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Proposals / Historic Traditions and stories from real couples

“We went back to Rome, which was our first holiday together. We went for a day out to the Villa Borghese which are beautiful gardens with a lake in the middle. We were out on the rowing boat and got to the middle of the lake, I was looking out, taking it all in when Jim asked me to take the oars as he needed to get a plaster out his bag- when I turned back round he was on one knee (impressive balancing on a boat!) and asked me to marry him  in the gardens there was a busker playing “kiss the girl” on the violin. It was like a fairytale and a day I will never ever forget.” – Jeannie


“I tried four times including driving to a waterfall in the cyprus mountains to find out it had dried up  lost the ring for a while, had an argument one night so backed out finally Christmas Eve in the rain I did it and she said yes.” – Mark


I was leaving work on a Friday and I walk towards the station and saw my other half! (We had been talking all day, he said he was busy working and couldn’t talk much.) he told me a friend at work had tickets for a show and had booked a hotel but couldn’t go so he bought them for us as a surprise. I was so excited. We got on the tube and went back to Leicester Square to the hotel to get ready quick to go. As we got in the room he gave me a book and told me to look through. He had filled a book full of photos of us from years gone and the last photo was a photo of him holding my engagement ring and he then pulled the ring out from a coffee cup and proposed! He then took me to a wonderful restaurant and we went for drinks at a vintage bar. I went into work the following Monday, my boss and work colleagues were in on it as he had called them to find my schedule out to make sure I was in the main office that Friday!” – Rebecca


We had gone back to the restaurant we had our first date at. We’d had the meal, paid the bill and the taxi was due any minute. Then he said ‘you know I love you, don’t you? And you’re like my best friend…..? But there’s something I need to tell you….’ I honestly thought he was dumping me!!” – Kate




I’ve always been interested in hearing about proposals, the variety of them, the creativity, the romance! With that in mind, I decided to ask around to hear some of your own proposal stories which I’ve incorporated into this blog. Thanks so much to those of you that shared yours with me! I ended up with loooads and couldn’t share every single one but I feel I’ve chosen a good mix. I was also curious about the history of them, why the proposer bends on one knee for example, so I’ve shared some of that too! Ooh and while we’re here, just putting out there that I’m yet to shoot a live proposal and I’d love to! If you’re planning on popping the question and would like it documenting, drop me a message! It could be disguised as a couple shoot session somewhere meaningful for you both perhaps!


Mine was December last year.  The morning after my office Christmas party Andy says he’s whisking me away for the night. This isn’t unusual but I was hungover and he wanted to leave mega early so I wasn’t much fun on the drive up to Saltburn-by-the-Sea.  On the drive I figured out where we were going and got excited as it’s our little gem we discovered a few years back, then out the blue we hit a pigeon!!! I was very OTT (I’m blaming the hangover). We finally arrive at the seafront safely and Andy gets all stressed as the tides in. I couldn’t understand why? So he suggests walking on the pier. It’s windy and cold and as we get to the end of the pier he starts acting funny again. I said let’s take a selfie and he was like let’s wait for people to leave!? Then I looked down and there was a giant spider crawling up my coat! I’m screaming get it off me as he’s trying to get down on one knee!!! I finally calm down realise what’s going on and start crying! He couldn’t even get out the words he took me to a bench as I was shaking so much and he was petrified the ring would fall in between the cracks of the pier. As soon as the ring was on my finger I finally managed the word yes whilst crying mascara in his ear!!! I still blame the alcohol” – Lucinda


I’ve actually thought in the past how I feel I’d be good at coming up with ways to propose based on different clients haha. Like, unique concepts tailored for how someone could propose to their significant other, based on their interests, what they’ve done together, and learning more about the partner to think up a creative idea of something they’d appreciate. But obviously there’s no point in that as a service as it’s all about the couple themselves and I’d probably be pretty disappointed if I found out my fiance hadn’t even thought of how to propose himself.


“We were in Barcelona, Sean carried the ring around hidden in a sock all holiday trying to find the best, most romantic place he could. A couple of nights before we were leaving, we were just about to go out for dinner and he started acting really weird. I had opened the door of the hotel room and taken out the room key from the lights, when he said he had something to ask me. I shut the door (confused!) and he asked me to be his wife… then the lights in the hotel room went out and we were stood in the pitch black! Obviously I said yes! I asked him was it how he had planned it, and he had tried 3 times while we were out and about but tourists were always in the way!” – Nicky


urban manchester engagement shootPINIMAGE


So the tradition in most Western cultures is for the man/or woman to propose on one knee, which various sources claim comes from medieval times when knights would bow down before noblewomen to show respect. However, others state that the ideal of kneeling on one knee appears to be a largely modern invention and it not actually being clear how it originated.

“The engagements we know most about in history are the ones between nobles and the wealthy, and those were often in the manner of business arrangements, with none of this “kneeling before your beloved” stuff. In fact, paintings of noble betrothals in history invariably depict both parties as standing or seated; no kneeling shows up at all.  One possible origin of the modern kneeling ideal is in the Middle Ages tradition of courtly love, in which a man of good birth essentially devoted himself (complete with poems, odes, deeds of honor, and general vassalage) to a noblewoman he perceived as superior. The entire principle of this popular attitude was that the man was a kind of servant to the woman, whom he idealized beyond all reality; and he performed his servitude by kneeling, spiritually and figuratively…Kneeling represented feudal surrender and admiration.” (Bustle article)

I take it as essentially being a way to show love, respect, honour and loyalty to another person in a way generally considered to be a historic tradition, and if any act needs to show these things I think a proposal’s gotta be up there!

Apparently the left knee specifically should be the one on the ground, the right up, with the ring box held in your left hand opened with your right!  Of course people do break ‘tradition’ if it doesn’t feel right at the time or maybe feel that their significant other wouldn’t want it.


“We were going to New York to celebrate my 40th & I had no idea what he was planning. He’d had my engagement ring made without my knowledge. Helped design it & picked the stone when he really had no clue what I’d like. On my birthday we went out for a nice meal, then made our way up the Empire State Building where he proposed at the top. I know it’s such a cliche but I had no idea it was coming & NYC is our happy place. We’d been lots of times before with other people but this was our first time together  He didn’t actually get down on one knee (which I’m glad about) but has since said he wishes he had of done.” – Deb


As for engagement rings, reliable records date back to the Roman period featuring ‘engagement rings’ being worn to declare that a woman would in future be married to a particular man. The betrothed were given a gold ring to wear in public and an iron one to wear at home!


“With his mum in on the secret, Aaron had planned to take my grandma’s engagement ring (which she’d given me on my eighteenth birthday) off one finger and onto the other. However, just before we left home, I took my ring off for safekeeping… and didn’t tell him. A quick trip to a Spanish market to pick up a two-euro ring and the plan was back on, though I’ll never live that one down! He got down on one knee by the sea during an evening walk, completely by surprise, and I actually forgot to say yes” – Rachel


As we know, the traditional stone for an engagement ring is the diamond, and the first recorded one with such dates back to 1477.  A gift from Archduke Maximilian of Austria to the noblewoman he was courting, Mary of Burgundy.  It did not feature a solitaire but was described as “a delicate band adorned with diamonds in the shape of her first initial”.
So Mike was playing Xbox and I was on my phone.  I said, “Fancy getting married some time in the next 10 years or so?” He said, “Aye, can do.” EAT YOUR HEART OUT, CASANOVA” – Kerry


After Mary of Burgundy, the beginnings of the diamond engagement ring tradition began to emerge in the late 1800s, when a mining company struck rich in diamonds in Africa and formed a jewelry department, De Beers, to deal with it.

“De Beers’ master stroke came in the 1930s and ’40s, when it employed a hugely successful “Diamonds Are Forever” advertising campaign to insist to the American population that diamonds were scarce, expensive, and the only viable way in which to propose marriage. De Beers consciously created the status of the diamond engagement ring, and it still goes down as one of the most successful advertising ideas of all time: diamond engagement rings are, in most Western countries, now seen as the only acceptable option when a man declares his intention to get married.” (Bustle article)




It was my 18th birthday party (yes, we were young!) with family and friends. My great uncle decided Kiran and I couldn’t keep our hands off one another, so he challenged us not to touch one another for a whole hour.
As the hour came to an end, everyone was counting down to zero – which is when Kiran got down on one knee, held out a ring and proposed.” – Carrie


Most couples at least discuss their willingness to marry for a significant amount of time before a proposal take place, and some have far more casual approaches to the whole thing than others!I’ve had friends that although not technically engaged, they just casually talked about how they plan to get married at some point. I think it’s important to know if marriage is something that appeals to both of you if things are getting more serious, as like with having children, it’s one of those things it’s good to be on the same page about to know you want the same things.  But I also feel like from a personal point of view if you talk about that too much in a casual manner then it takes away the tradition of the romance and surprise when the ‘proposal’ actually happens!

After 7+ years I got asked whilst in the bath if I wanted a ring for my 30th. When I asked if it was a birthday gift or something more he said “can be if you want”.
Romantic or what?! ” – Julia


In the UK, in a poll of 3,000 engaged or married couples, the results were that the average duration between first meeting and accepted proposal of marriage was 2 years and 11 months, with the women feeling ready to accept at an average of 2 years and 7 months (for the duration between proposal and the wedding date the results gave an average of 2 years and 3 months). (Marie Claire)


We had been going out 3 months, it was Xmas Eve and we were in bed at his parents house (first time I met any of his family). He said “I love you and I’d like you to be my wife”. I started crying and said “I can’t be a wife- look at me!” and told him I was glad to know how he felt but that I didn’t really believe in marriage.
3 months after that we were watching a rental dvds in my student flat and I thought “I would be happy doing this with him for the next 30 years”, so turned to him and said “let’s get married.When’s your next holiday from the band?” It was September so we got a loan and went to Vegas. I continued to live in Edinburgh & he in Brum til I finished my degree a year later. We had never spent more than 2 weeks together at a time.
23 years married this year. ” – Saffron

In England, Scotland and Ireland the 29th February in a leap year is said to be the one date when a woman can propose to her partner.  (Finland has the same custom, with the addition that a man rejecting such a proposal was expected to buy his suitor enough cloth for a skirt as compensation!  Although still at a low percentage of around 5%, proposals by women have become more common in the English-speaking world in recent years, with jewelry companies having even started to manufacture engagement rings for men. According to a Bustle article, there have been previous attempts to market engagement rings to men, that never really caught on.

“It may interest you to know that a similar attempt to make male engagement rings a necessity actually failed. The Atlantic has traced a vast advertising campaign in the 1920s that attempted to sell “man-gagement” rings to the masses, complete with “ultra-macho names: the Pilot, the Stag, the Master.” Unfortunately, it never really caught on. The engagement ring has usually, in European history, been about the claiming of the woman, and men rejected the need to declare their own taken status so openly.”


“Week before Christmas – ordinary day of Christmas shopping, coffee in an ordinary shopping centre cafe, all very mundane. Then John suggested a walk – I thought “what? It’s a pretty dull afternoon, I’d rather sit in and read a book with a glass of wine”. Drove up mountain near our holiday house – John got out of car and marched on like a man on a mission. I had to jog to keep up while muttering “weird bloody walk if he won’t slow down”. Went to edge of cliff overlooking Lough Foyle – it was sunset. Asked me to marry him. I said yes (after a moments pause wondering had I heard right). The ring was huge and not what I thought I’d have chosen but I loved it. The ordinariness of the day made the proposal really special.” – Kate




A random fact that I found when reading up on proposals that I thought was worth sharing was that in Wales, following the acceptance of a proposal, the suitor will often provide a gift of cheese for his new fiance. The number of types of cheese provided is said to reflect the strength of his love for his partner! (According to Wikipedia anyway! Welsh readers, if this is a load of rubbish let me know!!)


“We had been at Ben’s little brothers birthday party dressed as pirates and wenches, we went back to his mum’s after, and he asked me, when he was super drunk, as we were getting ready for bed! I made him ask me again in the morning (and I said yes)! Many years later, on our anniversary in 2018, he made me a cuppa and brought it through in a cup that said “Mrs L” as a kind of re-proposal so we could set the date!” – Sarah
“I was in grad school in St. Louis while my long-time girlfriend was living in Chicago (near we went to college). I had purchased the ring some weeks before and didn’t have a car to drive or to securely go to the airport. Being paranoid that I would get mugged on public transportation for the first time when I had two months salary in jewelry form, I taped the ring (which was in a Ziploc bag) to my body inside of my clothing. I set off the metal detectors at the airport security. I thought about the ring (but not the larger ring box in my jacket pocket, which most likely was the problem). I very timidly explained my intentions as I unbuttoned my shirt and reached for a concealed object. The TSA agents’ facial expressions started perplexed and maybe concerned by me stammering through the explanation and changed to happiness at seeing the engagement ring.
As for the actual proposal, I had a key that my girlfriend had given me because I would sometimes arrive for a visit before she got home from work. I went into her place and decorated the hallway and the bedroom with hundreds of 2D butterflies cut that I and a buddy cut from construction paper. I stood in her place with the lights out so she would not see them from the street and would be surprised — it was a weekday and I wasn’t reportedly visiting until the weekend following. As a result, I could not read and before the age of smartphones didn’t have anything to do. Unfortunately, there was a snowstorm so she arrived home an hour or so later that usual. In any case, I said “Surprise!” and she was very startled by someone in her dark apartment. Thank goodness she wasn’t armed. She was really surprised.  I had previously asked friends of ours to make “galentines” plans with her so she wouldn’t not make alternative real plans and book up that night.  While she was changing clothes for our dinner out, I got down on a knee and proposed. She did not think I was going to propose until a year or so later when I was done with school. She said, “Yes,” and we have regretted it ever since (just kidding)” – Kinnier
“We went on holiday to Rome. I adore Italy and Rome in particular but my now husband had never been there before – hence it was already an extra special trip as I was eager to explore the city with him. We were staying in a flat near the Trevi Fountain. We had been out for dinner and then when we got back, we lingered in the beautiful courtyard garden in front of our flat as it was a balmy September evening. My husband got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. It wasn’t a total surprise as we had been together for three years but it was wonderfully romantic and emotional. Of course I immediately said YES! It meant a lot to me that he chose a private spot to propose to me as I think he knew I would prefer to avoid a proposal in a public place.” – Clare


“My fiancée proposed to me on stage at the Royal concert hall during the finals of a body-building competition. He was orange (fake tan!) and wearing the tiniest posing pants. He had had a beautiful diamond ring made that he’d had tied to his little finger throughout. Total surprise!!”- Kirsten


Some proposal ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’ I found online while researching!  Obviously to be taken lightly but most are just common sense!


  • Make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to marriage (makes sense)
  • Keep the proposal a surprise (how it should be in my opinion!)
  • Make sure the engagement ring is acceptable for both of you (in that you should think about what they’d like, not necessarily show them beforehand! Kinda takes away the surprise!)
  • Talk to their parents before proposing (I guess this one depends on the family situation but it’s a nice tradition idea)
  • Choose the perfect place to pop the question – private & romantic (sure, thought should of course go into where to do it!)
  • Get down on one knee when proposing (if you feel inclined and they’d like it!)


  • Rush into it before thinking it through (it’s a big deal and should be done from the heart rather than just because you feel like you should)
  • Propose in an extremely public place unless you know that’s what she’d prefer (I agree in that I think it should feel a bit more private and between the two of you than with an audience)
  • Hide the engagement ring in food/drinks as things could get complicated (proven in too many tv shows and films)
  • Pop the question on a holiday (why share it with an event you’d already be celebrating or marking at that time)
  • Tell (too many) people, keep it on a need to know basis (could ruin the surprise and also makes it less about the two of you!)
  • Forget to practice (It’s a once in a lifetime moment with you both so I guess it’s good to know what you want to say!)

At the end of the day, you do what suits you guys though! If it’s done from the heart it will be perfect. Have fun with it, don’t be scared to be creative and embrace the romance in being part of a historic tradition!

Do you have a proposal story you’d like to share? Do you have a favourite proposal from TV or film? Leave me a comment I’d love to hear from you guys!




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