Ways To Propose That Aren’t about the Male Ego

Because dudes aren't the only people who get married.

couple in front of yes mural after executing a great proposal idea

Weddings these days can often be as heavy on the sequins and feminism as you want them, but there’s one area where our cultural norms and narratives are still quite traditional: the wedding proposal. (I can tell you all about this, because I’ve spent the last few days of my life researching what the Internet provides in the way of wedding proposal ideas, and I feel like I need a shower/cry/Shonda binge watching experience, just to cleanse my soul.) On APW, we’ve talked about what to say in your proposal, and we’ve also talked about the plague on our society that is the public proposal, and we have a whole post on 50 ideas for proposing. but today? Today we’re going to talk about why wedding proposals no longer have to cater to the male ego.

Since we know that our world is in fact not solely compromised of straight people who want to get married, and where the dude proposes, it makes sense that we need to shake up the story around proposals in the first place.

Pro-Tip: If you are a woman proposing to a man, you shouldn’t have to worry about “stealing his thunder” or bruising his ego by doing so. If you are a man who is proposed to by a woman and you do in fact find that your ego is nursing a bruise, dude: no one likes male fragility.

Wedding Proposals 101

Before we dive in though, let’s review some wedding proposal 101:

  1. Your wedding proposal does not have to unique. Like, at all.
  2. Your proposal doesn’t have to be pre-planned or thought out beyond “Do I think this person wants to marry me? Okay, cool, I’ll ask them”.
  3. You really don’t need a photographer present (unless that works for both of you).
  4. And unless you guys have pre-planned this together every step of the way, remember there is a (hopefully small, but still real) chance they’ll say no. Or, “let me think about it.” Or, “I’m not ready yet, but I think I will be soon.” In short, the romantic part about asking a question is that you’re giving your partner an option to answer it, to choose you, to say yes. So if your proposal idea sets up a situation where your partner feels they can’t say no? That’s not only not romantic, it’s manipulative. TL;DR: Having all of your friends and family flown in to watch you while you propose? Not cool (unless they’re in on the plan).

The bottom line? You just need to figure out what is right for you, and what’s right for your partner. And if the two of you are the types who want to get creative with it, we have a whole slew of ways to propose… (that are not even a little bit creepy… Internet article that suggested a naked massage where you end by shoving a ring on her finger). In fact, we’d go so far as to call this list kinda feminist and egalitarian.

10 Ways To Propose that #Slay

Fill a space with memories

This can be as much of a big affair or a low-key happening as you want, but the general idea is that you create a timeline of your relationship in a space that is significant to the two of you. You know, photos of you together hung along the hall of your apartment, an animated stop-motion movie played in a theater that you rented out, etc. (Or medical scans in an elevator, if you’re Meredith and Derek.)

write it in a book

Fellow bookworms, unite. I am a hundred percent here for wedding proposals by book. There are so many options: pre-order a book your partner is really pumped about and hide the proposal somewhere that makes sense (but maybe make sure the book is proposal appropriate, and not something dark, terrible, and super sad). If you feel like writing, you could draft a story about two characters who are very much like you, who fall in love, who decided to get married… and then have it bound and gift it to your partner. You could even have an author your partner loves sign your proposal IN a book. (J.K., you free for that?)

set up a photo shoot

Some of my favorite proposal stories all involve the photo shoot surprise. This proposal idea is pretty self-explanatory: set up a photo session for your anniversary—or just because—and toward the end of the session, surprise your partner with a proposal. (There are a couple of real life examples here.) On top of getting engaged, you’ll also have sweet photos of the exact moment where your partner realized what you’re up to. (Note: This is good if your partner won’t feel pressured by you popping the question in front of a photographer, and won’t feel photo-shy.)

write the proposal together

So maybe one of you does really want to propose, and the other does really want to be proposed to, but you want to make sure you both LIKE what is said. That’s cool, I dig it. In that case, why not just draft the proposal together? If you want to leave room for an element of surprise, maybe you can agree on what will be said in general, but not specifically. If you both want to have something to say, add that in. You do you, guys!

propose when they least expect it

There’s definitely a lot of fun in the idea of planning out a killer proposal for weeks—but why not just go for it, in the spur of the moment? Instead of setting up an elaborate day with all the bells and whistles, propose quietly while the two of you are making dinner after work, or get engaged while you’re out walking the dog. Note: This obviously works better if you’ve been together for a while (and have at least talked about getting married).

Write it out

Do you have sidewalk chalk handy? Are you planning a trip to the coast? Then y’all, if you’re in the mood to get hitched, why not ask in chalk, in sand, or spray paint (you know, with permission)? You can also think more low key and use lipstick on the mirror or magnet letters/words on the fridge for a more comfortable, intimate proposal at home.

propose after having sex

First and foremost, I don’t mean propose while you’re actively having sex. I also don’t mean propose in the initial few minutes right, right after you’ve had sex, because that might not feel genuine. But you know, in the lazy-hazy, feel-good post-sex time? When you’re cuddled up and naked and digging on each other? Propose then—just make sure you have a G rated version of the story to tell everyone else. (This of the alternate story as your proposal idea that might have been…)

scavenger hunt proposal

This is another “know your audience” type of move, but it’s a good one if it fits. Set up a scavenger hunt that leads to you, waiting to propose. The details will obviously vary, but some ideas include seeing if local businesses that you frequent will collaborate and enlisting friends to help with clues (again, assuming you know your partner will be down with that). Bonus points if you end in a favorite public spot (a park, the corner you met on, etc.).

be engaged to be engaged

Maybe one day you accidentally refer to your partner as your fiancé, and then, oh hey, both of you realize that you kind of like how that sounds, but you both want to have an equal part in the process of getting engaged. The solution? Choose a day in the future to become officially engaged, and then make a whole thing of it (kind of like Molly and Casey did here), doing whatever it is you guys like to do (eat, drink, and be merry, right?).

wrap it in a box

It’s straight out of a TV show, but I’m always a sucker for the big box with a slightly smaller box… that holds a slightly smaller box… that holds an even smaller box, which holds an engagement ring (or some other token). You could use this proposal idea on a holiday (Christmas, birthdays, and so on) or… just because.

what would you add to this list? How did You get engaged?

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