Google Won’t Pop The Question For You

Proposing to your boyfriend

I’ve taken a lot of risks in my life. I gave up my dream job for a chance to move to Japan. I’ve eaten unidentifiable food on the dusty red highways of Cambodia. I’ve careened down mountains in Costa Rica going 110 kilometers per hour on a rickety old bus. These have all had varying levels of success, but I think the biggest source of pride associated with taking a risk was proposing to my now husband.

I’ll admit it—like many of the readers of A Practical Wedding, I’d never had a dream proposal in my head. No hot air balloons or a restaurant string quartet or a “romantic moment” in some “romantic place.” I never really even thought I would get married, so I was somewhat surprised to find myself starting to have “those” thoughts.

The day I made my mind to propose to my boyfriend was a beautiful one. It was 2008 and we were in Bangkok, one of my favorite cities in the world, and we had just finished an amazing dinner near the end of an extended trip through Asia together. It’s always been my opinion that it’s not really living together, sleeping together, or anything but traveling together that will let you get to know the inner personality of your mate better or faster. And this trip happily exposed a wonderful man to me, someone I knew I wanted to be with for a long time.

After getting home, I carefully worked on a small set of blank wooden matryoshka dolls purchased on Etsy, handpainting them with a theme from our trip, and a secret message. I finished them quite quickly, surprising for someone who is not really that crafty. But then I waited. And waited.

I spent hours Googling “asking man to marry you” or “proposing to boyfriend” then meticulously deleting my search history. The great Oracle that is Google held little. In fact, most of the suggestions were to do things to get him to ask you, not to grow a pair and ask. There were a lot of recipes for engagement chicken. Some even suggested you had to wait for Leap Day on February 29th or Sadie Hawkins–every four years–to ask, like it was some sort of novelty and that you needed an excuse or permission to ask.

Hell to the no, that wasn’t going to happen. Mostly because the leap year had just passed and it meant waiting another four years. That didn’t really jive with my long term plans.

So, what was I scared of? Emasculating him. Jumping the gun—isn’t it the man that is supposed to ask, so that the woman knows it’s for real and he’s “ready?” (Whatever that means!) I also worried about if he said yes for the wrong reasons, or that I’d come off being too assertive. Pretty much everything touched on in Carrie’s APW post about women proposing to men.

In the end, struggling with my thoughts (and Google) did nothing. I did not even have time to don a scarlet petticoat as the Leap Day tradition calls for, to “warn” him. He found the gift in its secret hiding spot, and my hand was forced. I dug up the tiny toy ring I had purchased, and since I couldn’t look at him, let alone find the words, I had him read the bottom of the dolls. “Will…you…marry…me?”

“Yes.” he stated. Clearly, strongly, unhesitatingly, and reassuringly.

A few days later I relayed the news to my parents who were living in Thailand at the time. The Skype connection was a bit slow and choppy, but there was no denying the look on my mother’s face. Nor any masking of the tears that started to flow. They were not ones of happiness.

Instead of, “I always knew it would happen this way,” she said, “But that isn’t the way it should be,” when I proudly declared I had proposed. I was so angered and confused in that moment. Didn’t she raise me to be a strong, confident, independent woman? Would she rather I wait to be “picked”? She rushed away from her end of the computer and my dad said, “That’s great news, kiddo. Let’s just give her a few days to get used to the idea.” Then we signed off.

The days following I experienced doubts myself. I was now embarrassed to tell people I had been the one to pop the question, fearing a reaction like my mother’s. Like it meant less, or like it wasn’t real because there was no diamond attached.

Much like Madeline’s story, people who first meet us always coyly ask in that voice (you know that voice), “Sooooo…how did he pop the question…” and at first I felt nervous and sad and scared, but now I feel damned proud to say “Actually…” and tell the tale. The matryoshka dolls sit proudly on our mantle.

Now, four years, a wedding, a few apartments, jobs, and international moves later, I feel proud of what happened. It’s increasingly not as unusual or rare anymore, and I hope it continues to happen so it’s not a “trend” and just a fact of life that occurs. It’s still hard for my mom to accept what happened. But gradually she’s come around. After all, a wedding is more than a proposal. It’s a marriage.

So, if you found this article by Googling “proposing to boyfriend,” here’s my advice: make it happen, Captain. Yes, it’s scary, and nerve-wracking, and people may not understand, but then again, it’s not their marriage, is it?

Photo of the matryoshka dolls from Kelly’s personal collection

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  • What a great idea, the matroshka dolls. They are so pretty. And original. Way to go you!
    Also: “It’s always been my opinion that it’s not really living together, sleeping together, or anything but traveling together that will let you get to know the inner personality of your mate better or faster”.
    Yes I had always had that theory too. Travelling you often experience challenges. Or you get tired, hungry and cranky all at the same time and then you get to really see how we each deal with problems / anxiety / stressful situations. Great learning for marriage.
    I wish you all the best in your (impending?) marriage. And congratulations on being so brave, on breaking the mold, on being a true rebel, on doing what you knew you wanted to do and following your heart regardless of what society / culture dictates!

  • Great post! There are few things Google can’t solve =:^D Congrats!

  • When I told my parents that I was moving (far, far) away, my dad was able to accept it pretty quickly, and my mom freaked out. I also had a conversation with him that my mom would come around, she just needed a little while to get used to the idea. I wonder if anyone else has had parents react this way after telling them something shocking?

    • My mom totally freaked out when she figured out I was moving away for a long time. I think she kind of still expects me back. Maybe one day.

    • Gigi59

      Oh, goodness – YES. My mother was always quick to tears, then she’d put on the stiff upper lip, then the martyr thing, then (sometimes years later) finally acceptance. My father always asked if we were certain of our choice and then wished us luck and told us he loved us. I think Mom’s reaction had more to do with fear of change than with actual dislike of the situation. The scary thing is that now that I’m past 50 I see some of that in myself…

      • Megan

        My mom doesn’t deal well with change, either, and I think that’s a big chunk of her issues with anything I divulge. Though she’s excited about my engagement, I know a big part of her is freaking out — but I also know it’s not personal, if that makes sense? My dad is definitely quicker to accept things, then makes it a point to help my mom get used to the idea.

    • Well, this is not the first time my mom in particular has flipped out over a huge event in my life. It’s just the way she is. Looking back, I should have been more aware and I might have broken the news in a better way, but…well, I was so proud of what I had done I wasn’t (for the first time) thinking pessimistically. Ha!

      If anyone cares about the continuation of the story, she was also really removed from the wedding planning and it was literally not until the day after the wedding that I think she really understood what had happened and why and that I was happy. Oh, Moms!

      • oooh Kelly! I want to give you a big hug to make up for your mom’s reaction.

    • Sheila

      When my (then) fiance and I decided to move in together, I knew my mom would be upset. So rather than tell her over the phone, I sent her an email “heads-up” explaining the situation with a promise to call and talk to her about it. It seemed weird to tell her something big over email, but I knew that she would appreciate the time to have her reaction in private and then talk to me after she had a chance to think things through.

      • Rebekah

        Being a person who reacts kind of like your mom does, I just want to thank you for being this thoughtful. I hate being surprised, especially with big, emotional things or changes, and having the time (and privacy) to react the way I really feel can let me process those emotions and THEN be just as happy for the person whose news it is as they are. What a loving daughter you are (and also props for protecting yourself)!

        • Yeah – things getting sprung when you don’t like surprises can not be a good thing. That was something I surely learned about her going down this road. I’m so fortunate that the whole process really brought us closer together in the end, and I really do feel like I “get” her more. I hope it worked both ways!

    • Shannon

      My parents have just the same dynamic. When I came out to them, my dad just asked if I was happy, and when I said yes, he said that was all that mattered. My mom asked a few questions, then was really quiet, then – according to my sister, who still lived at home at that time – cleaned the house for a week straight. It wasn’t that she thought it was wrong or bad, it was just a radical shift in how she thought of me (at least that’s how she felt at the time, she’s come around to realizing that I’m not any different than before).

      More apropros to the post, I also have proposed to a (former) partner, and, though we didn’t marry in the end, I had so much fun coming up with a proposal that fit us – sweetly romantic but really low-key. The run-up to it was also a time of personal reflection on what marriage meant to me, and therefore what exactly I was asking of her, of us, in that proposal. I think that’s something everyone should be able to do!

    • Suzanne

      What’s interesting is my mom just talks through things, listens to the whole thing, and then gives her thought out questions to see if I’ve thought everything through. When I told her I was flying half way across the world to meet someone (my now husband), she didn’t freak out (was so scared to tell her and I’m in my 30’s!). She just expressed her concerns and listened to my explanations, etc. My dad is the quiet one who basically lets my mom do all the talking… Have never quite seen my mom be freak out emotional when hearing news. She just gets emotional at the airport whenever we say goodbye after visits =)

  • Meredith

    Thank you SO MUCH for this post, Kelly!! I’m proposing to my boyfriend in three weeks. While I’m excited about it, I’m also nervous: what will my friends and family think? Still, I know my boyfriend is going to be thrilled, and that’s what matters most. :)

    • Yay! Mazel tov. =)

    • Good luck, and enjoy it! In the end, it’s going to be an amazing tale for the future.

    • Claire

      Go get him! I proposed to my partner a year ago next Friday. Can I just say that even though your proposing and feel in control you may not be able to control some pretty wild emotions that emerge around the time or after the proposal. I was so excited to propose (and get it over and done with, hello sleepless nights and absurd dreams) but afterwards I felt emotionally exhausted and was suddenly really ashamed that I’d proposed wondering what other people thought. Luckily I didn’t have any issues but mine and J’s parents were pretty surprised it was me doing the proposing. On the upside I got lots of hand shakes from guys who thought it was the coolest thing ever and said they hope to get proposed to someday. Good luck!

  • Granola

    I told my mom my boyfriend and I were engaged and she looked incredibly stunned and just said “Really?” over and over until I started to worry that the subtext was “Are you sure?”

    Despite dating for 3 years and living together for one, she still sort of thought it was “too soon” and we didn’t need to rush it….

    So maybe it’s just a shock thing when you (or your parents) have to come face-to-face with the reality of something big, your mind just refuses to process it.

    • Jess

      My mom thought I was calling her to say I got a puppy. Nope! Surprise!

      • LMN

        When I actually was calling to tell my mom that we’d adopted a dog, she thought I was calling to tell her we were engaged. She handled the whole thing so deftly that I had no idea until I actually did call, about six months later, to tell her we were engaged. Then she shrieked and laughed and told me the dog story, which made me laugh so hard I was crying. Those crafty moms.

  • Emily

    …but then again, it’s not their marriage, is it?


  • I am always saddened by the gender roles of relationships. Sometimes it seems there are only two culturally acceptable choices- being quiet and passive or being aggressive and loud. There is so much confusion sometimes(at least for me) about how to be an independent, strong, woman in a society that tells me that femininity should be seen and not heard.

    Thanks for sharing your story, Kelly. You wouldn’t believe how much it helps to have positive stories of women proposing! Perhaps the world is changing :)

    • emmer

      I know I’m probably not the norm here, but I actually like having mostly traditional gender roles in my relationship.

      I can totally see how this doesn’t work for everyone, and I’m super-glad that when these roles don’t work for folks, they can find ways of being that do (like with Kelly and her proposal).

      For me, being an independent, strong woman has meant choosing to be in a more “traditional” role, and being ok with that. We’re not traditional with everything (my partner and I both love to cook, and he actually loves cleaning way more than me!), but overall we do subscribe to the traditional gender roles.

      I guess I like that in our relationship this is something we can and do talk about, and have settled on something that works for us.

      • Adi

        That’s the great thing about feminism–it’s about a choice. Instead of being forced into a role, you decide where you’re happy. And for people like us, who “fit” in the old roles, it can seem unenlightened to others. But they need to understand that feminism isn’t about forcing a new role, it’s about letting women be whomever they want to be.

      • I can’t really say it better than ADI does. My relationship is fairly traditional in terms of gender roles, but we do some things that aren’t common. I end up initiating a lot of our relationship- from asking him on our first date, to suggesting we move in together 3 years later. I’ve had several strange looks from friends and family- apparently some people are of the opinion that I should play hard to get! Which works well for some, but not for us.

        That’s why I really enjoy seeing stories like this- where you can choose to do what you want to be, even if it is against the norm. Being happy, and being true to yourself, no matter who you are.

        • emmer

          “Being happy, and being true to yourself, no matter who you are.”

          Yes, exactly!

  • GREAT post and GREAT idea with the nesting dolls, so adorable and thoughtful.

    I’d totally be one to pop the question without much hesitation really (I was the first to contact man manfriend on, and I’m the one who basically said “Okay enough gchatting how about we go on an actual date?) but the manfriend has made it VERY clear that he wants to propose in the traditional way, with him asking me. I’m pretty much the Liz Lemon-y modern woman type and he’s 100% fine with that, so I find it sort of adorable that he wants to go traditional. He picked out a lovely, sparkly stone this weekend, now we just need to find a setting for it and then I’m leaving the rest up to him!

    At first my inner feminist was all “GRARRR I WANT TO ASK” but, like Liz Lemon, I’m learning to sit back and accept that just because some things are done traditionally doesn’t mean that I am not a feminist or that I am not being true to myself. Relationships are about compromise and communication, and they are also sometimes about letting go. Since it wasn’t a “dealbreaker” (how many times can I reference 30 Rock in this post…go!) for me, re: the proposal, I’m fine with letting the manfriend take the reins.

    HOWEVER, I’m totally going to send him this article because the nesting dolls are SUCH a cute idea, and I know he’s looking for some inspirations on low-key but creative proposals (I’ve made several things clear: not in front of our friends and family, not with a flash mob, not on Valentine’s Day, and not on my birthday which is one month from now. Everything else is game, haha. Communication, right?)

    Go you, though, I’m looking forward to the day when this isn’t a big deal anymore and we can all just say what we want when we want it.

    I do have two questions though:

    1) Any suggestions on an engagement something for men? I’m thinking a nice watch, maybe engraved? He’s in a medical school program where they can’t really wear a lot of jewelry, so I’d probably learn toward something nicer that he can wear when he isn’t in scrubs.

    2) What about thoughts on asking his parents for, I guess, their blessing? He’ll be asking mine, which is sweet, but part of me finds it sort of weird that it is one-sided? Has anyone had experience asking the other set of parents for permission/blessing/whatever? I know that it isn’t *their* marriage but I still think that the gesture is nice.

    • Meredith

      An engraved watch sounds lovely!! Even if I wasn’t proposing to my boyfriend, I probably would have still bought him the engraved ring I’m using. :)

      I’m asking his mom for her blessing this weekend!! I think it’s a lovely gesture and will (hopefully) mean a lot to her.

      • Whaaaaat if his mom and I aren’t exactly close and we’ve had some, ah, issues in the past? I know for a fact that his parents aren’t against the marriage or against me, but I also know that they are puzzled that I am not like his old girlfriends (ie: quiet, not-expressing of opinions, thin, etc.). Asking his mom that question, which I would like to do, drives a stake of ice and fear into my heart. Oi.

        I don’t think that she’d say no, we’ve just had arguments in the past (including a ridiculous misunderstanding via the Evil Facebook that led to a lot of weird tears and a long, bizarre phone call. I still have a bad taste in my mouth from that and from my treatment at manfriend’s sister’s wedding last fall).

        • Meredith

          Maybe your asking her will help repair the relationship, since it shows you value her opinion and would like her blessing? You can also use the occasion to let her know you’d like to have a stronger relationship with her, because you love her son and want to be close to his family.

        • Cleo

          If it were me dealing with this sort of semi-strained relationship with the parents, I would wait to ask until right after the engagement has already happened. That way, you could approach it as asking them to join in your celebration (i.e. “Manfriend has just asked me to marry him and I’d love to have your blessing on our engagement/relationship/marriage”), instead of the fear inducing asking permission.

    • Adi

      My husband talked to my parents because we’re very close, but I didn’t speak to his because his father hated me and his mother is… Well. She would have thought it was stupid. I got a lot of flak about him asking for their blessing, but it was more “I’d like to join your family” than “I’m buying your daughter where’s my dowry”. Things can be one-sided without it being wrong. Out proposal story is less a story and more a conversation–no ring, no plan, just talking in bed one night. He had already spoken to my parents but hadn’t figured out a special way to ask, and I told him I didn’t need a Grand Romantic Gesture. And so he just asked then.

      Anyway I love the idea of a watch. If my husband wore one it would have been his wedding present. Instead he got AppleTV, which he loved, but is much less sentimental ;)

      Anyway good luck!! I hope you come back to write your own post!

      • Ungh, I’m sorry to hear that but thank you for sharing your experience. His parents and I get along just fine mostly and are typically very cordial to each other but there is definitely a sort of weird barrier there, especially with his mom (his dad is really easy to get along with and makes friends with everyone, but he’s a salesman so there you go). In this case it might be a mother/oldest son thing? Don’t know.

        • Adi

          In that case maybe you just need to assure her that you’re excited to join her family. Maybe ask her to teach you some of their family traditions so she can see that you’re not going to be a wedge between them, but rather an addition?

          • Ah. While I don’t disagree with the above at all, there is a religious difference I should point out. I am Jewish and the wedding is going to be Jewish and children are going to be raised Jewish. The manfriend’s family is Catholic but he doesn’t really care about religion. His parents assure me that they are aware that manfriend and I will be raising a Jewish household but I’m not certain that they’re as comfortable with the idea as they seem to be. His mother’s favorite family tradition is Christmas. For obvious reasons (ie: to paraphrase Meg a deep existential dread of Christmas) there are basic problems with that. And yes, I even feel weird sitting around the tree with friends and family opening presents (although I put on a brave face, especially when I join his family for mass)–we were never a Jewish household that took on secular Christmas traditions (Sorry, Jewish households just don’t have Christmas trees–although this will likely be my Wagon Wheel when it comes to married life) so I view the whole thing as very foreign and hard to wrap my brain around. So, the truth is, there are certain traditions that um, that I’d rather just skip? Because yeah, deep existential dread of Christmas. Brave face, brave face, brave face…

          • Cleo

            Dilettantista, I can’t reply below you, but need to say…

            I feel you on the existential dread of Christmas and the being uncomfortable sitting in mass (even at my friends’ weddings!). It’s icky and difficult to explain, and often results in you sounding like a terrible Grinch. My person is Jewish (like me), but grew up around a lot of Christmas trees, and without the existential dread, thinks they are magical and wants one in the house at Christmas.

            Um…no, says I. We haven’t gotten one yet, but I think this will be more of an issue when/if we have kids.

            Anyway, I get you. And also yay! for the When Harry Met Sally… reference!! Wagon Wheel!

          • Cleo down below I don’t know how to respond to you down below but: YES, AMEN, PREACH SISTER. Solidarity forever.

      • Tess

        My fiance also asked my father first, and there actually was some ‘negotiating’:
        – yes, our children will follow my father’s football team (neither of us follow a team at all so it was going to happen anyway!)
        – yes, I will continue to help decorate their house at Christmas even if I’ve moved out and have a house of my own to decorate. They spoke for over an hour and worked out some other things too (including discussing my career plans apparently, though given that my father is keen to pass on the family business that’s not surprising).
        – no, getting married won’t stop me moving overseas for work if an opportunity came up (point not mentioned: I may not WANT to move overseas for work… at least they have a plan to deal with it if I change my mind).

        It wasn’t so much a trade for my hand as reassuring my father I wasn’t going to disappear or be limited by being married (My marriage and moving out of my family home will likely occur within about a month of each other so these things are tied together for him).

        I have never heard of a girl having the same conversation with her future in-laws… I think around here it’s just going out of fashion entirely instead of becoming gender neutral.

    • Rebekah

      My SO Med student doesn’t want to wear a ring on his hand, but has mentioned a couple of times that he would wear it on a chain around his neck.

      The watch idea is quite classy though. I might mention it to him as an option, although I’d personally prefer he wear a wedding ring once we’re hitched.

      And I feel you about the future in-laws! I thought we were great and then last time we visited his mom made me feel really uncomfortable and like I wasn’t good enough. I keep telling myself those weren’t her intentions (because she’s the kindest woman ever), but it’s hard not to feel like it was personal and I just feel really guarded around her now.

      Best of luck to you and to your med student! Kill ’em with kindness :)

      • Thanks to all of this! He’s actually doing the dental thing (but I figured it was just easier to lump it all together) so he’s literally got his hands in people’s mouths. I understand the no-jewelry issue although I am a little nervous about his having to take off the wedding ring, since he has a history of losing small things (like a not-that-expensive not-wedding-or-engagement ring I got him for a birthday present a few years ago).

        And sorry to hear about your last experience with the future in laws…maybe they were just having an off week? Fingers crossed for you and your own med student!

        • Kristen

          I wish I knew more folks with differing holiday traditions so I could understand this better. My hubby’s parents are Jewish and incorporating another gift giving/yummy eats having event into my Christmas life has been awesome honestly. I can completely understand negative feelings around the religious aspects, stress of gift buying/giving aspects or even just the intense family time aspect of different holiday traditions. But the secular/or just fun parts seem kind of awesome so I’m trying to figure out where the dread comes in. Of course reading back over the negatives: Present buying stress, extra time with sometimes crappy families – ok, maybe I’m understanding it better than I thought.

          • It is hard to explain if you didn’t grow up with it, but Christmas is the time of year when Jews feel most “other.” And maybe when I was younger it was a jealousy thing (because hello, pretty lights! Pretty trees! Christmas looks like great fun), but now it has morphed into a need to protect my cultural identity, and a very basic part of that cultural identity is “Jews Do Not Celebrate Christmas Not Even Secular Aspects of It.” Stephanie, who wrote one of my favorite APW posts ( has gone on in her personal blog about how Jews simply cannot incorporate the secular aspects of Christmas without fundamentally altering and weakening their Jewish cultural heritage. Part that rings most true to me:

            “Jews know that Christmas is a major Christian holiday celebrating Jesus’s birth. But amazingly, people will try to tell us that a Christmas tree is just a tree (true), that twinkle lights are not owned by any particular religious denomination (true), or any number of other things that essentially amount to “it’s not a religious holiday if you don’t want it to be.” (false) Now I know this is not, at it’s heart, sinister… but sometimes it feels that way. Because these are all symbols of a religious holiday for not-our-religion. Of course, the majority of people suggesting we celebrate Christmas in a secular way are non-practicing Christians for whom Christmas is a largely secular holiday. They love the trees and the cookies and the days off for non-religious reasons and as a way to connect to their childhood and families. And because these non-religious people don’t celebrate Christmas as a Christian holiday, they think we can too. But Jews can’t do that. We can’t take on the cultural traditions of our neighbors without also ceding our own cultural and religious identity. We can’t celebrate “just” the secular parts of your religious holiday, even if you can. [In this way, I am firmly on the “Keep the Christ in Christmas” team. I’m not any more interested in a mainstream, secular Christmas than you are. It’s a religious holiday and it should stay that way.]”
            (this is the post in its entirety and it is great:

            Again, it is hard to explain if you grew up with Christmas, but I just don’t want it in my household. Christmastime is fine–I am happy everyone else is happy, and I mostly don’t mind going to other people’s homes and celebrating it. I guess the prospect of this being an annual tradition for me is a bit overwhelming, as is the distinct possibility of a Christmas tree in the home.

    • Lauren

      “At first my inner feminist was all “GRARRR I WANT TO ASK” but, like Liz Lemon, I’m learning to sit back and accept that just because some things are done traditionally doesn’t mean that I am not a feminist or that I am not being true to myself. Relationships are about compromise and communication, and they are also sometimes about letting go. Since it wasn’t a “dealbreaker” (how many times can I reference 30 Rock in this post…go!) for me, re: the proposal, I’m fine with letting the manfriend take the reins.”


      Also, I asked if my guy wanted a watch, or would wear one, and he flat-out said no. So there’s that.

      I requested that he inform my parents, because I am quite close with them. It wasn’t important for him for me to talk with his parents and, as we’ve had our differences, was probably for the best.

      • Thanks for the advice. I’ll probably go with the advice suggested above (or below–lost track) about calling them after the engagement (or sitting down with them next time I see them, they live about 2.5 hours away) and being like: “I’m super excited about this because your son is the world to me and I know that you obviously were an enormous part of making him the man he is today. So I just wanted to share this with you to make sure that you were super excited about this too yay families!” I like that better than just cold-calling them pre-engagement I think, and it would probably make them less uncomfortable (I think they are traditional about these things) so would work well all around in general.

        Liz Lemon is my spirit animal. I miss 30 Rock.

        • Meredith

          Unfortunately, I can’t reply directly to your above post regarding Jews not celebrating Christmas, but YES A THOUSAND TIMES YES. Thank you for sharing that link!!

    • Jess

      I know this doesn’t help you, since your partner can’t wear jewelry, but someone else reading the thread might find it helpful:

      My man actually has an engagement band too. We love the idea of both having a token of the other on our ring finger while we’re engaged. There’s a second band that will be added when we’re married. Technically, his ring is still being made, so he’s wearing a piece of a faucet that happens to fit. We’ve gotten some pretty cute reactions from the old folks about it. They think its adorable that “modern couples” “do things like that”

      As for non-jewelry things, I do love the idea of a really nice watch. :)

      • That’s a lovely idea! But yeah, fingers in people’s mouths = no rings. I’m already nervous about him losing his wedding band (once we acquire one), ha. And I just love the idea of an old faucet ring, that’s so cute and clever, yay repurposing.

    • kyley

      Oh, man, I hear you. Similarly, I was asked not to pop the question, because it was important to my partner. I also decided that it wasn’t overly important to me either way, so I was fine with it. Then I bought my (now) fiance a really nice watch to re-propose with. He loves watches, but didn’t have any that were super nice, so he wears his “engagement watch” for special occasions. The first time he wore it was to vote! (Which melted my politics-obsessed heart). So yay re:proposing with a fancy watch!

      One thing to consider, regarding asking his parents for their blessing: If they are more traditional, they may be very confused by your request, and as a result you might not get the reaction you are hoping for. I think it’s a really wonderful sentiment, but you might want to frame it in a way that is not intimidating to the parents. Perhaps asking for advice (on marriage) and their blessing at the same time might be a way to do that?

      • That’s great advice and I will likely heed it–thank you for making that point. A nice sit-down post engagement to talk about mutual excitement and to clear the air of any lingering issues will likely be better. Maybe with some wine.

      • I love the idea of asking for marriage advice as well as blessings. His parents are really traditional, but I really do admire their commitment to each other and their marriage as a whole. This is such a great idea!

      • Caroline

        Yeah, the first time we were thinking about getting engaged (we decided to wait, and are now engaged), I called his parents to ask for their blessing to propose to him. They were so confused, and excited, asking me how he had proposed. They thought he HAD proposed, not that I was GOING to propose. They couldn’t really grasp that concept (over the phone at least).

    • I’m all about the pocket watches (which can often be engraved, and sometimes will be able to hold a picture, locket style, on the side opposite the watch face). You can find some good ones around here (don’t mean to seem creepy, but I visited your blog after our last post conversation. Yay NC!)

      I’m trying to decide if I should ask his parents as well. We’re still working out the kinks of this (he wants to be traditional, and I want to ask him and plan things, so we’re compromising) and figuring things out. I think his parents would like to be asked, but they live far away, and I’m still trying to figure out the logistics. As I’m not asking, I’m not sure what to say! Any suggestions?

      • Woooo NC! Not creepy, people going to my blog is a good thing, even if it is dormant-ish right now.

        I think I’m going to take the advice of the people above and just wait until after the engagement–I’ll either call them (they’re in Charlotte and I’m in the Research Triangle area) or sit down with them when we’re all together in person and basically just have a “I’m excited to be marrying your son I hope you’re excited too” conversation.

    • Crayfish Kate

      While I can’t comment on asking his parents for their blessing, I’m happy to contribute to the “engagement something” discussion.

      I, too, wanted to get my guy an engagement something (he proposed to me, but it still seemed very one-sided with only me receiving something). He loves surfing, so for a long time I figured I’d get him a custom-made surfboard. Depending on what bells & whistles are added, they can easily run in the same price range as an engagement ring, so I thought that’d be good. When I talked to him about this idea, to my surprise, he said he’d much rather have a ring like me. So shortly after he proposed, we went & picked out an engagement ring for him too.

      The engraved watch sounds like a great idea! If you need more ideas, does he have any hobbies? I find that good, quality “hobby supplies” make excellent gifts! If not, is he a sports fan? Could you surprise him with tickets to a game or something?

      Good luck, I’m sure whatever you think of he’ll love :-)

      • He does have hobbies but all those hobbies have gone by the wayside in favor of that thing called studying, haha.

        I’ll mention this to him too, thanks for sharing your experience!

    • Hey D,

      In terms of an engagement gift, I also initially thought I might get a watch…or an engraved iPod or a diving watch, actually. I definitely lean more to the practical side of things, so that would be my suggestion. Perhaps a nice pen for work, or a set of cuff links?

      And I agree with Cleo’s advice, just run with it and talk about it after the fact. I guess I never did it with his folks because they had always made no bones about me being the best thing that happened to him, and were always over the moon at family events and functions. Plus, they’re beyond being hippie liberal awesome parents. I think opening that door with them might confuse them more than anything, and in the end, they’ll hopefully be overjoyed with the good news.

      Good luck!

      PS: RIP 30 Rock. Single tear.

    • so, this isn’t a very useful suggestion, but more of a “what i did for my guy” story. the short version is: hey, sometimes it really is the thought that counts.

      the longer version is, i was noway nohow going to propose (cause, being queer is no reason not to fall into traditional gender roles), but i wanted to be prepared when she did. so i got her a ring i thought she would like and stuck it in the bottom of my jewelry box ’till it was relevant. and then there was an awkward “oh yay! also, i, um, just a second, here’s a thing for you too” moment. and the ring i got didn’t fit her, and rings aren’t really her thing anyway. so, she doesn’t wear it, but she has told me many times how happy she was that i had a thing for her. so, if your (or his) feelings aren’t going to be hurt, you can always go for symbolic gestures.

      for us, i think it was so meaningful because i was definitely, umm, the wind card. so i think my having something for her kind of reinforced that i really was ready for this getting married thing, not just saying yes ’cause i can’t say no (which, you know, i totally can’t).

  • Woohoo! Congratulations on “growing a pair” (lol) and asking him! <3 the matryoshka doll idea, very clever.

    After my DH proposed to me, I asked him in return. I had bought him an engagement ring (a simple stainless steel engraved one, why should I be the only one with bling?) months earlier and had worn it to remind myself that the day was coming and I'd get to hand him his own ring. (I think I stole a lil bit of his thunder but that's fine with me.) He still wears it to this day (been married 6 years this June 29th, through no shortage of ups and downs including losing both our children unexpectedly before and after birth) and it makes me proud that he wears it.

    I see no problem with asking your man to marry you. Sure some might be sad about not asking you first but surely some are relieved to be asked? I say go for it!

  • Bravo! I hope this post serves as a resource for countless women mulling over the idea of hitchin’ up their lady-britches and proposing to their partners. Our “proposal” was a simple conversation over dinner at our favourite restaurant during which we agreed to elope. No ring exchange, no formal overtures of any kind. Now that we’ve done the deed and our friends and family are in on our sneaky plan, I occasionally get looks of pity because I don’t have a diamond or that our engagement was “so unromantic”. Complete BS I tells ya. As Kelly so elequently puts it:

    “After all, a wedding is more than a proposal. It’s a marriage.”

    Amen to that.

    • Class of 1980

      Now that I think back to when I was married, I was technically the one who proposed. We were watching tv one night, and with no forethought, I mentioned getting married in passing.

      He agreed.

      I can’t even remember what prompted me to mention it!

      This all reminds me of how much louder feminism used to be. My generation grew up watching The Brady Bunch from 1969 to 1974, which even at the time we thought was such an uncool show and the definition of “corny”.

      I caught a rerun of one of the sequels from the 1980s a few weeks ago. The Brady kids were all married or dating, and the middle son Peter’s girlfriend was his boss. The big drama was that he was having issues asking her to get married because he was hung up that she was his boss. The Brady girls encouraged Peter’s girlfriend to just ask him to marry her because “it’s the eighties!” and “women are equal!”

      Funny how some things are still difficult in 2013, in spite of the old rhetoric.

  • You have to warn them with a petticoat? I am dying laughing over here.

    Your proposal story is AWESOME and I love that you have a lasting reminder of it!!

  • Ros

    Ugh to the expectation of “engagement story”.

    Neither of us asked the other… we just basically discussed hypothetically getting married, and how we’d live our lives, and long-term plans, and what kind of wedding we’d want, and how next summer would be perfect, and then basically looked at each other and were like “Are we really doing this?” – “I want to. Do you want to?” – “I want to. I love you so much!” – “I love you too.” … Which, to me, was plenty romantic – joint planning, respect, love, and (very important) no surprises being sprung where I’m expected to respond to major life decisions with momentary emotional abandon (because the very thought makes me want to run and hide).

    Oddly enough, a lot of people expect the huge ring (if he’d gutted the household budget for jewelry, I’d have been quite peeved), public proposal (you’ll find me in a ball under the table), emoting-in-public (I am WAY to WASP-y to have emotions in public, dear god) story, and I’ve actually been told I married the wrong guy when I said that we agreed to get married rather than “he proposed”. (Note: these people were not invited to our wedding.)

    Gah to patriarchal BS, basically. Yay to proposals working in different ways for different relationships and different people.

    • Haha. I’m basically a WASP in a Jewish lady’s body–emotions in public are my kryptonite. This might be why I’m always just sliiiightly uncomfortable at weddings, so many feelings, all out in the open!

    • yes! all of this! I thought the act of planning our future together was so romantic because we did it TOGETHER, and we really worked hard to make it happen.

      I don’t know if I’m just such a flamboyant feminist or I come across as hyper-sensible in a very engineer kind of way, but no one asked us for our engagement story. I am so relieved. I’d have to say: well, we talked about it together, and decided we both wanted to be married to each other. And then we made it happen. (actually, when I write it out like this it sounds really sweet.)

    • Class of 1980

      “Ugh to the expectation of “engagement story”.”

      My sentiments exactly. The “engagement story” has only become a thing in the last decade or so. It’s one of the silliest trends ever and it makes me sad that young men and women have been led to believe it’s traditional and necessary. It’s neither.

    • Hannah

      Your “proposal” sounds very romantic! It gave me chills! My favorite part of the proposal process was this exact conversation – laying in bed talking about the future and building a life together.

  • This is a beautiful post, and I love your engagement story. No, it’s not typical, but that’s what makes it special. Even a typical proposal is special to the person who was proposed to, and the person doing the proposal.

    I really should write our engagement story for APW. I blame a friend, The Black Keys, and a fever for us getting engaged. Our proposal story typically starts with “we went to the mall, bought a ring, and he called and told his mom he bought me a small sparkley object.” But there is so much more to it than that, as I think there is in any proposal.

  • Marie

    From Emily Post’s 1922 edition of “Etiquette”–

    “It is doubtful if he who carries a solitaire ring enclosed in a little square box and produces it from his pocket upon the instant that she says “Yes,” exists outside of the moving pictures! ”

    — a charming reminder that what is “traditional” now was not always so, and that some people, at least, have been chuckling at out current engagement narrative since it was invented!

    • Class of 1980

      Amen. The big production is very new.

    • Laetitia

      There! That’s what I thought all my life, before the people around me started getting engaged with fancy rings like in the movies! Probably it’s because for my parents there was no “official” proposal that I assumed discussion was the common way to go. But my boyfriend wants a proposal and he wants to be the one to make it… so, well, why not. I suppose I’d be taking something away from him if I didn’t let him, while I neither must pop the question nor have anything against a ring.

  • Keakealani

    I didn’t exactly propose, but I had a very similar feeling about the “how did he pop the question” questions. We never had a formal proposal at all – like many things that happen in our relationship, we decided mutually through many long and heartfelt discussions, and once we got on the same page, we announced it to our friends and family. Honestly, I thought that knowing who I was and who FH was, nobody would even ask (because we’ve always been kind of weird and subverted stereotypes), but people did, indeed, ask. When I told them “it was a mutual decision” I got a look like I was from an extraterrestrial planet in a galaxy far, far away. It kind of stung at first, like people thought less of me because I didn’t force my fiancé to do a down-on-one-knee, “traditional” proposal. But, like most things in life, once the novelty wore off, I don’t think anyone cared. We’re still getting married, and it’s still going to be awesome. And although I think everyone is entitled to do things their own way, I really like that for us our decision had no questions, because we were always on the same page.

  • Georgina


  • Georgina

    LOVE IT!! Googling “how to propose” was how I came across APW for the first time! I’m glad you held your head high – if you love each other and plan to get married, who cares who pops the question?

  • Evalyn

    I too proposed to my boyfriend (now fiance). I knew/know him well enough to know that if I waited on him, I’d be waiting a very, very long time as he can’t even commit to a new digital camera without years of research. He is very gun-shy about making the wrong decision. Or, in our case, that I’d say “no” despite my constant reassurances I would not. There are things I wish I could change about how it all happened, but overall I’m glad I just went for it.

    I definitely still feel that twinge of embarrassment when any (and every) body asks “how he proposed.” Not so much because I actually asked him, but because it’s such mundane story and people always have that negative sounding “oh…” reaction. No cute nesting dolls for us. I just decided one night that it was “the” night. I said “I think we should get married. Want to get married?” We talked for almost 2 hours about all kinds of stuff and at the end of it we were engaged. No actual proposal. This fact was much lamented by his mother (who doesn’t much like me anyways because I’m non-traditional and she’s uber traditional) and I think that’s what makes it the worst.

    Ah well. At the end of the day, I’m glad I did it. I’m glad we’re getting married in November. I’m glad I didn’t wait. I’m glad I didn’t google it either. =P

  • Hannah

    Major power to you!!!

    I totally understand the worry about “emasculating him. Jumping the gun—isn’t it the man that is supposed to ask, so that the woman knows it’s for real and he’s “ready?” Last year I was firmly in the “pre-engaged” state and miserable (and reading lots of APW for sanity!) We both agreed that we would get married eventually, but he felt we should wait to get engaged until I was done with grad school, while I was excited and ready to start our life together. The whole thing made me rather miserable. I did ask him once if he would feel emasculated if I proposed to him and he said he wouldn’t, but I couldn’t make myself do it because he said he wanted to wait – if I proposed right now would it essentially be manipulating him into saying yes? Needless to say I had a lot of worry and tears over the situation.

    What finally made things better was deciding I would propose – but not for a while. I set a date in my head, “if he hasn’t proposed by this date, I will propose to him!” I felt this was fair compromise – he got a little more time, and I got to celebrate our engagement with people in grad school I might never see again after graduation. Whenever I started feeling the pre-engagement blues I focused on the proposal – how I would do it and what I would give him in lieu of a ring. I eventually got really excited for the whole plan and it made me excited and giddy! In the end he beat me to the punch and proposed over Christmas. Although I must admit I’m sort of bummed I don’t get to surprise him with my proposal (it was pretty freaking great, in my opinion).

    It’s interesting to see how strongly people react to a woman proposing. When I told my friends of my plan to propose most of them responded with “oohh, it shouldn’t be like that! He should propose to you!” It’s so odd! Hardly anyone I know gets engaged without talking about marriage first, it’s even common for couples to go ring shopping together… so then why is it all up to the guy to propose? I understand the romance behind a surprise proposal, but to me that pales in comparison to the romance of getting engaged, of promising to spend your lives together.

    • Caroline

      Reading your first couple paragraphs, I literally checked your name to make sure I hadn’t written it and forgotten. (Although I’m in undergrad, but it felt like I could have written it, and bought I might have).

      We decided to be bold, and both proposed to eachother (knowing in advance we both would) on the same day in December.

  • Brittany

    I proposed to my guy last summer. It was something I had been thinking about and I basically just blurted it out while we were cuddling, with my embarrassed face pressed into a pillow. Not terribly romantic or sentimental, but considering we’re married now (and what a practical wedding it was), I’m glad I got to speed the process along a little.

    Sometimes I find myself envious of other women’s engagement stories though. I listened to my coworker’s fiancée tell the whole story of how he proposed to her, and everyone oohed and aahed at the appropriate moments. Most people just look kind of confused when I tell them how I proposed, although that’s probably because it’s not very cute unless you really know us as a couple. It was the day before I left for a study abroad trip and it was full of emotion for us, but not a lot of other people understand it and that’s okay.

    I know my parents were surprised that I proposed, but I think they got over it pretty quickly and my dad now tells everyone how proud he is. Honestly I think they were more surprised at how I handled wedding planning – they expected I would be really into having all the Moments (especially regarding the dress) and I mostly just wanted to make decisions and move on. Really I was just focused on trying to be a Cool Bride, but that’s another story.

  • distillatruant

    By far the best engagement post I’ve ever read. Thanks!

  • Kaity

    I’m so glad I found this website. Thank you for writing such brave and honest stories. Now I just need to working on growing a pair…

  • drlady

    Just bought his ring! EEEEEEK! Hoping I’ll feel even more excited when it gets here…. I’m really excited about proposing, but not as much with the ring (despite it being gorgeous). And my best friend’s excitement about my plan & how wonderfully it fits our relationship just gave me a whole new level of glee.

  • drlady

    Mission accomplished!!! He didn’t see it coming at all, in fact his first response to “will you marry me” was “is this for real?”… followed quickly by “of course!” Then I was able to coax the dog back over to us so he could finally see the ring attached to his bow tie. It was a glorious success! Interestingly, afterwards he explained his confusion thusly: “it was like if someone told me I was pregnant. I just hadn’t considered it as a possibility, so it didn’t compute at first.” (I then sported the confused look!)