Is the pressure to deliver 'Gram worthy proposals getting to our Grooms?

‘So how did he propose?’ – it’s pretty much the first question your friends and family will ask, once all the squealing has died down. And it’s a loaded question. There’s an expectation there that your fiancée has created a proposal story worth telling, preferably one that is thrillingly packed with intrigue and romance (because everyone’s living your #AngagedAF life vicariously through you now). A destination meaningful to the pair of you is an absolute must and incorporating a surprise element is definitely a crowd pleaser. Bonus points if he chose the engagement ring himself. And it actually fits.

My husband proposed to me on a bench. At a park that we never visit (so, already falling short on the meaningful destination part of the proposal formula). I was starving. Hanger rage was looming. I wanted to go home, and not linger a second longer outside. I was sick of fake-admiring the flowers he kept pointing out to me. If you’ve seen one flower, you’ve seen them all, I announced, brattily, before seeing the ring in my husband’s hand… and my husband’s thunderous face, looking like he wanted to punch me, not spend the rest of his life with me!

It was tense (and the ring didn’t fit).

Whenever anyone would ask us about the proposal, he would look all shifty, and give me some serious side-eye before I would interject with an ‘Oh yeah… it’s a funny story…’. But actually, despite peak hanger almost derailing the whole thing, our engagement was very us: low key and borderline farcical!

The societal pressure around relationships and weddings is nothing new. However, in my mind, the expectation on men to create a proposal worth shouting about is a fairly recent phenomenon – and it has most definitely ramped up over the last couple of years, in line with the increasing popularity of social media.

Fifty years ago, your beloved would probably mumble a ‘shall we make this official then?’ – and… that would be that. Men obviously feel they can be far more demonstrative nowadays. They’re marrying later and they’re marrying for love – and, for many of them, creating a spectacular singing, dancing engagement day will come very naturally. That’s a good thing!

The problem for the rest of us (and our PDA-averse partners) is that social media has given us an insight into the amazing proposal days that everyone else seems to be enjoying. We can see the Likes, Comments, Shares that our friends get when they post their happy news – and we secretly think, deep down, (and despite having watched that episode of Black Mirror) that we might like a ‘Gram-worthy’ Engagement that drives… engagement.

Shortly after my husband and I got married in 2013, my best friend got engaged. Her fiancée had arranged a treasure trail of clues around London, which ultimately ended up with the two of them at a Fleetwood Mac concert where he popped the Big Question. It looked like a magical day – and I know this because every moment was captured and posted on Facebook… where it then felt like the Internet exploded. Later that year, another friend posted up an edited highlights reel, complete with backing soundtrack (profesh!), of the incredible day her fiancée proposed – UP A MOUNTAIN. Each time, I would present this evidence to my husband – JUST LOOK AT THE EFFORT HE HAS GONE TO (cue his endless eye rolling).

kirsty henderson engagement day

It’s just lucky we got engaged first, I’d tell him, only half joking, because my engagement expectations are now A LOT HIGHER. And that’s the problem. We often think of comparison, and the pressure we heap on ourselves, as a result, as being a female problem. That’s particularly the case in the wedding industry, where we stereotype all brides as falling over themselves to deliver Pinterest-style weddings that’ll slay on Facebook.

But men are feeling it too! Asking someone to marry you is just not the expectation-free task it was in the old days.

Proposal Pressure is now A Thing.

I see this in my work as a wedding celebrant. A big part of my job is finding out everything I can about my newly-engaged couples in order to write their super-personalised wedding ceremony. During that meeting I, of course, ask about the engagement – and I would say that, around half of the time, men tend to really downplay the whole day. They’re almost embarrassed that they don’t have more of a story for me. ‘We didn’t do anything special’; ‘I just asked her over breakfast’; ‘We’ve been together a long time, so it was more of a conversation than a proper proposal’.

 Over Valentine’s Day there was, of course, a tonne of amazing engagement posts on social media including a pink ‘Will you marry me?’ mural in Shoreditch – public declarations don’t get much more fabulously hipster than that! It looked marvellous… but I couldn’t help think about all the men yet to propose, gulping at how far the stakes had been raised!

So I suppose this is just a reminder for all the brides (and, mainly, to the grooms sneaking a peek over their shoulder) – COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY! Measuring your relationship by the curated lives on the Internet is not a way to exist, and it’s the road to madness if you’re planning a wedding (trust me!).