Proposal shaming: When people say you need to do over your proposal

Updated Nov 6 2019
Guest post by SparksinKY
By: Meme BingeCC BY 2.0

I avoid talking about the "proposal" part of our life because a lot of people don't understand it. We are in the age of "ommggg look at this YouTube flash dance wedding proposal that went viral and is now being featured on Good Morning America!" Our story just doesn't fit into that American narrative.

It was simple, I was a part of the conversation, and it was nothing big and romantic. It was more of just us agreeing to make it official, tell our families, and seal it with a bad-ass ring for my hand.

We recently got back from a week in the Bahamas where we chartered a boat and lived on it for a week. There were some crew members we got to know as well and they asked me how my fiancé proposed. I told them, and they made such a big deal about how bad it was. "You need to do over your proposal. Give this babe a proper engagement to remember!"

I know they were doing it more in good fun, but it made me feel so bad for my future husband. He was being ridiculed, and a little bit shamed, and I was being pitied. I tried to defend him by explaining it better, but how do I tell people who I've known for a week that we are a couple that does things a little more alternatively, and that I don't feel like I'm missing something here? You can't, so I don't bring that part of getting engaged up unless asked.

Getting engaged and wedding planning has made me more private than ever. Or maybe growing up has made me more private. I don't want people to know every little thing anymore (this coming from a former Facebook addict who liked to think she perfected the humble brag). It went from that over-share level to not even wanting to post about our engagement on there at all. I think it's weird when near-strangers ask me questions about my proposal or wedding plans, and I don't really want to talk about it all the time.

It does my five years of getting to know this man a true disservice when I have to sum it all up in a few sentences about one night of our lives. He gets defined by that one night last summer. (I don't even remember the date of when we got engaged, that's how inconsequential that part is. Sometime in August?)

Maybe my new answer to the people who ask will be, "That's private, just between us." Then they can imagine wild scenarios for themselves while we continue on in our own understanding of each other and our relationship.

  1. Haha, oh gosh I don't feel so bad for not remembering the date either!

    We already had agreed before we wanted to be married wayyyyyyy before August of this year. So when he was on leave, we went to a pawn shop and I picked out a sapphire ring I liked. Then later that evening he hauled me off to the garage (we were staying at his mom's when we stopped through NorCal) and got down on one knee.

    Even though I picked out the ring and we already had planned, it still made me teary-eyed.

    Simple, just how we like it.

  2. My hubby proposed when I was nearly 9 months pregnant. He took me shopping and I was being difficult from the start, refusing to bring a bag (he secretly wanted to put the ring box and stuffie in the bag). So when we got out of the car he handed me a stuffed penguin and said I was gonna go e this to you layer but I guess you can have it now. Later he took me to see the real penguins and swiped back the stuffie. All I heard was hey boo (his nickname for me). I turned around and he was holding the penguin with the ring on it's flipper. I cried, hugged him and that was that. It was simple, sweet and meant the world to me. No one else around us probably realized what was happening. It doesn't matter what other people think, if you or your partner proposed they obviously put thought and love into it. Fancy isn't everything.

  3. This post and all the comments make me so damn happy. My fiance and I had been together 5 years when he proposed. We'd be through a lot, including him becoming my daughters father (we got together when she was under 2) two miscarriages, and the birth of our son. I'd been wanting to marry him for a while, lol but he was very adamant about needing a ring and needing it to be expensive. (he has the same attitude about our wedding being 'big') I'd been saying that I'd be happy to marry him at the courthouse for a while lol. It was our 5 year dating anniversary and we dropped the kids off at my cousin's, went to dinner, and then grabbed a cab up to the movie theatre where we watched "This is The End" and laughed our asses off. We walked out and the sun was setting as we walked to the bus stop, lol, it was actually really pretty, but the truth is that he wrapped his arms around me in an attempt to get in to our usual "Love you, love you more, prove it" conversations. instead I farted when his hand was near my butt (romantic, right) which he actually had the ring in. Then he got down on one knee and I said "What are you doing?! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" And then said yes and we got on a bus. Then we got off the bus to everyone lighting fireworks since it was Canada Day the next day lol.

    He always goes on and on about how he had more planned and I wasn't leaving the kids at my cousins fast enough and we ran out of time, etc etc. I can't watch youtube proposals without him getting a little sad and going "sorry." .. my now ex best friend told me if she got proposed to at a bus stop she would have said no.

    Was I upset? after the excitement wore down, a little, but only because he likes to tell stories of the big romantic gestures he used to do for his exes and he hasn't done stuff like that with me and I expected this to be it. But the more I thought about it the more I realized… we don't need that stuff. It's not us, and I love that. I love that I can fart on my engagement ring and we can laugh about it now.

  4. When people ask, I say it was mutual. When I get the look I say, "I don't like surprises" and leave it at that.

  5. I was perfectly happy with how our proposal went down. It was a lazy Saturday evening after spending the afternoon on our console, playing Lego Batman, beating up bad guys together and eating junk food and drinking soda.
    We were lying around in bed, watching our favourite series and cuddling. And then he just popped the question. No ring, no kneeling down in front of me, no dinner on the Eiffel Tower. Just us, doing our favourite things together and being happy with each other. In fact it was not even a question. He just said "You know what? I love you and I think we should get married." and I said "You think so? I think so too." 🙂 and he said "I know, this may not be the most romantic proposal…" and I said "I don't care." and he told me, he had ordered jewellery from a goldsmith for our hobby (reenactment) which I could wear with my costume. I love that idea. I think a ring is so old fashioned, it's not like in ye olden days when a woman only had one chance for an income that was marriage and it is not like in ye olden days where a women had to be marked as "taken". Marriage is a mutual promise and agreement between 2 people with their own lives and income and not an act of pleading from anyone side.
    I personally am not that much of a romantic roses, glitter and bling bling person. I think that a proposal should fit the couple and it should not be determined by Hollywood-Films and TV-Shows. I owe no-one any explanation about how we decided and how our wedding is going to go down, so why would I owe an explanation about the proposal?

  6. Yay! We also had a conversation, not a proposal. It went something like, after weeks of talking about what we like or don't like at weddings, what we would do or not do, I said: "Dude. Sounds like we're planning a wedding here." A week or so later we called our folks and went ring shopping. Like you I've been a little surprised and disheartened at how many people ask about the proposal, and seem disappointed when I tell them there wasn't one. But then I also run into people who tell me they also just decided — there are plenty of us out here. A few weeks ago I was getting my nails done and chatting with the lady who runs the salon, she was tickled to hear I was engaged. Business was slow and she decided she'd get a pedicure, so we sat there for a while with her telling me all the wild engagement stories she's heard over the years. Then she asked me how my beau proposed and I told her he didn't. She laughed and pointed at her husband who helps her run her business and said: "Yeah, us too. We just decided." Nice!

  7. Best proposal article ever. Thank you for this! I just got engaged and everything I've read and seen so far makes me think that if you don't pop the question while playing your jazz saxophone and tap dancing out her favorite song on top of a mountain in front a crowd of friends/family/strangers/you-tube viewers, that it doesn't count or it's not as valid. To be honest, I was terrified of my boyfriend trying to do something like this and I warned him plenty of times not to even think about it.

    Thank goodness, he didn't. He proposed on Christmas. Just a lovely scene in front of our tree. I knew it was coming (we had already talked about it for a year) and also because a week before he had asked my dad for my hand (he's more traditional than I am) and my dad had to run inside and tell me immediately. That's the story I like to tell when people ask, mainly because it's hilarious and also because the proposal was such a quiet, private, and intimate moment for us both that I just want to keep it to myself.

    Someone asked me a few days ago if someone had recorded him asking and I did my best to not throw up in sheer terror at the thought of it.

  8. I always hated the pressure on people when it came to proposing. So when "The Q" turned out to be a conversation and happy, mutual decision between my fiancé and I, I was ecstatic and almost relieved. My father, coming from a traditional background AND already despising my fiancé, was more than nonplussed, especially since he didn't ask him for my hand. When politely explaining that I had mentioned to my fiancé while dating that I didn't like the idea of "asking for my hand" didn't back Dad down, I had to remind him of a story his own mother loved to tell.
    When she and my dad's father were teens, her parents didn't exactly approve of my grandfather. She grew up in a Mennonite community. Though he never verified (but HEAVILY hinted), it was believed that he was running moonshine for the mafia in Chicago during the prohibition. Her parents wanted her to marry a rich, flashy man in town but she hated the guy. She was in love with my grandfather, who then began earning money by driving truck.
    My grandmother was doing laundry via washboards with her mother one afternoon when my grandfather came by. "I'm going out of town again," he told her, a little gruff as usual. "Gonna be gone for a few weeks, maybe longer. I need to know if you're still gonna be here waiting for me when I get back. So you gonna marry me or not?"
    My grandmother blinked, baffled for a moment before looking at her mother. Her mother looked at her, then looked long and hard at my grandfather. Without a word, she gave my grandmother a single nod and went back to scrubbing. "I'll marry you on one condition."
    "What then?," he growled, impatient.
    "You promise to buy me one of those new machines that washes clothes for you and I'll marry you."
    "Fine! Fandangled washing thing it is. See you in a few weeks." And he went out the door leaving my grandmother grinning.
    Its here that I reminded my dad that they were teens when they married, and they survived war, the Depression, and feeding and raising 9 kids. He bought her that washing machine a few years into their marriage after a lot of saving. My grandfather was almost 93 when he passed. Before that they had over 76 YEARS together. There's thousands of couples with glamorous proposal stories and big rings that marry and divorce in a few short years. Some do make the long haul. My grandparents started with a little promise on an appliance and really had "till death do us part". And my father grumbles when I ask, "Grandpas proposal was traditional enough, right?" 🙂
    I'll pass the Redo on my proposal, thank you.

  9. People are too focused on the proposal, the ring, and the wedding. It's not about any of those things really, it's about what they symbolize: The commitment. You have found the person that you want to spend the rest of your life with, and that is the most important thing…that's the only thing anyone should care about.

  10. Wait, so you chartered a whole boat in paradise and the crew goaded you both into rethinking your self worth and relationship? Really? A. Don't go back there again. B. Find your locus of control and bring it back home. To both of you where it belongs. I proposed to my hubby because I couldn't wait any longer. It was a simple chat in the privacy of our home and he said yes. We've been together nearly 8 years and nobody who *gets* us cares about heteronormative roles and the WIC (they catch you at engagement and reel you in) or all the other bs out there. I'd be more worried about why you feel inadequate rather than the apparently underwhelming engagement (as if marriage isn't a big enough deal alone)

  11. I get proposal shamed every time someone wants to know how it happened. I am happy my fiancĂ© stayed true to himself and in the end, we are going to be married, so I think I get the end result I want anyway. One of our friends (who knew him before we met) was so mad about how he did it that she half-jokingly said she wanted to "beat him up" about it. I had to tell her to shut up because I wasn't mad about our "boring" engagement…it was her issue not his! I didn't want her to make him feel bad!

  12. Honestly, our engagement was a discussion about pub wifi, "Wifi" became "wiffy", "wiffy" became "wife" and it dawned on both of us he'd actually just said "I'd like you to be my wife."

    We were sat in the pub (fourth pub of an ale trail around the town) after a few pleasant beers, an afternoon on the arcade 2p machines and a hike across town, and we'd ended up in a gorgeous 16th century pub over a really good pint of porter – which is basically heaven in a building as far as we're concerned.

    He panicked that he hadn't got me a ring, and I told him not to worry (I was too thrilled about being finally engaged after talking about it for a few years) so he, in a flash of slightly tipsy inspiration, took a keyring off of his bunch of keys. It was hilarious, it was fun, and I wore that damn keyring until we went ring shopping together the next day.

    It doesn't need to be about the social-media-friendly story, or how many 'likes' the ring gets. The point is you've both committed to each other for basically the rest of your life. Screw those who will think I need a 'do-over' – the only thing I'd do differently is I'd probably have stopped for fish and chips after the pub. So there. 🙂

  13. I don't get why someone would do a big flashy proposal in front of lots of people anyway – if the proposee says yes then it might just be from the pressure and because they feel like they have no other option after all that fuss (how romantic, making someone feel like they have no choice!); and if they say no then the proposer gets rejected in front of a bunch of people.

    Of course, the proposer might be confident enough to ask in front of witnesses (restaurant, flash mob, whatever) because they already know the answer, in which case this isn't a proposal – that's already happened. A proposal is basically asking the question "Shall we get married?", and you can only ask and get an answer for that once – unless the answer changes, no matter how many other times you "propose" you already know the answer so why ask the question again just to make a bigger deal out of it? The answer's the same and isn't going to be any more valid just because this time you asked while bungee-jumping.

    If there's a personal touch to a proposal that makes a sweet or funny story that's great, but far too much emphasis seems to be placed on how the question is asked, rather than the answer and its significance.

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