February the 29th – the date that legend has it when a woman has the privilege of proposing to a man. This tradition and practice dates back about four centuries. It continues in our day and once again – Leap Year is upon us.
Information available about the origins of Leap Year proposals points to St Bridget in the 5th century. She lodged a complaint to St Patrick because women had to wait far too long for men to propose to them. He then passed a decree allowing a woman to ask her loved one to marry her on only one day of the year, the 29th of February.
There are other stories about Queen Margaret of Scotland announcing that men would have to pay a fine, if they refused a marriage proposal. Other legends from Northern Europe state that the fine was 12 pairs of gloves and, in some countries, a silk gown.
While the thought of 12 pairs of cashmere-lined, bespoke, leather gloves sounds like a suitable fine in my world, fortunately none of the hundreds of men I have coached has had to reach deep into his pockets to do this.
I have huge admiration for these men having witnessed first-hand the amount of detail some of them have spent ensuring that their own proposals are beautifully co-ordinated – sometimes like a Swiss train schedule so it flows smoothly.
As yet I have not had any of the women I coach ask my advice on marriage proposals. However, because this is Leap Year, the big question ladies is – should you propose to your beloved? If so, what, when and how should you do it?
Is the relationship well established
Firstly to eliminate the risks of being rejected, – we want to establish that this is a relationship with a solid foundation and that it has the legs to go the distance.
You’ve been dating long enough to have experienced one another’s worst traits, met the families, socialised with friends, discussed the future and what you both want from it as individuals and TOGETHER.
As long as he (or she) loves you and is committed to a future with you and has no issues with marriage, he/she should say yes.
Before answering the question as to whether a woman should propose and when and how should she go about doing this, I decided to conduct a survey. I am thankful to the cross section of men from all professions and trades – including some clients, a couple of good male friends, and an ex-boyfriend – men who readily shared their opinions and answers to help out.
The results are in
Stephen was quite emphatic in his reply that he would never want the woman he loved to propose to him. He’s very much the Alpha male and said that it would make him feel like she was taking over. “Heck, I would feel completely emasculated!” he yelped.
This is not about right and wrong. It is important to consider this if your partner fits into the Alpha Male category, perhaps leave the proposal to him.
Neil loved the idea of the woman proposing. “To me, the setting is so important,” he told me. “I love the idea of either a dawn or dusk setting as long as it’s a surprise.” He said he wanted a rich-textured experience followed by a fun event that she knows he would love – a concert, favourite musician or dinner in a beautiful location to consolidate the moment.
Rory thought a jazz club after an intimate kiss would be the ideal time and place. “I love jazz and the romance of the setting. This, together with the heightened emotions from the music would be just perfect,” he told me.
Barry was quite taken back when I asked his opinion, as it had never crossed his mind before. After some thought he replied that the best time for the question to be asked was just as he turned the light off to go to sleep, to followed by a passionate encounter.
Michael was quite in favour of being proposed to by the woman of his dreams.
He said an everyday real-life situation like a supermarket queue would certainly surprise him.
Personally I would opt for a setting that would be emotionally memorable.
Mark is into adventure experiences. “I suggest she pop the question just after a bungee jump when the adrenaline is high,” he laughed.
The detail is in the planning. If you know your man well, you will also know what he likes to do, whether he is a morning or late evening person and what time of day would be best.
When a man is planning to propose to a woman he thinks about it for a long time and women need to appreciate this.
If you have been waiting for Leap Year to do this – you still have time to plan the event.
Think about what would please your beloved. Unexpected is the keyword – don’t tell all your girlfriends beforehand.
I love the moment when Emma from Radio 4’s The Archers proposed to her partner Ed.
Imagine the scene: The lights are turned on and Emma compliments Ed for being an amazing man and a wonderful Father. She says that he succeeds and that’s why she knows he will be an amazing husband too. Ed is completely surprised and says, “What?” Emma replies and says that he knows she loves him and then asks the question: “Will you make me the happiest woman in the world? Will you marry me?”
This scene captures all of the surprise and emotion. Ed ecstatically says YES, again and again and again. Click on the link below to listen to the special moment.
You might consider heading to a beautiful place with a good view, or an adventurous setting like skydiving, snorkelling, while watching the sun rise over a wilderness, or on safari. A romantic city break you both love such as Prague, Florence or Rome?
If you are very active, a hike up a mountain or hill with a bottle of something amazing to celebrate at the end.
Having been on the receiving side of two marriage proposals in non-memorable settings, I really do suggest that thought and planning go into the detail. Sadly both times I felt somewhat cheated of the magic and excitement of what could have been a truly memorable event
Mark this occasion by arranging something memorable afterwards: dinner with a group of friends, or dinner for two in a favourite place to consolidate the love you feel and last but not least a ring to symbolically tie the knot.
If he says No
Remain calm. It’s not the end of the world. Take a few moments to feel grounded and breathe before you ask him what the reasons are. It could be too early for him in the relationship. He may have some underlying issues you don’t yet know about – perhaps relating to finance, work, or deeper feelings about commitment.
Whatever is discussed, it could be a great moment of illumination and you may be given clarity about whether he is the right partner for you. Perhaps you will ask yourself if it’s worth investing more energy in the relationship, and if it’s time to move on.
To quote Bono: “Marriage is like an act of Grand Madness – you jump off the top of Killarney Hill and discover that you actually can fly”.
Wishing you a lifetime of love and magical kisses