She asked him to do what!?
February 17, 2007 6:59 PM   Subscribe

I asked him to marry me. I live in a very open-minded, liberal and culturally aware area. To my surprize, the general reaction to learning about the engagement is one of complete shock. People seem so amazed that I was bold enough to get down on one knee, ring in hand, and propose to him. Which led me to the question of, how common is it nowadays, for the woman to ask the man to marry?

After googling, I couldn't find any statistics or basic generalizations as to how common (or not) this is. So I thought I would bring the question here and see what MeFites thought about all of this.
posted by engling to Human Relations (50 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Essentially, my wife proposed to me. We were planning a trip to the Southwest, and she suggested that we could go through Las Vegas.

picking up on her vibe, I said "No. But will you marry me?"
posted by jimfl at 7:22 PM on February 17, 2007

I think it's great. Congratulations!
posted by alms at 7:24 PM on February 17, 2007

Congrats. I'd say it's still uncommon. I know one man personally who's been proposed to, as opposed to the dozens of women i know who have been proposed to. for another data point: i'd do it, but i'm pretty sure he'd say no. so i guess i'll wait until he does it. or die first of old age.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:37 PM on February 17, 2007

My sister proposed to her husband prior to their wedding last June. I'm not sure if it counts in the tally, however, because they'd previously talked about marriage, and my now-brother-in-law had said, "I know you don't want to get married (in general). So I won't ever ask. I'll wait for you to ask." Only a few months later, my sister cooked a special meal, and over fallen chocolate cake (did I mention she is a baker?) on the couch in the backyard proposed to him.

I think the decision about whether to propose as a woman is about power dynamics in the relationship. If he is comfortable enough in his own skin, and the relationship is egalitarian vis a vie the leadership/navigator roles, then it works equally well for the man, or the woman to propose. If he's still working out where his place is in the world, or has grown up in a more traditionally male dominated household/culture, it may present long-term difficulties in the relationship (even/especially if he does say yes!).

I realize I'm getting a little verbose here, but I theorize that we make a lot of little snap judgements that affect what we do with a person and in a relationship ever after (and are super difficult to change). In college, I impulsively bought flowers for a boyfriend at a farmer's market. Thereafter, I was the one who brought flowers- and he was quite suprised when I suggested that I, too, would enjoy receiving flowers occasionally.

To sum it up: you're not alone- congratulations!
posted by arnicae at 7:46 PM on February 17, 2007

You're not alone, of course, but I think it's uncommon. Far more common for the woman to tell or suggest to the man that he should ask her to marry him. I guess that's sorta the same thing but not really.
posted by dobbs at 7:49 PM on February 17, 2007

Due to societal conditioning, and (evolutionarily speaking) some degree of innate human nature, women are more likely to desire marriage (well... long term relations with one mate). So a woman proposing, rightly or wrongly, has this sort of duh aspect to it. Of course you want to get married. Likewise, men are societally (and, again, innately) expected to "play the field" a certain amount - to fear being "tied down". Hence, female proposal is uncommon, and will likely only occur under certain circumstances in very enlightened relationships. (Check out The Selfish Gene's chapter "Battle of the Sexes" for interesting sociobiological grounding here)
posted by phrontist at 8:04 PM on February 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

I asked him. Seven years next week :)
posted by rdc at 8:09 PM on February 17, 2007

my good friend proposed to her boyfriend, and he said no.
posted by apostrophe at 8:11 PM on February 17, 2007

Response by poster: arnicae, i appreciate your thoughtful discussion. the power dynamics of our relationship are, in my opinion, quite equal, with a continuous shift of "power" as situations change. obviously we both have our strengths/weaknesses and defer to the other when need be.

we were both raised fairly traditionally, but neither with a strong male role model.

he jaw hit the floor when i asked, as we had only mentioned it casually...he never would have guessed that i would be the one to ask.

i would have to say that i was never a big fan of marriage, and had never really thought that i would marry....but alas, never say never.
posted by engling at 8:17 PM on February 17, 2007

not sure of numbers but here, in askmefi, i read questions around marriage proposal where the possibility a woman may do the proposing (first) is not part of the all in all things considered. i imagine trails are still being blazed.

congratulations on your engagement
and congratulations on your gumption... not bold, impressive.
posted by de at 8:49 PM on February 17, 2007

Before I asked my husband (about 1.5 years ago), I looked for ideas about how to propose, and didn't find anything geared toward women. I did find statistics about proposals and found one article that suggested about 98 percent of formal proposals come from men. I can't find that link now. In just the past year or so, I've seen a few more articles about the alleged "trend" of more women asking fellas for their hands. My impression is that it's still a tiny, tiny, tiny minority of secular, liberal, freethinking liberals who do it, for the most part.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:52 PM on February 17, 2007

I should add, the fact that I asked him generally gets a laugh and a, "Well, if any woman would ask, you would," from my friends. I guess they see me as a contrarian on topics of gender relations.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:54 PM on February 17, 2007

I'm a man, and was a 19-year-old college student in 1992 when my girlfriend of a few days (yes, days) proposed to me. It wasn't a formal proposal, mind you, but was more along the lines of "If things work out, will you marry me?" I said "Sure."

Our friends were far more surprised at our getting engaged after having been together for so little time than at the fact that she was the one who proposed. Of course, the fact that she had (and has) one of the most confident personalities of anyone I've ever met might've had something to do with their reaction.

We got married in May of '94...and divorced a couple of years later. We're both now married to other people.

But, anyway, to answer your question, it happens. You're not alone. It's definitely unusual, as you've noticed, but so what? You've got a cool story to tell people for the rest of your lives.
posted by cerebus19 at 8:55 PM on February 17, 2007

Good for you!

Neither of us actually proposed but rather we came to the conclusion that well we probably are going to get married someday and oh look, that jewelry store is having a sale!

None of our college friends thought we'd stay together; 16th anniversary is in a few months.
posted by ilsa at 9:15 PM on February 17, 2007

A few years ago, one of my best girlfriends was telling me about how her fiancee proposed. She desperately wanted to get married and after a year or so of hounding him he gave in. She went out and picked out her ring, paid for it and gave it to him to give her. He "asked" her by leaving the ring on a note in the hall saying "check this box for yes".

When I asked her why she didn't just propose and save all that hassle, she responded, "I wouldn't know he loved me if I asked him. Girls just don't do that."

Oddly enough, six months later they broke up because he was sleeping with one of her good friends.

So, just because the guy asks, doesn't make it more romantic or any more likely to work out.

Congratulations on your engagement. I think your story is rather beautiful and inspiring.
posted by teleri025 at 9:17 PM on February 17, 2007

A couple reviews of I Do But I Don't spoke a bit about the pressures on women to get married, but not to be the one to ask, and thr double bind that puts them in. Weddings and Fear at Pandagon might be an interesting starting place for info on this.

And Natalie Angiers' excellent Woman: An Intimate Geography does a great job at exploring the reasons that pretty much everything phrontist said is untrue and based on faulty assumptions about nature, biology, and history.
posted by occhiblu at 9:22 PM on February 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

I basically proposed to my fiance. We'd been together for more than seven years when it happened. We're both pretty militant liberal/progressive/feminist/blahblahblah types with a healthy suspicion of the institution so even though we were certain we had a lifelong commitment to each other, we weren't sure we wanted to have the ceremony.

I knew he'd never propose to me (it would have totally skeeved me out). We'd been talking, on and off, for a few months about whether it was possible to have a wedding (and then a marriage) on our very specific, very personal terms.

One night (while eating pork barbecue sandwiches and watching The Simpsons) my boy mentioned that a baseball we like (Jonathan Paplebon on the Red Sox) had to postpone his wedding in New Orleans because of hurricane Katrina. "Oh, that's sad," I said. Then, "You know Stephen, New Orleans would be a great place to have a wedding. We've always had such a great time there and it's such a special place. . . hey, think you'd want to do that? Have a wedding in New Orleans?" We're planning on early Spring of next year.

And that's basically how it went down. And yep, people tend to be either confused or bewildered when they find out how it happened.
posted by mostlymartha at 9:38 PM on February 17, 2007

FWIW, I asked my husband to marry me (though it was less a romantic thing than a logistical thing because we're from different countries and the choices for ending a long distance relationship were "get married" or "break up).

Also, today one of my good friends proposed to her boyfriend, so I guess it's not all that uncommon.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:52 PM on February 17, 2007

Oh, I also have a friend whose ex-wife proposed to him, clearly the marriage didn't work out, but it's still a data point.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:54 PM on February 17, 2007

pretty much everything phrontist said is untrue and based on faulty assumptions about nature, biology, and history.

That bears repeating. The sociobiology about gender lots of folks take from The Selfish Gene is often extremely simplistic and off-target. We've found plenty of primate species in which females screw around; a 10-second search pulled up this from a page at the National Zoo site:

In chimpanzees, whose troops include multiple adults of both sexes, females disappear for days at a time. Genetic fingerprinting shows that more than 50 percent of chimps are fathered by males outside the troop.

There's lots more like that in the literature, so be wary of simplistic "males partner like this and females partner like this" statements.
posted by mediareport at 10:15 PM on February 17, 2007

Er, link.
posted by mediareport at 10:23 PM on February 17, 2007

Response by poster: these responses and personal anecdotes are wonderful.

people's reactions to how i proposed are interesting as well. we were on the couch, in our pajamas, finishing a nice meal and a couple of glasses of wine, chatting away. the usual for us. i slipped the ring in the back pocket of my pajamas, handed him a small note with some thoughtful words, waited for him to look at me, then i got down on one knee.

no bells and whistles, no frills. i think this dissapoints people!

i wonder when a societal 'sea change' might occur in regards to this? maybe when other boundaries (e.g. gay marriage, i know, that is another topic) are pushed, this won't be such an unusual thing.
posted by engling at 10:39 PM on February 17, 2007

I was proposed to, but I turned her down. I'm marriage-phobic and I was a total shit-head at that time in my life, so I'm sure it was all forthe best. But no, you're not alone, and Congratulations!
posted by lekvar at 11:17 PM on February 17, 2007

I asked too. I was also shocked at the number of people who thought it odd, some of whom even seemed slightly offended by my "arrogance". Fortunately my husband didn't seem to mind.
posted by handee at 1:03 AM on February 18, 2007

Within my circle of friends and acquaintances, I know of two couples where the gal proposed to her guy, and the reactions of family and friends were mixed. Some of us thought it was brilliant and really quite wonderful, myself included. But I was surprised by how many of my 20- and 30-something friends -- also liberal-minded and culturally-aware -- objected to its untraditional-ness. Personally, I can easily see myself asking a (theoretical, future) boyfriend or girlfriend to marry me, which wouldn't surprise my friends at all.

I really do love how you proposed. While grand gestures can be, you know, quite grand and all, it is the quieter, more intimate ones like yours that I'm drawn to. The fact that you did it in your PJs scores bonus points in my book. Congrats on your engagement!
posted by vespertine at 1:13 AM on February 18, 2007

One of my good friends proposed to her now-husband on stage at SXSW. It was incredibly brave and beautiful.

I don't know that there are real statistics out there, but in general, statistics about marriage aren't all that inspiring anyway, so screw statistics and toast your continued happiness.
posted by judith at 3:50 AM on February 18, 2007

Go on then, you twisted my arm: I'll marry you
posted by 0bvious at 6:17 AM on February 18, 2007

I don't know if it counts as a proposal per se, but there reached a point in our relationship, and we were talking about what next, and I said that the next logical step was getting married. So we decided that we were going to get married, sort of together. Several months later, at a time of his choosing, he actually proposed, and it was very cute. We had kept the "engagement" secret before then -- I don't know why really anymore. Possibly because buying a house together as a nonmarried couple was a little "what?!" to at least one set of parents, and that was fun to maintain? I really have no idea anymore.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:24 AM on February 18, 2007

Best answer: It's not surprising for people to be surprised. The "proposal" is part of the ritual and for most people the point of the ritual is to be (or to pretend to be) participating in a tradition which precedes (and some might argue transcends) the mores of an "open-minded, liberal and culturally aware" area.

The same people who profess to be amazed that you led the formal proposal will also be very surprised if you choose to get married in other than a big white dress or otherwise dissent from the balance of the ritual.

Don't mess with the substance, though. You don't have a friend so progressive that they won't be dismayed if you change "until death" until "for as long as our love shall last." (Although the divorced people among your guests might credit you with some grim realism.)
posted by MattD at 7:53 AM on February 18, 2007

i slipped the ring in the back pocket of my pajamas, handed him a small note with some thoughtful words, waited for him to look at me, then i got down on one knee.

This is the one question I can't seem to stop asking myself. Did you buy him an engagement ring? What did it look like? Was it a traditional looking engagement ring, or did it look more like a wedding band? OR did you buy yourself an engagement ring and propose with that?

I think I'm liberal enough to be proposed to without feeling emasculated however I do not think I could live down the constant badgering of wearing an 'engagement' ring.

Either way, congratulations. Sounds like he said yes. ;)
posted by wile e at 7:58 AM on February 18, 2007

You could count me among the people who would have reacted with some surprise (although nothing as strong as "shock"). However, it isn't the gender reversal that I find strange (both my mother and my sister initiated their marriages), it is the idea of proposing. Most of my friends and family had conversations that led up to marriage, but not (in the cases that I know about) a formal moment of proposal.

But moment of surprise aside: Congratulations!
posted by carmen at 9:08 AM on February 18, 2007

I was gunshy well after my first marriage fizzled. My longtime girlfriend proposed to me on a day when I was particularly obtuse.
posted by plinth at 9:31 AM on February 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

I do find it a bit funny that there are many answers here are "I proposed to my husband, but that's really uncommon", despite all the other people in the thread saying they did too. I realise that it's not that large a number and it's certainly not a random selection, but already there is evidence that while it may be uncommon, it's not THAT uncommon. It's not like you proposed while holding a purple goat or juggling banshees or anything.

I did propose to my husband, and we bought rings (for both of us) together about two weeks later. I don't think anyone asked us who asked, but we announced it by saying "we're engaged" and after seven years of dating it wasn't really surprising. My mother responded by saying that she honesty thought we were already engaged. (Way to deflate the moment, Mom). No one really seemed to care who did the asking - it never came up.

That said, while I'm not surprised that some of your friends/relatives were surprised (because it probably is more uncommon), I am surprised that they said anything about it - that would seem to be quite rude, and would show themselves to be more traditionally minded (i.e. sexist) than perhaps they would like to be perceived as. If I had been surprised, I would think I would pretend not to be, if only to maintain the facade that I'm hip and down with flexible gender relations. Only my grandmother has said much about my decision not to change my name, and she is obviously an older woman, and even then didn't actively disprove (just seemed to keep forgetting that I hadn't).
posted by jb at 9:46 AM on February 18, 2007

Response by poster: wile e: yes, i did buy him a ring. it is a simple titanium band, very basic. i does it looks more like a wedding band. when i gave it to him, i told him that i didn't expect for him to wear it until we had the ceremony. however he slipped it on his ring finger and hasn't taken it off since...that was his choice.

as for me, i am not wearing a ring. we are currently looking around for some non-traditional (duh) rings, and will purchase something when the time is right.
posted by engling at 9:52 AM on February 18, 2007

Response by poster: plinth, thanks for the link. that was perfect.
posted by engling at 10:02 AM on February 18, 2007

In the celebrity realm, the only female star I could think of who admitted proposing to her man was Britney Spears, who proposed to Kevin Federline on an airplane.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:39 AM on February 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

I do find it a bit funny that there are many answers here are "I proposed to my husband, but that's really uncommon", despite all the other people in the thread saying they did too.

Because it is really uncommon and this type of question isn't going to give an at all representative view. How many hundreds of people read the question, probably thought it was cute, but did not answer because they weren't proposed to by a woman didn't propose to a man?

engling, congrats on getting engaged. I'd be thrilled if my (hypothetical) girlfriend proposed to me. I searched but couldn't find any numbers indicating how common women proposing is. My guess is it's not become enough of a trend for someone to take notice and do a poll or a survey.
posted by 6550 at 11:27 AM on February 18, 2007

MattD has it exactly right. When you say "I love you," it's you saying it, with all the assumptions about love that you carry with you. When you say, "Will you marry me?" you're asking a question most people don't even understand. You've summoned a host of assumptions and traditions and legal duties you've probably never even considered, because marriage is one of the few cross-cultural rituals in the world. In the simplest scenario, you've proffered a contract, tendering a bargain whose provisions have been determined by centuries of common law and the various interpretations of statute and precedent in your state.

I'm guessing you're not just trying to form a legal partnership for the purpose of property acquisition; probably, it's got something to do with love and friendship and family, which means you want your various kin to gather together and witness as you declare your bonds. In that case, you're invoking a piece of impersonal magic, a ceremonial soul-binding that doesn't care much if you're a militant atheist who doesn't believe in souls or forever. The forces you're invoking are bigger than you both... and a bit scary. Your friends are simply surprised at your chutzpah, playing with such dangerous forces. They may also be pleased and awestruck at your apparent success; innovation is difficult when you're reweaving elemental sorceries. Mostly, we just depend on word of mouth and what we see in the movies.

My partner and I tried to get get engaged for months, but none of our conversations or decisions seemed to stick. She asked. I asked. We said yes. She gave me a plastic decoder ring out of a crackerjack box. We discussed what a great idea it was. We planned details. We speculated about dates. We digressed. We sent each other links to dresses and suits and honeymoon spots. But for some reason we still weren't engaged.

Then one day I went ring shopping. This process took months because I refused to buy a natural diamond... but it had to be a diamond or else the ritual wouldn't work. It was an ordeal, let me tell you. When the ring finally arrived, we went for a walk in front of Nashville's Parthenon, I stopped to tie my shoes, told her I loved her, and pulled the ring from my pocket. Suddenly we were engaged! We called everyone we knew, and declared it. It was settled: we were going to spend as much of the rest of our lives together as we can bear. That's magic.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:50 AM on February 18, 2007

As a guy I have to say I have mixed feelings on it. On one hand I want to find a girl that's cool enough to do something like that. (I can't think of the right word, so I used "cool") On the other hand I would hope that I'd figure out whats going on in the relationship, and that she's the right one, and that she would like to marry me, soon enough that she doesn't feel like she has to propose to me.

No one (probably) wants their significant other to ever say, "I proposed because I wasn't sure that he ever would"

So I guess that's where the feelings are mixed The type of girls that would do this because they are that type of girl is a very good thing. The kind of girl that would do it because the guy is to thick to realize he needs to, is still a good thing, but it leaves the guy as the one that was to thick to realize.
posted by magikker at 12:38 PM on February 18, 2007

No one (probably) wants their significant other to ever say, "I proposed because I wasn't sure that he ever would".

I wonder why no one seems to assume that a man could have that same reason?

Or why anyone would think that a woman who proposed was not thinking exactly the same thing most men would be -- that is: "I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you - will you be mine?" Why can a woman not simply declare her love and desire to be attached, without being seen as goading the man into something?

When I proposed - I was absolutely sincere. I realised that being with my (now) husband made me happier than being with anyone else, and I wanted that happiness to go on. (Of course, had he said "But I wanted to propose!" I would have just said "too bad, beat you to it!", but we are very competitive.)


anotherpanacea, that is a lovely story, but I'm afraid that marriage isn't really a cross-cultural ritual. It's different in every culture - I'm finding big differences between even Canada and Britain (and the two cultures are very close). Diamond rings are, of course, a 20th century tradition only, engagement rings not that old, and proposals also a modern Western tradition. Throughout the world, people get married in all sorts of different ways - in arranged marriages, controlled courting, group ceremonies -- it's all different, and the expectations are all different. (I recently had to try to explain to a Chinese couple I know what the vows mean in western weddings,and how they are the act of marriage - for them, the registration of the marriage with the government was the act of marriage.)

So what you are saying is that you and your fiance didn't feel right until you had exchanged a diamond ring, whereas my fiance and I sealed our engagement with two matching rings, though only after we had made all the announcements. (If he hadn't worn a ring, I would have felt like I was engaged, but he wasn't.) For us, the wearing of matching symbols was very important - but it was not so for you.

I do believe in ritual and magic - and you are right that the ceremonies are important for our society to recognise our partnerships. But they are not universal, nor are they unchanging.
posted by jb at 2:40 PM on February 18, 2007

You don't have a friend so progressive that they won't be dismayed if you change "until death" until "for as long as our love shall last."

I don't know that I'd make that assumption. My (now ex)husband and I wrote our own vows, and we ended them with "for as long as we both love each other." Both of us felt very strongly about not making false promises, and we both felt that saying "til death do us part" was a promise we had no way of knowing we could keep. People change, situations change, and the future can't be predicted. The only promise we felt sure we could keep was that we would keep loving each other until maybe we didn't anymore.

No one, neither friends nor family, seemed the slighest bit dismayed, nor did anyone suggest we were hedging our bets; in fact, the second-most frequent of the compliments we received about the wedding had something to do with how romantic our vows were. (The most frequent compliment we received was effusive thanks for having kept the bar open for the entire reception.)

All of this is to say that one shouldn't underestimate the open-mindedness of one's friends and family when faced with non-traditional nuptials like the woman proposing to the man or refashioned vows.
posted by jesourie at 3:35 PM on February 18, 2007

It's more common than you'd think, but the reaction is your introduction to the fact that *everybody* in the world has a huge number of expectations about engagements, weddings, and marriages, and seemingly no one has any reservations whatsoever about sharing them with you.

Whether it's friends, family, or completely strangers, there will be someone loudly shouting about how what you're doing every step of the way is nontraditional, or has some obscure/arbitrary ritual associated with it. Nobody meets every single one of these trumped-up obligations, but many, many people are willing to act shocked if they aren't all met.
posted by anildash at 3:44 PM on February 18, 2007

jb- I'm sorry, I didn't mean to denigrate your experience, but rather to show how hard it is to resist cultural norms, especially in ways that have cross-cultural force, like reversing the gendered engagement process. Also, cross-cultural doesn't mean universal: just that when an Irish Jew (me) and an Italian Catholic (her) try to get married, they've got to communicate that to themselves and each other's families using some pretty broad semaphore.

Actually, I meant to compliment you: I think a lof of us know that women can and should be able to start the engagement ball rolling, but something deeper than intentions holds us back. The force of cultural and linguistic traditions restrict certain performative utterances to certain speakers. "I dub this ship 'The Sylvan Nymph,'" or "I now pronounce you a citizen of Aztlan," are not meaningfully uttered by every speaker. If I offered you a knighthood you'd be right to scoff. Sadly, these conventions extend to proposals of marriage and many other things that our egalitarian values would tend to want to distribute more evenly. My partner and I tried to make an informal proposal offered by a female stick, and couldn't. It's just a sign of your mojo that you succeeded where we failed! Congratulations!
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:52 PM on February 18, 2007

i proposed to my first husband. i've since come to realize a big potential problem with this sort of thing, which is men not being prepared for the question. i think it's pretty common for women in serious relationships to constantly know, at least on a subconscious level, whether they are ready to marry their partner (and if you're asked and you don't know, it's pretty likely that your default answer will be no, or at least i need to think about it). a man who is not thinking about asking a woman to marry him may also not be thinking about what he would say if she asked him. my ex said yes, which was a big mistake, and later admitted that he felt too uncomfortable to say no (which of course can also happen with women, but i think more women have probably thought about the consequences of giving the wrong answer). actually the weirdest response we got from others was in regards to not having a ring. a lot of people didn't seem to think of it as a real engagement (though we did, because we were preparing for our wedding).

my current husband and i are unsure who gets the credit. we talked about it ahead of time and decided it would be kind of nice if he did, especially because i asked him out in the first place, so it seemed kind of fair. in the end it just kind of happened, though. it's nice to hear other people's stories, because this does seem to be a skewed sample-- i don't know any other couples in real life where the woman asked the man, which i always attributed to my family being raging feminists and most of the rest of the people we know not so much. but who knows, maybe it's just a lot more common than it seems.
posted by lgyre at 4:33 PM on February 18, 2007

I've tried, jokingly, though we're still a bit young and new (six months today!) to make any sort of firm commitment towards marriage. If we're still together a couple of years from now, still feel the same way about each other, and we're not engaged already, I might pop the question - though it'd be great if he does too!

I tend to be the most assertive one out of us both, so while it may be a little surprising (because I'm not a big marriage person) it wouldn't be too unusual. Like croutonsupafreak said, people would just see it as "oh she's contrarian again".

Then again, the whole bend-one-knee-pop-the-question thing is a bit unusual in my culture too. Usually it involves a lot of talking to each other's families and sending stuff over and letting them sort out stuff. Now people are becoming more liberal, but the styles are definitely different.
posted by divabat at 4:34 PM on February 18, 2007

anotherpanacea - Sorry, I had my historian's hat on. I'm always very aware because of what I study how fluid rituals and expectations are, even within a few generations. And when it comes to weddings, the expectations do come flying fast as furious from every direction, so I like to remind myself and everyone else that these are not set in stone and, in fact, many are recent developments. Unless we all start getting married just after the harvest at the church door, tradition is flexible.

I do know what you mean about the broad semaphore - we found that our rings made the announcement to friends and aquaintances much easier, as they prompted questions and we didn't have to blurt it right out.

I don't want to be a fraud, and claim that we did nothing traditional - my husband did actually get down on one knee to put on my ring (about two weeks after I asked him), as a part of a ritual to seal the engagement. I think I put his ring on him, but I don't remember if I went down on my knee. But we both felt engaged (and scariest of all, told the parents) before - my question, though it was asked in an informal moment, was serious, and he could have said no. And after reading the links from occhiblu above, I'm feeling pretty strongly today about how women should be able to chose the timing of such an important decision just as much as men can.

But I think I must be feeling too confident now, because I don't remember being worried (just happy). But I asked my husband about it today, and he said that I said (after he answered), "oh, that's a relief!" :)
posted by jb at 5:43 PM on February 18, 2007

It's more common than you'd think, but the reaction is your introduction to the fact that *everybody* in the world has a huge number of expectations about engagements, weddings, and marriages, and seemingly no one has any reservations whatsoever about sharing them with you.

Amen! /female, "weirdly" doesn't want a wedding.
posted by desuetude at 5:55 PM on February 18, 2007

My brother's wife proposed to him. They had been living together for ten years and were at a restaurant for Valentine's Day.

My (now) sister-in-law was talking about the lovely pond at my brother's workplace, and said, "Wouldn't it be nice to stage a wedding at that pond?"

My brother said, "Yeah, sure."

My sister-in-law said, "Wouldn't it be nice if we had a wedding by that pond?"

My brother said, "Yeah, sure."

My mother told me the story after my brother told her, and added, "You know your brother never did have much initiative."

I said, "Hopefully he showed enough initiative so that she wasn't then reduced to saying 'Wouldn't it be nice if I had an engagement ring?'"

My sister-in-law has a lovely ring, and I did think she was perfectly right to propose to my brother. She's the organizer and the kickstarter in their relationship. He is SO easygoing and probably would have happily lived with her for the rest of his life and perhaps just always meant to marry her "someday". At their wedding I could see his face from where I sat. He was so happy that his eyes shone like two blue beams of light.
posted by orange swan at 6:01 PM on February 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

i forgot to mention, if a woman expects a ring from a man (and especially if she doesn't plan to give him one), it makes a lot of sense for her to be reduced to hinting and so on. if not, then that is a whole different story.
posted by lgyre at 9:31 PM on February 18, 2007

Well, almost in my case, my current fiancee told me, she wanted me to propose, so I did!
posted by patrickje at 2:26 PM on February 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

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