Jessica (not her real name) is about to ask her boyfriend to marry her – 29 February is a date when, according to tradition, women can propose to their partners. While Jessica prepares for the big moment, she and seven other women who popped the question share their stories.
“We’ve talked about marriage a lot and we know we want to get married but I decided to do it on 29 February, since that’s true to tradition,” says Jessica, who lives in Bristol.
She has had photos taken of her standing at five places in the city that are meaningful to her and her boyfriend, holding up signs that spell out, “Will you marry me?”
After showing her partner the photos, she plans to get down on one knee and propose, then take him to a local pub where their friends and family will be waiting.
She has even had jewellery specially made, melting an old engagement ring passed down by her family, and using some of the gold in a bracelet for him and a ring for herself.
“It’s nerve-wracking but exciting,” she says. “It’s been quite hard to keep it a secret – I think in some ways he knows something’s going to happen, but he doesn’t know how it’ll happen yet.”
But Jessica is still an exception to the rule. In a US survey by AP, nearly one in four people said they felt it was not acceptable for a woman to propose. And out of the respondents who were already married, only 5% said the woman was the one to propose.
We’ll let you know how Jessica gets on later in the day – but for now here’s what happened when seven other women asked their partners to marry them.
The underwater proposal: Emilia Ribeiro – Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil
Rodrigo and I had lived together for five years when I proposed. Neither of us are really into words, so I wanted to propose in a way that would be symbolic, but also speech-less.
We went on a guided scuba diving tour in a river in Bonito. It ends up below a waterfall, where it’s like you’re under a curtain of bubbles.
The diving master helped me hide the ring in the scuba diving equipment, then when we were behind the waterfall I swam towards Rodrigo with the ring. He was really surprised!
Everybody thought it was a cool idea – firstly because I proposed, and secondly because it was underwater.
We’re now married but Rodrigo likes to joke that he never said actually yes to my proposal [since we were underwater at the time].
Society is designed so the man needs to propose to the woman – but the man proposing doesn’t make your marriage more or less romantic.
Women need to be confident – people can waste so much time thinking, “When is he going to propose to me?” and creating lots of expectations. I think if you want something done, you can go out there and do it yourself.
The bracelet: Ally Richardson – Birmingham, UK
Proposing is something I’d thought about doing for quite a long time. I realised I’d been, on some level, waiting for my partner to propose, then it occurred to me that I was ready to make that step and it felt quite silly to just wait and see if it would happen.
I spent a while thinking about what to get him. It didn’t feel appropriate to propose to him and say: “Now can you get me a ring?” I settled on a bracelet with several rings on it.
On the morning of the proposal I felt very nervous, even though I knew it was probably going to be a yes.
I still felt shaky and had butterflies in my stomach. I was worried he might be upset I’d taken the opportunity to propose away from him.
I made him breakfast and showed him the bracelet, and said: “Will you marry me?”
I think he was very surprised – he wasn’t sure if it was a joke! He seemed shocked in a happy way and quite surprised.
When people found out we were engaged they’d always ask me how he popped the question. They’re often quite embarrassed when I say I was actually the one to propose – not because they have set attitudes but because it’s just what people expect.
I’d definitely recommend it to others. You give up the excitement of having someone propose to you, but it’s a great feeling to be able to show someone you love that you feel that way.
The blanket fort: Brooke Armstrong Pazoles, Baltimore, US
Matt and I had been dating a long time and lived together – we were in a pretty committed relationship.
Two summers ago, I was going through a really stressful couple of months. I went home one night and all I could do was lie on the floor and cry.
Matt found me on the floor, and asked me: “What do you need?” Eventually he said, “What if I build a blanket fort for you?”
He built me a great fort with blankets in our room, and we lay in there for a while until I calmed down. I thought to myself, “Someone who builds me a blanket fort when I’m stressed is someone I want to hang on to.”
So I asked him to marry me. I was a little bit nervous.
His response was: “Is this for real?”
We both started laughing and the nervousness went away. I said “Yes,” and he said “Yes.”
He also wanted to propose because he didn’t want to miss out so he arranged a more traditional proposal a few weeks later.
I guess we technically both proposed to each other but I did it first! We got married in September.
The big surprise: Flavia Massucatto – Sorocaba, Brazil
There is a bar called Berlin in Sorocaba which Diogo and I always frequented. There is a big square in front of the bar so I decided to propose there.
On the night of the proposal, I arrived at the bar with Diogo and some friends who knew about the surprise.
Then I invented an excuse and left the bar. I went to the square where all our family and friends were hiding with heart balloons, photographers, and a microphone and sound system.
I’d already agreed things with the owner of the bar – a waiter came to the table and told Diogo his car was involved in a crash outside. So he left the bar to check on his car – and to his surprise, saw all of our family and friends there, and me proposing to him.
I was very very nervous but very happy too. I didn’t get down on one knee because I was wearing a dress but I was very sincere.
Diogo was always a special man for me – he is a great person, a great son, a great brother and a great friend. I thought he deserved a special moment.
He was surprised – he told me that he never thought I would propose. It was so exciting and cute, and a few months later, we got married.
The pizza proposal: Jenny Fawson – Briton currently living in Bochum, Germany
Simon and I were going home after a weekend with married friends.
We were walking along the main road in the dark and the rain, and trying to figure out what takeaway to get. We were deciding between McDonald’s and Pizza when I just said, “Should we get married?”
I felt a little nervous as I asked but it was very spontaneous – you feel a rush, a bit of a release, and it’s very exciting.
Simon was surprised, but he said “Yes” and we kissed. Then we went home and sat at home eating pizza, both a bit stunned and overwhelmed by what had just happened!
We’d talked about marriage early on in our relationship, but we both knew that he was ready and I needed some more time, so it was probably always me who’d have to propose.
Seeing friends who had been married for a few years and seeing how it had worked for them made me look afresh at marriage and decide to revisit the idea.
Nearly derailed by a snowstorm: Emily Vana – Pittsburgh, US
My fiancee, Emily Guhl, is more traditional than me, so I felt it was important to her for me to get down on one knee and propose.
I spent a long time saving up money for the ring. We’re pretty aware of each other’s finances and pay all our bills together, so if a large amount of money went missing she would have known.
We are both originally from Chicago, so I planned a weekend back there for the two of us in January 2015.
Emily loves skylines, so we booked flying lessons with a private plane and I was going to propose to her in the air. However, it being Chicago, a giant snowstorm derailed that plan.
We ended up going down to the planetarium, which has the most amazing view of the skyline. I set up my phone to take automatic pictures, and got down on one knee and proposed.
It was definitely nerve-wracking – not because I wasn’t sure what Emily would say, but because I felt so much pressure to do something memorable.
It ended up working out well – we’re getting married in April.
‘I proposed with a fruit pastille’ – Kimberley Evans, Cambridge, UK
Nicholas and I were on holiday in Croatia and decided to go up this mountain path. Two and a half hours of climbing later there were stunning views, and we decided we wouldn’t go any further.
We sat down, and it was just beautiful. The view was fantastic, we were all on our own, and I realised this was the perfect moment.
So I asked him: “Do you want to get married so we can do this more often?”
I didn’t have anything prepared because I hadn’t planned to propose to him – so I proposed with a fruit pastille!
I didn’t have time to be nervous. I went from thinking, “This would be a perfect time to ask,” to asking him, in the space of about two seconds.
When we walked back down the mountain we talked about all the other various proposals we’d thought about that didn’t happen.
I had thought about making a cake and having it written on the cake, and we had both thought of proposing at a gig we went to before our holiday but they didn’t play our song.
Everyone was really happy we were engaged, although apparently one of my aunts was horrified because women proposing isn’t the done thing, apparently!
Plenty of people have asked him if he felt surprised I proposed and he said both yes and no because somehow it just felt right.
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