How To Pop That Big Question

Katie Young
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Wednesday - February 14, 2007

The first question from any woman’s lips upon discovering her friend has become engaged is, “How did he propose?”

Most men won’t care. “You’re engaged? Cool. Congratulations,” they’ll say. And that will be that.

But women want to know the details - all the details - from start to finish. I’m not sure if it’s just curiosity, loving to hear a good story or wanting to live vicariously through someone else’s romantic encounters, but we just need to know.

“Did he get down on one knee? Did you have any idea he was going to do it? Did you cry? Did he cry? What did he say to you?”

And typically, the more elaborate proposal stories receive the most appreciative sighs and coos from a woman’s peer group.

It’s a lot of pressure for a man, I’d guess.

But why is the proposal so important to women anyway?

I imagine mostly because women feel it is the only proposal they’re ever going to get, and therefore it had better be spectacular. They’ve waited 20 or more years to find Mr. Right - the man they want to spend their life with - and likely, they’ve also spent a good many years dreaming of how Mr. Right will ask her to be his forever.

If you spend years thinking about a specific moment in time, that moment can easily grow exponentially to fairy tale proportions! And if the man is not riding in on a white steed in velvet robes carrying a rather large diamond, some ideas may seem to fall short of worthy.

Many valiant attempts have gone awry. I knew a guy who took great pains to propose. He took SCUBA lessons (even though he was afraid of the ocean), crafted a handmade sign using seashells that spelled out “Will you marry me?” and planted it on the ocean floor. His plan was to bring his girlfriend diving (her favorite pastime) and happen upon the sign. Only he forgot where he put the sign and they spent a great deal of time swimming around in circles before he finally had to tell her what he had planned.

They never did find the sign. She said yes anyway and they’re still married.

There are countless websites offering helpful hints on the “right way” to propose. An article on offers some advice. For example, don’t: Hide the ring in food, propose too early in the relationship or make it public. But do: Know if she wants to pick her own engagement ring, drop to one knee, tell her why you want to marry her and make it a surprise.

I found it interesting that one website explained the practical reason behind a bent knee proposal: It puts the engagement ring in an elevated position between the couple, letting the light hit the ring clearly, therefore highlighting the glitter of the diamond. The sentimental appeal is, on bended knee, it appears as if the man is offering himself wholeheartedly to the woman and elevating her to an exalted position in their relationship.

But all do’s and don’ts aside, I would guess that for the future bride, the most important thing in the end will be that the proposal is personal and heart-felt - that the man took time and put in the effort to think of what would make his woman happy.

Most of my friends who are now married barely consider their proposals anymore. One friend said, “Now that we’re married I realize that the marriage is what’s most important, not how he asked me to marry him.”

As little girls, we women might dream of the perfect proposal, but the reality of adulthood, I think, is that the marriage will take work. And the most significant thing about impending nuptials isn’t necessarily how the man proposed or the size of the diamond ring.

Women may always have that part of them that dreams of fairy-tale romance. There are those men who can live up to that expectation.

But it’s also important to remember that romance can exist in many forms. And even if your proposal isn’t written in the sky, gurgled at the depths of the ocean or given on bended knee, really, what’s more romantic than someone asking you to be theirs for the rest of your lives?

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