Waiting for a proposal? This post is for the ladies ...

by Jennifer Cram Brisbane Marriage Celebrant  © (28/02/2019)
| Categories: | Wedding Traditions |
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Woman Proposing
If you are female and in a relationship, the notion that it must be the man who proposes (still for reasons that not longer apply regarded to be gold standard for proposals) can be very frustrating. Particularly as there is only one historically socially 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 be elected to Parliament, 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, why do we have to be proposed to, rather than asking the man in our life to marry us? But there still remains an almost ingrained belief that marriage proposals are the domain of the male, which sends the message that marriage is the gift of the male, and  the male doing proposing is the “proper” way, and the way it always has been.

Actually, fact check, that's not true. 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, in England and Wales only the father's details are recorded on marriage certificates.  EDIT: In March 2019, the British Parliament resolved to start including mothers' details.

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 constrained.

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 winter)?

So 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 couples tell me that she proposed, there is no sense of them thinking that was odd or unusual.

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 it 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.

So, don't wait. Go for it, girls. Trust me. You're not going to end up with a pair of gloves!

Thanks for reading!

Jennxxx Talk to me soon about how you can
                    have the best ceremony ever

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