Here’s Why There’s Nothing Wrong With Women Proposing to Men

We love an unconventional proposal.
Woman proposing to a man at dinner.
Photo: Prostock-studio |
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
Associate Editor
  • Chapelle writes articles for The Knot Worldwide. She covers all things wedding-related and has a personal interest in covering celebrity engagements and fashion.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Chapelle was an editorial intern for Subvrt Magazine.
  • Chapelle has a degree in English writing from Loyola University New Orleans.
Updated Sep 29, 2023

So you've reached a point in your relationship where you've realized you want to get married, and now you want to know how to propose to a man. Believe it or not, women proposing to men is not a new concept and isn't that different than a man proposing to a woman. Plenty of women have decided to drop down on one knee, do the asking themselves and leave the traditional gender roles in the past. Feeling a little more confident about popping the big question yourself? Here are our top tips and etiquette advice for asking a man to marry you. Plus, info about women's proposal day and the kneeling tradition.

In this article:

Can a Woman Propose to a Man?

Yes, of course! No matter how you identify, don't let societal norms determine when you get engaged. If you feel it's the right moment, take a leap of faith and ask your partner to marry you. Speaking of "leaping," there's an ancient Irish folktale encouraging women to propose to men. The tradition is from 5th-century Ireland when St. Brigid of Kildare told St. Patrick women should be allowed to propose instead of waiting for men to do so. The story goes that St. Patrick made a decree that a woman proposing to a man was okay, but only on Leap Day, February 29th. (Psst. The next leap year is 2024.) Some folklore historians believe St. Brigid proposed to St. Patrick soon after the decree, but he denied the engagement and gave her a silk gown instead.

It's said Irish monks brought the tradition to Scotland, where a law was passed in 1288 that allowed women to propose to men, and if their leap year proposal was declined, the proposee received a fine. The fine was said to be anything from kissing the cheek of the proposer to buying them a silk dress. Today, people call this tradition Bachelor's Day or Ladies' Privilege.

Tips for Women Proposing to Men

Asking someone to marry you is a big deal, no matter what gender they are. But if you're feeling nervous, we have some top-notch tips to help you confidently pop the question to the man of your dreams.

Don't let society determine your decision.

If you're wondering why every woman doesn't ask their boyfriend to marry them, there are two reasons. The first reason is because of tradition. Historically, it was customary for the man in a heterosexual relationship to get down on one knee and propose since he was usually the financial provider (which has gradually changed over the years). The second reason is because of societal norms. In some conservative mindsets, it's thought that a woman asking a man to marry them is too assertive, unfeminine, bossy or rushing the relationship. There's even worry that a woman proposing makes the man feel emasculated.

For LGBTQ+ couples, there's a growing trend of double proposals, where both people in the relationship can enjoy being the proposer and proposee––inevitably putting them ahead of the progressive pre-nuptial curve. As a result, LGBTQ+ proposals became prime examples of overturned traditional gender roles, marriage equality and people letting love determine their choices. We encourage anyone wanting to take the next step with their partner to be true to themselves and their relationship, not to what's "normal."

Consider your partner's stance on marriage.

Before learning how to propose to a man, you should think about how they feel about marriage. Have you had conversations about marriage? Have you discussed the possibility of marriage or what your future together may look like? Before popping the big question, ensure you and your boo are on the same page. At this point in your relationship, getting married should be about when, not if. Don't take a gamble. Only propose if you're certain he'll answer with a loud and resounding "Yes!"

Keep the proposal simple but unique.

If you want to plan an extravagant proposal, you can, but there's no need for an airplane banner or fireworks display. Use simple and unique proposal ideas so the proposer isn't distracted by too many details. The point is to enjoy the moment. Where and how you propose is important, but in truth, you'll be all your sweetie sees when you ask, whether you're sitting on the beach in Bali or on a corner barstool of his favorite local dive. Just remember to plan a proposal with your shared history in mind. Choose a meaningful day, significant location and theme. Take the time to make it special and personal so that he'll feel cherished and understood.

Buy two rings.

While wondering, "Should I propose to my boyfriend," you might also ask yourself, "Do men wear engagement rings?" The answer depends on the proposee's preference since some men would love an engagement watch instead. And speaking of engagement rings, women proposing to men need to buy a ring for their boyfriend and themselves. Don't expect your partner to buy you an engagement ring when he's the proposee, and not giving him anything is a big no-no.

Alternatively, you can buy an engagement ring for him and then shop together for your bling if would like more intimate time together. If you want to give a different form of promissory jewelry to your future fiancé, consider matching necklace pendants, I.D. bracelets or simple gold bands. It doesn't have to be expensive, just meaningful. Also, if your S.O. admits after your proposal that he was planning to propose too, remind him he can ask you when he's ready.

Be yourself.

Yes, you may be proposing as a woman, but at the end of the day, you're just you. Try not to get caught up in gender roles, expectations or other people's ideas of what you should and shouldn't do. If proposing to your man feels right, then, by all means, get down on one knee (if you want) and do your thing.

How to Propose to Your Boyfriend

Now that you're armed with the best tips for how to propose to a man, it's time to think about the logistics. Follow these five steps before you start your marriage journey with your boyfriend.

Think about their dream proposal.

Even though you're taking the unconventional route at the start of your engagement journey, that doesn't mean you shouldn't stick to a few customs. Traditionally, the proposer creates an experience the proposee will love and appreciate. We suggest keeping this tradition in mind since you're planning your partner's dream proposal, not yours. If you and your partner truly have the same tastes, then the proposing to a man ideas will definitely be easier to choose from, but otherwise, ensure the proposal reflects your partner's personality and interests. For example, if your partner loves Italian cuisine and a relaxing night in, cook him a delicious Italian meal (or order from the best Italian restaurant you know) and propose to him as you split the last cannoli. We guarantee your partner will love that you kept their wants and desires as the top priority.

Choose a meaningful location.

Making the marriage proposal meaningful should be your number one goal, and choosing a location significant to him (or both of you) helps achieve that. Think about all the places you and your partner have made beautiful and fun memories. It could be an arcade bar, his favorite restaurant or a drive-in movie theater. The location doesn't have to be the epitome of romance, just personal to you and your partner.

Practice your proposal speech.

When there's so much to love about your partner, it can be hard to know what to say during your proposal speech. But once you write all your thoughts down, we recommend practicing your speech before the big day. Of course, you want to speak from your heart, but practicing beforehand helps get rid of (some) pre-proposal jitters.

Decide if you want to kneel.

It's believed the act of getting on one knee to propose comes from the chivalrous gesture of medieval knights bowing in front of noblewomen. But even though kneeling for a proposal is a longstanding tradition, it isn't required. Do whatever you feel comfortable doing. Getting on one knee doesn't make the proposal more legitimate, and standing doesn't make it less meaningful.

If you plan on kneeling, remember, it doesn't matter which knee you use and prepare ahead of time which side of your body you'll be reaching for the proposal gift––you don't want to drop it right before asking the big question. Also, ensure you wear clothing appropriate for kneeling, so avoid tight clothes or high heels. If you'd rather stand, hold your partner's hands while saying your speech and make as much eye contact as possible.

Celebrate your engagement.

After getting the joyous "yes" you were hoping for, women proposing to men should plan something for after the proposal. You can meet with loved ones at a restaurant to tell them the good news or have more alone time together by taking a cute evening stroll in the park. No matter what you do, women proposing to men should let go of their pre-engagement nerves and embrace this new beautiful chapter in their lives.

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