My husband proposed marriage to me on April 18, 2012. We had been together just over a year but had been talking marriage for quite some time – I suspect if at least one of us had been out of college with a steady income we would have been a classic whirlwind romance. That night, he took me out to dinner and wanted me to pick the place (Momma Goldberg’s) and then we went to Chick-fil-A, where I worked at the time, to try a new dessert item that had just made its way onto the menu. As we went to leave, he asked me if there was anything that I wanted to do before he took me home, and I jokingly replied “get engaged.” He asked me twice if that was really what I wanted to do, in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant, that it wasn’t really that romantic of a story. When I said I didn’t care about that sort of thing, he pulled me to the sidewalk, knelt down in front of me, and said “Olivia, will you marry me?”
I could not have been more overjoyed at that moment. I said yes after asking multiple times if it was real or if it was a joke, and then I looked over and saw all of my co-workers through the window, huddled together and holding their breath. I smiled and threw two thumbs up and they all started clapping and cheering. It really couldn’t have been more perfect if he had planned it that way.
Afterwards, I couldn’t wait to tell this story because I was so ecstatic to be entering that stage of my life. But I was disappointed when many people had less than enthusiastic reactions about both my proposal story and my engagement ring.
“So he just asked you in a parking lot? That’s…unique.”
“Wow…your ring. It has a blue stone.”
“When you get a wedding band, you should get one with diamonds on it. That way the topaz won’t be as noticeable to others.”
“Hmm. Well I’m happy if you are. It just doesn’t seem like he planned it out very well.”
Let me tell you, these things are the last thing in the world that a newly engaged woman wants to hear. She doesn’t want you to fawn over ever detail about her ring and proposal story like it is fodder for a Disney movie, but she does want you to smile and say congratulations. Not being judgmental about her engagement ring or how her fiance mustered up the courage to do what I’m guessing is a pretty scary thing even if he knew what the outcome would be – that would be a great start.
It kind of reminds me of an episode of my favorite television show, The Office. Michael, the boss, is thinking about proposing to his girlfriend Holly. He is having a meeting with some of his co-workers discussing how to do it after the office administrator, Pam, stops him from writing the words “WILL YOU MARRY ME HOLLY” with gasoline in the parking lot, with the intention of lighting it on fire. The following conversation ensues.
Pam: “I think you can keep the proposal simple. Like when Jim proposed. He just, he got down on one knee and he told me that he loved me and he asked me to marry him, and it was perfect.”
Oscar: “Where was that?”
Jim: “At a gas station.”
Michael: *smirking* “A gas station?”
Jim: “Well, it was when she was working in New York so it was halfway between both of us.”
Michael: *condescendingly* “That must have been a surprise when, at the gas station, you proposed.”
Pam: “No, it was really sweet! It was raining, and…”
Michael: “Oh, yeah, you didn’t say that the weather was bad. That sounds perfect.”
This is what proposals like this or this, while I have no doubt that the men who orchestrated them were sincere and had nothing but the purest of intentions, have done. They have wreaked havoc on wedding culture in this generation. Women are beginning to think that it is not enough for a man to kneel down, tell you that he loves you, and ask you to be his wife – something that I imagine is terrifying beyond belief – but while doing so, he must manage to make you the center of attention in a public arena, or a YouTube sensation. If he doesn’t, he must not care about you enough.
That, dear reader, is tripe.
This judgmental attitude that so many women have towards others who have recently gotten engaged and are trying to plan a wedding – a very hectic affair, by the way, if you’ve never done it before – is entirely too prevalent, and it needs to stop. Just stop. If the woman you are talking to is happy with her ring and happy with her proposal and happy with her wedding plans – just stop.
Stop acting like the validity of an engagement is tied to a ring. Do not condescend women whose fiances had the common sense not to go into debt over a diamond ring.
Stop acting like just because a proposal was not planned out in great detail or did not involve some kind of active deception that it is not romantic.
Stop overly criticizing brides who send out save-the-dates early, or late, or not at all.
Stop telling brides to order personalized napkins or take lots of engagement photos if they don’t want to.
Stop forgetting that an engagement is only a precursor to a wedding, and that a wedding is only the beginning of marriage, and that for a marriage to be successful a trinket of certain value or a wedding with certain panache is not required.
Stop. Stop. Stop.
We are better than this, women. We are better than bickering schoolgirls. So, for the love of all things holy, show it.