Tell Us What You Really Think about Getting Engaged

It’s the most wonderful/emotionally loaded time of the year

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.

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  • angela

    I have a piece of advice for anyone going a non-traditional route (which I imagine is a lot of people): have an answer prepared for the typical questions you’ll get.

    My husband and I didn’t really have a proposal. We had a conversation (well, a lot of conversations) and, when we decided that we did want to move forward with getting married, we decided that we would get engaged on an upcoming vacation. On said vacation, we had champagne to celebrate and declared ourselves engaged. No surprises, and it was perfect for us. But then we returned to real life, started telling people, and everyone asked for “the proposal story.” And, since I was totally unprepared to tell it, I ended up mumbling a bunch about how we didn’t really have a proposal, which made it sound like I was disappointed. Which was exactly the opposite of how I felt (I would have been disappointed – and furious – if my partner had planned some big surprise after all of our conversations that were pretty explicit otherwise). After this happened a few times, I crafted my elevator version. Even if future propsoal-lovers still weren’t totally satisfied, they at least left the conversation like, “Well good, whatever works for you,” rather than, “wow he really dropped the ball” (one of my husband’s good friends actually said this to him!).

    tl;dr: I found that people responded better to non-traditional choices when I just owned them. And, for me at least, I found that owning them was a lot easier if I had a response ready in advance. And maybe that response didn’t need to be the full 25 minute version of why I didn’t want a proposal… it could just be a simple, “Oh we didn’t have a proposal, we decided together and had champagne and were on a beautiful island and it was lovely!” This early lesson also served me well in the rest of wedding planning…

    • NolaJael

      Yes. We had a series of conversations and then a “think it over” period before announcing. This is not considered traditionally romantic so an elevator pitch was necessary.

    • Zoya

      Yes! We didn’t have a traditional proposal, so I found myself scrambling to come up with a story that would be sufficiently “awww”-worthy. (Our story involves a trip to urgent care, which is weird enough that it usually short-circuits the “proposal story” script.)

    • theteenygirl

      FH proposed to me on our couch on a Monday after I came home from work. When I told people that they were very happy for us, but I got a lot of, “just on the couch? Just like that?” But what they don’t know is that my dad proposed to my mum on their couch in their first apartment and I always loved that, and FH knew that I loved that story. He also chose Monday because I always get together with my best friend on Monday evenings to go on walks, as it’s the only weeknight she’s ever free so he wanted me to be able to have her over to share in the excitement. So really, in being pretty unromantic it was the most romantic thing.

      • ssha

        So thoughtful!

      • angela

        That’s such a lovely story! It kind of reminds me of Aidy Bryant’s, which is one of my all-time faves:

        Also I think there’s a real hidden, subtle romance in two people doing what works for them, others expectations be damned.

        • Cellistec

          This video made my day.

        • Susannah Roush

          Um, perfection.

        • theteenygirl

          Omg. This story though. HILARIOUS.
          I came home from work and there were flowers and wine on the table and I was like awh that’s cute. And I said hi and I picked up our parrot, as I always do when I get home from work, for some snuggles and sat on the couch with him. And FH comes over, asks about my day and he’s just looking at the parrot weirdly, he’s acting weird, he’s asking to watch TV but not watching it, eventually mutes it.. just all around strange. So finally I put the parrot down on his stand after our snuggle session and he just turns off the TV, reaches under the couch and pulls out a ring box and asks me. All I really remember is crying, and the parrot LAUGHING at me. You have to understand, the parrot mimics and he often gets crying and laughing confused (don’t we all though) so I’m sitting there bawling my eyes out and getting laughed at.

          FH was apparently SWEATING because he hadn’t planned for me to want to hang out with the bird and he didn’t know what to do!

          • angela

            I loved your story before but THE PARROT! That somehow makes it even more amazing. I can’t stop laughing.

          • theteenygirl

            The parrot acts like a baby/toddler, I kid you not, in almost all ways you can think of. People think they should get a puppy before they have kids as “training” nuh uh folks.. adopt a parrot. They’ll teach you.

      • Kari

        My parents also ‘just got engaged on the couch’ in my grandmother’s house. That same couch is now in my parents’ house so it’s always there. 36 years and going strong :)

    • sofar

      YES YES YES on “owning” your choices — and that applies to wedding stuff too. It sucks that we have to have prepared statements, but it really really helps. I was also unprepared and so I got a lot of second-guessing from people. But once I had enthusiastic little elevator versions for all non-traditional wedding stuff, things got easier.

      “Nope, no flowers needed! The lake we are getting married by is GORGEOUS.”
      “Bridesmaids are choosing their own outfits, everyone is so excited, I can’t wait to see what they pick out!”
      “No church, wedding will be outside by a beautiful lake and then we’ll all go inside for dinner. It’ll be easy-peasy!”

      Eventually, I just switched to, “Tee hee we’re keeping that aspect of the wedding a surprise and we can’t WAIT to celebrate with you.”

      If you display any uncertainty (because you weren’t prepared for the question), people totally interpret that as, “OMG the bride needs my HELP and ADVICE and CRITICISM!”

    • Julia Schnell

      We also had a conversation instead of a big proposal moment and it made answering those questions awkward. Our story is, like, “We’d been kind of talking about getting married for a while and decided we should probably mention it to our families at some point.”

    • AmandaBee

      “I found that people responded better to non-traditional choices when I just owned them”

      Absolutely, this was our experience too. Initially, I wasn’t prepared with a response to all the “proposal story” questions (wtf why is this even a thing?). But eventually with some version “we mutually decided we wanted to get married, and we’re so excited!!!” and people responded pretty well to that.

      • ZLMT

        Yessss. We got engaged after a conversation, and bought a ring together, which ended up being my wedding ring. I was happy with it, but also felt awkward explaining it, but it got easier with time once I found some phrasing that worked for me.

    • Anneke Oosterink

      Same for us, we’d talked about getting married when my dad had to stay in hospital for half a year, so he said that if my dad became sicker we’d get married while my dad could still come and be there. That was incredibly sweet of him. Thankfully my dad got better, so we did not get married at that point, but it was the starting point of a series of talks about our future together and our wishes. After a while we decided we actually wanted to get married within a year, so we are going to get married next week (Eeeep!). When people ask about the proposal I always say we didn’t have one, but that we decided together. :) (and I hope we will always take those kind of decisions together)

  • Lizzie

    ~It’s O K A Y to ask your partner about their expectations for the proposal!!~

    This has come up with dudes more than ladies in my own life, but obviously apply as necessary to your own partnership. I feel like there’s this weird socially perpetuated idea that the more discussion you have about a proposal, the less romantic it is. False false false!!! Being proposed to in a situation that makes you feel super uncomfortable or just wasn’t want you were picturing = actually unromantic.

    My bro was worried about ruining “the surprise” (again, wut, come on society why u gotta play) and was so overwhelmed trying to figure out how to propose without having a single clue what his gf was thinking/wishing etc. He ended up with a really happy medium where he asked his gf a series of questions that she could opt out of at any point (and that he could also weigh in on):

    Do you want to have any say in our proposal? If no, that’s the last you’ll hear from me the rest will all be a surprise! If yes, continue…
    Do you want to be involved in picking out a ring? (If no, bye / if yes, continue)
    Do you want to know when it’s gonna happen? (no bye / yes continue)
    Do you have any thoughts on whether we’ll involve families at all? (no bye / yes continue)
    Do you want a public or private proposal? (no bye / yes continue)

    Etc etc. It gave her the freedom to pick what she wanted to be surprised by, and gave him everything he needed to know to make sure he wasn’t gonna inadvertently do something she didn’t want. Their actual proposal was romantic af and perfect for them both! :)

    • Laura C

      I like this, and if every pre-proposal was like that I might not be categorically opposed to proposals as a thing.

      • Lizzie

        Hah! Word.

    • Not Sarah

      I would actually say that the public/private question should be asked even if the person otherwise doesn’t want to have a say! I was totally against public for example.

      • penguin

        Yeah I think a lot of these questions are valid even if the person says no to a particular question. Otherwise I totally agree with this idea.

      • Lizzie

        Yes I agree completely! I’m editing to clarify cause I wrote this a little confusingly…

    • Katharine Parker

      This sounds like a great way to frame the questions about how to propose, although I think the first question could be expanded, a la “Do you want to have any say in our proposal, including whether it’s public or private, or picking out the ring, or who is involved? Do you have any specific things you don’t want?” Because I could see someone being like, “I don’t want to be involved!” but actually have eight specific things that they would never want and otherwise never mentioned.

      • Lizzie

        Hah ohhh yes that’s a great point. “I want it to be a surprise!……….except I hate public proposals and I have a family ring I want to wear and I hope someone takes pictures from the bushes so we can have the moment saved for our kids” etc.

        I know for my brother, he was so concerned about the “ruining the surprise” thing that I don’t think he could have stomached asking a lot of questions at once! I think for him the idea of just a single lil lead, one at a time, helped him feel like he was leaving a lot of space for surprises, should his gf want them. But yeah, not quite as thorough, it’s true…

        • Not Sarah

          That makes sense :) We had these conversations over a long period of time. No public proposal, I want to be involved in picking out a ring. That’s as far as we went because we then ended up eloping without even getting engaged! I mourn the engagement period sometimes but am also really glad we skipped it.

    • Abby

      This is excellent advice, and I would make it stronger than “it’s okay” to ask these questions and say that anyone who will be proposing SHOULD be asking these questions. You can ask them in the hypothetical (prefacing each with an “If I were to propose to you…” if you must), but… no matter how much you feel like you know them SO WELL and have planned the perfect proposal all on your own, they might have expectations/fantasies about their proposal that they’ve never had a chance to voice (or even realized they had), and if those expectations aren’t met, the day of can be less than the perfect joyful whirlwind we’ve been conditioned to want our engagements to be. You can work through that all after the fact and still have a wonderful marriage, but since you usually don’t get a do-over on proposals, having these conversations ahead of time will seriously mitigate the risk of your partner being blindsided by anything in a bad way.

    • Abs

      YES TO THIS. We thought everyone did this until people started asking things like “how did you figure out his ring size?” Ummm…he went to a store, got sized, and told me what the size was?

    • Jan

      Hard agree. It just feels so unfair to both parties that we as a society have built this entire thing up as the thing that MUST be a totally romantic, carefully planned, surprising moment for the other person. And if it isn’t all those things it’s somehow less meaningful. I honestly don’t get how that is even achievable; are there really couples who get engaged and have literally never discussed getting engaged before? If there are, I’ve never heard of them.

    • Amandalikeshummus

      Missing the mark, but wouldn’t it be super cute if someone did a choose-your-own-proposal with these questions in real time? Don’t want it to be public? Okay, to the secluded meadow we go. No family? Texting them to go home. Want to know when it’s going to happen? How’s ten minutes from now?

      In the movies, I mean.

    • Elizabeth D

      “I feel like there’s this weird socially perpetuated idea that the more
      discussion you have about a proposal, the less romantic it is.”

      Strangely enough the only person who seems to think that my boyfriend and my engagement plans are unromantic is my mother. We have discussed getting married, started making preliminary wedding plans, picked out a ring together, and he has a plan on when he will propose. He hasn’t told me when, but I have my guess.

      My mother finds this sequence of events odd and unromantic. No one else that I have talked to about it has had this reaction.

  • Pterodactyl111

    Personally, I think a couple absolutely needs to talk about wanting to get married before getting engaged. If you don’t talk about how you envision the rest of your lives, how can you possibly know whether you want to spend them together or not?? It’s the mature and responsible thing to do, and if you can’t have a real conversation with your partner about it, then that’s a really bad sign.

    • Kari

      I like to say that a proposal can be a surprise but that marriage shouldn’t.

      • Pterodactyl111


  • Kaitlyn

    My advice would be to have zero expectations around the actual proposal (if your partner is planning on proposing to you). I miiiight have dreamt about a sunset sail around Boston Harbor as the perfect proposal, and the real proposal was a lot more low-key than that. Definitely a sweet and thoughtful proposal, but I spent the first week feeling guilt ridden because while I was so excited, it wasn’t what I was envisioned, but it was really thoughtful etc etc. If this DOES happen to you, I think it’s helpful to learn more about your partner’s thought process. 1. It’s great to see what was important to them in this moment and 2. Helps you process your own feelings. To J, he really wanted to be able to see the Boston skyline since that’s where we met and developed our relationship and he actually DID think about a sailboat ride but was terrified he’d drop the ring in the water (and then we learned I this past summer I get pretty nauseous on sailboats when it’s choppy water hahaha).

    I think we get fed these elaborate proposal stories (and websites like How He Asked don’t help at all), when the importance is that you and your partner are deciding taking a huge life step together so it doesn’t matter how they ask or if they’re puppies involved (though puppies being involved is totally awesome and I’d be totally jelly).

    OH and you might have been expecting the engagement/have talked about it extensively/been reading APW for a long time prior to being engaged, and it is TOTALLY okay to be completely overwhelmed and anxious for the first week. If I could do it again, I’d keep it a secret as long as possible and just enjoy the time with J and give myself space to process all those feelings.

    • ssha

      +1 about zero expectations, and to this whole comment. How He Asked keeps popping up on my Pinterest and feeding me unwelcome feelings of “did we not do it right/I feel like this is just feeding the whole women-have-no-say and proposals are just for photos machine”- it’s not good.
      I wanted a surprise proposal; this didn’t make sense to my husband as he thought of us as already engaged. We ended up with a mutual proposal- I am a grand gesture person, he is not, but it was still incredibly romantic and I liked that I could adjust my expectations to what it was going to be instead of being surprised.

  • Jess

    My thoughts on proposals:

    1) Know the answer will be yes (FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD IN THE WORLD, talk about mutually wanting to be married to each other before hand)
    2) Propose in a way that makes both you and your partner comfortable (Don’t propose in a stadium with the jumbotron and a flash mob to a shy person! Don’t propose casually while your Big Romantic Gesture partner is brushing his teeth!)
    3) If you aren’t clear about #2, it’s ok to ASK ABOUT IT.
    4) You don’t actually have to do it any certain way. (If you have booked a venue and set a date, you’re engaged. If you don’t want a ring, but did propose, you’re still engaged. If you proposed after a big fight over waffles – APW story, I’m looking at you – and your partner said yes, you’re still engaged).

    Also, here is my thought on becoming engaged (applicable in all situations):

    It’s ok to feel however you feel about getting engaged.

    Even if you were prepared, even if you were the one to seek it out, even if something went a bit awry, even if everyone else is telling you to feel differently. Being engaged can be super big and exciting, or super big and scary, or no actually big deal at all.

  • Violet

    I do think I kinda understand how the idea got started that planning an elaborate proposal without consulting your partner would be totally romantic—it feels like, “Oh, this person knows me SO WELL, they didn’t even have to ask and yet they got it exactly right, how romantic is that!?” But honestly, the only person I expect to read my mind is my coffee guy. In basically all other situations in life, mind-reading is an ineffective strategy. Don’t leave something as major as a proposal up to the uncertainty of hoping you get it right. Ask!

  • Katharine

    I am more action-oriented than my boyfriend. We discussed multiple times, over the course of multiple months, that we would like to get married in the near future. We talked about what kind of non-diamond engagement ring I would like, and because he is a skilled mechanical engineer and machinist, he made me my ring. I loved seeing the ring as it progressed and being able to give input on what I wanted.

    Eventually, the ring was finished, and I knew it was finished. My boyfriend felt a little bit scared about the pressure of now having to propose, but he knew that I wanted an official proposal. I knew a September wedding would work best for us (it’s in 10 days!!!) and that getting engaged in January would also work best. Even though I knew so many of the details about the proposal beforehand, it was still a surprise to me and was the best ever from our perspective: he asked while we were offroading in his Jeep on a very snowy day. The next morning, we had adventured into another snowy area to take self-timered engagement photos, and once we had some beautiful images of ourselves and the ring, we called our very excited and surprised respective parents and shared the news and images on Facebook.

    Long story short: engagements can be very planned and yet surprising at the same time. One can also combine lots of traditional elements with the uniqueness of you and your partner.

    • AJay Morris

      Can you post photos?? Mine sounds similar – and I made my own ring!

    • ssha

      This is a lovely story. Snowy engagement! I love hearing everyone’s perspectives on this and how no one is the same.

  • honeycomehome

    I think an important question to answer is “Why are we getting engaged?” It seems obvious, but the answers can actually be pretty different. When my husband and I got engaged (after nine years), engagement was a way to say, “We are going to plan a wedding now.” It wasn’t a moment that marked an increased commitment to each other, or a signal to our families that we were serious. Those are legit reasons some people get engaged! But we’d already crossed those lines, and so our engagement was pretty short and sweet and really only lasted as long as we needed to plan.

    I’ve had friends, however, that wanted to be engaged before living together. Or engaged before another big life event to show that the commitment was serious. Or a friend who wanted to be engaged because she needed that sign from her boyfriend. So if you’re wanting an engagement, it’s a good idea to think about the WHY, too, beyond the obvious answers.

    • Jan

      This is so true! We were a lot like you; getting engaged basically just signified that I had concluded my period of considering whether I wanted to get married again, and had decided that yes, I still believe in marriage. We were already fully, publicly committed for some time, so it didn’t change much for us except now we had this event to plan. But I agree that getting on the same page as to why you want this, or at least identifying it for yourself, is important. I don’t think there are any invalid reasons for wanting it, it just helps so much to keep a balance in the relationship and keeps communication clear.

    • Sarah E

      Totally agree. Our “engagement” was a bit long, but yeah, basically a notification that we are saving for and planning a wedding, and all the legal stuff that comes with. That sentiment was worked into our wedding ceremony, too. Fortunately, we live pretty far from anyone who didn’t understand that, so we didn’t have too much disconnect with others about it.

  • ssha

    This month it will be a year since our planned, mutual engagement, so I was just thinking about this and how happy that day was! Mutual engagement = low anxiety and expectations matching reality. I would recommend it. I really wanted a surprise proposal, but the more I thought about it the more weirded out I got that as a woman I was just supposed to wait for one, like why is that? (I mean I know why.) Thanks APW for validating women to have a say in their own big life decisions and providing more empowering alternatives that the mainstream narrative. Although I’d be remiss to say that the reason I didn’t get a surprise proposal is because it didn’t suit my husband. He said to me “We’re talking about getting married, so aren’t we already engaged?” I didn’t feel like we were. And I was right: the day we went on our engagement hike and exchanged rings, I felt waaaaay different. Our relationship had changed by that symbolic moment. “Boyfriend” to “Partner” was a mind shift, for me anyway. So I think for some people all they need is a conversation, but I like ritual and I needed a ceremony of sorts.

    • AJay Morris

      My story is very similar, down to the date – September 10! Ours was after skiing on a weekend we’d planned, both spoke to my stepdaughter the Monday before and my parents the night before. It was difficult to get to that point as my fiancé doesn’t like the concept of engagement (he’s ok with marriage, it’s just that only posh people get engaged in France where he’s from) but we both really enjoyed the lead up to our mutual engagement.

      • ssha

        That’s so interesting about France- how do they do it then?
        I enjoyed the before-time, too. And we didn’t tell our families or ANYONE else until after, although I had hinted to a few friends it was coming up, so it was fun to have a secret for just us for a time. It was kind of weird, but so exciting, knowing what date it was going to be, and so fun trying on my ring in secret, going to pick his ring up together (Jeweler: “When’s the wedding?” Us: “uhh… don’t know yet”) telling my parents we were going on a weekend trip “to see the fall colors”, and the look of complete surprise and happiness on my MIL’s face when we told her. Ahhh I’m getting all giddy just thinking about it. Engagement in general was something I never want to do again, but the beginning was so full of happiness.

    • E.

      Same! We had a lot of talks about what being engaged meant to us (for us we decided it was when we started telling other people and actually planning the wedding), but I definitely needed some special moment/ceremony/SOMETHING to mark that transition. We also did a mutual engagement and it was the best day ever!

  • theteenygirl

    Something I have come to terms with during my engagement is to tell myself “my feelings are valid, no matter what feelings they are”. I have gone through everything from over the moon happy to let’s not do this to this isn’t a big deal to THIS IS THE BIGGEST DEAL EVER AHHH.

    When it came to our proposal, it was scarier to bring up the subject of marriage than it was for either one of us during the proposal – why? Because we already knew we wanted to marry each other, and IMO that’s how it should be. I would have been so mad at my fiance if he had just randomly asked me to marry him without a prior conversation. I would have said no, not because I didn’t want to marry him but because he didn’t know me well enough to know that’s not what I wanted.

    For the ring, I made a Pinterest board of things I liked. We went to the museum’s gems exhibit to look at different gemstones together, since we knew we didn’t want a diamond. I didn’t want to know what the actual ring looked like but I did want to have some say.

    Lately it seems like my newsfeed is flooded with engagement announcements, which is great! I love them! But about 90% have been while people have been away in beautiful places, on vacation, etc. and I keep thinking.. oh.. maybe we should have gone away for this. But that’s not what either of us wanted! It’s amazing how social media can make you forget these things.

    • Katharine Parker

      Going to the museum’s gems exhibit together sounds like a lovely way to spend an afternoon and do some no-pressure engagement ring research. What gemstone did you pick?

      • theteenygirl

        The gems room is our favourite place in the museum (we’re members so we go pretty often) so now it’s fun to go and be like.. remember when..

        And way less pressure than a jewellery store!

        My centre stone is a moissanite, which coincidentally, was not at the gems exhibit but that exhibit led us to do some research, which ended in us getting the moissanite stone. The side stones are tiny diamonds though – I wasn’t expecting accent stones so that was a surprise! He did his due=diligence though and after the proposal he handed me the paperwork that certifies the diamonds as conflict free. it was pretty cute.

  • Katharine Parker

    The jeweler who made my ring spoiled my husband’s opportunity to surprise me with a proposal. We designed the ring together and had started planning our wedding, so we were already engaged, but my husband wanted to surprise me with the finished ring and formally pop the question. Then the jeweler called me instead of him to tell us that the ring was ready. Sorry, surprise! Still, my husband took off work early to pick it up and surprise me at home, after telling me he wasn’t sure that he would get there before it closed so I might have to wait a day or two, so he got in a tiny surprise.

    It ended up being incredibly sweet and lovely when he rushed home to propose to me. But it’s a decent reminder that even the best laid plans (or, you know, the simplest of instructions) can go awry.

    • LAinTexas

      This sort of reminds me of my good friend’s proposal story. They’ve been together for several years and (now) have three kiddos together, and I believe they’d had a stone since the first kiddo was born about six years ago. However, they didn’t get a band until a couple of years ago. I remember her telling me that the jeweler called to say that the finished ring was ready to be picked up, and she goes, “I told him [her fiance], ‘If I go pick it up, I’m keeping it,'” and his response was apparently, “Okay.” LOL! I don’t remember all the details, but I do recall that they got a babysitter for their kids and had a kid-free, romantic dinner to celebrate and that sort of thing. :)

  • Brooke

    In my mind, the proposal is less of the actual decision to get married at all, and more just the beginning of actively planning a wedding (although sometimes life takes us in different directions and engagements last longer than just the planning period). It would baffle me to think that someone would consider proposing, or expect a proposal, without having a series of serious conversations about marriage with their partner.
    In heterosexual relationships, the tradition of a man proposing can feel like a real power trip and for me, was one of the biggest obstacles in our relationship leading up to engagement. In order to tackle some of the not so equal-ness of the whole process, I picked out my ring with my partner there with me, I helped pay for the ring (we knew we would be combining finances anyway, why not start with making this purchase together?) and I let him choose how to ask me (within reasonable time of the purchase, no public proposal). It wasn’t fancy or Insta-worthy, but I personally enjoyed that it was an intimate experience, and that we had that evening to enjoy the newness of our engagement. Ultimately, it’s important for both parties to not be fearful of expressing their wants for a proposal, because it is a huge decision to make as a couple, and making the person uncomfortable is no way to start that part of your life.

    • Not Sarah

      I love this! My in-laws think it really bizarre that we shared the cost of my engagement ring but I really agree with you about the equality of the process. I like that we picked the rings out together and that they feel like a mutual wedding set to me rather than a gift from him.

    • topscallop

      My fiance and I also split the cost of my ring – and an engagement gift for him (he decided on Alan Edmonds shoes). I designed my moissanite engagement ring, because I’m going to wear it my whole life and I wanted something unique, vintage-inspired but not bank-breaking. My fiance was thrilled with this, as he hadn’t had the best track record in buying me jewelry that is to my taste. We had the ring shipped to him, and he planned a (private) proposal, where he surprised me, got down on one knee, and read a beautiful note he had written. What was most important for me was that we had mutually agreed months prior that we were going to get married. He knew I didn’t want it done in public, and that no parents should be asked for blessings or permission. After the proposal we drank fancy pink champagne and ate Chinese food on the couch, and called our friends and family to share the news. It was absolutely perfect for us! But not the most exciting story for others to hear.

      • topscallop

        And here’s my ring, with my band that I get to wear in 2.5 weeks!:

        • EE

          I love you ring! It’s like a perfect mix of old-fashioned and modern styles. Where did you get it?

          • topscallop

            Thank you! Wow, that picture is huge, haha. I had my engagement ring made by David Klass, using a moissanite I got from Joseph Schubach. It’s based on an antique ring made in 1915 that I found on Erstwhile Jewelry but could never afford. With what we saved on a diamond we were able to get it in platinum :) My band is from Washington Diamond, and they made it custom to fit my engagement ring.

          • EE

            Thank you for the info! It is seriously gorgeous.

          • suchbrightlights

            Gorgeous. A+ on your taste.

          • topscallop

            Thank you so much! I adore it, but only get complimented on it in real life occasionally, so that’s so nice to hear.

  • Vanessa

    Listen, I always wanna share my ring, bc I think it is the prettiest thing in the world.

    We talked about getting married (uh in 7 years you get around to this conversation a few hundred times) but it was important to my fiance that it be a surprise. We looked at rings in January…he proposed in September, at the end of a 3-day backpacking trip in Yosemite. I never expected to be so smelly & gross when I got proposed to; it didn’t bother me one tiny bit. He was sweaty and was breathing heavy, enough that it tipped me off about what was about to happen. The strangest thing to me afterwards were the people who asked me to tell them what EXACTLY he said; those words were private & not something I could imagine ever wanting to share with anyone else.

    • ssha

      Your ring IS so pretty! Yes to not telling others his exact words. Those are for you two to share. I felt the same way.

      • Vanessa

        Thank you!! And with the proposal words thing…I was really shocked that anyone would even ask.

        • Violet

          Yeah, that’s a weird thing to ask. Our proposal was such a blur I truly don’t remember at all what he said.

          • Vanessa

            I’ll admit that’s part of why I don’t want to share. I know the general content of what we each said, but not the exact words. And when my friends asked I felt bad, like I should have had the exact wording tattooed on my heart or something, when really I am just a normal human person whose brain doesn’t save that info.

          • penguin

            Yep I don’t remember at all what he said, and I probably couldn’t have told you even 10 minutes after the proposal. Just too happy and buzzing and not really retaining words haha.

          • Violet

            Exactly. There was no memory processing function happening in that moment, at all.

          • theteenygirl

            Totally blacked out after I saw the ring box. Called my mum a few minutes after the proposal and she asked what I said and I realized I couldn’t remember. Apparently I never actually said yes I just cried and nodded.

          • Violet

            I said, “What!?” Like three times. Then “yes.”

          • Sarah Jane

            I’m so glad it’s not just me – we had hiked up to the top of a mountain in Ireland, he popped the question, and I hysterically laughed like a maniac for 5 minutes before I could get the “yes” out. there were some other people at the top of the mountain, and judging by their strange looks, I caused a bit of a scene.

          • LAinTexas

            @theteenygirl:disqus @disqus_S6iEtjGKhk:disqus I have not yet been proposed to (hopefully in the near-ish future, as we’ve been together over 5.5 years!), but my boyfriend did scheme with my best friend to fly down to where we live and surprise me a couple of years ago. I also totally blacked out and can’t remember much except that I cried, haha. Apparently, I just kept saying, “What are you doing here? Why are you here?” I also legitimately forgot where I was and thought I was back where we used to live, and it took me a couple of minutes to remember that, no, I’m halfway across the country now in the new city I live in, haha. (We were at a Barnes & Noble because I wanted to attend a book signing for a couple of cookbook authors/bloggers I followed, so it was public, lol.) Anyway, I have a small suspicion that I may react that same way when BF does propose someday.

          • quiet000001

            Just prep him now “you remember how that one time I basically forgot everything that happened at the surprise? If you ever surprise me and it is important I remember what happened, might want to write it down or something. :D”

          • Grace

            Yup, I remember the “Grace Middle name Last name…” And that’s when I blanked. I remember it was perfect though.

        • ssha

          It’s like asking someone “hey what did your partner write in that romantic card to you?”

    • Jan

      Beeeaauutiful ring!

      And YES on the private words thing. We told a few of our nearest and dearest, but that moment was for us and us alone, and we don’t have to share it with anyone we don’t want to.

    • sofar

      Your ring is gorge and I must have it.

      I also got proposed to on a hike. A passerby snapped photos, which are nice to have, but I do NOT look cute. Somehow my husband’s aunt got ahold of them and blew one up into an 8X10 and framed it for us. So nice, but I don’t want to display that in my house because I am red-faced and sweaty and have a ‘wtf’ expression on my face.

      • mjh

        It sounds like a beautiful moment which I’d much rather remember in the lovely, blurry, feelings tinted photograph in my mind than in an 8×10 with all the sweaty wtf of reality.

      • Jane

        Is the aunt hurt that you guys don’t have it up? My husband’s aunt framed our wedding invitation for us, which was super sweet, but neither of us was that into our invitations. We just picked out the cheapest thing on shutterfly that looked at all like the rest of our wedding stuff. I don’t know that we need it hanging somewhere in our apartment.

        • sofar

          Neither she, nor anyone else who knows about the photo (such as my husband’s mom and other aunts) has even noticed. In any case, they haven’t said anything.

    • Jess

      Honestly, I don’t even remember what R said (a fact I told him about a half hour later, mid crying hug, when I made him summarize it for me). We skip right over that part when we talk about it.

      • suchbrightlights

        This thread made me realize I don’t even remember if my fiancé asked me to marry him. We proposed to each other. I proposed first- that was important to me. So it was implied.

    • cfpw

      Holy crapsicles, that is the most beautiful ring!

      • Vanessa

        Thank you!!! I really love plants, so I was over the moon that it has little leaves on it :)

    • fleur

      Your ring is gorgeous!!

      My mom asked what I said to propose to my fiancé. I wasn’t expecting someone to ask about the exact wording and I ended up feeling a bit insecure about the simple way I asked him, now that those simple words were on display for others. My parents have a really funny/clever proposal story so there’s no way I could compete with theirs in terms of it being a funny story to tell people. Not that it should be a competition or comparison, ha, but there is sooooo much pressure to make it a great story, not just a great moment!

  • Lesley

    I got engaged this past April and was SHOCKED at how fast friends and family switch from “yay, you’re engaged” mode to full on 20 questions about the wedding. Usually it happens in the span of one sentence. We got engaged in a state park that had no wifi/cell phone service, so I was so glad to have 48 hours with my fiance, just enjoying being engaged and discussing what we wanted to tell our families (i.e. no wedding planning will be happening in the next three months so give us some space thank you very much) before feeling any need to make phone calls to let people know.

    • Kaitlyn

      The amount of people who asked me “Is the wedding next weekend? hahaha” when I called to tell them was astounding. Like of course not haha

      • ssha

        lol. My grandma, who is a non-native English speaker, didn’t know what “engaged” meant, hence a silence on her end of the phone line when I called to tell her. When I explained that it meant we were planning to get married, she asked, “When this happen? This weekend? Next weekend?”

        • somanypseudonyms

          ohhh man. since I proposed to my now-husband, we both had rings, which introduced a *lot* of confusion into our video chat with his non-native English speaker parents. He got a frantic text about five minutes after we hung up, trying to clarify whether we had gotten engaged or eloped!

          • ssha

            Ahahaha! Confusion everywhere. I can see it now! One of my friends was also super confused because I just sent him the picture of our hands with “guess what?” Both partners having e-rings FTW! Congrats btw. :)

      • penguin

        More than one person asked if I was pregnant (or hinted at it, heavily) when we announced that we were engaged. It surprised me because we’re in our mid-twenties – people have lots of other reasons to get engaged other than one of them being pregnant. We’re not 16 or something. People are weird.

    • sofar

      Yeah, getting asked, “So have you picked a date?” the DAY AFTER we started announcing our engagement was super fun. I’d always respond, “Ummm not yet!” But in my head, I was thinking, “How is everyone I know this clueless? How did I not realize this?”

      • Pickle

        This, plus “am I invited?” or “can I/my child be in the wedding party?”. Seriously people!

        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          There’s a particularly boring corner in purgatory for people who invite themselves to other people’s weddings.

          • Pickle

            Hahaha absolutely. Not to mention to be IN the wedding. My fiance had one friend who he was close to in high school, but not particularly any more, say “putting my hat in the ring for best man!” and another friend ask if her child could be a flower girl. Wut???

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            Whaaaaat even, people.

      • penguin

        Yep we had people ask us when the wedding date was immediately after we told them we were engaged. Like, I just told you we’re engaged! The planning stuff comes after!

        • somanypseudonyms

          ditto! and… this from not-particularly-into-traditional-celebrations friends, too, which made it extra weird.

    • Mer

      Yup. We got engaged literally 10,000 miles from home (and a 12 hour time difference) and it was glorious to make a quick phone call then blame poor WiFi for cutting the call short.

      My mom was one of those “have you thought about when or where?” and we had but like… slow the eff down. I told you 90 seconds ago we got engaged.

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  • Fushigidane

    Proposals should definitely happen after you both know you want to get married. I would feel so awkward if he had asked me before I knew if I wanted to marry him or not. We had a bunch of discussions leading up. I wanted to pick my own ring and he didn’t want to propose without one. I picked one out myself since he thought I would take a while finding one and he didn’t really care as long as I liked it. He wanted to surprise me and I asked him for a time frame so he told me probably before the end of that year. My dad wanted him to ask for permission, I was secretly really happy when he didn’t. We did ask for a blessing afterward though.
    It was super awkward afterward when people wanted to know all the details. There wasn’t much to tell though since it was a slightly spur of the moment proposal. People wanted to know more when there simply wasn’t more to tell.

  • Emily

    Thank you for all the mutual proposal stories!! My partner and I just decided to do a mutual proposal yesterday, so we are planning it. At first I wanted him to propose. It was one of the last gendered wedding traditions I was REALLY holding onto. But I realized what I really wanted was a big, official moment. Now I’m super excited about planning the proposal- it’s a much better feeling than “when will he propose” excitement. And it fits our relationship and personalities and values so much better.

    I also just decided to ignore expectations that I need a new ring. I wear my mom’s engagement ring on my left middle finger. I was worried that moving a ring over to the next finger wasn’t a grand enough gesture, but again, keyed into my real feelings on the topic and it is definitely the ring I want.

    Societal expectations can really get into our heads, huh?

    • ssha

      “But I realized what I wanted was a big, official moment.” YES! and good for you for realizing that- self awareness! Your first paragraph pretty much described how my feelings changed towards our engagement, too. Very well put.

    • Jan

      We very nearly went with a mutual proposal because I am a Big Gestures/Rituals person but felt icky about the assumption that he would do it. After thinking about it, though, I ultimately told him I needed him to propose to me when he felt 100% ready. I’d initiated all our other major relationship moments, and this was one thing I felt I needed to enter into only once he was fully ready. We had that conversation in August or September, and he asked me in a very low-key but beautiful way about four months later. Then we picked out a ring together a week or two later. Sometimes all the various things we want/need just don’t fit into the neat little box that the rest of the world expects!

      • LAinTexas

        @disqus_7habMt221c:disqus I love how you pointed out that you initiated other major relationship milestones. I’ve practically been begging my BF to get engaged for years (kidding but not really), but he’s just not ready yet (reasons too involved to list here). However, he has initiated all but one of our other major relationship milestones. I’m loving everyone’s comments on this, and your mention of that made me feel empowered to point that out to him when I have this talk with him to help him consider letting me have more of a say in when this whole engagement thing happens. We actually have a pretty equal relationship, and we definitely have feminist leanings – but for some reason, he’s insisted on being the one to initiate our actual relationship, moving in together, buying a house together, and so on. I’m not sure if that’s a societal pressure or just his personality, but your comment got me thinking! <3

    • mjh

      Congratulations and good luck! Here’s to doing things the way that works for you and your partner and giving societal expectations the finger (beautifully adorned with your mom’s engagement ring before it gets moved over) :)

    • E.

      I love seeing other people doing mutual proposals! I wrote about ours above and I absolutely loved it. Speaking of societal expectations, I mentioned to my sister that we might do a mutual proposal (she didn’t know this, but we already had a date picked out) and her response was, “no way, I know you’re not very traditional but you HAVE to at least do a normal proposal!” Of course after the fact she was telling everyone, “you have to hear how they got engaged, it was so cool!”

  • Failbox

    Talking about it really should be a huge part of the process! I was about to start medical school when my (now) fiance first broached the idea of getting engaged, so even though I knew I wanted to get married to him, having that many big life transitions at once totally freaked me out. A couple of months later, when I’d adjusted and calmed down a little, we were able to have the conversation again.

    I’d also like to throw my support behind the idea that things that aren’t surprises can still be romantic? I don’t like surprises as a rule, but I actually really enjoyed knowing that our weekend away was going to be our engagement weekend before it happened.It meant I could really enjoy the anticipation, go buy a pretty dress knowing what I would use it for, go get my nails done because I knew I’d want them done… it really added to the fun for me. My fiance likes to joke that the only part of the proposal he got to pick out was the restaurant (He was much happier with me choosing my own ring so then he knew I’d really love it), but that was what worked best for us.

    • Zoya

      “Things that aren’t surprises can still be romantic”

      Agreed! We did a similar thing–booked a weekend away and decided we would “officially” get engaged on our last day there. We spent the first two days with friends, which was fun and also heightened the “we have a secret!” excitement between the two of us. Then, the morning of our engagement day, we put on our rings for the first time and went down to a place called Lovers’ Point to take photos. It was totally lovely and romantic, even with 100 percent no surprise involved.

    • Violet

      I loooooove getting to look forward to things, whereas surprises I’m either “meh” or negative on.

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  • JenC

    When we got engaged I did not behave “normally”. I really struggled to actually say the words “we’re engaged”. They just got lodged in my throat. Nearly three years after we got engaged I still cringe a little that I couldn’t be “normal” and just tell people. I ended up giving little cryptic clues, “we bought a ring that goes on my left hand”, “we did some shopping and I got a new ring”, “you said you wanted to be maid of honour?” It was so bad that on the call to my mum she had to ask if I was trying to tell her we’d got engaged. I couldn’t use the word fiancé(e) and cringed when it was applied to me. I couldn’t even bring myself to give work the little cryptic clues, so I just didn’t bring it up. Which got awkward when I then needed to try and bring it up and how do you slip into conversation that you’re engaged when you didn’t make a big song and dance about it. My husband was upset with some of my reactions. I was downright confused, I wanted this so why wasn’t I doing normal newly-engaged things? Clearly, I didn’t really want this, divorce-central before we’d even married and the writing was clearly all over the wall. I think these feelings were definitely the beginning of the anxiety I felt throughout our engagement, which just compounded the further we went through engagement.

    My advice, and I know it’s been said many times on here but I dont think you can hear this too many times, there is no “normal” way to feel when you get engaged. It’s a big fucking deal even if you’ve been talking about it for a while. Anxiety, not being able to find the words or not being excited do not mean that your marriage is destined to fail. It’s ok to not be ok when you’re engaged.

    • Mary

      I am glad you shared this. I struggled a bit too. I was, still am, sure I want to marry and spend my life with my fiance. But mainly because we are considered young to marry where I come from (10 years below average – I promise I’m over 20 though) and because we dated for just a bit over a year, I knew people would find it weird we were getting engaged. So I struggled a bit to call him my fiancé. I think I refer to him as my boyfriend most of times though the wedding will be in 2 weeks (to clarify, in my mother tongue the word boyfriend can also mean something like “lover”, I am not exactly lying to people when I avoid the word fiancé). I hope after the wedding people will stop making comments like “but you’re so young”, “you should date longer”, “you should move in with him first” and other unsolicited advice, so I will stop feeling the need to justify my decision to marry him.

      • LAinTexas

        I know a girl who’s engaged and getting married next month, but she regularly refers to her partner as her boyfriend. I personally have never seen (on social media) or heard her refer to him as her fiance. I don’t know her very well, but to my knowledge, she doesn’t have an engagement ring, and they’re doing a simple courthouse wedding with just their parents in attendance, even though she’s one of seven (SEVEN!!!!!) children in her family. So, whatever works for you. You do you. :)

      • I don’t tend to use Fiance much and I don’t imagine I’ll say Husband often either – I’ve been calling J my partner for a few years now and it works for me (though he finds it a bit weird!). I do wonder if he’s using fiancee and if he’ll use wife.

  • alexis

    My fiance completely surprised me with his proposal- I knew we were getting engaged, but thought it wouldn’t be for another 6 months at LEAST. So as soon as I realized what was happening, I shut down. My mind just went blank. No tears, no smiling, no emotion, nothing. I felt like every thought in my head just poof! vanished. I vaguely remember saying yes, and as soon as he stood back up I was just like “well I guess we should tell our families.” I think I really freaked him out! I must have been in shock, and I’m kind of mad that I didn’t have that wildly, deliriously happy reaction! I love my fiance, and I’m thrilled to be marrying him! But man, being proposed to was weird and I definitely did not react the way I thought I would.

  • mjh

    I support whatever works for both people in a relationship but think all of this stuff should be talked through way before getting engaged. Just like it’s important to know how we each would like to handle marriage/family/etc, I think feelings about engagement, proposals and the like are something to discuss while getting to know each other and relationship building.

    For my own relationship, with apologies in advance to those who feel like this first line sounds all #coolgirl, I just don’t know how to say it without sounding like that and think it’s relevant to our story- weddings weren’t something I thought or dreamed about when growing up, but they definitely were for my husband. This post is pretty much the story of his trajectory with proposals, and how it played our in our decisions. He’s a lover of all things wedding and has been forever, and he had a super gender essentialist, restrictive, x things are for y people kind of upbringing and he wasn’t one to question norms, so he put all his starry eyed dreaming of weddings energy into the few spaces that he thought were the groom’s domain. He thought the proposal was the main event wherein a man could show his romantic enthusiasm for marriage, and as such, he’d been considering proposals and [bridal] engagement rings since he was a little boy and still was when we met.

    We met in college, and were friends for years before dating. In those first few years of being exposed to new ideas, he dramatically reshaped a lot of his ideas about the world, replacing the views he’d previously taken from his parents without ever considering whether or not he believed them himself. Many of his views took 180 turns from what they’d been before, and his ideas about gender and societal expectations were among those.

    Eventually, we started dating, and then after some time we decided to commit to spending life together. I was not comfortable with marrying when our state didn’t allow same gender marriages, so we moved into partnership without ceremony or legal recognition and planned to hold off on those until the law caught up. When civil unions came to our state, we decided to have a ceremony that is meaningful for us and made our partnership legal (via civil union) but to save most wedding-y things for a wedding (with legal marriage) once marriage equality passed. A couple years later, marriage equality passed and we decided to start planning the wedding. He still wanted to propose because he loves romantic moments, but he didn’t like the one sided nature of it or its origins. We decided that we’d both propose to each other, and I’d go first. We gave ourselves some time to consider how we might do it and research logistics etc as we continued to work together to plan the wedding. Every so often we would check in to see if the other person had decided how they wanted to do their proposal, and each time the answer was something along the lines of “I have a number of good options and need to pick one/find a way to make one EXTRA special”. Eventually, the concept of a proposal lost its importance for him. He came to me one day and said something along these lines- We don’t need to do proposals to have some grand gesture or quiet, cozy gesture or whatever symbolism of our love and our excitement for our future. We can do whatever gestures we want, big or small, whenever we want and as many times as we want in the years to come. It’s not a once in a lifetime opportunity, it doesn’t end when we get married. The thing I like about proposals is something I want to do over and over as years go by.


    So we put on our rings on an ordinary day at home without proposals and without fanfare. The rings were exciting. Writing our vows was exciting. Picking out things for the wedding was exciting and, eventually, celebrating our partnership with our closest people was downright amazing. Neither skipping proposals nor our previous commitments to one another watered down the feelings from the wedding in any way for either of us.

  • Tara

    My girlfriend definitely gave me some parameters for proposing to her. She mentioned that she thought that restaurant proposals are awkward but she would personally want to look cute for it and have pictures. So that gave me something to work with. I ended up proposing on her birthday party, surrounded by our friends and family. I hired a singer/songwriter duo who wrote a song about our relationship and popped the question at the end of the song. Hilariously, she later told me she had no idea what was coming, not even during the song! Other people definitely caught on after the first verse but she didn’t. If you want or don’t want something specific I definitely vote for telling your partner. Makes it easier and more fun for everyone!

  • Lala

    We just got married and that was the culmination of a whole lot of emotional labor. Wanted to share, since I was ready a year before he was (about 4 years in), and it took a lot of therapy (and a lot of work on my part convincing him to try therapy) for him to get to a place where he felt like he could make the commitment, and for me to feel like I could demand not only the commitment but a reasonable timeline for that commitment, because that is what marriage meant that for both of us. It forced us to tackle some really important stuff and we went into marriage so much stronger for it. We had a year-long engagement, which was also super necessary for feeling ready and doing that work, and our wedding was fabulous and meaningful. Couples counseling is a wonderful and useful thing, even if you are good communicators and emotionally tuned in, and probably the best investment we have made in our future.

    • LAinTexas

      I’ve considered broaching the topic of doing couples therapy with my boyfriend. Thank you for sharing your story!

  • mjh

    For some reason or another (maybe just living in a big city?) I’ve happened upon a number of public proposals when I’ve been out and about in daily life. Most of the time the recipient of the proposal seemed thrilled and it was lovely and sweet, but sadly, there were three times when I saw the propose-ee seem caught off guard and very uncomfortable or just downright miserable. One time, the poor girl didn’t respond and seemed to just be trying to will herself invisible (or at least for her boyfriend to stand up and let them get out of there) and someone in the crowd actually started trying to get people to CHANT “say yes!” It was awful.

    • penguin

      Oh no that’s so unfortunate. I always feel so bad for the propose-ee in those scenarios. If they say “no” on the spot people are going to be rude to them and paint the proposer like some kind of victim, but you shouldn’t be pressured into saying “yes” to a proposal you don’t want.

  • AmandaBee

    We didn’t have a proposal. We had a series of conversations over several weeks and ended with a mutual decision to do the marriage thing. We celebrated with a bottle of wine and a movie on the couch, and we called our families the next day. Several months later we found a vintage ring I loved and bought it.

    I was pretty self conscious about it for awhile but I’ve come to appreciate the fact that our non-proposal engagement is what worked for us. But I would love to see more representation of non-proposal and mutual proposal engagements in wedding media.

    • suchbrightlights

      I proposed by saying “you know I want to marry you one of these days, right?”

      It meant something to my fiancé to do it again more formally with hardware, so I did (and he originally had the intention of a surprise proposal but discarded several options for sensible reasons and just handed me the ring) but that’s where it started.

      I’ve never seen anyone just like me in a movie and I would feel cliched if I had, but I agree, it would be nice to see something besides the skywriting and twenty carats in popular media.

      • cfpw

        ‘hardware’ – I love it. Stealing!

        • suchbrightlights

          That was his word. He wanted to wait to tell people until we both had “the hardware,” so although I consider us to have been engaged since last April when we agreed we wanted to get married this year, since the rings and formal proposal didn’t happen until June, I guess we had a software engagement and a hardware engagement.

  • E.

    We did a mutual proposal and I loved it. We both really like surprises so we each planned half the day, but ended up proposing back to back in the morning because it felt right. It was super fun that we were in on it together and had this big secret from everyone, but we also had surprises for each other. I wanted a ring and had some input on things I liked, but the final product was a surprise. He didn’t want a ring so I commissioned a painting (after advice from you lovely people!) and gave him a pipe cleaner bracelet I made that said “Property of E.” because I didn’t want to be the only with a symbol of being “taken” :) It was perfect!

    • fleur

      An engagement painting sounds amazing!

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  • calenlily

    This is a very timely post for me, thank you.

    My partner and I have been together going on four years, and have been talking about marriage more as a when than an if for a significant portion of that. From very early on we weren’t afraid to discuss our desires regarding engagement and marriage – within the first year I let him know that I would want my ring to be a Claddagh and we agreed that our ideal would be a September wedding, and later on we discussed enough details of our visions for a wedding that it became a private running joke that we were going to have the entire wedding planned by the time we actually got engaged.

    And then this spring I fell down the rabbit hole of Pinterest and the wedding planning corner of the Internet, and I started getting serious wedding fever. (And discovered APW and OBB, without which I would have been much crazier than I was.) I was ready to be engaged. I was ready to move past dreaming into planning. And I was terrified that it was never going to happen. I knew he was committed to me and wanted to be married eventually, but I was really worried that he would never feel like he had his ducks sufficiently in a row and it would be put off indefinitely. (It didn’t help that that spring saw the engagements of two sets of friends who had been dating for rather less time than we had.)

    So we sat down and had a really long honest conversation and agreed that this really was something we wanted to be concretely working toward and that we were looking at a September 2018 wedding. We could have considered ourselves engaged then, but we agreed that the ritual of the formal proposal with a ring was something that we wanted (and that he wanted to be the one to propose, though he’s okay with me proposing back afterwards so that’s definitely something I’m going to do), and we weren’t going to consider ourselves officially engaged or start telling people until that happened. And he told me that he was planning to propose in September – he was sad to lose some of the element of surprise, but his willingness to share that information meant a huge amount to me.

    Having a timeline calmed my pre-engagement crazies immensely, and with a much calmer heart I went on sorting through aesthetic inspiration and started on venue and budget research. And we each discussed the rings we wanted in detail (yay e-rings for both of us), and rather than feeling compelled to hide my Pinterest board I shared it with him and we occasionally sent each other ideas. And he reassured me half a million times that I didn’t need to feel bad/silly/crazy about my wedding fever, because certain cultural messages sink in deep no matter how rational you are. And we privately told a number of friends of our plans, because we both suck at keeping happy secrets. And after a month or so my intense wedding focus waned and I moved on to other things.

    And now it’s September, and I know the proposal is coming soon, and I’m kind of a mess of emotions. The wedding fever is coming back. I’m simultaneously excited and nervous at the prospect of moving from pre-engaged to officially engaged. I’m super eager to be able to start telling people, but at the same time I’m afraid of what if they aren’t supportive and what if the people I most want there don’t want to be involved and my anxiety is cranking up.

  • I really love our proposal story. We’d already decided some time before we were going to spend our lives together, bought a house and talked about when we were going to start trying for kids. I’d been playing around wedding blogs for a while – I found it very soothing when I was having a high anxiety day, because it disrupts my “what if I don’t deserve to be happy because I haven’t done x y and z yet?” – which J was aware of, but neither of us really saw the point in getting legalled. But at some point during the kid discussions, thinking about my own rocky fertility, I realised I wanted to have some kind of celebration of our relationship. Having a kid would be a celebration, but that was in no way guaranteed, and I realised that if we got married because we couldn’t have kids it would be a consolation prize, not a celebration. Therefore, get married first.

    I decided I was going to propose. I asked him out, and it felt right for me to do it (and I was confident from asking him out that no amount of hint dropping would have worked to get him to propose to me). We talked about marriage a lot and whether we wanted it and what it would look like, and watched a lot of Don’t Tell the Bride, and I managed to get his ring size (wrong, but hey ho) and ordered a ring. We had already decided we needed a pre-Christmas break because we’d both been working solidly since Spring, and visiting family at Christmas is not a break. I bought some prosecco and some fancy chocolates, and hid the ring in the chocolate box. I thought about how I wanted to propose, and I decided to write it down and hand it to him. We’ve got a shelf full of cards we’ve given each other over the years, and I’ve written him love letters, and I was confident I’d have less to regret in something I’d drafted and redrafted than letting my mouth mumble and malaprop a proposal at him.

    So on the first night of our holiday, prosecco in the fridge, chocolates by the fire, I gave him the card. He read it, and went to his coat hanging by the door, and pulled out a ring box.

    And that’s how we got surprise mutually engaged! Because there’s no subtle way to get someone’s ring size, but it never occurred to him I was trying to get his size to propose to him.

    He was thrilled to pieces, but I had to process a little disappointment at the realisation I’d done myself out of a surprise proposal, which surprised me (I’d been planning this for months, after all). I’ve also been disappointed in the way people have reacted, because it feels like they’re disappointed. It’s not the narrative they’re expecting, so it’s a sort of confused, muted, “that sounds nice” reaction – like I’ve failed to provide them with the right queue and they’re worried they’re fluffing their lines. It’s hard not to read something into it, especially when strangers think it’s fun and romantic and cute. And it is fun and romantic and cute, and I like telling the story, so I’m just going to keep doing so to strangers instead!

    • Jess

      I think it’s adorable!

    • fleur

      I love your story! It’s so sweet and romantic.

    • ssha

      This is so sweet!

    • quiet000001

      That’s adorable! :P to the haters who think otherwise.

  • fleur

    This is so timely for me, following my Happy Hour stressing about not feeling the “right” feelings after getting engaged. I’ve been engaged for just over two weeks, and was really struggling with how to process it as this big life moment. I thought it wouldn’t feel like one, because we’d been discussing marriage for over a year and a half, and getting engaged just meant that we would now be public with our plan to be married. But it is a big change for me, and for us, and allowing myself to feel it and recognize it as a big deal helped me make sense of my whirlwind of feels. Happily, I’ve now reached a place where I’m genuinely excited about being engaged, and though I’m sure I’ll continue to flip back and forth between panic and happiness, I’m glad to know that I am indeed capable of feeling happiness at this, and not exclusively panic!

    Also, I have my ring now and it’s so much more perfect and wonderful than I ever could have imagined! It was my mom’s (she wears a new one now) and also my great grandmother’s. I would take a photo but it’s at the jeweler’s getting some repairs. It’s so funny to me that pre-engagement, I wasn’t even sure I really wanted an engagement ring (I wouldn’t have gotten one if my fiancé didn’t want one too – it was really important to me that we both have rings if rings were to be involved), but now I LOVE IT and am so impatient to get it back and wear it.

    • mjh

      I’m glad you’re feeling the excitement alongside the [totally understandable and not the least troubling] panic :)

      Share a ring pic when you get it back?

  • Maranda This post came at the perfect time- I just got engaged over the weekend! I did have an idea that it was coming (my fiance is not very sneaky) and we had discussed getting married/certain aspects of the proposal previously. While the experience wasn’t 100% a surprise, I enjoyed being able to be a part of the process while having him put his own flare on things. When he asked I started crying and said yes immediately. Other than the initial shock and happiness though, I feel very normal. We’ve been together for almost 3 years and lived together for a little over 1 year. The proposal was romantic and amazing, but to me it was just an affirmation of what I already knew.

    • cfpw

      Yes! This sounds really similar to my experience. We’d talked about it enough for me to know it was coming eventually, but I didn’t know where, when or how – which gave him the space to be romantic and get creative.

      Also, that is a seriously gorgeous ring. Congrats!

  • sophia.s

    So something that I sort of vaguely understood in the background but never fully realized until very recently — my partner’s culture doesn’t really do engagements as a thing. Obviously there’s a time between deciding to marry and marrying, but no general announcement to people who are not invited, no name or normal turn of phrase for the state, no jewellery or anything to mark it, not sure if there’s any fuss about proposals cause its all kept kinda quiet, as you don’t announce it.
    I’m not really sure how I feel about this — partly cause it feeds into the rather too present notion there that you date and then you just…automatically get married?? But mostly cause some of those aspects matter to me, and I’ve been trying to tease out which ones. I think I need the thing of at some point one asks the other and then you go get champagne/cuddle/jump up and down excitedly etc because its a clear moment, even if there’s a continuum of discussions going on around that. And I think the general announcement means a lot to me — why not tell people you’ve decided to do something exciting before you do it? But I can’t tease out why it feels so particularly important with this issue.
    Anyone else dealt with wildly different notions of what engagement is between partners? Hints for navigating?

  • Amandalikeshummus

    My question regarding engagement is whether you really have to have EVERYTHING figured out before you do it. APWers and their partners are all so emotionally intelligent and forward-thinking, and it sets such a high standard. People here are often, “Of course, we had planned everything about our lives first and agreed about everything, then got engaged. We aren’t hooligans, after all.” Is there room for figuring out the meaning of marriage during the engagement, or heck, during the marriage?

    • penguin

      Totally room! My fiancé and I (less than 6 weeks out ahhhhh) are still figuring things out together. Neither of us is sure if we want kids, but we talked it over and we plan on discussing it again next year. No need to have everything ironed out ahead of time, as long as you’re on the same page about the big things. Our rabbi said that if one of us definitely wanted kids and the other definitely did not, then she’d encourage us to get counseling and figure that out before marriage. But with our situation it’s fine to figure out together.

    • Zoya

      I feel like the entirety of a marriage is spent figuring out the meaning of marriage! The year and a half of our engagement was by far the hardest time period my spouse and I have gone through together, and we suddenly had to grapple with a bunch of stuff that just wasn’t on our radar before. Some of the things that were question marks before are even bigger question marks now. If we were worried about waiting until we’d figured EVERYTHING out, we’d never have gotten married!

      For me, there’s a difference between “being on the same page” and “having everything figured out.” You can–and, I think, should–talk openly about your desires and expectations. But that doesn’t mean you have to get every single duck permanently in a row.

    • Amy March

      No one has it all figured out before marriage. You can’t figure life out in advance.

  • Kate Levy

    My wife and I had many talks about getting married and since we were both married before, had planned on eloping and overall not making a huge deal of everything. We bought rings together but Karyne wanted to propose in some form in her own time. So I went ahead with planning what ended up being a small wedding and not an elopement, and she her proposal. This took the pressure off of both of us and just allowed for both the planning and proposal to just be fun and not dependent on each other. And since essentially we were already engaged, I wasn’t waiting for it every single moment/vacation/dinner/etc. I’ve seen many friends go through this cycle which always leaves them not enjoying things and feeling disappointed when it wasn’t THE MOMENT.

    In the end, she totally caught me off guard and planned a super cute surprise proposal with the help of her a capella group. (Backstory: The Loose Interpretations do their own version of the Adverb Song at their concerts, writing their own verses around a central theme. You can watch the whole thing or fast forward to the last minute or so.

    • LAinTexas

      @apwdisqus-85d8ce590ad8981ca2c8286f79f59954:disqus “And since essentially we were already engaged, I wasn’t waiting for it every single moment/vacation/dinner/etc. I’ve seen many friends go through this cycle which always leaves them not enjoying things and feeling disappointed when it wasn’t THE MOMENT.”

      SO MUCH THIS. My boyfriend and I have been together for over 5.5 years now, and I’ve gotten my hopes up so many times and then been correspondingly disappointed so many times. I really appreciate this thread for the ideas it’s giving me in how I can approach and navigate this conversation with him to try to get us both to a point where we understand each other’s expectations, ideas, and values with this Big Life Moment.

      • Amandalikeshummus

        I know a woman who was expecting a proposal during a certain vacation, and had told everyone she knew. Since her partner knew she expected it, he didn’t propose then, but had a whole proposal setup when they got home. She was livid at the end of the vacation, before he proposed at home. Basically, he purposely disappointed her and kind of ruined the vacation, all for the purpose of the surprise.

        I don’t know her that well, so for all I know she is happy with it since it ended well. But it just seems like a waste of a vacation to me in terms of her being miserable.

        • LAinTexas

          Wow. Just as an outsider hearing that story, I feel like they both could have (and should have) handled that better. That definitely seems immature of him, and that seems…unwise on her part to have told so many people before it even actually happened. :/ But, like you said, I hope that they worked it all out and have moved forward positively.

  • mjh

    Anyone else out there who never considered themselves engaged/never used the words engaged and fiance?

    We were bff type friends for years, then we eventually decided to date. After a while, we decided to spend our lives together and became partners with the full set of actions and expectations we felt were a part of marriage- moved in together, shared finances, power of attorney etc. When civil unions came to our state years later, we got a civil union, and when designing our [just us, photographer and officiant] ceremony and planning that, I still considered us partners, not engaged. A few years later, we started planning a wedding (with legal marriage and our people). Still felt partnered rather than feeling engaged and kept using that terminology. Had the wedding, felt the same afterward, and since the wedding have used partner, spouse and husband interchangeably.

    Deciding to do the civil union didn’t feel like a life change or new commitment, and when we had the civil union ceremony it felt like a reaffirmation of our commitment to one another and addition of legal rights, rather than feeling like we were making a commitment. The wedding a few years later felt like another reaffirmation, as well as a celebration of our little family with our dearest and dearest which we hadn’t done before. The wedding was full of magic, and having felt like we were a family for the years before it didn’t undercut anything or in any way dilute the flood of love and support we felt from our people.

    I know that the word means many different things to different people, but to me, it felt like engagement would have been a step backward from partnership. I associate being engaged with committing to becoming a family, and I felt that we already were a family before planning any sort of ceremony, so the concept of engagement just never felt right to me.

  • cfpw

    I got engaged about a month ago, and I still feel absolutely ridiculous using the word fiance. To the point where every time I say it, I have to use a weird voice just to emphasise how silly it is. Does this ever go away?!

    Also, because MEG SAID IT WAS OKAY, I want to show off my ring because I just can’t stop staring at it…

    • mjh

      Your ring is beautiful!

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  • Rosa

    My fiance didnt discuss anything with me before, which ended up costing him THOUSANDS of dollars. Im not a big fan of diamonds and would prefer to wear something colourful or artificial, but if he really wanted to give me a diamond my Mom was willing to sell him my grandma’s engagement ring for cheap, and we have plenty of jeweler friends who could reset it.

    He didnt ask what I wanted, so he got a custom ring that couldn’t be returned. I nearly called the whole thing off when I found out how much he paid.

  • The Engagement Ring Fairy

    While I haven’t been proposed to yet, it’s imminent.

    I work at a jewelry brand, so he has been crazy intimidated with the pressure to pick out a ring for me. I’ve been crazed with, “Why hasn’t he proposed yet?” – and compulsively reading sites like APW for advice on how to manage the stress. It is such a weird time and weird process for modern (feminist) women and I am really happy to put that time behind me. We had many long conversations, that did improve in quality over time – and we are now at the best place.

    Here’s what we worked out on our path to engagement: Since I wanted to use a family diamond, and I wanted to ensure that the costs are staying as low as possible (still working on debt AND a down payment for our house) – I have designed a ring with it, and placed the order. He has no idea what it looks like, but he’s paying for it and picking it up. The proposal will be a surprise for me – but not the ring! I’ve also purchase a ring for him – one I know he’s wanted for a long time, and not necessarily a engagement ring, but an engagement gift. This will be a surprise for him, and I’m super excited to surprise him with a ring of his own.

    After being in a total state of anxiety for the last year as we have been planning to have kids, buy a house, even actually get married – I now finally feel like we’ve made such a great progress as a couple through all those fraught conversations. Even without the actual proposal happening, I finally have such a great sense of relief. We have mentioned to our families that it is coming, but without any details.

    Since I work in jewelry, I am the go-to “engagement ring fairy” for my friends. To those who want to get engaged – I will say – talk to your partner! It sucks, and then it sucks less, and then it doesn’t suck. After many conversations with her man, Friend A is designing a ring with me, and she is paying for part of it to have exactly what she wants. Likewise, after many conversations with her man, Friend B is doing a vintage gemstone ring, and I am helping her find options for under $600. Both of their guys are involved, but the ladies are leading the way, and picking out their own ring. Which I really love!

    In spite of both of our best efforts to be “woke” – there is SO MUCH pressure around proposals and rings. I am glad my honey and I found our way out of it. He will likely propose at our couch, on a random day, without much fanfare. I would be terrified in a public proposal situation. Real life is romantic enough for us.

  • Megan

    I hated being engaged. Everyone wanted to ask so many questions and give so much unsolicited advice. My spouse and I had talked through everything beforehand, and I was and am glad to be with him. But with my social anxiety, I wish we’d had a secret engagement

  • Annie Grace

    Late to the party on this but wanted to share how we got engaged: low key.

    In fact, it was so low key that I was holding a bag of dog poop at the time. It was also highly unexpected, but kind of expected at the same time.

    We’d both been wanting to go back to church after a long time away, and after all our lives saying “we’ll never get married”. After we returned to church, it all changed. On a sunny morning after service we walked the dog in our local fields, and I thought he’d bent to tie his lace so kept on walking! It took a few seconds to realise it was a proposal.

    Apparently I said yes before he could finish asking me, but I really don’t remember. This may be due to the fact that, five minutes later when walking back onto the road, I hit my head square on a street sign and was mildly concussed.

    We got engaged so we could be married. There was no massive proposal or anything, but in our way it was super romantic. We then started to plan a wedding: elope? Summer picnic? We thought it was all planned for a summer hog roast with close family and friends in June 2018…

    Then we realised we had got caught up in it all, and we were not doing it true to ourselves. So, last Sunday we agreed a date with the reverend, and now have just under 4 weeks to plan a small wedding! We already had a holiday booked in January, so we decided to just get married on a weekday afternoon the day before we fly out, have a low-key church hall pot luck type thing with immediate family on his side (I have none), my best friend, and the congregation who want to come along.

    We always said we’d never get married because the idea of a big engagement and a big wedding is just entirely not us. The siblings have all had big announcements, huge weddings etc, and we’re the last and realised we felt it was expected of us, so we both said we just wouldn’t do it at all. We’ve put a few noses out of joint with our small wedding, but we’re in it for the marriage and not the party!

    (Also, some friends have stopped talking to me because from day one after the engagement I was adamant I don’t want bridesmaids. They got in a huff and I thought: “If that’s what YOU think of MY important day, then I know how you value our friendship. Goodbye!”).