Every four years, there comes a day when women can take the bull by the horns and ask their man to marry them.
February 29 is traditionally the one day when women can propose marriage and, according to a survey in British Heart Foundation shops, more than a third of British women are thinking about popping the question this year. It seems London ladies are the most in control of their relationships, with almost half of them thinking about proposing.
Today’s society doesn’t frown on women who propose but this wasn’t always the case. There are several theories surrounding the advent of leap year proposals but, back in the days when the rules of courtship were a lot stricter, women were simply not allowed to pop the question.
At that time, February 29 wasn’t a recognised date, so the day itself was simply leapt over hence the name. Since it had no legal standing, legend has it that people assumed tradition had no official status on this day, either. Therefore, women had an opportunity to change the custom that only men could propose. What’s more, if a man rejected a women’s proposal, he had to buy her 12 pairs of gloves, to hide the embarrassment of the lady in question not having an engagement ring.
The leap year tradition is cultural, says relationship expert and agony aunt Susan Quilliam. While it’s fun, it’s not really relevant to the 21st century. Now either partner can take the initiative and suggest that they move to the next stage. But the decision to marry is almost always something a couple work towards together.
Recently, universities minister David Willetts forecast relationships and traditional household structures will be transformed as the so-called fairer sex powers ahead. So are women taking the initiative when it comes to traditions such as marriage, too?
Cassandra, 30, met Robert, 42, through dating site Match.com in 2006 and when she realised he was the one, she proposed to him.
I’d been married before but as we had children we thought it was the right thing to do, says Cassandra I didn’t think I’d marry again. But, when I met Rob, I didn’t want to just be in a long-term relationship.
Cassandra and Rob discussed marriage on Valentine’s Day 2008 and Rob jokingly said she would have to do the proposing, as it was a leap year. I’d been thinking about it for a while, she says. On our anniversary, we went to the same Chinese restaurant where we’d shared our first date. I mentioned marriage again and the proposal just came out. Luckily, he said yes and we married the following year.
Despite actually wanting to propose, two-thirds of women don’t feel they have the confidence to do so, according to research by wedding and events company Dine. To help them take the plunge, Dine is holding a proposal masterclass
The class is a light-hearted event aimed at giving women the confidence they need to propose to their man,â says relationship expert and masterclass host Viv Hulland. The class is only available in Leeds but Hulland says carrying off a proposal is down to good planning.
Preparation is just as important as inspiration, she says. You need to put in some groundwork, as that will give you the confidence to ask him. Your inspiration will then give you a vision of how you want to do it and then itâs just about saying the words.
If you are planning to get down on one knee this year, Quilliam warns you need to be sure of the answer. As an agony aunt, I have lots of women saying their partner won’t marry them and asking if they should take the initiative. In these cases, I always say no. If this is a desperate attempt to push your partner into marriage, it won’t work. It needs to be something you are sure you are both moving towards.
In addition, Quilliam says it’s best not to ask a man who likes to take the initiative. If your man likes to initiate sex and always book dinner, then he’s not the type of man who’ll be happy about being proposed to.
However, if it’s something you are both working towards, the advice is to go for it. Sarah Beeny , founder of dating website, advises against practising too much in the mirror as it may take the spontaneity out of the moment and might put you off asking altogether
She also recommends not drinking too much, so you can remember the moment. If youâre struggling to find the nerve, then think of this as your women’s liberation moment, she says. Feel the power. Remember, it’s a long time until February 2016.
So, if you think your manâs dragging his feet, use February 29 as an excuse to ask him to make an honest woman out ofall else fails, you might at least get some gloves