Despite my usual protestations towards the day that is known as Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d share with you the story of how my husband and I came to be married – in other words, the story of the proposal.
2016 is a leap year, so tradition dictates that on 29th February a woman is =ahem= “allowed” to propose to her man, otherwise known as a Leap Year Proposal. All utter nonsense, of course – you can propose to your other half on any day you choose – like I did.
I’d never planned to propose to my husband, nor had I ever thought in the early years about how he might propose to me, or if he ever would, for that matter. But sometimes circumstances force your hand, and you end up doing something that surprises you.
(I’ve included a composite photo of some of the selfies we’ve taken over the years whenever we go places. It’s relevant to the selfie we took on “the” day… Read on to find out why!)
We’d been together for a little over four years when I realised that we were going to be together forever – we hadn’t discussed marriage as such, and I wasn’t in any rush to get married because I’d been married before, albeit very briefly. But I actually wanted to take his surname more than get married, so I actually seriously considered changing my name to his.
Because I’d already had “the big wedding” and it didn’t work out for me, I had no yearning for a big day and a big dress all over again. I just knew we would be together, married or not, and we never really discussed marriage.
And it honestly never bothered me.
But around the same time I was thinking about changing my name (I’d kept my married name and for obvious reasons now felt uncomfortable with it), my sister told us she’d be coming over to England for Christmas with her family. She’s lived in Australia since I was little – she’s 14 years older than me – and I only used to see her every few years. Her announcing they were coming over was sometime in the autumn of that year 10 years ago, and they were due to arrive within a couple of months.
And that’s when it occurred to me. If we were ever to get married, we’d either have to wait a few years till the next time she and her family were over, or we’d get married in the next year or two and they probably wouldn’t be able to make it. Neither scenario appealed, so something else popped into my head.
We could get married that Christmas, when the whole family was together.
But what do you do when you have a great idea about why and when you should get married – which also needs to happen within a few months – but you’ve not actually had a proposal?
I wasn’t comfortable with the whole “suggesting” that he proposed to me – we were just weren’t that sort of couple. We didn’t “do” Valentine’s Day, or celebrate anniversaries of when we got together, or anything else that we felt that we were supposed to do. And that included me dropping massive hints that I wanted him to propose – forcing his hand, in other words. Being the sort of laid-back person he was, I knew he wouldn’t get the hint even if I dropped them, and then if I knew the proposal was coming I also knew it’d kill any sense of romance or surprise for me.
It just wasn’t the way I wanted it to happen, if it was going to happen at all. I knew that I had only one option – and that was to propose myself.
Luckily, 10 years ago was still before social media really got going. It was a time before we’d all watched proposals that had gone viral on YouTube, so there really wasn’t a precedent for me in terms of how to propose, or where, or what with. No pressure to do it in some spectacular way that would be recorded on the internet forevermore.
The only thing I did was to ring my sister and ask her one question.
“Tell me – what do you think of a woman asking a man to marry her?”
Her answer came after a short silence: In a squeaky and ever-so-slightly-excited voice she said, “I think it’s a reeeeeeeally good idea… Any reason why?!”
And somehow I got out of answering, knowing full well that she knew what I was talking about.
I basically decided that we had to get married at Christmas time, when my sister and her family – and all the rest of our family – would be altogether. My sister had said that she wanted to revive a family tradition from when I was small: Go up to London around Christmas time to see the lights on Regent Street, pop into Hamleys, walk past the Ritz Hotel and go look at all the window displays of all the major department stores.
My idea was to incorporate the two. We’re all going up to London, we’ll just get married while we’re up there. His family all live in London anyway so they wouldn’t have to travel far. It was the perfect plan – I just had to propose.
It was the end of November, and we lived (still do) in Devon in the South West of England, and one of our favourite places to go has always been a small, picturesque fishing village on the south coast called Beer. I suggested we went there at the weekend and go to the local pub afterwards for a beer (I’m aware it was a beer in Beer) and a pub lunch. It was going to be cold but a nice day, so a walk along the beach would do us good and get some fresh sea air into our lungs.
So for any woman who is thinking of asking her other half to marry her, the question is this: What do you do instead of getting down on one knee and opening up a box with a ring inside? Do you get a ring? Do you get down on one knee? I wasn’t comfortable with doing either of these things (and knew he wouldn’t be either), so I decided on getting a totally inexpensive bracelet – like a friendship bracelet. I saw it as the equivalent of proposing with a ring pull from a can, but maybe a little classier.
So we went for our walk, he none the wiser, me with a box containing a friendship bracelet in my pocket and getting nervous. It was absolutely freezing, but at least it was dry and bright like it had been predicted, and we walked to the end of the stone jetty that we always go to and look out to sea from.
I had been thinking about what to say, of course. I didn’t want any sort of cheesy speech, just a direct question. Or rather, it was more of a statement. It went something like this:
Me: “I’ve been thinking about what I want for Christmas.”
Him: “Oh yeah? What’s that then” (He starts to look a little worried.)
Me: ” You know the family will all be together in London at Christmas?”
Him: “Yes…????????” (He starts to look especially worried. I start to get really nervous.)
Me: “Um, I’d like us to get married. At Christmas. In London.”
(He starts to smile, thankfully.)
Me: “So… Will you marry me?”
At this point the relief on his face was huge – he was laughing and simply said “Yes, of course I’ll marry you”
– my relief was so enormous that I burst into tears, right there on the jetty, looking out to sea. I’d forgotten about the bracelet in my pocket, so I messed that up, and I’d not planned to cry either.
It turns out he’d thought I was going to ask for a baby for Christmas (how he thought a baby was going to materialise within a few weeks I have absolutely no idea), which explained why he’d initially look so worried when I said I knew what I wanted for Christmas. Bless him.
Above: The selfie we took on the jetty after the proposal, once I’d finally stopped crying.
In the minutes leading up to me asking I honestly thought he was going to say no. I’d always had a feeling he was slightly anti-marriage; as I said we’d never really discussed it and I of course had been married before, so I thought I’d perhaps given the impression that I didn’t want to marry again.
But thankfully he said yes, and couldn’t have been happier that I’d asked. He knew it made perfect sense that we get married while everyone was altogether. We both knew it was probably going to be the last time for quite a while, and as it turns out it really was the last time every single member of the family was together. My nieces and nephews grew up fast and of course they start doing their own thing and living their own lives.
So once we booked the earliest date we could get for the wedding at Chelsea Town Hall on the King’s Road – the area where we met, worked together and hung out (our “stomping ground”, in other words) – we had about six weeks to plan and organise a small wedding for our closest friends and family.
And it couldn’t have been more perfect.
Just over a decade later (we celebrated our 10th anniversary just after New Year this year), my proposal story is a slightly unusual one, and I don’t know another couple where she proposed to him. But an unconventional proposal led to the perfect wedding for us – I would have been devastated if my sister and her family had missed out, so I’m happy to have given up a great story of “how he proposed” in order to have the simple, stress-free and attended-by-all wedding that we had.
As I mentioned before sometimes your hand is forced, and I’m all the more glad for it. It still makes a great story, it just doesn’t go the way most people expect.
So ladies – if you’re wondering whether you should plan a proposal, whether it be 29th February or any other day, just do it if it feels right for you. The reasons that you do it are far more important than “having a great story” to tell in the future.
Remember: You get married for yourselves and your own happiness, not for other people.
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Happy Valentine’s Day, whether you believe in it, or – like us – you don’t. In which case: Happy Sunday. We’ll be watching Deadpool at the cinema – now that’s what you call romantic!
(Note: What you will notice about the “proposal day” picture that’s different from the lead picture – a composite of all the selfies that we’ve always taken wherever we go from the last 15 years – is that this was the one picture we took with us standing the other way round. Normally I’m always on the left – he takes the picture as he has the longest arms. Why that happened that day I have no idea; I just think it’s interesting that it was the one day we subconsciously made it different.)
Did you – or anyone you know – propose to your other half? And if so did you do it on 29th February? Do tell your proposal stories (any type!) in the comments or tweet me @notlamb, I’d love to hear them!
Photo credits: Beach photo Eugene Birchall via Wikimedia Commons (adapted)
Thank you for sharing your beautiful proposal story! It's funny because in a weird way I proposed to my husband too, thought it wasn't nearly so picturesque(!), for similar reasons. He had repeatedly asked me to marry him basically from the time we got together,(we were transatlantic long distance for 7 months, after meeting in person while he was on holiday), but then, after I moved to the U.K., on a visit visa…our hands were a tiny bit forced! But it didn't feel that way, and my Mom was coming for a visit with my aunt so the timing seemed right, so I just sort of suggested it, he said something along the lines of "Of course", there wasn't a big song and dance or hoo-hah which sometimes I feel weird because we don't have this big romantic proposal story. But we'll have been married 15 years this year so I think that's what really matters, I guess! 😉 p.s. Love the couple selfies, what a great collage idea!
Tears in my eyes here, so, so beautiful, congrats on 10 years-just the most touching post, you guys are perfect for each other and I now need a wedding post if you haven't done one, the London Christmas wedding sounds magical. Thanks for linking this to #brilliantblogposts darling and loved seeing your beautiful photos x
Aww bless you Vicki – you're soooooo sweet!! I did do a wedding post a few years ago – however the pictures must have inadvertently got wiped off my photo sharing site somehow so the pictures don't show up in the post. I've been meaning to re-do the post for a while… Now on my To-Do list! Thanks my lovely xx
Fabulous photos of the two of you and a romantic story with a happily ever after!!
Aww thank you Carmen… I loved compiling the collage of our selfies, I hadn't looked at many of them in a long time!!
What a lovely post. I'm so glad to read that he said yes and that you was able to have your sister there at your wedding just as you wanted.
It was perfect, Janine – she was married in Australia and we all missed her wedding so I was determined she was going to be at mine!! Thank you, glad you liked the post x
Great story :). It made total sense to organise the wedding while your sister and clan were back and Chelsea Town Hall is a great venue. I totally agree with asking a man for his hand in marriage if that's what you want – much better, for me at any rate, than dropping hints. The worst that can happen is he'll decline, and that's something men still have to contend with most of the time.
There will be two weddings in my family soon. My little sister, a spritely 33 year-old, is perhaps guilty of waiting for her boyfriend to propose (my reaction when our mum told us she was waiting for him to ask was that she could always ask him herself). Of course, there's nothing wrong with that if that's important to you and makes both parties happy. And meanwhile my partner and I will tie the knot soon. We don't know when although we've discussed it like adults, but my romantic boyfriend says he's going to ask me "properly". I'd better warn my dad to sit by the phone! (PS – I already have the frock 😉 )
Thanks for sharing your stories, Emerald – a bit like your family my sisters both got married within two weeks of each other (albeit over 30 years ago)! It's nice that you know you've got a proposal coming… I hope it's a wonderful surprise for you!! Thank you so much for commenting xx
What a thoroughly charming story; I really enjoyed reading that. I also got married at Chelsea Town Hall, because I used to live right around the corner! The selfie collage of the two of you is TOTALLY fabulous. xx
Oh Lisa thank you – and yay for getting married at Chelsea too! There was nowhere else we were going to get married, we used to walk past it every day to get to work. And I'm glad you liked the selfie collage, I'd not seen them all together before…!
Love your story. My mom proposed to my dad when they were both 18 years old (can you believe it?) and they are still together. My husband and I didn't have a ring or a "proposal," per se, more of a discussion, and also got married at the courthouse 3 months later…
OMG that's so amazing that they were so young, D – and still together!! How fabulous…! And you had a very short engagement like we did – it makes for very stress-free wedding plans, doesn't it x
Gorgeous photos Catherine, simply lovely post xxx
Oh Gail thank you, I'm so glad you enjoyed it! x
What a lovely story! Great memories and I do love that you proposed! i did as well with my hubby 🙂 I also love all of your photos together, beautiuful couple. I need more of my hubby with me, as he is always behind the camera.
Oh wow you did too, Jess?! That's so wonderful!!! Thank you my lovely x
Catherine, I loved this! Especially when I got to the part where the one picture that is different is the one that started it all…priceless…and the fact that I can see the residue of tears in your eyes.
Aww Shellie thank you – I never actually realised that the selfie taken on the proposal day was different to all the others till I came to write this post, can you believe it?! Plus I'm amazed I looked half decent in the photo considering I'd been crying! I seem to remember we were there on the jetty for quite a while though, I think we only eventually left to go and warm up in the pub! x
I can honestly say this post brought tears to my eyes, and my nose is now running. I'm such a sucker for a romantic tale and this has just got to me. I think it's absolutely wonderful that you proposed to your man and I LOVE your selfie photos. The two of you really do look perfect together, Catherine. <3 <3
Ohhhh bless you, Suzy – sorry I made you cry!! I never really thought of the story as that romantic, but I guess when you relay it to other people it probably is…! Your comments mean a lot, thank you so much xx
Thank you for sharing! Really great story. Enjoyed every bit of it!
Happy day after Valentines! 🙂
Thank you Madara, glad you liked it! x
Happy Valentine's Day – um, Sunday! – dearest, Catherine!! Thank you sooo much for sharing your truly wonderful proposal story with us…I had a feeling that you'd be the kind of gal to do things just a little bit differently in that department!! 😉 And I happen to think that it all WAS very romantic…and I suspect that Keith most likely did, too!! After all, look at that gorgeous view and beautiful you…he would have been crazy to say anything but "yes!!" XOXO
It was (is) a beautiful place, Monika – I'm so glad it was out of season so that there was no one around!! And thank you, I'm so glad you enjoyed reading the post…! x
All those "selfies!" It's awesome! As is this beautiful story. Thanks for sharing an intimate part about you and your love. What a special post.
Happy day to you two love birds! ;* ;*
Hehe thanks Ann – these are only a fraction of all the ones we've taken – there are about four times that many in all!! Thanks for your lovely comment, it was nice to share something personal for a change…!
What a great story!
Thank you Suzanne my lovely! x
Such a lovely story!!
Many thanks Jaymie, glad you enjoyed it :))
This is so lovely. I really enjoyed reading it so thank you for sharing! My husband and I got married after 13 years together in our mid-30s. I was always very anti weddings, didn't want to change my name and didn't really see the point. As part of his medical training, though, he was working in a hospice and was moved by watching people our age having to get their affairs in order. One night whilst he was still working there, we went to the pub and he said he was sick of having to call me his girlfriend and wanted to get our lives in order whilst we were able to enjoy ourselves; and to not be forced to in horrid circumstances. So, that was him proposing! We got married a couple of months later one morning in our local town hall, having kept it completely secret. My best friend and her husband were our witnesses and only guests. We told out families a couple of months later and refused an offer of any further celebration. I kept my surname, dodged a wedding and have a very happy marriage of nearly three years. I have no regrets about waiting as long as we did either!!!! Our wedding cost £256, we wore clothes we owned already (fortunately I had some nice designer pieces ready to go!) and the money we saved we spent on DIAMONDS!
Happy Sunday to you and your husband ��
Wow SnailPolish – you really did have a wedding on a budget, that's fantastic! Ours was four times that (for absolutely EVERYTHING), so still very cheap and we did have about 30 people there. I love that you totally did it your way and then spent it on diamonds – it's actually a really good investment if you think about it!!
Glad you liked reading my story, and thank you SO much for sharing yours xx
What a handsome pair you are. Good of you to propose.
We do jot do Valentines, anniversaries or anything and we have been together for ever.
Ever day is what counts.
You're absolutely right, Sacramento – it IS every day that counts!! I like how "together forever" sounds… thank you xx
That is a beautiful story, and I am so glad you didn't feel the need to hint at being proposed to. I hope you two have many more happy years! <3
Alexandra thank you so much, that means a lot! Glad you enjoyed the post xx
Wonderful story, so empowering and yeah, I got a lump in my throat. You're a gorgeous couple, facing the world together. xox
aww Patti bless you – that's so sweet of you to say!! Thank you, I wasn't sure about sharing the story but I like the message of not having to conform…!
Thats such a beautiful story xx
Thanks sweetie x
What a lovely story 🙂
:)) thanks Angie!!
Ahhh I loved reading this. I proposed to my husband, not once but twice, as the first time he said no! 🙂 the second time was in the wake of something truly awful and we both just knew that we had to be together. I was an 'older' bride, 40 when I got married, and very little about how we met, got engaged or married fell into a traditional stereotype. I say this only as encouragement to others who may feel there is pressure on everything having to conform to the stereotypical romantic image of proposal etc (if you'd asked me aged 30 how I would have reacted to being turned down I suspect I would have said, I would have stormed out etc, and it was nothing like that, although I did really have to be v grown up and understand his reason in a mature fashion (gah!).
Oh gosh I'm so glad being turned down the first time didn't put you off asking again… I'm not sure if I'd have asked again myself!! Maybe because I was about 33 so a fair bit younger as you said. But I agree about the pressure to conform, I think social media has a lot to do with some of the crazy proposals you hear about. Men seem to think that that's what we all want – I can't think of anything worse than being proposed to in public in some extravagant way!!
Thanks for sharing your story…! x