What I Learned From Proposing To My Boyfriend


In all the recent discussion about proposals and getting engaged, I kept wanting to talk about women proposing to men. I proposed to my boyfriend on Christmas Eve, 2008. Proposing as a woman is still unusual — not an idea most people consider. But proposing taught me a lot about myself, about our relationship, and about engagement/marriage.  I asked Meg if I could write a guest post, and she wrote back “DO IT! I’m totally into it!” So, here goes!

Things I learned from proposing marriage to my boyfriend:

  • What marriage means to me. It all started when I realized I really did want to get married. I wanted to say out loud “We intend to be partners for life.” We were planning a life together, already making all our major decisions together. I wanted the world to recognize our committed partnership for what it really was. Since we both knew it, why not say it out loud and in public?

I also wanted us to be recognized as a family. All the legal stuff really matters to me. I wanted to say to the world: “We’ve chosen each other as family. We’ll share property, protect each other, and trust each other to act for us.” Marriage was the way to accomplish that.
  • The cultural narrative about getting engaged is crazymaking. We’re told that a man doesn’t want to get married, until and unless he makes a surprise proposal with a ring. We’re told that if a woman brings up marriage, any later proposal doesn’t count — he’s just doing it to appease you. We’re also told that if he really loved you, he’d propose right away, before it ever occurred to you to wonder when he was going to propose. Women are told both that the proposal means everything, and that we have no control over whether or not it happens. No wonder we feel like we’re going crazy.
  • I had a horror of becoming the stereotypical girlfriend, nagging the guy to get married. In Kamy Wicoff’s book I Do But I Don’t she unflinchingly describes the roiling mix of frustration, anger, guilt, and anxiety she felt waiting for her boyfriend to propose. I was similar. We’d watched a friend wait and wait and wait for a proposal that never came, hinting and teasing and nagging to no avail. Her boyfriend seemed to relish the power it gave him; he’d hint that he was going to propose, and then not follow through. I didn’t want to play that game. But I was already playing it in my head.

My boyfriend would make some remark about weddings or getting married, and hope would spring up — maybe he’s planning a proposal! Then he wouldn’t ask, and I’d be disappointed and angry. Then I’d feel guilty for being angry, frustrated about the whole situation, and finally just feel like I was going crazy. Why was this such a big deal to me? Why couldn’t I just calm down and let things happen naturally?
  • The woman shouldn’t be stuck just waiting. While watching that friend wait, we’d agreed either member of a couple should be able to ask. So added to all the other emotions, I had the icky feeling that I wasn’t living up to my own statements about equality. And I wondered if he might even be waiting for me to ask. So I started thinking about proposing to him. I wanted to change the story.
  • Changing the story can be hard. it can seem like everyone is pushing back. I googled “women proposing” and talked to my friends. There was one clear message: “Cute idea, but you should really wait for him.” 

One of my closest female friends told me “Men will propose when they are ready. We just have to wait for them.” A close male friend just couldn’t envision how a woman proposing would work. The internet told me that he’d feel like I was stealing his thunder. It also warned me that he might say yes without meaning it, just to keep the peace. Some articles warned me that it would ruin the relationship forever.

The warnings didn’t ring true to me, not for us and our relationship. He isn’t a big-surprise kind of guy; no thunder to steal. With really important things, he always speaks honestly. He wouldn’t say yes if he didn’t really mean it. He’s not particularly traditional, so he wouldn’t be offended by my proposing. And those conversations about weddings and getting married — the ones that had made me think he might be planning to propose — told me that yes, he was thinking about marriage. He was ready. I didn’t have to wait for him to propose to know that.

And while I trust my friends, their warnings weren’t based on anything specific about me or my boyfriend. They were talking about how they thought a proposal should go. 

The more I thought about the assumptions and expectations behind all the warnings, the more I realized: I could propose. It would really work for our relationship. I bought a man’s ring.

But all those warnings still sat in the back of my mind, having a party with the cultural narrative. They kept popping up to tell me “You’re doing it wrong!” I spent several more months agonizing, which brings me to my next point:
  • Proposing is scary. When you seriously contemplate standing in front of someone else, and asking them “Will you marry me?” — well, it’s terrifying. You’re incredibly vulnerable. You’re really asking them “When it comes right down to it, is this relationship everything you want it to be? Can you do this for the rest of your life?” It made me realize that a man might delay proposing even when he’s sure he wants to get married, just because actually spitting out the question is terrifying!

When you’re a woman proposing to a man, you get to add to those questions, “Can you handle the fact that I’m asking? Do you have unspoken expectations about gender roles in our relationship that I’m breaking?”

I’d felt ready to be proposed to for a couple of years. But when I faced actually proposing to him, I was scared. Totally terrified. It took me months to get up the nerve. I even came close to losing it at the very last minute. I’d set up a romantic Christmas Eve at home, had the ring all prepared (box wrapped like a present), love songs playing. I wanted him to know I was serious — that I’d planned this and thought it through. 

But as the evening went on, I started panicking. “I shouldn’t do this,” I thought. “I should wait for him to do it. He’ll think I’m desperate. He’ll pity me. He’ll say yes to shut me up. It’ll be a huge disappointment.” All completely ridiculous in the context of who he is and what our relationship is. But that big, vulnerable moment has a big unknown right after it, and the existing cultural narratives were trying to fill it up.

Even deeper, I worried “What if, somehow, I’ve got it all wrong? What if somehow he’s really not happy with me? What if I ask him, and he realizes he just can’t do this anymore? What if he says no?” 

When the moment came, though, I found myself just doing it. It felt like I was moving on automatic. All the worrying about what I’d say and what he’d say — just gone. There was nothing but the moment. I grabbed the ring box and gave it to him, kneeling in front of him. Confused, he opened it, then stared at the ring. “Are you trying to —” he said.

“Yes,“ I said. “Will you — do you want to marry me?”

“Of course!” he exclaimed, and kissed me.
  • Post-proposal reactions may not be what you expect, especially for a non-traditional proposal. There’s no script. I wasn’t sure what to expect: questions, confusion, ambivalence? Instead, he was overjoyed, grinning and giddy. Me, I cried and shook. All that anxiety and adrenaline was taking its toll. It took me a long time to calm down.

Announcing it to other people was almost as scary as proposing, for me. Would they accept an engagement where the woman had proposed? Would they be excited for me? There was no script for this announcement — no sticking out my hand with a ring on it and waiting for reactions.

I saw this in my parents‘ reaction when I told them “I have an announcement to make. Last night, I proposed, and he said yes.” They hugged us and said “Congratulations,” but they looked kind of surprised and confused. I was, honestly, a little disappointed. Deep down, I’d been expecting jumping up and down, excited squealing, all that stuff. I’d been hoping for it, wanting validation that it was okay and acceptable that I’d proposed.

Since then, they’ve shown that they’re thrilled, happy and excited about our engagement and wedding. But just as there was no script for my announcement, there was no script for their immediate reaction. There was no “ZOMG let me see the ring! Tell the story!!” They were feeling their way as much as I was. That’s just real life. It’s not what you expect from the movies, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong, or that you’re wrong.

Proposing to my boyfriend meant changing a deeply ingrained cultural narrative. That was intimidating and scary. There was pushback, both from other people and from my own assumptions. But it also gave me space to think about who we really are, and what getting engaged and married really meant for us. Telling a new story means you get to examine those assumptions and decide which ones work for you.

If you’re a woman who wants to get married to the man you’re with, I really do recommend at least considering the idea of proposing to him. It may not be right for every couple and every relationship. But just the process of thinking about it will give you a lot of insight into your thoughts and feelings on getting engaged.

Remember: There is no one single right way to get engaged, just as there’s no one single right way to get married. It really is okay to write your own story, no matter how similar or different it is to the existing cultural narrative. I can’t say it’s easy. But it’s worth it.

(P.S. If you’re like me, and process ideas by reading about them, I recommend two books. One is I Do But I Don’t, by Kamy Wicoff, which I mentioned above. The other is Young Wives’ Tales, eds. Jill Corral and Lisa Miya-Jervis. 

I Do But I Don’t is Kamy Wicoff’s personal story of getting engaged and married. She ends up making mostly the traditional, expected choices, but she has a lot of interesting analysis about them. 

Young Wives’ Tales is a highly multivocal collection of essays about marriage, written by all kinds of women. Some are happily married; some regret marrying; some reject the whole idea of marriage; some try to reinvent marriage; some totally subvert marriage. You’ll nod in violent agreement with some, want to argue with others, and still others will leave you totally confused. That book saved my sanity by showing me just how very many different ways there were of thinking about marriage. If you’re feeling squashed into narrow expectations about marriage, Young Wives’ Tales will help you break out.)

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  • ellen

    Yes! I proposed to my partner because I was was more vocally anti-marriage than he was. Erm, then I had a sneaky, almost treacherous, change of attitude. I knew if I wanted to get married, I would have to be the one to bring it up. There was no info about women proposing online anywhere, but that means I got to hammer out the meanings of it for myself and figure out what was significant to me. I only told two friends, and they were the ones who kept me from panicking (too much) leading up to the proposal. It was terrifying, empowering, and totally worth it.

  • Esther

    This is wonderful. For me, the struggle wasn’t about whether or not the woman should propose; we’ve always fought against gender stereotypes together, and I knew that our circle of friends would feel the same. The real struggle — and the reason I’m so glad I proposed! — was about convincing myself 100% that I wanted to get married. I tend to be so indecisive that it would have been far “easier” to let him propose and just say yes. Instead, I talked to everyone I could — friends, family, pastor, etc. — so that I would be absolutely sure that this was right. It was great to have the luxury of going through that process without the impending pressure of “oh crap, he’s proposed, what do I say?” hanging over me.

  • Esther

    A quick follow-up: I think it may have to do with the unspoken assumption that women just want to get married, while men have to be responsible about whether or not they want to “settle down.” When the woman was denied economic or social agency, it made more sense for the man to make the decision about whether or not he could support a family. However, when both spouses are equal partners, it’s nice for each person to have the opportunity to think through what the responsible decision is. I didn’t realize how true it would be, but the whirlwind of being engaged just doesn’t allow you that opportunity — so you really need space to do it beforehand, and giving myself the power and responsibility to propose helped with that. (As it turned out, incidentally, he’d been planning to propose three weeks later . . . so we were definitely on the same page!)

  • When we got engaged we had talked it to death before hand, which was very important to me. The idea that we get married when HE wants to get married is incredibly stupid. I thought about proposing and decided that he would rather do it and he was glad he did but thinking about it made it feel much more equitable. This was something WE were deciding, not something entirely up to him.

    • Katelyn

      Thank you so much for sharing!! I feel like in many relationships now, where the engagement is less of a surprise and more of a mutual agreement, both sides go through the emotional process pre-engagement. I certainly have. My boyfriend and I celebrate our 5 year anniversary next week, and have been in pre-engagement mode for the past few months. In our case, it’s about both of us being emotionally mature enough. I really, truly, thought I was ready- and played the role of “nagging girlfriend” for a couple months. But as the idea becomes more *real*, and we have our talks about it (which have thankfully evolved to both sides contributing), I feel the hugeness of the situation. And as I strip off the WIC-induced crazy and find more and more websites like this wonderful gem, I read exactly what I’m feeling and know I’m not alone, and understand that maybe it’s ok to wait it out. While this is happening to me, he’s opening up to the idea more and more. So I think we’ll find each other in the middle, like we always do. Which is the beautiful and wonderful thing about our relationship and reminds me how grateful I am just to have him as my partner in crime.

  • Liz

    Wonderful post! The bit about there not being “scripts” for these things really struck home. We were high school sweethearts, together for 12 years before we got married, so we were never really “engaged.” We just transitioned from being a couple to being a couple planning a wedding to being a married couple… there was no proposal, just a mutual agreement that it was time.

    And people still had trouble with that. I was asked our “story” a million times, and people would get this funny look when I answered that it was just time to get married. And the fact that I didn’t WANT a ring? Oh, I was made to feel like there was something wrong with me! I actually wound up not telling a lot of people I worked with about the wedding because I was so sick of explaining why I didn’t have a ring. And J was constantly being told (by people who had never met me) that I really *did* want a ring and would resent him forever if he didn’t buy me one. Oh, cultural expectations are so much fun!

    • Lisbeth

      This. Oh, goodness. My husband and I “got engaged” over a pair of bracelets that he was making. He had recently completed a pair of them as wedding presents for friends of ours, and as he was finishing ours, we got to talking about what we wanted them to symbolize. About 30 minutes in, I interrupted our babbling and asked, “Is this something normal people would symbolize with a ring?” He replied with some spluttering and we both decided to shelve the conversation having agreed that the answer to my question was yes, until a time when we had the mental reserves to deal with the results of what we had just decided.
      It waited about 2 months what with his work and my school both being crazy that fall. So on Thanksgiving weekend, we discussed the significance and decided on a wedding, exchanged bracelets informally, and I discovered, much to my chagrin, that I actually did want a proposal in the standard model, so he re-proffered my bracelet and asked if I would spend forever with him. To which I happily said yes.
      When he told a coworker about this exchange he was interrupted with this comment, “you know what she was trying to tell you, right?” My husband gave him a blank look and said no, pretty sure that I’d told him what I wanted and he’d provided it. The response, “dude, she wants a ring.”
      Um, actually, no, I didn’t. I have gotten so many laughs out of that memory because I used the prototypical ring as the shorthand to ask if he was proposing when neither of us could really face that prospect head on. It wasn’t passive aggressive behavior, it was just the phrasing that was readily at hand.

    • Hi,

      My name is Elise Sole and I’m a journalist at Yahoo. We’re working on a fun story about women who proposed to their boyfriends and I’m wondering if any women here would be interested in doing a quick phone interview this morning. If so, please call me at 310-907-3411. Thanks!

      Elise Sole
      Sr. Writer, Yahoo! Shine
      P: 310.907.3411
      2400 Broadway, Suite 400, Santa Monica, CA, 90404

  • This is such a great post! I wish I would’ve found it 2 years ago when we started talking seriously about getting married. My parents didn’t get engaged–they talked and talked about marriage, and then made a decision and told their parents they were getting married. No ring, etc. The same was true of my husband’s family. So neither of us cared much about proposals. I too, hated the idea of getting married b/c one member of partnership is ready–I wanted this to be a joint decision. I’ve always thought that if your proposal is a total surprise, you have a LOT of talking to do.

    We talked and talked and decided that my now-husband did want to propose, but he wanted some sign from me that I was ready for this to happen. So, I decided when it was time to look for a ring, which we bought and chose together. I handed it over to him, and waited excitedly to see when it would happen. It was a great way to have an outward symbol that each of us was ready, beyond the thousands of conversations we had about it.

    • TrailTart

      This is pretty much what we did. We talked about it, and were clear on the fact that we both wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. I knew I wanted to wear my grandmother’s ring, so I had my mom send it and I gave it to him. Then I patiently waited. (for much less time than I thought I would have to!)

      • We did something very similar, too. We had decided between the two of us that we were both ready (though I was first), and then when we happened to pass jewellery stores over the next couple of months we’d both point out things we liked and didn’t like. Conveniently, we had similar styles, because he wanted to buy it and surprise me with a proposal (which he did, and it was wonderful, but so not a surprise because of his perma-grin the whole day he did it!).

  • About the post-proposal reactions… I always think of pregnant Miranda from Sex In The City. Women squealed and gawked at her big belly while she looked at them confused (almost terrified). When she realized they were waiting for her to start wigging out, she gave them the reaction they expected. After we got engaged, everyone asked if I immediately started crying. When I said, “no, I laughed. Then we high-fived and then we cried,” they looked at me like I was pregnant Miranda. It was hurtful because it made me feel like my engagement (or worse, my marriage) was of no value to them because I didn’t completely freak out.

  • Oh, bless her for talking about the strange mix of emotions that comes when a woman is waiting for the proposal, and how guilty or crazy one can feel over having those emotions. I’ve realized that sometimes I hate telling our proposal story because my now-fiance will bring up how I teased him the entire weekend leading up to the proposal and I invariably feel like I’m being cast in the nagging-for-a-ring girlfriend role (more by the cultural script than by him). I really don’t like how I always feel the need to qualify with a “But he’d asked me for my ring size *months* ago; but we’d already pretty much determined a wedding date and I was getting anxious about doing that much planning in such little time as the weeks ticked by; but he was just as eager to get married as I was, etc.”

    I think it comes down to that last item and how there’s this idea out there that if a man brings up marriage, he’s ready, but if a woman brings up marriage, she’s desperate or needy or “rushing” him. Or if a proposal comes after extensive talk (or yes, even a bit of teasing), the woman has somehow pressured the guy into popping the question.

    • Katelyn

      ” Or if a proposal comes after extensive talk (or yes, even a bit of teasing), the woman has somehow pressured the guy into popping the question.”

      Yeah, what part of ‘couple’ does this stigma fit into? So ridiculous! Heaven forbid you have an open communicative relationship where you talk about your future life together calmly! I’m sure the surprise model works very well for many couples, but me, I need time to really mull things over.

      • Exactly! I remember some of my friends expressing surprise when I casually mentioned that J. and I had been discussing marriage about a year into our relationship (we got engaged right after the two-year mark, which shows you how long I needed to mull it over! :)) or that at one point he’d been ready to propose and I’d asked him to hold off until some circumstances in my life were more sorted out. My reaction was, “Um, I’m one half of this couple… shouldn’t I get a say?”

  • Good for you! I think it’s ridiculous the negative attitudes that exist towards women proposing. The logic is seriously flawed – for instance, the people that will tell you if you propose, it means he wasn’t ready because he didn’t beat you to it. What?! Couldn’t you turn that logic around to say the majority of WOMEN must not be ready for marriage, because they didn’t beat their significant others to it?

    My mom “proposed” to my dad – well, I don’t think she planned it, but their story is cute. No one can ever believe I’m serious when I tell them that.

    Relationships are trending more towards partnerships and equality these days, as I believe it should be. Along with that comes the notion that many of our traditions are outdated. Men proposing to women is great, but it should definitely go both ways!

    I think men should get engagement rings, too. Just sayin’!

    • I know some couples where both man/woman had engagement rings. I think that’s pretty cool!

      • Bee

        My fiance and I talked about getting him an engagement ring when we got engaged, but decided against it. His reasoning was this: I’m still going to wear the engagement ring we picked out for me after our wedding, because the engagement ring and wedding ring go together in a set, but if we got an engagement ring for him, and then a new wedding ring, the engagement ring would just go into a box somewhere never to be worn again after the wedding, and he didn’t want to feel like he was wasting money on a ring. I still like the idea of men getting engagement rings, but I definitely respect the practical side of my fiance not wanting one!

    • Lianna

      I am planning on proposing to my boyfriend! AND, I’m looking for an engagement ring for him, but how do people figure out a man’s ring size? A lot of the rings I’m looking at can’t be re-sized….so I have to get it right the first time. Any suggestions??

      • This is how I handled the ring size issue when I was planning to propose…..
        – it just so happened that we were in Vegas walking around and he was drunk so I dragged him into a jeweler and told him my mom had a family ring she wanted to get sized for him. My grandparents estate was being dismantled so he bought it (and he was drunk enough that he didn’t really remember anyway)
        – when shopping the best piece of advice I got was this – if you don’t know the size exactly, go bigger! It is super anti-climactic if you propose, he says yes and then the ring doesn’t fit!
        – I bought a ring with a 30 day exchange policy, so as soon as I picked it up, the clock started ticking…
        – I the end, the ring was a tad too big & we exchanged it, but he was surprised & delighted and said yes!

        Oh, and also… I ran into a TON of shit from the jewelry store sales people. Some of them were plain mean and thought it was awful that I was going to propose! I was already feeling super vulnerable facing this huge life transition, so I didn’t stick up for myself like I wish I would have… But there ARE people who are cool out there and if I had it to do over again, I would prioritize the attitude of the people over their ring selection!

  • ashley

    My boyfriend and I have been together for over 5 years. Quite honestly, we were talking openly with each other, friends, and family about getting married probably after the first year. It was more of a question of “when.” In my opinion, I was too young to be married yet. This year, we talked and decided it was the right time for a small celebration with close friends and family. I asked him not to concern himself with a proposal as it wasn’t important to me and almost seemed silly to be waiting on a contrived formality to be able to meet with the photographers I’d already contacted. He agreed. We went forward with the planning and after a tiresome weekend of trudging through snow to find an affordable venue, he suggested we take a break from it and go ice skating. He proposed in the park that night with my mother’s opal necklace pendant he had turned into a ring (I was in love with it growing up and my mother was so touched by the idea that she let him have it). He did the proposal for himself because it was important to him. Yes, we were already “engaged,” but he wanted the story and the moment. I found that I like the story as well because he put so much thought into making a special memory for us.

    • ashley

      I have to add though, I encountered some amusing remarks about not having a ring while we were planning. People seemed to not take us seriously, and I even had someone ask me if I was allowed to get married without getting engaged first, like I had to show a ring along with my birth certificate and ID to get a marriage license. When I did get a ring, that group almost breathed a collective sigh of relief that I had done things right and didn’t seem as if I was bullying him into marrying me. Silly.

      • Folks were also baffled when they asked to see my ring, and it turned out to be a teeny silver ring with a little turquoise stone that we bought at a crazy hippie store for $20. People expect bling, and they didn’t know quite what to make of my ring. I loved it, though.

        • Katie Mae

          @Emily: Same with my engagement ring. I want to get a single wedding band once we get married in a couple months, so when he proposed last December I just moved the $50 silver/peridot ring he got me for my birthday three years ago from my right hand to my left hand. It doesn’t really look like an engagement ring, and a lot of people don’t realize I’m engaged (I look a few years younger than I am, too, which might contribute). For the first couple months I got a lot of “oh my god let’s see the ring!!… oh…”. :)

  • Ashley

    Whoa. This post is incredible, and took serious guts to share.

    The cultural noise surrounding proposals/engagements is loud and insistent. My boyfriend J and I had been together 4 years and living together for over a year when we began talking about marriage. He was having trouble finding a secure job out of college, and we didn’t have a lot of money. I mentioned casually to my friends one night at dinner that J and I were talking about getting married, but that I didn’t think he could afford a ring, and did I really want one, anyway? Their response? “If he really loves you, he’ll do what it takes to work for a ring. A ring is proof that he can work hard for your marriage.” (Just like in the above post, their comments had nothing to do with what they know of me and my relationship with J.)


    Because these were smart, sassy, independent women who love me, I swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. Then I went home and repeated that nonsense to J. And kicked myself for a year and a half while he paid off an expensive ring, which he gave me when he proposed on New Year’s Eve (a full 2 years after we first began seriously discussing marriage.) Don’t get me wrong, I love this ring, even more for the fact that it represents months of working and saving and planning. He picked it, he bought it, and it makes me smile every time I look at it. But it is the *only* reason we waited this long to get married.

    I guess every time I look at my ring I am also reminded that this is not the last I’ll be hearing from Miss Cultural Pressure and her friends Guilt and Narrow Expectations. I just hope next time I can block out the noise!

    • meg

      Holy f*ck. That’s… wow. And true. It terrifies me how MUCH stuff in life is like that, even (particularly?) after the wedding.

      • Ashley

        Yeah. In a way I feel lucky that something like this happened to us early on, and now we’re better prepared to face other societal and family pressures (marriage-related and otherwise) together with more maturity and awareness.

        By the way, finding this blog and this community of strong, thoughtful women was a blessing I didn’t know I needed!

    • Stacey

      People are seriously obsessed with the ring. I went into a dress shoppe to make an appointment, and the woman completely blew me off. When I asked if there was a problem, she said, “Oh, I thought you were kidding, you have no ring!” I SHOULD have said something cutting, but I am nicer than that so I merely walked out, deciding to take my business elsewhere.

      I sort of proposed. People keep asking me if I am “really engaged yet” because I don’t have a ring. If he gave me a ring I would love it because HE bought it for me, not because people think I need to have one to be engaged.

      I would have to say that having a date, a venue, an officiant, and less than six months to go, that YES I am really engaged!

      • C.

        I also went without the ring – I really didn’t want one. It just seemed to me that the wedding ring was much more symbolic than the engagement ring, and lots of women I know don’t even wear theirs any more. Plus I lose stuff.
        So I told my fiance – back when he was pre-fiance – that I really didn’t want a ring. Gifts are important to him though, and there is quite a bit of cultural pressure on guys to provide the ring – so he really wanted to give me something else physical to symbolise the proposal. He ended up choosing an antique bronze cross that’s literally 1400 years old. I like it so much more than a ring. Then I bought him a Cary Grant-esque fountain pen, just coz I think it’s silly that only women get engagement gifts.

        Some people love my cross and find it just as meaningful as I do. Others are a little confused by the lack of traditional ‘bling’. It was a bit of a low point when my ma offered to buy me an engagement ring overseas. I had to explain to her that by definition she cannot buy me an engagement ring, and to point out that that might come across as a tad offensive to my fiance! She gave it to me for my birthday instead, and I wear it like any other piece of jewellry – when it happens to match my outfit…

        You’re right, it’s a bit awkward sometimes when people ask immediately to see the ring, but I’ve found that cutting across people’s expectations like has been a good intro to the whole wedding joy and conundrum!

  • A) meg, this is my first time at your new blog and it’s lovely. beautiful but still very APW. it has it’s soul firmly intact.
    B) this was fantastic. carrie, what an honest, heartfelt post – i could relate to SO much and there’s such power in sharing experiences like this. thank thank thank you for writing!

  • I proposed to my boyfriend of nearly 10 years last September. No ring, just a frisbee on which I wrote the big question with a Sharpie. It was lovely, very true to us and our relationship in general, and I have treasured that moment on the beach ever since though it has taken more nerve to face others’ reactions than it did to propose.

    Prior to my proposal, we had talked getting married over and over and over. I knew (as did our friends and family), that he would be perfectly content with our relationship continuing on as the close partnership that it’s always been, but I came to the realization that I wanted the ceremonial aspect of his commitment to me even if he didn’t think it would feel any different to him.

    Except to my best friends and my immediate family, anytime I mentioned my plan to propose, I was also told that I’d be “stealing his thunder” or possibly ruining his surprise. Close friends, even some of his family members truly thought that by my proposing, I was twisting his arm, somehow making him get married when he truly didn’t want to. They believed that I had put him on the spot, and he was going along with it merely to avoid disappointing me with his true anti-wedding feelings.

    As many times as I told everyone that of course this didn’t come out of the blue, that we had discussed it, even talking specifics of the wedding date prior to my proposal, I felt their doubt, their disbelief that this was our choice rather than merely my own, their conviction that I was that pushy girl who was so desperate for a ring that I took matters into my own hands.

    If I weren’t so confident in his love and myself, I would have had a much more difficult time with the reactions than I have had. It did get to me occasionally in the beginning, leading to tears and the need for reassurance from him that he had convinced his parents that he wanted this too, but I still wouldn’t have done it any differently.

    • Alexandra

      Good for you, Hanna! That is a totally sweet and awesome story. My FH & I both took part in the proposing process, and it felt really true to us. When we get married this Autumn, we’ll have been together nearly ten years. Dig it! ;p

  • Allison

    I love this post but it is a little bittersweet for me.
    I knew that he was never going to propose, it didn’t mean that he didn’t want to marry me and it didn’t make me love him less so I decided that I was going to propose.
    I thought about what I would use in place of a ring since he wasn’t a ring kind of guy and when I would do it and if I would get down on one knee and then it all went TERRIBLY WRONG.
    One night while discussing moving in together (again) I told him that I didn’t want to live with him (again) unless I knew that one day we were going to get married so he told me “I could start telling people we were going to get married” blowing my whole proposal out of the water!
    We’re getting married in 4 months (!!!!!!!) and I’m so thrilled that I don’t even CARE about the proposal anymore but sometimes when I read about ladies proposing to their significant others I can’t help but feel a little sad that I didn’t really get a chance to be a part of that “club”.

    • rainy_day

      You could still have a proposal! You could still ask him, and have that sweet memory. :)

    • Aine

      I think that’s a great proposal story! Maybe its just me, but I love hearing people say “I had it all planned out and then they beat me to the punch” because it just shows that you were on the same page. It just strikes me as the most equal way to start an engagement possible.

      I thought about proposing to my fiance, but 1) I already knew I wanted to marry him after three months together (thought it might be a leeetle too soon) and 2) I really really wanted it to be his decision on “when,” because I was nervous about pushing him into something he wasn’t ready for

  • Thank you so much for sharing this, especially the book recommendations. While I was going through the whole guilt-frustration-anger cycle of waiting, it never occurred to me that I could just be the one to propose, to put it out there that I was ready to be a family, but reading this post has put a whole new spin on how my fiance must have been feeling during the weeks before he proposed. I’d seen relationships end badly due to proposal-nagging so I kept everything bottled up, which made me extra crazypants. He seemed cool as a cucumber the whole time, but he’d also been secretly freaking out that he’d picked out a ring I wouldn’t like. Afterwards we were both just in shock for a few days, which didn’t fit with anybody’s expectations of how we should behave (call all the relatives, squeeing, etc.).

  • Ophelia

    My partner and I decided to get married last September (that’s how I describe it, “we decided to get married”). We had been apart for a month and a half while I was doing research in Africa, and I had spent the entire duration of it thinking about how much I wanted to marry him. He was coming over to meet me at the end of my work for a little vacation. I had butterflies in my stomach for the first 5 days, waiting for a good moment to ask him. Then, while I was drinking a beer and reading a book, he grabbed my hand and asked me if I’d like to get married. I screamed, “But I was going to ask YOU.”
    After having already dealt with the fact that people would react oddly to me asking him, I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t say that. So, I guess he stole MY thunder :).
    This is why I say that we decided to get married, together. Because that’s what we did. We were both planning to ask each other the same week.
    In all honesty, I think it’s odd that more women don’t ask their partners. Just like every other gender norm, these things will only change as more and more of us buck the norm.
    Thanks for such an honest post (as always)!

  • Nightravyn

    This was right on the money as far as my proposal to my guy went. I’d thought about it long and hard, and somewhere in the thinking of “hey that would be a cool idea to do ‘someday'”, I found it had changed to “holy @$%#, I’m really thinking about doing this”. And once he said yes, I promptly burst into tears on him, then asked “how the hell do guys do this?!”

    Fortunately, he understood the crying was my tension release, and we managed to get to laughing and being giddy pretty soon thereafter. And fortunately, we have family and friends that have all been delighted in the announcements of “she proposed and he said yes!” Yey for support systems! :)

  • I loved reading this post and the comments. The tradition of men proposing does seem like a strange vestige of a stronger patriarchy. I particularly liked the note that if a woman even brings up marriage, the proposal is treated as not “real.” How obnoxious is that? Thanks for helping eradicate these antiquated cultural norms.

  • beautiful story..i freaking love the women on this site..you guys just rock!

    meg. i love the new layout. so fresh and fun.

  • I wish I had seen this a year ago, too. The morning of the day my fiance proposed, I asked him if he felt like we were moving in that direction. He was evasive and weird about it in an attempt to throw me off the scent, but I ended up feeling like crap all day because I felt like I’d broken the cardinal rule of Don’t Bring It Up Lest You Become THAT Girl. I also was worried he really meant it and really wasn’t sure about me, and having just moved in with him, I was feeling incredibly vulnerable. It had a happy ending, but I wish society didn’t put so much unnecessary pressure on engagements (and I’m just as guilty as anyone else; I love a good engagement story) and I could have talked about it without feeling like I was a naggy girlfriend in a sitcom.

  • Thank you. This is the most beautiful wedding-related post I’ve read in a very long time.

  • Sarah A

    Wonderful wonderful post. What you said ” I wanted to say out loud “We intend to be partners for life.” We were planning a life together, already making all our major decisions together. I wanted the world to recognize our committed partnership for what it really was. Since we both knew it, why not say it out loud and in public?

I also wanted us to be recognized as a family. All the legal stuff really matters to me. I wanted to say to the world: “We’ve chosen each other as family. We’ll share property, protect each other, and trust each other to act for us.” Marriage was the way to accomplish that.” is exactly what I was trying to say to my Future Brother in law that is marrying us. But I couldn’t put it into words.

  • This post is great! My fiance did the initial proposal, but we had talked about it a lot beforehand (and actually had decided to wait a year before we got engaged, which is the big reason why he was able to sneak in a surprise proposal). I had thrown around the idea of proposing to him, and he had agreed with the idea of wearing a ring himself, so as not to have me “marked” before he was, but it didn’t happen that way initially.

    However, over Valentine’s Day weekend this year I proposed back to him (details here: http://weddingness.wordpress.com/2010/02/16/a-proposal-girl-style/) and definitely felt the intensity of the moment, even though we had already set a date/booked a wedding venue! I can only imagine how nervous he was.

  • caitlin

    This post got me thinking…

    Last summer, I got engaged through a mutual-decision-but-we’re-pretending-it’s-a-surprise kind of proposal. Even though I knew it was coming, when he actually said the words out loud, my stomach hit rock bottom. I literally almost threw up. (Which would have totally ruined the moment, of course.) Although we’d talked about it at length, the enormity of what we had just committed to was still completely overwhelming. For a while, I felt a guilty about this gut reaction (no pun intended) and tortured myself over what ‘it meant’. Fortunately, I talked with my now-fiance and found this blog, which helped me realize that any reaction to a proposal (whether on the part of the girl or the guy) is okay. It’s real life, not a movie. There doesn’t have to be squealing and happy tears if that’s not how you feel right away. There’s no script. (The happy tears came later– although I’m not much of a squealer– and now I’m just hoping not to throw up on my wedding day!)

    • meg

      Did you read the post where everyone talked about their crazy reactions to proposals? I think it’s probably more common than not…. just no one talks about it.

      And personally, I think barfing all over the ring would make the best engagement story of all time.

  • peanut

    wow, you’re so brave, I love this! I cannot stand the whiny “but when is going to propooooooseeeee???” bull, and it is so wonderful that you took control and did what was in your heart! We never had a proposal, we just decided to get married and then surfed bluenile to find a ring we could afford; I think we would have gone crazy if one of us had to plan a proposal! Thanks for sharing!

  • Yes! More movement into an equal world. It feels SO alien to me to hear these traditional proposal stories – for us it just clicked and we KNEW we’d get married, no one really asked, it was more a mutual “hey, you’re my person forever, ok?” (though we ask each other a few times a day “will you marry me?” – gross, I know) – so I missed out on all this.

    But power trips by men where they lord an engagement over a woman? Women feeling like they can’t speak up or they’ll be seen as naggy or desperate? Women not being able to ask a man? EFF THAT. You are awesome.

    • meg

      But I’m curious about how you decided to get married, not just be persons for life (you’ve mentioned that was not initially the plan). That’s a whole other interesting discussion.

      • To be honest, I don’t know.

        Ok, since I typed that I just went out to the garden where my uh whatever you call him is planting roses. “Hey, why are we getting married instead of just being each others person for life?”

        He says: “Because it’s what it already felt like. I felt like your husband. I think it boils down to what you were saying about ritual. I guess we could just jump a broom, but there’s something about it being really real, in the eyes of everyone, that feels right.”

        So yes, there was just a moment of “Ok, this is bigger than us, let’s make it real in the eyes of everyone.” that was a mutual moment and as soon as it was spoken, became very tangible and what needed to happen? Like an intense moment of clarity.

        It’s not that I never though I’d get married to him – we’ve been together a fairly short time – I just never thought I’d get married at ALL. Probably because I never did meet the person who clicked like this until now. I’m keeping my last name, though!

      • Ally

        that’s a great question. i’d like to hear more answers to that one. i’m still trying to find my own answer to that question.

        i’ve never felt any need or desire to get married. ever. but my partner always has. i think he’s asked me to marry him (joking or not) at least ten times over the last eight years. i never really took the proposals that seriously. i mean, it’s not that i feel vehemently against marriage, just that it isn’t an important thing for me to do.

        but then one day it hit me. it was important to him. it was important to him to say those words and make that commitment in front of our family and friends. and then it all made sense. and i could do that for him. and somehow i want that too now. i want to make a public statement about our intent to be a family. ironically, this lightbulb went off just a few months after he blurted out of the blue that he didn’t NEED to get married anymore. as long as he knew that we were in this together, he was ok. ha! how’s that for timing?

        and now that we made this decision together (no proposals here either), i’ve found a lot of reasons why i’m glad to be doing this. and i think some small part of me feels like if we need to say vows out loud in public so that our family and friends will really believe that we mean it and trust in our love for one another. well, a few words out loud seem worth that.

        p.s. where are all of the discussions about the name change debate? change it? hyphenate it? change your name to a symbol like prince? i need the practical voices of women who aren’t either shouting “what do you mean you want to keep your name?” OR “you’d change your name???” HELP!

        • We were just talking about last names because of this post, and realized that hyphenated it sounds like LEAF ARROW. Which we’ve been making jokes about for the last hour and the woman officiating the wedding (who I am chatting with now) thinks leaves and arrows should be our wedding symbols. Ok then!

          His dad did ask first thing if I was changing my name, which I thought was weird. I’m not. His last name sounds absurd with my name, and I like my own name!

        • Also, I’ve known a handful of couples (4 off the top of my head) who picked an entirely new name and BOTH changed their names – not a hyphen or conglomerate, just a new work entirely.

        • meg

          Lets just say every time I’ve tried to talk about it, there has been a FIRESTORM. One fire storm was prompted by me saying that you should address peoples invites with their NAME, you know, the one they call themselves, not the one you wish they called themselves.

          I mean, how is that even controversial? But. I can think about trying again.

          • sarah

            i was contemplating changing my last name but i kind of didn’t want to. mostly because it’s my name. and also because it’s a big pain in the @$$ to do!!!

            one day jokingly, i suggested to my fiance that we could both change our names to something completely different! he’s not a very traditional person, so i was surprised that he reacted pretty strongly. he was like “no way, i’m not changing my name! why should i have to change mine?!” i was like, “well why should i have to change mine??” i’m like, “you can’t say that i should have to just because that’s the way its done, but you won’t even consider changing yours.” he said, “well you don’t have to change yours then.”

            but then later, i discovered that he did actually WANT me to change my name. or at least hyphenate. on the one hand, i never felt like i would want to change my name, but i kind of do just because i want to show that we are really a family now and this isn’t just temporary. on the other hand, i don’t want to and it makes me angry that women are supposed to just change their names, and men don’t have to!!!!! my wedding is only 2 months away, and i’m still on the fence about what to do?!?!

          • meg

            Ha Sarah! We ran out of thread. Anyway, ok ok already, I’ll get on it.

            See part of the problem with me writing a totally even handed post, is I’m stubborn and I get pissy about stuff like this. I’d totally be the girl yelling “OHHHH! YOU DON’T WANT TO CHANGE YOUR NAME EVER EVER EVER BUT YOU WANT ME TO CHANGE MINE?” Because I *always* have my temper under control, achem.

            But seriously, I’m beginning to be unhappy with the amount of male pressure I hear about on this subject (emails by the metric ton). I guess I’m saying, I don’t have a problem with people changing their names, at all. But I do start to have a problem when men pressure the ladies they are with to change their names, when the ladies they are with don’t really want to do it. Lovely lovely men seem to fall into this trap over and over.

            But this is all off the record ;) I’ll write the post already.

  • Nina

    Oh I only wish I’d been as mature as you a year or so ago… instead I was fully in immersed in “frustration, anger, guilt, and anxiety…waiting for her boyfriend to propose” and thinking that “if a woman brings up marriage, any later proposal doesn’t count.” And I really didn’t want to be that kind of girl. He proposed, but it took a long time and he couldn’t really put into words why. But now hearing you describe the almost illogical fear that comes over you when it comes to proposing, I can understand why it is incredibly difficult even when you know you’ll get the answer you’re looking for.

  • I agree with those who’ve already commented that this is one of the best wedding related posts that I’ve read in a long time.

    Two years ago I was convinced that my (now husband) boyfriend didn’t want to marry me. His brother got married. On valentine’s day I asked him to marry me (my b’friend. not his brother) but I hadn’t given it enough thought, it came out as a joke and my boyfriend said no. That he wanted to propose when the time was right. I was upset. I didn’t want us to want to get married when he thought it was time. I even had that chat with my mum about marriage not being the be-all-and-end-all of a relationship. Then a couple of months later he did propose and I accepted his proposal.

    He said he’d wanted to propose a while before. But his brother had proposed to his own girlfriend and he didn’t want to step on their toes. And that he needed to be financially secure before buying a ring and entering into an engagement. I totally see where he was coming from and am completely happy with the way it worked out. I am a rather traditional girl but there is still a little bit of me who wishes he’d taken me seriously. (perhaps if I’d planned it more seriously he would have.)

    Congratulations Carrie. I am so pleased your proposal worked out.

    I also love the way you described how even once the decision has been made to propose it takes a while to work up the courage. It is, I guess, one of the most vulnerable questions one could ever ask another.

  • SaraB

    Thank you for posting this! FI and I are in “pre-engagement negotiations”, figuring out if we are definitely good with spending our lives together (the answer is becoming a clear “YES”). Neither of us is a “jump into it” kind of person and we’re trying to do this as a collaborative effort on our own timeline.
    What is driving me nuts is that everyone else is expecting me to get hyped up about a proposal. Every holiday I get “It was Christmas, did he get you a ring???”, “It was Valentines Day, did he get you a ring???”, etc. And then I find myself starting to move into that cycle of expectation, frustration, etc. We’ll make it official when we’re ready and this post encourages me to speak up more and not just wait for FI to kick things off.

  • this is truly a wonderful post! and thank you so much for not leaving out the part about telling his parents about it. as if you weren’t already super brave to ask him in the first place, but to give the announcement as well.
    I feel like I’ve talked to quite a few women that have had situations that didn’t involve proposals. the couples start talking about marriage as the next step and then start planning the wedding. I’m not sure if it takes too much romance out of it or not. there is just so much pressure on the moment itself whether you know it’s going to work out or not.

  • Leigh Ann

    This post made me cry. I am currently in the freaking out, guilty, angry, doubtful phase of waiting for the proposal. I told myself that if he didn’t propose by our fourth anniversary (in June), that I would ask him. But when I broached the subject with him (Joking: What would you do if I just proposed to you?), he made it clear that would make him very unhappy. He’s old-fashioned in a lot of ways, and I’m not. So even though I think it’s perfectly fine for a woman to propose, it’s not something he wants, and I have to respect that. All the while pulling out my hair.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • meg

      But you know what? You just totally skated by your own feelings in this comment and went right to his. Yes, he would be unhappy if you proposed (or he thinks he would, who really knows how they will feel in that moment). Meanwhile it is CURRENTLY making you unhappy in the now to have it be him, and to have to wait. So. There always is the imperfect compromise option. Because you know what? It doesn’t really matter if one or both of you don’t love the proposal. For all it’s bullsh*t hype, is just a means to an end.

      So. There is that.

      • C

        Sarah, building on what Meg has said; you can’t really know what he’ll think in the moment and you certainly can’t know what he really feels about the subject (weddings, proposals, the two of you getting married) if you haven’t had a *serious* conversation about the subject.

        You being unhappy, going crazy waiting and having all these unfulfilled expectations (proposal by him ASAP) will not only make you feel bad but also cause problems in your relationship.

        I think perhaps a *serious* conversation is in order. Despite all the dating “rules” and other bs out there telling women not to have the “where is this going” talk…I think it is healthy and perfectly acceptable to talk with your partner about your relationship/expectations. Not in a pushy way but in an honest way. So good luck with that conversation and a return to a noncrazy state :)

      • Leigh Ann

        Trust me, I haven’t burined my own feelings. We have had NUMEROUS “where is this going” talks and I have told him (as recently as yesterday) that I’m ready to be married, I think it’s time, etc. etc. etc. He doesn’t want to tell me “Yes I plan to marry you someday” because to him, that’s a proposal, and he wants the proposal to be an actual proposal. It’s not like I don’t know that he wants to marry me; I know it. I just want to hear it, damnit!

  • Awww, I’m so glad you guys like the post! *blush*

    Big batch reply follows:

    @ Anni, I offered him the choice to wear the ring as an engagement band, or as a wedding band. He decided to keep it for a wedding band, because the design is meaningful to him and he wanted it to be the permanent band he always wears. (I didn’t digress into his ring design in the post, but it’s a line dividing the ring according to the golden ratio, which encapsulates principles of art and design, and science and math — both big parts of who we are.) In general, though, I also love the idea of men wearing engagement rings :)

    @ Jessica, I knoooow. The whole situation makes EVERYONE crazypants. It really seems like there has to be a better way.

    @ Caitlin, heck yeah! Meg posted about proposal reactions a couple weeks ago. As far as I can tell every possible reaction is normal :) One of my friends actually did throw up when her now-husband made a surprise proposal — just strong emotion and adrenaline.

    @ Nina, haha, I wasn’t as mature as me a year ago! Much less two years ago. I definitely came to this point through months and months of angst and struggling and worrying and feeling like I was going crazy. I didn’t even have this stuff figured out when I actually asked him — just a gut instinct that it made sense, with some half-formed rationalizations.

    @ Rachel, aww, thanks :) I’m glad yours worked out too! I probably overplanned proposing, because I wanted so much to show I was serious. The role reversal can make it harder to be taken seriously, and I’m sorry you went through that miscommunication, even if it worked out well in the end.

    @Leigh Ann, it’s true that some guys really do want to be the one to propose, because they have a kind of traditional streak. That’s totally okay. At the same time, though, the freaking out, guilty, angry, doubtful phase SUCKS. How do you think he’d react if you generally started a conversation about marriage, saying you weren’t asking him to make the commitment right now or anything, but you’d been thinking about getting married? Would that conversation work in your relationship?

    Although I decided to make a surprise proposal to Keith, in retrospect I wish I’d started a conversation, too. It would have helped me feel less crazy, less doubting about whether I was alone in wanting to get married. A couple of weeks ago, it came out that he was planning to propose after I finished grad school, because he assumed I wouldn’t want to get married until then. Having a conversation might have cleared that up with much less angst. I still think I would have done the surprise proposal, but I probably would have been less angsty beforehand :)

  • Sara A.

    I just wanted to share my proposal story…

    So, way back in December of 08 or January of 09 my then boyfriend and I were standing around our kitchen very late at night talking. I have no memory what lead into this, but suddenly the words “Let’s get married!” came flying out of my mouth. And he looked at me with this very serious look in his eyes and said yes. It took a moment to process but I looked back at him and said, “Wait, you’re serious!?” and he said that he was. Then we were really giddy for about a half an hour until there was this dreadful sinking feeling. The enormity of what we’d done kind of sunk in and we agreed that while we definitely wanted to get married the idea of being engaged right *now* was terrifying. So we tabled the discussion until he proposed to me on Friday the Thirteenth of that February. I said yes, of course, because by this time I’d had time to get used to the ideas of “marriage” and “engaged” as they pertained to me.

  • Cassandra

    I proposed to my boyfriend just over a year ago now. If you had have asked me a year before that if I would ever propose I would have said no way! But then something inside of me just clicked & I realised that if I wanted to get married then I should go after what I wanted! It just felt completely right at the time. We had talked about marriage about a year earlier and both decided that we would do it some day but then a proposal didn’t follow. Funnily enough, after I proposed he told me that he had planned to propose in a month’s time! How’s that for being on the same page! I totally understand what Carrie was saying about nerves and second-guessing your relationship – there was that ‘what if he says no?’ at the back of my mind and that was scary. I totally take my hat off to guys now and understand why proposing is such a daunting task. Luckily I didn’t have to wait too long between deciding to do it & actually doing it, about 3 weeks actually. And I had a great friend who I bounced all of my ideas off and was very supportive of my idea.

    He was absolutely thrilled that I had done the asking, it was quite an emotional moment for both us, with a little tear in the corner of our eyes. He said yes before I even did the official asking – the ring & bended knee gave me away… but I told him to wait til I had asked properly before he said anything! I decided to give him a ring as a sign of our engagement and he loves it, now we’re not sure if we should get him a wedding ring as well or if he should just keep the same ring. We ended up picking out a ring for me a bit later and yes, it definitely was one of those things that people couldn’t understand – you’re engaged but don’t have a ring?!?! And telling people how it had happened was also almost as daunting as the actual proposal, you just don’t know how people will react & think. But I realised that those people don’t know us & our relationship so I shouldn’t worry about what they thought. It also made me so aware of societal expectations about proposals. “We got engaged” “OMG How did he do it? Show me your ring!”

    Anyway, I actually think that doing things slightly differently has helped our relationship & also helped me in the wedding planning. It has helped me to find great blogs such as this one and also OBB which was the only website I could find info supporting girls proposing at the time… and now these same blogs are helping me to plan the wedding without going insane!

  • I really enjoyed reading this blog Carrie! Your story is inspiring. I was one of those girls who waited and waited. It only took my husband 7 years, but he did finally propose. It wasn’t until after I’d given up hope of a proposal and slowly became okay with the idea that he couldn’t get married again, that I loved him anyway, and that it really was okay to be with him for the rest of my life without the legal commitment. It took me a long time to let it all go and accept our situation. Then two weeks after I’d made this decision, he proposed! I actually laughed, but I was happy. It was like we each came around to the other’s logic at the same time. I am kind of sad to admit, I never even considered proposing myself. I wonder now why the thought didn’t occur to me, not even once! I am so glad it occurred to you! Your story is awesome!

  • I loved this post. Among other things, it made me realise just how far I have come since we got engaged two and a half years ago. It never would have made sense for me to propose to my husband (because it had been clear for a while that I was ready and we were waiting on him being ready, not because he’s the man) but still the whole part about how girlfriends feel and behave while waiting for that proposal really rang true with me. I hope some pre-engaged ladies read this and decide on doing so to just talk openly about it. I would love if the cultural scripts around this changed, I really would. (Damn De Beers!)

    • Cate, first off, fangirl moment: I love your blog. LOVE it. I love your insights on engagement, marriage, and now raising a child. So, thanks. :)

      This comment is so spot on. We need to shake things up and let people talk about how proposals don’t need to fit into that perfect mold. And the stress and the pressure and the inane passivity of the situation is unhealthy (believe me, I know). We need to let proposals be what they are– not a big fancy show, but a serious decision between two people in love. And those kinds of decisions don’t come about in only ONE way.

  • Oh, GOD, yes.

    “Women are told both that the proposal means everything, and that we have no control over whether or not it happens. No wonder we feel like we’re going crazy.”

    “[Kamy Wicoff] unflinchingly describes the roiling mix of frustration, anger, guilt, and anxiety she felt waiting for her boyfriend to propose.”

    Yes, yes, yes, and YES. I’m a control freak. Admitting that our proposal wasn’t perfect was very, very difficult (and how many times can I link to that one post, damn?). But now I’m starting to feel so much better about the whole experience. My fiance and I propose to each other all the time– we’ll be sitting on the couch, laughing about something, and then one of us will turn to the other and say, “I love you. Marry me?” and we’ll say yes all over again. We don’t need that Big Fancy Moment, and we’re both coming to grips with that.

  • I proposed to my gentleman caller about 6 weeks ago (the word fiancee is still weird for me, but I used it twice on Monday!). We had talked about it ahead of time as well as on and off throughout our relationship. I think we both had mentally planned that we would just agree to marry during one of these conversations and that’d be it.

    One night I just decided that I wanted to get married and I couldn’t wait any longer to get engaged. I wanted something to give him, but a ring felt wrong. First, I didn’t know his ring size and second, I know he likes rings and wanted to pick his own out (in the end, he independantly picked the ring that I would have picked for him anyway). I ended up making him his favorite zucchini bread from his grandmother’s recipe. When he came over the next day, I ambushed him at the door and asked him. He only had one shoe off and after we kissed and hugged, he asked if he could take the other one off. It was cute.

    It’s been interesting telling people just because of that cultural script, wanting to know “how he asked.” Some of his friends implied he didn’t have any balls and my grandma wanted to know if I was pregnant, although she asks that anytime someone gets engaged.

    • Aine

      you should try to start a trend of “engagement bread.”

      • meg


  • It’s interesting that this post happened at this point in time. Several of my friends have gotten engaged recently (three in the last two weeks, I think), and even though I currently have no significant other, I’ve been thinking about engagements a lot recently. Just off-hand one day, I asked one of my newly-engaged guy friends what he thought about girls proposing to guys — and I was surprised about how vehemently he was against it. For the last week or so I’ve been feeling kind of like I was crazy or wrong to even think about it, so I’m glad for this post’s decidedly positive stance on the issue. Of course, at the moment it’s all moot, and honestly, I’m not really sure what I think; I guess I’ll just have to wait and see how it goes, and decide based on the relationship I have with whomever it is in the future I think I want to marry. But I appreciate the honesty and the support of this post. :)

  • Leigh

    Argh, yes! Frustration and impatience and feeling like a nutcase!

    I’ve been with my boyfriend for slightly under 4 years now, and as much as I was totally against marriage in general after seeing some friends who should never have ended up together get married anyway…I’ve realized over the last 3 years that C and I really do love each other, and have a life together and even if I’d just as soon elope, I’d like to be married to him. With him. So I’ve been waiting. Then I planned to ask him once I’d figured out my grad school situation…only it’s not in the cards for this coming academic year, so I don’t have a deadline for myself and I’ve been putting it off and putting it off and wishing he’d ask so that I don’t feel like I’m the only one in the relationship that wants a better gauge of where things stand.

    So thank you for writing this post (and for everyone who’s commented with their stories)! It’s so nice to hear from everyone who’s proposed themselves, or driven themselves crazy while waiting – either way I decide, I won’t be alone.

  • We had more of a “we decided together to get married”, which was best for us. I thought it was silly to expect a “surprise” proposal when we’d made all our decisions together thus far and we’re not big on surprises. There’s also the small matter of me not liking not being in control. : )

    So after a year and a half or so of living together and talking about the “someday” when we’d probably get married, it came up and we just decided it was time and I went with the pick out/buy a ring. Although he did still sort of “present” it to me and ask when it came in (he is somewhat traditional compared to me, although his ways are slowly changing, hehehe).

    If a person is TRULY surprised at a proposal, I think that is a problem – shouldn’t there have been some talk of the future of your relationship? I understand being surprised/pleased/etc. with HOW a proposal is done, but the fact that it happened? Eh.

    Anyways, rock on with the girl proposing!

  • amy

    Thank you so much for telling your story with such candor. I proposed to my husband and this summer we’ll be celebrating our 10th anniversary!

    We’d dated for a couple years, we were committed, happy and I didn’t plan to ask. We were in the produce department and I don’t remember what he said, but he made me laugh really hard and I just felt so happy and content and realized that all I needed was him. Spontaneously, I said, “So, you think you might want to get married?” He broke out in a huge grin and said, “Yeah, I think that might be a good idea.” Seriously. That’s our story. No ring. No getting down on one knee. And I still feel giddy remembering it. I think every relationship is different. Luckily, we don’t subscribe to old conventions when it comes to ours.

    We can’t always trust our emotions–especially in a powerful, cinematic moment like a proposal. But I think that underneath the emotion, there’s always something (cliche as it sounds) in your gut that tells you if it’s the right thing to do. In our culture we accept that you should follow your heart and obey your instinct. I think that’s all right, so long as you’re NOT ignoring your deep down voice. Mine was telling me “yes” that day in the produce department, and thankfully, so was his. I knew it was the right thing. It still is.

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  • Pwitty

    We had spent several years discussing the fact that we wanted to get married, but were in no rush (both being students, with only part time jobs really limits the wedding fund). We had discussed a lot of details and both had some pretty non-traditional ideas – starting with the fact that neither of us is that into diamonds. I had been spending quite a bit of time looking at wedding stuff online, but had never really seen any engagement ring that I thought could be the one….until I found a Sapphire estate ring that was perfect (and affordable, but the appraised value was more than 3 times what we would pay!) I didn’t propose, but I showed him the ring and kind of opened up the “are we ready now?” conversation. He took about a day to think about it and after making sure our budget allowed for it, we bought the ring. We both liked the idea of a “real” proposal (though I did offer some preferred guidelines – nothing too public and don’t put it in food!) We went out several times and each time I was excited that tonight could be the night….several weeks later, we were walking the dog and stopped at a secluded picnic area…he got down on one knee & everything. Of course I said yes/cried/kissed him & he even thought to bring the camera, so we have pictures of that awesome evening too.
    Long before the proposal, we had half-joked that the guy should get something too, since the girl gets a ring…so about a month ago, we finally bought his engagement car, lol.
    I didn’t propose, but certainly took a non-traditional role in the engagement. I dont think it’s a problem to discuss marriage beforehand or to let the guy know if you’re ready – it’s only a problem if you truly are nagging him nonstop about it or demanding a wedding/giving ultimatums…that makes me question the sincerity of wanting to be married vs wanting a wedding. I’m all for women who are brave enough to propose though…it would be really nerve-wracking!

  • sarah

    Wow… I love it!!!!!!!!! This post actually made me cry a little.

    See, I felt like I was going insane, too. The thing is that my then-boyfriend and I had already decided that we were going to spend the rest of our lives together. In our minds, we had already made that commitment, but the proposal was just a way of making it official to the rest of the world, and then starting the whole wedding-planning process. But it just kept taking FOREVER, and then i started 2nd guessing everything and driving myself nuts. he started thinking maybe i really was insane. then i worried that i was going to drive him away. Some days I would just cry and I didn’t know why! I think waiting for the proposal was more stressful than wedding planning has been!

    When it did come, I was just relieved. There wasn’t a lot of big pomp and circumstance, because he knew that I was ready and I just wanted to do it and get the waiting over with already! And i’m sure he wanted me not to a psychotic mess anymore, too! So when people asked for the whole “story” and all that I was kind of like, what story?? He proposed, isn’t that the story? And isn’t all that intensely personal anyway? But people are looking for that big show, and if they don’t get it, well then you’re just a disappointing story!

    But the real story is that 3 years ago, on a warm summer’s day when we were walking around our neighborhood chatting, he turned to me and said, “I’ve dated a fair amount of people in the past, and I don’t think I need to explore what’s out there anymore. I know that you’re the one for me and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” And that was the real proposal, in my mind. But no one would count that as a real proposal, because there wasn’t a “ring” and a whole lot of bla ti bla. So it’s not just about gender stereotypes but also just about societal stereotypes in general.

    That aside, I do think that it’s totally awesome that you were able to throw these stereotypes to the wind and say to HELL with it! I’m going to do it anyway! {And it worked out, too!} Maybe if more of us women had the courage to do it, we could avoid this whole weird crazy neurosis waiting period. Wouldn’t that be a relief?? And heck, like you said, the guys would probably be relieved as well!

  • Kristina

    I’ve recently found this blog and have definitely bookmarked it. With just recently getting engaged (non-traditionally) it’s a relief and a comfort to be among other open minded and supportive women. Several times as I’ve read an article or post, I’ve sent the link to my finance and asked him to read it as you guys often put into words how I’m feeling or my concerns that I can’t seem to pin down.

    This post in particular is amazing as it describes both the one-waiting and the one-proposing sides, which helped me understand the pressure my honey has felt and helped him (I hope) understand the crazy-angst I’ve felt.

    Thank you for such a wonderful and insightful post, and thank you all for contributing to such a great community.

  • Moz

    What an absolutely bloody brilliant, completely beautiful post on what is fast becoming one of my favourite websites, period.

    Thanks so much for your honesty, Carrie. Might even be my fave post on the site so far.

    I am curious, though – how differently would you feel had Keith said no, he wanted to do it himself? I know it’s a big hypothetical, but is it still something you’d have been glad you did?

  • Sylvia

    Thankyou so much Carrie for starting such an interesting and emotive debate :-) I have sat here at my computer for forty minutes alternatively crying and laughing out loud as I read through your post and the responses above.

    My boyfriend and I share a loving and commited relationship in which equality plays a strong role and I have always believed our relationship to be completely equal. Until I read the post above and opened my eyes to the trap we have fallen into. My lovely boyfriend and I have had numerous conversations about getting married. We are both openly commited to each other and have agreed that we want to formalise this through a marriage ceremony and so all that remains is for him to actually propose (while I secretly read wedding blogs like a crazy person when he’s out of the flat!). This post has made me think hard about the ridiculous societal expectations that are intruding in our relationship and has inspired me to start planning a proposal of my own.

    Whether I do propose (definitely with some kind of engagement bread!) or he gets there first I am deeply deeply grateful to you all for challenging me to look more closely at my relationship and for empowering me with the knowledge that whether I decide to propose or to wait and let him ask the question, it is my decision to make.

  • Karen

    We planned our proposal together. My FH had already asked me to marry him after we were together only a few months. I was actually going away for nearly a year without him, it was right after high school. My friends had as a joke got me one of those friendship books for kids that all your friends fill in. It asks things like “what is your favorite food?” and “what do you want to be in 10 years?” To this last question he answered “your husband”. Then in the years following we talked about it plenty of times, mostly in the ask-eachother-half-jokingly-way. Then I realized at some point that we were both ready, but he found it too scary to actually do a proposal. (Yes, men can be scared too). So we talked about it, and planned a proposal together. We planned a weekend away, he did get me a ring, but we both asked eachother. It wasn’t a surprise, but it was a wonderful weekend and still felt like the real moment. And I just really like that we planned it together, so that it was at the time right for both of us.

  • Cat

    Oh good lord, Carrie, you are totally ON IT. This is so awesome for me to read today. I am quite in love with my boyfriend, and he’s in love with me (actually, I’m not sure if IN love is the proper term, as it implies that uncontrollable feeling of love, where it’s all that matters. Perhaps “we love each other” would be better). Both of us want to get married. For me, being engaged would mean so damn much. Just knowing that he loves me enough to stay with my crazy ass for the rest of our loves would be incredible. I’ve seriously thought about proposing to him for the longest time, since I don’t know if he’ll ever get around to it (terrible procrastinator, he is).

    HOWEVER. Once upon a time, we talked about getting married. He will be the first in his recent family to have a proper wedding and marriage – his mom never married, neither did his grandmother, and his brother is 14 years older than him and although with his girlfriend for about 5 years, they have no intention of getting married. He’s a huge romantic (he cries when he watches Ghost, or Somewhere In Time, or any other romantic movie), and he has this whole vision of the proposal. For him, the proposal is the important part. The wedding is what comes after – he’s told me that as long as at the end of the day, we’re husband and wife, he’s fine with almost anything. But the proposal is that part he really cares about. So, out of respect for him and his wishes, I’m not going to propose to him.

    This post, though…Really gave me some new perspective. If our relationship goes on long enough with no proposal, I’m just going to do it. The whole bit you wrote about watching a friend play that game waiting for him to propose really, really got to me. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

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  • Caroline

    So I have a question ladies. Those of you who proposed, did you use a gift other than a ring? what?

    I’ve slowly (hahahaha, over the past 15 hours since reading kamy’s book yesterday, though I’d considered it before) come to the conclusion that I will ALSO be proposing to my man. I know he “wants the thunder” but you know what, I do too. I want to ask his parents blessing (I admit, asking my parents’ blessing is way scarier), and ask him to marry me, and get to do the choosing, and him feel being chosen. I haven’t decided if I’m going to plan it and wait until after he proposes or not. I presume we’ll probably use his proposal as the official “announcement” proposal.

    That said, we agreed many years ago we were going to get married someday. We’re in agreement we’re going to get married *soon* now. We’re thinking next spring. Our families KNOW we’re getting married someday. (his mom and dad gave him his grandmother’s ring to give to me, and I’ve told all my family for years that I’m marrying him someday. that said, I’m 20 and *appropriate marrying age* in my family lies between 28-35 so they’re going to freak a bit, or at least my parents. at my older cousin’s wedding, my aunt said “so your next, right” with a grin. and my sis is my confident and bff, so she knows it’s coming soon) So really, if I propose after him, it’s not… really that different. It’s not like we’ll have officially agreed to get married after his proposal. Or even start planning the menu, or guest list, because we’re already talking about things like that and have been for a few months. (the menu for a year lol, though we’ve been revising it for cost lately). I guess this is all a little justifiying the fact that I’d kind of like to propose first, but I think if I do, he’d be a little sad he didn’t get to, and might not propose at all.

    Anyways, besides all that. I’d like to get him a gift that he’ll keep forever. We don’t have a ton of money (and didn’t spend any on the ring he’ll use, as it was his grandmothers). He isn’t a jewlery guy, and already has the promise ring I had custom made for him which he does wear, so another ring would be redundent. cuff links, he has 3 gold and diamond pairs from his grandparents, and he hasn’t ever worn them yet. I’m trying to come up with ideas, I was thinking maybe a really nice fedora, because he loves hats, especially fedoras. Or a gun, because he really wants one, but I don’t know enough to pick one out, and don’t know if giving a gun is a little like giving a knife.

    so, ideas?

    • Caroline

      since I’ve been bursting at the seems with excitement, I told my partner that I’m going to propose to him as well. And I asked him “so I was debating giving you a non-ring gift or not” and he was emphatically no. (not surprising, since he hates receiving gifts). So that’s easier. no gift, just a proposal. I’m very excited. Thanks to all these lovely ladies for making me realize that it’s ok, awesome, and exciting to propose to your man.

    • Meriel

      I just posted a similar comment. My boyfriend is really into music and is getting back into playing guitar after a long hiatus, so I was thinking of getting him a guitar. He already has a couple, but I figured this one would be really special. Someone also suggested I get him a nice watch if I didn’t end up going for the guitar, so that’s always an option too.

      I think it’s good to think personal, to think about their tastes and interests. I’m totally a jewelry freak, so aside from a ring being the traditional engagement gift for women, I would actually want a ring or necklace or something. So I think the key for finding the perfect gift for your guy is something they are really interested in, and something that is fairly durable and that they will hopefully keep for a while. Not sure if that helped, but at least you know you aren’t the only one in this position! :)

  • Valentina

    well, way to go!!!

    it is not a bad thing for us, girls, to man up a little :))

    thank you. i find your thoughts on inner battles very, very encouraging – just the kind of thing one should hear/read in the trying moments… there is something so comforting in the knowledge that you are not alone, hey, not even the first one caught in the inner storm… (actually, you are not alone, from what i see, but i do live in a slightly different culture from yours. but hey… the times are a-changing)

    you did it, in spite of all the “reason” that said “don’t do it”… and what’s even more important – this is a success story, and a beautiful one, too. again, way to go! :))

  • Just what I needed…. suddenly realized today that the right thing for me to do is propose to my boyfriend of ten years. He was waiting for me to work through my issues regarding marriage and weddings and the concept of being a wife, and now that I’m ready? I need to step up to the plate and let him know that his wating is over.

    • Also? This brought me to tears. So thanks, times two.

  • Meriel

    I’m going through a somewhat similar situation right now. My boyfriend of almost 7 years and I have been talking about getting married these past few months, discussing what marriage means for us, what it would change for our relationship, what it wouldn’t change, etc. I decided I wanted to use my great-grandmother’s diamond engagement ring and have the stone re-set into something a little more my style, and although I will pick out and design the setting, I want my boyfriend to surprise me with the ring when it’s ready and a proposal.

    However, I don’t like that it’s usually the guy who offers this material symbol of a promise to the woman, so I plan on buying him a guitar as an engagement present to symbolize my promise too, and asking him to marry me as well. He loves music and isn’t really a jewelry guy, so we decided a guitar would be a meaningful alternative. Part of me feels lame for wanting the surprise element of the proposal part, and I often think to myself, “We already are basically engaged, what’s the point in waiting for this tradition that will suddenly make it official?”. We feel like we already are pretty much engaged, and are mostly waiting for the material symbols to follow. I told him the surprise and romance was important to me, and he says he doesn’t need to be similarly surprised by me proposing, but I’m struggling to decide whether my desire for the formal proposal is just plain silly.

    Also, what if you both propose together? That’s what I would really like, although I sort of feel we have already done that by discussing and agreeing about our readyness to get engaged. I’m not sure if it’s possible to propose together, because there is always one person who first pops the question…and a ring is a lot easier to keep in your pocket than a guitar!

  • Heather

    I was considering proposing to my now-fiance with a watch around our 4-year anniversary, during a road trip to move me to grad school. However a conversation we had earlier that week made me think he wasn’t quite ready, so I didn’t. I gave it as an anniversary present instead. He surprised me by asking me the day after said anniversary as we were unpacking my car.

  • Nadine

    Thank you so much for recommending Young Wives’ Tales. I just got it today and have already devoured the first 70 pages. My boyfriend and I have been discussing getting engaged, but something (nothing to do with him) has set me on edge about it. This book is a treasure.

  • Bethany

    I have toyed with the concept for some time now. Bouncing it off of friends and mulling it in my mind. Weighing expectations vs responsibilities. The thought first occurred to me because we have been together a long time. (9 years this Sept.) He proposed to me 2 years into the relationship and I said yes, but then realized the timing was all wrong and told him we needed to wait. We had a healthy successful long distance relationship for nearly 4 years while I was in college. I know, I know people say it ‘never’ works but that’s simply not true. I feel like it’s my turn to propose to him because he already has. This won’t be me saying, ” Will you marry me?” but rather ” I’m ready now”.

  • Jenny

    Hi there! I know this is late in the game as far as this post goes, but it has given me strength to go through with something I have wanted to do for a while. I love him and I want to spend my life with him. I was actually crying while reading this, which makes me sound like a nut job. But I don’t care…this is a new day and women can express their love just as much as men can!

    • mabel

      I cried the first time I read this too. Nut job solidarity!

  • Rachel

    It’s funny the gender norms that hang on even among women who are actively pushing against them. My female friends are all feminists. None of them change their names when they get married, but it goes without saying that their children will have their husband’s names. And none of them have ever considered proposing to their men. The idea of letting him do it on his own sweet time is very deeply ingrained. I watched a friend of mine drive herself crazy waiting to be proposed to, and I swore I would never do that. There is just no need to experience anxiety about something so beautiful. Recently, however, I’ve realized I’m heading in that direction.

    My partner and I recently moved to a new city and our relationship has blossomed and deepened in the last few months. It feels wonderful, so I’ve been trying to just enjoy it and savor the anticipation of the next step. But I can’t lie – I’ve been doing a lot of wedding planning in my head, and it feels strange to have this one-sided internal conversation, when it’s obviously something we should be talking about together.

    I have no problem with proposing to him, in theory. But I actually want him to do something special to formalize the moment. Earlier in our relationship, I felt like I was the more demonstrative one, the one who said “I love you” first and more frequently, the one who planned special weekends away… he’s gotten better at this, but it’s still important to me that he learn how to plan special events to celebrate our love. I don’t want a ring, but I want a romantic proposal. It could be a picnic lunch on a hike or a homemade dinner in our backyard, but I want it to be something he’s planned for me.

    Reading this post and the comments made me realize (1) that it’s ok to want to have that special moment, even though the reality of modern egalitarian relationships is that it’s a decision arrived at mutually and (2) that I can initiate the conversation about when to get married, and still have him “propose” if that feels important to me. So as soon as I get my gumption up, I plan to let him know that I adore him and feel ready to start planning, and also that I’d appreciate a “proposal” of some kind.

  • Alexandra

    Awesome. We had a mutual, in-stages path of deciding to get married, but we also had a Formal Proposal. He had asked me early on, I’d said Maybe, and we joked for years that I’d have to be the one to ask next time. So pretty much, we agreed and then he asked formally, with our full names. I feel like I got a good dose of both sides of the story. ;-)

  • mabel

    Your comment on the previous post about proposals and engagements described exactly what my experience was with proposing! You described what I felt almost exactly, right down to me buying a (stainless steel) ring six months before getting up the courage to do it. When we moved in together we were already talking about how we knew we would be getting married. At the time I didn’t feel ready, but I had total puppy fever, so I told him that if he did want to propose, the ring better come on the collar of a puppy. Three years later we were even more in love and proud “parents” of a five-year-old rescue dog. So when I decided to propose, I knew I had to include our little dude. I drew a comic book detailing the timeline of our relationship, cut out a square on the back cover to which I attached a ring box containing a super shiny stainless steel ring, and attached the whole shebang to our dog’s collar.

    I think the experience of planning the proposal was very important for me. It really solidified for me how I feel about us and I wasn’t any less excited when it happened than I would have been being proposed to.

    I was totally unprepared for how excited my now-fiancé was! He figured it out when he “took a knee” to take the book off our puppy, and said “Am I in the right position for what is about to happen?” The look on his face was priceless. And your post about women proposing was a big part of what made me feel like I “had permission” to propose. I still struggle with the reactions of other people though. I worry, since they did not see how excited he was when I asked, that they will assume we fit the cultural stereotypes of woman who is almost psychotically anticipating the proposal/wedding and man who would rather be running for his life but feels roped in. It sucks so bad that that is how the stories “mother culture” tells make us feel. I felt a little like I STILL wasn’t legitimately engaged because the MAN, who everyone knows is trying to avoid marriage for as long as possible, hadn’t done the asking.

    I am so glad APW exists to challenge cultural expectations and thank you for writing this post. I even printed it out and carried it around to give me encouragement before I proposed!

  • Marlena

    Love the article!!! I’ve been thinking of doing this for months and months. Reading the online articles, toying with the ‘what if’s’…

    We are both in our 40’s… He’s NEVER been married… says the thought scares him. I on the other hand have been down this road twice. But I’m ever the romantic and we all know that by this age a woman is more secure and knows more of what she DOESN’T want in a spouse.
    So you’ve given me courage…

    We are both not very traditional and very unsuperficial… so it’s not a question of who gets the ring or the engagment presentation… more a case of – if he’s not going to propose, then I will.
    He’s told me he wants to spend the rest of his life with me, he’s just scared of the stories of breakups etc… (perhaps my track record LOL)

    PS it’s been 4 years of absolute bliss… never had an argument. Some may say that’s unhealthy, but we’ve come to realize that it’s all about compromise and what’s important. Getting into arguments isn’t one of the important things. It helps that we’re somewhat established and past the child bearing age.

    Here’s hoping he doesn’t shoot me down!

  • Marlena

    Hi Again,
    Not sure if anyone is still following this post or not… I did it. I proposed!
    I proposed in a scaredy cat sort of way. I am a big chicken, afraid of confrontation or seeing disappointment or reactions of anything negative in peoples faces.
    I spent a couple of days creating a ‘fake’ magazine cover with a pic of him and I in our halloween costumes from last year. We were Bride and Groom clowns. Complete with polka dot wedding dress, dozen NOSES bouquet, veil, the whole shebang.
    The mag cover was BRIDE and I made up little captions to tell the story.
    Unconventional Brides who proposed:
    In this Edition:
    Marlena asks Mike, will you marry me?
    Does Mike say Yes?
    blah blah blah… you get the picture.
    So I printed this out and stuffed it in with all the flyers that come in the mail as he’s a flyer man and then went and hid in the shower while he perused the flyers. To make a long story short, he was blown away by the creativity and thought process involved… He said yes and has proceeded to carry that Flyer around with him everywhere he goes to show everyone he knows.
    So in 140 days we’ll be married!!!

    Yay Us!!!

    • Teagan

      yay for you!

    • Claire

      Woohoo! Go Marlena!

  • Ruth

    Thank you for all of the sharing that has been included on this site. Heartwarming reading for sure.

    About a year ago my man had a dream that I proposed to him. When he told me about it, I responded by telling him about the Leap Day tradition. Our relationship has deepened and evolved since that time where we have an understanding that we will get married and have even discussed what a wedding and honeymoon would look like. I plan to propose on Leap Day and am hoping to give him a “rock”….a customized garden rock to mark the occasion and to symbolize the committment. I’m not worried about him “needing” to do the proposing….he told me at the very beginning that he wanted to be “chased” too.

  • Hi,

    Thank you so much for writing this, I think it’s really important that we take equality in relationships seriously and talk about these ridiculous myths. Surely our men aren’t all such cowards that they would say yes ‘just to keep the peace’ when they really mean no.

    And the stories about the rings are so true – even if you don’t like diamonds there is still so much pressure to be a real cherished princess.

    Also – the frustration and huge feelings whilst ‘waiting’ – spot on.


  • Kate

    I HATE how everyone believes a woman should wait for the man to propose. I’ve even heard people call women proposing ‘pathetic’…but what I think is pathetic is waiting around to be asked by a man. If you’re so damn ready to marry the man you love, ask HIM! Don’t wait around like some desperate, blushing bride to (maybe) be!

    I am planning to ask my partner to marry me after I finish university, and I know he would love the sentiment. And francly, I’d say he’s expecting it.

    Women proposing to their partners is KICKASS.

  • jacquelyn

    i know this post is over a year old, but i just have to tell you how much it has helped me. i was feeling the EXACT same way as the author- like a crazy person, driving myself insane waiting for him to pop the question. when a light bulb went off in my head and i realized that i could take the reins and propose to him, i was terrified to tell anyone what i was thinking. this post gave me the courage and affirmation that i could, indeed, do this. i had it bookmarked and read it daily during the 2 weeks before i proposed. i was nervous as hell when i did it, but it was perfect. he proposed right back to me with a ring he’s been holding onto- my great great grandmother’s engagement ring. neither of us got down on one knee, and i gave him a watch that i had engraved with song lyrics in lieu of a ring.

    when i first considered the idea, i was terrified. my biggest fear is that he would feel emasculated, think it was “weird”, or worse- not take it seriously. i was also worried what our friends and family would think. in retrospect, i should have given him and the people close to us more credit. he’s not traditional, and i love him for that. it would have been uncharacteristic of him to get angry or laugh at me. instead, he welled up with tears and hugged me. him proposing right back surprised me, but it was great. it really made both of us feel that neither of us are more dominant than the other in our relationship. our parents were thrilled; no one cared how it happened, but that it happened. i wouldn’t have wanted our proposal to go any other way. we’re now planning our wedding for september of 2012!

  • Brittney

    Loved this story! January 1, 2011, I proposed to my boyfriend of two years. We’ve known eachother for 8 years and I was his first girlfriend many years ago. He lived right down the road from me and our families were/ are very familiar with eachother. After many years, one son and a broken engagement, we reconnected via myspace. He just went through a break up with his fiancé and I ended a relationship 3 months after I had my son. I always, always knew we had something special.. Even though I just gave birth to a child for another man I had to give it a try with him. Since then, he has taken on the role as a father to my son. He is the only dad that my son knows and is more loving than any biological father i know. He is amazing, we click, we finish sentences, both have strange sense of humor, but we are also have very different personalities. He is passive and I’m aggressive but it works for us. We are both friends and partners. We are very vocal and honest with eachother. We discussed marriage a lot before I popped the question. He did no want me to ask bc he wanted to make it perfect and have the perfect ring etc. Well, considering he already had an opportunity to propose ( 1st engagement ) and I didn’t want to wait, I decided to ask him. I’ve never been so sure about anything in my life, I wanted to spend every day every second with him and I want everyone to acknowledge us as a family. So.. On 1/1/11 midnight, I had house lit up in candles, and “our song” on radio, and popped out the question and a wedding band for him. He cried like a baby and said yes! I was shaking and in shock. Everyone we told was a little in shock and confused. I knew they were thinking I was just desperate to ask him. But they were right, I was desperate to ask him, I couldn’t wait any longer, I love him with everything I have and cannot wait to make him my husband and have a family with him. If that makes me desperate that’s fine with me. A couple weeks later we bought my ring and picked it out together. A beautiful black diamond ring. We were never traditional and I love our story. Sometimes I wonder if I should have waited Til he asked me but then I remember that just because it’s traditional and it’s engrained in us that men propose, doesn’t mean that’s how your story has to be written. Although I have taken criticism fro
    Proposing, I would never take it back. We are getting married in 7 months and we are both very happy!

  • Me together with my lady were thinking regarding this issue. However the thruth is usually, people cant believe in details authored in world-wide-web.

  • Lorraine Loren

    Wooh thank goodness for this post. I’m proposing to my boyfriend in almost one month to the day (on the condition that he hasn’t proposed to me my birthday, which is in five days). We’ve talked about getting married for a little over two years. we have even gone as far as to discuss the first dance, location etc… Just thinking about what I’m about to do brings tears to my eyes (I cry very easily). However I must say that I am way more scared to ask his parents for their son’s hand in marriage. I’m planning on inviting both sets of his parents to a secret dinner to discuss/ask them.

  • Letitia A.

    I seem to be breaking a TON of wedding conventions with my marriage. I proposed to him, though it was really more a build-up of frustration taking verbal form, which sounded something like, ‘So when are you going to marry me?’ His response was, ‘How about tomorrow?’ We were married three days later, on a dock, with our roommate and his girlfriend as the officiant and witness. We didn’t tell our family for several weeks. He has since joined the Army and has been away from home for over a year, so we’re planning a second ‘real’ wedding for our family and a few friends for when he comes home on leave in January, more than two years after we were actually married. I’m a little iffy on whether or not having a staged wedding is really ok, since we’ve been married for two years now, but as he’s been gone for so long, and I really want real wedding pictures for our munchkins with our family and my friends, I think we’ll make it work. Congrats to you for your courage and spirit!

  • Teagan

    I asked my boy to marry me, it was wonderful and very us.
    What suprised me was how much I enjoyed having MY ring on his finger.

  • Edith

    Hey Girls, Thank You so much for posting all this… I am living the same story as the one up… Been with my partner for over 4 years, we are talking to have children soon, and he already told me he was thinking of proposing, but for some reason, I was in a bad mood that day and it back him off… Since then, I haave been expecting it, but nothing is happening… So I am going back home in Quebec for christmas and coming on new years eve, and I thought to give him his Christmas present then, which would be a ring in a box… It is scaring the hell out of me, because who knows when you are ready 100% to get married, but I think it is time, and I think I will be so proud of me after actually doing it…
    Everyone wish me luck..
    And thanks again for your support…

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  • Bob

    I’m a guy and I’m think it’s cool when women propose.

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  • Sara

    Hi this is the first time i have seen your blog, and i cant tell you enough how glad i am that i found it! My partner and I have talked about getting married for about three years and like you I have waited and waited anxiously and then ive nagged and then ive been really angry at him and doubted that he was even sure about us at all!! My partner has very high expectations, Its an all or nothing situation when it comes to him, where im a simple soul i guess lol He wants this massively expensive ring and i could really care less cos to me its more the meaning than the cost of it!! Im not quite sure what it was but we went on our first proper family holiday over xmas and something in me just clicked, Why couldnt I just do it?? I cant picture being with anyone else other than him we have a beautiful family and as much as he is a pain in the A** (as im sure i am sometimes :P) he is my bestfriend……So i found a ring, I asked his family what they thought and if i had there blessings and they were really glad and did explain to me it was a leap year so it was even better lol I was on this real high and was ready to return home to him and just blurt it out!!! I got home however told my mum and my brother they were fine with my decision and then i told my father who said that he would only say yes because he felt sorry for me?? which made my little happy bubble pop!!! I still want to do it however, but I am scared that my father may look at him differently knowing that i took charge in this situation and not him!! I dont want that for my partner. I dont want poeple to look at him differently because of it! In someways what my father said has put me off hence the reason i havent done it yet. I am absolutely petrified I dont know how to propose to him. I am defintiely sure that this is what i want and im certain he wants to get married too otherwise i wouldnt ask but its so daunting my tummy turns and i get soooo nervous thinking about it!! I am usually the creative one, I can always figure out how to brighten up someones day, but this time round I cant figure it out for the life of me how to put this together. I am soo glad that i read this blog atleast now i know im not the only woman who has felt this way its very reassuring for me.. Sorry about the long post lol

    • Claire

      Hey Sara,

      I think you should just go for it. There will always be people who disagree with the concept, because it’s relatively new/different. I’m planning on proposing to my partner of 7 years sometime shortly and so far have only told two of my closest friends and my sister. My friends are very supportive but my sister is not, because she believes men should propose. But I don’t care! There is nothing conventional about our relationship, so why should we stick to traditions that don’t matter to us.

      I haven’t told my parents, because I’m certain they, or at least my father, would disagree with me proposing. But they are old fashioned and I can understand that. Don’t let your father get you down. He’s probably just trying to protect you and doesn’t want to see you get hurt. But if you are certain your boyfriend will say yes, and you genuinely want to be the one proposing, I say go get ‘im!

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  • Michelle

    I’m relieved to hear I’m not alone. After living together for over a year, the mention of marriage gets me a dirty look. He has sooo done the teasing then getting upset when I’m thinking about it. I’ve never been married and he’s had two failed marriages. So I see that he’s nervous, but the mind games drive me crazy! He even went so far as to get on one knee to give me a promise ring…I was understandably upset. I’m 38. I’ve been thinking about proposing, the whole New Years thing, I’m Irish, but I really think he would either just say yes to appease me or so no because ‘the time’s not right’. So I’m stuck. Congrats to those his has worked for. I will still be stuck in the cycle until I give up or decide to leave, I fear.

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  • HJ

    I loved reading this, I just proposed to my boyfriend of 18 months, last night. We have talked it to death and both have spent time getting our own lives together so we could make a better partnership. Lately, I felt something shift (in a good way) and I asked him on the anniversary of his third year in his business, we had toasted with prosecco, eaten a good meal, made love and it just right to ask. I was a bit shocked when I heard myself ask, but I didn’t think he would say yes, which he did instantly. He’s been wanting to ask me for some time.

    Of course, now we have to do the rounds of telling our messed up families, not all of whom I suspect will be thrilled about it. I do wonder what my Dad will say when my boyfriend asks for his blessing and admits that I asked him, rather than my boyfriend putting together some wacky over the top man-proposal, with fountains, a choir and a big blood diamond, which I would have hated. But I worry that my Dad might think my boyfriend not asking might mean he is somehow less committed or lazy for not asking himself.

    We’ve always been a very equal, non traditional couple and this feels right for us. But I just hope people can be happy and excited for us rather than second guessing my proposal.

  • I.N.

    I’ve just sat and read through every comment on this post, and I just want to scream, “Thank you!”

    I am madly in love with my boyfriend and after 15 months of living together (after moving over 7,000km to be with him), I SO just want to be married to him. I plan on popping the question in February, on the 2nd aniversary of us leaving behind our countries to be together.

    After buying the material for the ring (part of the reason for me waiting until Feb is that I need to gather the other materials to make it), I started to doubt myself, wondering if it would be emasculating for him if I did the asking (I was the one who asked him out initially), and I was looking online for… I don’t know. Reassurance.

    Most of what I found was horribly discouraging, along the lines of “You’ll look desperate and pathetic” – or, worse, the votes *for* the woman proposing, which were basically “If he can’t get his crap together and ask, you’ll have to do it.” It is so refreshing to read comments from intelligent people who actually think before they type. And in a civilization where divorce is the norm and marriages are treated as almost disposable, it’s nice to see so many people advocating open and honest discussions in which both people consider whether they want to be married before a random, shocking event where either party might feel pressured to say yes.

    If I’m honest, I would like a ring, but I don’t expect him to pay for one (he thinks that engagement rings are a way of buying/bribing women – I am working on convincing him that they’re pretty symbols of affection and commitment and don’t imply ownership); I’d be happy enough to move my great grandmother’s ring to my left hand, as long as he’s the one that slides it on my finger.

    Anyway, I’m Teal Deering you all, so, I’ll end this now. To everyone who’s posted above, though, let me just say again, thanks.

  • Jena

    Thank you so much for sharing. I am wanting to propose to my boyfriend for all the same reasons you spoke about in your post and he is very similar to your now husband. It makes me feel good that I am not alone!

  • Good info. Lucky me I found your blog by chance (stumbleupon). I’ve book marked it for later!

    • I.N.

      I had this bookmarked, too :) If you haven’t already you might want to save it under another name; my plans got revealed a little sooner than intended.

  • Zeph

    My guy and I have been living in different cities for about 2 of the 4 years we’ve spent together. We began talking about getting married about a year into our relationship (I don’t remember who started it). Then one day, in August 2010, we somehow got onto the topic again while chatting online, and I asked if he’d like to marry me someday. And he said yes. Just like that. And we’ve been “engaged” ever since. Neither of us wears a ring, although we are planning single bands when we get married next year. Not sure there’s much of story here really, but the post prompted me to share. :)

  • This was a beautifully written story. Very brave. Congratulations to the both of you. It’s high time we challenged the old way of doing things. I’ll admit, I’d be a little embarrassed if I were being beaten to the proposal punch, but I’d also be deeply moved by such a brave and loving act.

    Now, about this section:

    “We’d watched a friend wait and wait and wait for a proposal that never came, hinting and teasing and nagging to no avail. Her boyfriend seemed to relish the power it gave him; he’d hint that he was going to propose, and then not follow through.”

    To that guy, and any other guy who does that to his lady,
    this is all I have to say to you: GROW UP!

  • I.N.

    I asked him and he said yes :) I’m still a bit in shock, but mostly I’m just happy.

  • vanessa

    My boyfriend and i have been dating for a year now, and i just feel like he is the one.. although he is much younger than i am i feel like i am ready for the next step. Im madly inlove with him and not one day goes by without me thinking about him. I want to propose to him before he goes back to school and i am soooo nervous

  • Nieci

    Here is my situation. He proposed to me years ago but the timing was not right. So one day we was talking about marriage and he made a statement that it was ok if I wanted to propose to him this time and we laughed, but I was already thinking about asking him on his Birthday in November. I am so thankful for this website because all of the other ones says do not take his thunder from him but in my case I think it is ok and we are close enough that I know it would not hurt is feelings. My only question is should i do it with a ring or something else like an engraved watch that I love and i know he would love and how would I do it that is out of the norm as this proposal would be. Sorry for the long message!!!!!!! Thanks

  • Julie

    Thank you so very much for posting this. I am actually in the midst of planning my proposal to my boyfriend next Sunday, October 28th. We have gone ring shopping together for MY engagement ring, but I cannot get it out of my head that I want to ask him. We are both on the same page about spending our lives together, non-traditionalists, and crazy about each other. I have joked in the past about the proposal role reversal, and he just said, “Well, why not?” I keep having the same thoughts–Will people consider it a “real” engagement because I asked and don’t have a ring? Will this come off as desperate to others? Will I steal his thunder? Will he think I am rushing things (even though we have talked about our ceremony and ring shopped already)? When I sit down and really think it through, though, I realized my worries are based on outside societal pressures. I never dreamed of getting proposed to, and never dreamed of my wedding day. Instead, I dreamed about meeting the man of my dreams, and here he is.

    I feel in my heart that this is the only way I could possibly communicate how very much I love him and care about him, and even though we went ring shopping for me and the ring may be coming soon, there is something that keeps telling me to do it first, so I am following my heart and my gut. I will keep everyone posted. I plan for us to go hiking at our favorite spot, and propose to him on the day I opened up to him about my feelings for him a year ago. Nothing fancy, not in public, but just a day and spot special to us. I have only told 2 people, and none of my family yet. That is the part I dread, as I know my family will see it as rushing.

    In any case, what a great story! I look forward to having my own!

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  • I’m very glad I found this post.
    I just got off the phone with my partner. Tonight he mentioned for the second time in our four-year relationship the idea of me proposing. Before I did my research I was totally against it and had all the same fantasies in my head that are stated above.
    I try so hard to fight them but it’s very hard to do with everyone’s opinions very clearly in your face. (Not to mention how most young girls are brought up. Princesses! Pink! Etc etc).
    Reading this however, I am sold, and my new fantasies of ME proposing have begun.


    Ps. I am Irish and love my Irish roots. It’s an Irish tradition that Leap Day is the day for women to propose. The next one is 2016. We’ll see if he beats me to it. ;)

  • Abby

    I feel really terrible because this post strikes particular notes that have been ringing in my life lately.

    My boyfriend and I live together. We’re going through a serious chronic illness together. We know we’re going to end up together, and usually that’s enough for me.

    But over Christmas this year, I just had this feeling that he was going to propose. He stole me away from a family gathering to drive around and look at Christmas lights. He stealthily changed the the CD to beautiful choir carols. We parked at the beach, looking out over Lake Michigan. I just FELT that he was going to propose.

    And then he didn’t. I don’t know why, but I felt angry, confused, and hurt. For NO REASON. But we had this big “don’t you WANT to marry me?!?” type of fight. As we were falling asleep, he softly asked me if I wanted to marry him. I told him my answer (which amounted to duh, I love you like nothing else, let’s do this thing TEAM MARRIAGE or something along those lines).

    Please tell me I’m not the first woman who’s badgered her man into a situation like this? :(

  • Elena

    For a long time, my “comfort space” was in being single for life. Then, I realized I wanted to marry one of my best friends. He is THE ONE, and getting married is the most natural course of action — for both of us. We knew this is what we want to do, and this is what we are going to do. … But how? Well, in a couple of weeks, I will propose to him on my birthday. But that’s not all; he will then have his chance to propose to me on his birthday, which comes 3 months after mine. No one gets left out. This is not a race nor a competition. This is a chance to show each other sincerely how we feel and our commitment to to the relationship. So, it is essential that we each get our forum to express ourselves in a creative and authentic way.

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  • jeessica

    I put serious thought into proposing. I even bought a ring! But when i told my friends and family no one supported the notion. They all felt that breaking tradition was just going to leave my heartbroken. That the only reason we will get married is if he asks..meaning he wants to. I feel like that logic is messed up…he can want to marry me…saying yes to my proposal and not have proposed himself. Needless to say, I havent. And now everyone has me thinking….if he hasnt asked yet…does he even want to?

  • Beth

    This is probably the best article I’ve read to help me think about the whole act of proposing and what that means for both people in the relationship. Thanks for giving me a lot to think about. :-)

  • Kato

    I’ve spent the last couple of months reading all of the wonderful posts on this site and I would like to thank everyone for all of their stories (and help). I’m planning on proposing to my boyfriend on Monday and there is no way this would have ever been possible without this support sysem.
    Thank you so much everyone & wish me luck :)

    • Katl

      GOOD LUCK! :)

      • Kato

        Thank you!!!! It went perfectly! He was very surprised and he loved it!! :)

  • Elena Griffin

    Since my husband and I were split from each other for three years, I never thought anything would work. I tried to be positive about this spell because I knew it was real and because of that there would be no negative things that happened, so what did I have to lose? Well actually I had everything to GAIN! My husband has been home now for over a week and he is home for good! The kids are so happy and we are having a renewal of our vows on our anniversary in September. I cannot thank you and your gods enough for helping him to find his way back to us. You are the real angel here Dr. Lee! He is ready to help anyone that comes for help. Contact him via: Ancientfathersandmothers@gmail.com

  • Hazel998

    I am proposing to my boyfriend in the next fortnight on his birthday……I have been married before now divorced and I want to do things differently this time around…..until a few weeks ago I was very anti marriage due to my past experience altho my boyfriend has made no secret that he wants to get married at some point but due to my sceptical mind I have always said now way until now!!! I realise that I cannot judge my future by dwelling on the past my current relationship is nothing like my past and I love my boyfriend and want to grow old with him I want to be able to call him my husband things I never thought I would say :) I am excited and nervous after reading things on Google but I know he and my 2 children will be over the moon and make us a much stronger family unit!

  • LiziBeth

    This made me so happy to read :) I proposed to my partner back in November (on the side of a bottle of whisky) and I got a lot of “how brave” “I could never do that” and it shouldn’t be something seen as brave to go against the gender norms! – it’s the 21st century!!

  • Erilysbeth De La Rosa

    Will you still be willing to do an interview on a woman proposing to her boyfriend
    I am doing a flash mob for him July 26th, 2014

    Cell: (414)736-8815

  • Gamey Lovejoy

    For the last few months I have been thinking of proposing to my bf of just over 2 years. I love him to bits as most people do when they think about marriage and I know I really want to ask him, but I’m stuck on the how. My birthday is coming up and I will be 21. I have arranged a small party with a friend who says he would be happy to be the live entertainment (he is a musician and has a band).

    My biggest issue is should I be doing this on my birthday? I want him to know that all I want is him so I think proposing on my birthday would sound grand but then what if he feels pressured into saying yes? I am 99.9% certain he will say yes but as you say, those doubts will still be there. There has been plenty of talk about our future, marriage, children and a lovely home and we get on great, talk out our problems and really compliment each other in the things we do together.

    My next issue is, is it appropriate to have a guy friend singing a love song at a 21st (think “I only want to be with you” cover by “Volbeat”). What if I chicken out and don’t ask him straight after the song. I have been shaking with just thinking about asking him! Will it seem really weird and awkward?

    The last point I want to make about this relationship is, I don’t plan on having a ring. I don’t need diamonds. If anything I will be happy with a wedding band when that time comes. I know he feels the same way about not having diamond rings as they are just a money making scheme by a jeweller many many years ago that carries on to this day. I don’t want to buy into marriage, I want to just be happy with my man and the life we have.

  • Blondiprincess

    My proposal will come this Sunday 05/18/14.. And I can’t believe the roller coaster of emotions. I almost called it off due to some people. Wait for him. He’s the man. Your going to hurt his feelings.. But I am a very strong independent women. I know what I want. And I know who I want to spend my life with. But just as you describe, I feel up down all around. Despite what people think this will go on. In 4 day I will purpose to the man if my dreams

    • Paige

      How did it go? I am panning on proposing this weekend 5-23-14 on our 2 year anniversary of dating.

      • Blondiprincess

        It went amazing. I really don’t know why I got myself all worked up. There is no rule, or weight or wrong way. He said yes. And cried too. His feelings were not hurt in anyway. He said I’m the happiest man in the world right now. And I almost called it off due to people making bad comments to me. But I stood my ground. And now happily engaged to the man of my dream’s. I won’t lie it was scary as hell.. But I would do it all over again.. Good luck to you :) and remember we each write our own story. And we will write it the way we want too..

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  • Teresa Helen Johnson

    Morning! On the marriage subject I always thought it was a men’s job to purpose to women.But, now that is tradition but is not wrote in stone.How ever he has called me Mrs D. Many times and he knows at the end of the day we both desire to get married.Within the 3 years I have know him and growing in love more and more to know I want to live the rest of my life with him.He told me to get rings.And a few times he asked me when am I going to propose to him.So I just ordered some rings , respond I waiting on the rings. What is your view on that I’m open minded.Thanks

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