#567: I want to propose to my dude but the culture is telling me I’m not s’posed to. What if I mess it up? + A Compendium (hopefully) of Thoughts On Lasting Love

Dear Captain Awkward

I have been with my partner for over 5 years now, and I love him to pieces, I can’t imagine my life without him, but I am scared that if I propose to him he’s going to say no, from what I know we are very happy, and I know that he loves lots of ‘girly’ things as well as ‘male’ things, wearing dresses, cosplay, ribbons, romantic comedies, video games, and shoujo manga.

I thought it would be a great Idea to propose to him later this year by taking him to the largest convention we have in the UK for a romantic weekend away, wine-ing and dining him, I’ve booked the hotel room, saved up nearly all the money I need and bought a ring and a Tardis ring box to put it in.

But I keep second guessing myself now, thinking what if he wouldn’t want me to propose to him, or at the least having no idea what I would say, would he feel weird about his girlfriend proposing to him, I mean I’ve asked him in the past and he always said he hasn’t had a problem with it, but since I’ve started researching how to propose as a woman, I’ve found so many posts saying just not to do it, that it takes something away that is solely for the man to do, that I’d be robbing him basically of him being able to do it and that I would emasculate him by proposing to him, that he would become a laughing stock amongst other men. Despite reassurances from his and my male friends that if their own girlfriends proposed to them they’d be ecstatic, and they think he would be too, since he is not a traditional male.

I want to propose to him so much, but in doing so would I just humiliate him?

Yours sincerely

Dearly befuddled

Dear Befuddled,

How exciting for both of you! Two thoughts:

1) After happy five years with someone, surely a discussion of “do you want to keep doing this”/”should we formalize this thing we’ve got going on in one of the ways open to us under the law” is not a completely foreign one. The saying of the question in so many words, the presentation of symbolic gifts, etc. might have an element of surprise involved, but the prospect of the decision is surely not a surprise, right? If it is, then maybe a “Hey do you ever think about wanting to get married someday? How do you want us to go about making that decision” conversation before the whirlwind weekend is probably in order. If he has strong feelings about where and how and when this should all go down you’ll find out about them.

2) Someone who would not want to marry you or who would be humiliated because you were the one who asked the question, someone who would poop all over the awesome thing you’ve planned because: Traditional gender roles! is probably not right for you on a number of levels.

It sounds like the worst thing that could happen here is that he is like “Yes of course, let’s get married. Though I had this awesome surprise planned for you” and you say “we’ve got the rest of our lives to surprise and delight each other, you silly gorgeous man” and then you kiss a lot and get married some day.

Go live your awesome love story without fear or apology!

Edited To Add:

While we’re on the subject of lasting commitment, an Awkwardeer is seeking help with their wedding vows.

Hi Captain!

I love your blog, and the direct approach you have with words and creating good space for oneself in a relationship. My question is of the happy problem variety … I’m getting married at the end of May to a fantastic guy, and am looking for advice on building a strong marriage (and some inspiration as I start to write my vows).

We’re in our late thirties and have pretty similar romantic histories (very few relationships, none of which lasted very long), which means that we don’t have a lot of personal experience with the ins and outs of long term relationships. Our approach has been to “use our words” as much as possible, and while we don’t always agree, I can’t think of anything that has turned into an actual fight. (We’ve both wondered if this will create a problem at some point, but haven’t been able to imagine it.)

So. We’re getting married (hooray!). And I’m really interested in your (and the awkwardeers) thoughts on maintaining and keeping a strong partnership over the next (hopefully) 50+ years.


What makes love stay? Got any favorite poems or quotes or readings? LET’S CYRANO THE DE BERGERAC OUT OF THIS.


125 thoughts on “#567: I want to propose to my dude but the culture is telling me I’m not s’posed to. What if I mess it up? + A Compendium (hopefully) of Thoughts On Lasting Love

  1. May I just put in a vote for the propsing ladies here? Because I totally proposed to my male special friend person, and he said yes, and we did the talking about it beforehand thing (which was accidentally kind of a proposal but I’m glad it was veto’d as a proposal because it would have been less adorable than our final cut), so, basically, I think it’s awesome and fun and you should talk about the marriage and patriarchy and whatnot first to see if that’s a thing that is In Mind for both of you, but I am also just super excited for you and really happy.

    Mean Girls Reference: I just have a lot of FEELINGS OK??

  2. This post is the soothing, sweet balm after that Post That Shall Not Be Named earlier today (not you Captain, your take down was glorious, but the original post itself, which inspired some serious firey rage within me). But ahem.

    LW! I hope you propose to your significant other, and I hope it is just as adorable in person and real life as it sounds here. Everything you’ve thought of sounds so sweet. Good luck to you both!

  3. As a not very traditional dude, I say that the idea that it’s all on us to propose is complete crap. I’m old and married now so it’s not an issue in my life, but I am happy that it seems like there’s greater gender parity in initiating relationships now than when I was younger. Why shouldn’t it be the same way for proposals?

    That said… you really should know your dude well enough by this point to have an idea of (a) is he going to be put off by your initiative here (b) is he likely to have some idea of wanting his own proposal scenario and (c) is he going to be bothered if narrow-minded jerks give him crap about it?

    People surprise us somewhat, and my wife thought I was insane when I said I was just 95% sure she’d say yes when I proposed (also after about five years). But there’s always the unknowable in other people, so I wasn’t PERFECTLY sure and I sympathize with your wondering. But trust your gut on what he’s like and what he’s going to appreciate!

  4. I think this bit needs to be highlighteditalicizedextrabolded: “Someone who would not want to marry you or who would be humiliated because you were the one who asked the question, someone who would poop all over the awesome thing you’ve planned because: Traditional gender roles! is probably not right for you on a number of levels.”

    It’s the same attitude I try to have to asking people out. People who won’t go on a date with me because they’re offended I asked them, not vice versa, are not awesome enough to go on a date with. And if something does go wrong, please don’t listen to people who spew “it was all your fault, of course everything is broken, YOU BROKE THE CULTURAL RULE!!! why did you think that was okay ever” nonsense at you. Because that is a crippling, soul destroying vampire of a thought pattern that needs to be killed with fire.

    1. Totally, for sure, 100%, everything else that means certain agree with highlightingitalicizingextrabolding:

      “Someone who would not want to marry you or who would be humiliated because you were the one who asked the question, someone who would poop all over the awesome thing you’ve planned because: Traditional gender roles! is probably not right for you on a number of levels.”

      Just, no. If traditional gender roles end up being important enough to him that you proposing would ruin his life, it would likely eventually come up as a problem later on in the relationship. If it hasn’t come up as a problem yet, you proposing probably won’t be a problem. So, yeah, have a chat about the future before you propose, and if you guys want the same thing, go ahead and propose.

  5. My favorite reading from my wedding, that directly deals with love, was from the book of Ruth, Ruth 1:16. ‘Wherever you go, I will go.’ I always liked that verse because it was about unconventional, chosen family that doesn’t break, even in the midst of famine and death.

    1. Yes! If I had been the sort to do a church wedding, I would have definitely taken something from Ruth. I love the strength of the love in that story. ❤

    2. Somewhat OT:

      I always think it’s funny that people think this line is so romantic, it belongs in a wedding.

      Ruth says this to her mother-in-law Naomi, not her husband. (Her husband is dead at that point, as is Naomi’s.)

      Naomi is returning to her homeland (Judah?), and tells Ruth she should return to her family (in Moab.) And this is what Ruth replies.

      1. It is weird, but I think also kind of understandable. Because it’s a relationship where there’s no sex and no blood connection, about people who formed a family as adults, the example ends up being unambiguously about friendship (rather than being possibly a statement about sex or about blood connection). And I think people find the idea of a romantic relationship that includes a really solid piece of friendship.right near the centre of it to be romantic.

        So yeah, it’s weird, but also true.

      2. It’s also a woman saying to another woman “I love you, you are my family now”, so like duh, of course I had it in my lesbian-years-before-it-was-legal-anywhere-in-the-US-wedding.

        1. And it’s also how Ruth communicates to Idgie in Fried Green Tomatoes, a lesbian romance novel which has the lesbian romance stuff whitewashed in the movie version. But is STILL a great love story 🙂

      3. Seem this thing that you see as weird is precisely what I like about the story. It’s about love, specifically, stripped of the often kinda fucked-up cultural baggage of romance. It’s how I prefer all the loves in my life to be.

      4. To be fair though, most Bible readings about love are not about romantic love.

        We had passages from John and Colossians which were about showing love to people in your community, by being patient, compassionate, forgiving etc, we knew that it wasn’t written as a formula for a successful marriage, but we still felt that they had something important to say about how we want to behave in our marriage.

        Standing up in public and saying “you will be my family now” is exactly what Ruth is doing and for me, that’s what weddings are about too.

    3. I was named after that verse! (Though my lapsed Catholic mother confused ‘Ruth’ with ‘Rachel’, and I ended up named after the wrong one.)

      I also strongly considered it for a reading at my wedding because the full quote is ‘Don’t leave me or ask me to turn back from you. Wherever you go, I go. Your people will be my people and your God will be my god.’ and I love it and the way that it centres on chosen family, and agreed priorites.

  6. I proposed to my husband, and we literally had that “Aw, but I had this great surprise planned for you!” conversation, with the added bonus that his planned proposal was exactly the same as my just-enacted proposal, only he’d been planning to do it the *next* time we rode that Ferris wheel.

    I will say — assuming you do go ahead and propose, when you tell people that you’re engaged, some of them will ask about your awesome proposal story, and then some of them will get weird when the roles in that story aren’t assigned the way they expected. That’s not something to worry about now, but after you propose, it might be something for you and your partner to fold into the “How shall we share this awesome news with our loved ones?” conversation, so that you know you’re on the same page about how to respond. (For me, this took the form of, “I know arguing with your mom is a minefield, but I feel thrown under the bus when you agree with her that it’s weird that I did the proposing. Can we handle that differently?”) But, like I said — not something you need to worry about right now, and not something you need to put a LOT of thought into at all, because the people whose opinions about your proposal really matter are 1) you and 2) your partner, and it sounds like you’ve got that part down.

    1. Oh geez, people getting weird about proposal stories.

      Spouse *technically* was the one to propose to me. We were in the car driving back from a visit to friends who lived about 5 hours away, and maybe half an hour into the drive, he said:

      “So, I think we both know where this is headed.”

      And we spent most of the car ride discussing obtaining rings (for both of us; we wore silver and amber rings rather than me getting a standard “engagement ring”) and the timing of telling family and telling our other friends and oh, when should we actually have the ceremony, and are we really OK with doing this considering that the friends we had just visited were not legally permitted to marry?

      And it always puzzles people because we are very cute and sappy and obviously in love and “wow, how do you two DO that? you’re so lucky to have someone who loves you so much!” and that totally does NOT square in their minds with the proposal story.

      Also also, while he did the “proposing”, we kept my last name. And that either weirds people out or makes them jealous.

      1. OT, but I am jealous that you guys keeping your name. I’m not married or in a relationship, but I sometimes tell people that if sharing a name is so important for solidifying a family, then he can take my name. And if we had kids (which I won’t, because I’m childfree) they would have my name, too.

        1. Backstory:

          Spouse was adopted by extended family at age 5, so you know, right around when kids often learn to write. And he got to learn BirthName, AdoptiveName, BirthName-AdoptiveName, and then AdoptiveName again.

          Also: his adoptive parents were VERY VERY ABUSIVE, his biological dad probably was as well, and his birth last name belonged to a major character in a fandom I was really active in at the time, which weirded me out a lot.

          I’m the only child of an only son (of an only son). My paternal grandfather was very upset that my mother never got around to having a boy because of carrying-on-name issues.

          Spouse wanted a consistent non-hyphenated name. I wanted either to keep my name or for both of us to find a name (perhaps of an interesting ancestor) to change to. He asked if my family would really be OK with his taking my name, and the only thing my family had to say was my dad pointing out that it will be misspelled CONSTANTLY. Spouse thought that was a small price to pay.

          And now we have had only girls, too, and I have no idea what they’ll decide, but I’m glad they get to grow up knowing this is an option. 🙂

        2. My mother remarried when I was nine, and my entire family changed our surnames to my new step-dads surname. He was super abusive, especially to me, so when my mum finally divorced him when I was thirteen, I changed my surname back to my original (unusual) name. I loved my dad a lot and it just plain sounded better with my first name. None of the rest of my family did for tax/paperwork/effort reasons, so I was the only one in my family with my Dad’s surname.

          By chance, I accidentally fell in love with someone, but
          1. His name was ‘SomethingSON’, and the SOMETHING is my abusers first name, eg Johnson, so I can’t hear it without cringing.
          2. It rhymed with my first name, so if I’d taken his name, I’d have been something like Jane Johnson.

          When I got married, my husband took my surname. He said that he didn’t want my dads name to die out and besides, Jane Johnson sounds like a weirdo who ironed socks.

  7. I went through all of this when I was thinking of proposing to my now-husband. Literally went around and around in my head for two years. I found all the same articles warning me not to do it, and even had friends (who are otherwise open-minded, thoughtful people) tell me “No, don’t do it. Women just have to wait for men to be ready.”

    Finally I decided to trust my own knowledge of him and of our relationship, and trust my sense of the conversations we’d had where he’d said he was totally OK with the idea of women proposing to men. I thought about what my friends had said, and realized that none of them had any reasons against it that related to him personally, me personally, or to our specific relationship — their reasons were all “That just goes against tradition.”

    So I took the leap and proposed. And he was ecstatic, and said yes, and then we planned a wedding and got married, and we’ve been happily married for almost four years now.

    And actually? Nobody else was weird about it, or gave him any crap about being proposed to. Not even the friends who’d discouraged me — they were just excited for us. One of my aunts said “Huh, is that a thing now, women proposing?” and that was it.

    The only thing I wish I’d done differently is exactly what Captain Awkward suggested: I wish I had opened my mouth and started a conversation like “What do you think of the general idea of getting married?” At the time, I was really scared that having that conversation would make him feel pressured or nagged, and I didn’t know how to have that conversation without feeling like I was trying to drop hints. I was horrified of “looking desperate.” I actually felt like proposing was the only way I could have that conversation and retain my self-respect, because at least it would be clear that I wasn’t dropping passive-aggressive hints!

    In hindsight, none of that was true. I could have said explicitly “Look, this is not me dropping hints, I’m not trying to put pressure on you. I’ve just been thinking about the idea of marriage lately and wanted to know what you thought,” and he would have reacted quite reasonably and told me how he thought/felt about it. But I had bought into the cultural idea that mentioning marriage as a woman = pressure and manipulation, so I was scared.

    If we’d had that conversation, I still would have proposed. I just would have spent a lot less time feeling scared and upset beforehand.

    1. I’d totally agree with the “have some general discussions before” conversation – and that’s not reserved to women who propose. Even for men, it might be a good idea to know if your partner is, for example, totally opposed to marriage before proposing.

  8. I’ma get married pretty soon. First, on proposals: I hatehatehate the idea that it needs to be a surprise romantic gesture on the part of the male partner. My fiance and I talked about whether we wanted to keep seeing each other after the first time we hooked up, and talked about how and whether to communicate when/if we slept with other people, and under what conditions we ought to do that. We talked about becoming exclusive about a year later and agreed we both wanted that, within specific parameters. We began to talk about children, which for both of us meant marriage for legal protection. We discussed our financial positions, our life goals, our dream homes and dream vacations. We talked so much about our wedding plans that we went thru several different versions before we were even “officially engaged”.

    When it finally became “official”, it was because we set a date (together) and made a plan (together). The only “surprise” was when he’d present me with the ring, because giving me a nice ring was important to him, so he took the time to pay off one that he was very proud of. There was no ambushing on either side, and it was an entirely mutual decision from beginning to end. One partner being expected to “pop the question” on another with no discussion of goals, wants, needs, just seams crazy to me. It is a major life decision and a legally binding contract! Communicate about it before you decide!

    Second, on being in a strong marriage, my thoughts are pretty much same as above: Communicate. Something is bothering you? Communicate it as calmly as possible. Do Not sit on it and stew and expect the other person to pick up on your dissatisfaction thru osmosis. This was a major hurdle early in my relationship, because my fiance has a lot of ideas about “strength” and “being a man” meaning not admitting to having mental or emotional problems.

    Another thing is to know your partner’s buttons and *assiduously avoid pushing them*. Also notice when you have pushed a button, apologize for “going there” and let the matter drop. Being able to take a break from emotional arguments and reconvene when everyone’s calmed down can be a huge boon. It helps you not say things you’ll regret by not letting the argument get to that point. This is very hard, and my partner and I still struggle with it, but we both recognize the patterns of our fights, and try to change those patterns, or at least avoid those behaviors.

    1. The avoidance of pushing buttons is useful advice, thanks akestra. Although sometimes things that are hard cant be avoided, but taking the heat out of discussions around difficult topics (for me its finances – i am actually hopeless with managing money) and trying again when everyone is calm is very important 🙂

      1. I think that ‘avoid pushinf their buttons’ isn’t quite the same as ‘never discuss anything upsetting’, though. Button-pushing is, essentially, upsetting your partner for no good reason, often in the context of an unrelated argument. It is, IME, the best way to escalate a heated but productive argument to a screaming match.

  9. If you want to, I say go for it.

    If he had his own idea for wanting to do it, nothing to say he can’t do that too anyway. I know more than one couple where A asked B and B said yes, and then B asked A and A said yes. Which I thought was a kind of fun and sweet way of getting around the ‘who should ask who’ question. Frankly if he does want to get married (which I’m assuming you think he does) he’ll probably just be delighted to know you want to too, regardless of who starts that conversation!

  10. “but I am scared that if I propose to him he’s going to say no, ”

    I guess it depends if you mean you’re scared that he’s going to say no because you’re the one asking, or if you’re just plain not sure if he wants to get married.

    If you aren’t somewhat sure or strongly suspecting that he wants to get married, you can bring up the conversation in quieter ways first, to get a sense of whether you’re on the same page.

  11. I think ladies proposing is awesome…one of my best friends did it, and it worked out perfectly/wonderfully/beautifully even with a partner who it sounds like is a little more traditionally masculine than yours.

    However, this line of your letter gave me pause: “I am scared that if I propose to him he’s going to say no.” I don’t ever think it’s a good idea to propose if you haven’t had some serious talks about marriage and KNOW that you are on the same page. Think about it this way…you’ve had months to think about whether you want to get married, plan a proposal, ask friends and the internet for advice, etc. Is it really fair that your fiance would need to make this decision in 5 seconds?! I think it is fun and awesome to have the proposal itself be a surprise…I was ecstatic to have a proposal where the exact moment/ring/location was a surprise. But I would not have been amused if this had been our first opportunity to ever consider marriage as a couple. My fiance KNEW what my answer would be, and I think that’s the way it should be. (Also this would avoid many very embarassing proposals in sports arenas!)

    1. “(Also this would avoid many very embarassing proposals in sports arenas!)”

      Yeah, I always thought this sounded absolutely horrible, to put someone on the spot in such a public way.

    2. I feel like a kind partner is more likely to just say yes in the sporting arena situation, even if they don’t want to, to save face for everyone. And that’s messed up, putting someone in that position.

      1. When I see those big public proposals on youtube or TV where the girl was all ecstatic and ‘yes, of course’, I always wonder which are the ones who end up pulling the guy aside the next day and breaking it to him that she doesn’t want to get married, just didn’t want to embarrass him in such a public way. I assume that happens from time to time,

  12. I have no advice for the proposer, except to trust your awesome self.

    For the person seeking wedding advice, I will share a couple of things that worked for me. Maybe they’ll work for you, too.

    We each wrote out our own vows secretly, and shared them with no one except our officiant. He was charged with making sure that they “went together” well enough, but otherwise sworn to secrecy. So we heard them from each other for the first time at the wedding ceremony. What was funny was that they were very different in structure and style – and virtually identical in content. It was hard to go second, though, because I was starting to cry hearing him.

    Because we had the wedding and reception at the same site, we just had to walk down the hill to the dance floor. So we did a “reverse receiving line” – after we had recessed down the aisle, the guests all lined the path from the ceremony site to the dance floor, and we went down the hill and greeted each one. It was nice because we got to greet every single person, but we were more in control of the tempo than in a traditional receiving line. When we got to the bottom, I made a very short speech, and we opened the dancing. (I think it was, “Thank you so much for coming, everyone. It means a lot to us that you are here to share this with us. Now, we’re married – let’s have a party!”) We did a traditional first dance, then I grabbed his grandpa and he grabbed my 2-year-old niece for the next dance, and we whooped it up for the next couple of hours. My memories of the wedding after that are sort of fragmented – it was such as emotional day – but I definitely remember scenes like my best friend from high school teaching my grandmother-in-law the Electric Slide.

    My most precious possession is a picture of the two of us, with signatures and good wishes from everyone at the wedding signed on the frame. It’s not hidden away somewhere like our wedding album, but positioned so that it is pretty much the first thing you see when you walk into our house.

    At this point, we’ve been married for almost 16 years, and we have two kids, and we’re still going strong. I wish you my usual wish for brides and bridegrooms: May your wedding day be the worst day of your marriage, because every day just gets better and better.

    1. “May your wedding day be the worst day of your marriage, because every day just gets better and better.”

      Thank made me cry with happiness. And write it down where I will remember it for all wedding cards I write in the future.

    2. This is a beautiful comment. I teared up! *happy feels*

      How you did the receiving line sounds really awesome, too.

  13. At our both our weddings (registry office & back garden varieties), Mr Goldfish and I spoke together and said, “I promise to aid and support you, and together we will create an equal and shared future. I will love and comfort you with all that I am, and make the very most of whatever life sends our way. I will love and celebrate everything that you are and everything we achieve. We will count our blessings, the greatest of which is one another. As a family, we will work together to support and care for those we love. This, with my whole heart, I promise.”

    Mr Goldfish wrote most of it – I didn’t have a clue where to begin. Then we shuffled the words about a bit together.

    As for proposing, if your chap has said it’s cool, it’s almost certainly cool. We had talked about marriage and Mr Goldfish expressed a slight preference for proposing, due to quite complicated personal reasons. But he likes jewellery and I wanted to get him an engagement ring. So I bought one and carried it around for a few months until one day, in a shelter next to the sea, we had the following conversation,

    Mr Goldfish: “Will you marry me?”
    Me: “Yes! Will you marry me?”
    Mr Goldfish: “Yes!”

    1. Your story about the ring makes me happy! My partner and I are heading towards engagement and, while I/we have decided that due to reasons specific to us it’s important for him to be the one to propose, I still love the idea of women proposing to men and male engagement rings. So I found a ring on Etsy that I think is gorgeous and that I hope he will like and made a cute little case for it. It’s currently hiding safely in my sewing kit.

      1. I also like the idea of male engagement rings. My fiancé and I actually bought our rings at the same time, while we were travelling; we were in a country where the cost was much less than it would have been back home. This country was actually known for their emeralds, which they were selling in various jewelry shops and stands, etc. Add that this happens to be my fiancé’s birth stone and it made my ring extra special. He wanted something simple so we just got a nice white gold band made for him.

        I’d like to get a second band once we’re married, and he also likes the idea of a second band for himself 🙂

        While he did do the proposal, I think he would’ve been just as happy if I had. In fact… he has a tendency to forget his ring in the kitchen (he takes it off when we’re cooking, doesn’t want to scuff it up too much). Whenever I find it, I always present it to him with a proposal, hehe.

    2. It’s super weird how it started raining directly on my eyeballs when I read your vows? So weird that that is a thing that actually happened just now.

  14. Here’s an (rough quote) excerpt from my favorite Ingrid De Kok poem:

    “praise be the inelegance of ordinary love, where the children slide down the street on skateboards, where the doorbell rings and has to be ignored, where the pillows are too soft, and the feet much too cold.”

    * “To a Would Be Lover”

  15. Congratulations on your upcoming proposal! In terms of Inspiration, here’s a (approximate) quote from one of my favorite Ingrid De Kok poems:

    “Praise be the inelegance of ordinary love, where the children slide down the street on skateboards, where the doorbell rings and has to be ignored, where the pillows are too soft, and the feet much too cold.”

    (From: To A Would-Be Lover)

  16. These are the two readings we used in our ceremony. I found them beautiful and touching, but these things are really personal, so I’ll just leave them here.

    From The Irrational Season
    By Madeleine L’Engle
    But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take. It is indeed a fearful gamble. Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we become a new creature.

    To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take. If we commit ourselves to one person for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation. It takes a lifetime to learn another person. When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling, and which implies such risk that it is often rejected.

    Union from The Beginning to End by Robert Fulghum
    You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. At some point, you decided to marry. From that moment of yes to this moment of yes, indeed, you have been making promises and agreements in an informal way. All those conversations that were held riding in a car or over a meal or during long walks — all those sentences that began with “When we’re married” and continued with “I will and you will and we will”- those late night talks that included “someday” and “somehow” and “maybe”- and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding. The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, ” You know all those things we’ve promised and hoped and dreamed- well, I meant it all, every word.” Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another- acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, and even teacher, for you have learned much from one another in these last few years. Now you shall say a few words that take you across a threshold of life, and things will never quite be the same between you. For after these vows, you shall say to the world, this- is my husband, this- is my wife.

    1. …. So I’m getting married in september, and we aren’t writing our own vows (we like the idea of using the traditional ones because of connection to people that come before us) but. but. our reception is going to be full of literary quotes on various things (think Shakespeare’s sonnet 116) and that L’Engle quote. Holy cow. Tears.

    2. I’m already married but wow that Robert Fulghum quote made me wish I could hop in a time machine and use it at my wedding. So lovely.

    3. We had a three-part proposal, with many years between each of the parts, and I started the first and the third proposals, and partner started the second one(s).
      We were driving somewhere in the car after about two years together, and I suddenly noticed we were having a conversation not about ‘if’ we got married, but ‘when’. So I pointed it out, and then asked him if he’d spend the rest of his life with me. He said yes. This was explicitly not a marriage proposal, but a shared life proposal.
      The Robert Fulghum quote is why this is going here in the replies. 🙂
      We went out for dinner after five years or so together, and on the front porch he dropped something and went down on one knee to pick it up, and looked up again with a ring box. Sneaky man. He asked me to marry him. I said no, which he expected (indeed, knowing what your partner will say is useful!), and we had a lovely evening together and talked about what marriage meant to each of us. He asked me maybe five times over the next few years, always happy with my answer of ‘no, but I’d live with you in sin forever.’
      I came home from work after about seven years together and announced that since I wasn’t going to marry anyone else, and I DID plan to have children with him at some point, I supposed that, my objections to the institution of marriage aside, we might as well get married. He laughed so hard he cried and agreed that he supposed he could be talked into it.

      And from my cousin’s wedding, The Invitation by Oriah, made me cry and I’ve kept it around ever since.

  17. Awwwwww! A Tardis ring box! That’s so cute!

    The work you’ve put in to make your proposal special is beautiful. I’m so happy for you and wish you all the best.

  18. For our wedding, my husband wanted to use the Spock quote but saved it for his toast not his vows, “I have been and always shall be your friend”. We also used “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen as our first song. Friendship is the foundation of our relationship and we wanted to stress that. My dad was one of our officiants and he used a Heinlein quote, “Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own”. And we also used the Steinbeck reading that is a letter to his son about falling in love.

    And for the person who wants to do the proposing: trust what your gut, his friends, and even he tells you. Your culture doesn’t own you or entirely define you, but as we change individuals we get a chance to change cultures.

  19. My favorite poem about marriage, which I actually loved way before I met the Husband, is TS Eliot’s “A Dedication to My Wife.” (It actually has no gender references other than the title, which is useful!) Googling it told me it actually shows up on about.com’s list of Classic Wedding Readings.

    I also really love the wedding episodes of Parks and Recreation as examples of the best of what marriage can be when you go into it as two people who make each other happier and better (I’m partial to Ben and Leslie’s wedding because they’re as close to me and my husband as TV couples get, but Andy and April’s is adorable too).

  20. LW#1: Two of my dearest friends, who are a lesbian couple, have a really sweet proposal story. Somewhere along the line early in their dating, when they talked about “forever” in abstract and not-necessarily-with-you-but-wouldn’t-it-be-nice terms, the idea came that each partner should have the chance to decide on her own that she was ready, and plan and execute a surprise proposal, in order for it to be “official”. And that’s what they did, about a month and a half apart. So each of them has her own “proposer” and her own “I got proposed to” story. Considerate of the fact that people (even people who know they’re Together Forever) are not necessarily ready at exactly the same time; double special and memorable for them; double adorable for their friends; and pick-and-choosable for those unavoidable acquaintances who might be weird about one version but not celebratory about another. Maybe you and/or your guy would find something like this appealing?

  21. As somebody who’s been married almost a decade, I have a few things to offer on the “maintaining a strong partnership” front.

    First: true love is knowing exactly the right thing to say to devastate your partner in a fight, and choosing not to say it. It means a) you know them well enough to be intimately familiar with their weak spots, and b) you love them so much that even white-hot anger won’t make you exploit that knowledge (You WILL fight sometimes. That doesn’t mean your relationship wasn’t meant to be– you’re just people. People disagree sometimes, and they do stupid shit and hurt each other without meaning to. It happens.). It’s important to learn how to fight civilly; each of you should know when you’re nearing your limit, and be able to say “This is too much for me to deal with right now, and I need to disengage until I can trust myself to operate constructively.” Each of you needs to know your own limits, and to respect your partner’s limits, too; it’s not enough to say “I need some time” if your partner’s going to chase you down the hall and try to provoke you until you slam a door in their face.

    Second: know how to apologize, and do it sincerely when it’s warranted. If you’ve accepted an apology, let your partner off the hook. Obviously, some things are unforgivable, but most of the stuff that will give you occasion to apologize is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, and if you hold onto grudges and bring up old shit every time you have a disagreement, that resentment will rot your relationship away.

    Third: keep talking. Always keep talking. Even if all you can say is, “I’m just not in the right space mentally to talk about this right now,” it’s SO important to communicate with your partner. Check in. Ask how their day was, and be interested in the answer.

    Fourth: if you both appreciate physical contact, make sure to touch each other a lot. A twenty-second hug releases oxytocin and makes you feel bonded and trusting (orgasms do that too, but they tend to take a lot longer). It’s easy, when you’re both busy and the glow of newness has worn off, to neglect the physical part of your relationship, but it really is important to maintaining the positive feelings you have for each other.

    Finally: above all, be friends. Be loyal. Be the home team. Have each other’s backs. Talk about the stuff that interests/excites you, and listen to your partner do the same. Have fun together!

    1. Thank you! This is so great – sounds like you have a wonderful partnership

  22. Trust your awesome self and what your partner has told you.

    I’m a lady person who popped “the question” to my main man.
    I’ve been working to get outside of what “culture” tells me women are supposed to do/want (and what love is “supposed” to look like) for a long time, so this was another juncture on the path-of-what-I-want-as-an-autonomous-human.

    I was a bit tipsy that night – which pushed me into getting courageous enough to actually ask (I’d been rolling it in my head for a while, it made sense for a lot of reasons, and we’d known each other for more than ten years, living together for over 4).
    The next morning involved a “so, are you really sure you want to marry me? for realz?” question, to which he answered yes (again! for realz) and we’ve been married for a month now.

    I googled something along the lines of “humanist wedding ceremony” for ideas as a jumping off point for writing my vows since we’re very “not-traditional” in a lot of ways and not at all religious.

    Both our vows boiled down to building a shared path and a commitment to keep having adventures and do hard work together. Acknowledging the fact the people change, we will change, and that whatever those changes look like, we will share them and trust each other.
    Our Officiant stated something when we were going over the planning along the lines of “there is no one right way to do love/relationships, there is just the way that works for each instance of people who are coming together” and that sticks with me still when people are surprised that I asked.

  23. For the second LW, my partner and I are planning to get engaged soon and one thing we’ve found fun and helpful are those pre-marriage books where they talk about communication strategies and/or questions about your beliefs about money, children, work, home, etc. A lot of them are written for evangelical Christians, so if that’s not your background you’ll have fewer options, but we found a couple that are not for that demographic and went with those. A lot of the stuff is content we’ve already covered just in the general course of being in a relationship, but the money sections in particular have been super useful to us.

  24. I, a person of the lady-persuasion, proposed to my now-spouse. He claims he had a plan for proposing to me, but I’m generally the more impatient one, so I went first. (Well, specifically, I rolled over in bed one night and said “So, should we set a date for our wedding?”) It has worked out quite well for us, some decade and a bit on.

    For our vows, we went through a series of steps and came up with things that were important to us as partners in a marriage. We wanted three Main Statements because it reflected the ceremony in general. We’re of different faith traditions, so we included a statement that we would be supportive of each other’s faith journey. We promised to help the other continue to grow and be a better person, and we promised to stand beside the other person through the problems and joys of life.

    We specifically did not promise “until death do us part.” It is entirely possible that at some point supporting my spouse in his growth as a person could mean getting a divorce, and we both thought that the first promise was more important than an arbitrary time limit. We also specifically did not promise monogamy, but did promise honesty. Sometimes what you leave out of your vows is as important if not more so than what you put in them.

    Wrestling with the vows worked well for us; it took about 10-12 hours of work to get them right, and we talked a lot about what we wanted and why we wanted it before we started on the wording. We wanted promises that we could stand behind, and we got that. The promises that I made on my wedding day mean a great deal to both of us, and I feel like they do that because they were the distilled version of what makes our partnership/marriage work.

  25. Hey Befuddled, just chiming in to say I’m a lady type person who proposed to my partner two months ago. He’s from a family/culture with very “traditional” views on masculinity, and he still stops randomly to hug me and tell me how much my proposing meant to him. His whole family is thrilled- they don’t respect him less, they respect me more. I think even in situations where “ZOMG TRADITIONAL GENDER ROLES,” people are just excited about a wedding.

    You sound awesome. Don’t worry about it.

  26. +1ing the advice to have a conversation about the prospect of marriage. Me and my husband had variations of this conversation multiple times while dating: Do you see yourself ever getting married, how much time in a relationship before marriage, what non-time based things should happen before marriage, and yeah a “would you be OK with me proposing” conversation too. There’s literally no reason not to.

    You want to know why all of those web sites tell you to let the guy do it? Because the diamond industry has spent decades convincing men to spend 3 months of their gross salary on an engagement ring. Yeah, women are told they’re supposed to want a ring but women aren’t beat over the head about how much it’s supposed to cost. They probably don’t even make engagement rings for men that cost that kind of money. They’re scared that if you propose that means the guy doesn’t spend several thousand dollars on a ring for you.

    It’s pure marketing. Do not listen to it.

    Your guy has said he’d be cool with it and unless he has a habit of saying he’s cool with things he isn’t actually cool with then you’re fine. Have the conversation anyway but those web sites don’t know your boyfriend, you know?

  27. Us getting engaged was a horrible drawn out mess, but it worked out, we had a lovely wedding and we’re very happy. So I’d suggest that if the LW proposes and it doesn’t go down well, it doesn’t mean disaster.

    We had conversations about marriage, which ended with him saying he worried marriage would make things worse. He wanted to stay with me but didn’t understand why I wanted a wedding. It progressed to me asking him every few months, and in the end he said yes. At the time I was ill and he was being lovely to me, and I just couldn’t keep the question in. I felt awful that I hadn’t done a clever surprise, and that I’d proposed to him lying in bed with a face screwed up in pain and greasy hair. Also bad, he had been working up to a formal proposal.

    He went through the wedding prep reluctantly, only doing it because he realised how important it was to me. But as we said our vows, I think everything clicked into place. We’ve both been properly happy since in a way we weren’t before.

    Perhaps some men have grown up to see marriage as the beginning of a crushing responsibility, and weddings as tacky public theatre. At least if everyone’s clear what they think marriage is, and what they want, there’s the chance one person will take a leap of faith.

  28. PhysioWife and I got married a pretty long time ago. The only thing I remember about our vows was that the officiant was telling me to finally say to PhysioWife “I thee wed”. But when I said it my voice cracked terribly, and it sounded like “I THEEEEEEEQQRGH wed”. And all our guests laughed uproariously. Also, a seagull took a giant dump on my mom’s friend. It was totally fucken awesome!

  29. I like the Robert Fulghum quote – it really speaks to the history of negotiation and conversations that got you to the place and time when you’re ready to get married.

    We’ve been married since 1986, have a kid in college, another in high school, and it feels like we’re doing well. I watched my parents totally fail to communicate, and his parents spend their declining years sniping at each other, so we had two models for things to avoid. We had also each come off fraught relationships with difficult people, so in the middle of the new relationship high was also the wonder that things could be so EASY.

    We agreed on two rules at the beginning: I will not willingly hurt you, and I cannot read your mind. Everything else has grown out from those two rules, along with the Farber and Mazlish books on talking to people so as to have conversations. [How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk; a friend handed it to me in honor of my first job saying “ignore the title, it is how to talk to everyone, and happens to be the best management tool I’ve ever found”]

  30. Y’all are both too cute. Nthing the Captain and everyone who says that the first LW should consider having the “are we ready for marriage” convo prior to the actual proposal gesture, if they haven’t already.

    And, FWIW, I don’t think he’ll care about being the one who’s proposed to. I think that because of my own proposal story. My now-husband is a pretty traditional dude. Not about gender roles, really, but he feels a good bit of societal pressure to check off the chivalry boxes. We had talked about marriage for years and the only thing holding us up was his inability to afford a ring that met whatever internal standards he had. I finally gave him a deadline by which I was going to start planning a wedding/announcing our engagement and if he wanted to do something proposal-y, that’s how long he had. He got it done, by the skin of his teeth. I say all that to say, my husband, as traditional as he is about romantic gestures, absolutely would have said yes if I proposed first. It didn’t even occur to me at the time, but looking back I realize I should have. We were ready, I had the cash to make the big gesture he wanted us to have and he would have loved to have been relieved of the pressure. I was (and remain) an ardent feminist, but I just didn’t even think of it.

    Anyway. TL:DR, if you’re both ready for marriage, go on ahead and propose. I wish I had!

  31. My parents were married for 35 years before my mother died. My dad used to say “We were married for 33 good years, not bad out of 35”, by which he meant “things will be awful sometimes, accept it and dwell on the happy things”.

    One of the things they routinely offered as advice to people was to take separate vacations. My dad went hunting without mom while she watched us. My mom went to at least one convention a year while dad wrangled us. They also spent time with each other while we kids did for ourselves (my older sister was ten years older than me, by the time I was six she was of baby-sitting age).

  32. I’ll go back and read the comments later – but – Best Beloved told me about a dream in which we got married (he could detail the cars but nothing else, go figure!), I talked about it over lunch with my best friend who has known me forever. Now, I had been adamant that I wasn’t going to get married (see family history), although not averse to a commitment ceremony. Best Friend pointed out all the ways in which we are different to both sets of our parents (yes, she’s a lawyer). Um, guess who sort of fumbled a proposal out on the way home from work that day? He then got to ask me all over again when we received my mother’s engagement ring.

    We got married 3 months later in an old park, incredibly informal and about 10 minutes all up for the actual ceremony. We cobbled together our own vows, and they included the line – I will love you when it is easy and when it is hard.

    Go for it!

  33. A female friend of mine proposed to her long-time boyfriend and he was thrilled! They had their wedding a few weeks ago and it was lovely and they’re super happy. 🙂

    Just another girl-proposes-to-boy-and-it’s-all-totally-cool success story. Good luck!

  34. My younger brother married last year, and they had “Let me not to the marriage of true minds” (Shakespeare sonnet) as a reading. I’m absolutely 100% sure that’s a cliche, and it probably isn’t something that resonates with everyone, but I also think it’s a lovely reading.

    Some years ago friends of mine married and her dad read something about arches at their wedding that I thought was lovely – about the physics of arches and how it’s a metaphor for marriage. No idea what the reading was but I bet I could find out if someone wants!

    1. Whatever. That’s my favorite sonnet even outside the wedding context. It just… describes everything I’m looking for in love. “That looks on tempests and is never shaken”


  35. I highly, HIGHLY recommend both A Practical Wedding and Offbeat Bride for anyone who thinks they might want to get married some day.

  36. For the couple about to get married: my husband and I were in basically your shoes before we got married–neither of us had been in many relationships before, and we tended to talk things out and had never had a fight. We even talked about the whole “we always talk stuff out and we’ve never had a fight, is that weird that we haven’t had one before we’re getting married?” and we decided that the whole “you have to have a fight with someone before you get married to them” rule/advice is crap, at least for people who know how to use their words and talk things out before the situation could reach a fight. We’ve had disagreements since we got married, but we always talk things out and we love and care enough about each other to make compromises and accommodations for each other. In some ways, I think it’s because we both came from households with extremely argumentative, constantly bickering parents and we were able to see/learn what *not* to do. We’re not perfect, not by a long shot, but even when we screw up or annoy each other, we tend to remind each other “yes, I’m annoyed/mad right now, but I still love you. Now can you stop *action that is annoying*?”

    And what the person a couple places up said is really, really good–remember that neither of you can read each other’s minds (our phrase is “I’m not magic; you have to tell me what you want”) and never intentionally hurt the other person (which is not to say you’ll never hurt each other). I would add that you should remember to thank each other for everyday things, and to try to do small, everyday things for each other (example: my husband usually empties the dishwasher and takes out the trash, but sometimes I’ll do it while he’s taking a nap or if I get home from work before he does; he gets me flowers from the grocery store or washes my car for me if he notices it needs it, etc.). Be mindful of each other.

    1. I totally agree with all of this. My partner and I had also never had a fight when we got married – disagreed, yes, fought, no – and I had started to stress about that, building Our First Fight up in my mind (because I didn’t have much relationship experience at that point). What helped us was to talk about fighting, especially the conditions under which an unproductive fight was likely to happen. (For us, it’s overtired, hungry, frustrated, overwhelmed, etc.) We’ve managed to head off many unhelpful fights by recognising what’s happening, and when we did have our first fight, about 3 years in, it didn’t feel like the end of the world.

  37. Dear Befuddled, your partner says they dont mind women proposing. You think youre at the time in the relationship when this is a good next step. No need to research how to propose ‘as a woman’ – just find a fun / cute / appropriate way which resonates with you both, and try it! Good luck!

  38. My mom proposed to my dad, at least according to him. SHE claims the conversation went something like

    Him: “So, do we want to get married?”
    Her: “Yeah, I think so”

    He says that she shouted “yes” so loudly that he had no choice and that somehow morphed into her proposing. The point of this story is that if it’s right, it’s right, no matter who recognizes it first!

  39. Re vows, it is personal but your choice alone! Hubby and I each wrote our own, we then read each others to make sure no accidental entendres or phrases that might offend, but then we settled on our own words. It meant so much more that way, to tell my husband he was both my lover and my best friend, and to hear from him how and why he truly loves me.

    Did it make our family cringe? I dont think so, but maybe they hid it well. But it was *our* wedding and the vows were *for us* and that is what happened. Write vows that are real and meaningful to you, and enjoy hearing them on your special day.

  40. I don’t have any advice but I just want to hug the hell out of you for the Cyrano de Bergerac reference, because a) that is a wonderful play which b) I am hosting a play-reading party for and c) POETRY. I love this.

  41. Re: vows–I personally love Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Sonnets from the Portuguese”. Not “How do I love thee,” which is the one everyone thinks of, but most of the others. XXII, for instance, or XXIl, or XXIV–they’re all online here: http://www3.amherst.edu/~rjyanco94/literature/elizabethbarrettbrowning/poems/sonnetsfromtheportuguese/menu.html.

    Half of one of my undergrad theses was on “Sonnets from the Portuguese” and I still love them so much.

  42. Can’t resist chiming in as yet another lady who proposed to her dude: it was awesome, nobody’s ever been weird about it, and I laugh at any websites that say that it will make a man a laughingstock. (I’m not so into rings, so I commissioned a portrait of us dressed all fancy from one of our favorite webcomics artists, and gave him that. He loved it. We used it on the invites. The only cultural scripts you have to follow are the ones that feel good to you.)

  43. LW1: My cousin of the lady variety proposed to her dude! With a ring, even, which he wore during their engagement, and now wears as his wedding ring. Ladies proposing to dudes is totally awesome! It sure sounds to me like your dude would love it if you did, but I also endorse the talking about it and coming to a mutual agreement without a proposal event, which is more how it happened with me and Mr. Bluejay. We started out talking about marriage in the hypothetical with if-statements and gradually morphed to using when-statements. At that point, I wrote a list of things to discuss. Some were things that we’d have talked about before, some not, but they were things that I felt we should go over explicitly with the context of deciding if we should get married (examples: the implications of my and my family medical history, values that I believed we shared but wanted to state baldly to be absolutely certain that we did) and we talked through the list on a long walk. The talk went well, so I considered us engaged and we went ring shopping shortly after that. Amusingly, he doesn’t even remember that walk with the list 8 years later.

    LW2: If you haven’t had a fight yet, you might simply be the sort of couple who won’t ever fight much. That’s how it has been for me and Mr. Bluejay. Using your words is part of it, but your temperments play a strong role, too, as many people who are great at using their words still have fights.

    1. Just to clarify, I’m sure my cousin and her husband had discussed marriage before she proposed, so her scenario vs. mine isn’t a pop the question vs. discuss + no proposal even. It actually boggles my mind that anyone getting proposed to would be utterly blindsided by the question. You don’t have to be as blunt about the discussion as I was, but you want to at least have put out some feelers!

  44. LW1: Do it! Provided you and prospective fiance have discussed marriage ahead of time, and have a general agreement that it’s a thing you both want to do and are ready for. That part’s important. The gender of the asker? Not so much. So listen to your dude, and your dude’s friends, who know *him*, and not “society”, which really doesn’t know anyone.

    LW2: I’m not married, but if and when I do so, I really want to work in one of two songs from my favorite band that really describe my idea of what love should be. The band is Thrice, and the songs are The Weight, and Anthology.

    The Weight chorus:
    And come what may, I won’t abandon you or leave you behind,
    Because love is a loyalty sworn, not a burning for a moment.
    Come what may, I will be standing right here by your side,
    I won’t run away, though the storm’s getting worse and there’s no end in sight.

    Anthology chorus:
    Oh you know me
    Oh and I know you
    And I know that
    We can see this through

    Basically, I just really love the idea of Love being about knowing and trusting someone, not about the immediate passion of infatuation.

    1. “Provided you and prospective fiance have discussed marriage ahead of time, and have a general agreement that it’s a thing you both want to do and are ready for.”

      In that case, aren’t you already engaged? 🙂

      I know, I know, some people like the whole ritual with the special day and the rings and everything…

  45. My cousin proposed to her now-husband (we are all from the UK). The wedding was one of the gorgeous-est events I have ever been to, and throughout the ceremony he was visibly delighted to be getting married to this wonderful person (as he should be, she’s bloody lovely.)

    The thing is, I think, that if it is in keeping with your character and personality to want to do the proposing yourself, then if your partner knows you they will already know this about you, and look! They love you already! So you should go ahead and be you, and trust them to want you to be you, because they’ve already picked you.

    (It’s ten to six in the morning, I’m not quite sure that makes written English sense but I hope I have communicated the gist.)

  46. ““Yes of course, let’s get married. Though I had this awesome surprise planned for you” is pretty much what happened to me. We’d been together 7 years, and I was like ‘I was pretty much sure I wanted to marry you after a year and I’ve given you enough time to do the guy thing, buggerit” so I lined up his best mate in a virtual world we were playing in at the time and proposed by trading him an in-game item with ‘will you marry me’ on it (while we sat next to each other). Then it turned out he had plans for about a month away when we were going on a 9 day bike ride together – he was going to find the top of a big hill and then ask there. Oh well. Turns out I would’ve been too sweaty and worn out to really enjoy it at the top of the hills 😉

    I don’t think he’s terribly embarassed by the fact that I asked. It is uncommon here (in Australia) but not a huge deal when I tell the story.

  47. Another one of the Ladies Who Proposed, checking in!

    My partner and I had discussed marriage for a long time before I proposed. We definitely knew we were committed to each other for the long haul; the real question was whether or not this would take the form of marriage. My partner had been married before and was still processing various things about that. Eventually we both reached a point where we decided yes, marriage was a step we would take at some point. At this point I waited for a proposal … and started to feel weird and frustrated about it. Then I realised that because we try really hard to be equal partners, why would he be the only one to have the special Proposing Power? (This was one of the many I Have Internalised More Unhelpful Gender Stuff Than I Thought realisations that came out of the whole wedding thing.)

    One night I talked to my partner about a women-proposing article I’d read that day, and it was clear that he had no objections in principle. So I decided to propose. I lay awake most of that night, feverishly planning The Best Surprise Proposal Ever like the ones I’d read about on the internet … but shortly before dawn I realised that (a) this was going to stress me out way more than either of us would enjoy it, and (b) I am AWFUL at keeping secrets from my partner, so I’d blurt out my Secret Plan sometime anyway. Our relationship has a strong Using Your Words component, so I decided just to wake him up and ask him, right then. He was delighted, and said yes. 🙂

    He didn’t want an engagement ring for Reasons, and despite my love of shiny things, I didn’t either because I’m not comfortable with the cultural narrative around them. We bought each other a small engagement present at the time, and later we designed wedding rings together.

    In our social circles, women proposing is still not the norm, so we got a couple of weird comments about it, but nothing major. And I think us talking about it is helping to normalise the idea for other people, who might otherwise not consider resisting some of these highly gendered cultural narratives.

    Good luck, LW, no matter what you decide to do!

  48. To LW#2, we also had the guests take a vow. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but something about how marriage (or a couple, as this was in the early 90s, no legal queer marriages in the US then) wasn’t just about the people involved seeing themselves as a unit, but also about being recognized as a unit by their community. So we asked them to commit to seeing us as a unit. The relationship ended 5 years later (8 years total), so none of the vows spoken lasted until the end of time, but I remember us both feeling that our community recognition was important.

  49. LW there are many nice stories of proposals here so I’m not going to add anything on that front but just wanted to say: there is absolutely zero chance that the random people on the internet saying “noooooes! Proposing is totally like ripping his balls off!” know your boyfriend better than you do. At best they’re working on some kind of averaged out generalisation (and I’d hesitate to even give it that much credibility). When you’re uncertain about this kind of situation it’s tempting to fall back on gender essentialism as some kind of secret code to breaking through the uncertainty. Don’t do it!

  50. For the couple getting married: You will fight! As long as you’re kind to each other, fighting is OK and happens. I recommend reading Non Violent Communication. The only time I’ve found my vows hard was when we had a row and I *really* wanted to shout and scream mean things, for the first time in the whole relationship, and I’d promised not to so I didn’t (but when I’d calmed down we did talk about it and resolve it).


    I take you to be my husband. You are my family and my next of kin and I want everyone to know how important you are.

    I want us to go on making decisions together, to keep each other sane and safe. I want to parent with you because you make me better, more generous like you. I want to be your comfort into old age and to always make you laugh like crazy.

    Together we achieve great things and we will dare to eat a peach.

    A road trip with you is perfect freedom and happiness – I look forward to the road trip of our life

    I promise:
    I will read to you
    I will have silly conversations late at night with you
    I will care for you when you are sick
    I will always be a safe person for you to be honest about your feelings with
    I will listen fully to you
    I will always appreciate the many kindnesses and acts of love you show me
    I will support you to make your own choices and respect your decisions
    I will assume the best and believe in you
    I will speak to you with kindness and love even when we argue
    I will make decisions with your full involvement and be honest about my feelings
    I will try to be patient, to take a breath and do the kind thing, when I feel grouchy
    I will work hard to maintain this relationship for the rest of our lives as we grow and change.

  51. First, Yay Ladies Proposing!

    Second, we used a reading by Robert Fulghum called ‘Union’ for our wedding. It’s about how all those promises you’ve been making to each other and conversations about the future you’ve been having over the years are the real wedding and the ceremony is you guys declaring in front of people you love that you really mean it. I don’t know how romantic it is for you, but it worked for us.

  52. First LW: I don’t think I can add much in terms of answering your original question – the Captain and commenters have it covered. I do want to say, though, that it sounds a bit as if you’re in danger of falling down the Rabbit Hole of Research. (I’ve been there so many times…) You have planned a beautiful proposal at a con with a Tardis ring box to a man who likes wearing dresses – it really doesn’t sound to me as if you need any advice from Cosmo or Ms Manners or whoever. Stop reading this stuff now, before they start telling you that you’ve planned your wedding all wrong, as well.

    Second LW: We had a tiny legal wedding ceremony in a registry office, and then a non-legal ceremony the next day with all our friends and an enormous party. The wedding (the second bit) was really important to us in terms of celebrating our friends and family, as well as our relationship with each other; so the opening reading was a poem called ‘Look To This Day’, which was very relevant and not at all romantic. We wrote our own vows, basically by sitting down and writing out what we wanted to say as simply and clearly as we could, and then tweaking it a little bit to make it flow better. (We both said the same things, for reasons that are specific to us.) So they included the things we thought would be important to sustaining a strong relationship, such as making time for each other separately and in big groups, and playing music together regularly. We’re not always good at keeping those promises, but they do give us something fairly solid to come back to.

  53. I meant to add: I kind of love the Tim Minchin song that’s about how if I didn’t have you, I’d probably find someone else just as good, but that doesn’t matter because I have chosen to be with you. I find the idea that we are each other’s mutual choice much more flattering and romantic than the thought of being somehow inextricably destined for each other; if I was getting married now, I think that would probably have to be included somewhere!

  54. LW#1, I proposed to my now-husband, and it’s an amusing story we both enjoy telling (and anyone who thinks otherwise can piss off). We had talked extensively about getting married – he wanted to, I didn’t, which seemed to blow some people’s minds as a total reversal of the natural order. Over a number of years I decided that being married to this man was important to me, and since I was the one who changed my position I felt it appropriate to be the one to propose. I made plan after plan, didn’t follow through. Finally I got blind rotten drunk at the races and afterwards at a seedy pub asked him if he wanted to “get hitched”. He said yes (after asking if I was serious), but I was still concerned that being that inebriated looked like I didn’t really mean it. So the next day I made a keyring, rang his mum “for permission” (we’d already told our families the night before), got down on one knee and proposed sober. He wanted to give me a ring, so that afternoon we went shopping, chose one together, and he proposed to me. Three “proposals”, none of them “typical”, and I loved them all. Had he turned me down just because I was the one who proposed rather than because he didn’t want to get married at that time (or done something like ask my father for permission if he had proposed), I would have known he was not the man for me. While it would have broken my heart, I would have ended the relationship. We had talked about these things often, in detail, and if he had disregarded my feelings for the sake of what “society” thought was proper it would have shown how little he valued me in comparison.

    LW#2, we borrowed from all over for our wedding (A Practical Wedding and Offbeat Bride were great sources for ceremony ideas, readings and discussions on what it means to be married, particularly the Reclaiming Wife section on A Practical Wedding). We wanted to make sure that everything spoke to us, though I have also been to weddings where more traditional vows and ceremonies were very meaningful to those involved. Our readings included “Loving the Wrong Person” by Andrew Boyd: “We’re all seeking that special person who is right for us, but if you’ve been through enough relationships, you begin to suspect there’s no right person, just different flavors of wrong. Why is this? Because you yourself are wrong in some way, and you seek out partners who are wrong in some complementary way. But it takes a lot of living to grow fully into your own wrongness. It isn’t until you finally run up against your deepest demons, your unsolvable problems – the ones that make you truly who you are – that you’re ready to find a life-long mate. You’re looking for the wrong person. But not just any wrong person: the right wrong person – someone you lovingly gaze upon and think, “This is the problem I want to have.” The second reading was a poem by Neil Gaiman, and the third was an excerpt from “falling in love is like owning a dog” by Taylor Mali.

    I felt very seriously about our vows, wanting to make sure that they were promises we could keep. Vows we could live in and with and live up to. Vows that were meaningful to us:
    “I choose you. To stand by your side and sleep in your arms. To be joy to your heart and food for your soul. To learn with you and grow with you, even as time and life change us both. I promise to laugh with you in good times and struggle alongside you in bad times. I promise to respect you and cherish you as an individual, a partner, and an equal, knowing that we do not complete, but complement each other. May we have many adventures and grow old together.”

  55. LW #1 – Allow me to join the chorus of lady-people who proposed to their special male friend people and had it work out well. Short version: I asked some cool people if they’d let me pop the question at their improv show, handed them my TARDIS box, and we made the rest up as we went along. It was AWESOME, and neither of us have gotten gendered weirdness about it. (Edit: some people have asked him if he felt weird about it, implying that he should, but he was all “pfft, clearly you don’t understand how we work” and that was that.). If you think you’ve found your OTP, go ahead and ask him! Allons-y and good luck, fellow Whovian!

    LW #2 – I don’t remember what book it was from, but I remember these words clearly. “Today begins my walk with you. Where you go, I go. Where you stay, I stay. I will spend my days within the reach of your voice, and my nights within the reach of your hand, and none shall come between us. This I vow.” I like that this promise implies partnership, and continued intimacy and closeness, which I think are important.

    The game Changeling: the Dreaming had some nice words too.

    “I shall give a gift of myself to thee.
    Take it freely, for freely is it offered, and until (duration) comes, thou, (name) shalt have me in thy keeping. I swear love unto you and pledge you my troth.
    May those who watch over love watch over this oath and those who keep it,
    and may we never find fault in their eyes.”

    Though I prefer this alternate version of the same oath, because it allows for polyamory, if that’s your thing. “Let the moon and the stars be my witness as I pledge you my love. I shall hold you in my heart with the passion of a thousand suns. Roam though I may, I shall always return to you and let no other remove your memory from me. You are my true love and so shall you stay, no matter where my destiny takes me.”

    1. Those vows are from The Wind on Fire Trilogy, one of my favourite fantasy series I read as a teenager and to this day one that I regularly re-read.

      I always thought the marriage vows in it were beautiful.

  56. I have not yet read through all the comments, so forgive me if I’m repeated something that’s already been stated, but Befuddled, I think you gave yourself an answer:

    would he feel weird about his girlfriend proposing to him, I mean I’ve asked him in the past and he always said he hasn’t had a problem with it

    I say, believe his words! He said he wouldn’t have a problem with it so take it that he indeed won’t have a problem with it. It seems like all your anxiety about this topic stems from, hm, “external” sources, meaning, not your boyfriend or yourself, so I’d suggest just ignoring those seeing how you actually do have information on how your boyfriend feels about it.

    I wish you all the best and good luck!

    1. Also, on the very, very slight off-chance that he always thought he wouldn’t have a problem with it, but when it actually happens, he suddenly discovers that in some dark little masculinist corner of his psyche, he has a teeny, tiny, little qualm…

      – not your fault
      – not a sign that the websites were right all along
      – not proof that you shouldn’t have asked
      – not proof that gender is immutable and Men Are Like That
      – not a sign that he was lying about being OK with it or that you shouldn’t have believed him
      – almost certainly not a sign that he wishes you hadn’t asked (assuming he says yes!)

      It just means, hey, patriarchal culture gets everywhere, including into our braaaaaains, and we all have to deal with that. It means that you two have shared values of re-defining the gender roles in your relationship, but that it’s not always 100% smooth-sailing, and sometimes you have to work a little harder to uproot things that were planted there a long time ago because your brain doesn’t quite live up to your ideals. And if you’re going to build a life together and maybe raise kids, that’s a good thing to know, right?

      Good luck!

  57. LW#2 I don’t know your religion, if any, but if you are open to inspiration from religious texts I have seen some lovely Interfaith & secular Ketubahs. This one is from mpartworks:

    “I betroth you to me forever. I betroth you to me in everlasting faithfulness. I will be your loving friend as you are mine. Set me as a seal upon your heart, like the seal upon your hand, for love is stronger than death. And I will cherish you, honor you, uphold and sustain you in all truth and sincerity. I will respect you and the divine image within you. I take you to be mine in love and tenderness. May my love for you last forever. May we be consecrated, one to the other, by these rings. Let our hearts be united in faith and hope. May our hearts beat as one in times of gladness as in times of sadness. Let our home be built on understanding and loving-kindness. May our home be rich with wisdom and reverence.”

    1. I just wanted to add the clarification, since not everyone may know, that a ketubah is a Jewish marriage contract, and that the traditional form is about the man’s obligations to his new wife during the marriage and should it end (by death or divorce). Obviously, there are modernized, egalitarian versions, like the one cited by RP. I should also point out (for those that may care) that the beginning of the version RP gave is a collection of verses from various parts of the Hebrew Bible.

      For myself, we had a traditional Jewish wedding, basically, with a few modifications, but no readings added. One aspect of the Jewish wedding that I love though, is that it includes 7 blessings that, when analyzed, create a connection between the wedding/the new marriage’s first moments and the garden of Eden. I’ve also heard of people asking friends and family to write blessings for them that they then share during the ceremony. That might be useful for a creative ceremony.

      As for proposals, we didn’t quite manage one- my husband apologized for taking so long coming up with a ring and proposal (it wasn’t long, we’d been dating something like 3 or 4 months), I said it was fine- then told my parents a couple of days later that this was it, we were getting married at some point. Then I felt bad that we hadn’t told his parents. So we told them. Then we waited a couple more months, gave up on the proposal, and just told people we were engaged. I picked out a ring from a couple of family rings his grandmother had saved for the purpose another 5ish months after that. It’s more engagement than most of my relatives had.

  58. Just adding another story of being a lady who proposed to a man. We’d talked about getting married and whether it mattered who proposed, and we were buying a house together. Then we went for a walk to a beautiful Cotswold village, on a beautifully sunny New Year’s Day and we walked to the top of a hill overlooking a stately home and we both knew it had to be then. I just managed to screw my courage up and do it before he did but it was still very romantic.

    FWIW, he had never intended to go all out on a big proposal as he said that there’s too much potential for it to go wrong/be anti-climactic, he just wanted to find the perfect moment to do it.

    Only 1 person of everyone we know asked “who proposed?” everyone else asked “how did he?” but nobody was horrified. Also, by the time you get into wedding planning, you are going to come up against soooooooooo much gendered bs that everyone feels they need to express an opinion on (at least if your family is anything like mine), you may as well do at least this one thing your way because by the time anyone expresses an opinion on it (apart from Awkwardeers) it will be too late.

  59. Dear LW, and the Awkwardeer who is writing your vows,

    OMG SQUEEEEE!!! I am so happy for you both as well as your respective partners.

    I wanted to point you both to some resources that buck the conventional/traditional wedding mold and do quite a lot of discussion about (non-traditional) gender roles, girls proposing to guys (or girls to girls, or guys to guys, or any other combination of identities), non-hetero and non-monogamous relationships, egalitarian relationships in a marriage, using your words (in your vows and in your marriage), etc. I found both of these sites to be a soothing balm of reason and thoughtfulness in the madness that is our culture around engagement and wedding planning when I was going through it.


    Go forth and be excellent to one another!

  60. LW#1 – MrLogic proposed to me, one knee, diamond, the whole shebang (in private). But that was only after:
    1 – We had had many, in-depth discussions about getting married at all, and why it was something we both wanted. We established that we were basically already married in all the really important personal ways, so it was just a matter of making it official. We were committed, it was just going to be about making sure the law didn’t ever keep us apart or interfere with our little team.
    2 – I asked if he wanted me to propose to him, to take the pressure off and he said no, he wanted to propose to me, when he felt ready. Which I was cool with, because as I said above, we were already married in the ways that were important to me. He could have never felt ready to make it official and we would still be together, because we are each the other’s Person.

    So, yeah! one more vote for “go ahead and propose to your dude-Person in all joy, but if you haven’t yet probed the idea of marriage with him to your satisfaction, maybe do that first”.

    LW#2 – I’m not much help on this front. Because MrLogic is a do-er, not a say-er, the idea of writing our own vows gave him the screaming heebies. Fortunately, there wasn’t a ton of pressure on us to do this because of how we approached our wedding.

    – My mom wanted very much for us to get married by a family friend, who was an Episcopal priest. There’s a set wording for Episcopal weddings, and we’d just have to pick out two readings, one from the Bible (the priest provided us a short list) and one from wherever (which I could totally look for on my own).
    – As I said in my response to LW#1, we didn’t really feel the need to make the ceremony the last word on our relationship. We were already married in our hearts and lives, this was just making it abundantly clear to the rest of the world that we had found our Person. The exact words didn’t matter to us, so why not just go with the traditional ones? We were much more concerned about other things.
    – MrLogic is an atheist, but he also likes the solidity of traditions. I think the sense of millions of people making the exact same pledges in the exact same way appealed to him the same way that wanting to propose did. He likes a tested script, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, your vows are for you and your love, as your marriage is for you and your love. Do what feels right for you and your love and you’ll be doing great.

  61. I have not, and will not propose to my partner. But that’s because I KNOW him and I know it is something that matters to him, and I know he would not want me to. (Despite his newfangledy progressiveness, he was raised in a VERY traditional masculinity culture, and me keeping my name is going to be enough of a scandal.)

    That’s the thing though, that’s what is right for us. It’s something that for whatever reason both of us want to be a little traditional about (despite our totally not traditional everything else) so that’s how that’s gonna be. This is a choice I/we/him/us are making because it is what is right for our relationship, not because it’s what society says we should do.

    And it sounds to me like you proposing to your partner in such a lovely romantic, appropriate for you as a couple way, is what is right for you. SO DO IT! Start your life together by being true to who both of you are, not some social standard of b.s. tradition.

    As most everyone has mentioned I would make sure that you have the ” so someday should we get married?” conversation at some point. My partner and i are pretty far past that at this point. (In fact recently we were hanging out with some of my friends and something about weddings came up and he was all “Yeah we really should get married.” And my friend helpfully decided he’d just proposed. Oh drunken hilarity.) But you should at least have had that conversation before the proposal. While the way the proposal happens should be a surprise, I don’t think the answer should be.

    I’m not married, so I don’t have any marriage advice. The only thing I know that has worked for us is both of us focusing on making our relationship the way we want it to be. Because we are the ones in charge of what happens, and of how we treat each other. Things are hard sometimes, but we have to make the choices that prioritize our relationship and each other.

  62. Proposal observations, with the proviso that we are both women, so Societal Expectations are different:

    My now-wife asked me, about six months into our relationship, whether I wanted to move in together, and I gave her a deer-in-headlights look. (Less because of moving in together, and more because I hate packing and moving in general, but she didn’t know that at first). When it came to marriage, therefore, she asked me if she could ask me to marry her – and I instantly said yes.

    Also, we each bought rings for the other and did the whole Proposing thing, so we’d each get the fun of being proposed *to*. So there’s that.

    1. I’m Femme, and my e-wife is Butch. So there are some “not-really-gendered-but-gender roled. And I asked her to marry me after 3 months together (but we didn’t do it until we could afford a fancy wedding, so 3 years later). We bought very simple “engagement rings”, hyphenated our last names. And got fancy wings for the actual wedding.

  63. For wedding vows: This is from DH Lawrence’s poem Wedlock, (last stanza). I’ve always liked how it celebrates each partner’s individuality.

    “AND yet all the while you are you, you are not me.
    And I am I, I am never you.
    How awfully distinct and far off from each other’s
    being we are!

    Yet I am glad.
    I am so glad there is always you beyond my scope,
    Something that stands over,
    Something I shall never be,
    That I shall always wonder over, and wait for,
    Look for like the breath of life as long as I live,
    Still waiting for you, however old you are, and I
    I shall always wonder over you, and look for you.

    And you will always be with me.
    I shall never cease to be filled with newness,
    Having you near me.”

  64. For your second questioner: my husband and I have been married over 33 years, and still going strong. The 2 best pieces of advice we got in advance were: (1) each of you has to give 75% and (2) when you fight, don’t fight to win–fight for the marriage.

    Both true, both useful.

  65. These are the readings from our wedding. I love them SO MUCH.

    While exclusionary interest in one other human being, which is what
    we call courtship, is all very exciting in the stages of discovery,
    there is not enough substance in it for a lifetime, no matter how
    fascinating the people or passionate the romance.

    The world, on the other hand, is chock full of interesting and
    curious things. The point of the courtship — marriage — is to secure
    someone with whom you wish to go hand in hand through this
    source of entertainment, each making discoveries, and then sharing
    some and merely reporting others. Anyone who tries to compete
    with the entire world, demanding to be someone’s sole source of
    interest and attention, is asking to be classified as a bore. “Why
    don’t you ever want to talk to me?” will probably never start a
    satisfactory marital conversation. “Guess what?” will probably never
    fail. -Judith Martin (aka MIss manners), read by our best Woman

    The arch is nothing else than a force originated by two weaknesses,
    for the arch in buildings is composed of two segments of a circle,
    each of which being very weak in itself tends to fall; but as each
    opposes this tendency in the other, the two weaknesses combine to
    form one strength.

    As the arch is a composite force it remains in equilibrium because
    the thrust is equal from both sides; and if one of the segments
    weighs more than the other the stability is lost, because the
    greater pressure will outweigh the lesser.

    The way to give stability to the arch is to fill the spandrils with
    good masonry up to the level of its summit.” -da Vinci’s Notes on the Construction of Artist (this one was read by our Best Man, an engineer)

    Marriage is in many ways a simplification of life, it naturally
    combines the strengths and wills of two young people so that
    together, they seem to reach farther into the future than they did
    before. Above all marriage is a new task and a new seriousness – a
    new demand on the strength and generosity of each partner, and a
    great new danger for both.

    The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by
    tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is
    one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian
    of his or her solitude, and thus each shows the other the greatest
    possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and
    where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent
    that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and

    But once the realisation is accepted that even between the closest
    people infinite distances exist, a marvellous living side-by-side can
    grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between
    them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other
    as a whole, and before an immense sky. – From Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters, read by my sister-in-law

    And the Final Blessing, read by my sister:

    May your marriage bring you all the exquisite excitements a
    marriage should bring, and may life grant you also patience,
    tolerance, and understanding.
    May you always need one another – not so much to fill your
    emptiness as to help you to know your fullness. A mountain needs a
    valley to be complete; the valley does not make the mountain less,
    but more; and the valley is more a valley because it has a mountain
    towering over it. So let it be with you and you.
    May you need one another, but not out of weakness.
    May you want one another, but not out of lack.
    May you entice one another, but not compel one another.
    May you embrace one another, but not out encircle one another.
    May you succeed in all important ways with one another, and not
    fail in the little graces.
    May you look for things to praise, often say, “I love you!” and take
    no notice of small faults.
    If you have quarrels that push you apart, may both of you hope to
    have good sense enough to take the first step back.
    May you enter into the mystery which is the awareness of one
    another’s presence – no more physical than spiritual, warm and
    near when you are side by side, and warm and near when you are
    in separate rooms or even distant cities.
    May you have happiness, and may you find it making one another
    May you have love, and may you find it loving one another. – Blessing for A Marriage, James Dillet Freeman

  66. to the original question, the Captain’s point #1 is spot on. This idea that in 2014 you should literally “pop the question” – i.e. bring up marriage totally out of the blue is insane. If you’ve been together a reasonable amount of time, you should already be having conversations along the “where are we going with this” line.

    That said, if he NEVER brings up marriage or anything resembling long term committment, I personally wouldn’t propose. But if you’ve already discussed typical marriage related topics (living together, kids, joint finances, future plans) and it hasn’t created any huge level of awkwardness or anger or frustration – go for it!

    FWIW: If you’re worried about emasculating the guy, there’s no rule that says a proposal has to come with all kinds of pomp and circumstance and ceremony. Your vacation plans are lovely. But my husband proposed in the car after bringing me home from a typical dinner/movie date. It was the things he SAID about his level of commitment to me and wanting to make it forever that made it special – not the ceremony or lack thereof.

  67. I took my then-boyfriend (who I had been dating for all of 6 months) out for dinner, bought him lobster, and presented him with an earring/earcuff when I asked him to marry me. he was very surprised–hadn’t been thinking of such a thing at all–but *very* enthusiastic. it took us two years to get around to actually *getting* married; but we’ve now been married for 18 years and still going strong. although we both agree that we still don’t actually like lobster. 😉

  68. Just chiming in to be another voice of “I’m a woman and I proposed”. If I do say so myself, I did a freaking awesome job of proposing. (Long story, but it was an elaborate whole-day extravaganza with puzzles and stuff. This is clearly not the right thing for everybody, but it was for us.) I was pretty pleased with myself, my now-husband felt very special and loved because of it, and all our friends think our engagement story is awesome. Also, I think that if it’s the kind of thing that matters to you, you can definitely hit a nice balance between “we’ve talked about the idea of being married before so we know that we’re on the same page” and “the actual proposing-right-now is still a surprise.” My husband definitely didn’t know it was coming, even though we had talked enough to confirm that we intended to be in things together for the long haul and that marriage was an option for us.

  69. What makes love stay?
    I’ve got no poems, but after a small handful of years of being married, I’d have to say that love is comfort, and being comfortable, without taking each other for granted. Love is negotiation, finding where each other’s lines in the sand are and treating them with respect. Love is knowing that person, accepting that person, and not using that knowledge to hurt them. Love is being able to be weak together, and that making you both stronger than you ever thought possible.

    Probably doesn’t help the people trying to write the vows much, but I wanted to share.

  70. For LW #2: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 is sorta about why it’s good to have a partner in life — you can pick each other up when you fall, you can keep warm as you sleep, and you make each other stronger. Also, it doesn’t mention God. Dunno whether that’s a plus or a minus for you.

    The New Zealand Anglican Prayer Book also has some really lovely language that can be adjusted easily to leave out references to God. I’m quite fond of this blessing (originally intended to be read by the priest, but can instead be said by everyone there):

    [Name] and [Name], we rejoice with you;
    we are glad to join with you
    in the celebration of your marriage,
    to witness your vows,
    [to pray with you (can omit)]
    and to wish you joy in your life together.

    For vows:

    [Name], I take you to be my [husband/wife].
    All that I have I offer you;
    what you have to give I gladly receive;
    wherever you go I will go.
    You are my love.
    [God keep me true to you always
    and you to me. (can omit)]

    And pretty much the entire third form marriage liturgy (linked from the table of contents) is gorgeous. It would need a little more editing if you don’t want the God stuff in there, but it’s still pretty easy to do.

    As far as fighting goes, I strongly recommend The Usual Error by Pace and Kyeli Smith. It used to be available on their website as an ebook, but their sites (usualerror.com or paceandkyeli.com) seem to be down at the moment.

  71. My mom proposed to my dad. With kneeling down and ring and such. They both arent very rklmantic and though they did stay together until the end(mom died 4 years ago) they did married mostly for taxing, money reasons. Also someone in the family had 50. Marriage year party and they just threw together and had a big one.
    They didn’t need it, i am pretty sure they would have stayed together anyway, but the heteroprivileges were good enough to not use them.
    So i have none of these ‘I-am-a-woman-and-therefor-am-not-supposed-to-do_________'[insert arbitrary gendered stuff here]things learned and i am really happy about that.
    My family taught me just by living that these roles are crap anyway and i love them dearly for that.

    Restrictions suck. Should i marry my ltSO, i will propose and fuck everperson which thinks that i am wrong for that. I dont need people who want to limit me and my relationship for arbitrary reasons.

  72. OMG yes totally propose to your special dude, you two sound awesome!

    My special someone is quite similar to your description but has specifically said that it is important to him that he proposes to me so that he can do something really romantic. I have said (and he has agreed) that it is very important to me that as well as asking the question he gets to enthusiastically consent to spending the rest of his life with me. So I am going to propose too but I will let him go first. And then I will do something (hopefully) equally romantic ^_^

  73. No matter how egalitarian you may want to make it, I’ve just got to say that het marriage is still one of the last bastions of antiquated thinking, and people are very resistant to change in that area. For example, when I got married I didn’t change my name, and I was astounded at the number (and identity) of certain people who said this might mean I wasn’t “all in” on the relationship and it was doomed to failure thereby. (It was doomed to failure, but ironically, I was the one who tried the hardest to save it.)

    Even when you think you have married someone who sees things the same way you do, it is still really easy to fall into the cultural habits of who does what, especially if you haven’t discussed it beforehand. I found myself, as the female member of the partnership, falling into being the Christmas-card-writer, gift-shopper, household-planner, emotion-tender, just-tell-the-guy-when-to-show-up person, and this was so against what I had wanted at the beginning, and somehow it happened anyway. Not to say het couples should never marry — just putting out a warning that cultural baggage is insidious and ever-present.

  74. Having had 2 weddings now (civil ceremony and big family hoopla, both with same person) and having written vows for both, I have to say that the theme that carried through both my sets of vows was the theme of love being a VERB. Love isn’t a thing. it’s an action. It’s work, and choice, and push and pull, it’s feeling and it’s promising but all those things are VERBS too. In my first set of vows, I promised to honor and defend the little world my person and I have created, our home, our safe place. I promised to never take it for granted, to fortify its walls and to build windows and doors to allow others to come in. I promised to support them and to go to them for strength in my times of need, and I promised that the one thing I did better than anything else, loving them, would be the thing I did every day for the rest of my life. (I’m slightly paraphrasing here, but… that’s the jist)

    My second time around, I emphasized the work of love. It’s been described by many people, poets, and songwriters. Love as battlefield, love as many splendored thing, as tender trap. It hurts, it stinks, it sucks. But y’know… ultimately, love is work. Passion is a noun. Romance is a noun. Love is a thing-you-do. And I promised I would do that thing.

    We also had one of my favorite poems read at the second one, by the person who officiated our civil ceremony. “Wild Geese”, by Mary Oliver. because I can get behind any expression of love that stars with “You do not have to be good”. It flies in the face, for me, of “Love is patient, love is kind”. Because love is not patient, and as far as I can see love has no time or care for kindness. Loving someone can rip you in half. Loving someone can also show you the strength inherent in yourself, and your bottomless wonderful capacity to care.

  75. I couldn’t resist–longtime lurker delurking to post my absolute favorite wedding poem, “This Marriage” by Rūmī (translation from the original Persian). Not only is it absolutely lovely, but it is gender and religion neutral and can be used in all sorts of ceremonies and partnerships. There is also a really beautiful choral setting by Eric Whitacre, for those looking for musical inspiration.

    This Marriage

    May these vows and this marriage be blessed.
    May it be sweet milk,
    this marriage, like wine and halvah.
    May this marriage offer fruit and shade
    like the date palm.
    May this marriage be full of laughter,
    our every day a day in paradise.
    May this marriage be a sign of compassion,
    a seal of happiness here and hereafter.
    May this marriage have a fair face and a good name,
    an omen as welcomes the moon in a clear blue sky.
    I am out of words to describe
    how spirit mingles in this marriage.

    Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī (Persian: جلال‌الدین محمد بلخى‎), also known as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (جلال‌الدین محمد رومی,)

    I love that Rūmī wishes that the marriage be “full of laughter” and a “sign of compassion,” and that it is a place of comfort and shelter like the date palm, a person to come home to. To me, there is a sweetness and fulfillment in the way that he describes marriage, that it helps people become better and more joyful versions of their best selves. I am not married, but this is what I hope to have someday, and whenever I hear this poem recited it makes my heart pinch in a good way :).

    Congratulations to LW1 and LW2, and I wish you both the best with your proposal and wedding!

  76. So many wonderful stories of love!! I think I will bookmark this page so I can come back and read it if I’m having a bit of a blue day.

    I am sort of a lady-who-proposed. MrSnide and I have been together for about three years and are getting married this summer and have been officially engaged since this past September. We decided to get married “at some point” about a year into our relationship, and then spring 2013 took the next step of telling our families that we wanted to marry each other (his parents wanted to be sure he’d asked my dad’s permission/blessing, which is so not my/my family’s style, so instead MrSnide took my parents and aunt and brother out for dinner one night and gave a little toast where he told them how thankful he was for me and also for them for the role they’ve had in shaping me as the person he adores and he was so looking forward to being a part of our family. so many tears were shed over enchiladas), and then we planned “engagement day” for when both of our engagement rings had arrived (yay etsy!). And we just planned a very “us” day! We went for brunch to a pub downtown, spent a while in our favourite used bookstore, and then went to a park by the river, sat on a bench and chatted, and then I started to tell him how amazing my life is with him in it and then he said his was too and then PROPOSED FIRST before I could and so then I had to go second with tears streaming down my face and it was just very lovely!
    We’d been engaged for months before that day but it was nice to have that marker for ourselves. and it’s a fun story to tell! … I keep telling MrSnide that we should tell people that when he gave me the ring I responded with, “But I thought the old lady dropped it into the ocean in the end.” but he is reluctant (I wonder why… hee.)

    We’ve had interesting responses when people find out that he wears an engagement ring, ranging from “That’s so awesome!” to “You can’t do that!” to “He already has a ring? But but what will you do on the wedding day?”
    … I also have an aunt who, upon hearing MrSnide also has an engagement ring, said, “That’s GOOD! Because otherwise no one will know he’s taken! And you know how women are…”

    Nthing all the people before who’ve suggested having conversations beforehand so that you know you’re on the same page and both want to get married and are excited about each other and this part of the journey. I mean, really, proposals should, as much as possible, be less of an “elaborately staged question with a mystery response” and more a chance for the two of you to mark this moment in your life, however that “marking” looks.

  77. When my primary and I had our Outlaw Wedding (we got married but “forgot” to tell the government), our vows involved taking turns reciting from a list of relationship attributes. Among the usual stuff like, “We care for each other,” we had one bit that started with one person saying, “We finish…” and the other responding with, “…each other’s sentences.”

    Was a big hit. 😉

    1. Primary here. As far as proposing is concerned, we both forgot to propose. At some point it just became clear that we were in it for the long haul and at some point after that we started talking about what to do about last names (we chose something that wasn’t either of our last names) and parties/ceremonies.

  78. I saw (oh, so many years ago!) a list of the “Ten Rules for a Happy Marriage.” It was in some little shop and it was one of those cheezy scroll-like posters but I will never forget one of those rules: “Never yell at each other unless the house is on fire.” If you live someone with more frequent natural disasters you can add “…or a tornado/hurricane/tsunami/earthquake is coming.”

  79. I was a lady-proposer to my love-dude! We had been together for a good length of time and knew (as in, had had explicit conversations) about where we were headed and that marriage was a Plan In the Future, but that we did want a distinct, lovely moment that was Our Proposal, rather than a logical conversation that ended in “so I guess buy a ring or something” (which can be lovely in its own right!).
    I heard a lot of negative stuff from the Wedding Industrial Complex and from people in general that I was ‘stealing his moment’, or even robbing *myself* of the experience (in response to this specific concern: my proposal went exactly the way I wanted, and I feel not at all shorted!).

    My compromise in this situation was to have a conversation about whether there was a particular thresh-hold in our lives he wanted to pass before opening the engagement chapter (he was just about to finish his degree, for example, and I had some health stuff on the horizon).
    Once we had cleared away these external pressures, I told him I was hoping to get engaged roughly a year from that point, and that if he wanted A Production of some sort, he had a year to himself to plan and execute such, after which point I called open season on leaping out from behind the furniture at one another with jewelry and declarations of love. The year passed, I bought a ring and made a plan and it was awesome and still a surprise to him.

  80. Apologies for any repetition, I haven’t read all the comments.

    Firstly congrats to both LWs on finding people to whom they want to make a lifelong commitment! It’s an exciting time. I got married at the beginning of this month and the whole process from talking about getting married, to actually getting engaged, to all the planning and then the day itself has been intense, but has been helped by some great online resources, in my case Offbeat Bride and A Practical Wedding. They are great resources for all parts of the journey. Both sites also have accompanying books if that’s more your thing. I got both my ceremony readings from Offbeat Bride and used the worksheet idea here (http://offbeatbride.com/2010/12/how-to-write-wedding-vows#.Uyi5Qfl_tFI) when trying to write vows and writing my speech.

    To the first LW, I second the Captain’s advice. I might allow for a little awkwardness at an unconventional proposal, in the same way that it took my partner a little while to think things through when I said I wasn’t going to change my name. I think sometimes there can be an immediate gut reaction in line with social norms which can be overcome with a little clear thinking.

    To the second LW, I found vow-writing really difficult because I wanted to be realistic rather than poetic or romantic, but it kept coming out really downbeat. Because we had a civil wedding in the UK we didn’t have full-on vows. There’s a legal declaration in two parts (first that you know no legal reason why you can’t and second that you actually do) and then you can say whatever you like for the ring exchange. In the end my partner wrote our ring words and we said the same thing to each other:

    This ring is my promise to you that I will try and be the very best partner I can. I promise that I’ll work to maintain my strengths, try to overcome my weaknesses and most of all care for and look after you through everything life throws at us.

  81. My partner and I had our wedding recently and we found that not only was a traditional ‘marriage’ not what would suit us, but that creating our own ceremony was entirely possible (albeit it required lots of thinking and reflecting on our part!).

    We had a few considerations when we created our ceremony: in Australia marriage is not equal and while we are a heterosexual couple we wanted to use the same legal structures that were available to homosexual couples. This meant we didn’t legally get married, but we did register our relationship with births deaths and marriages. We’ve been together for five years but we’d had at one serious breakup in that time, so it was important to both of us to reflect not only that it hadn’t all been unicorns and rainbows but that love and relationships can all sorts of facets and values.

    So with that preamble, here’s what we did:
    – We chose readings that reflected our philosophies on love and relationships:
    From A Gift From The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
    When you love someone, you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity – in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.

    The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. Relationships must be like islands, one must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits – islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, and continually visited and abandoned by the tides.

    “The Beach Lovers” by Pam Ayres
    Come and walk beside me
    For the sun is sinking low
    And together to the edges
    Of the ocean we go,
    And all our rosy future
    In perspective we shall put
    Stepping lightly on the rubbish
    As it moulders underfoot.
    Where all the plastic bottles
    Blow across the golden sand
    And old refrigerators
    Know the tide’s caressing hand,
    We will breathe the sweet aroma,
    I will take your hand for ever,
    Across life’s broken glass,
    And I shall jettison you never.

    – We defined what a wedding meant to us. In Australia if you get married you’re obliged to include the legal definition of marriage which is pretty discriminatory, so this was our way of framing the process in our own eyes.
    – We wrote our own vows. We were lucky enough to have had others share their vows with us and that helped us frame our own. It’s a difficult thing to write vows, but it felt very important to do so! I tried to focus on what my goals were in our relationship and include some of the easy things to do as well as some of the hard things. This is what we chose to say:
    Me: I promise to celebrate your impetuousness and balance it with my steadiness.
    I promise to say sorry, especially when I feel to proud to say it. I promise to open my heart to you, especially when it still hurts to do so.
    I promise to listen to and support you. I promised to share with you my troubles and joys.
    I promise to remember that hard times pass. I promise to trust that we still have a lot of laughing together to do.
    I promise to practice mindfulness, even when the world taps me on the shoulder, even when I fail miserably, even when I am bone tired, even when love is the last thing I feel like giving.
    My partner: I promise to move in step with you through the rises and falls of our journey together.
    I promise to find patience when it seems exhausted. I promise to find kindness when it seems abandoned.
    I promise to find humour when it seems to serious. I promise to find stamina when it seems too hard.
    Most of all, I promise to love you for who you are.
    Shared: In our vision of life together there is generosity and balance,
    there is tenderness and humility,
    there is singing and play,
    there is persistence and creativity, health and vibrancy.
    Unison: I commit to all these things.

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