If anyone thinks the notion of a woman proposing to a guy on February 29th is a bit outdated, that’s because it is – chronologically, if not culturally and politically.
The tradition of Leap Year proposals is said to date back to the 5th Century and a deal struck between Saint Brigid of Kildare and Saint Patrick, an Irish bishop and the man now recognised as the patron saint of Ireland.
Interestingly, for those who are firmly in the camp that believes this tradition is a prime example of gender inequality, can I take this opportunity to add fuel to your fire by also telling you that Saint Patrick is actually one of three Irish patron saints – one of the other generally unrecognised saints being Brigid herself.
The details of the Leap Year deal with Patrick seem to have been lost in time, but ever since then, women have been going down on one knee every four years to ask for their boyfriend’s hand in marriage.
With Valentine’s Day approaching fast, February is very much the month for love and whether you’re a guy or a girl planning on popping the question over the next few weeks, it’s important to get everything right.
For the girls who are putting things in place for their big moment, there’s the tricky question of what to give as the proposal gift.
Generally, men in the UK don’t wear engagement rings, although a silver ring or gold wedding ring with a simple design could be something he’ll be happy to wear – after all, there’s nothing to say a man has to wear a diamond engagement ring.
Giving a traditional gent’s accessory like a watch or medallion might also be a nice idea.
For the men, there’s one important thing to keep in mind. As I explain in my book on finding the perfect engagement ring and getting it right first time, 1 in 5 women confess to hating the engagement ring their boyfriend proposed with.
The simple fact is, by and large men just aren’t that great at making the right choices when it comes to capturing the style and fashions of their female partners in the engagement ring they choose to give – and as a result they risk ruining the big moment.
Nothing says ‘crushed’ quite like the look of disappointment or distaste that passes across a woman’s face on the big reveal.
That’s why I always advise my male clients to use a placeholder ring for the proposal and then bring his fiancée with him so I can help them choose the ring she’ll love.
But if you choose to go it alone, at the very least you need to buy a copy of my book to keep you on the right path.
Here’s another dilemma: Valentine’s Day (and Leap Year) engagements – classy or cheesy?
My view is they can be both. Well-planned and well-executed, they can ooze class and romance. The fromage comes when you forget to make sure the proposal setting, and words don’t take the personality of your partner into account.
It’s likely you already know the answer you’re going to get before you ask the other person to marry you – some contemporary marriage discussions can dwarf the Davos climate summit for their scale and complexity.
But even if you’ve both gently agreed that ‘one day’ you’ll probably get married, it’s really important to take that sense of a negotiated decision out of the proposal. Whether you’re a man or a woman, put some effort into making it seem spontaneous and romantic.
The location you choose will be the backdrop to the most romantic question you will ever ask someone, so it needs to live up to the moment.
If you’re sure you know the answer, maybe include your closest friends or family – although if you’re not 100% certain you’re going to get a ‘yes’ your proposal is possibly not the sort of thing you’ll want to do with an audience.
And how you present the ring or engagement token is everything. From the classic ‘down-on-one-knee-pull-the-box-from-your-pocket-and-open-it-as-you-ask’ to the ring in a glass of champagne, how you do it is up to you and how well you know your partner.
And if you’re struggling to come up with a creative idea for your proposal, here’s one of my favourites to give you a little inspiration.
Oh, and as a footnote, the tradition in England dating back centuries is that if a woman proposing on February 29th is turned down, the man is obliged to buy her a pair of gloves on Easter Day.
So, for the ladies out there who have no interest in getting married but need a pair of gloves, find a man who’s guaranteed to say no and ask him to marry you.