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Are marriage proposals dead?

By Wendy Atterberry
Writer says even though she provided the engagement ring, her boyfriend surprised her with proposal.
Writer says even though she provided the engagement ring, her boyfriend surprised her with proposal.
  • Writer notes that many men don't formally propose marriage any more
  • Some women prefer long discussions on marriage, choosing own ring
  • Columnist gave boyfriend her family's ring so he could propose
  • He managed to surprise her with question, romantic evening

(The Frisky) -- On the season finale of "Entourage," one of the characters, Eric, proposes to his girlfriend, Sloan, only it wasn't a romantic get-down-on-one-knee proposal, so much as it was a seemingly spur-of-the-moment declaration of his commitment to her.

"You're never going to be able to commit -- not to anyone," Sloan accuses during a heated argument. "I'll get in that car right now, drive to Vegas, and commit to you for the rest of my life," Eric shoots back before pulling an engagement ring out of his pocket.

It's not exactly the kind of grand proposal women dream of, but I can't help but wonder if it's more than most of us get these days ... and if maybe that's OK.

Marriage is such a huge, life-altering decision, it's only natural that it be a choice two people make together, after much discussion and personal soul-searching. And if the decision is made mutually, is there really any need for a proposal to be made -- a question to be asked -- for which both parties already know the answer?

For a lot of people, the answer is "no." They make the decision, perhaps they go ring-shopping together (that way, the woman's sure to get something she likes), they make the announcement to their friends and family, and then they change their relationship status on Facebook. Done and done.

For the rest of us, an official proposal -- even if we've already decided with our partners to get hitched -- is the act that seals the deal. For the record, I fall into this camp.

My now-husband and I first started seriously talking marriage a little over a year ago. We'd been together 2 ½ years, had lived together almost a year, felt committed to each other, and knew we wanted to start a family in the not-so-distant future. At some point, I think I made some comment about getting married in the summer when my parents, who live in Europe, would be in the States.

My boyfriend nodded and said that that sounded fine and I said, "This coming summer," making sure to drive home the point. "But I want a proposal!" I told him, adding: "And I want it to be romantic. You don't get off the hook that easily." He laughed and said he'd do what he could.

When I was home for Christmas a few weeks later, my mother gave me the engagement ring she inherited from my great-grandmother who got married in 1928. I brought it home after the holidays, gave it to my boyfriend and said, "Here's my engagement ring. I wear a size 5. Get it sized and give it back to me when you're ready."

In retrospect it sounds a little bossy, but remember, we'd already decided to get married, we both knew I wanted to wear my great-grandmother's engagement ring, and I figured Drew, being the romantic guy that he is, would want a chance at taking some ownership in the process.

For my part, I'm not a traditionalist, but there was something about forgoing an official proposal that seemed incomplete to me. I never doubted my boyfriend's love and commitment to me, nor his desire to be my husband, but knowing he had to put some thought into the "where, when and how" of asking for my hand in marriage made things more special for me.

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Drew ended up proposing on a bridge in Central Park, a week after I gave him my great-grandmother's ring. He lured me on a walk one cold February afternoon with a promise of a drink at my favorite fancy hotel bar afterward. As we crossed the bridge, Drew said, "Oh, what's that?" as he pointed to the ground below. I peered over the edge and saw "Wendy, Will you marry me?" written in big sidewalk chalk.

I turned back around and Drew was on his knee, holding my ring. Time stood still (Drew would say it stood still for a very long time) and I said, "Yes! Yes!" We hugged and kissed and then went for that now-celebratory drink at the fancy hotel bar (Drew even surprised me with a room there for the night). It's a memory I'll always cherish and one I'm sure we'll share with our kids and grandkids some day.

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Would I feel any less married now if Drew hadn't proposed? Of course not. But it was something that was important and meaningful to us. For others, I imagine, a proposal is an unnecessary formality that's easy to forgo. What camp do you fall into? Is an official proposal something you feel you need? Do you want your man to ask for your father's permission or blessing? Does he have to get down on one knee?

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