Here's Exactly How to Propose to a Man in Modern Society

We love an unconventional proposal.
Woman proposing to a man at dinner.
Photo: Prostock-studio |
chapelle johnson the knot assistant editor
Chapelle Johnson
chapelle johnson the knot assistant editor
Chapelle Johnson
Assistant 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 Dec 14, 2022

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. Interested in popping the big question yourself? Here are our top tips and etiquette advice for asking a man to marry you. Plus, insight into women's proposal day and the kneeling tradition.

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 that encourages women to propose to men. The tradition is from 5th-century Ireland when St. Brigid of Kildare told St. Patrick that women should be allowed to propose instead of waiting for men to do so. The story goes that St. Patrick made a decree that women could propose to a man, but only on Leap Day, February 29th. (Psst. The next leap year is 2023.) 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 that Irish monks brought the tradition to Scotland, where a law was passed in 1288 which allowed women to propose to men, and if their proposal was declined that 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 or pair of gloves. 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 helpful 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 speaking, 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 same-sex proposals, there's always one woman or man receiving and giving the proposal, which inevitably puts them ahead of the progressive pre-nuptial curve. As a result, same-sex proposals became prime examples of overturning traditional gender roles, expectations being pushed away 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."

Be sure you're ready and have honest motives.

First, take your relationship's temperature: Is it truly time to make it official? If you're still feeling significant uncertainty, concentrate on strengthening your relationship first. If you two are the model of a marriage-ready couple, forge ahead. Once you're ready to propose, ensure you're doing it for the right reasons. Don't propose because you want to see where your relationship stands. If you don't know, wise up: Alarm bells, not wedding bells, are what you're hearing in your head. Never propose out of desperation for feedback. Resorting to this type of ultimatum on such an important issue means you're not ready to tie the knot. Finally, don't propose out of necessity or the fear of losing your relationship due to outside circumstances, such as military deployment, school or job relocations. That'll add tension to the engagement and won't make for a genuine proposal.

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 their idea of marriage? Have you discussed the possibility of marriage or what your future together may look like? Before popping the big question, make sure you and your guy 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 pretty 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 firework displays. Keep it simple so the proposer isn't distracted by too many details. The point is to enjoy the moment. After all, 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.

Women proposing to men need to buy an engagement ring for their boyfriend and themselves. Don't expect him to buy you an engagement ring when he's the proposee, plus not giving him a ring is a big no-no. Alternatively, you can also decide to get him an engagement ring then shop together for your ring if want to have more intimate time together. If you want to give a different form of promissory jewelry to your future fiancé, try 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 as well, remind him he can ask you back when he's ready.

Be yourself.

Yes, you may be a woman proposing to a man, but at the end of the day, you're just you proposing to the man of your dreams. Try not to get caught up in gender roles and 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 four steps before you propose to your boyfriend.

1. 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 you keep 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 proposal will definitely be easier to plan, but otherwise, ensure the proposal reflects your partner's personality and interests. For example, if your man loves Italian cuisine and having 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're splitting the last cannoli. We guarantee your partner will love that you kept their wants and desires as the top priority.

2. 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, your 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.

3. 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 most of those pre-proposal jitters.

4. 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.

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