What Knee Do You Propose On? Exactly What You Need to Know

It's a must read before popping the question.
Lauren Dana Ellman - The Knot Contributor.
Lauren Dana Ellman
Lauren Dana Ellman - The Knot Contributor.
Lauren Dana Ellman
The Knot Contributor
  • Lauren is a contributor for The Knot covering topics such as music, cakes, venues and speeches.
  • She has been published in a wide array of lifetsyle-oriented publications including SELF and Allure.
  • Lauren is a proud graduate of Syracuse University's SI Newhouse School of Public Communication.
Updated May 31, 2023

Are you considering taking your relationship to the next level by popping the question? Congrats! However, before you go ahead and start planning the perfect proposal, there are a few things to keep in mind—and you may even have a few questions! For one, you may be wondering what knee you propose on, and if you even need to do so in the first place. Fortunately, we're here to help take the stress out of all the behind-the-scenes details that go into the proposal itself.

Ahead, we're sharing everything you need to know about the actual act of getting down on one knee, the history behind it, must-know etiquette tips and some great alternative ideas to make your partner smile (and say yes!).

Do You Have to Get on One Knee to Propose?

Before going any further, let's clear something up. You absolutely do not have to get on one knee to propose—it's 2023, after all, which means anything goes!

While Janice Bungert of Won Love Events in Carlsbad, California, says that getting down on one knee is "the most traditional form to ask for one's hand in marriage," she's also quick to note that, nowadays, many couples choose to modernize this practice. For example, soon-to-be-engaged couples may choose to create their own "unique, intentional and unforgettable ways" of proposing.

What Knee Do You Propose On?

While popping the (very important) question, you'll get down on your left knee (meaning your left knee is on the ground). You'll also hold the ring or ring box with your left hand. According to Bungert, this custom dates back to medieval times—and we'll dive deeper into that a little later. Of course, if in the heat of the moment you forget and end up getting down on the other knee, it's totally okay—no one really notices these things (we promise!).

What Does Getting Down on One Knee Symbolize?

Ultimately, kneeling—and getting down on one knee—symbolizes an act of devotion. What's more, says Burgert, the act of kneeling puts the proposer in a "very vulnerable position." The wedding pro also goes on to describe kneeling as the "ultimate expression of respect and humility towards another person." Moreover, it is safe to conclude that getting down on bended knee signifies feelings of dedication, submission and reverence.

The Tradition Behind Getting on One Knee to Propose

As previously mentioned, the custom of getting down on one knee can be traced back to medieval times. Back then, explains Bungert, "the knights would kneel down on the left knee [during religious services] and, many times, on both knees, which signified faith."

Similarly, Bungert says that knights would lower themselves on their left knee "as a sign of surrender to a victorious party." Put simply, she says, "By lowering oneself on the left knee in front of another, the implication is to surrender or to give yourself to that person." So, with all this in mind, it makes sense that modern-day wedding proposals often take place with one partner on a bent left knee.

It's also worth mentioning that most folks are right-side dominant. Per Burgert, this means that the idea of "lowering oneself on the left knee may also be understood as performing a more arduous act;" or, in other words, "a physical demonstration of your loyalty and surrender for the one you love most."

Alternatives to Getting Down on One Knee

Not all individuals opt to propose on one knee—and that's completely okay. For example, some folks may opt for something more unique, modern or perhaps even more meaningful. Need some proposal ideas to spark romance? We've got you covered with even more inspo.

Involve your pet.

Bungert recommends that animal-loving couples involve their furry friend in the proposal by placing an adorable "Will you marry me?" sign around their pet's neck before popping the question.

Create a photo album.

Bungert recommends making a custom photo album featuring your favorite memories and milestones. Then, on the last page, write "Marry Me?" and present your better half with an engagement ring.

Play a board game.

If you and your partner love board games, consider challenging them to a one-of-a-kind Scrabble match by spelling out "Marry Me?" on the board.

Personalize a puzzle.

Order a custom jigsaw puzzle featuring your favorite photo of the two of you: Just don't forget to include the text, "Will You Marry Me?"

Organize a flash mob.

Consider a flashmob proposal if your partner loves being the center of attention. After a few minutes of spontaneous dancing, get ready to reveal yourself—and the engagement ring.

Facilitate a scavenger hunt.

Surprise your soon-to-be fiance(e) with an epic scavenger hunt featuring some of your favorite date night spots. In the end, your partner will be in for a sweet surprise: an engagement ring!

Hire a skywriter.

Profess your love to your partner for all to see by hiring a skywriter to write out your names and/or "Marry Me?" in the sky above.

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