What's the Deal With Leap Year Proposals?

Here's why popping the question in 2024 just hits different.
woman proposing to man
Photo: Skynesher | Getty Images
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by
Lindsay Tigar
lindsay tigar the knot
Lindsay Tigar
Wedding Planning Contributor
  • Lindsay contributes articles to The Knot Worldwide, with a specialty in honeymoon travel and creating wedding planning.
  • Lindsay owns a content agency, Tigar Types, to help businesses of all sizes grow their digital footprints.
  • Lindsay freelances for a plethora of publications, covering many topics, ranging from wedding advice and planning to travel, health and more.
Updated Nov 28, 2023

The movie Leap Year starring Amy Adams is (spoiler) a romantic comedy centered around a leap year proposal love story. As you can probably guess from the title, this is a once-in-every-four-year opportunity to participate in an age-old Irish proposal tradition. While some aspects of this approach make it a tad sexist, if you're thinking about taking your relationship to the next level in 2024, here's what you need to know.

In this article:

What Is a Leap Year Proposal?

Simply put, a leap year proposal is a tradition in which women are "allowed" to propose to their male partner every four years on Leap Day, February 29, according to Kevin Dennis, a wedding expert and owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services.

"In recent years, these proposals have been extremely outdated for several reasons, and it's no longer considered taboo for a woman to get on one knee to pop the question," he explains. "Beyond that, engagements are not limited to heterosexual couples, and many find this tradition no longer applicable or necessary. Instead, Leap Year proposals are usually planned for the uniqueness of the date rather than the history behind it."

The Origin of the Leap Year Proposal Tradition

According to wedding expert and owner of Mangia and Enjoy!, Sarah Chianese, the leap year proposal tradition stems from an old tradition from 5th century Ireland where Saint Bridget and Saint Patrick agreed to allow unmarried women to propose to men once every four years.

While the trend began in Ireland, it gained popularity across Scotland and Finland, and finally, by the early 1800s, the United States allowed women to take the future of their relationship into their own hands. "If the man refused her, he would purchase a dozen gloves to hide her non-ring-beating hands, a silk gown, perform a magic trick for her, or sing to her, depending on their local tradition," Chianese shared.

5 Tips for Planning a Leap Year Proposal

Whether you have an Irish heritage, you've been dating your partner for too many years to count, or just like the tradition, planning a leap year proposal is exciting. And it can be romantic and personalized for your special connection with your partner. Here, tips from experts on how to put on the, ahem, green-colored glasses and pop the biggest question of all:

1. Get started ASAP.

If you're looking to follow the tradition, Dennis says to be mindful that you'll need to plan well in advance to propose on February 29. "Since this date is a novelty for many couples, it's important to remember that you'll likely be trying to plan a proposal on a universally popular date," he says.

With that in mind, give yourself plenty of time to hire a team if needed to create a thoughtful backdrop for your engagement, even if you're hoping for something small. "A photographer and/or coordinator may need ample notice," he adds. You can always search The Knot Vendor Marketplace to find trusted and vetted vendors near you who can help make your leap year proposal magical.

2. Incorporate your heritage.

If you're of Irish descent, it's worth searching within your zip code to see if there are any leap year celebrations happening that you could plan your proposal around. Wedding expert and owner of Weirdo Weddings Photography, Jen Sulake, says you might be surprised how many states have specific Irish festivals of different times of the year.

"The energy, music, food and vibes will set the stage for your proposal! Consider asking around with the producers/staff about a special moment or spot you can set up, or go with the flow," she adds.

And hey, even if you don't have an Irish background, it's still important to bring in your heritage. "If you want to celebrate your heritage, add in trinkets, clothing or special hand-made gifts to give your future spouse," she adds. "Go back in time and share your personal history with your loved one and make it fun, intimate and sweet! Above all, make this moment yours."

3. Propose back if you're already engaged.

Believe it or not, Leap Day proposals don't require that you make the first move, Dennis says. "Plenty of couples will propose to each other, and you're always welcome to break the norms and propose to your partner even if you're technically already engaged," he says. "In this case, popping the question on Leap Day makes for a fun story, and it gives you a chance to return the favor and present your partner with a ring and a grand gesture."

4. Plan with your partner in mind.

As with any engagement, make sure that your partner is on the same page with how they want to be proposed to, Dennis reminds. "If you want to switch up the gender roles and take the proposal into your own hands, bear in mind that what you want in a proposal isn't necessarily what your partner may want," he explains.

For example, if you're the extroverted type and they're a bit more on the shy side, opting for a public proposal is going to be out of their comfort zone and might not garner the reaction you're hoping for.

5. Plan a trip to follow.

Regardless of traditional roles, Leap Day is a great time to delight your mate with a proposal, particularly because it occurs two weeks days after February 14th, Valentine's Day, when many engagements commonly take place, Chianese says. "Delaying Valentine's celebration on a fun trip and proposing on Leap Day, when your mate may not be expecting a possible ring, would offer the happiest surprise and lend a memory that will never be forgotten."

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