Waiting for a proposal? This
post is for the ladies ...
Cram Brisbane Marriage Celebrant
| Wedding Traditions | Proposing |
It's the 21st century, ladies! In fact, next
year we'll be a quarter of the way through this
century, so it beats me why social media
reinforces the idea that the man (in a hetero
relationship) is the person who must be the who
pops the question.
It also gets me that being proposed is supposed to
be a complete surprise! (to be fair, that's a bit
of a fib because there is plenty of evidence of
women doing quite a bit of controlling about the
when and where, and even the how).
If you are female and in a relationship, and you
don't buy into the inherent inequality of the
belief that it must be the man who
proposes, this can be very frustrating.
Particularly as the reasons for the belief that
proposing is in the gift of the male no longer
apply. And it's made even more frustrating because
there is only one historically “
acceptable” day on which a woman can propose to a
man – and this happens only once in four years -
patience will have to be a virtue. Or not!
In a world where we women not only have the vote, we
are elected to Parliament in increasing numbers, and
we can be Prime Minister, State Premier, a Judge, the
CEO of a multinational company, Head of a Government
Department, entrepreneurs, and top performers in any
profession or trade you can think of, does the
world seem to believe that the one thing a woman can't
do is ask the man in her life to marry her? Time to
fact check and turn that idea around.
It's true, there is still an almost ingrained
belief that marriage proposals are the domain of the
male. This not only sends a message that marriage is
the gift of the male, and therefore the male doing
proposing is the “proper” way.
Actually, fact check, the belief that only a man can
propose because that's the way it always has been is
simple not true. And, though treated as a secret,
women do propose. It's one of the questions I ask
couples - Tell me your proposal story. Who asked,
when, where and how? And a not
insignificant proportion of my straight brides did the
I like to think of the male proposing as an
interim tradition. And a pretty sinister
one from the point of view of a modern women. For
thousands of years it was the family of either the
bride or groom who pitched to the other with an
offer to good to refuse – we’ll exchange our
daughter/son with your family in return for a
strategic political or economic alliance.
Neither the bride nor the groom had much of a say in
who they married.
A woman not only had no right to her own money or her
own property, but also no legal right over her own
body. So she had no right to make any decisions on her
own, or for herself. She belonged to the men in her
life. Her father, and after marriage, her husband.
Despite social changes resulting in greater
independence and autonomy, it took until March 2019
for the British Parliament to resolve to start
including mothers' details on marriage certificate.
In the 19th century, the notion of couples marrying
for love gradually became more acceptable.
Nonetheless, women were still considered to be under
the control of the men in their lives, so the groom
would have to seek the bride’s father’s permission to
propose, which tacitly meant getting his agreement
that he would transfer the care and control of his
daughter to him at the wedding.
At the time, and well into the 20th century, women
were restricted in what they could do, career-wise,
after marriage. Until 1966, women employed in the
Australian public service had to resign on marriage.
If their job was one that was considered unsuitable
for a man (such as typists) they could return as
temporary staff, but could not be permanent or hold a
supervisory position, so earnings were kept
In that climate, a woman asking a man to marry her
would have been considered quite rude, except for that
one day every 4 years – 29 February. And there was a
socially approved get out of jail clause for the men.
If they refused they were required to give her a pair
of gloves! That in itself should be a clue that it is
a tradition that has long passed its use-by date. When
was the last time you wore a hat and gloves to go to
the shops or into town (except in the middle of
Why 29 February?
Before the 15th century, Leap Day was handled by
doubling up on February 24. So there were two of them.
Pope Gregory XIII changed the
calendar in the 15th century the double date was
changed by adding a day - 29 February. But it wasn't
an "official" day on the calendar, in fact, It was not
until the Calendar (New Style) Act was passed
in 1750 that 29 February was formally recognised in
Because no laws applied on that day, unintended
consequence was that women were free of all the
restrictions on their behaviour that applied to them
every other day of the year. Taking the opportunity to
sort out romantic situations free of
legal or social restrictions was something they did
Why is it believed that it is
the man who should propose?
Why does this particular tradition remain such a
stubborn part of our collective consciousness? Why do
so many women wait patiently through years of
“dating”, often experiencing all of the other
milestones that used to come after marriage – living
together, house, children, and so on while still
patiently waiting for him to pop the question? Beats
me, particularly as it is really not a big deal for a
woman to be the one who proposes. When heterosexual
couples tell me that she proposed, there is no sense
of them thinking that was odd or unusual. In our more
enlightened times, when there are two potential grooms
or two potential brides, the question doesn't even
It’s also true you don’t need to wait for a special
day to tell someone you want to spend the rest of your
life with them. When you know, you know. Except that,
maybe, just maybe, it has to do with the idea that
part of the proposal deal is the gift of an
(expensive) ring. And it is rude to ask someone
to give you an expensive gift. Newsflash. You can get
engaged without a ring. My husband and I chose my ring
together, and that was such a romantic experience. It
was also a practical one because we set the budget
together, and discussed the style. Single solitaire,
with the total budget put into that one stone.
Occasionally when I’ve been doing a naming ceremony
I’ve commented to the mother of the child that maybe
the next time I see her will be for their wedding. And
many’s the time when the answer has been, I’m
waiting for him to propose. I always egg them on
pop the question themselves. Case in point.
Lovely, lovely couple. I had the discussion with her
three times, after each naming. Eventually, she did.
And he told me later that it wasn’t that he didn’t
want to get married, he just didn’t know he was
expected to formally propose! Anyway, they got
married. Lovely, happy wedding, and one of the
strongest marriages you could ever wish to see.
Times are changing. When it comes to who pops
the question, but more and more couples are telling me
that she popped the question. And he was delighted
that that stress was taken off his shoulders. And
not one single one has asked me not to mention it
when telling their story.
A new tradition is emerging
As is happening with marriage ceremonies and
wedding traditions, same-sex couples are
showing the world that there are other (often better0
ways to propose. Reciprocal proposing. Where each
plans a proposal and it is not until both have said Yes
that they make the announcement that they are engaged.
Or simultaneous proposing. Sometimes accidental,
sometimes carefully orchestrated. Always wonderful
So, don't wait. Don't be intimidated by outdated
beliefs and peer pressure from long-dead ancestors Go
for it, girls. Trust me. You're not going to end up
with a pair of gloves!
And don't forget that all laws now apply on 29
Thanks for reading!