I recently got what turned out to be one of the best group texts I’ve gotten in a zillion years, from one of my super-long-time besties, asking me and her sister for advice on proposing to her boyfriend. No surprise, we had a lot of advice, most of it of the all caps sort. Our more practical advice ranged from getting him a silicon ring, which was sensible, because he works with his hands, and inexpensive, so they could pick out a wedding ring together later. Our less practical advice included proposing to him during a paintball battle while pointing a paintball gun at him, because really, why not?
But the truth is, proposals have become (or maybe always were) a complicated mess of expectations and tradition—now mixed with a millennial lack of formality.
When my parents got engaged, it was pretty cut and dry. My dad asked my mom if she wanted to marry him because he was moving away for work, and there was no way they were going to get away with moving across the country together unmarried. They hadn’t been dating very long, so my mom asked to think about it, and a week later said yes. Forty years later, the rest is history.
But for my friend in question, things are decidedly less cut and dry. She’s lived with her boyfriend a few years. She wants to get formally hitched; he’s a little less sure that he has faith in marriage as an institution, but he wants to grow old with her. So after many conversations, they finally decided they wanted to get married, and then she decided she was going to pop the question (because my friends are the raddest). And then she had to figure out how she wanted to pull that off.
Over my almost decade of running APW, we’ve fielded all kinds of questions on engagement.
- If I ask my partner about getting engaged, am I being pushy? (Because damn it, I want some say in where my life is going.)
- What happens if I’m ready to get married, but my partner isn’t? (Or vice versa.)
- Is it cool if I pick my ring out?
- My partner picked out my ring and I hate it, what do I do?
- My partner told everyone we know that they were proposing before they did it, so I had nobody to break the news to. Is it okay that I’m upset?
- I want to propose, but my boyfriend doesn’t believe women should pop the question. What do I do?
- Does the engagement count if we don’t have a ring?
- If there hasn’t been a proposal, but we’ve booked the venue, are we engaged?
- After my fiancé proposed, I ugly cried for half an hour. Am I broken?
And on, and on, and on, nearly forever.
If you’ve already lived through your friend group getting engaged, you probably know that a lot of engagements take place during the holidays. Which means we’re coming up on engagement season right quick. And I’m willing to bet that there are a ton of you thinking, plotting, and sometimes worrying about getting engaged. So, since we also have a huge group of smart, feminist women who have been there, done that, we thought we’d open the floor to all of you today to talk out your fears, concerns, anxieties, and other feelings on the complicated cultural art of getting engaged.
And you know, to show us your rings (or engagement puppies). Because, obviously.
What burning questions do you have about engagement? What problems do you need solved around engagement rings, proposals, pushy family, the works? What advice do you have for folks who are thinking they might get engaged real soon? And heck, if you want to share your proposal story, we always want to hear it.