Who Asks Whom in a Same-Sex Proposal?

Laura Leigh Abby, author of '2Brides 2Be: A Same-Sex Guide for the Modern Bride,' shares an excerpt from her book about popping the question in a same-sex relationship.
by Catherine Jessee
2Brides 2Be: A Same-Sex Guide for the Modern Bride
photo by iStock

To celebrate the recent release of 2Brides 2Be: A Same-Sex Guide for the Modern Bride, author and founder of 2Brides2Be.com Laura Leigh Abby shared an excerpt from her book with The Knot about who asks whom in a same-sex proposal. From planning a proposal to navigating those first few moments as newly engaged partners, read on for Abby's experience and advice for brides-to-be—and see more tips on same-sex weddings here.

Who Asks Whom?

It was 2012, and in the months before we got engaged, Sam developed an addiction to viral proposal videos. Remember those? They were everywhere at the time, and she would watch them and weep. She would watch people she has never met propose to other people she has never met, and she would be moved to tears. Occasionally she said, "Babe you have to watch this, it's so cute." If I was bored at that moment, I'd watch, and it often took only 30 seconds before I’d squish up my face and say something along the lines of, "This is so cheesy," or "Kill me," or "This guy is a tool." Seriously, she showed me a proposal once that took place at a CrossFit gym (I mean, I hear those people are really committed) and about a hundred flash mob proposals, to which I always responded, "Do not humiliate me like that. Ever."

Admittedly (and this is not the last time you'll hear this) I am not a romantic. My wife is. I truly believed that we would decide to get engaged when it was the right time, go get some rings and start wearing them. I thought the idea of a grand proposal—especially between two women—was a little silly. I mean really, why ask if you aren’t certain she’ll say "yes"? And if you’re certain she’ll say "yes" then just get on with it and plan the wedding. 

Like my soft spot for pop music ("Teenage Dream" on repeat, and, yes, I did use some Katy Perry in my own wedding ceremony) I did a 180 once Sam proposed. That mushy-gushy bulls**t was actually thoughtful and moving and, although I already knew that I was this girl's number one, her romantic proposal made me feel like the absolute luckiest, most-loved woman on the planet. Truly. So it goes without saying that these days I’m a sucker for a perfect proposal story. Sure, I still have my own opinions about what makes a great proposal, but that’s the beauty of proposing: It’s about the couple. That’s it. Nobody’s else’s opinion really matters. That means you can plan a proposal around your girlfriend’s favorite hobby, sport, food, book—there are no rules. And when it comes to lesbian couples getting engaged, this lack of rules makes for endless possibilities.

So, who asks whom?

This depends on the couple. Some couples decide who is going to do the asking. Then the other one waits impatiently, dropping not-so-subtle hints, while her woman attempts to plan the perfect proposal. Some choose a special day and propose to each other. Still others have one lady just bursting with the absolute need to pop the question, no matter how many times the other says, "No rush, babe."

I've heard every possible scenario when it comes to lesbians getting engaged, and all these stories I've heard always end with a resounding, "Yes!" My own engagement was of the "no rush, babe" variety. I felt so young (emotionally and physically) and we were coming off of hard times (death and trauma, the two of which were unrelated and therefore added to the "oh s**t" behavior that resulted). I knew beyond any doubt that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together, but the act of getting engaged, all the hullaballoo that followed? Oh God, I simply did not have the energy. Luckily Sam almost never listens to me. She had a plan, she stuck to it, and for that I am grateful every day of my life.

What about rings?

Two women = two rings, right? Again, not always. Some couples buy rings together and voila! They're both proposal ready. Sometimes one woman proposes with a ring for her beloved, and her own ring comes later. My wife not only had a diamond ring custom made for me, she had the same jeweler reset her late mother’s diamond for herself, so that as soon as I stopped babbling, "Are you kidding me?" and finally said, "Of course I’ll marry you," she handed me her own ring and instructed me to then ask her. A perfectly planned counter-proposal. (I refer to her as a control freak, but if I'm being nice she’s simply detail oriented.) 

I have close friends who were engaged for two years before they both had rings (she was waiting to find the perfect ring!) and some brides have an heirloom, while others buy both rings at once. The old tradition of the diamond ring proposal doesn't attract every hetero couple these days, so you can imagine lesbian couples have been doing their own thing for eons. Black diamonds? So popular with gay ladies. Alternative gemstones? Personalized jewelry? Even better. One bride-to-be I spoke to had a ring made out of tourmaline, a stone found in the Afghan mountain region where she and her fiancé had served in the Air Force.

What you'll hear from me most often throughout this book is that you and your bride are the key to this whole wedding thing. Remember, the wedding and all the events that surround it are the celebration of something much more meaningful—your marriage. 

Whenever possible, make it 100 percent about you as a couple. So if your idea of romance is getting matching tattoos around your ring fingers, do it. If you'd rather propose with the diamond studs your girl’s been coveting for years, go for it. The reason I love hearing from women who submit their stories on 2Brides2Be.com is that they're all so confidently themselves. I love bold, stylish, unique couples who go full force in the direction of their shared dreams. That is love, and love is the bedrock of a marriage proposal. Now, women are notoriously better when it comes to details. Yes, I realize this is an enormous generalization but I believe it. 

My proof? The proposal stories I have featured on my website. These brides have carved proposals into pumpkins, had custom-made cutlery and coffee mugs, they've planned scavenger hunts and flown in family, all to surprise their soon-to-be fiancés with the perfect proposal. Why did they go to such lengths? To ensure that the women they love had the proposal of her dreams. 

Carie loves breakfast in bed, so Kelley served up eggs, avocado toast, a side of grapefruit brulee and a spoon etched with, "Will you marry me?" Oh, and of course this was all presented with Carie's favorite flower, peonies, and a vintage art-deco diamond ring. 

Lindsay loves brunch, so when she and Jackie hit up their favorite brunch spot, Jackie made sure that Lindsay's tea was served in a mug with a special message on the bottom, "Marry me, Linds."

Tawnie planned a city-wide scavenger hunt, Jessica created a book and flew her girl to Paris, and Julie hired a secret photographer to capture her waterfront proposal. 

My own wife, Sam, knows that a bonfire on the beach complete with s'mores and a bottle of wine are the surest way to get both my attention and my affection. Not only did she make these elements part of her proposal, but she used her storytelling skills to create a cartoon that told the story of how we met. When she finally convinced me to watch it, she secretly filmed the entire thing. (I did my part by wearing denim on denim and a loose ponytail—at least my manicure was on point.) 

If you're thinking of proposing, then this is the question to ask yourself: What makes my girl smile? Do you know she'll want her family close by? Or is she pretty low-key and private? Will she be touched if you propose in the restaurant where you had your first date? Or is she more of a lazy Sunday morning with tea and a side of diamonds?

The proposal

The proposal is the cinder that sets the wedding flame. You'll be asked to tell the story countless times. You’ll quickly be enveloped in a show of such love I can promise you’ll be overwhelmed. This is the gunshot at the start of the race. This is the defining moment that sets the pace for all of the wedding jubilee that follows. Make it yours. And if for some reason you don’t know this yet, the question that immediately follows "show me the ring!" is this: "So, when are you getting married?"

Unsolicited advice: If you're the woman planning on being asked, it's okay to give cues. Every single time I am complimented on my solitaire oval diamond ring, I first give props to my wife for spoiling me. Then I add, "Well, she knew what I wanted." It’s okay to drop hints. It’s okay to drag your girl into the jeweler in the mall and say, "Oh, I love a cushion cut.” You’re in New York City, walking down Fifth Avenue? Wander through Tiffany or Cartier and see what’s new in high-end. Sure that a halo should never come anywhere near your hand? Let it be known! 

But don't be a curmudgeon. Don't nag. Women who wail and cry and throw tantrums do not deserve diamond rings or any other gemstones. They do not deserve thoughtful surprises and words of love. Wanna know a secret? You’re both women. If you simply cannot wait one minute longer to be engaged and you just know a tantrum is coming if your birthday passes and she doesn’t propose—you do it. Go ahead. Problem solved. But to be serious, it’s important to be open and honest in your relationship about when you are ready for marriage. It’s not just a wedding. This is a lifetime commitment you are making to each other, so make it count. Be kind to each other. Be thoughtful. And when necessary, be patient.

Hooray! You're engaged!

Time to call your parents, text ring photos to your best friends, and overload all of your social media with your big news. This part gets overwhelming. It's craziness at full speed. If you got engaged in front of your entire extended family, then ignore this next bit, but if you got engaged privately at home or on vacation together then here’s a tip: Keep the engagement between the two of you. I don't mean forever. I don’t even mean for an entire day. But the second she slips that ring on your finger if you’re Snapchatting and Instagramming then you’re going to miss your own major milestone. Even if it’s just one hour, enjoy that hour together. 

I had a built-in cushion. Sam proposed at night, in Oregon, so basically everyone we knew was already asleep. Eventually, after I polished off the bottle of wine we were drinking, I called my best friend who I assumed might still be awake. She was, and she was happy for me. Everyone else got the news the next day, which was still crazy overwhelming with the phone calls and texts but, wow, it was nice to have days of vacation left to enjoy our engagement just between us.

So, now what?

What do you do first? Find a venue? Set a date? Call your favorite band? For those of us planning a wedding who do not plan events for a living, this may be our only experience trying to put together an event of this magnitude. Naturally, it's overwhelming. If you don’t need to start planning immediately then don't. Being engaged is this blink in my life story, and it was so much fun. It was probably the most festive year of my life. Don’t rush it. 

When you are ready to talk planning, my advice is that you and your fiancé sit down, open a bottle of wine—or steep some tea—and talk about what your perfect wedding day looks like. Maybe you'll disagree completely, or maybe your ideas will link up exactly, but the hope is that you come through this conversation with a rough sketch of what matters most to you. Throughout this conversation you will both need to be patient and really listen to each other. It’s okay to disagree, some things in life take a little time before we find the perfect compromise.

Expert Tip: What's the first thing you ask new clients? 

"How they met and what their spaces look like. We can go through months of design and we always end up with a beautiful reflection of the couple's space. If they are clean minimalists or vintage hoarders, we want to know."—Meg Nobile, Florist & Designer at That Time Events 

To get this conversation flowing you can both consider the following:

What's your favorite way to celebrate?

Do you like to get dressed up and go somewhere candlelit? Do you like all of your favorite people around you, or something more intimate? Maybe you prefer dancing to live music wearing your favorite jeans? Your party personalities can say a lot about the type of wedding you'd like to host. 

Where's a great place for your wedding?

Considering who you're inviting, do you want your loved ones flying to the remote island where you took your first vacation? Do you think a January wedding in Mexico would be your dream come true? Do you love the place you call home? Or would you rather get married across the country, where you grew up?

What do the two of you like to do together?

Are you an outdoorsy couple who loves hiking and camping? Or are you more of a spa and fine-dining couple? Do you hate dancing but prefer long dinners with plenty of wine? Of course, many of us like camping and spas, long dinners and wild dance parties. It's not always easy to choose. I wish I could have had five weddings. All of them different. But the goal is one, so we must plan with this in mind.

What do you hate most about weddings? What do you love most about weddings?

We all do this. We attend a wedding and we can't help but whisper to each other, "Oh I love that, let's do it at ours," or, "Ugh, too many speeches." If there are traditions you’d rather skip—bouquet toss, anyone?—or elements you love, like an extended cocktail hour, then this is the time to tell each other. 

Who do you love to celebrate with?

Do you have a huge family and you're together for every occasion from Christmas to graduations to birthdays? Or do you have a smaller clan and a few intimate friends? Do you have weekly gab sessions at happy hour with 20 of your colleagues and can’t imagine getting married without them? Now is the time to begin to take stock of the people who matter most to you both. 

Is religion a factor?

You may have religious or cultural customs that dictate much of your planning. Maybe it's a dream of yours to be married by your childhood pastor. Great, that might narrow down your location. Or maybe your hometown house of worship is the place. These factors can help spark the planning. 

How do you feel about moving around?

On my wedding day I did not want to have to deal with limos or trolleys or buses or any of it. Everything needed to be in one location. If you, however, have always dreamed of riding to your wedding in a white Rolls Royce, then you'll need a point A and a point B that have a road in between.

Expert Tip: What's the most important detail brides should look for when choosing their venue? 

"A venue should do everything possible to make the event feel personalized for the couple. When your guests walk into your wedding you know you've succeeded when they say, 'This is so them.' "—Stephanie Karvellas-Baynton, Owner & Venue Coordinator at Cedar Lakes Estate 

Now you should have an idea, even if it's a very vague one, of what kind of wedding you and your fiancé are setting out to plan. Of course, budget is going to play an enormous role, that’s just the cold, hard, truth, but don’t worry about that yet. I promise you can have the wedding of your dreams within your budget. A bigger problem may be if your bride is dead-set on a destination wedding but you’ve always wanted to get married in the park by your childhood home. 

As you talk through these possibilities remember that it's not just about one of you. This day is yours as a couple, and you will find ways to compromise.


Laura Leigh Abby first began blogging about lesbian wedding planning in 2012 while planning her own. She and wife Samantha, with the help of supportive family, expert vendors and a cinematic venue, executed the wedding of their dreams, which included some offbeat details, including a blush Vera Wang gown and custom-made emerald couture. Abby shared details of her wedding in The New York Observer and Cosmopolitan, her nuptials were also featured in New York magazine and the couple appeared in season two of Bravo TVs hit series Newlyweds: The First Year. She is the founder and publisher of 2Brides2Be, an online resource dedicated to celebrating the beauty that is a 2Bride wedding.

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