Everyone’s first question, as soon as you sport a ring on your finger, is “How did he propose?” The available answers seem to grow increasingly complex: a quick internet search reveals choreographed dance routines with professional performers, day-long scavenger hunts where the couple’s friends pop up with clues, private rooftop dinners accompanied by string quartets or even salsa bands. Websites abound offering guidance on creating the “perfect proposal,” and there are event planners whose sole focus is designing not weddings but “proposal packages.” The “Plan Your Proposal” button on one such site leads to a menu that not only strongly encourages hiring a pro to document the event but also includes a “Book a Flash Mob” link and an “Ask the Expert” option, where you can “run your proposal ideas” past a “proposal expert” and get a response in three days.
Um, how exactly does one qualify to become a “proposal expert”?
Bold public proposals or creative, extravagant approaches are genuinely romantic when they fit the couple. My brother proposed to my sister-in-law in front of a crowd packed with friends and members of an organization that had changed his life; they were the very people who’d encouraged him to live large and dare initiate the relationship in the first place. ❤ And if you’re a professional actor wooing a producer, it makes sense to stage an actual live lip-dub street production to pop the question! But so many “big” proposals seem less an outgrowth of a couple’s personal history than a product of growing social and market pressures to manufacture a “perfect” but artificial moment. After all, most of us aren’t professional performers, and how dreamy is it, really, to purchase someone else’s pre-packaged idea of a romantic gesture, or, for that matter, to tell not only your friends but also a roomful of random flash-mob dancers that you want to marry Susie before you tell Susie herself?
Somewhere along the way, proposing marriage has become a kind of competitive spectator sport. The big proposal now rivals the big wedding. Full of flash and splash, scripted and staged, it’s a public performance of your commitment, recorded for posterity. Because, of course, someone is always there filming these über-events. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Grandiose gestures (complete with choreography) do make for a good story, if you prefer your stories in the style of a big Broadway musical or Hollywood action film. I’m more the character-driven drama or sweet rom-com type myself, though I can also appreciate a suspenseful thriller with a genuinely surprising twist. Steve, too. So our proposal story, understated and simple, suits us.
And not just because we’re middle-aged and “settled,” either, though age might well have something to do with our preferences. Sometimes it seems that in the past decade we’ve become a nation of performance artists, every movement, momentous or mundane, staged, snapped, and shared within minutes, as if nothing really happens unless it’s recorded and posted for comment. But I remember the world before every big (or small) decision was instantly uploaded and subjected to applause or approval. Perhaps one advantage of being a forty-something first-time bride is being old enough to remember what it’s like to savor a private moment, at least for a little while, to cherish the thrill of sharing knowing looks and secret hand-squeezes just between the two of you.
Steve told me he chose to propose in quiet at the edge of the surf simply because he knew how much I loved the beach. If that doesn’t melt your heart, consider: he’s not nearly so wild about the beach himself. He wasn’t concerned with asserting his own preferences, much less starring in his own musical production. As he said later, the only expert opinion that counts is the “yes” you hope to receive, and the only documentation of the event you need is the ring on the finger. He just wanted to make me happy, so he planted my feet in the sand under the moonlight and made a beautiful memory. Now, that’s love, peeps.
And he surprised me. I love that, knowing that he can, and will. It reminds me there’s still much for us to discover.
There’s no need to stage the sentimental event of the century and capture it on professional video from three angles. A marriage proposal from the man you want to marry feels like the event of the century regardless, with or without rose petals, with or without candles, whether the witnesses number one-hundred or just one.
When Steve and I returned from our walk that night, we headed to the gala Great Gatsby-themed party being held in our hotel’s rooftop Skybar. Earlier a glamorously dressed couple in the elevator had urged us to join the fun, the woman noting, “It’s THE ticket of the evening.” We decided to treat the event as our own personal engagement party. After dusting sand from our feet and suiting up in the required black-and-white attire, we toasted each other with flutes of champagne, dipped our toes in the infinity pool, and danced under the stars. We didn’t share our news with anyone, though we did ask a stranger to snap a few photos to commemorate the evening. There was plenty of time for big announcements later.
The night was ours. We held it, and each other, close.