real life

Marriage proposals are now a competitive sport. Gulp.


I have some bad news for every single bloke in the world: marriage proposals have become a competitive sport. Romance and a ring worth the price of a small car don’t cut it anymore.  Now you must also include choreography and capture it all on a youtube video viewed by seven million people. This, Gentlemen, is the new benchmark for a successful proposal and it’s making me want to cry for every man who must sleep in its impossible shadow.

But why? Now that most couples live together before marriage, proposals are rarely a total shock. So with the surprise factor gone, the goal posts have shifted towards effort.

The latest intimidating example is the viral video of a guy who choreographed a five-minute lip synching masterpiece involving 60 members of the couple’s family and friends dancing down a suburban street.

Isaac Lamb knows he’s set the bar to cruel and unsustainable heights. “Guys, I’m sorry,” he said in a TV interview this week. “That wasn’t my intention.” But he didn’t look sorry, he looked smug. Guess how much I love you? Seven million times.

Are women demanding these OTT proposals or are some men embracing them as a creative outlet in the same way women do with wedding planning?

Either way, it’s a crushing development for every straight person who wants to get married (don’t get me started on how crushing every day is for same-sex couples who want to marry because I will nod my head until it falls off).
Men are freaked out about finding enough cash for a ring AND the services of Baz Luhrman while women are scared that men will get performance anxiety and shelve the whole idea.

“Unmarried guys always cower when we tell our proposal story” admits one friend whose husband spelled out a giant “MARRY ME EMMA” in large rocks on a Bryon Bay beach and then took her for a walk high above the sand to surprise her.  “It’s become very competitive and it’s making guys very anxious”.

It’s not a fear of rejection so much. Blokes don’t usually ask unless ‘yes’ is pretty much guaranteed. But they do stress about living up to their future wife’s expectations of the MAGIC MOMENT. And fair enough. Because often, it falls short. One friend was proposed to when she had a raging cold sore. Another was doubled over with cystitis. In both cases, the bloke had elaborate surprise plans locked in (including a helicopter and I’m not even kidding) that couldn’t accommodate our heroines’ unexpected (and slightly disfiguring) ailments.


Fun fact: being proposed TO can also pose challenges. Many women admit to feeling huge pressure to react in the “right” way. Most assumed they’d cry with joy and felt awkward when they didn’t. Others were rendered a bit mute. One woman responded to her boyfriend’s “Will you marry me?” delivered on one knee with the question “Are you proposing?” Apparently, he was.
Another was in a restaurant when her bloke did the knee thing and delivered a small speech asking her to marry him. “But I just ordered calamari” she said.

I know someone who climbed the Harbour Bridge where a man in her group proposed to his girlfriend at the top with much flourish. She said no. “Everyone was very quiet on the way down,” my friend remembers.

A brief word about knees. They seem to be pretty much ubiquitous and if pushed, most women will say they expect you to be down on at least one of them. But when it actually happens, the truth is that everyone can feel a bit stupid. This is especially true for girls who don’t like a fuss – of which there are many.

Just like not every bride is a Bridezilla, not every woman wants a marching band or even a knee. Says one: “I was shocked when my husband got down on bended knee in the middle of Paris to propose. It should have been the most romantic thing that’s ever happened to me, but I was mortified. I was too busy telling him to “get up off the ground!” to say “yes” .

My favourite proposal stories are the mundane ones. Like the couple who were sitting at home one night watching TV when she got up to go to the loo. “I was going to wait until this weekend but I can’t,” he blurted out from the couch in his jocks. “Marry me!” Another friend had been desperate for her partner to propose when, a week before their eighth anniversary, close friends phoned to announce their engagement after only six months of dating. After congratulating them, she burst into heaving great sobs of disappointment. Alarmed, her partner ran to the garage where he’d stored The Ring for their anniversary dinner and made a mad dash back to the bedroom. “I can’t stand to see you so upset!” he exclaimed. “Marry me!”

And this: “My husband never actually proposed, it just sort of came up in agreed conversation. I designed the ring and when he gave it to me I was in the bathroom. And then when he gave me the ring I hated it, so I had it reset. None of it mattered” she shrugged. “I love him.”

Interestingly, all three of those proposals happened in the 90s. Before those bloody viral videos…