It’s a date that comes around only once every four years – February 29, Leap Day. It’s also a day that, for traditionalists, marks the day a woman is ‘allowed’ to propose to her partner.
While, of course, most of us believe that women can propose whenever and to whomever she pleases, the (outdated and heteronormative) rule it is said to date back to the fifth century.
Legend says an Irish nun called St Bridget aired her grievance with St Patrick (yes, that one) that women had to wait too long for their suitors to propose, so he politely decreed that women have one day every four years where they could pop the questions themselves.
And while Leap Day is the perfect excuse to ask your beloved to spend the rest of your lives together (any many may be planning to, Pinterest has noticed a 113 per cent spike in searches for ‘how to propose to a boy’), the stories from the women below prove that you can do it anytime you like…
Maggie Kelly, a freelance writer who designed her fiancé’s engagement ring
“I had planned my proposal to Julian about five months in advance. We had been together for two years and were in Hong Kong, shopping for my engagement ring, when inspiration hit. Julian and I had an appointment with a very traditional jeweller there, and after we had a few hours of playing with the jewels he asked me to step outside so he and Julian could talk costs.
“So there I was, standing in the throngs of downtown Hong Kong waiting for Julian to emerge, and I thought – this is utter bullsh*t. It felt super dated, and not at all aligned with who we are as a couple. We’ve been about absolute equality right from the start. It was then I decided to propose to Julian.
“We are one of those couples who were talking babies and engagement after just a couple of dates in. We both feel strongly that marriage isn’t about religion, legalities, or other outdated traditions; for us, it’s rather a statement to each other about commitment. Marriage is just a big old love party. It was really important to us that our family and friends should take part in our sparkly, beautiful, happy union – and did I mention PARTY?
“Julian is traditionally a non-jewellery wearer, so deciding to get him a ring was a bit of a gamble. Initially, I thought of getting him something like a watch instead, but my instinct kept pushing me towards a ring. I knew it would have to be quite out of the ordinary, so decided to work with a designer to get some direction as my designs all felt way too feminine. We were living in Amsterdam at the time, and I was lucky enough to work with fifth-generation designer Stefan Witjes. He was the ultimate person to discover – I keep referring to him as my ‘fairy godfather’. His jewellery is super butch and very modern, and I immediately knew it was right for Julian.
“We ended up going with a thick stainless steel band, brushed on the outside with a polished interior. It has a suspended black diamond, and is convex, so it actually sits up off the finger. I wanted to make sure it could withstand some rough and tumble, but still feel really modern and sleek. Stefan totally nailed it. My ring is still in the works. We actually have several stones from around the world that need to be bought to one destination so we can get it made. We haven’t decided who to go with yet.
“The actual proposal happened on a beautiful autumn day in Amsterdam late last year. I had arranged a vintage canal boat to collect us in the heart of the city and take us on a two-hour cruise. At nightfall, we were due to dock and I had organised our close friends to be waiting with sparklers, where we would head off for cocktails and karaoke (Julian’s favourite).
“We had been on the boat for less than five minutes when I asked him to close his eyes. I downed my glass of champagne and launched into a rather lengthy speech I had prepared a few months earlier. When I got to the fun part – ‘will you marry me?’ – he burst out laughing and shouted, “Yes! Of course I will!” It was a moment I won’t forget.
“The sunset was an insane wash of neon pink and we just floated around, grinning like idiots. The best part of the night was coming in to dock and realising my amazing Mum had secretly flown in from Australia to be there. The rest of the evening was a blur of dancing, late-night pizza, and many, many drinks. I wish we could do it all over again!”
You can follow Maggie on Instagram at @maggie_kelly_writer
Megan Earwalker, a midwife who proposed on Leap Day in 2016
“It was a light bulb moment. When I found out it was going to be the leap year around the end of Jan I knew immediately that it would be a great way to surprise him and a great story for us. It all became real when I told my older brother and then started planning how I was going to do it.
“We had been together for nearly six years at that point, travelled a lot, been living together for a year and had set up a joint savings account so we were all ready to go. I get excited about things that are outside the norm and I knew Kingy wasn’t in any rush to propose and you don’t get a leap very often so why not?
“The night before was a Sunday which made it easy to plan as we normally have a couple of friends over on a Sunday so he didn’t suspect a thing. I had a big banner professionally made that said ‘Kingy will you marry me?’ and while he went to get a take away we hung it up behind the curtains and casually ate dinner like nothing was going on.
“The next morning, it felt like forever, but when he got up I asked him to open the curtains and as he turned around I was sobbing. I proposed with an engraved watch in a massive box and just asked, ‘will you marry me?’ We both cried. He said ‘of course I’ll marry you’. Both of our parents were waiting in the local pub with flowers and balloons.
“In April, he took me to the Crazy Bear Hotel, and over dinner asked if I would like to go ring shopping the next day. I was so excited! The following day we went around local jewellers and bought a ring together – and he got down on one knee when we bought it.”
Suzannah Ryabchuk, Managing Director of Breakthrough Global who proposed to her boyfriend on a random summer’s Thursday
“I didn’t plan to propose to my boyfriend, although I had debated with myself for months whether I should. In the end I decided walking into work, one random summery Thursday, that ‘today is the day’. I decided that as a strong, determined and independent woman who ran an entire business that I wasn’t going to sit around waiting for a man in any other area of my life. So why would I do it here if I wanted to get married and I knew he wanted to be with me forever?
“We had been together for six years and I knew that we would get married eventually. I’d put it off because I was worried I would be taking something away from him or losing out on a special surprise or memory of my own, but in the end we built an amazing memory and neither of us would change it.
“I got back from work to find him in blissful ignorance being very domestic in his jogging bottoms cleaning out the fish tank. He’d opened a bottle of champagne because I’d got a new client that day, which was premature given the circumstances. I chose our balcony as the proposal location. It has a lovely river view, and felt more intimate that going out. I ordered us Lebanese food which took forever to arrive and made a picnic setup with cushions and a blanket. By the time the delivery arrived I couldn’t wait any longer and shouted for him to ‘stop cleaning up and come outside because I need to talk to you about something important’.
“I remember it so vividly, I got the ring off my finger, got down on one knee and asked him to marry me. He screamed ‘Yes!’, grabbed me and we fell into hysterics rolling around on the balcony floor hugging, laughing and crying. We called our family, drank our champagne, watched the sunset, ate our dinner and got married in Ibiza a year later.”
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