. In the morning, still in bed, he tried to slip the ring on my finger and it didn’t fit.

    I leave most of these details out when telling people how it happened.

    • Melissa

      Ha! I love it!

  • Chantelle

    What an awesome post, and that picture put a huge grin on my face the moment I saw it, because the smiles on your faces are infectious.
    Reading the previous comments I share a lot of the same feelings that many readers spoke about; expectation, leading to over processing during the moment and then the let down because you kinda missed it happening.
    So the unedited version:

    My FH is not an expressive type at all, so I ws looking forward to the proposal (read I demanded this like a spoiled child) with a huge gushy speech where he would pour his heart out. I had also asked for a puppy and not an engagement ring.

    I returned from a work trip to Spain and was told there was a surprise, I closed my eyes and felt a icy cold sensation on my face and automatically thought he was pulling a prank on me (yeah we regularly pull sh*t on each other, keeps us nimble), but opened my eyes to a cute squirmy, licky puppy…and then proceeded to freak out, repeatedly saying, “there’s a puppy here, OMG, there’s a puppy!” and looking at him waiting for him to propose. Finally, he barked at me to read the tag, where he had “will you marry me” engraved on the tag.

    Cue the part I’m ashamed off, I then had to twist his arm to actually ask me, because in my head I was still waiting for the mushy speech, and in his head, the tag said everything that was needed. I said yes, but I continued to be dissapointed that there was no outpouring of emotion.

    I’ve figured him out a lot more now (long engagement, going on 2 years…) and know that he basically becomes super awkward in situations that feel contrived or overly emotional and retreats. I actually was even more obnoxious and asked for a Do over.

    I’ve gotten over the whole thing (and myself!) and now see how ridiculous I was, because I had crafted this scenario in my head, and I’m learning fast that the moment I do that, the more chances there are that I will distance myself from what’s actually going on, and end up with a hollow sense of dissapointment later. It’s a lesson I’m keeping at the forefront when planning our wedding.

    Loving these stories :)

    • Erika Murdock

      I love that he got you a puppy (and you requested one). We were in Germany before we got engaged on vacay….and I suggested he buy me a BMW to drive on the autobahn (and then have shipped home) instead of a ring….needless to say that didn’t happen. But a puppy! Oh, how freakin’g cute…and you have the tag forever! LOVE IT!

  • peanut

    I think that the Proposal and being Engaged are slowly becoming distinct events in our modern culture. I never had a Proposal (and I am very happy about that fact), we just became Engaged one day and it was wonderful. It’s a bit confusing when I talk to women who are like “yeah, we are getting married, thinking about June of 2011….but we’re not engaged yet!” and I’m kinda like, yes you are engaged. You just haven’t gotten the Proposal. Which kind of then makes me angry because these strong, independent, modern women are left completely dependent on whenever the guy wants to drop down on one knee and all that. All I am saying is that you can totally be Engaged without a Proposal – and it can still be romantic and fantastic!

    • Haha, I just wrote below about how I didn’t realize I was engaged because there was no proposal until the end of our engagement. Yep, I was too stuck in my own narrow definition of what I thought my engagement experience would look like that I didn’t allow myself to really consider myself engaged. Or use the word “fiancé.” Oh well, you live and learn…. :)

    • Carreg

      I think that’s dead right. I hadn’t realised it was possible for a couple to have decided to get married, but not be engaged. And then when I realised in fact couples are in this position, I thought, well I guess that’s to avoid having people constantly nag them to plan a wedding when they not ready to sort out the practicalities yet even though they’re agreed on getting married in principle. It hadn’t occured to me that people are waiting for their boyfriends to propose even though the fact that marriage is definitely going to happen some time is a done deal. Thank goodness my other half didn’t try that one on me.

      I don’t mean to say it’s daft. OK, I do mean to say it’s daft, I _don’t_ mean to say any given people are daft — quite the reverse! I’m so glad Christina and everyone shared their stories of nonfairytale proposals. Thank heavens for the shame blaster!

      I asked him while I was putting his water bottle back in his rucksack for him. You know when you’re too lazy to take your rucksack off to get something out, so you turn around and allow a friend to rummage around, during which time you have to hold still and (this is the important bit) can’t run away without everything falling out of your bag? That’s the time to ask someone to make a decision, I feel. No, I don’t really feel it counts as a legit proposal story, except here.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        I think the official (Facebook approved!) title of “engaged” is commonly used to define the time you’re planning a wedding, not as the time you’re planning to be married. Husband and I were intending to be married to each other for about three years, but only considered ourselves engaged for 11 months. The eleven months between us purchasing a ring and getting married. It isn’t that we weren’t ‘engaged to be wed’ or ‘betrothed’, we just weren’t sharing those plans with the world or planning the wedding. I wasn’t the bride yet and he wasn’t the groom.

        After the emotional rollercoaster that was those 11 months, I wish we’d cut it down to 5. Being engaged is overrrated.

    • Abby C.

      Haha! I totally get this wierd sort-of limbo feeling! I’m Engaged, I Proposed, but we haven’t gotten a ring yet or announced it to the world so I really feel slightly inauthentic when I refer to him as my “fiance.” We’ve told my parents, and select friends (mostly by dropping hints to said friends) but we don’t want to make any formal announcements, buy a ring or start wedding planning until after we have had a chance to for me to meet his parents and break the news to them. They live overseas, so it’s a little more complicated and it’s probably going to be spring before we make it there.

      So yeah, it does feel odd to be in this sort of limbo.

    • BW

      Yes! We decided together as adults– no Proposal, no ring. Ladies I’ve talked to have been like, “NO WAY would I get married without a ring.” I explain that he got us a house, a new car, and bought me a kayak, and we talked about the pros and cons of marriage and decided that the pros outweighed the cons. They usually become silent at that point. Must take a lot of thinking when you realize that you’ve walked through a whole life thinking that something should go a certain way and it doesn’t actually have to be that way.

      I can’t say that we haven’t fallen for some of the socially accepted stuff. My partner has said that we aren’t technically engaged (long after the deposit was paid on our venue and photographer, etc) because he hadn’t Proposed. That kind of hurt my feelings.

      Because he didn’t Propose, every once in a whole I get very insecure about whether he really wants to be married to me. I freak out (usually in the middle of the night after a day when we had a hard time relating) and ask if he really, really wants to be with me. He tells me that he wants to be my husband and wants me to be his wife, and wants to raise children with me and grow old with me.

      And it’s still not perfect: I really want to have children and I want my partner to be their father. I have made some compromises that I don’t want to go into on a public forum, but I will say that they are very personal and still hurt to think about.

  • Christina, awesome story! And such a wonderful and necessary post. (That picture just kills me!)

    What brewery? (I’m a beer nerd…)

    We’re in the “we-decided-together-and-are-working-toward-wedding” phase, have the rings, and a few key people know. He finds it important to propose so most people don’t know and won’t know until after, when we’ll both wear our rings.

    Honestly? I don’t really look forward to everyone knowing. I really like that right now it’s private and cozy and we get to plan without society tearing things down or wanting to get involved. I want to have things planned before we announce. But I also don’t want to take it away from other people in our families.

  • this was so refreshing and liberating to read. i’ve been recasting my own engagement story as a fairytale for over a year now, emphasizing the romantic location and the element of surprise and the ring, all the while never telling anybody that as it was happening i was completely terrified. because, like christina, although i’d known for years that we’d probably get married, there were still big conversations we hadn’t had. we have religious differences so big that i couldn’t even picture what our wedding would look like or whether my family would accept it. i felt upset that he’d decided to propose before talking to me about these things and without approaching me father. and, of course, i felt deep shame over that and over the fact that i didn’t tell anybody about our engagement for at least a week. APW has long acknowledged the engagement period rarely feels the way it looks in movies and magazines; i’m glad to see that proposals are the same way.

  • Jenn

    This is a really interesting story, and even though I’ve been reading APW for a while, it’s the first one that has spurred me to actually reply. Thank you for sharing it.

    I had a pretty non-proposal proposal as well. The Mister had been away visiting his family on the other side of the state for the weekend, and he got back later in the evening on Sunday. We got into bed and were burrowing down for sleep, when he told me he’d been thinking in the car and decided that he thought he would like it if I married him. I told him I thought I would like it, too. That was it. For some people, that’s the start of a conversation about whether and when they should get married at some point in the future. For us, it was the actual “proposal,” and two days later, we started planning a wedding.

    In the interim, though, there were some tough conversations. Well, tough for me, anyway. He’s pretty easygoing and accommodating. When I woke up the next morning, I was excited and happy about knowing that he wanted to marry me, but I had some serious doubts about going through with it. Not because I didn’t love him or wasn’t ready. We’d been living together for a couple of years, had dated for a year before that, and were friends for eight years before starting a relationship. I know this man, I love this man, we were pretty well acting married anyway, might as well just sign that piece of paper. But I had decided for myself long before we were ever even thinking about marriage that I didn’t want to marry until it was legal for all of my friends and family to do so as well. And after last year’s debacle in my home state, it looks like marriage equality is a long way off. I was also concerned about my name, financial dependence (he makes twice what I do), having kids or not, and all sorts of other things about my identity as a woman and my independence.

    We talked about all of this, and more, and we worked it out before deciding to tell anyone about the engagement. And then we ran off and got officially hitched at City Hall a month later because decided we just wanted to BE MARRIED without all the pressure that comes with the process (even though we are still having a ceremony and reception with family and friends this January). But there was no engagement ring, no “story,” and it wasn’t quite what people imagine a proposal to be.

  • R-joy

    I’ve been following this blog since our engagement last summer (read: lurking) and this post has hit home more than any other. So much so I’m finding it hard to boil things down to a short comment.
    My future husband proposed to me while we were on a sunset sail boat ride with chamapgne and a boat full of passengers as witnesses. Sounds dreamy right? I was mortified. And initially panicked and started telling him not do it. Thankfully he was nervous and that part of things got lost in translation (the clapping and flashing of photos from on-lookers helped with that the general feeling of chaos and confusion. ack!) I did say yes. Though I have never expressed this to my partner, because it meant a lot to him to be able to surprise me and make such a romantic gesture, but I always wish that he had done it differently. I’m a much more private person and would rather have had the no-fuss private moment in my stained pj’s with our dog curled up between us on the couch. He also proposed with a “fake” ring that he had picked out a few days earlier when we thought we’d be planning a shot-gun wedding. ahem….turns out it was a false alarm. But evidently that experience made it very clear to him that this is what he wanted.

    Anyway, I shared so many of the experiences and feelings that have been talked about: the proposal, wishing it had been different, doubts about future husbands ability to follow through, dealing with reactions from family and friends, feeling uncomfortable telling people about our engagement. (SO UNCOMFORTABLE), future husband feeling bad and not understanding why I felt uncomfortable, the “fake” ring he asked with, picking out the “real” ring, and just generally not feeling like I thought I “should” or would feel about this whole thing.

    Oh and the questions! “How’s the planning?” “How did it happen?” “How did you meet?” and on and on… I know people are excited for me and trying to show their support, but I never expected to feel so uncomfortable having to explain myself or us or any of this.
    All I can say is that I’m so thankful to have found APW. Its been so wonderful to hear other women (and men) talking so candidly about everything involved with this huge transition. And such a relief to own those feelings and know that there’s nothing “wrong” with me for having felt that way! Thank you all!

    • Erika Murdock

      I couldn’t agree more. APW rocks for talking about all the stuff that doesn’t get said, written about, spoken of, done, or did. And I agree with the questions….ugh….I’m going to try my hardest not to ask them next time I meet an engaged woman….I even get embarrassed sharing my own engagement news, I actually don’t like the attention.

    • Jen

      “Though I have never expressed this to my partner, because it meant a lot to him to be able to surprise me and make such a romantic gesture, but I always wish that he had done it differently. I’m a much more private person and would rather have had the no-fuss private moment in my stained pj’s with our dog curled up between us on the couch.”

      I so feel you on this one. And the retelling just makes the private stuff public over and over again… Ugh.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      I feel you on this. Talking about our engagement – actually anything about our relationship – makes me really self-concious. I don’t know if it’s fear of not meeting people’s expectations or not feeling the “right” way about everything or what, but I hate it. I especially hate other people having opinions about it, even if they’re all positive. I always want to shout “NO! This is mine and his and you don’t get to think about it or imagine it or be happy or sad or envious or impressed about it!!”

      When it comes down to it that decision to get married, however it was made, whenever it happened is a BIG EFFING DEAL and it is BIG LIFE ALTERING SH*T to you and your partner. To every other person it’s an amusing anecdote. That disparity is guaranteed to make us feel weird so we should probably acknowledge that. Shame-blast it.

  • Ellen

    I always say, we got engaged gradually!

    Our official engagement “moment” was simply a discussion over dinner at a cute place, when we both realized we were on the same page and ready to get engaged. There was no official moment, no popping of any questions, and for about three months, no ring (until we visited his family and he gave me a family ring with my birthstone in it).

    It was a lot like the rest of our relationship — very natural, sweet, but not a lot of fussing!

  • I have enjoyed reading so many honest engagement stories and now realize these type of stories are probably more normal than what we all think is How Proposals Are Supposed To Go.

    For us, my now-husband was ready to commit to spend his life with me almost a year before I was ready. I knew this and told him multiple times that he was not allowed to propose until I told him I was also ready. So, when I was (finally!) ready to go to the next stage (after some extremely helpful meetings with an awesome marital counselor for our “pre-engagement counseling”), I told him that I was ready (on the way to get Thai takeout while standing at an intersection waiting for the “walk” sign.) So we started planning the wedding. He later said that he had considered us engaged at this point; I did not because I was too stuck in the traditional narrative. We talked about rings and he ordered a ring to be made for me. We began making plans. He even told me when he picked up the ring, but no proposal came. So I waited and we kept planning.

    On the Wednesday before our Saturday wedding (yes, you read that right), he officially proposed. It was an amazing, fun proposal (with friends, walkie-talkies, and a secret ready signal from him!) BUT its atypical, chronologically challenged timing didn’t fit my idea of the “right” process of marking the transition from dating to engagement to marriage and I had a hard time with that. If I had it to do over again with what I have learned from that process and since then from the APW community, I would have taken ownership of our actual experience and tried to enjoyed it for what it was in reality. You live and learn, I guess. Though one unexpectedly nice result of the official proposal being only days before the wedding was that it felt like a symbol of the end of wedding planning craziness and the beginning of the journey of marriage, which was kind of fabulous.

    • Erika Murdock

      Oh my gosh, you’re story made me tear up. How incredibly romantic to propose right before the wedding. I LOVE IT! I’d actually like to plan a return proposal for my man…this gave me a good idea.

  • Erika Murdock

    LOVE this story. Go you and your man for just embracing all of it. And I concurry….you not saying yes right away, succumbing to the pressure of the fairytale-ness, GO YOU! You got to say what you wanted, talk about something you both need to fix, and in the end, had the best day (it sounds like) being you, a WE, a couple. I hope that the engagement period for both of you is an amazing time for growth and recommittment….and maybe some wedding/party planning. But most important…focus on what you’re good at while you fix it all….you’re together for a reason and you’re enagaged for a reason.

    On a personal note….our proposal itself was fairytale, but leading up to it wasn’t. For 3 years I tortured my poor man with wishy-washy messages….year 1 was honeymoon phase where I talked about marriage (what was love and lust) like it was my job, year 2 it sank in he was it and i was scared b/c my divorced parents, life, unknowns, etc, year 3 he was ready (he was probably ready in year 2 but I couldn’t hear him) and I was still scared….and FINALLY only a couple of months ago I got ready…on my 27th birthday, I proclaimed to him I was ready. He had gotten fed up at months before and just asked me to tell him when I was ready b/c he couldn’t figure it out. So he seized the moment and a week after turning 27 (which my brain somehow deemed an approriate age to get engaged), he proposed….I even said in the car ride to after dinner drinks “I’m ready. I wouldnt’ have been ready months before, but I’m ready now”….having absolutely NO idea what was about to happen. honestly. NO idea what was happening. And I’m glad I waited to be ready because when I said YES! (I actually said, “wait, are you SERIOUSLY asking me to MARRY you?”) I said YES with my whole soul….my heart and soul always knew, my brain just needed to catch up.

    So everyone goes through this, I think. Marriage is a big f-ing committment and its forever. Love to all of you who didn’t have a fairytale engagement moment….life isn’t an freakin’ disney fairytale….there are years ahead of you for those to happen and fall into place. :)

    • YES. It took my brain AGES to catch up too! I think that is why I kept telling him I wasn’t ready until I had dealt with all my fears. (Which basically meant coming to terms with the fact that there are always unknowns in life and then making the intentional decision to trust in our love and not live in fear of the “what ifs.”) But since he waited months after the point when I said I was ready (which was the very day I worked through this when it was still very new, like a baby taking those first wobbly steps…), by the time he actually proposed months later (right before the wedding), it was a deep-in-my-bones and sureness in my soul sense of being ready. And I am thankful for that. :)

      • memery

        oh my gosh, this: “Which basically meant coming to terms with the fact that there are always unknowns in life and then making the intentional decision to trust in our love and not live in fear of the “what ifs.””
        Yes. That. Exactly that. I’m doing this right now, and it is HARD.
        Being the nerd that I am, I’m comparing this to the moment in the last Harry Potter book when Harry finally just decides to ignore the unknowns and TRUST Dumbledore.

        • Good luck working through it. It IS hard. But important. Hang in there and the other side will be so worth it….

        • Alexandra

          HUGE thumbs-up for Harry Potter nerdiness! Love it. :D

  • Jen M

    so much love for this post. while I’m not yet engaged I know the feeling of shame when you’ve been complaining about your relationship woes for so long and then have some sort of cathartic event and your friends can’t understand how the hell everything is so peachy all of a sudden. I think that a lot of people confuse not having learned how to communicate perfectly with not being perfect for eachother. both parties just have to be willing to learn. congrats.

  • Roxanne

    I have one un-fairytale proposal and one psuedo un-fairytale proposal:

    1. On my 25th birthday, Zack, his mom, my siter and her husband and son went out for dinner. It was my first paycheck from my new job (after being SERIOUSLY broke), and I was expecting nothing, gift wise. So, we are all sitting down to dinner and he’s holding my hand under the table and slips a ring into my hand. My face turne white, then red – I thought he was propsing…in front of our families…I wa absolutely mortified. So I kept it under the table and didn’t say anything, and Zack was soooo upset because he thought I didn’t like my present. I was really only upset that (I thought) he was displaying a very private moment to the world. AND everyone was in on it. Turns out it was just an “I love you!” ring, and I wear it every day.

    2. Zack officially proposed to me in the car at a Whole Foods parking lot at 7:30am. No ring (still no ring, probably won’t get a ring until we get our wedding bands), nothing special, just blurted it out. I was like “REALLY? ”

    I don’t put out there that we are engaged (though pretty much everyone knows) because I don’t want to deal with everyone asking about my ring or the story and “OMGWEDDING!” because on some level I am embarrassed that there isn’t a romantic story or a sparkly ring to show off. But, really, that doesn’t matter at all, and I know I shouldn’t be ashamed. I get to marry the most awesome, wonderful, handsome man on the planet….and THAT is shout from the rooftops worthy.

    (I think I made myself kind of sound like a brat here…hmmm…)

  • I love this honest post & the honest comments about proposals. This is certainly not the stuff you read about in Martha Stewart Weddings!

    Our proposal was fairly romantic & perfect but I guess I’m the product of watching too many romantic comedies so I wondered if we’d fallen short. Every, every proposal story seems to include tears & neither of us cried. Then there’s the fact that we argued over how to get the ring on my finger. Was I supposed to open the ring box? Was he? Should he put the ring on my finger or should I do that? Now I don’t even remember how it played out. In the end, it was very us & just right. Now I’m learning every proposal is as unique as each couple which I love.

  • shelby4k

    Hi APW!
    So engagement stories — I love this! Ours was pretty great (on the rooftop of our NYC apt). But the funny part is how I almost ruined the entire thing that day.

    We had been together for 9 years and I never thought he would get it together to ask. So it’s labor day weekend. I get home from work early and decide to clean up the house. As I’m sorting through a pile of two year old magazines, out drop several brochures and engagement ring buying guide.

    I honestly thought nothing of it. I asked him where they came from and he turned beet red, was very confused and mumbled something about his mother forcing him to stop at Tiffanys “just to look” when she was in town a few years ago.
    Knowing his mother, that’s exactly the thing she would have done. She had been hard-core pressing us for years. I looked at the stack said “Well that’s dumb. Why would she take you there?” and promptly threw them in the trash.

    Worst timing ever. He had the ring in his pocket and little did I know he was going to ask that afternoon. He almost didn’t because he was so embarrassed and confused. But I totally had ignored the whole incident and went back to cleaning.

    Two hours later we were engaged. The funny thing was, those really were years-old brochures from his mother and I just happened to unearth them at the wrong time.

    And thank god he asked. Because being married to him is really the greatest.

  • Marchelle

    Perfect proposals my ass.

    Much too early on in our relationship, I first half-proposed to my husband and got shot down. ‘One day… Not yet.’

    Then, when talk of lives lived together had been aired for some time, he planned a romantic getaway that was meant to be a proposal, but forgot to bring the ring, so didn’t ask. I had no idea, because it was also his birthday, which I thought was the whole point of the trip.

    Cut to FOUR MONTHS later. It’s between Christmas and New Year, can’t remember exactly when. I’m pissed and envious as hell cause I just spent Christmas working night shifts, while he’s just got back from a lovely time with his family. I’m stressed as hell cause the UK Home Office has just issued new immigration rules which essentially mean I’ll have to leave the country within the next year unless a miracle happens. In my infinite tired & irritable wisdom, I basically pick a fight with him in which I accuse him of not really loving me enough, or being committed enough to care about our future together, and possibly also rant about opportunities I gave up to stay in the UK with him, and all for nothing. He then (only slightly ragefully, to his credit), pulls a small box out of his backpack, and thrusts it at me, saying essentially (I forget exactly, I didn’t know what was coming at me), of course I want to be with you, you stupid cow, I was just waiting for the right moment to ask, but fine, have it now, will you bloody well just marry me. I open the box, and in it is an exquisite ring.

    I’ve never been so effectively silenced, before or since.

    I cried A LOT that night, and didn’t quite say yes. Angry he didn’t propose before. Guilty that I’d forced him into marrying me for visa purposes. (Clearly not, since he’d had the ring about 6 months, and had been working on the design for months before that, long before any Home Office mess had happened, but I was not especially logical that night.) ASHAMED of how the whole thing had panned out. He tried to take the proposal back so he could ‘ask me properly’ later that week, and we eventually went to bed exhausted, ring still in box. The next morning though, I decided I didn’t need a pretty proposal, life was messy, marriage would sometimes would be really messy, and the ring was so f*cking beautiful, I wanted to wear it NOW, and had I lost my mind, I’d known I wanted to grow old with this man since about two weeks into our relationship, so OF COURSE I’LL MARRY YOU.

    Suffice to say we’re living our happy ending. (Even though that engagement ring was then lost a couple months later, and the one I wear is a replica I subsequently bought, because I so loved his design. But it clearly had bad juju, that original ring.) But the story of our proposal was heavily edited for general consumption. Shame is hard to shake sometimes.

    • Morgan

      That is, I think, the first story today that made me tear up. I love your voice.

    • hey, hey! me too! it wasn’t just the health insurance, it was also because he’s Scottish and I knew he might get a job back in the UK, and I wanted us to be good and married before that happened.

      We’re married. He got a job back in the UK. He’s there, and I am here….. waiting…..for my visa…… it has been months, and there is no one who can tell me wtf is going on. it is driving me crazy.

      Really nothing is more romantic than waiting for government bureaucracies to allow you to be with the one you love, don’t you think? grrrrrrrrrrrrr.

      • Lauren MC, I know! Thankfully we are together right now, but we are also waiting on a government to decide our right to live in the same country too. Does quite a number on your emotions to be so out of control of it all….ugh.

      • anon37

        We are, too. Except we’re not waiting, I overstayed my visa in his country to be with him & my status has been “irregular” for 4 of the 5 years we’ve been together. Now that we’re married (honestly: in part to aid immigration in various different countries, since we had already promised to be together forever without the jewelry), we’re working on getting him permission for legal permanent residence in my country & I can finally apply to be legal here. I really don’t like being illegal, but before we were married I didn’t have any other options for living in the same place as him.

        Most people think that marriage = instant legal status anywhere, but as you guys know, it’s SO much more complicated than that (like, $4000 and a year’s wait more complicated). I very much believe that if you can prove that it’s a real marriage (not just for papers) you should be granted immediate residency. It’s not really ok for governments to separate families, no matter how recently-formed they may be!

        Glad it’s worked out for you already, Lauren & agirl. We’re on our way, too (just got phase 1 of his approved & must wait 40 days to see if mine comes through). Jenny, I think you’ve nailed it with the not being in control! Good luck!

  • ann

    “I feel pretty brave that I didn’t say yes right away.”

    You feel brave because you ARE brave. So good! Your story totally indicates that you understood the magnitude of your decision in context of your relationship, weighed it, and said yes anyway…no reason to feel embarrassed when announcing it to your friends. You obviously do, in fact, have your head screwed on straight.


  • Anon-a-mouse

    My now husband proposed to me at a rave, when we both may or may not have been under the influence of mind-altering substances. Fairytale it was not, but full of emotion and honesty it definitely was. And it worked for us. The hard part was when family and some of our more conservative friends asked about the proposal.

  • Amy

    Something very similar happened to me and my husband. He came home from a war zone and proposed. I wasn’t ready, and I didn’t feel like I could say no (I mean, he was going back to A WAR ZONE), but I didn’t feel like I should say yes, and I panicked and got upset about a little detail (the fact that he wanted to go look at diamonds together, when I don’t like diamonds, and how could he possibly love me and KNOW me if he didn’t know that little detail). He even did it the way I wanted – quietly, with no fanfare, no fancy dinner, no ring, just a lovely, sweet discussion about how much I mean to him and how he couldn’t imagine spending the rest of his life without me.We got in a terrible fight, I walked around the block about ten zillion times and called my mother, crying. She reminded me that I had been talking about marrying him for years already, and that I had already, in talking about it and planning for it, already said yes, in my mind and in my heart, just not traditionally. We made up, decided to shelve the ring shopping until he was home for good, and agreed that we wouldn’t even start planning a wedding until it felt right for both of us. And now we’re married (which is a whole other dramatic, crazy story), and in a good place in our relationship, so it all worked out in the end. Even so, I still feel guilty about ruining my husband’s sweet, thoughtful proposal, for dictating the terms of how he did it and essentially “ruining” his proposal.

    • B

      A few people have mentioned their guilt about “ruining” their partner’s proposal but it’s a bit hard to get it right when you have to respond then and there (usually!) to something they get to plan and initiate. I’m usually the planner in our relationship so it was a little hard to let The Boy have free rein over something this big!! We’d been talking about getting engaged for ages and I kind of guessed it was coming so had to bite my tongue so as not to “ruin” his proposal (I knew I’d never live it down if I did because I totally ruined his asking me out in the first place which was a big deal for him!). Sorry, I know I’m rambling – just a thought that given the magnitude of the decision and the frequent lack of time to plan or talk it through, maybe we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves for responding slightly differently from how we “should”! :)

  • Tracy

    As with so many things wedding related, generally the proposal is thought of as something for the woman, right? As with so many things I’m realizing now that I’m officially engaged and planning a wedding, my fiance has real feelings about the way these things reflect on him. He put an enormous amount of energy into his proposal, and it’s a great story, and all our friends are impressed. Was it really for me, was it really what mattered to me…I feel bad saying it, but no, not really. It was a grand, public surprise and he got down on one knee and formally asked. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the tradition of being asked, period (we had already discussed it and decided that we knew we wanted to get married, which felt nice and egalitarian to me), I didn’t want to be so surprised since it rendered me utterly incapable of feeling anything, and because it was so public it was hard for what he said to feel intimate. I hear what Meg and so many people are saying that this is an opportunity to communicate, but how can I complain about something that I know was from his heart? The conclusion I’m coming to is that the proposal was for him, really, not for me. And that’s ok, because he needed it much more than I did. I’m just happy to be officially able to tell people we’re getting married and to be moving forward.

  • Thank you for sharing this, Christina. Like any other girl who’s planned their weddings since grade school (I did after attending my aunt’s fairy-tale like wedding), getting the un-fairytale proposal could be saw depressing. My husband and I were going out for a few years already and we were talking about getting married. In the midst of a normal dinner at home, my husband raised the question again and well, I was expecting a ring at least…Still and all, what followed after getting married is the fairy tale. Sometimes, we all get to a shaky start but when we get going, the fun starts happening. ;)

  • Lindsay

    Thanks for this post Christina. Only hearing the fairytale proposals has made me feel shame about mine, but I’ve always been suspicious that there had to be other un-fairytale stories out there.
    My FH and I had been talking about marriage for about a year. This time consisted of a lot of arguments over why I wasn’t ready. (Only once did I include this detail in the proposal story because I found out afterward that FH feels ashamed that I had “turned him down” the first time). I eventually decided that I was ready, we picked a ring out together, and he managed to make the purchase in secret so I didn’t know for sure. We were both busy with school/work and spent a lot of time apart that summer, so when fall rolled around I had a feeling the proposal was coming. It was a Saturday afternoon and we decided to have a quick tussle between the sheets before going out. He followed me to the bedroom, undid my shorts from behind, and when I turned around he was on his knee with the little box. So I’m standing there with my ugliest brown plaid grandpa golf shorts down around my ankles and I instantly start crying from disappointment. I’m pretty sure I said “you’re doing this now?” That must have been horrible for him to hear. But all I could think about was how I certainly couldn’t tell my parents this story, and probably no one else either. I had never imagined some glorious proposal, but I was let down anyway. I am ashamed that this was how I reacted, especially since I was so excited to be making this commitment with him. FH is also embarrassed about how it happened and says he doesn’t know why he picked that moment other than he had been carrying the ring around all morning and was in some sort of black out from nerves (which I find damn romantic). This happened over a year ago and now we are able to joke about it some. I have realized that this proposal story highlights some of my imperfections pretty clearly, which probably adds to the shame that comes with repeating it to others. I think eventually we’ll be able to tell close friends because it is actually pretty funny, but certain audiences will always get the edited version.

  • I was one of those almost-pukers… glad to hear (again) that there’s a club.

    And this:
    “I was on a roller coaster of feeling happy and excited and then completely terrified and irritated.” … Just speaking from my own experience, this doesn’t end with the wedding. I mean, it changes–maybe it’s more like a kiddie coaster most of the time– but it’s still there. For me, anyways. I think you have to decide every day that you want to be married to someone. And somedays that decision is easier than others.

  • Hannah

    First time poster – been lurking for a few months but felt like sharing our less-than-fairytale proposal story.

    Since we got together, things have not been easy with my folks, mainly my Mum. We got together in France where we were both working, and this was all fine until he and I ended up coming home early, to the UK, him living with my folks…I kinda didn’t ask, just assumed this was OK. Big mistake, I’ve apologised since. But ever since, Mum’s never seen eye to eye with him and has on occasion said some really hurtful things. Anyway, fast forward to last June, we’ve moved into a flat together, got past the 1 year mark, had talked lots about getting married at some point, and he is looking for work. And according to my Mum not doing enough, so that was stressing us all out, her nagging at me every time we spoke. I’ve come to understand since that she doesn’t mean to hurt me and this is just how she is. But anyway I’d been on the phone to yet more negative comments about him which she always passed through me and never spoke to him directly and got off the phone feeling drained and upset. He could tell, and came and sat next to me on the foot of the bed, hugging me. I told him what she’d said, and had a long discussion about everything she’d been nagging about. Which led into talking about the future, things will get better etc. And out of nowhere, he got up and knelt at the end of the bed in front of me, said he loved me and wanted to spend the rest of his life with me (etc etc I sadly don’t remember the exact words probably because I was in shock!) and I threw myself on him and said YES! So far so good.

    My Mum’s reaction, however when we went round to tell them, was that she didn’t feel she could say congratulations because (basically) he had no job and wasn’t ‘doing enough’.. HELLO… recession + no jobs + he was applying to LOTS + anyway couldn’t you even pretend to be happy for me? And apparently it was a bombshell – well yeah maybe but its GOOD news, not like we said we were running off to get married the next day or anything, to us it was simply a promise of commitment, this man wants to marry me and I want to marry him, I have found my future husband, how is this not a good thing?!? My Dad, bless him, said well as long as your happy, that’s all he wanted. So after the two opposite reactions I was all teary, hugged my Dad and left.

    It has got better since, and Mum’s apologised, but it was not easy telling people, like my colleagues – they’re all squealing away and beaming and in my head I’m thinking, why could my Mum not even show a fraction of this? And compared to his family’s reaction (I could hear his Gran on the phone from half way across the room) it was pretty depressing.

    Am realising that ‘proposal reactions’ could well be a whole other post. But, I do love that it wasn’t fairytale though, the actual proposal, I love that I was at a real low point and he just spontaneously decided that ‘why not now’ he’d do it. And (corniness alert) I am happy no matter what Mum thinks, cos I have the absolute best guy I could imagine, and I know we’ll have a long happy marriage. So, next issue is bringing up wedding talk and hoping it doesn’t spark her off again (he’s working now though so should help matters!)

    Sorry for long post I needed to get all that out. Loving APW bigtime, you guys rock.

  • Michelle

    My proposal was originally one I was embarrassed to talk about to my friends and family when I started to “make the calls”.

    It was a Sunday and we had been out of bed for about an hour, but were still in our PJs (as in he was in boxers and I looked a mess) At the time we were thinking about buying a house and were talking about how we would decorate it when I blurted out “You know you should just propose already because you know I am going to say yes, I mean I am planning on buying a house with you!” I then told him I knew he wouldn’t do it anyways because he didn’t have the ring.

    I should state that about four months before the proposal I had given him my great-grandmother’s wedding ring to be resized for my engagement ring. He is also a bit of a procrastinator and generally won’t do things without a few reminders so I honestly thought the ring was still three sizes too small in a drawer somewhere.

    Well he got up, walked into the dining room, and pulled down the box from on top of our coo coo clock and I sat there dumbstruck and feeling a little silly for the teasing. Then he proposed and I said yes all the while laughing and thinking about the fact that he was proposing in his boxers and I hadn’t even brushed my hair. As we were hugging and talking who we should call first my dog threw up in the hallway. So my first act with that ring on my hand was to clean up dog barf. =)

  • I know we are getting engaged. How do I know? We have a venue booked. But shhhh! It’s a secret! I am told that it will be this month. OMG! This month! I know I want to marry him. But I am nervous about getting engaged! I know he wants me to be over the moon thrilled and he wants me to love the ring and show it off and brag to my friends. But with our busy lives, when will this happen in a romantic way? I want to be over the moon thrilled too. I want to live up to his and my expectations and I’m nervous that I won’t.

    Thanks for sharing that it is alright if it’s not ideal. Thanks for sharing that you can fudge the story.

    Also, my mom made my dad wait 2 weeks for an answer! Apparently, before he proposed, they had never discussed it. Weird.

  • gosh i love this story. i think i had a perfect engagement story for me and my fiance but it wasn’t exactly typical. yay for getting engaged in pubs (we did too)!

  • Emily

    I didn’t have a fairytale proposal story either and you know what? I’m married. I’m happy. So what?

    Cheers to you for not saying yes when it didn’t feel right! (And saying it when it did.)

  • Eat Broccoli

    All these stories are making me wonder about how heavily “edited” the engagement stories you hear from friends, family and in the media are!
    Why do we feel the need to edit? Why do people even care how you became engaged? Real life happens, your not always dressed your best or feeling your best maybe you ugly cry ( from happiness or confusion). Maybe if we stopped editing our proposal stories we could start a revolution! to Debunk the perfect proposal myth!

    • I suspect that there are MANY edited versions.

      • …of many big-life-event happenings…

  • Melissa

    My proposal was beautiful to me, but it’s not the kind of story that everyone wants to hear. He proposed in bed, so automatically I get people thinking that we were pre-post-or currently-coital. Um, no, we were watching some geeky scifi show on his computer and I’d just gotten back from brushing my teeth. “OMG, OMG, what did he say,” everyone would squeal. Seriously, everyone: my mom, my friends, my co-worker, the dress consultant and even the woman with whom I was setting up a hotel room block. So, yeah, he said some pretty serious, amazing, beautiful, weepy and PERSONAL things. I’m so over everyone thinking they are entitled to the proposal story.

    You know what, skywriting and diamonds in champagne glasses are over-rated. I love your onion rings stereotypical engagement picture without the ring!

  • I don’t have an engagement story yet, but my parents’ isn’t of the “grand romantic gesture” variety. After talking on the phone for four months, my dad came out to visit my mom at college. While they were eating dinner (spaghetti) in a house with no furniture, my dad proposed. He didn’t have a ring because our religion frowns on jewelry (which my mom now doesn’t care about and wishes she had a ring). I don’t even think he got on one knee. And then my mom made him wait for an answer for three days! He sent her roses and she finally said yes.

    It’s not perfect, or grandly romantic, but when they tell it, there’s no shame or regret (well except for Mom wanting a ring). Just a happy sparkle in their eye. I hope that, thirty years from now, no matter what my story ends up being, I’ll tell it with the same fond joy.

  • Melissa

    Hmm… maybe I proposed first if “I’m going to take you to Vegas and get you drunk and marry you” and him replying, “Why do you think you’d have to get me drunk” counts. Several months later, he asked me with a ring that I had picked out. But his reply just 4 or so months into dating was when I knew I wanted to marry him.

  • Trudi

    In college I had a professor who randomly spoke about proposals and diamonds. I think he was venting about his 3 divorces. He mentioned that a lot of people seek to have an egalitarian relationship today, yet we still continue to romanticize the “guy on one knee” story. He questioned why does the guy/partner have to be on his knee making himself smaller than the other person. He also explained the diamond business – DeBeers owns the majority of the world’s diamonds and therefore has the ability to keep diamonds highly overpriced. If they were to open their vaults, diamonds would be worth just a quarter. It was food for thought for me.

    So, I said to myself: “Not me, no, I’ll be different!”

    Of course, my fiance got on his knee in Bryant Park, NYC and handed me a diamond. Ha.

    My point is proposals don’t have to fit into any norm or expectation. A proposal is someone making this giant step asking you to stick around them for you know, life. Ring, no ring, partner on knee, on back, on face – WHATEVER, all that matters is you’ll be together for a long time.

    Congratulations, Christina!

  • Thank you, Christina. I needed this so much today.

    I swear to God, APW is the cheapest therapy I’ve ever experienced.

  • We were in a good place in our relationship when he proposed (albeit only 3 months into it!), but we did not have the fairytale proposal either. We were in our PJs and he had to put “our song” on his laptop to drown out my roommate scratching on his turntables and smoking pot downstairs. ;)

    Thanks for sharing your honest, real story. So much better than the Cinderella stuff, anyway. In the end, as you said, you’re with the person you should be with and you chose to be with and that in itself is enough for a joyful shout-it-into-the-night-sky moment. :)

  • Amy

    I can totally relate to telling people about your proposal and seeing the “oh” looks on their faces! The long story is way better than the “we got engaged in my parents’ living room and I was wearing pajamas”.

    We had been together for 5 years, living together for 3. We always knew we would get married but things were just dragging on, and I felt like this was one thing I was leaving up to him so I never nagged.

    I spent Christmas day at my parents house with plans to see him on the 26th. Christmas night, I SOBBED myself to sleep, thinking it was never going to happen and I was going to have to really figure some things out in my life. Suddenly, I remembered that he had gone Christmas shopping with his brother a few days earlier and was able to sleep.

    The 26th comes, he shows up with big wrapped box that just sounded like a toaster oven… surprise- IT WAS! I nearly burst into tears right then. We then decided to go out to dinner and once in the car, he decided he needed to go back into the house (at this point, he apparently flashed a ring to my parents, told them he was taking care of it later and ran back out the door) I was in the car, getting more depressed by the moment. I was grumpy until we got to the restaurant when I decided to pull myself out of my funk and enjoy our night.
    Back to the house, we are watching tv, with MY PARENTS (who did a very good job of keeping quiet) and he keeps going upstairs for more water, finally after about 3 water glasses, I follow him up and sit on the couch with him. I was in pajamas. He was freaking out, like literally his poor heart was literally pounding and I was beginning to think he was actually sick… finally he grabs the box, gets down on one knee and says “I should have done this a long time ago, but will you marry me?”

    We’ve been married for 11 days. Our proposal story is part of our history. I love it.

  • I LOVE this post. The days after my engagement I laid in bed, so totally overwhelmed, I felt like a deluge of life had just smacked me down. I knew I was going to be with my FH forever, but like I always say, planning a wedding with divorced families (mine) is like negotiating a hostage crisis! Oy!

    My engagement was so very us, and not very fairy-tale-ish, and we do (strike that, I DO) edit it at times. We knew we were going to end up together, and one day FH left for work and calmly said, “Why don’t you look at rings and let me know what you like?” Which I apparently mistook as him saying, “Plan the entire wedding ASAP.” We went to look at rings, and saw that Zales was having a restyling event on August 20th where we could make our own ring. We loved that idea…but I still wanted a surprise proposal. We counted down to “Ring Day” and went to design the ring…which we did, then we went to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner, picked up the ring…and wandered into the parking lot totally lost and excited and giddy. I knew I couldn’t wait to be engaged. Knowing the ring would be in our home and not on my finger would have driven me nuts. I told him that as long as he was comfortable with it, I wouldn’d mind giving up the “surprise.” So, we decided to go get coffee and calm down a bit. He drove us right into the parking spot that he parked in on our first date (and we had hung out in his car on the date), and he told me all the most beautiful things, then stopped to stare at me and smile, and I go, “You KNOW, you’re SUPPOSED TO ASK ME” like an idiot. Luckily he knows me well enough and laughed and said he did know that…ha. Anyway, we got engaged in a car! And as his grandmother puts it, every time she hears the story, “I don’t believe it was the front seat!” :) Great post. It is SO nice to feel that I’m wasn’t crazy for feeling depressed after getting engaged! Love this website.

    • Lainey

      Our engagement was somewhat similar. We had been talking about getting married for some time. We were planning a trip to the area where we’d talked about getting married. He mentioned that it would be a good idea to look at some wedding venues while we were there. Like Olivia, I took this as, “O.k., let’s plan a wedding!”

      I waited on a proposal for a few months, and though we talked about marriage and planning our wedding constantly, it never came. I was getting a lot of pressure from friends to the effect of, “He needs to put a ring on it.” It’s not something I’m proud of, but it very much affected me.

      Finally, one night a couple of weeks before our trip, we went to his parents’ house for dinner. They asked what we would be doing on our trip, and he changed the subject. In the car on the way home, we got into a heated discussion. It just felt like crap to be looking at wedding venues and not able to share this information with his family because we weren’t officially engaged.

      After several hours of discussion, we had a much better understanding of each other’s feelings and motivations. In his quest to save for the “perfect” ring and plan a romantic surprise proposal, he hadn’t taken into consideration the emotional roller coaster I was going through in waiting for the proposal. On the other hand, I hadn’t taken into consideration that he was dealing with his side of the emotional equation is regards to society’s pressures for men in proposing.

      We ended up going ring shopping the next day for a simple ring that fit within our means. Once I found a ring I loved, I ended up just wearing it out of the store. We “proposed” to each other in the car on the way home.

      When we got home, we decided it would be funny to take photos of our dog with the ring box, “proposing.” Somehow, this turned into my proposal story for extended family and acquaintances. It was just easier. Like the woman in the original article, I experienced the same set of guilt in a somewhat fabricated proposal story. Friends who heard about the real proposal story were so unimpressed, even to the point of seeming disappointed. My fiance’s guy friends have been even worse, giving him tons of grief for the lack of a formal proposal.

      I know I’m not doing any good by contributing to the false narrative of what a proposal should be. In speaking to my fiance in the months since, I realize that I wouldn’t have our engagement any other way – shouldn’t that be enough? As of today, I am vowing to tell everyone the real, beautiful story behind our engagement. Reading all of your stories has inspired me to do just that, and stand up to the haters. Thank you all!

      • “Once I found a ring I loved, I ended up just wearing it out of the store. We “proposed” to each other in the car on the way home.”

        Ha! That was so us. Even though we TOLD them at the store that he wasn’t planning on asking me that night, they (for size reasons, which looking back makes no sense ’cause the band was sized before) made me try it on, I didn’t wanna take it off! I did though, but twenty minutes later it was back on!

        And yes, because I took the “look at rings” to mean “plan the wedding,” my mother and I started planning everything out but I didnt’ want to tell FH because he hadn’t actually asked me yet…oh, the things that go through our heads!

  • Nicole

    Love Love Love this post! My proposal was amazing, but not in any kind of “traditional” fairy tale kind of way. My fiance and I have been dating for 10 years, and I wasn’t sure that this wedding was ever going to happen. For a really long time, he’d been saying that if we did get married, we’d do it standing in a blow up pool with a palm tree, and so that’s what I got. That, and a ring pop! Which I of course immediately ate. We eventually went and got a non-candy ring too.

    It wasn’t anything that people ever gush over, but it was perfect for us, and meant alot to both of us. Plus now I have a blow up pool in my Brooklyn apartment. Who doesn’t love that!

    • Nicole

      Oh, and he asked me to take out the trash before he did all this.

  • Yes, yes, yes.

    I didn’t have a dramatic proposal, in a bad way, or in a good way. I had a not planned proposal, where we found a ring that I loved in an estate store, and I tried it on, and he bought it, and then we went “so….wait. Are we engaged now? for real?” and didn’t really react until afterwards, when we went for a walk and sat by the ocean (lucky us away in California) and after like 20 minutes decided to call our parents.

    I think it was perfect, I would have died if there had been a big moment! But I get tired of the look I get from people when they ask for the proposal story and there isn’t one.

  • Jo

    Just adding a late two cents to say, this totally made me tear up. I don’t know if it’s because of your extreme honesty, or bravery, or what. But, you’re awesome. Good for you for waiting to say yes when it was right. :)

  • Kee

    I love this story because I think we need to start admitting that things aren’t perfect and hollywood-ish in our lives. This doesn’t just concern proposals and weddings, but our entire lives. We seem to work so hard of putting up this facade of pure happiness and perfect lives and relationships. It’s even difficult to admit to our closest friends that it’s not perfect, we have doubts and we feel disappointed in ourselves/others.

    I like to read these stories because it makes me feel less alone, less screwed up, when all I see is perfectly put together people that seems so content with how their lives are playing out. I read blogs or see facebook profiles where people carefully show photos and stories of themselves and puts anything that doesn’t fit the image out of sight. In an era where internet is so often used for only blasting and advertising edited versions of fun stuff or awesome moments, it’s always comforting to know that others too have not-so-great moments that don’t make it to a facebook status…

  • anon

    On the other side of things, I have a friend who got a completely perfect fairytale proposal… in the midst of a kind of sucky relationship, which has turned into a kind of sucky marriage.

    I think part of the myth of the perfect proposal is that if the proposal is perfect, your marriage will be perfect. Same with weddings too, actually. But that’s really just not the case.

  • The engagement story we can’t tell our families:

    I knew he was planning something. My birthday was coming up, but it didn’t have “surprise birthday party” written all over it, so I started thinking that maybe he was going to propose. We’ve always been very open and frank about marriage. We wanted to get married since shortly after we got together and realized what a perfect match we were for each other. We had talked about getting engaged a million times. It was just a matter of time. I asked my best friends what he was up to, they were no help. I started to get sulky. He has a hard time keeping secrets from me even when I’m not being a total brat about it, so it was only a matter of time before he cracked and admitted that he was planning on proposing to me on my birthday. And then he just let me sweat it out. For nearly a month.

    One morning we were curled up in bed at a truly alarming hour of the morning (it must have been just after 6), and we were completely butt-nekkid because very late at night and very early in the morning are the only times we feel comfortable being intimate in either of our houses, since we live with our respective parents (awkward TMI, but it adds that extra layer of embarrassing to the story, that we were immediately post-coitus), and the topic of him proposing came up again. I asked if he was really going to make me wait, as I had a million times, and he said yes, with a bratty little smirk. I told him he didn’t need to wait for a special occasion or an audience, and he said “Really?” as if it had never, ever crossed his mind that the only people who needed to be there were the two of us. I said of course, and he said “well then, will you marry me?” I responded with “SERIOUSLY?! YOU’RE SERIOUSLY ASKING ME NOW? I’M NOT WEARING PANTS.” And he said yes, he was serious. And I told him “No. …(pause)… I mean, Yes.” And then burst into tears. And then told him that I needed to find some goddamn pants and a hairbrush so that I could go wake up my mom to tell her. I was naked. I had morning breath and terrible bed hair. He didn’t care. He told me I was beautiful and kissed me anyway. There was no ring. He wanted to make sure I picked something I liked, and we needed to be able to afford it, so we waited to pick one together.

    I usually just leave it at “We were curled up in bed and he asked.” It’s just simpler that way.

    I didn’t get a proper proposal when I got my ring, either. We had gone to a friend who is a jeweler and picked a vintage setting with a 1 carat black diamond. Simple, very classic and unique, and a reasonable price. We were still going to have to make payments on it, but having gone to a friend we knew our setting and stone would be available and not get sold out from under us, and that we could take our time to pay it, since I’m still out of work and he literally just started a new job. Less than an hour after giving our friend the money for the diamond to have the work started on the ring, which he told me would take at least 3 weeks, my fiance started playing with the placeholder ring he had given me. He started tugging it off my finger, commenting on how clunky it is. I said I liked it, he said I was cute, but that I would probably like this more, and just casually pulled the ring out of his pocket. No box, nothing, just “here’s the ring” and then grinned at me like a jerk while I blubbered and stuttered and tried to wrap my brain around how the ring had magically ended up in his pocket. He had been scheming with our jeweler friend, who slipped him the ring while I wasn’t looking earlier in the evening.

    At first, under the elation, I felt a lot of guilt and disappointment. I love my fiance, but I had obligated him to tell me he was going to propose and I started to worry that I had shoved him into it before he was ready, that I had made him do something he wasn’t prepared to do, because I’m so nosy and pushy. He maintained his zen composure while I had about a million little panic attacks that he was going to realize what an asshole I am, that he was going to decide I was more trouble than I was worth if I couldn’t even let him propose the way he wanted, and eventually he told me that he was happy with the way things went. It was much truer to “us” than any public proposal would have been. Neither of us likes to be the center of attention. It was best done in private. He would have liked it if my daughter (and therefore more clothing) had been present, but that the way it happened was perfect and he had no regrets. After thinking about it and listening to his logic, I agreed.

    And there you go. People get a little confused and seem let down when I tell them that we were just curled up in bed one morning. I don’t care what they think anymore.

    • MJ

      Truly. That is the most perfect proposal for the two of you. I couldn’t imagine the two of you making it a big production. And I couldn’t be happier for two of the most amazing people (re)finding each other.


    • Jen

      Like MJ, I think your proposal was perfect for the two of you. Making spectacles of yourselves just isn’t what you guys do. I’m so happy that you’re engaged and planning your wedding! :)

  • Brandy

    Love this post…it’s amazing how easily we can get caught up in the expectations of others and feel ashamed of our reality. I had a perfectly imperfect proposal too, that I wouldn’t trade for the world. My FH travels quite a bit and when he was in Hong Kong in May, I received a drunken Blackberry Message proclaiming that I was the love of his life. We joked that there was really nowhere to go after proclaiming that sort of thing, but that he had to try to up the ante on his next trip. Not to disappoint…while he was there again in October I received this…

    D: Will you marry me mama?
    Brandy: Yes, nothing would make me happier than to be your wife.
    D: Done!
    D: Yes I asked you officially on text.
    Brandy: Lmao…you’re so cute.
    Brandy: Officially on text while drunk 7000 miles away and a day ahead.
    D: Yeppers!
    Brandy: Are you serious?
    D: Yes.
    Brandy: You’re seriously asking me to marry you. Like fo schizzle?
    D: Yep.
    D: Text is a good story from Hong Kong.
    Brandy: Can we leave out the part where you’re drunk?
    Brandy: :P
    D: Absolutely.

    He followed it up by asking me an hour later via web cam chat and I celebrated that night at dinner with our best friends, instead of him. With all of his travel, we’re constantly connected through our Blackberries, so I can’t think of a more appropriate and genuine way for our proposal to happen. <3

    • OMG I love this story :)

    • Alexandra

      Awww, love it! My man & I got engaged on the phone, while we were on trips apart, and had a few days before we were home again, so I got to celebrate with my mom for a few days. ;D

  • Oh Christina! Thank you. For your bravery. Your candid words. Your strength and your pragmatism. THIS is a great and TRUE story. The kind that real life is truly made of and it’s beautiful in that way.

    My BFF who introduced me to APW had a not quite the proposal she or her fiance intended and I think she feels the same sense of shame when she tells the story. But that’s the beautiful thing about APW. Bucking the hell out of what you’re “supposed” to experience and rocking what we’ve got.

    Love this community!

  • um, that photo is awesome. full-awesome.

  • K

    Being honest with your partner isn’t always the “nice” thing to do or the “fairytale” thing to do, but I think it serves the relationship better in the long run.
    So glad to hear the true unabridged version — your story makes me smile about the beauty in REAL life. Gritty glory indeed!

  • LOMO in OR

    In all the proposal stories I have heard over my lifetime, I have found one thing to always be true…the proposal fits the couple perfectly.

    From the HIGHLY staged all day roses and planetarium treasure hunt ending in a surprise dinner with both sets of parents to the sans-ring “can we do this later I am watching “Say Yes To The Dress”.

    I think about my proposal story (the latter from above) and think to myself “yep, that’s us”

    I adore this post Christina! Thank You! Your post speaks to the thoughtful and dedicated self-aware woman that you are…which I bet is EXACTLY how you are in your relationship.


  • Oh awkward engagement stories. You’re definitely not alone out there.

    My then boyfriend (now husband) called me while on a week long trip to florida with his family, ~11 months into dating. During this call he happened to mention that he’d told his parents that I was “the one.” I don’t remember my response exactly, but it was something along the lines of “oh….. ok.”
    When he got home we talked about it, and I let him know that I hadn’t fully thought about it and needed time to do so. After a week of thinking about it, I woke him up while I was getting ready for work, talking about wedding plans. We went and picked out the ring together, but I made him wait until we’d been together a year (I’m southern and with my mom’s friends that was easier to say than “less than a year” of dating).
    When he did propose, I giggled through the whole damn thing (to my credit, it did involved a short treasure hunt, featuring a personalized hangman game and a customized puzzle for the hints). And then, when he actually asked me to marry him, I was STILL giggling and said “sure!”
    THEN I asked him, immediately after kissing and putting on the ring, if the hangman puzzle had had a “fail clause” – where we couldn’t just move on to the proposal if I’d gotten it wrong. And told him that if it hadn’t that I would have been really disappointed. (btw, it did have one. it said something like “you lose. you don’t get to marry me”)

    I doubt he’s ever going to let me live it down.
    But dammit, it was fucking funny and I was nervous. And hes farrrr more romantic than I am.

  • Ali

    I had a blah engagement as well. I don’t like to tell people how it happened. I’m low maintenance and I didn’t need or want an engagement in front of a room full of beaming people. I just wanted it to happen on a day that felt happy to me, so that I could log away “the day we got engaged” in the same file as “good days” in my brain.
    Unfortunately, my husband was determined to propose on our anniversary (Nov. 19). But it was a terrible day. He was too busy to spend time with me for most of the day, we spent 2 hours in the waiting room of a auto mechanic’s, had to spend big money for the repairs, had to cancel the picnic he had planned because of the weather (although he was desperately trying to go me to go despite the rain, whoops), and pretty much fought ALL DAY LONG. By the end of the day, I was so aggravated, that I just wanted to go to bed early to get away from him. And then suddenly the tone of his half of our conversation was changing and becoming unnatural and nervous. I just starting having an internal panic and thinking “Oh, you better not! Don’t you dare tack our engagement onto the end of a truly icky day. I have been frowning for the last 10 hours! Don’t, don’t, don’t” But he did. Ha… It wasn’t romantic, or fun, or blissful, or any of the things that I really wanted it to be. And try as I might, I can’t re-catalogue that day as something that it isn’t. It will always be the really shitty day that I got engaged.

  • Stephanie

    Thank you. You have no idea how much I hold a grudge against how my fiance proposed and how jealous I am of the girls that get the wonderful proposal. I always feel so ashamed that I feel so angry about it and actually telling the story… I did some serious editing the first few times I told it… My friends always made me told me I was being silly but they all had their wonderful engagements and had no idea how I felt. But this post makes me feel so much better. So, thank you.

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  • Caitlyn


    We had so much proposal shame… the words “a ring would look good with my outfit” were even mentioned earlier that day. (*cringe*). That with the shame of getting engaged after only 6 months caused me to hold off telling my parents we were engaged for a year!

  • Alexandra

    These were super fun to read. Christina, LOVE the photo! So awesome.
    Our proposal was romantic but far from ‘traditional’. The wording was formal, with full names and the word Honor, but we were on the phone, a couple thousand miles apart, after nearly eight years dating, and would’ve been content to be happily un-married, “living in sin” life partners forever. [We thought–we were awfully surprised by how much being engaged made us giggly and happy!] I had said months before, as we were falling asleep just after dawn on New Year’s Day, “Maybe we’ll get engaged this year…” And he’d asked twice, early in the relationship, to which I’d answered Maybe. ;-)
    Good times! We enjoyed just-being-engaged for a long time, then moved to the “thinking about what we want” stage, then finally I was like, Okay, we need to plan this for sooner, JUST in case we decide to have kids, cuz if we do, we need some solely-married time first, and we’re getting older! ;p
    (So, there’s one example of actually enjoying a really long engagement–but it is likely, largely because the first ~1.5 years of engagement had life continuing on largely as it had before; we’d been living together & spending holidays with each other’s families for years.)

  • Breezy

    When I think back on it, as lovely as our proposal was, there were a few niggles.

    My partner has been married before and has three kids, and it seemed to take him FOREVER to emotionally divorce from his first wife. Honestly, for the first two years of our relationship any mention by him of “we” or “us” was just as likely to mean him and his ex as him and me. This happened on a daily basis, often in front of other people…. blah blah blah. I ended up needing counselling (so did he, clearly!) because the lingering power of his first wife over our relationship was so unsettling to me.

    So, ANYWAY, it took him what felt like a loooong time to get around to ask me to marry him. I’m mid-30’s, so my baby clock is ticking, and he was, quite simply, glacial, given that we both knew “this was it” and had kind of talked about the idea of getting married.

    We were away in the kids’ city one weekend (one of the frustrations with the wait was because I felt like I had given up so much to help him raise his kids – commuting between our home city and another city 1000 miles away for 1/3 of the time, anyone?), he was at work and I was sitting in the car waiting for him to finish, so I called my sister. The conversation ended up with me crying, frustrated, and telling her, at length and with in depth psychoanalysis of his slowness, that I didn’t think he was *ever* going to propose.

    By chance (no hints dropped at any stage) he proposed the next night. It was lovely, and I’ve never mentioned my freak-out to him, but I wish I hadn’t loaded it all up so much. Sis and I have talked about The Pre-Proposal Meltdown, but I would never tell anyone else!

    He hadn’t chosen me a ring when he proposed, saying he wanted us to do it together – very wise! – but when he finally, secretly collected my ring from the jeweller nearly two months later, following an intense process of hunting, designing, having it made etc, he chose to give it to me in front of a big group of friends (including my ex-boyfriend!) in order to have the last word in an argument with another rather graceless friend who had commented that he had heard I didn’t yet have a ring because I was too fussy to choose one.

    With that comment, my fiance saw fit to whip the beautiful little box out of its hiding place in his shorts pocket, say “Do you mean THIS RING?” at the top of his voice and expect me to open my ring and see and put it on for the first time in front of a total mixed bag of people.

    I was so shocked that I refused to open it or even take it from his hand – I really didn’t want to get my ring for the first time then and there just so that he could have the dramatic last word in an argument with a git, even if it was his way of defending me against charges of “fussiness”.

    So he put it back in his pocket, we left and he gave it to me later over a glass of champagne at the restaurant where we plan to hold our wedding reception, looking out at a spectacular view.

    Looking back, I can laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation, but I was quite shocked at the time and felt like that special moment had been sullied in the name of conversational one-upmanship.

    I’ve also turned the story around in my mind since then – I appreciate the incident as an example of his superb comic timing and wacky sense of humour, but also that he picked up on my cues and actively changed his approach to something that felt more intimate and precious.

    In time, I hope the OPs story will become, for her, part of the unique and sometimes messy but valued tapestry of her relationship – as mine has.

  • Maxine

    Thanks for posting. It is so refreshing to have real engagement stories. I thought I was all alone in the awkwardness of the proposal. I love surprises, and my engagement so was not..

    So our story – I was getting to a point in our relationship where I felt like I was ready for a proposal. Then was like you know I am really happy where our relationship is right now – why do I want to change that. Yadda, yadda you know grass greener stuff.. So I mentioned this to my bf who heard me out… Then a few days later he responds with I know you said you are happy with where we are but I am not, I am so ready to marry you..eek! Unbeknownst to me he was at home in the midwest shopping for rings with his mom and sister. I was so proud I had come to this realization that I didn’t need to be engaged to feel better about our relationship, and then he tells me this.

    About a month later I was at a bridal shower for a friend, where another very drunk friend mentioned to me that she would love to meet a man like my boyfriend, and oh, by the way she had seen him showing pictures of rings to his buddy a few weeks prior. Then she promptly goes outside to vomit.. So I wished she hadn’t shared this with me but then was thinking oh man – when’s it going to be? Just trying to put it out of my mind..

    Ffwd another few weeks and I am at my parents. I had planned to go camping with my sister and plans fell through. Bf had arranged to have lunch with my parents as he’d thought I would be out of town. So my mom accidentally tells me, “I can’t make it to have lunch with bf and dad.” I was like what? Anyways, then she realizes she’s not supposed to tell me – and I am like what is going on. So after their lunch, my dad calls my mom to talk to her about it, then asks to talk to me on the phone. He tells me that he wasn’t supposed to tell me but my mom had spilled the beans..and my bf had stopped by to ask for my dad’s blessing in proposing to me. My dad was crying over the phone as he told me how much he loved me and how lucky he was to have me as a daughter. He was so excited for me and said he’d had a really good talk with my bf. It was really sweet of him and I loved that talk, but holy crap, it was real! And I wanted a surprise..

    About a week later, bf suggests a hike to commemorate our anniversary of a yr and seven months of dating – and I knew it was going to be the proposal. So I am just trying to play it cool as we hike along, but I am sure my nervousness is showing through. We find our own little waterfall after a few hours to set up a picnic he’d packed and start in to lunch. He then starts to tell me he’d talked to my dad and asked for my hand in marriage. So I am sitting, listening – like okay so are you going to propose or what? Then he, reaches into his bag, and pulls out a ring — and pulls me up to stand next to him and tells me how much he loves me..he kneels down and proposes and I am crying, excited but so oddly nervous and he asks me to marry him to which I reply um, I need to think about. I don’t know why I said that..and will never know, I think I was so nervous and didn’t know how to react – as yeah um my first proposal ever! So he stood back up and I was like oh my gosh what am I doing, of course I want to marry you. So I tell him, “get back on your knee, I need to say yes while you’re on your knee.”

    I felt so awful at my reaction about his proposal – and talked with him about it. He thought it was weird of me to say that – and I can only imagine what he was thinking. How nerve-wracking for him to think about how to propose and what would my response be and then for me to not say yes right away. I felt so bad….for days and am okay with it now almost 7 months later…
    My idea for these next few weeks is to come up with a way to propose back to him..I want us to have two proposals to remember. So, I bought him a ring today and am thinking up a plan (and am open to suggestions : )…)

    It’s sad that everyone I speak with expects the same hollywood story – the amazingly romantic, SURPRISE proposal just like the movies -grr. My story is not like that. It was not the surprise, the response I intended or felt in my heart to give…It wasn’t the, “oh yes, of course!!!” – but it’s our story and it’s unique – so learning to love it…