Engagements And Proposals, Part II

I was shocked, and really sort of heartbroken last week when we talked about proposals for the first time. Why? Well, because so many of you commented, or emailed me to say that you hadn’t had the reaction you expected after the proposal, and you were overwhelmed with guilt.

Whoa. We are clearly laboring under a collective illusion here of ‘how you should feel’, and we need to stop.

Here is the thing, getting engaged is big, and it can feel disorienting. Add to it the fact that there is enormous cultural pressure around engagements, which can make it end a little like a four year old’s birthday party, with lots of cake and lots of tears. And that’s FINE. I’d go so far to say it’s probably pretty normal. As long as you agree you want to spend the rest of your lives together (wheeee!), then you have the rest of your lives to plan Enormous Romantic Gestures (if that’s your thing), with far less stress.

As I was talking about this with someone older and wiser this week, she pointed out the “duh” advice, which I’d somehow missed. If your proposal was a little rough, if you freaked out a bit, or you didn’t feel like your emotional needs were met, or your partner felt a little let down… SIT DOWN AND TALK ABOUT IT. Because no, you probably don’t need a do-over (you decided to get married, right? That’s the important bit), but you also don’t want that sadness hanging around and hiding in corners for years and years.

And so you feel less guilty more brave, and maybe more ready to have a chat, some family examples:

When David and I got engaged, I was all giddy and over the moon. There are pictures, so there is proof. And then I went into emotional shock. Not shock like ‘Oh, I’m so surprised!’ but shock like ‘Oh, my arm just got cut off.’ By which I mean I started shaking so hard that David suggested I sit down, and then once I sat down I started sobbing. Not happy sobbing, sobbing-sobbing. Oh right, and then two days later I spent a whole morning crying, because, “I was pretty sure engagement wasn’t supposed to feel like crying, but I was crying, and that was wrong, so I should probably cry some more.” And then David found me crying and explained that there is no “should” for emotions, but regardless I was going to have to get up off my ass and go do something, because three hours of crying is more than enough for one day.

Bad right? Um. No. I get the gold medal for best engagement reaction in my family.

My mom has given me permission to tell you that when my dad proposed she said, and I quote, “Um. Probably yes, but can I think about it for a week?”



And they celebrated 35 happy years this December. So stop feeling guilty already. And go talk. Or apologize. Or whatever the heck you need to do. And then let it go already. There are no ‘shoulds,’ and wedding planning is hard enough without proposal guilt.

(Next: proposal stories that made me grin)
Picture: by me, from the time I proposed to David

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  • One of my dearest friends reacted by throwing up.

    I did the proposing and I was shaking and crying afterward. I probably cried for an hour or two, in that stress-reaction kind of way.

    People react to strong emotion in all kinds of ways, some of them non-fairytale.

    Or maybe it wasn't a moment of strong emotion — you were just quietly happy and it felt right. That's normal too.

    I'm just not down with the script of how people are required to feel, think, and act about getting engaged and married. People are more complicated than that.

  • polkadotcupcake

    This post made me laugh! I had the opposite reaction from most newly-engageds, who want to yell it from the rooftops. I wanted to keep it a secret! And a secret it remained for a year.

    Its not that I wasn't happy to be engaged, and SO happy at the prospect of spending my life with my love. I was extremely happy for all that, but I hadn't managed to come to terms with several concepts attached to being engaged. Like rings, families, living together..

    So while we told my sister, his parents, and my dad, everyone else only found out when I had managed to get used to the ideas of 'engagements', 'rings', 'weddings', etc.

    And in the end, although I may have done things differently now, with the benefit of hindsight, and much thought, I'm glad it was our private thing for so long. It made it so much more personal for me, rather than being forced to talk about it all the time, when I didn't even know myself what I thought about it.

    So. That's my story.

  • My dearest friend (I hope she doesn't mind me sharing this) had one of the 'worst' engagements I've ever heard of, and I think she is the happiest person I know – and they are the happiest couple I know (hands down on that). Her then-BF and she were living across the country from one another. The last 2 trips had been pregnant with anticipation of engagement, but there they were on the way to the airport…and nothing. Alas. They stopped by a cheap Thai place, ate some mediocre Thai food and were about to head off when he blurted out something about marriage and presented her with a relatively large diamond ring (which he had upgraded at least once because he thought it wasn't enough). Soon after saying 'yes', she asked if he had asked/told her family (he hadn't) and she decided to leave the ring with him until they got that cleared up. A few days/weeks after that, she told him to take it back – that she didn't want an engagement ring at all. And now they're the happiest people I know. And the story's pretty funny. C'est la vie, right?

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for this post! I had an anticlimatic wedding proposal, and I felt guilty about it for a weekend. Then I got over it. He asked me calmly if I would marry him, I answered calmly, yes, and that was that. No crying, no shaking, no gasps of breath. I had wanted to react so differently, but then again doing so would have felt fake to me (mad props though to those who do cry and shake and whatnot).

  • Anonymous

    Wow, this post made me feel SO relieved. I had been dating my significant other since high school (8 years) and was 100% sure that I wanted to get married. But when he proposed, I went into shock. I tried to act happy but it felt forced. I was terrified of telling my family of friends, even though they loved him. This all seems so irrational now….The week following the engagement was one of the unhappiest weeks of my life. I was an emotional wreck. Luckily, he listened to my crying and didn't take any of it personally.

    And then it all passed. Our wedding is in a month now, and I have no cold feet and am totally peaceful. I wish I had known at the time that it is ok to not react the way people react in the movies. It's ok not to have these strong (sometimes negative) emotions.


  • @ Ellie, girl, I did the exact same thing. I had been waiting for the proposal for so long and I knew it was coming. No, we didn't subscribe to the whole man doesn't tell woman anything about the proposal thing. I knew it was coming and I guessed in advance which day he would do it. And after so much anticipation, he pulled out the ring and just stared at me. Didn't say anything. Nothing. Not a word. Just smiled. And I was left thinking "um, what the hell is this?". And instead of going along with it and acting thrilled when I was secretly deeply hurt by the fact that he didn't say anything to me… I told him. I hurt his feelings and I told him. And he felt guilty. Really guilty. And I felt like he was an idiot. And after 5 minutes, we both realized that neither of us has ever been engaged before. He had never proposed and I had never expected, yet we had all these expectations of what it should have been. Even though it made him feel guilty, I'm glad I told him because I didn't want to harbor a secret resentment for the rest of my life. Yes, I felt like a bitch. But at least I was an honest bitch. And the next day, he unexpectedly did the whole romantic speech that I needed, which allowed us to both feel better about the situation. If we'd let expectations and manners get in our way, I'd probably still be pissed about it and he'd have never known. Honestly, if I felt like I couldn't honestly communicate with him, why would I ever want to accept the proposal anyway?

  • I sobbed.

  • Kristen

    The night we got engaged was lovely and perfect and I couldn't have asked for anything better or different. We lived in this bubble of happiness for exactly 24 hours, and then we got to his parents' house.

    They were waiting for us with so many BALLOONS and EXCITEMENT and EXPECTATIONS and PLANS that I spent the night and several days after that in literal shell shock, kind of walking around and sort of crying all the time. At one point I walked into a 7-Eleven, took a bottle of water from the case and walked out with out paying for it – and didn't realize what I had done for several blocks afterwards.

    Thank god for my mom. She came down from Boston (we live in NYC) to see us right after and I wouldn't let her talk about the engagement. We just stayed in my apartment together and she helped me clean like a mad woman, not saying a word, just listening to Simon and Garfunkel records over and over again. So yeah, if you had asked me what my reaction to getting engaged would be, I probably wouldn't have predicted that it would make me want to scrub toilets. But that is what I did.

  • I didn't feel any of this around our proposal. The timing was a surprise. We picked out a ring together and it was being made, just took half the amount of time to make.

    It was in our apartment, lit by 24 tea lights. (His one and only Romantic Gesture.) I didn't know where to stand, so I just sort of plopped down on the arm of the couch. I was like, "Um… what's going on?"

    I do wish I could recall what Bryan said to me, but it was just so much happening all at once, and I was really concerned about what I should do, where I should sit, and I still had my coat on. And not like I pictured it, but really, I couldn't tell you what I pictured.

    I do remember after he said, "will you marry me?" that that sounded funny in my ears, and then saying yes and putting my hand out for the ring felt like a cliche. Perhaps it's all the romcom proposals or something.

    After, we went out and had dinner, and I wanted to squeeze everyone we walked past- "I'm engaged! We are getting married!"

  • Anonymous

    We were staying at my brother's sitting his cats when my now-fiance asks if I would go for a walk in Fort Tryon park- I say sure; and we end up walking about the park with me in grubby sweats and wet hair. Totally out of the blue- the next thing I know he's down on one knee and what's my response? "YES, and omigod, you ASSHOLE."
    Thank god he knows me so well. He thought it was hilarious.
    My story is par for the course in my family though- my sister got asked after a 9-hour argument all the way up from NYC to Buffalo- and her response was "Are you fucking kidding me?"
    And my aunt got her ring thrown through the living room window while my uncle was on the way to work-
    "Marry me?"
    "IS this it?"
    YES, Hurry up, I'm late."
    "Oh fine then if I must."
    The women in my family are all winners. LOL.
    But that's why the men marry us.
    Don't let anyone tell you that there is only one way to feel- it's a major event, and you are going to feel the way YOU feel. Happy, Sad, Shocked, Elated- whatever hits you at that moment is true; And that's the way it should be.

  • Jen

    ahahah, YES! Getting engaged was like a messy messy mine field and I had knack for walking on every mine I could find. Luckily I think we went through the mine field, he waited for me to settle down, and THEN proposed. The proposal was fine – didn't meet my ridiculously high romantic expectations – but it was cute, it was him and that was enough. And immediately after I felt a huge relief to not be waiting anymore. To just be engaged and done with that part!

  • Sarah

    I love this post. I got engaged in August and we had talked extensively about marriage for at least 2 years beforehand and I still completely panicked when the proposal happened. I pretty much ruined the whole thing because I realized what he was up to and started pre-emptively panicking so by the time he actually proposed I was a mess. The first words out of my mouth were "Oh Shit" and then I felt guilty. We laughed it off but it took me a long time to come to terms with my own reaction.

    This is actually the first time that I ever confessed that:
    1. I absolutely knew what he was up to and that was why I was acting weird throughout the evening
    2. that the first words out of my mouth were "oh shit."

    I don't even know what my fiance said to me or if he even actually asked the question.

  • My bf and I had talked a lot about marriage and had gone together and bought a ring. I knew it was coming. He still wanted some semblence of romance, so he surprised me with the proposal.

    He was supposed to be out of town and when I got home from work he was at my place with dinner and candles. I knew what was up.

    The thing was, I was really worried beforehand that I'd have the wrong reaction. I didn't have doubts about marrying him, but I had (and still have) some doubts about the timing. I was really concerned that I would panic and say 'no' or ruin it by making a joke of things.

    And I sort of did that. I felt awkward and it still feels like the proposal happened to someone else. It wasn't ruined, because it was still us and we aren't graceful or eloquent or romantic. Afterward I just felt… nothing. Nothing was different. Even after we told the family and most of my friends, I didn't feel giddy or panicky or blissful.

    I had one moment of glee, two days after the actual engagement when I saw my only girlfriend that met me after the bf and I were together. She loves us both and has a lot of respect for our relationship and couldn't imagine us any way other than together. When I told her, her face lit up and she started jumping up and down and she hugged me soooo tight. That got through to me and I grinned and cried a little (the good way) and giggled.

    I think that is sort of the feeling people think they are supposed to have. Like in the movies where it's just a breathless "yes" and happy crying and roll credits. I sort of got it when I was with someone whose experience with us was sort of like a movie plot. We were a sweet couple with a romatic history and of course we would get married and live happily ever after. No doubts, no history of failed relationships, just a happy day sure to be followed by a lifetime of similarly happy days.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much for this!

    The night that he proposed, everything was wonderful and I was so happy. The next day, though, and for the whole next week, I was a wreck. I think the expectations hit me like a ton of bricks – and I was irrationally afraid that he would "take it back" and I would be horribly embarassed. It didn't help that the proposal was somewhat of a surprise to him as well (he'd been in the planning stage, but he ended up proposing when it "felt right"), so he didn't have a ring. I got some flack from family members about that one, even though we were both very happy about picking rings together.

    Anyway, I remember being in fog at work and googling things like "negative emotional response to engagement" because my feelings at that moment didn't at all match what I was told they would be. We talked about it all, and in a few days I was back (emotionally) to where I had been the night of the proposal, but it took time.

    So, thank you for writing this!

  • I was one of those pre-engaged for a few years because I knew he had reasons that he was waiting to propose (and he would just laugh and tell me to shut up when I tried to do it). So, kind of unfortunately, the minute we got engaged I started talking wedding planning. And about a week after that, I stopped because I realized that is extremely annoying and that it's fun to be engaged.

  • Sarah

    it's funny, i was so excited and so happy, but also wanted to keep it a secret. not a *secret secret*, but like it was my personal private thing and i wanted to "hold my cards close" for a while.

    when is started telling people (a few days to a week later) i got reactions that made me want to cry.

    people started saying "well, it's not like you're going to have a REAL wedding, are you? you're not going to wear a REAL wedding dress are you? why don't you just do it at home? save your money." and then would start telling me about other couples they knew that were getting married (for real) and how happy they were for them.

    i was devastated, and when i pointed out (to my family) "wow, you sound more excited about so-and-so's engagement than mine…" all hell broke loose and we didn't speak for two months. the pendulum swung the other direction now, and i'm getting demands to meet deadlines and invite certain people, etc.

    engagement is a terribly/terrifically emotional thing for all all involved, i guess.

  • Anonymous

    When my fiance proposed to me it was a complete surprise. We'd "been serious" for a while, and I knew it would be quite a while longer before we'd really be in a position to marry…so I was stunned when he proposed (complete with ring.). I knew what my answer was, and I was happy with the situation, but in later discussions my fiance revealed that my initial reaction caused him a moment of panic. I don't remember it, but I apparently looked confused and maybe scared for an "uncomfortably long time" before saying anything. My memory is that it took me a moment to register what was happening, then things proceeded onward. I've never been a jumping-squealing-excited-surprised person, and he knows that, but I didn't have the reaction he was expecting.

    We called our parents immediately, and then (at my request) we held off on telling anyone else about the engagement for a few days. It gave me a chance to process things. I remember the day after we got engaged just sitting and looking at him and going "Woah! Fiance! *MY* Fiance!". I was happy with the change-in-status, but I wanted to get used to the idea before we were barraged by other people's expectations and reactions. I'm glad I had that time, and when I remember the proposal that precious time where "only we knew" is remembered right along with it-because that's where my "big feelings" and excitement really started to shine through.

  • We are, and have been, a long distance couple (an ocean apart) for two years (met and dated during grad school for 3 years). We had talked about marriage and about shopping for a ring, so it was a matter of timing for us. My fiance surprised me with the proposal–and the ring (there are moments of sadness about the ring–I like it (he consulted for weeks with my mom so it's my style – and she tried to get me to talk about rings but I brushed her off, sure we were going to shop for one together), but I don't adore it and that's OKAY; it's a piece of jewelry for heaven's sake-the relationship is much more important).

    He proposed over dinner when we met up at a conference. We hadn't seen each other for 4 months (except over skype) and he'd told me we would spend an evening away from the conference so I should bring something 'fun' to wear to dinner (I thought this was a weird comment at the time, but thought it was cute that he felt like he needed to remind me that we should have some fun "us" time). I had no idea what he was planning and I nearly ruined it for him. Earlier in the day when he mentioned what a great day it was turning out to be (we were in Scotland, it was sunny and we'd both given our papers) – I jokingly replied, 'Why are you going to propose?' He said 'No' (it's the only time he's ever lied to me in five years), and even with the long pause I still had no clue. Then, dinner was a bit of a disaster – totally my fault. He chose a beautiful art deco restaurant and I decided that we needed to have a discussion about emotional turmoil in our lives (oops!). Finally after coffee he started talking about why he loved me and then said, "I have a question" (something I always say – so I thought he was taking the mickey), but he stood up and came around the table to get down on one knee. I just said "oh my god" – mortified at my obliviousness and feeling terrible that I'd been wanting to have a searching conversation about our chaotic life when he was trying so hard to be romantic! And then I said yes.

    So – less than romantic, perhaps, but also REAL and intricately tied up in what it means for us to be together. And afterwards – and this is the important part – I felt so much more SECURE in us; some of the tension I'd been feeling was released and I felt calm.

    And it turns out proposing during (but not AT -as he is eager to make clear) the conference was a wonderful idea because we were able to go back to the hotel and share the news with our friends who had known us through our years together.

    Being engaged has made the distance and separation emotionally easier, although figuring out what it means to be a family when we're separated by an ocean (for the near future anyway) feels like the biggest challenge – much bigger than planning the wedding.

  • fleda

    Wow, I can relate to a lot in this post and these comments.

    I hate the way we got engaged. And that's okay: I'm still filled with an abiding happiness that we're (very soon) getting married.

    Because of my own exaggerated sensitivity and wounded cynicism about the princess/prince charming narrative, I was (and am) violently, irrationally uncomfortable with the whole traditional proposal/ring business. For me, it doesn't feel right for there to be any asymmetry to the asking/deciding-to-get-married process. Also, I never wear jewelry.

    Even though he knew about my aversion to traditional narratives and to jewelry, he for some reason thought he had to get a ring. So he did. And he went shopping with other people to get it. While I was meanwhile really unaware that he was that serious. Major communication gap(s), rather hurtful ones.

    Getting engaged actually introduced the first and only real conflicts we've ever had. And that was kind of good, because it led to really important conversations about those communication gaps.

    We returned the diamond ring he bought and exchanged it for plain gold wedding bands–and that's jewelry I'm really looking forward to wearing.

  • He was just happy I said "yes" when he asked me to marry him since I'd replied with a very quizzical "really?" when he first told me he loved me. That was not how that moment played out in my head before it happened. Ah well. Makes for a funny story.

  • Stephanie

    The Funny: When my husband proposed to me I was the one that didn't live up his expectations. Instead of saying "yes" I said, "Of course!!!" and that threw him off his script.

    The Serious: The few weeks after we got engaged I was on a personal roller coaster of emotions. I was elated that we were going to get married. I had no question that he was who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. But, I also had all of these emotions I didn't know how to deal with, because they too "aren't in the script." I was very happy with who I had become as a person and now that was going to change somewhat. I would still be me, but a more public and traditional part of a "we." I had to reconcile a lot of my feminist politics with it.

    I also had to learn to wear a giant ring on my finger, which was much harder than I ever thought. He picked out the ring and it is a setting based on a Tiffany style (he didn't know that) that sticks out really far. Because of that it was hard to put my hand in my pocket or rest my fist on my chin. But more importantly it was hard for me to learn to reconcile what the ring meant to my fiance was not what may mean in the rest of the world. The rest of the world may see a "Tiffany" ring with a giant diamond, but it is neither of those things. Because of my beliefs about conflict diamonds it is a CZ, and my fiance picked it because it reminds him of how his mom's ring felt when he held her hand as a kid and he wants our kids to have that memory, too. More importantly it is a symbol of our relationship and love and commitment to each other.

    Unfortunately, it took quite a few unexplained crying fits before I realized all of this.

  • Hey Meg – I'm one of your anonymous voyeur-type readers who has been pre-engaged and, thus, hasn't really felt like it was my place to say much here…though I read your blog every day. :-)


    Last night we had our version of a proposal. :-) (How appropriate that today is your Part II!)

    So…background info first. I'm a super planner that loves, loves, loves dinner parties and hand-sewn napkins that compliment homegrown organic floral arrangements. I'm known for this quality. Of course, I had to fall in love with my yang. My guy is a simple, society-can't-tell-me-shit, super intellectual who won't do a thing unless it's rational, necessary, and genuine. Let's just get this out there – we both agree that weddings are typically NOT rational, necessary, or even genuine. (What couple's real life union is genuinely "represented" by fancy outfits, limos, pastries, and antiquated rules and traditions??)

    So, to bring you up to speed – for the past 5 nights, I've been bringing up important but simple questions about our future (at this point hypothetical) wedding, and probing him to find out what he thinks about the idea of a ceremony and a party, given that we want to be together forever and should seal this deal at some point. (Him: Weddings are nonsense and my ideal scenario is a secret engagement followed by a secret signing of marriage documents, followed by never telling anyone.)

    And yes – I fully expected that answer. My guy is fully on the "weddings are self-congratulatory bullshit" side of the spectrum, and I've known that for quite a while.

    So, the last few nights I had started to pry out of him what a compromise would look like. Something between Martha Stewart-hipster-funderfulness (me!) and a cloaked messenger carrying our signed paperwork to city hall under cover of darkness (him). We had established that this involves a secret engagement (everyone here had better swear to secrecy!), fewer than 60 guests, and absolutely no traditions that appear to be self-congratulatory. (Him: What are you congratulating yourself for? Getting married isn't an accomplishment. It's the easy part.)

    Flash forward to last night. We were sitting in bed and I was harassing him about what our wedding should look like and what kinds of compromises we could make on a guest list. This is when I looked at him with my nervous-I'm-about-to-say-something face that always puts him in his why-are-you-looking-at-me-like-a-hot-dog-please-don't-eat-me mode. I said, "You know – you know I'm ready. And I'm down for this ride. But tell me this – are you not into this because the wedding concept turns you off or because the marriage concept turns you off? Because we should put this off for another year or two if it's the latter."

    And he looked up at me in his trademark awkward yet fabulously genuine way and said the most romantic thing:

    "It's going to take you 4 hours to fall asleep tonight, isn't it? (smile) Let me see the damn guest list."


    -Latest & greatest indie bride-to-be

  • @Sarah – I held my cards close for a while too. It seemed like too good of a thing to share with the world for a bit. I wanted to enjoy it just us for a while before everyone else started crowding in on it.

  • Anna1983

    oh my God… this post came at exactly the right time! I just had a big crying session when I spoke to my man on the phone because I've been feeling so overwhelmed and emotional since getting engaged. It doesn't help that I started a new job (doing a PhD and teaching) a week after we got engaged, so there's a LOT of new information and things to digest. I just feel like it's difficult that everyone's expecting you to act and feel a certain way, like you're being looked at through a magnifying glass, by all of your friends and family. Add to that the stress of planning a wedding and feeling like you need some kind of approval for all the wedding planning decisions and it makes for an emotional time. Thankfully, my fiance is very supportive. We have very different nervousness-curves (as we call it – I tend to make decisions, then stress, he stresses and thinks things over for ages and then decides) so he was expecting this response as I had the same reaction when we bought our apartment (couldn't wait, and after we bought it I felt ambiguous about it for a while). Anyway, it's good to hear I'm not the only one out there. So thanks for this post Meg!

  • Meg

    Tell him this for me: weddings are not self congratulatory. Weddings are partially about giving your guests the gift of allowing to celebrate that YOU BOTH (people they love), have found someone you want to spend the rest of their life with (and sometimes we forget how HUGE that is, in the scope of a life). The ceremony is also a way to translate your commitment into a physical act, to make a pledge in front of your community, and to allow that to change you forever. Far from being self congratulatory it is one of the most humbling (yet joyful) things you will ever do in your life.

    And then, yeah, there is a party. Because parties are FUN, and people want to CELEBRATE YOU.

    So tell him that from me, ok? CONGRATULATIONS LADY!!!!


  • Anonymous

    Jesus Christ, thank you for this. We've been together a long time, had been talking about getting married, and then on Valentine's Day he proposed. I saw that it was about to happen and immediately felt like I was about to throw up and totally freaked out. He asked and started crying, I was frozen, feeling sick and totally out-of-body, my feelings totally jammed up, and, of course, I was trying not to show it. Obviously he could tell. He apologized for crying, I apologized for not crying, and I was a wreck for a while. My reaction TOTALLY freaked me out even more. But, at the end of the day, a proposal is such a deep thing, touching emotions that don't usually get touched (if that makes any sense)! I'm so glad I'm not the only one who didn't feel simply an eruption of happiness. I've already accepted it, but it really makes me feel better to know that I'm not the only one.

  • No 'shoulds' indeed. The engagement will live in infamy in our personal mythos. He got down on one knee, on the beach at sunset. I had no idea why he was down on the ground, started laughing hysterically and called him a goofball. He still reminds me that no one likes to be laughed at when they are making a huge proposal. Thing is: the laughter was analogous to tears – hysterical tears. It was my way of coping with the overwhelming emotion of the moment.

    When we got home the next day,I went into a depression, didn't talk to anyone or see anyone for nearly a week. Didn't show my ring to anyone. Finally told my best friend a week later, and she couldn't believe I had waited a week to tell her than we were getting married. It took another couple weeks to tell my parents (we live across the country from them.)

    Though we had talked about getting married, and even selected the ring together, I don't think I've ever been more shocked or felt more out of control in my life. Suddenly, I was being asked to make this huge life commitment without (it felt like) any preparation or time to consider (yes, we had been talking about it for month – but suddenly the moment was upon me).

  • The engagement was actually strange and wonderful, and very fitting for our relationship.
    We were good college friends, and I was doing a scholarship in his home country. I went to visit. It started as a joke that he would ask me to marry him, every day. We weren't dating, he just started introducing me as "his wife, she just doesn't know it yet." Eventually we started dating, and the question got awkward, until 6 months later until I asked him. He freaked out and said I had 24 hours to change my mind. I didn't. We both freaked out, the "omigod omigod, I can't believe we're doing this, I KNOW!" kind of freak out. But we talked about it. We didn't tell anyone, we let it incubate between the two of us until we were ready.

    There is no right way to do it! It was spontaneous, and that fit the two of us.

  • When my FH proposed, we were sitting in a restaurant full of couples who had been married between 35 and 47 years. One man came up afterwards and said he never proposed to his wife, and they'd been married for over 40 years – they just talked about it and agreed it was a good idea. A few minutes later, she came by and said that she's still waiting for her proposal. :)

    My proposal was a total surprise for me – we had talked about it, but because he had been married before and didn't want to rush into another marriage I fully expected to have kids before we ever walked down the aisle. But he had been sneaky and even talked to my parents about it before he did propose. And it was amazing to hear how excited both our families were when we told them.

    I never imagined what a proposal would be like, but I was surprised that I really didn't hear half of what he said, or any of what was going on around us as he went down on one knee.

  • I have a non-engagement story that, I think, relates.

    I have wanted to go to graduate school to get my PhD in English since I was 16. Eight years later, and I have been accepted to a great graduate program. The first day I found out I was so incredibly excited and happy. But very quickly I started feeling anxious, nervous, and sad. I couldn't sleep well at night, and I even picked fights with my parents and my BF.

    Reading these posts about engagement-reactions, I realize it's the same process. Something very important and dear to your heart, something you want very much, has just happened/been decided/been offered, and after the intensity of it your emotions sort of overload and short-circuit.

    Anyway, I just want to say, that I think this confusion post-engagement reaction is actually kind of a normal human reaction. Meg, thank you so much for providing a forum to talk about the confusion, emotional side of these moments in our life.

  • Thank you for this post, Meg! I literally was shocked when my now-husband proposed to me. I of course said yes, as I was in fact, thrilled. But I think my shock really surprised him, and I always felt like I did not act the way I was *supposed* to feel. (Ebullient, tears of joy, etc.) I was just kind of frozen and felt like life was moving in slow-motion. Of course, by the next day we were both super excited and are now happily married. It's a very personal experience, and I love how you verbalized this for us.

  • graceful nichole

    Bobby pushed my buttons to the point of me being extremely pissed off at him, on purpose, so that it would be such a shock and awe surprise that I would never, ever, ever, expect it (even though we were in Paris with all of our best friends). He succeeded. And I was SO PIST OFF that he proposed after an awful (yet fake on his part) argument, that I cried and made him promise he would do a re-do for our friends the next day. After my ridiculous request, Bobby then explained that he had done all of this tormenting on purpose, and so I retracted my statement and started laughing uncontrollably. Oh boyssss, they know how to get ya! Even if it isn't what all the stupid fairytales tell us it's meant to be like :)

  • I love reading all these stories.

    The bottom line is that we are all totally different people and we're all going to have different experiences. Some people love dramatic gestures and some people (me) freak out.

    I think I was stressed about an engagement for a long time because it follows a specific script and that script doesn't work for me. I hate surprises of all kinds. I like all decisions in our relationship to make after a discussion. And that's just who I am. So my "proposal" will have to reflect that. It feels so peaceful to have come to that realization.

  • My husband proposed after 3.5 years of telling me that he didn't value getting married, and it would have been a complete surprise if Cosmo (yes, the magazine) hadn't predicted the exact date we would get engaged, but that's another story.

    Anyway, he took us away for the weekend and asked on the Friday night, because he said he wanted me to have the two days afterwards to get used to the idea. And a few weeks later, during a break-down-sobbing episode that would become a regular part of our engagement, he told me that he had anticipated that it would take me some time to adjust, because it had taken him so long to adjust to the idea, but he was able to do it before he proposed.

    I think it is harder for the one being asked, even if you have had the hard conversations and even if you expect it in a way, because the asker went through all those doubts/adjustments/thoughts on his/her own during the time it took for them to plan to propose. The askee has to do the same thing, but is "supposed" to be over the moon/elated/psyched to be planning a wedding, so there is much more pressure to hide the complicated feelings.

  • Thank you so much for this post. I love that everyone's reaction is totally different because it doesn't make me feel as bad.

    I thought my fiance's proposal was really clunky and predictable, and then felt insanely guilty about that for a bit, and then in our first fight after the engagement I brought up this fact and we argued about it and then I felt even more guilty, but better when he agreed with me. Does that make sense?? HAHA.

    Anyway, we were in a state of bliss for about a week because he proposed on vacation, but once we got home it was like hitting a brick wall. And that's when I cried.

  • Thank you for this post. I have finally recovered from the absurdity that was our pre-engagement/proposal snafu, and this makes me feel so much better.

    In my case, my fiance overthought the entire situation – OUT LOUD, with me in the room – for over a year before he finally proposed. And when he did, he basically just said, "so I think it's time for us to take the next step." AND THEN? HE CONGRATULATED ME!

    In reality, I know that he was just flustered, and that he'd always congratulated anyone who'd recently gotten engaged, so I "got it…" but after all of the over-thinking, I was really hoping for something lovely and romantic.

    Needless to say, I cried in secret about this "lost opportunity for Giant Romance" for about a week, and finally I gently approached him about how I was feeling. It's been just about three months since the proposal, and we've definitely moved on. The story is pretty hilarious now, which is an added bonus. I think these moments get built up in our heads so much that they turn into giant balls of stress.

    Or maybe that's just me.

    Anyway, I hope this helps someone who is going through the same thing.

  • We'd talked about marriage for a while, I'd shown him rings that I liked. I'm embarassed to say that I told him that I wanted something romantic, only because we aren't normally big gesture people, we spend most date nights staying home because we have no money.
    We went up to griffith observatory in LA but didn't stay long because it was freezing and there were too many people. we were driving through griffith park on dark back roads after and he started complaining that his car was acting up. I thought he had a flat tire. He pulls over and gets out to look at the tire on the driver's side and asks me to get out. I freak out and turn on the emergency flashers, turn off the stereo (which he had cued to our song) and jump out of the car. only to find him down on one knee with the ring. I stopped in my tracks and started to cry. he then shoves the ring at me, goes and turns off the emergency flashers and turns the stereo back on. I stood there in shock staring at the ring. finally I whispered "are you going to say something?!" and he was like "marry me?". "OK!".
    I love that it wasn't perfect. The ring didn't even fit, we had to get it resized the following week. My worrying about flat tires didn't ruin that "perfection", it made it comical in hindsight. I love that he didn't end up proposing in front of a crowd because we'd both be way too embarassed.
    I think the proposal reflects the individual couple. who each of you are, at that moment, end up being represented in the actions and responses. You can't apologize for emotion. It's living in the moment, not forcing the moment.

  • My poor fiancé. The night before we got engaged, I sensed what was coming and called him and begged him not to do it, even though we’d been talking about it for ages and had been ring shopping and everything. He knew it was more nerves than actual fear and talked me down from the ledge (one of the reasons we make a good pair!). I still can’t believe he had the courage to go through with it the next night. As soon as he started, I said “I can’t believe you’re doing this.” (He LOVES this story)

    And then I spent the next few weeks super self-conscious, because I wanted to be a bubbly just-engaged person, but I’m really not that naturally bubbly so it felt forced. And I/we had spent so much time thinking and talking about the seriousness of the commitment and I wanted everyone to understand that, and I felt like if I acted TOO giddy people would think I wasn’t taking it seriously enough. So I think I came across as this weird bubbly/serious combo. SO glad I never have to get engaged again!

  • A couple of days after we got engaged, I started to freak out. I wondered if I had seen and done enough, if I was ready. This was after waiting years for a proposal and initially being over the moon. For me, it was the changes that were going to come into my life. I needed to process how I felt about it even though I knew that I wanted it. It is very different to say I want to get married and then to actually be getting married.

  • conmigo

    I had no idea what "getting engaged" might feel like. I just knew I wanted to marry my boyfriend. He didn't have a grand speech, either, and I was at once a little disappointed– he is the one who kept talking about EPIC proposals, then his reasonable friends convinced him that a crazy grand gesture wasn't necessary… so when it was quite simple I was a little surprised but it was fine, I just wanted to get engaged. And secretly, I had guessed that it was going to be that night. But shhh…

    After I said yes, I cupped his face in my hands and just sobbed, "we get to get married?" over and over again, because up until that point he tried really hard not to "say" anything to that effect, and I just wanted to hear him say over and over that we get to get married and he wants to marry me.

    The next day felt like a crazy CRAZY coming out party. Like we were coming out to our friends/family about something we've known with each other for a long while now. So they were all acting like it was big surprising news, when really– I was just quietly happy, and trying to soak in the Formal Commitment that we had just made to each other.

    But then his Aunt and Mom shrieked and took me to the bookstore to look at wedding cakes… I knew I was in over my head at that point…

    I almost wish we had waited a day to tell people, so we could just bask in the newness ourselves without needing to process other people's reactions first. But at the same time, I seriously don't think I could have waited, either…

    Makes me definitely realize the importance of a few minutes alone together after the ceremony, though, I imagine that will be much the same.

  • Ellie

    We waited a full 2 weeks to tell anyone, which let me sort through my feelings on my own without being overwhelmed by congratulations and feeling like I "should" feel a certain way.
    When he asked, he didn't give the romantic speech about why he loved me, and after waiting so long for the proposal, I really really needed that speech. So I asked for it. Yes, it is bitchy to say "your proposal doesn't live up to my expectations", but it's not bitchy to ask your partner for what you really need. (I needed it to curb my fear that he was asking because I nagged him into marriage.)
    Also, my parents have been married for 35 years, and when my Dad asked my Mom, she said, "yes, but I reserve the right to change my mind and don't tell anybody." They were engaged for 2 years before they told anyone.

  • Annie

    This is so relevant for ANY person who has just gotten engaged.

    My fiance proposed in the middle of a cornfield. It showed me he knew me SO WELL (both sides of my family settled in Illinois and started farming and while I didn't grow up on a farm, being out in the country, especially in cornfields is where I feel the best!). He proposed a few days before the one year anniversary of my grandfather's death. I was very, very close to my grandfather and after he proposed I seriously almost couldn't breathe because I was crying SO HARD. I scared the poor guy. He asked me if I was okay and I couldn't let go of him, but I finally choked out, "This- is- happy- cry!" Not sure it's what either of us were expecting, but I was totally overwhelmed with happiness and simultaneously felt close to both of my grandfathers. Couldn't have been better, even if I cried enough tears to flood the darn field!

  • Meg, I already thanked you for your email, but THANK YOU again for this. Our proposal was messy as hell, to say the least.

    I talked again with my fiance, and when I told him about your really rational comment (i.e, "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."), he just grinned, nodded, and gave me a HUGE hug.

    And, between you telling me that, and him holding me, it made so much sense. So I'm done. No more guilt, no more shame, I'm over it. Thanks, Meg. You're the best. :)

    ALSO: I'm reading your Engagement-aversary post, and totally I'm stealing that idea for our Engagementversary this July. My turn, mister. :D

  • I never had a "proposal" – we just Knew. We've been engaged 5 months now and we ask each other "will you marry me?" at least once a day, and are giddy and head over heels every time.

    It's so strange to me that there are people who would be SURPRISED by a proposal. Don't you just know when you're meant to be together forever?

  • Anonymous

    About a year and a half before getting engaged we had a nearly proposal. We'd been out drinking with new friends in a new country, and were talking about love etc on the walk home. We got a little bit lost in the unfamiliar streets, and had stopped to figure out which way to go. As we were talking, he suddenly looked at me and I immediately realised he was going to ask me to marry him and actually RAN AWAY DOWN THE STREET. It was hilarious, but I haven't told many people about it!

    The actual proposal was a big surprise (even though it was our 10 year anniversary). He was sitting on the edge of the bed at our hotel, and asked me to sit in front of him. I looked at him said "I'm not sitting on the floor at your feet". I relented when a massage was offered, but almost ruined his plan (he wanted to get the ring ready without me seeing anything)

    When he handed me the ring, which looked a lot like an engagement ring, I just remember thinking what if it isn't? How embarrasing would it have been to have said "yes" if it was just an anniversary present?

    So the dialogue went like this:
    Me "Really?"
    Him "Yes"
    Me "Well?" (I wanted him to actually ask me to marry him)
    Him "Will you be my fiancee?"
    Me "Of course!"

    Afterwards I felt totally numb, but was happy once I got used to the idea. I felt a bit guilty later on for being disappointed that he never actually said "will you marry me", and that I didn't experience a big rush of emotion.

    Of course it's the person that's important, not the details. It's good to be reminded of this though!

  • Anonymous

    Oh my goodness, thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. I actually choked up reading it, it made me so happy.

    When my fiance asked me to marry him in the city of lights, I said yes with a lump in my throat and then spent the whole night crying on his shoulder (and just like you wrote…they weren't happy tears, these were sobbing, sad tears). He held me and let my black mascara run all over his white shirt while we cruised down the Seine in Paris.

    After I finished crying, I realized what a kind person he is and just how much he loves me. If I got that reaction after asking someone to share their life with me, you better believe I wouldn't stick around to let them ruin my best shirt.

    So many confusing emotions were stirred up that night. I'm not sure what came over me but I am sure that I want to spend my life with J. We have spoken about it since then, I have apologized, he has forgiven me although I know he feels a little jipped that my reaction wasn't what he expected.

    I am so relieved to know that I am not alone in this. I can't wait to have him read your post. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  • Barbra

    I am so, so glad that I've been reading this blog while in that "pre-engaged" state because I feel like conversations like this will really stop me from the second-guessing myself that I always do. I mean, I don't even like opening presents in front of people because I'm afraid of having the wrong reaction!

    Hearing all of these stories about "different" responses to proposal, engagement, and married stuff has made me realize that however I respond, it's going to be ok.


  • Anonymous

    This is a great post. I had so many weird emotions when I got engaged that I am mostly embarrassed about. First of all I was expecting that something was up. Second of all, everyone in my life pretty much already knew it was happening that day because a huge party was thrown in our honor that night. I got to give the news to very few people. We had no alone time since it was over the holidays. On top of that, b/c he had no idea what kind of ring I wanted, he proposed with his grandmother's modest depression-era ring. I am so ashamed that I was disappointed by this. We both have great jobs, I work in an industry where women have giant diamonds on their hands, and I had this expectation of something else. The following hours and days EVERYONE wanted to see the ring. The ring, the ring, the ring. I explained it was his grandmothers, that we'd probably put a larger diamond in it, etc, etc. I believed that everyone was judging us and I had to explain. I thought people who said it was beautiful were just being nice. I found out later it hurt his feelings that I wanted to put a bigger diamond in it. We eventually decided to spend that money on charity instead. But I couldn't really talk about this to anyone. I am a progressive woman that cares about conflict diamonds and shouldn't care about this! It's a very emotional time indeed, even if you know you "shouldn't" feel a certain way or you are ashamed, it's too bad you can't talk to people about it. I believe now that my ring is beautiful and special too–even if I appreciate other people's from time to time :-)

  • Anonymous

    I can't believe how many stories of very different proposals/reactions people have shared. You don't really hear those in other places, do you? So when you re-tell the proposal story over and over again, how much of an edited/expected/faked perfect and romantic version are you giving?

    I was completely hung over sick the morning my now-fiance proposed to me after we stayed at a romantic bed-and-breakfast. He almost canceled his plan to propose. Not perfect, not at all. And that's okay. It's just one day.

  • This is the first time I've ever commented on this blog, despite the fact that I've been reading for years, even before I was engaged. But this post really resonated with me and so I felt that after reading all of the other comments & laughing & crying along with the people who wrote them that I should comment and share my own experience.

    We got engaged just before Christmas last year. It wasn't a "Grand Proposal" but it was right for us, although it took me a little while to come to terms with that. My fiance (it still feels weird to use that word) is not a grand romantic gestures kind of guy. Never has been & I've never expected it of him. And yet, for some reason, some part of me always hoped that I'd get a super romantic, amazing proposal – the type that you see in movies and read about in magazines.

    What did happen, was one Saturday night, while I was sitting on the couch at home, reading blogs & facebooking, he came over and sat down next to me, waited expectantly until I stopped typing and then looked at me, told me that he loved me with all his heart and couldn't wait for me to be his wife. Then he gave me the box that had the ring we'd chosen together in it and asked if I would be his wife. To which I said "of course!" and gave him a huge hug.

    I surprised myself because I didn't cry, even though I'm a crier. But when I retold the story to my mum the next day I did cry, and every day after that whenever I thought of the proposal I cried just a little.

    And despite my elation, some part of me was embarrassed by our humble proposal story. As I began to tell people that we were engaged and they began to ask "so how did it happen?" I was embarrassed, and also ashamed at myself for feeling that way.

    I began to realise that it wasn't that I really wanted a "Grand Proposal" because if I'd gotten one, it would have felt forced and the proposal that actually happened is much more us. But my feelings of embarrassment arose because I felt some pressure that I had to have an amazing story to tell people when they asked about the proposal, because that's what they were expecting.

    This is the first time I've admitted those feelings to anyone and writing this comment has helped me to crystallise what I've always known deep down. Our proposal story is awesome because it is about us and our relationship and how we took the first step to becoming our own little family. It doesn't matter that other people might have hoped to hear about a fairytale proposal – they just want a real life movie like story to happen to someone they know. It doesn't matter because I did get a perfect proposal because all you need for a perfect proposal is two people that love each other.

    Thanks Meg, for starting this discussion, and thanks to all the commenters for helping me to crystallise what I had felt and for sharing your stories.

  • LPC

    Meg, thank you for attributing any of what you know or say to our discussion. All I know is that most of you sound infinitely wiser than I was back then.

  • @verhext – we do the same thing! I was just making dinner last night when I heard him shout "hey! will you marry me!!" from the other room.

  • Kathleen

    OK, so all these stories actually make me MORE excited to get engaged than any hokey Hollywood proposal could. Awesome, ladies. Awesome.

  • Anonymous

    HA! I love reading all these. It smashes the myths so beautifully when everyone raises their voice full with the truth.

    Like the previous post about this, we had been "pre-engaged" for a while i.e. living together, bobbing along at the 3.5 year mark. I knew, like most of the ladies here, that we were going to be together forever, but hadn't really pushed him on a proposal.

    Hilariously, we had decided 6 months before to go to dinner at a fancy steakhouse to celebrate 3 years together and at around 10pm (of a 7pm dinner) all the women in my life called expecting "good news". Like – ??? He was embarassed and stressed that he had "missed a milestone"…was he "supposed" to have proposed that night? It really made us both sit up and pay attention to the stereotypes around the whens-and-whys of engagements that society attempts to pigeonhole us into, and much to everyone's chagrin, we discussed it, laughed uproariously, and proceeded to keep bobbing along ringlessly. until we were *both* ready.

    So a couple months later, I took him to the Caribbean for his birthday. We'd spent a great day on the beach, just the two of us: hanging out, talking, drinking beer, eating. When the sun went down, he sat behind me in a lounge chair, hugged me, then slid over to the sand beside me and proposed with a perfect ring. No-one but a little old lady (herself drinking a cold beer!) to witness, no friends or family close. It was private and personal and perfect. We celebrated my "yes" with some more Red Stripe!

    I couldn't stop laughing. I giggled and diamond-gazed for about 4 days straight before telling anyone. At the time, there was no-one around to tell me that was perfectly fine. But if anyone needs it hear it – sho'is!! :)

    Congrats, ladies.

  • Nina

    I was sobbing when he asked me (the bad kind)… and I was sobbing because we (well mostly I) had just had a big emotional argument about why he wouldn't propose. It came bursting out of me that morning because I was feeling so alone – my family had recently moved overseas and I needed him to finally make us an official family.
    After my angry outburst he hugged me while I cried for a while, then went and got the ring and proposed. At the time I was a little horrified that he would pick that moment. I didn't know he had bought a ring, but still it felt like I cried the proposal out of him. For a while I felt pangs of guilt about this… but I think it worked for us. Knowing myself, the alternative of him proposing on some dinner or walk would very likely have left me totally devoid of emotion and feeling fake.
    The expectations surrounding proposals have made them so impossible to live up to, for both parties, so I think we just have to appreciate that imperfections are part of it. Romantic amazing moments just tend to happen, rather than be planned.

  • SingColleen

    OMG, I love all the stories! I think what we're finding here is that none of this stuff is cut-and-dry perfect. Hmmm… kind of like life.

    My poor husband surprise plans were thwarted every time, so he finally ended up doing it right before he had to leave for work. After I'd asked him about it. I felt horrible. But it ended up being spontaneous. And a really cute story.

  • Nina

    @ Kate – your entire story made me smile :-)

  • KJ

    My FH and I made a joint decision to get engaged. I knew the day I knew when – just not what he would say. It was gorgeous – simple – and included my favourite icecream. But then people start to ask how he proposed and I felt stumped – "he… errr… he asked me???" And I suddenly felt like I was being judged and that I had done it all wrong being too involved. Cue a serious episode of depression (there were other issues involved but this was a major one) and 6 months of intense counselling. Now I feel proud to say to people that it was a joint decision, that he asked me by giving me icecream and a ring he got from the corner store. And that he made me a special playlist and we spent the night drinking and dancing to our songs. I'm glad it happened, six months of feeling like shit wasn't great fun, but I'm so happy now that I know who I am and what I stand for in life and love.

  • Elena

    My husband and I spent two years arguing over which of us was going to get to propose! We each proposed to each other on several occasions, and said no – it became a running joke. After a while, we decided to just end the argument and get engaged without any proposal.

    I actually rather liked explaining that story to people – it removed any expectations they had that this was going to be a "normal" wedding. After that story, not wanting an engagement ring, non-identical bridesmaids' dresses, a combined bachelor/bachelorette party, and taking public transport to the reception didn't get as many objections.

  • @ Miss Fancy Pants- the same happened with me- although he wrote "marry me" in the sand (at a beach)and showed mt the ring box (unopened). He was really nervous though and I felt sorry for him so I didn't say anything, except, "well, are you going to open the box?"

    Not the best- but he was so cute:)

    Is it bad I didn't like my ring though? I still sort of don't like it and don't wear it much- I felt it wasn't really me and he also feels this now but at the same time it has memories connected with it so I didn't ask to cahnge it or anything…anyone else not like their engagement ring? What did you do?

  • Lucie

    I love this post – thank you. This is really something I have heard nothing about, and I love hearing everyone's stories. My boyfriend actually proposed a couple of months before we got engaged. I am the opposite of impulsive and even though we were together a long time and had talked about it, I just didn't feel ready in the moment. I've realised now that it always takes me a lot of mulling-time before I become comfortable with new things, and he knows that's how I work too. I felt ready a little while later and took him back to the lovely countryside secluded place we had been the first time, but couldn't pluck up the courage to ask him in the end. We were speaking about how much we meant to each other and happily my less-nervy-than-me boy asked again. What was funny in hindsight was how worried and nervous his face was and how it lit up when I said yes. That's a lovely memory.

    What I didn't like was that so many people wanted to know exactly how it happened (the second question after wanting to see the ring which didn't exist yet either!) and to me it felt deeply personal and private and none of anyone else's business! We never actually told anyone the full story, but it's ours and when I write it now it is lovely.

    I felt very calm and 'right' in the moments afterwards, but a couple of days later when we told other people and started getting all the calls and emails to congratulate I got really nervous and spent a while feeling extremely sick. I had never heard of nausea as a reaction to engagement before, but it seems I'm not alone! And really, it makes sense, it's a huge step, and you need to process it.

    My goodness, I just intended to write a few lines to comment for the first time and say thank you for a great post…

  • So glad I'm not alone with the sobbing reaction. My fiance and I were just sitting on the sofa, chatting one Friday night, when he said – out of nowhere – "So… wanna get hitched?" I thought he was joking, and I didn't think it was funny, so I kind of pushed him a little and asked him not to mess with me. And then he said, "No… I'm serious. Let's get hitched." (Yes, he kept saying hitched over and over. And now that's what's ended up on our wedding invitations.) I think I stared at him dumbfounded, and then I started laughing and hugging him… and then I started sobbing hysterically. Like out of control, heaving… it was such an insane range of emotions in a five minute period. I don't think I handled it very well.

    The next morning he took me to pick out a ring, and when we got back, he got on one knee. I didn't sob then; I think I jumped up and down and did a little dance. I really felt like I was on drugs those two days. It was just such a weird, crazy feeling!

  • He dropped to one knee and asked, I dropped to both of mine to say yes. In a wet field on a rainy day. The picture some kind tourist took of us 10 minutes later shows us with wet knees and beaming smiles.

    And then I had to ask him that night if he meant like, forever marriage, with like, babies and such. Because I was unsure that he really meant it. I felt very confused for a few days. Thankfully, we were on vacation and decided not to tell anyone until we got back to Canada – I really treasured those days of it being our little secret.

  • Yeah. We got engaged six weeks into the dating process. But, we had been living together for four.

    He asked me over MSN, while he was in Chile. I made him ask me again in person, which he did in the shallow end of the hotel pool after I picked him up at the airport.

    Proposals are kind of like weddings. Everyone does them differently, and you shouldn't feel guilty about that.

  • I'm having a blast reading everyone's stories! I was pretty caught off guard by my reactions too when my guy proposed. We'd talked a lot about marriage/future before, but a couple months before he actually popped the question, I started feeling really queasy every time marriage was mentioned (what Stephanie said about having to reconcile life scripts really resonates) and wondered if that meant I *shouldn't* be marrying him.

    Well, when he asked, I was at the end of a workday from hell and I immediately burst into (good) tears and said, "Yes, yes, of course!" No hesitations. No more doubts. In fact, I was so eager to pull him to his feet and hug him that he didn't even have time to open up the ring box. After a few minutes of kissing, he tentatively said, "Um… do you want to see the ring?" And my first reaction to seeing it? Was to blurt out, "Oh my God, that's way too big. I work in non-profit! I can't wear that and have people take me seriously!" Whoops. So much for the big romantic moment right? :)

  • @peasant- I dropped to both of my knees on a rainy path to say yes, too :)

  • These stories are great…I wasn't disappointed in my proposal – that seemed like the smallest part of it. We had been dating for just over a year (but had been friends in college…it's now nine years later) and I was not thinking marriage, I was just NOT thinking about it because I have this fear that if you desire things too much, they are less likely to happen. Fundamentally I knew we were likely to get married – we had agreed we wouldn't keep seeing each other if either one felt like "together forever" was out of the realm of possibility – but I was expecting us to live together first, and we still had another year or so of being in cities 2 hours apart.

    That morning we were going out on a bike ride and I upbraided him about cleaning up after breakfast. Little did I know he was making sure he had the ring in his bike bag! We stopped to eat on a cute little path and he had this smile on his face all through our hummous wrap lunch. All of a sudden he got serious and then he was down on one knee in his bike shorts and his knee warmers and there was a ring and I had this rushing sound in my ears because WE HADN"T LIVED TOGETHER and WE"D ONLY BEEN TOGETHER ONE YEAR and I WASN"T READY!

    So I burst into tears and said "I don't know!"

    And his poor face just dropped. And I cried harder because I didn't want to disappoint him, but I couldn't answer his question. I laugh about it now but I was so literal-minded – where are we going to live? When would the wedding be? Six months from now? That's crazy!

    Because he is awesome, he said just to think about it. "Not being sure is ok. Saying yes when you're not sure is not ok," he said.

    The ride back was quiet with all our thoughts turning in our heads, me thinking through logistics. The whole afternoon we didn't discuss it directly, but during a long shower when I got back I thought I finally figured it out. I DID want to marry him, it was the moving up of the timeline that was stressful. He had made reservations at a nice place and we talked it through, and by the time we were done with the appetizers I had said yes.

    We're getting married in June and I am so glad he moved the timeline up!

  • Rachel

    I’m loving reading all these stories!

    My boyfriend and I decided to get married next year because we both really want to go to the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand (no really). We were talking about the RWC over a few beers and he mentioned that if we got married, we could go on our honeymoon. I said that wasn’t the craziest idea ever. And thus was born our engagement, if you can call it that (we’re not telling friends for a little while yet; we’re looking into rings, but it’s all very much together because he’s totally unintersted in jewellery and I love it! We only told family because we want some help with RWC tickets!).

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the way we’ve done it. Actually I think it’s kind of sweet, and very typical of our (long) relationship. I need time to get used to things and I like having this just between us for a while. When people ask how we got engaged, I can tell the truth; it seemed like the best way to get to the World Cup!

  • Paige

    I feel SOOOOOOO much better after reading this post. I thought I was the only one in the world that didn’t react the expected-romantic-comedy way.
    I knew that at some point we would get engage and married. We’d been together for 4 years but he is only 25 and I’m only 23. I was nervous about taking the leap. Not because I wanted to be with anyone else, but because I always felt independent and sometimes questioned why people get married so young…

    We were sitting in my parents backyard eating a late breakfast. I was in pajamas with a very ‘haggard’ appearance with our cat on my lap and we had just gotten done discussing our future… He disappeared for a minute. I went inside to get some water and he kept yelling down the stairs “I’ll get it for you! Go outside!”. I was very confused and than I rush of panic came over me. I knew it was coming and I wasn’t ready for it!

    He came outside and gave me a speech of how he knew I was the one he wanted to marry and… something something something. He put a ring on my finger he had bought me in Thailand a year before and said we would pick the ‘real one’ out together later… My reaction: “Wait WHAT! Really? Are you sure? I mean I want to be with you but should we wait? Are we too young? I’m really scared. Maybe we should wait 6 months. I don’t know. I mean yes I want to be with you forever. But I don’t know if I want to be E-N-G-A-G-E-D yet.”

    We proceeded to talk about it for almost an hour. I told him we could be engaged if I could just wait a few weeks to tell people. Well my best friend and parents already knew and came over late that day with champagne and flowers and although I was happy I was still nervous. We watched a movie that night and the whole time I kept looking at him and analyzing ever feature: “Is this the man I want to marry?”. That analyzing went on for days… I lost sleep over it…

    But NOW 2 months later I’m so happy! It took me awhile and I honest to god thought there was something seriously wrong with me and my reaction meant bad news in the future. Thanks to everyone’s comments here I feel so much better and even more confident than I did before. At least every time I look at those 2 chairs in my parents backyard I picture that day and how it was real. It was us. And I wouldn’t change it for anything…

  • K

    I was (and do still feel) in shock when he asked. His proposal feels like such a blur and I keep wanting to rewind for a do-over so I can breath and tell myself to be present. I was pretty jittery and had to keep moving to expend that energy all day… but there was no major emotions on either end of the spectrum.

    I chalk it up to him being The Smartest Man Alive and proposing a) in the morning, b) just yards away from an enormous body of water, and c) with nobody around us as far as our eyes could see and our ears could hear. If you want me in a good, calm mood, able to be perfectly myself, that’s as close to a perfect situation as you can get!

  • Anna

    Thank you, Meg, for this post, and to everyone else for sharing their engagement stories. I have been having mixed feelings about my proposal since it happened in April, and seeing this range of responses has really helped me process that.

    My boyfriend of 5 years proposed to me out of the blue, unplanned, no ring, slightly drunk, and worst of all – IN THE BATHTUB. I swear, it is the only time we have ever taken a bath together. We had had a fun day together – of gardening and playing frisbee and drinking beer. And we were renting a house with this ridiculously cheesy large tub and a gallon of bubble bath. So we got in together to top off the day. As we’re relaxing there, I’ve got my feet up on the edge of the tub, making my toes make funny voices to each other. As I’m thinking “wow, I’m such a dork,” he is somehow totally enchanted. He tells me he loves my feet… and me… and wants to spend the rest of his life with me… and will I marry him?

    The strange thing is, for a couple years, I’ve actually *worried* that he would propose. The idea made me really terrified, and I always thought I wouldn’t know how to respond, being the indecisive girl that I am. But my first thought when he actually DID propose was…”seriously? you’re proposing half-drunk while we’re NAKED? how the hell am I supposed to tell my parents about this?! where is the adorable, nervous, planned proposal that I was expecting without knowing I was expecting it??”

    So before answering, I asked him, “why do you love me?” and he responded with some generic “smart, pretty, funny” stuff but then added that he loves that I’m struggling to create a fulfilling, creative life, and that with every struggle he sees me go through, it helps him process the same issues in his life. And that statement finally made me tear up, made me realize that I’d found the person that admired/respected me for the things that other boyfriends – that I myself – had found so damn frustrating about me.

    So after taking about it some more – about what a great team we are, what a great life we would have together – basically me talking through the decision with him – I said yes.

    And then the most amazing thing happened. Instead of being regretful or sad or worried or nervous about making the commitment to be married – I was elated. I felt special, giddy, and content – for days. I couldn’t wait to tell people. This came as a totally unexpected and wonderful shock to me.

    He felt bad there was no ring. I told him I didn’t need a ring. And at the time, I meant it. But in the months since, I’ve grown to want one. Not only because everyone asks to see it, and I feel like not having one makes him look like a deadbeat; but also because just having any physical “evidence” would make it feel more real to me. But I don’t think a temporary piece of jewelry should cost thousands, or even hundreds, of dollars. So my idea is to suggest that we both get wooden engagement rings. And this post has given me the guts to actually bring this up with him, and move beyond a lot of cultural expectations. So THANK YOU. Who knew this stuff would be so tricky?

    • Anna

      Wow, how obnoxiously long is my post? Sorry about that – guess I really needed to process this!

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  • Liz

    My almost-fiancee hasn’t officially proposed yet, but we just bought the ring a couple days ago (let the waiting begin!). We figured I might as well pick out the ring I want as he would have no clue where to begin. Anyway, the grit of it is that picking out the ring was so emotional in itself I’m slightly afraid of the proposal. Buying the ring made it all real. We had a terrible night a few weeks ago after I had picked out the ring because he had given me a budget, and although the ring was within the budget, suddenly it was too much.

    I didn’t cry, I SOBBED! Then I sobbed even more because I was crying over a piece of metal and some carbon! I never thought I would become so attached to something like that, but I think him backing out on my ring scared me that maybe he didn’t want to marry me anymore. We’ve been discussing getting engaged for a while and had decided if we don’t do it now we’ll have to wait 8 years (I plan to go to vet school and do a residency, and there is no way I’m planning a wedding during school). It just makes sense to get married now while I’m not in school, but I’ve gradually been feeling more guilty that I may have pressured him into it.

    Anyway, hopefully the proposal will go smoothly and I won’t feel guilty any more. Thank you for the post, I feel better knowing I’m not the only one with weird feelings about this!

  • Megan

    When my fiance proposed to me I took the ring and said, “Thank you,” paused put the ring back and said “Oh, wait you should do that.” We were in front of his whole family. He was crying, his aunts were crying, I was laughing… Pretty much sums up our relationship. I love our engagement story and it is so very different from everyone of my friends.