This Is the Empowered Guide to Getting Fucking Engaged

For when you're wondering "How do I get engaged?" in the 21st century

woman holding her hands out

Every time I write about engagements, women who are in serious relationships, but who aren’t ready to be engaged, lament the fact that strangers cannot seem to get on board with the status of their relationships. It’s always a great discussion and I find myself cheering for these women who are bucking tradition. But every time, I wonder if someone—anyone—is going to come out and say, “You know what? I’m not engaged and I’m not okay with it.” No one ever does though, and I think it’s because nice women/loved women/smart women/modern women aren’t supposed to talk about that.

Luckily for all of us, I’ve finally gotten to a place where I’m both clear headed and pissed off enough to write what I want: some new rules governing our society’s conversations about women and engagement, weddings, and marriage.

1. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO A SAY IN YOUR FUTURE. It’s not just that I have a right to know where my relationship is heading; it’s that I get a to have a fucking say in where my relationship is heading. By accepting the “pop the question” or “put a ring on it” mentality, men are given all the power and it sends a clear message that what women want doesn’t matter. But it does matter.

2. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO A SAY IN YOUR FUTURE EVEN IF YOU WATCH “SAY YES TO THE DRESS.” If you’ve ever watched a wedding show, been a bridesmaid, or looked at a wedding album posted on Facebook, it’s assumed that you’re “obsessed with weddings” and therefore don’t get to have an adult, mature conversation about them. I’m so over watching women’s feelings get dismissed just because we live in a culture that glorifies weddings. Look, I eat yogurt. I like flowers, and I say pretty much everything the girls say in Sh*t Girls Say. And these things don’t make me more of a woman or less of a person. They don’t mean I’m incapable of knowing what I want in life. And neither does an interest in weddings.

3. WOMEN AND MEN’S FEELINGS ABOUT MARRIAGE SHOULD BE TREATED AS EQUALLY IMPORTANT. It’s assumed that women’s timelines are ridiculous. That we wake up one day, see a couple friends get engaged, and decide OMG WANT without giving it any serious thought. But men’s reasons are often treated as logical and smart. How is your worrying about your fertility worse than his worrying about his finances?

4. WOMEN AND MEN ARE BOTH PLAGUED BY CULTURAL NARRATIVES. I’ve seen so many discussions about how women are affected by fairy tales or other cultural influences. “Oh, she only wants to get married because [insert some sexist assumption here; be sure to reference Disney].” On the other hand, I can’t tell you how many guys I’ve heard say that they aren’t ready to get married because they are worried about money or job security, or because they want to be able to afford a bigger ring—things that all scream “male provider stereotype” to me. We need to consider the fact that men might be as influenced by fairy tales and gender expectations as women are. Let’s stop blaming Cinderella and take a look at what’s going on with Prince Charming, too.

5. WHEN YOU’RE IN A SERIOUS RELATIONSHIP, YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO CREATE A NEW TIMELINE THAT REFLECTS BOTH OF YOUR NEEDS. It’s fine to have your own timeline for big life events, but we should all expect those timelines to change when we get into a serious relationship. It’s just unrealistic to expect that you and your partner will be on the exact same page about everything you want for the future. And I don’t think you’re doomed if you’re not on the same page. You simply have to compromise. (Something they recommend you learn to do before getting married.)

6. YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO NOT LET THE IDEA OF HOW THINGS “SHOULD” BE GET IN THE WAY OF REALLY HEALTHY, NECESSARY CONVERSATIONS. Apparently, the acceptable window of time for both parties feeling ready is very small. If she’s ready too soon, she’s desperate. If he’s not ready soon enough, it’s never going to happen. If he’s ready before she is, there is something wrong with her. Yeah, I’d been fed that bullshit too and honestly, it really got to me.

The truth is, my boyfriend and I had a lot of long, emotional conversations as we negotiated and created a new timeline that both of us were comfortable with. While the conversations were incredibly productive, I felt so guilty every time we had them because this wasn’t how things were “supposed” to work. I was supposed to “let things happen” or “be patient.” He was supposed to be ready at the same time I was.

But once we stopped fighting the very idea of having these conversations and arguments, I felt like we took our relationship to a whole new level. And I’m pretty sure that learning to shut out others’ opinions and communicate about what we really want will help us immensely when we are married. (Oh and for the record, talking—and even fighting—about your future isn’t as unromantic as people might think. It’s not exactly fun, but there’s something deeply emotional about saying, “I’m willing to rearrange the plans I had for my life for you,” and having someone say the same thing back to you. That’s a hell of a lot more romantic to me than hiding my needs for a year so I can be surprised with some sort of hot air balloon spectacle.)

7. YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO STOP SHAMING WOMEN WHO WANT TO GET MARRIED. I’m not sure the stereotype of the girl desperate to be married exists IRL. But if she does, I think we created her—by constantly reinforcing unrealistic romantic ideals and then judging any relationship that fails to live up to them. We praise women whose men “got it right,” while simultaneously shaming women for “sitting around waiting” and “nagging him to marry her.” And we don’t empower each other to challenge the social mores that strip us of our right to have a say.

So whether you’re cool with your relationship status or want it to change, you’re allowed to own your feelings without guilt and judgment from others. Because if we don’t owe that to each other (though let me be clear, we do) at the very least, we owe it to ourselves.

This post originally ran on APW in November 2012.

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  • PW

    “By accepting the “pop the question” or “put a ring on it” mentality, men are given all the power and it sends a clear message that what women want doesn’t matter.”

    Oh my goodness YES.

    And one of the ways that society keeps us in this powerless state is by telling us how much we should care about the surprise, and how much less romantic it is to talk about it.

    What – you want me to care more than a fairytale surprise proposal than my own agency and ideas? Ha – no.

    • Cdn icecube

      Omg yes. Currently pre-engaged here and the amount of pushback that I get from people when they find out a. I picked out my ring and b. That I have a fairly good idea of when we will get engaged (and eventually married) is insane. I’m so tired of people saying “it should be a surprise”. No. I get to have an active and equal role in a LIFE CHANGING DECISION as the other person, regardless of my affinity for girly crap.

      • PW

        High-fiving you right now.

        My partner knew I was going to propose as well, and we picked the rings together. It didn’t make it less romantic ONE BIT. The anticipation and the excitement only added to the joy, if anything.

        • Kaitlyn

          Exactly! I also picked out my ring (like a year before I even met my now fiance haha) and my best friend sent it to him about a year prior to him proposing. We had established a timeline (he would propose) before the end of 2016 and I spent most of the year guessing when he would propose (my birthday? vacation? etc) and being completely wrong haha He proposed on a random Saturday near our apartment and it was a big surprise still. He also didn’t tell anyone he was going to propose then, which added a lot of fun to telling people.

          I felt better that we had laid it all out. I couldn’t have ever imagined him surprising me with a ring. I also had told him very early on in our relationship the timeline I had envisioned for myself (married no later than June 2018 so he had to propose no later than June 2017 so we’d have enough time to plan, married a year/year and a half before we start trying for kids so we can establish ourselves as a married couple, first kid at around 30). We had it very easy as he was completely comfortable with this (though he currently has baby fever and our wedding is planned for April 2018 haha), but having talked about it so thoroughly and generally planning it out (with the knowledge that life happens) really alleviates a lot of stress (and has made us better communicators).

      • idkmybffjill

        Boooo to those people making you feel like that. You absolutely get an active and equal role – and frankly I feel like having that role makes you better equipped to discuss all the big life decisions that come after marriage. YOU GO GIRL.

      • Nicole

        I know this isn’t, like, a HELPFUL comment, but I just cannot with that shit.

      • Jess

        Yeah, my marital status should NOT be a surprise to me, thank you very much.

        • AP

          Right! It’s not a *gift* for one partner to bestow on another.

        • Hannah

          Ahahaha yes! That’s how I need to start explaining it to people!

        • Leah

          This is SO spot on

      • sparagmos

        Yes this! My now-husband and I talked about marriage so much. SO MUCH. We had YEARS of discussions about it, and by the time it actually happened it was basically just icing on the cake – the actual event was a surprise, but we both knew that we were going to be getting engaged. Plus, I was the holdout on making it happen, which doesn’t fit the Cultural Narrative or whatever, especially because I LOVE weddings a lot, as a personal thing (have been reading wedding literature forever). But we had started dating at 18, and he was ready to actually be engaged and married long before I was. I had growing up I wanted to do and milestones I wanted to meet. So, yeah, we didn’t fit into the Cultural Narrative at all in those ways, and it was great, and now we’ve been happily married for a little over a year.

        • Leah

          This is similar to our situation. We’d talked about marriage a lot – as well as $, kids, religion, and all of the things. But it was important to me that he do that actual proposing, for 2 reasons.

          #1 is the reason you mention – I was the holdout. He was ready to get married way earlier (like, YEARS earlier) than I was. Because of some previous relationships and other issues, I was the one slow to commit. So letting him know that yes I was really ready, and waiting for him to believe it and act on it felt like an important way of balancing the control of the situation back in his direction – rather than me saying ‘not now, not now, not now, OK, NOW’ (married 2.5 years, with a 5 month old, and being married is even better than I’d ever imagined)

          #2 related to the above, I am definitely the more extroverted personality in our relationship, while my hubs is a classic introvert. I think a lot of other people see me as ‘driving’ our relationship purely by virtue of our personalities (which is not at all the case, other than my above-mentioned foot-dragging on commitment, but that’s how it can look from the outside). So by having him do the asking, it again just felt like a good way to feel like we were both equal participants in this process.

      • RageFace

        I freaking HATE surprises.

    • Eenie

      My tiny way of fighting back on this is to stop asking for the engagement story. You don’t need a story or a ring. So I stop expecting either.

      • Nicole

        Yes. I have tried to stop doing this with other people, too, as a way of retraining my brain. [Which is difficult, because I do love jewelry, and if there is any scenario where jewelry MIGHT be involved I am always ready to (silently) applaud or judge others’ aesthetic choices. lol.]

        • Eenie

          I’ve found that when there is jewelry involved, the person wearing it will show it off without prompting! Same with the story. Also, I will ask if the person described said jewelry beforehand to me, since I’m no longer assuming. I saw the CAD drawings of a friend’s ring and needed to see how it turned out (gorgeous!).

      • Sara

        I stopped asking after I realized that a lot of my friends have ‘unromantic’ proposals (by fairytale standards) and one friend was clearly ready to bite my head off if I had said anything about it. She and her now-husband had gone ring shopping together and then a week later, his ‘breakfast-in-bed’ plan was ruined because they both overslept on the day and jumped in the shower. He just gave her the ring when she got out and she was thrilled. But a lot of people got annoyed at her story because ‘he could have just done it on another day’ or ‘she picked out her own ring?!’ or ‘it was too soon, why the rush?’, so when I asked, she told me through gritted teeth and burst into tears when I said it was very them.

        So I don’t ask anymore. If people want to tell, I love a good story though!

        • Eenie

          Yup, my story was: we lived in different states, I designed the ring, thank you very much, yes, I actually didn’t want a diamond, I picked him up from the airport knowing it would be that weekend, and he got down on one knee in my apartment as I remembered I forgot to tell him I hate that, and I said yes, and then he apologized for not having a plan but he was scared to death he would lose the ring and just wanted to be engaged already, and then we sat on the couch as we added it to his insurance because I refused to wear it otherwise.

          • Lisa

            See I think that’s a fantastic story! I love these real life moments as much as any flash mob proposal. That’s what I tell to anyone who gets apologetic about her “engagement story.”

          • Eenie

            I love it now too! At the time everyone asking for it and then responding “oh, that’s nice” was kind of depressing.

          • Sara

            I would also be scared to death of losing a ring that my partner designed. Or wearing it. I feel both of you so hard.

          • April

            “we added it to his insurance because I refused to wear it otherwise” = love it!

        • Meg

          I was just with a bunch of couples recently, some engaged some married and we were all trying to one up each other on how unromantic/funny/embarressing our engagement stories were. One included the girl having just eaten a giant bite of a donut right before he asked (she is awesome/hilarious)

        • I don’t mind the “unromantic” proposals. Shouldn’t we also celebrate those, too?!

          Wasn’t there a thread somewhere that was talking about not wanting to put your unromantic meeting on the wedding website? Like meeting through online dating wasn’t romantic enough? We need to tell all our boring stories, without self-criticism, so we can normalize these stories that are totally NORMAL AND GOOD in their own right.

          • Nicole

            …like, we say we “met in grad school” and “were friends first” but really we became friends through me rebound-from-longterm-relationship-breakup-dating his ridiculous, much-older friend for a hot minute? I don’t know how that would look on the wedding website.

          • I’m not saying put every detail of your story in the website, but to omit it completely because it’s not cute “enough”? No.

            I started online dating to finally end a relationship with my ex…and was continuing to talk to him in the first month of dating my now-husband. That does not need to go on the wedding website. But, some true gobbledy guck about we met through online dating and bonded over Adam West Batman? Sure. Is it boring? Yes, but this is how people meet. No need to tell a tale of adventure and sorrow for it to be worthwhile. Normalize normal.

          • gonzalesbeach

            ugh part of me cringes when people ask how we met (online). part cringes because people reply back ‘oh well, that’s okay.’ pity-face or ‘I guess that’s how it is now’ like we’re not romantic enough because we didn’t lock eyes across a crowded dance floor and fall madly in love at first sight. the other part of me is like fuck whatever – yeah, we went online shopping for each other. and he fits me goddamn perfectly

          • I never cringe when I tell people we met online…and I’m not sure why anyone would? Is it really worse than meeting in a bar? Than drunken hooking up at a frat party? Than going on a blind date set-up by friends? Than meeting at a friend’s house party? Than meeting in line at the Apple Store?

            I mean, these all seem of equal value to me, none of which are cringe-worthy. What am I missing?

            Maybe you get the pity face from people because you’re not exuding confidence in it. Like, DAMN STRAIGHT WE MET ONLINE, IT TURNED OUT GREAT.

          • gonzalesbeach

            I agree it worked great! And I say it matter of fact-ly when asked but the response (and not just to my situation) is often this way. Maybe it’s a geographic thing but people here either don’t admit that’s where they met, or apologize for it, or explain that they actually have another connection where they met online but then they found out that their roommate’s professor’s ex-husband’s podiatrist is her uncle’s half sibling’s interior decorator, so you know they would have met anyways. Like it’s not organic, GMO and hormone free, grass fed, whole-living enough way to meet someone. And people are allll about the organics here! Silly rabbits

          • emilyg25

            I feel like proposals are *always* romantic. How can it not be romantic to ask someone to spend the rest of their life with you?

          • Leah

            Yes! There is basically no such thing to me as an unromantic proposal story. Even if it’s in a crap situation (i.e. both ill, stranded somewhere, etc etc) it’s still wonderful because it’s like even when life is that rough you still know that you want to spend your life with this person.

          • toomanybooks

            My wedding website (Minted) has an “Our Story” section on the front page and I was like ugggh no one needs to hear about this from us. (We have a boring story we tell everyone and then the full version which is way more exciting but not appropriate for family.) I was tempted to be very DC and just list details about our careers there! (I ended up changing the category entirely to just show more info about the wedding.)

        • Rose

          Our proposal (I was the one asking) had a lot of the hallmarks of the classic romance–not a huge production, but we were sitting on a bench in the garden in the flowers, etc. What I don’t tell everyone (maybe I should) was that I was sitting there with a ring in my pocket and my heart racing, trying to get a natural lull in the conversation, but she was busy rambling about her favorite goat breeds. Eventually I just interrupted her. It was, really, very us.

          • Sara

            I love this so much. Goats! Hilarious.

          • Rose

            She really loves goats. And chickens. The fact that we live in an apartment is probably all that’s saved me from a hobby farm for the past few years.

        • toomanybooks

          I’ll totally ask, but be just as excited if it’s something like “oh, one time we were just hanging out on the couch together and decided to get married! And then later we got rings on Etsy”

        • fellt

          I like it when people ask because I like telling people but I find it kind of awkward to bring up if they don’t… If I tell someone without them asking I feel like I’m either pushing my happy news on them (most of my friends are not engaged or married and some are in long term relationships) or being a pushy feminist (I proposed to him / no engagement ring / etc.).

          Although if my partner and I tell people together they always ask because he immediately says “SHE proposed to ME!!” *beaming*

        • RageFace

          When we got engaged, Ragedude and I had been together for nine years and we already owned a house together. My friend is a jeweller whom I’ve been doing some work for and she was in the process of buying a new business – and I had some credit with her for trade exchange I did. So, we ended up designing and buying the ring “just for when we needed it”, but when the deposit was paid we decided “eh, why not? it’s as good a time as any.”

          So the night we went to pick up the ring, Rageguy looked at me in the bedroom and said “so, I guess we’re getting married, then?” and I replied: “looks like it!”

          And that was it :)

      • April

        I don’t usually ask about the story and tbh, I just realized reading this right now that one of my best friends told me she was engaged and I didn’t ask. That being said, it’s not a show for everyone else, it’s a private moment! It’s great if people want to share it but that’s their choice – I really don’t get this pressure to ~entertain

        • Kalë

          Ooh, so much this. Our “proposal story” feels so intimate and so personal that I actually don’t like telling it to people (and it’s fairly “romantic” by traditional standards). Like, it feels like talking about sex or something. I haven’t really pushed back on it yet, but I do keep it very general and leave out a lot of details.

          • penguin

            I feel this way about our proposal too. We just got engaged over Christmas, and people keep asking “how he did it”. They seem disappointed when we just say that he asked me to marry him.

      • rainy

        When my fiancé proposed he didn’t have a ring yet because I don’t wear jewelry so he didn’t know what my size was. He proposed when and where he did because he kept on trying to put together an epic-ish weekend day trip for like literally an entire season but kept having to cancel because I’m not a fan of precip (eff off, pacific northwest rain) and he was at the end of said season and was worried he was now just putting it off due to nerves so he just asked one morning in bed.

        This is something we are both stoked about since, unlike apparently all the other people who are commenting on this article, we didn’t discuss engagement or proposals beforehand because (a) I’m totally fine giving him one ceremony when the chick is expected by everyone she knows to plan literally everything else anyways and (b) he’s been burned before and I wasn’t in any hurry and didn’t want to push him…… so I was just stoked and surprised that we were now engaged…..but GOD you’d think that he OBVIOUSLY was ALREADY planning for the divorce by putting so LITTLE effort into the proposal. We’ve stopped telling people and don’t answer/brush it off when they ask.

        Their rxn when I say I’m keeping my name is equally “oh cool, you guys wont last”…course I’m talking about acquaintances and coworkers, not people who ACTUALLY know us either independently or together…

        • toomanybooks

          I wore jewelry but never a ring on my left ring finger, so it turns out that finger is way smaller than all my others (except pinkies) and my ring size is totally different from what I would’ve thought it was anyway! We both had vintage rings (mine inherited) that were slightly too big for us, and just got those resized so they’d fit perfectly. Both of us has smaller ring sizes than we thought!

      • emilyg25

        I love engagement stories! But my very favorite ones are my parents’ (“Hey, when’s your next weekend off?”) and my grandparents’ (“Would you ever marry a guy like me?” “Why don’t you ask?”). The story doesn’t have to be a big production! But I do get your point. And I don’t ask to see the ring.

    • Ella

      Yassss. I asked my fiance out of the blue if he would marry me and it took me about a year of our 18-month engagement to get over the shame that I hadn’t waited. Like, I would lay on the couch and wail at him about how I had ruined everything. So much of the popular narrative is about patiently sitting around until a man is ready to claim you from your father, no matter how long it takes. Somebody told me that women are supposed to wait because “asking is the man’s job and wedding planning is the woman’s job” and I was SO ANGRY I could spit. Even “worse” is that I decided against having an engagement ring, which prompted responses such as “does he even want to marry you?” from my mother. I cannot wait until we are actually married so people will find someone else to nag!

      • Lisa

        Ugh, the cultural expectations are the worst. My personal engagement drama was deciding to keep my name, which led to a bunch of “But think of the [hypothetical, not yet in existence] children!” hand-wringing.

        • AP

          Yesssssss. Same.

        • Ella

          I’m going to keep my name too, and I am bracing for someone on my dad’s (super conservative and religious) side to give me a lecture about a woman’s place in the home. Did your family eventually get over it?

          • Lisa

            I think so? We kind of stopped talking about it after we were married because it’s just the way things are now. Even the best man’s wife, who gave me the longest lecture, addresses things correctly and hasn’t brought it up. I have a lot of conservative family members though who insist (or perhaps just don’t understand?) on addressing all letters to either “Husband and Lisa HisLast” or “Mr. and Mrs. HisFirst HisLast” no matter how many times I put both of our full names on the Christmas cards.

            Maybe it will show up again once the hypotheticals become real children, but for now, no one challenges it anymore.

          • Eenie

            I’m sorry you’ll have to deal with your family over that. My dad jokingly gave my fiance a disappointed “you’re not taking our last name” talk. I’ve found it becomes way less of an issue over time. If you think it’ll be an issue, you don’t NEED to make a big deal out of it. Sometimes just doing the thing and correcting it afterwards is easier.

          • Or maybe they’ll surprise you and be totally supportive?!

        • Currently fighting the good fight on “Mr. and Mrs. HisFirst HisLast.”
          I didn’t change my name, so this is objectively incorrect. And second, of all the options, you’ve gotta pick the one that erases my existence? People over 75 get a pass…

          • penguin

            Ugh I’m fighting this too – my future mother-in-law is adamant that we use “proper” addressing on our invitations, which to her is the “Mr. and Mrs. HisFirst HisLast”. So far I’m refusing to do it (my fiancé agrees). My question is – do we address HER invitation that way since she wants it? What about the other (also older) relatives on that side who may or may not believe the same thing?

            I’m leaning towards having all the invitations addressed a modern way that recognizes that women have first names too. In-law trouble be damned.

          • Lisa

            I think, if she’s expressed a clear preference for one type of invitation wording, you should give her what she wants. She might even then think that you addressed the rest of the invitations that way without you having to choose her method.

          • The number one rule of addressing is to address people the way they want to be addressed. FMIL wants “Mr. and Mrs. His Name”, so give her that (pick.your.battles). Everyone else, you can use “Mr. HisLast and Mrs./Ms. HerLast”
            or “HisFirst HisLast & HerFirst HerLast”
            or “HerFirst HerLast & HisFirst HisLast”
            or “HisFirst & HerFirst TheirLast”

            Some of these are more “proper” than others. We used what we felt like using. Generally, if we were more friends with the female than the male, the female went first. Because, whatever.

          • penguin

            That makes sense. I guess our next hurdle will be figuring out who wants to be addressed that way!

          • Eh, just guess. And if you don’t know, “HisFirst and HerFirst TheirLast” (if it is a TheirLast), is probably a safe back up plan for the elders. Most people don’t care too much.

          • Ashlah

            Yeah, my feeling is that “Mr. and Mrs. HisFirst HisLast” has the potential to offend some people (myself included), but anything else? They might question your etiquette choices, maybe, if they’re into traditional etiquette, but I can’t imagine anyone feeling offended because you included their name.

          • Lisa

            I dunno… there was a commenter once who went ballistic on a group of us because we tried to explain why Ms. is sometimes a better option than Mrs. and why some women choose to keep their names/it shouldn’t be assumed that everyone takes her husband’s name! She seemed like the kind who might go off the walls if you addressed an invitation to anything other than the very formal “Mr. and Mrs. HisFirst HisLast.” ;)

          • Ashlah

            Oh yes, I think I remember that. She felt she had “earned” the Mrs., right? So maybe better to accept that there are always outliers and you can never please everyone! :D

          • Lisa

            Yep, that’s the one!

          • jammers

            Omg we didn’t follow any rules about addressing etiquette. Is this a thing people actually notice? And if they notice, will they be hung up on it after opening the envelope and seeing what’s inside?! I don’t know. I’m a little worried about getting blowback from a handful of aunts, but hey why not get that family dynamic out of the way at the gates?

          • It’s like anything else. There’s a wide variety of people who will care, or not care at all. If they’re smart, they’ll keep their traps shut about it (provided you addressed them accurately…which is different from properly).

            Because, yes, if you address a letter to me as “HisFirst & HerFirst HisLast”, I will talk to you about it, as it’s incorrect. So long as you used people’s correct names, you’re probably fine (minus the few nitpickers, whatever).

          • LadyJanee

            We didn’t follow any rules either! We mainly used first names only, unless we were 100% sure that they used a joint surname, and only put Mrs for family members we new for sure preferred to be addressed that way. Otherwise, we put the name of the person we were friends with most first (and if we were friends with the couple equally then we put the female’s name first) and left it at that. Traditional etiquette be damned!

          • Lisa

            Yeah, my 89-year-old great aunt gets a pass, but my husband’s 92-year-old grandmother has managed to figure it out so it appears to not be entirely a generational thing.

        • RageFace

          I keep hearing from my feminist friends how I’m letting them all down by wanting to take my fiancé’s name because, well, I like the name and I want it.

          • Lisa

            If I’ve learned anything from this site, it’s that we can still be feminists and acknowledge that not every decision we make is a feminist one.

          • RageFace

            That’s true, but I don’t like that I’m being shamed for making a decision that doesn’t align with the views of some super radical SJW’s :/

      • “does he even want to marry you?”
        Oh gawd, I’m so sorry. Stay strong. That ish is the worst.

    • RageFace

      100%.
      Our engagement was a collaborative decision and we paid for the ring together (Mr Rage didn’t want a ring) and we supported a small business-owner instead of buying it at a huge chain store.

      That is something that fits us so well, but it’s never good enough for people who want to hear a “got down on one knee under fireworks on New Year’s Eve with champagne and caviar at the beach” story.

  • Nicole

    I’m not engaged AND I AM NOT OKAY WITH IT. Granted, we’re pretty close to both being ready to do it. But he’s not there. And I have been there for about four months, REALLY REALLY THERE for the past month, and major life transitions for both of us are coming up in late spring, which will essentially force both of our hands’ in a dramatic way. So, I said it.

    • idkmybffjill

      Ugh that is the most painful place, I remember it well. Good for you for not trying to hide your feelings!

    • Cdn icecube

      I know it doesn’t help, but you’re not the only one there. I’ve been there for months too and it sucks. More so when it seems like everyone and their sister is getting engaged.

      • Nicole

        Thanks, both. And yes, I actually said to my bf recently “If one more F*CKING 25 YEAR OLD GETS ENGAGED-” because it’s just piling on at this point. Not that there’s anything wrong with 25 year olds getting engaged, but I am much older than that and have been through some shit.

        • idkmybffjill

          I think it’s one of those things too in which we’re culturally trained to think of engagement as an achievement. And it really sucks to be like, “Well you just can’t achieve this thing”. For the record I don’t think it’s an achievement, but I sure as SHIT felt those feelings of like, “But we’ve been together longer!”.

          • CMT

            “And it really sucks to be like, “Well you just can’t achieve this thing” UGH. YES. That is exactly how I feel, and I know it’s not rational, but it still sucks :(

          • idkmybffjill

            It’s just awful! We HAVE to stop it as a culture. But like… it’s pretty hard not to feel that way when it seems ingrained from childhood to view this as like… the ultimate.

          • AtHomeInWA

            I feel the “we’ve been together longer.” Friends of mine will be celebrating their first anniversary soon while my person and I have been in the “planning on getting married” phase since before they got engaged. (Cuz it isn’t a competition, right? :P )

            I really am happy with where Person and I am. It is right for us, our lives, and our circumstances. I’ve got graduate school stuff to do right now and he has overcoming-his-childhood stuff to do right now. Celebrating our marriage knowing that we overcame those hurdles together will make it all the more significant. But: The part that KILLS me is the implication that somehow our relationship is less serious or less strong or that the friend has some greater-than-thou insight into relationships than Partner and I do. It wasn’t a problem until my friend group started getting married, then all of a sudden my “partnership” suddenly wasn’t as good and their “marriages.”

          • Ashlah

            Sometimes the weirdest things trigger it, too. I once had a total “wtf” moment when an acquaintance posted a photo of she and her husband getting their first Christmas tree, tagged #marriedlife. And I was like, wtf, we’ve been doing that together for years, you don’t get to claim that as #marriedlife! As though it was less important when we’d been doing it unmarried. But of course that isn’t what she meant, and for her it was part of newly married life. I was even already married when this happened, and still the initial reaction got the better of me.

          • AtHomeInWA

            And to be fair, the particular friend who creates this irritation in me doesn’t have a lot of other things going on in her life, so when one of us is talking about graduate school and another is talking about her great new job and a third is talking about buying a house, it makes sense that she’d talk about getting married.

          • KGM

            I agree with you on the greater than thou aspect. My boyfriend and me have been together 5 years and are pre-engaged. His sister and her husband have been together 5 years, but married for 3. Over Christmas, my boyfriend joked that we’re of the one mind sort of thing, and his sister chimed in with “No, you can’t be! You’re not married yet, that only happens to married couples” Drives me crazy!

          • RageFace

            Dude, yeah. I’m a SUPER ACHIEVER and those feelings were super real to me – “we’ve been together for NINE YEARS but my cousin is getting married after THREE YEARS in his relationship!”

            It really annoyed me.

    • Shirley Schmidt

      As far as it helps, I was VERY MUCH READY TO BE ENGAGED THANK YOU and I remember how much that sucked. That almost-but-not-quite there angst is very valid angst, and I hope things resolve themselves in the right way for you.

    • Kalë

      Dude, this is exactly how I felt last summer… you can even see it in my post history LOL, and many contributors here are familiar with my story. It is a sucky feeling – there with ya in solidarity, sister. (and for what it’s worth, we are now engaged, and both thrilled about it!)

  • idkmybffjill

    I feel like it’s this unspoken secret that LOTS of couple talk about getting engaged before they get engaged. Before we got engaged I feel like I ONLY heard about other couples’ surprise proposals – and I dealt with alot of feelings of inadequacy because I was ready first, and we picked out the ring together, and even after we’d picked out the ring he dragged his feet a little bit. Then after we got engaged I found that many many people I knew had been in a really similar situation. I’ve done my best to be forthcoming that our process was a discussion so that others in my circle don’t feel the way I did!

    • Jess

      This is exactly why I’m trying to share how much we talked about it.

    • Argentum

      I totally agree with this. It’s like there’s actually two competing myths: (1) the surprise proposal as an ideal, romantic at its best and misogynistic at its worst; and (2) the surprise proposal as a common occurrence. I can’t think of one single person I know who was surprised by a proposal they accepted. I don’t mean surprised by the moment – I was certainly (and wonderfully) surprised by the specific date/time/circumstances of my husband’s proposal, and I treasure the memory. But even though we never sat down and had an Engagement Conversation or sketched out a precise timeline, we shared countless instances of ‘mutual affirmation’ over the year leading up to our engagement – telling each other how we wanted to spend the rest of our lives with the other person, discovering we agreed on things from core values to the numeric range of hypothetical children, cheering each other on in career moves even when relocations were involved, getting to know and care for each other’s families, moving in together, etc. Looking back, my husband also made several casual references or jokes about engagement rings and ‘forever commitment’ that I’m pretty sure were intended to gauge my reaction and feel out how ready I was to be engaged and get married, without explicitly saying “I want to marry you – will you marry me?” before explicitly saying exactly that, officially.
      On the outside surface, my proposal story may look like the stereotypical ideal surprise preceded by a girl (me) waiting for a boy (my husband) to “pop the question”. But that truly wasn’t how I experienced it. As I lived it, it was all about the two of us falling in love, committing to each other to spend our lives together, and then making it official. On one hand, I waited for him to ask. But on the other, he waited to ask until he believed I would say yes (not to imply he wasn’t nervous :)). I’m willing to bet many guys do. My point isn’t that actually, women have all the power, but rather that the traditional cultural narratives are less relevant to many real-life love stories than people think.
      Very well-stated new rules, Rachel! Thank you!

      • “I can’t think of one single person I know who was surprised by a proposal they accepted. I don’t mean surprised by the moment – I was certainly (and wonderfully) surprised by the specific date/time/circumstances of my husband’s proposal, and I treasure the memory. ”
        Yes. This.

        Also, my husband surprised himself with the proposal. So sometimes, it’s possible for both parties to be just as surprised, and yet, not surprised at all ;)

        • Ella

          Are you willing to share more details about “my husband surprised himself with the proposal”?

          • The simple version is that he had not planned to propose. He was just moved by the pretty scenery to do so. No ring, no thought-out speech, etc. etc. We’d been together 6 years and were on the same page about longterm plans for awhile, so he knew I’d say yes. He just hadn’t anticipated proposing there & then. Surprised himself with that sudden urge to do so.

      • Rose

        We were similar. Before I proposed, we hadn’t had a detailed conversation about engagement, and we didn’t have a timeline. She didn’t know I had a ring. But we both knew that we wanted to get married, and knew how the other one felt too, from exactly those kinds of casual conversations. I’m pretty sure she was just waiting to ask until she had a permanent job, but I got sick of waiting. Since we hadn’t discussed the timeline in advance, though, I was also ready for her to say “not yet” and be ok with it. I’ve gone through periods of feeling bad that we didn’t have that kind of official “This is our Plan” conversation, but I’m trying to get over that.

    • emilyg25

      I would actually be shocked and disturbed to find out that a friend got engaged without talking about it first. That idea is just mind-boggling to me. But my friends tend to date for years and years before making it legal.

  • Lala

    Yes, thank you for this. It literally took a therapist saying I had a right to a timeline in order for me to feel ok about setting one and my now-fiance to realize that no, we aren’t just going to wait until he magically had his wiley ducks in a row. Legally, we really do need to be married to stay together, and it was killing me that after so much time together, he still had doubts. I wish we had had that discussion years earlier in front of a therapist, could have spent a lot less time in the hell that is Freaking Out About Uncertain Future/How Much Have I Sacrificed for Someone Who Won’t Commit?

  • LucyPirates

    I constantly correct people about when we got engaged. Was it a surprise proposal with a little ring? Well yes, but only because we had discussed getting engaged in the new year and he was impatient and couldn’t wait. The key point was that I was surprised to be engaged in September as opposed to January, but I was NOT surprised to be engaged – because you know, he said
    ‘Hey LadyPirates, I really would like babies and clearly am more broody than you’
    and I said
    ‘Hey Man Friend, is marriage on the cards, because I would prefer the commitment of marriage before the commitment to each other of babies so if it’s not, let me know.’
    MrPirates ‘Hmm, sure not babies first? Although we both know I want to get married as we have talked about this before’
    Me ‘For defs, and that’s a completely separate conversation that we need to have with my Ambition’
    MrPirates ‘Ok, well only if I can propose with a ring so I can indulge my penchant for Dramatics’

    I am actually more surprised at how many ladies in my life do not ASK about their own future?! Or feel like they can’t bring it up for fear of scaring their person off? There are two people (mostly!) in a relationship and therefore two people get to have a say.

    • Lisa

      That’s the same with us, too. We discussed marriage/engagement within the first year of of dating and what a timeline for that looked like (“before we move in together” but “after we’re out of grad school”). People asked if I was surprised, and I always told them, “Not really. We had a timeline of when we needed to be engaged by, and I figured it would be sometime during the two weeks we were seeing each other in person that summer.”

    • Jess

      Yeah, everyone always asked if R’s proposal was a surprise.

      The exact method and day? Yes. That it was going to happen? No, we had a lot of talks about that, and the proposal was just because R loves Big Romantic Gestures.

    • Jessa

      I am totally of the mindset that if you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, it’s *shouldn’t* be a surprise! Sure, the actual proposal could be a surprise if you want it to be, but the answer to the question shouldn’t be.

    • LadyJanee

      This was basically us too – we’d had numerous conversations about getting married, our life plans, and how we envisioned the wedding because we knew we wanted to get married to each other and those things need to be discussed. I also had an idea it was coming because we had agreed we would get married sooner rather than later as my Dad has health issues and we wanted him to be part of the wedding. But the actual proposal was a surprise because my (now) husband loves to surprise me!

    • Sarah S

      “so I can indulge my penchant for Dramatics” amazing haha.

    • RageFace

      ‘Penchant for Dramatics’ – are you sure you are not engaged/married to Ragedude? :D

  • Lexipedia

    Haha, the number of people that told me in Happy Hour last week that we are already engaged because we have chosen a venue and picked a date… yet we are both plagued by #4 because neither of us want to consider ourselves “engaged” without a ring and a proposal. He says that being “engaged” now would make him feel like he lost out on some manly fantasy experience of getting down on one knee and asking me to marry him. And I am ashamed to admit that the fairy tale narrative has convinced me that is required, and then ashamed that, as a feminist woman, I want that gender stereotype. Ugh.

    • Amy March

      Chosen a venue, picked a date, and told people you’d done so! If you two want the “fantasy” go for it! But you can’t have both a surprise proposal and have already sent Save the Dates :)

      • Lexipedia

        One of the reasons we’ve sworn the four people who know to secrecy, but yes – it won’t be the same.

    • Jess

      So, what is the base of this desire? Is your intended generally into Big Romantic Gestures? Are you? If either of those apply, I wouldn’t beat yourself up too much about it.

      If neither of you is typically into Big Things, would spending an afternoon picking out a ring and going out for a nice dinner be enough of a marker that you would feel more transitioned into being engaged?

      The thing about a traditional proposal is that it gives a firm, definite time when you are now “engaged.” I didn’t know I emotionally needed to have some event to say, “Yup, we’re doing this!” rather than “Yeah, we’ve made all these decisions, so I guess this is happening now?” but it turns out? I really really did need to mark that transition.

      • Lexipedia

        He likes gestures, and definitely wants that “event” that helps mark the transition rather than it happening slowly over time. We probably wouldn’t have even told our parents, but they have really complicated schedules because of their jobs and we wanted to pick a date for the wedding that worked for all four of them. I know he was worried that decisions on the date/venue would sort of take the wind out of whatever gesture he has planned. Also, the ring isn’t ready yet and he is very excited about including it in the act of proposing. Not right for everyone, but right for us. I told him we would sign the venue contract and then we would hold off on any other planning until after the “proposal” happens and that we wouldn’t tell anyone but our parents.

    • Becky D

      I’m in a similar position with my SO. He and I have known for a long time that if we ever got married, we want it to be at the brewery where we first met. A few months ago, we were having a romantic evening and the conversation turned to marriage and we decided we’d like to get married in early 2018 on our anniversary. After that conversation I picked and purchased my ring and we consider ourselves to be “engaged”. However, he wants to plan a formal proposal in a few months, so we’re not running around announcing it to everyone. But it’s given us the chance to talk to friends and family and let them know about our plans, which is important to me. I didn’t want to be surprised by a proposal and I don’t want my parents to be shocked either. Plus, I think the decision to get married happens over time, rather than in a single day.

    • toomanybooks

      Yeah, I think APW at the same time holds two ideas: “You should be able to talk about your wedding and plan your engagement together without the engagement being a surprise” and “hey, you’ve talked about plans to get married? What more do you need, you’re engaged!”

      While you don’t *need* a Big Gesture proposal, sure, and the people here recognize that, I do think “engagement” itself is a formal agreement you enter into, and happens when the parties have formally agreed to enter it, usually (though not always) with a token like a ring as a symbol of the bond. I don’t think reserving a venue rental before that formally happens means it’s all lost and you’ve forfeited your right to have that formality. I think a lot of people here would agree it’s only practical!

  • lottie

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this, though in the context of a much earlier stage: starting a relationship. As in, I’m interested in a friend (and have been for awhile). He doesn’t live nearby, so it feels trickier to figure out if he’s interested in more. I was framing my reluctance to say anything as part of being a relatively quiet, not brash person. Then a friend suggested that maybe I’ve taken in the cultural narratives that men should do the asking and women should wait which, in any other context I’d bristle at. But I think she may be right and I need to buck up, be vulnerable, and send an awkward email (wording suggestions welcome!). In any event, it makes me think that the expectations around engagements are the outgrowth of patterns set much earlier on, and even as we disrupt those patterns, engagements remain entrenched.

    • Amy March

      I don’t think email is great for this- awkward and hard but pick up the phone and speak to each other or set up a visit and bring it up. “Hey, I’ve been thinking, wanna go on a date sometime?”

      • lottie

        I wish I could deputize you to do this for me. I think you’d be awesome at it! Amy March’s School for Making Conversations Happen…

        • Amy March

          That is so sweet, but I would suck at this task! I think it’s solid advice but I for sure would not take it myself, in favor of wasting a year stalking his Instagram.

          • lottie

            The Instagram stalking is well underway, so part 1 = check.

    • Jess

      ASK. Don’t do it in e-mail, but ASK. I have asked all my long-term relationships out, and it’s been great.

      Honestly? If somebody is put off by you asking for something you want, they are not the right person for you.

      • lottie

        It’s funny, I’ve been fine with asking in the past–when dudes were local, I was fine with it. It’s the distance that’s thrown me, or perhaps I’ve let it get in the way of more typical behavior. Thanks for the confidence boost!

        • Jess

          You can do it! :D Asking and knowing is always so much better than just waiting and wondering.

    • K.

      Ask him out! Simple and straight-forward. I agree with others that email wouldn’t be the best place for it and I also don’t think it needs to be a particularly vulnerable declaration of feelings or anything along those lines–mostly because thinking about it will put a lot of (unnecessary) pressure on both of you.

      • K.

        *thinking about it like that (i.e., as this BIG deal and change because you’re friends)

        • lottie

          I think it’s the friend basis that has contributed to making me gun shy, aka thinking this is a BIG DEAL when it doesn’t have to be. I’m so good at talking myself in circles.

    • Shirley Schmidt

      Ask him! It doesn’t have to be anything more complicated than “hey, fancy making that coffee date into a date date?” (pretty much exactly how I asked my now fiancé out).
      And yes, the cultural narratives around the early stages of relationships are equally bizarre. The overwhelmingly message to women of “don’t text too much, don’t ask too much – don’t be too much” gets pretty tiring.

      • lottie

        I wish we had a standing coffee date, but alas it’s been coffee/drink dates spread over a couple years when we’ve happened to be in the same spot. BUT I need to stop using that as an excuse and just plunge in.

    • if you’re feeling it, ask him out. I asked my friend of four years out by text, and now I can’t imagine life without him. I proposed too (but then in reply he pulled out a ring of his own, so it was a surprise mutual proposal).

      I’m pro email here, especially if that’s how you normally communicate. It’ll give him a chance to mull it over without feeling pressured to yay or nay immediately. Keep it short and simple – don’t go into tons of detail about how you’ve been thinking about this. In my case, we’d already arranged to see a film together, so the text went along the lines of “do you want to make this an actual date”. If he’d said now, maybe we’d have skipped seeing the film that time, but I think our friendship would have broadly survived.

      • NolaJael

        I’m pro email too, because my now-husband and I started off long distance and email was our normal communication method.

        And he asked me out by email…something like six years ago? We were married six months ago, so that moment of vulnerability worked out for him. :)

        • lottie

          Yeah, he lives several states away, so email/text/social media are our primary modes of communication, and of those, email seems the best. Time to get on it. thanks for all the encouragement!

      • lottie

        Yeah, email makes sense for me given the context — he lives a ways away and it’s how we usually communicate (or text). And he’s a thinker, so giving him the space to think/mull (as necessary) seems wise — maybe he’ll have a quick answer or maybe he hasn’t thought about it, I don’t know, but given the physical distance, creating that opportunity to consider it seems fair. But yay for a good precedent :) And thanks for the “short and simple” tip. As noted above, I’m a skilled rambler and this is not the time.

    • lamarsh

      The Modern Love in the NY Times last Friday is a great meditation about all the cultural narratives/baggage of a woman asking a man out.

      https://nyti.ms/2k7U3j7

      ETA: Also, ask him! The answer will always be no if you don’t ask.

      • lottie

        Hadn’t seen that column and it’s awesome. That pretty much characterizes my own insecurities about making a move, which it seems I should do :)

    • Rose

      I don’t know if this will help at all, but can you imagine the scenario if it were another woman who you wanted to ask out? That was when it really, really clicked for me–in college, when I kept imagining my (female) crush asking me out, and then I had this moment of clarity when I realized that I had absolutely no excuse for not asking her myself. For some reason the lack of typical male/female gender roles helped me to really clearly see how socially conditioned I was to wait, which helped me break through it. (Also, it turned out that she would never have asked but was thrilled when I did, and 6 years later we’re married. So, it works).

      • lottie

        This is a helpful thought exercise. I’m not so sure what my answer would be to the gender role reversal, but I know that in my professional life I’ve always been fine sending the email to the big-whig to ask something and I think that’s the example I need to lean on to lean in here, ha. And a good reminder that even if he’s not contemplating asking, he still might be receptive if I ask.

        • Rose

          Yeah. In our case, we were friends, and I had had a crush for forever, and she just had never really thought about it, I think (also, I think she didn’t know that I was queer).

    • NolaJael

      I mentioned below that I’m pro email, but since most of these responses aren’t here’s my advice if you do go with in person or phone: Don’t fill the silence. You ask, then you let him think and answer.

      Too many times we end up rambling like, “Hey we’ve known each other a long time and I think you’re great and I thought maybe we could grab dinner but if you don’t want to, that’s fine! You know what, it’s cool either way, see you Thursday!”

      The pause may feel like eternity, but you’ll never know what he’s thinking if you don’t let him process and answer for himself.

      • lottie

        Oh the rambling, I am so good at that. Thanks for the tip :)

        In this case, as I note below, email makes the most sense since we’re not in the same place (like a day’s drive/short flight away), so it’s not as easy as turning a regular meet-up into something more, but I also think the upside is that it allows for processing (also a downside because it could lead to no reply). Benefits, drawbacks…

  • Glen

    I just overheard this conversation at work and wanted to share:
    Man 1: How’s the wedding planning going? Is it taking over your life?
    Man 2: Yeah, pretty much…
    Me: *silently cheers*

    • Jess

      YES!

    • Jane

      Yes! When my sister was getting married her now-husband would have so many people ask him questions about wedding stress. And then he would realize they meant about the commitment. He would always have to explain he was stressed about all the planning.

    • toomanybooks

      Yesssss!
      On Reddit’s wedding planning subreddit (the only one I follow), a guy posted about how he wanted to add this (generally not allowed at venues and potentially hazardous) surprise for the bride at his wedding because he felt bad/was grateful that she was doing all the planning. He asked for advice on the surprise and how he could execute it, but someone commented “maybe you should just help her plan the wedding” and I was like BLESS YOU.

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      • Katie

        What subreddit??

        • toomanybooks

          r/weddingplanning

          Never used Reddit before finding it and it’s so nice there lol

  • Nell

    “YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO STOP SHAMING WOMEN WHO WANT TO GET MARRIED”

    Also, stop shaming women who DON’T want to get married!

    Because I’m the femme in my lady-lady relationship, SO many people assumed that my butch girlfriend was the holdout. Long hair/dress wearing/makeup wearing does NOT mean that I automatically wanted to be a bride.

  • Laura C

    Yesyesyesyesyes.

    The funny thing is, my husband cared a lot more about getting married (and WAY more about having a wedding) than I did. And ultimately that made me want to get married. That’s because a lot of my parents’ friends when I was growing up weren’t married, or I didn’t know if they were married, so I was perfectly capable of feeling like I was all in on our relationship without being married, but I knew he wasn’t. I didn’t need marriage, I needed to know he was all in and that I was his family. Which for him meant marriage, so it ended up meaning marriage for me.

    I was clear about this with him. In those words. I also pointed out that he could take his time and we would do it when he was ready, but that it absolutely might have implications for our ability to have a baby, and I just needed him to understand that and not think he could magically have it both ways.

  • sofar

    Re: cultural narratives

    My husband and I were together about 6 years before we got engaged. My previous long-term relationship had been pretty messed up, so I told him I wanted to wait at least 4 years before getting married (because that’s how long it took for me to realize my ex was toxic).

    My husband wanted to get married SO SO SO bad, but he patiently waited, year after year and never made me feel rushed.

    What did NOT help were all the relatives and friends and coworkers who assumed HE was the one holding out on ME. Because men be avoiding commitment, amirite? Lots of, “Hey, she won’t wait forever, you know.” And “How long is he going to make you wait? Tell him you want a RING for Valentine’s Day!”

    • sparagmos

      Yes for real. Family seems to instantly assume that the dude in a heterosexual relationship is dragging his feet and the girl is impatient and just…that cultural narrative is the dumbest. I was in a similar situation with my then-boyfriend-now-husband in which I was the holdout and he was the eager one, and I felt bad for him, especially with his rather large extended family, who kept ribbing him about why we weren’t engaged yet. Family weddings were awkward for a number of years. He took it in stride, I think.

    • Ella

      UGH those questions.. I just don’t know how people expect them to go down. Like, even if their assumptions are correct, are they expecting you to say, “You’re right, I’ll let him know! … Oh he’s ready now! Thanks!”

      • sofar

        I am always so tempted to reply, “GET A NEW HOBBY.” But that would ruin Christmas.

  • savannnah

    It always helped me to separate out the idea of proposal and engagement when people would ask me about if it was a surprise. Engagements are planned for, discussed and well thought out. Engagements should not come as a surprise because a marriage follows an engagement most of the time. A proposal on the other hand can be a surprise but it does not have to be- It should be whatever you want it to be, its a moment in time.

    • This is a nice way to think of it. Our engagement was definitely not a surprise—my partner brought the topic up a few months before proposing—and we had a serious chat or two about the future, what we wanted, etc. When he proposed, I had no idea it was happening, so it was a nice surprise for sure…but if we’d never chatted marriage at all, I would have been a little turned off. It *is* a big thing, and him proposing without considering my plans and thoughts for the future would have not have been for me.

  • Anon

    So great to read Rachel’s writing on APW!

  • Pingback: On Marriage, and Proposals | naturalopposite()

  • macrain

    RACHEL. IS. BACK. (insert clapping and heart eye emojis)

  • Hannah

    Yes! This is why I love the APW community so much! Boyfriend and I began discussing our timeline a few months ago and are currently planning on getting engaged this summer. It totally boggles my mind that couples don’t discus this first; to me it seems like if you’re planning on being life partners, shouldn’t you be making life plans together?! What if your boyfriend signed a one-year lease on an apartment without asking you, or accepted a job across the country without talking to you first? The only thing that makes marriage somehow different as a major choice a couple makes is all the cultural bullshit surrounding it (sorry for the language, still feeling very fired up from the Women’s March on DC!). Even so, I have absolutely been grappling with the little nagging thought that this is somehow less romantic, even though I wouldn’t have it any other way so it’s great to see all these other stories!

    • sage

      Not less romantic at all! Making plans for your life together, whether that’s engagement timeline plans, wedding plans, or any other big life decision plans that affect both of you… this is super romantic!!! You are each rearranging your own individual lives because of your love for the other person! *swoon*

      You can’t get more of a planned engagement than me and my fiance had. At this time last year we were already marking a weekend in July for when the proposal/beginning of our official engagement would take place… we told no one, we had such giddy excitement and anticipation leading up to it, and for us, it was super romantic (YMMV). All this is to say, don’t feel bad or like it’s less romantic to have these conversations now… it’s super important and (if you happen to be big planners already) it can actually add to the excitement :)

      • Hannah

        Aww that’s awesome! We’ve told a couple people but there’s definitely that giddiness knowing it’s our secret :)

      • E.

        Same! We did a mutual proposal and picked the day together, but didn’t tell anyone else!

      • Sarah S

        this is what we did, too! planned engagements FTW! It was the best day ever, from the beginning with anticipation to the happy end of calling friends and family.

  • Jessa

    This is so timely. My Mom just got engaged to her partner (they’are older 50’s age range) and she is having such a tough time with wedding planning and engagement. I have been guiding her through the process because they seem very stuck in traditional (unproductive) roles. It seems like the brunt of wedding planning has been taken on by my Mom and as much as I like her fiance, he seems to think he can just show up and have the wedding all planned for him. I feel like my generation has approached wedding planning more collaboratively, and that is so interesting to reflect on. Occasionally, my Mom will say, “But I don’t WANT xyz/antiquated tradition” and I give her so much enthusiasm and support to show that you don’t have to get married a specific way. I think she’s slowly realizing it…

    • Ashlah

      I love this. You are being a Good Daughter.

    • Keep fighting the good fight. Maybe send some APW wedding write-ups her way?

      • Jessa

        Yes! I am trying to do it in small, manageable doses, but I really just want to sit her down and say READ ALL OF IT! :D

        • Eenie

          Meg wrote two books for exactly this reason!!

  • Ashlah

    We need to consider the fact that men might be as influenced by fairy tales and gender expectations as women are. Let’s stop blaming Cinderella and take a look at what’s going on with Prince Charming, too.

    YES THANK YOU!

    I’m so sick of everyone acting like men’s feelings and actions are pure and logical and uninfluenced by cultural norms and expectations. People, please. PLEASE.

    • Kalë

      And women’s feelings are irrational and influenced by their soft, delicate, malleable, lady emotions. Got accused of basing my rationality on emotion, not fact, in a Facebook post this weekend (about the march, natch) and I SAW RED (through my haze of fact-and-evidence-based decision making).

      • Lisa

        Oof, I’m friends with a former classmate on Facebook, and she posted a long, rambly status about how women shouldn’t be able to vote because of their delicate, lady emotions and quoted a bunch of anti-Suffragette rhetoric from the turn of the century. Talk about blind rage.

        • CMT

          UGH.

        • Gaby

          UGH. To combat this I’ll share that one of my favorite parts of my local march was a lady dressed as a suffragette who spoke in a very old timey voice. She joked that the patriarchy made me forget my quinceañera dress when she heard me mutter that I should’ve brought it.

          • Lisa

            We had a marcher at our rally who was dressed as a Suffragette, too! She was in a wheelchair, and her husband had come to help push her through the crowds so she could carry her sign as well.

          • Kalë

            Am amazed. Love this! I’m really hoping for an open thread later today where we can share march stories and keep the uplifting spirit/good work going (mods, plz?)

          • Gaby

            agreed!

          • Gaby

            Ugh, that’s great. This weekend was the morale boost I’ve been needing.

        • wut.

          • Lisa

            I should really save it on Facebook because every time I tell people about it no one believes me that such a thing exists!

        • AP

          WHAT.

    • Gaby

      Right?! Our proposal was more traditional than I would’ve chosen because of *his* ideas of what was expected of him. IE I didn’t want a diamond ring but he still got me something much fancier than I’d ever pick out, we discussed being ready for marriage but he still surprised me for the actual proposal.

  • lamarsh

    My fiance was definitely ready to be engaged before I was. We talked a lot about it our respective timelines, and, is it turned out, it ended up taking him a year and a half to save for a ring, so by that time, I had actually been really ready for a few months. I didn’t like telling people that that was our situation because I was worried people would tell me he wasn’t “the one” if I wasn’t ready to be married at the same time that he was. But this advice is so right, we really do need to be outspoken about this kind of stuff if we want to get beyond the traditional engagement narrative.

  • Lexipedia

    Oh gosh, right on this topic, over lunch at work there was a discussion about the mythical “Engagement Chicken” – a special recipe for roasted chicken that is supposed to convince boyfriends to propose. I hadn’t ever heard about it, but apparently multiple people had tried it while pre-engaged! I feel like this is representative of how crappy the dialogue can be between partners who are considering marriage. Apparently my cooking skills (ehem, gender roles) are supposed to trick a partner into thinking I am “wifely material” – has anyone else heard of this? It sounds insane!

    • Yes, I have heard of engagement chicken. But it never crossed my mind to actually try such a thing.

      Conversely, have you heard of the sweater curse?

      • Lexipedia

        Oh gosh, my Grandma is ALL ABOUT the sweater curse. When she taught me to knit she warned me against making sweaters for men “without a ring on that finger.”

        • Lisa

          That is HILARIOUS. I had never heard of this until just now!

          • Lexipedia

            I think grandma would see it as a balance – I don’t have womanly skills like knitting, which isn’t responsible on my part, but it also means that she doesn’t have to worry that the future of my relationship could be decided by a yarn sale.

            This is also the same woman who, when my mother told her I was online dating after the demise of my last relationship, she got very concerned and emailed me about the dangers of “that flame thing young people have on their phones.” Then she sent a list of places where I could meet nice young men, like church and soup kitchens, as well as regular emails as she thought of new ideas.

            “Oh dear, I heard from my neighbor that her niece’s friend’s daughter met her fiance at a yoga class. Maybe YOU should start going to yoga classes!!”

          • lottie

            “that flame thing young people have on their phones”: awesome.

            A grad school prof once suggested that grocery co-ops were an ideal venue in which to meet men.

          • Rose

            Hah, when my mom was injured a few years ago and my dad ended up doing the grocery shopping for a few months, he found out that evenings at grocery stores in our town do seem to be some people’s favored hook-up spots. (off-color comment coming) He literally had a woman come over to him and say that she knew he wasn’t an employee, but did he know where the yeast was? She wanted to make something rise.

      • emilyg25

        I think there actually is some truth to the sweater curse! Knitting a sweater is a huge effort, and a really generous gift. It says, “I care about you.” And the recipient might feel guilty when they receive the sweater and realize they don’t feel the same way. The sweater highlights feelings that already existed.

        Or you could be like me and start knitting your boyfriend a sweater and sit here four years later with a marriage license, a house and a kid, …and half a sweater front and 3″ of sleeve. :P

        • Yeah, there’s also just the sheer amount of time it takes to knit a sweater. Given more time, things happen possibly increasing opportunities for relationships to go sour. Who knows.

    • Ashlah

      Oh yeah, I’ve come across infuriating threads online of women all clamoring to try the Engagement Chicken. Instead of, you know, having a mature conversation with their partner about the life plans. Communication is so unromantic, you know?

      My husband does almost all of the cooking in our house, so I don’t know how I ever managed to get engaged.

    • Sarah-Jane

      And see I read “engagement chicken” and envisioned some kind of game where each of you has to see how close you can get to proposing without actually doing so…

      • NolaJael

        LOL, that is awesome.

      • Me too! Like gifting each other stuff in ring boxes that turns out to be other small gifts. Or starting a lot of conversations with “Will you m-” and finding different ways to end them.

        Honestly, if you’re the kind of couple that loves trolling each other, it sounds like a fab engagement process!

    • gonzalesbeach

      I have heard of engagement chicken and looked at the recipe but prefer a hotter oven for mine… (I do a modified Jaime Oliver’s roast chicken recipe). Lately I make it once/week in fall-winter then make a soup stock overnight. Partner gets very happy about the chicken (and the parsnips & root veg that cook in the pan) but I think he’d marry the chicken if he could, and skip the middle wo(man)?

      • A single sarah

        I’ve never tried engagement chicken. But, can I hijack the thread to recommend 50 shades of chicken as a delightful coffee table book. Whrn friends notice, have them open a random page and read aloud. (Thank you, little free library) http://www.fiftyshadesofchicken.com

        • gonzalesbeach

          HA so funny! is it a real book or just parody website? I cant tell! If its a real book- have you tried the recipes??

          • A single sarah

            Real book! It’s amazing how well the parody works. The shame is I don’t especially like chicken (or cooking meat) so I’ve left it untested.

    • JC

      OMG WE’RE VEGETARIAN NOW I’M NEVER GETTING MARRIED.

      Jk. Is there an engagement lentil soup, perhaps?

      • Dunno about engagement soup, but this is hands down the best lentil soup I’ve ever had: http://orangette.net/2010/09/a-quiet-soup/

        There’s actually a quart of it sitting in my freezer right now…lunch for a week!

        • JC

          YUM. I feel like my soup adventures lately have been near misses. This one is next on the list!

  • Rebekah

    Oh…I was really hoping this was a The Compact crosspost about getting engaged in activism and fighting fascism…
    Oh well, nice read anyway. Thanks team!

  • Oof – needed this. After a total breakdown yesterday after two close friends got engaged while I wait… though we’ve had the conversation & the ring is currently being HANDMADE, so I felt pretty guilty about the whole thing. Felt a lot better after I talked it all through with my partner. Everything surrounding engagement is hard – we all need to be nicer to ourselves about it.

    • Jessa

      It is really hard to not compare with other people! I had a huge sobbing breakdown after we got engaged because I was so overwhelmed with the planning process so…please be nice to yourself now and in the future! <3 So glad to hear you've been talking about it with your partner.

    • idkmybffjill

      that was my situation! I was so gutted. I was also jealous because friend’s ring was an heirloom (and so didn’t have to be made!). It was really silly in retrospect but boy was I burning about it.

  • K.K.

    There’s a rationalization I’ve heard that I have been struggling to convince myself isn’t quite right. I can’t figure out how. Help? It goes like this: getting married is probably the second biggest decision you will make with another person in your entire life. It’s a huge deal. It will change how the world sees you, your legal rights, and all sorts of other things. Because it’s a huge deal, the time to get engaged is whenever the second person is ready of their own accord and not a day sooner.
    Thoughts?
    (Been lurking for a year, finally made a Disqus account).

    • Rose

      Well, I think not changing is also a decision. Making a change is a much more obvious decision than not making a change, but they are both choices. I don’t really think that people should get married if they don’t want to, but I also think it’s totally understandable for one partner to decide that what they want is the change. Not changing the situation may be the default, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t also a choice.

    • NolaJael

      While I don’t disagree that marriage is a big deal and everyone should be on board, I think there’s a lot of gray area for what constitutes “ready” nowadays. I’d offer three alternative ideas to your hypothesis above. 1) For lots of us more cerebral types, there will be a mental pros and cons list for any major decision (grad school, changing jobs, having kids, etc.) so being “ready” doesn’t necessarily have to mean without reservations (or being blind to negative possible outcomes). 2) For some people the process of going through something is the thing that makes them feel ready for something — like buying hiking boots for a trip helps you envision yourself climbing the mountain AND inspires you to do the next step like get to the gym or buy the plane tickets. 3) In our culture we’ve already blurred a lot of the lines between married and not-married by normalizing premarital sex, cohabitation, etc. So while I hate the “milk for free” expression, there is an element for some people that they may be getting the benefits of traditional marriage without the legal or religious commitment. If one partner is not comfortable with that arrangement, it is fully within their rights to push for an arrangement they are more comfortable with. It is not a requirement that you live like you are married indefinitely until the other person magically decides they are ready.

  • Essssss

    Thank you for this! I’ve had a sort of discomfort with my mindset about engagement the back of my mind without being able to articulate it. My now husband and I talked about making a commitment after he got a job opportunity that forced us to reevaluate our individual goals/dreams/plans and start committing to a long term path together. And even over this really sweet, committed conversation, while I felt comfortable saying yes of course I would move with him, and I wanted children in the next few years and did that fit with his timeline, I felt uncomfortable saying, “and let’s get married.” I still consider that our engagement conversation. He had to leave for a trip that next day and I came home to a huge bouquet of flowers. But he didn’t propose for another month and I didn’t say a single word about marriage. Somehow I still felt like it was something he needed to choose. I knew I was in. And I consider myself a strong, progressive feminist. I wonder sometimes why I felt that way while I’ve worked so hard for our relationship to be equal in many other ways. I’m content with how everything happened and turned out but I do wish I’d had this to read a few years ago!

  • toomanybooks

    The twin stereotypes I’m most familiar with is the woman who can’t wait to get married and the man who is “dragging his feet.” Maybe I just don’t have a lot of experience with the “man” side, but that’s the cultural idea I have instead of “logical.” But still, your points are totally, well, on point.

    When I talk about wedding planning, especially with a man who isn’t, like, a super close friend (let’s say a coworker, for example), I’ll feel like playing up how annoying wedding planning is – so much more expensive than I thought it would be, so hard, so stressful. But I’ll think to myself – “Am I just trying to show that women aren’t all dying to plan weddings like the stereotype?” Because there are truly really hard and stressful parts of this, but I also feel that wedding planning is so associated with women that it’s actually kind of misogynist to put it down – like if I act like it’s not all that great, I’m trying to be a “cool girl” who’s “not like other girls.”

    Bottom line, I know how I feel about it and I know what my intentions are when representing it, so what I really want to do is be like “there are fun parts but it’s harder work than people make it out to be, and I think people have this idea that the big expensive come from feminine frivolities associated with planning the bride’s Big Day, but truly the biggests costs are just providing food and a roof over the guests’ heads, and people should know that if they’ve never ventured into planning.”

    I’m marrying another woman – and I frequently feel the need to point out, we are both “girly girls” and don’t have different gender expressions – but even so, I’m the one doing the bulk of the planning and worrying while my fiancée plays video games. I think this is something that comes up a lot about gender equality in wedding planning, but in my experience as a lesbian it’s still true that one person kind of cares more about fine-tuning the event. And if I’m being honest, I’m fine with taking control of a lot of it because, lol, that means things will go the way I want them to. But my fiancée has been invaluable in making decisions with me so I’m not just in an echo chamber of options.

    • Rose

      This was also my experience of planning our lesbian wedding–I did most of it, largely because I cared a lot more. I also tend to be the planning person in our relationship, which is mostly ok. “I’m fine with taking control of a lot of it because, lol, that means things will go the way I want them to,” is totally me too.

  • Shawna

    I miss the Pre-engaged callout at the top of the APW navigation. It was so comforting when I was directed to the site as a nervous wreck by my sister. There was a place that understood my anxiety of wanting to be married, but not wanting to demand it and thus ruin EVERYTHING? Oh, I wasn’t ruining everything? I wasn’t even alone? I was ok to feel the way I was feeling? Hallelujah.

    I understand there’s probably a clear reason for the staff to take that away, but it would be great to make it clear to the currently pre-engaged that they are OH SO WELCOME here right up at the top. But perhaps those who are currently pre-engaged already know it because they’re coming in via specific articles? Anyway, just my two cents.

    • Ella

      I was wondering if this is migrating to the new website? I agree though, it was a way of telling us non-engaged people that we were welcome here. Also, the general relationship stuff tab? (I think it was called “Marriage and More”?)

    • E.

      Agreed!

    • idkmybffjill

      This is how I found APW! I was EATEN UP with jealousy over a friend who got engaged before my ring with ready. It was really huge to feel like there was a word for what I was.

    • jules

      Yes yes YES. Long time lurker, first time poster because I MISS THIS. Currently pre-engaged and dang yes it felt nice that that tab existed

    • AnneM

      Me too! I originally stumbled across APW because of a post on entrepreneurship (is that a word?) and I don’t think I would have kept reading if it hadn’t been for the pre-engaged section (you know, as I’m not supposed to be excited about wedding stuff while not being engaged…). I had been wondering if I was the only one who missed it :D

  • AtHomeInWA

    *snaps*

    I think I’m going to start talking about weddings and babies and wanting both more and openly and not just with women….

    You know, for the cause. And not at all because it makes men wildly uncomfortable.

    I’ve already started saying (not to potential employers) “I want a firm job for the next 5-10 years because they have great maternity leave policies.” That’s not “baby crazy,” that is “family rational.”

    • Lexipedia

      I love “family rational” as a concept!

  • Katie

    Oh man. My husband and I started talking about marriage 5 months after dating simply because I had to be engaged to move in with him (he’s American, I’m Russian). Talk about un-romantic! All for paperwork and visa! However, we didn’t consider ourselves engaged “for the public” before he actually proposed with a ring (which is ridiculous because we had both known we’d get married soon!).

    Now there’s another struggle – only friends and family know that we are legally married because we didn’t have an actual wedding. I’m putting it off because there’s no money (and, frankly, time and energy) for it. It’s ridiculous, people asking about the wedding when you tell them you’re married! No, we did not have to have a wedding to get married, and the more time passes, the less I want a wedding to happen, because, what’s the point now?

    • Um, isn’t that an elopement? Couldn’t you just say that you eloped?

      • Katie

        Good point! I guess the reason we’re not doing it is because we’re kinda hoping that the wedding will still happen (I mean, I’ve already got a gorgeous dress and I’m not wearing my wedding ring yet), but honestly? I seriously doubt it will ever happen but I don’t want to frustrate my mom and mother-in-law… :(

        • That’s quite the pickle.

        • Definitely have the wedding you want! I’d probably be upfront with close relatives that you’ve already ‘got legalled’, but that you don’t consider yourself truly married until you’ve said your vows in front of the people who means the most to you. My sister had her legal ceremony on one day and her wedding on another, and the non-legal ceremony was beautiful and significant and meaningful, because it was in front of the people they trusted to help them uphold their vows, rather than just completing paperwork with a registrar.

    • Amy March

      You did have a wedding? It was when you got married!

      • Katie

        yeah, on a Monday afternoon, wearing jeans and with 0 guests :) I still kinda want a wedding though, but I’m battling with questions like “What will it mean? We’re already married!” And I want to have some kind of “ceremony” to put our rings on each other, not just another giant party.

        • toomanybooks

          This is why I didn’t get legally married before the inauguration. I wanted to get married on the day of the wedding I’ve been planning. Some people will be like “it’s ok, you’re just getting the paperwork done, your wedding day is your wedding day!” and some are like “well, you’re already married, so you don’t needn’t a ceremony and I’m not going to attend one now” (which I was afraid of having seen my fiancée’s cousin get legally married out of necessity)

          • Katie

            I know, right? In our case there was no time to plan a whole wedding (plus my family wouldn’t be able to attend it then, and I’d be super sad). Now it’s pointless. Dammit.

          • Eenie

            I got married before my wedding strictly for insurance reasons. The wedding was still absolutely wonderful. We didn’t tell anyone besides the officiant about the legal signing months prior.

          • gonzalesbeach

            technically it is pointless for me to maybe want a wedding/ceremony one day because I’m common law but I hang out in APW Happy hours, whatever that means

  • Anna

    Any other ladies out there pop the question to their man? I admittedly have pretty traditional expectations when it comes to relationships (despite being queer and an intrinsically radical feminist, but people are complicated, yeah?), but I worked up the courage to do the proposal myself last year, and DAMN it felt good! It was super empowering to be able to plan a beautiful moment for my partner to enjoy (it was a total surprise to him), and we both have really happy memories of it. I will say that my partner and I had discussed this option prior to the proposal (although not super seriously), which allowed me to feel-out his comfort level with the switch in traditional expectations (he was totally okay with it, lucky me!) I’m pretty type-A and a bit of a control freak perfectionist, so being able to plan the moment of the proposal was actually quite wonderful. I wasn’t the one being surprised by a romantic gesture, but I got to have total agency over the way I got engaged, and the opportunity to express in an epic way how important my guy is to me, and how much joy he brings to my life. Total win.

    I encourage anyone who feels like both they and their partner are ready for marriage to consider doing the proposal yourself!! It’s less scary than it sounds, and a very concrete way of breaking down some of the weird gender stereotypes that accompany weddings.

    • Yael

      In November, I proposed to my fiancé in the back of a Lyft on the way to the airport after a conference. Like saminrva, we were having a state-of-the-relationship conversation because it was the first time we had seen each other in person since I moved to Germany for grad school (he still lives in the States). He had engagement PTSD after watching his fraternity brothers’ epic engagements, and so didn’t exactly say yes at first, but once I explained that I didn’t want engagement photos and parties and favors and who knows what else, he said yes. Neither of us have any regrets about me proposing, and I am giving him a hat as an engagement present.

    • I did. I asked him out originally, so when I started thinking about it I decided it made sense for me to propose. We had some conversation about marriage beforehand to make sure we were on the same page, but I totally bought into the surprise narrative so I didn’t want him to know I was planning to propose. We went on holiday, I gave him a card with the proposal in (didn’t trust myself to say it outloud) and the ring in a box of chocolates. And then he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a ring for me! Because it turns out my super subtle attempts to get his ring size might have been interpreted as super subtle attempts to give him mine…

      In terms of weird gender stereotypes, I was actually a little disappointed afterwards, because I felt like I’d done myself out of a super romantic proposal even though I’d never wanted or expected one. But J was very, very romanced by getting a proposal he never expected, which always makes me happy.

  • Sarah

    Amen. Where was this article for the few years I was ready before he was? #6 ALL THE WAY. He kept waiting, wanting it to be surprising and romantic. I kept saying, ‘I don’t care about any of it. If you wanted, I’d marry you in my underwear at the courthouse.’

  • BSM
  • saminrva

    I love this article and I know I got wrapped up in a lot of this thinking without realizing it. My s.o. was fully committed but didn’t see the point in getting married, but I wanted to. He wasn’t shaming me for that, but I was probably shaming myself — feeling like I needed concrete, logical arguments why I wanted to get married (as though that would convince him) and how wanting to didn’t make me less of a feminist. I spent more time silently waiting than I should have and then spent even more time wondering if we’d missed our chance at a “normal” “romantic” engagement and if I was going to resent him for not wanting it and if he would resent me for pressuring him.

    But nope, it all worked out! We got engaged pretty spontaneously during one of the conversations where I brought it up and was honest about my feelings — on our porch, no ring, I didn’t even realize he was asking at first…and it *was* very romantic.

  • Ella

    In 2014, I discovered APW accidentally, and it was the first voice I ever heard say “it doesn’t have to be a surprise, you get to have a say.” It feels silly to acknowledge that I needed to be told that?? But it was really so helpful. It prompted me to have a conversation with my partner that I initially agonised over. (So worried I would scare him away.) It was the best conversation because I found out we were actually on the same page! (Wanting it, but not ready yet, and needing a couple of other relationship milestones first.)
    Since then, the relationship milestones have happened, and I’m totally ready. …. but he’s still not. (Working through some of those relationship things was really hard for both of us, and while my reaction was “success! we can move to the next step!” his was more “phew, I need some time to breathe and just enjoy the relationship now.) Now I feel like the stereotypical woman waiting to be proposed to. :[

    • E.

      APW definitely told me a lot of things I felt silly for not recognizing on my own (I get a say! We can do a mutual proposal! I can ask him to change his name!). I was also ready first and hated being that stereotype, but you know what? That’s what was true in our relationship for a number of reasons and it was totally fine.

      • Ella

        “It was totally fine” is so comforting :)

  • JC

    I can’t stand being asked “When are you going to get married???” by the very same people who think it should be a complete surprise. I’m supposed to know and not know at the same time? That’s impossible.

    BTW, APW, we have a timeline! (I told you at New Years, it was going to happen!) More than two years, less than 3, essentially. Which is perrrrrfect. I suggested that maybe we make it official at the end of 2017, so that we’d have lots of time to plan, and his response was, “I don’t think you actually should have that much time. You’ll drive yourself crazy.” Which is completely true.

    Anyway, we all know that the true reason I’m excited to have an agreed upon timeline is to achieve my pre-wedding goal of getting him onto YNAB and combining our finances. Duh.

  • Sarah S

    I’m reading the comments and I’m curious: did anyone else plan their engagement? My fiance and I obtained our own rings, took them with us on a weekend trip to his hometown, went hiking, and exchanged rings and meaningful words in the middle of our hike while sitting and looking over a beautiful mountain. It was his suggestion, and while at first I wanted a traditional surprise proposal, the more I thought about planning it the more I liked it. This way there was no surprises and no disappointment in the time/place he would have proposed. We were the only ones that knew and could prepare to tell our people on our own time/ I could prepare, too! And it was still romantic! Now when I hear girls talk about “waiting” I wonder why this isn’t more common. Not to judge everyone for what they did do- so many lovely stories on here! I love how people’s engagements reflect their personalities.
    P.S. Wish APW had been the only site I’d read from the beginning!

    • Shanu

      I didn’t do this, but I have a friend who did. She and her now-husband picked a weekend to go away together and decided they would each propose. They each made it special in their own way so there were still some surprises, but it was very mutual, which I love. I think that’s very romantic and both partners truly had equal agency.

  • Shanu

    Personally, I didn’t want a proposal at all because it felt a bit fake to me. We always figured we would get married once I was done grad school. So the planning just started happening once school was done. If at some point we had inserted a proposal, it would have felt like it was just for show. Plus he was ready much earlier than I was (as I wanted to have our ducks in a row and he didn’t really care), so again we would have basically been engaged if I had said “Ok, I’m ready now.” And then it would have been a superfluous step for him to propose since it would have already been decided. At that point it would just be for the sake of cultural narrative and we’re both pretty anti-doing things solely because it’s a tradition, especially when those traditions are rooted in sexism. I could have proposed to him, but he’s not remotely into grand gestures and wouldn’t have gotten anything out of it. I also decided against a proposal because I dreaded the performance of showing people the ring, telling the story, etc. I feel that there’s often a lot of judgment involved in these rituals and it would have tainted the experience for me to try to somehow impress people with it. I actually chickened out about telling my friends for quite awhile because I hate being the centre of attention and I didn’t want anyone to feel like they had to squeal and jump up and down with me. No regrets so far about missing out on the fairy tale moment.

  • Becky

    I proposed to my husband after waiting for well over two years to figure out IF and WHY I felt so strongly about marriage. We had talked about marriage more broadly (is it really still necessary at all in a progressive society?) and in detail (What would change for us?) every so often, and he had made it clear that it wasn’t important to him AT ALL, but he wasn’t dead-set against it either. If I wanted to get married, the initiative would have to come from me. So, after fretting over it for over two years, battling cultural narratives, genuinely trying to figure out why I wanted to get married so badly, – and what would happen if he said NO?– I took the risk:

    We had arranged to go out for a nice dinner, because we were both going to be out of town on separate trips for the next ten days. After the dinner I casually suggested a walk into the woods close-by, where we have a favorite secret pond. It started to drizzle while we were walking, and he didn’t quite understand why I was being so annoyed by the weather, and starting to walk faster. When we got to the lake, I pulled out a picknick blanket I had stored there beforehand and asked him if he wanted a glass of whiskey or rum. (Side note: Give your guy a stiff drink before popping the question…) When he was settled in, I ran around the lake, lighting two dozens of candles to float on the pond. (Side note: In my imagination, all these candles would have been lit already when we reached the pond, but in reality I was too nervous to include any friends to help with this.)

    When I got back, I nervously sat down next to him and pulled out my folded sheet of paper, a page-long statement that ended with „Will you marry me (please)?“ I had initially wanted to give him the option of postponing his answer until we saw each other again after our trips, but in that moment I knew that any hesitation on his side would have felt like a NO to me. Instead he kissed me, long and hard, and said Yes! and I love you! and I don’t even remember if the drizzle stopped or turned into full-on rain.

    To me, the story of our proposal doesn’t end with this scene. It ended a day after our wedding (14 months later), when we waved goodbye to our last friends leaving, and were left alone in an empty parking lot, the afternoon sun shining on our faces. We were both hung-over, sleep-deprived, and very happy, and my new husband hugged me closely and said: „Thank you for asking me to marry you! This was epic.“

  • nopenopenope

    Yes Yes Yes!!! I recently had dinner with two of my male friends, who seemed absolutely baffled at the idea that I would want an engagement where both of us have

    (1) talked about what it means to be engaged
    (2) picked out the ring(s) together
    (3) planned a day (or week or month or whatever) where both of us would propose to each other, so we both have the responsibility / ability to surprise each other, instead of just putting all the power and impetus on the man.

    (2) and (3) seemed particularly alarming to them. “That completely takes the fun out of it!” they both claimed. “Also, you want to pick the ring? Ridiculous!” Unfortunately, it turns out that I know my preferences better than other person I can think of, so I’d prefer my input in such a decision.

    I also mentioned how much I disliked the idea of someone getting down on one knee to propose. It feels almost like begging to me – it’s a totally personal aversion, but both of them claimed that this was preposterous and proceeded to literally get down on one knee to demonstrate, as if them doing it would suddenly flip a switch in my brain that said “yes omg!! this is the stuff of my dreams!!!”.

    • Adriana_Paula

      So there’s the Prince Charming part of the cultural narrative…

  • Katie Britton

    Just here to say how grateful I am for this article.

  • RageFace

    THIS ARTICLE YES.

    Since getting engaged, I constantly have to hear how I either care too much or too little about my own wedding.

    If I care too much, then I’m being teased and called a “typical, frivolous, attention-seeking woman” and “lol I KNEW that the moment you had that ring on your finger you would turn into bridezilla lol!”, and if I care too little, then I get scolded for “not seeming to care about this incredibly important thing that’s happening in your life” and “could you just stop being a fucking feminist like for ONCE in your life?”

    Speaking of feminism, I also get flack from my feminist friends that me being engaged and getting married (despite having been in a relationship for TEN YEARS) is “letting the patriarchy win” because I’m subscribing to such a “heteronormative, oppressive construct” and because I like Mr Rage’s last name a lot and want to take it 100% just for that reason.

    Everyone wants to hear a cute proposal story, but there wasn’t one – we decided to get engaged together. But that’s ALSO not good enough.

    I just cannot win.

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  • Katie

    I love this! My boyfriend and I are not engaged because we are both in the middle of a semester in grad school. We went to look at a venue and the host immediately looked at my finger, confused. We know we’re getting married- and I am not a wedding-obsessed crazy woman for planning before the ring (with him, of course).

  • BetsyR

    This post was just what I needed. My SO and I have been talking about wedding plans for almost a year and we’re still not engaged. Ee wanted us to figure out what we were doing for a wedding before we got engaged to avoid family drama and figure out if we could afford it. I’ve priced out no less than eight different weddings of varying and ever shrinking and more creative budgets. It feels a bit like he’s been using the last year to get comfortable with the idea of a wedding. A wedding isn’t important to him but he knows it is to me. We live together and own two businesses together. He refers to me as his wife when he is talking to strangers sometimes. SO WHY CAN’T WE JUST A LEAST GET ENGAGED?! I feel in turn feel crazy because 1) I should be more evolved and not feel the need for the whole wedding thing *cough*gag* 2) It feels like he has all of the control. It’s nice to be reminded that we as women don’t actually lack control over our futures. It’s nice to hear that we’re not the only couple whose wedding timelines don’t line up. It’s nice to be reminded that not only we shouldn’t shame other women who want to get married, we shouldn’t shame ourselves. I’ve a man has built a life with me. I should be happy about that and not be ashamed of wanting a wedding to celebrate that. Thank you.