It Was Never A Question

A mutual proposal story

I have an engagement story for you. Everyone loves those, right?

Actually, I want to talk about the love of the story first, because that’s where this really begins. You see, as soon as I knew I would one day marry Christian, I also realized that the cultural narrative surrounding proposals doesn’t suit us at all. Don’t get me wrong—roses and surprises and getting down on one knee are all well and good! But for two people who obsess over the symbolic meaning of everything, and for two people who see themselves as equal partners, meeting everything in life head-on, hand-in-hand, we decided we wanted to enter into our marriage the same way. So we decided to propose to each other, and to plan it together. Two unexpectedly awesome things happened:

1) It was so fun to know all day long that we were getting engaged, because it allowed us to be present and enjoy every minute.
2) I can now appreciate how hard it is to propose to someone! You don’t say those words every day, and they felt heavy and real and crazy and cool.

So, without further ado, the story we’ll tell our children’s children:

We arrive at Sugar Cove after a snow-covered hike through the Smoky Mountains. It’s a Thursday, and there’s no one here but us. We set up camp by the water and play for awhile on the snowy banks. Today is special, which makes every little thing seem noteworthy. I am blissed out over my berry granola bar snack, and the way Christian looks in his green beanie hat.

We are sore and tired in that exquisite post-hike way that makes our little camp stove dinner taste Michelin Star good. We sip red wine from a plastic pouch and admit to secretly wishing we’d see a bear. We practice our bear calls. Get outta here, you bear! Go back to the Hundred Acre Woods!

Mutual Engagement | A Practical Wedding (2)

It starts to get colder. We make hot chocolate and watch the light recede between the trees.

“Let’s get inside our tent and get engaged, Beez!” Christian says, and I love him for being funny and silly and so much fun. We run to our tent, starting to shiver now, and we zip ourselves inside. We put on extra pairs of wool socks and burrow deep into our sleeping bags. I can’t stop giggling as we lay there like two bright blue caterpillars.

I decide to go first.

“Ceez, I got you a little tiny something,” I say, reaching into my coat pocket and then struggling to get my arm out of my sleeping bag. I ask for his arm, and I slip on a black survival bracelet. “I got it for you because, if you were ever in a survival situation, I would want you to unravel this bracelet and use the chord to make an elaborate fire-starter, or something. I also got it for you because I just wanted to put something on you. Like, to tag you, I guess.”

“Oh, I see. You’re tagging me?” he says.

“I’m tagging you,” I say.

We pause. I giggle.

“Was that my proposal, Beez?” he asks.

“Hm. I guess not… I didn’t ask you any of the questions! This is hard.”

He’s laughing. “Why is it hard?”

“Because I want to get it right! Wait. Let me try again.” I think for a moment about what to say to this man I’ve already said everything to. I wriggle my blue cocoon closer to his.

“I love you,” I say. “And I love your knees,” I add, because at this moment I can feel those beautiful knees drawn up against mine. “Will you marry me?”

“Sure, Beez!” he says, which makes me laugh so much. “Hey Beez, what if I got you a little something, too? Since your ring isn’t ready yet?”

It’s a small parcel wrapped in a blue bandana, and it’s been hiding in his cargo pocket with our map. “I got it for you because you’re my special girl, and I love you,” he is saying.

I open the present, expecting the blue raspberry-flavored ring pop we’d been joking about as a stand-in for the real ring that hasn’t shipped yet. I am babbling silly things, like I tend to do, as I unwrap. I am babbling things like, “It’s wrapped in a blue bandana! I like it already.”

“I love you, Beez. Will you marry me, Beez?”

“It was never a question!” I say, and I slowly realize this is no blue raspberry ring pop. This is real.

“I’ve had it in my nightstand for a month,” he says as he puts it on my finger, “It was really hard not to tell you!”

“You tricked me!” I say, “You’re my favorite. I love you the most. Oh my gosh, I’m a terrible girl! I got you a survival bracelet! I thought I was getting a ring pop!”

“I like it, I like it!” he assures me, and we struggle to get our arms all the way out of our sleeping bags, us two caterpillars in the wilderness.

Mutual Engagement | A Practical Wedding (3)

The End/The Beginning.

Featured Sponsored Content

  • Beautiful!

  • Lindsay

    holy shit, TEARS!!! IN MY OFFICE!!! this is the first time i’ve cried at an APW post in the two+ years i’ve been reading. this was so sweet and honest and loving and AHHHH! i have no words that are good. thank you for this.

    • scw

      I feel like I cry over EVERY APW post!

  • This made me smile so hard I cried. Congratulations!!!

  • Amber

    Love this! Thanks for sharing. :-)

  • Jessica

    who started slicing onions here on the internets? so many tears! so sweet! Congratulations!

  • Ahhh sweetest story EVAR!!

  • Holy crap!


    crying everywhere. You both rock. Can we be friends?

  • Kira

    Yes! My fiance and I did something just like this, complete with flipping a coin to see who would go first. It was so fun and meaningful for us, and I love your story, too.

  • This is pretty much the most adorable thing I have read. Ever.


  • Leslie

    That was so lovely. And real. And perfect. It made me tear up. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Catherine

    Ok seriously, I can’t get through anything on this site without tears. i love this :)

  • Megan

    Hooray! Congratulations to you both! This is such a sweet and endearing story :)

    Now for a question, is that your ring in the top picture? Because I am in love love love with it and would love to know where it hails from. I’m looking for something just like it for my wedding ring!

    • Lea


      It’s the aldine thin band from Bario-Neal. I love it the most.

      • Emmers

        I love it too! Does anyone have any pics where they’ve paired it with an engagement ring? I’m curious to how it would look when paired. It’s so beautiful!

        • Helen

          I’m thinking of getting the aldine (regular, rather than thin) as my wedding ring, and wearing it with my solitaire e-ring. I don’t have a picture, but I tried it on a the store and they worked well together. The regular aldine balanced the engagement ring a little better than the thin, I thought.

    • Brittany

      I could be wrong, but it looks like the Aldine Band from Bario Neal. That’s the ring I had planned on getting (and still might some day just because I love it.)

  • Blue caterpillars. This is super cute.

  • Elisabeth

    This is so great! Thanks for sharing your story.
    My fiance and I also mutually proposed to each other on a camping trip last summer. I loved knowing that we were getting engaged that weekend, hiding his ring in a pocket of my backpack, and trying to find a good spot along the trail. We ended up waiting through nearly the whole hike until we stopped at an nondescript rock in the middle of the woods to exchange both of our rings, but it was perfect and us and more emotional than I thought it was going to be.
    Sometimes when I tell people the story they look a little disappointed. I love how you explain that it was what you decided: we wanted to enter our marriage hand-in-hand, both agreeing on this decision together.

  • Jashshea

    You guys are probably the cutest ever.

  • Rachel

    Squeeee! Virtual fist bump to Lea for mutual proposals!

    Eric and I did this too and I completely agree with your first two points — it allows you to be present and not constantly waiting, and it allows you BOTH to experience the nerve-wracking and also amazing parts of proposing to someone. And it allows you to both prepare mentally, emotionally, and logistically for getting engaged. (Because, let’s be honest, some of us want to plan manicures accordingly.)

    To anyone who wants to be surprised with a proposal but also loves the idea of participating or is just going crazy waiting, I would recommend treating it like an anniversary or birthday. Just because you know when it’s coming doesn’t mean the details can’t be amazing, surprising, and super romantic! I feel like it’s the perfect loophole to the whole “I want a proposal but I’m a modern woman” dilemma.

  • Rachel

    Wow, love your beautiful story and congratulations!

    I’m SO HAPPY to see this story being told here. Maybe especially because my boyfriend and I are ALSO planning a mutual proposal!! We’re taking a trip to Vermont to hike and snuggle around Memorial Day… so that’s what… like… 34 days away (!!!)

    This is a long time coming for us – we started really talking last July after being together 3 years and have had many emotional and wonderful conversations about our future. This website helped me articulate many of the feelings I had surrounding engagement/proposals and cultural narratives (THANKYOU!)

    The idea of a mutual proposal is a great fit for us, it feels egalitarian AND romantic. A special day we can mark as the day we decided… to tell the world we decided (a while ago)!

    Can’t wait to wear the ring he just ordered (yesterday!) and give him the ring I just ordered (yesterday!) and call our family and friends to share our happy, official news!

    Thanks again for sharing this special story!

    • Kira

      Yes! I love your reasoning. Enjoy this exciting time!

      • Rachel

        Thank you so much! :)

  • So beautiful and funny, and so well-written. I loved reading this.

  • Cynth

    This was really adorable. My husband proposed to me, but I knew the day it was going to happen- he kept teasing me that I would have to wait until my birthday (we had already picked out a ring for me and a watch for him together). So when he started asking what my plans were for an upcoming Friday it was easy to say, “why, is it my birthday?”. It was really fun to go to work that morning knowing it was going to be such a special day. Anticipation is half the fun!

  • honey cowl

    Whaaaaaat my boyfriend’s name is Christian & we call each other “bees” (obv with an S not a Z). THIS IS TOO CRAZY.

    • Lea

      Too funny! My nickname “Beez” is short for Beezus (he made it up once when we were strolling through the Beverly Cleary section of the bookstore, and I protested that I’m really more of a Ramona.) I call Christian “Ceez” just to be rhyme-y.

      • I was hoping it’d be short for Beezus!!!

      • Mayweed

        Oh my GOD Beezus and Ramona! I had TOTALLY forgotten these books til I just read this.

        Anyhoo. Amazing, beautiful story. I loved it. Mutual proposals FTW.

  • This is so incredibly f-ing cute. I love hearing about real, true, giggling love.

    • sarahmrose

      The silliness! There is not enough written of the silliness of wonderful love. And it’s probably my favorite part.

  • We had a surprise mutual proposal. It was awesome. I had made knitting part of my proposal, and had been having so much fun finishing the project and being excited that I told her she should still proposed to me (also, I wanted to see what she would do). Her best friend took her out shopping while I cooked dinner and finished the stuffed monkey (long story). When she came back, I made her go find the scene downstairs in the basement and proposed, and then we had dinner and lots of champagne while she was still in shock. She managed to sneak an engagement ring into my champagne glass when I wasn’t looking. Turns out we had both bought engagement rings for the other and had them sitting in our (separate) sock drawers for weeks. (And had told mutual friends about this while the other was in the bathroom)

    So yes, big fan of mutual proposals.

    • marbella

      High five for a basement proposal!

  • Amber

    I love this so much. My girl and I also got engaged in the woods. We were on a 12 day backpacking trip and had been talking about it off and on for awhile (years) and then one afternoon while hiking through a god-awful mosquito-infested muddy stretch of trail we were like, you know what, there’s no reason to wait any longer, let’s just do it, let’s get married already! And then almost immediately when our friend picked up us several days later at the end of our hike we were completely giddy and just blurted out ‘we decided that we’re going to get married!’ like a couple of kids spilling some secret. It was perfectly us.

  • Nicole

    This is probably the cutest thing that’s ever happened.

  • Sarah

    Yay for mutual proposals!

    We also both proposed to one another. …that is if you don’t count the when I got drunk and said “I wanna mARRRRYyyyyy yooOOOOuuu” and he said “okay” and I responded “no, seriously, I’ve been looking at rings. LoooOOK at THIS Oooooone.” Which was the jumping off point for planning our mutual proposal and deciding to use the ring I’d already inherited. Also, Will was ready to get married wayyyyy sooner than I was, which felt strange in the whole cultural narrative.

    We planned a trip to the spot where we went on our first date, found a secluded spot, and then told one another why we wanted to marry the other. Only my mom knew it was going to happen, so it felt like we got to surprise everyone else in our lives, rather than surprising one another (much more our style).

    Definitely agree that it’s sometimes hard when people act disappointed (seriously?) when I explain to them that Will didn’t surprise me or propose to me, but that we both proposed to one another. The look of confusion only gets worse when I tell them I’m wearing my grandmother’s ring and Will didn’t secretly get it from a relative, but rather, I took it from my sock drawer where it’d been hanging out for a few years.

  • PhillyBride

    “The End/The Beginning” – Awestruck, perfect.

  • marbella

    Such a big smile plastered on my face as I read this. While a couple of guys deliver our new mattress upstairs… I look very odd! If this was in a film, I would watch it again and again and again.

  • This made me happy cry.

  • Nicole Marie

    Love this. So much. It gives me hope that when the time comes for us we’ll be able to navigate the whole proposal/engagement process in a way that feels natural and comfortable and is in line with our values.

    CONGRATULATIONS and thank you for being such an inspiration!!

  • Caroline

    We had a mutual proposal also! It was perfect. We decided after going to talk with our rabbi on a thursday about our hesitations about getting married now, that we were ready. We had already planned to go out to dinner Monday to celebrate the end of finals. We decided to get engaged on Monday after my last final. After my final, I tried to buy him an engagement cookie but the bakery was closed. I got home, and we said hi, and had this sort of, ok, are we going to glance standing around in the living room, and he went to get the ring box out. I stopped him before he could get down on one knee shouted wait, no, I get to go first. I got a promise ring I had given him previously (he had emphatically not wanted a new ring or other gift), got down on one knee, and asked him to marry me. He said yes, I put his ring on, and stood up. He got down on one knee and said “7 years are not enough I spend with you. I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?” I said yes, he put the ring on my finger, we kissed. Then we nervously gathered out courage and called our parents. We were terrified of calling my mom especially so wanted to get it over. They surprised us by being excited. We called all the family (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, then went out to dinner and then our favorite lookout spot. By the end of the evening, all the family had been told in person, so I asked the rabbi to send out the congregational announcement. I was so excited to share with my whole community.

    I love our proposal. I agree that a mutual proposal is awesome because you both get to avoid feeling like you are waiting, (a mutual proposal or me proposing was the plan for several years when we were ready), and get the head rush of terror, even if you know they are saying yes, it’s really scary and takes your breath away.

  • Awww! I love that story.

    My husband and I proposed to each other as well, though without any rings or other gifts (he did get me a ring later). It was what worked best for us. And I asked him first!

  • Shira

    You are so cool, I think I’m in love with you both! There was something so intimate and fresh in the piece, I feel like through one glimpse I got to know you in some more profound way. So, wanna be friends?

  • I love this story. It reminds me so much of me and my partner (and our list of ridiculous nicknames for each other). We had a mutual proposal and I got to be looking forward to it and also be nervous about it alllll day. And then we came home from our trip in the bush and told the people we love the most and we got hugs and it was perfect.
    Congratulations to you both :)

  • Class of 1980

    The Smoky Mountains! In my neck of the woods (no pun intended).

    Adorable x 10. And since I have an irrational love of moss, I love that last picture.

  • I love this story!!!! So awesome. Most of my friends are not feminists, and thus are/were waiting for their boyfriends to propose forEVER (which I thought was stupid). But my friend that is a feminist did a mutal proposal where they both got engagement rings, which was really awesome.

    We didn’t really have a “proposal”… it was more like:

    ME: “I want to marry you.”

    HIM: “I want to marry YOU.”

    ME: “So are we engaged now?”

    Then we bought each other rings on Etsy and called it a day!

  • I am a happy cozy puddle of comfortable.

    Beautifully written! And congratulations :)

  • Carla

    That is so, so sweet! You just made my day! :)

    To answer one of your original questions, I’m a pretty traditional girl and want the classic, stereotypical proposal though it was more casual than it is in the movies. I prefer to be asked.

  • Pingback: Friday Links: Downton, mutual proposal, and great expectations()

  • Claire

    Mutual proposals, sweet silliness, fun writing. I love every single ting about this story.

  • Suzzie

    That’s so stinking adorable!

    I did a sort of proposal to my now husband. When we bought my ring, we got a men’s ring for free. He had proposed first when I was on a visit to see him. Then when he came to visit me, we got his ring sized and then picked up his ring. I took him to the Chinese gardens in my hometown and in the little tea shop asked him “mujhse shaadi karogi” (Hindi for “will you marry me?”) and slipped the ring on his right finger (his culture wears engagement rings on their right hand). I loved being able to express my feelings for him and to also ask him as well if he would marry me.

  • Pingback: I have felt like this writer | Ducksandbooks: A Newly Mawwied Lady's Blog()

  • araci

    Hi! I need some help! I want a mutual proposal and my boyfriend wants the traditional one. Because he wants it to be a surprise then he is keeping it a secret if he is proposing or not and not being honest about his real feeling of marrying me which I find disrespectful; specially because I am honest with him. We are together for a year and we talk about how it will be when we are married, the kids, the house, the countries we will go, etc etc. He is super sweet and believes in a the type of marriage where we divide the power and duties in a way that we both want. BUT he wants to PROPOSE and I WANT TO PROPOSE TOO. If he proposes in a traditional surprise he would had stolen the opportunity from me for proposing too. I don’t know what to do :-( He is to caught up on his way :-(

    (I am peruvian-brazilian 25 years old /he is white canadian 29 years old)

    • Ali

      araci, ask about this in the next happy hour/open thread! There is some great advice in the comments on other posts but I can’t remember it now. I know some couples have compromised and agreed that they were definitely going to get engaged in a certain time frame, and left it up to the surpriser to do it sometime during that time.

  • CoCoCA

    Absolutely love this! The whole darn thing.

  • Dami

    I know this is super late but I really love APW for this story. My boyfriend and I are planning a mutual proposal and we can’t. However I am wondering if an engagement watch is enough to “tag” him the same an engagement ring tags. I also don’t like rings much but I would wear it just for him. Although I plan to take it off often.