What's with public marriage proposals?

Stephanie Hayden's then-boyfriend, Chad, proposed to her in public at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.

Story highlights

  • Recent viral public marriage proposals have involved group lip-synching and JumboTrons
  • Kat Kinsman's marriage proposal was done in private, which she says suits most people
  • Kinsman claims a couple needs private time to revel in their decision and each other
  • Public sharing comes in due time, she says, and takes a lot out of a couple-to-be

Six years ago, I was sitting on my living room couch when my boyfriend asked me to be his wife. It was a Sunday -- our year-and-a-half anniversary, to be exact -- and he came down the stairs with a little box. I think my hair was wet, and at least one of our dogs was sitting with me.

It all gets a little fuzzy after that. I can't remember the exact words he used or how many times I asked him to repeat them, because I couldn't process what was happening. But apparently I said yes, because I've seen a whole slew of photos of the two of us near an altar, our beloved friends and family members wearing their Sunday best, dancing and eating various cakes. I had on a big, poofy dress in all of those shots, so I'm assuming that was probably our wedding.

Perhaps if there was a widely viewed YouTube video, news segment or Yankee Stadium audience to refresh me on the touching and Tweetable details, it would all be less hazy. But I'm perfectly content with my lumpy, couch-colored memories of the way my husband proposed; his performance was scripted for an audience of one.

In an era of politicians errantly tweeting their junk shots, dramatic "Bachelor" rose ceremonies and weeping YouTube confessionals, it seems almost prim to cleave to a private moment. If two people become affianced and there is no way for others to "like," upvote, comment or otherwise approve, is the couple in fact engaged?

Kat Kinsman

Why I proposed marriage in public

While having one's love take a knee (or in my case, the other cushion) to propose knocking around the cosmos side-by-side forever is a momentous and joyous thing, it's also terrifying. This is not a referendum on the quality or magnitude of a couple's love; there's just an instant metamorphosis into brand new roles: the bride-and-groom-to-be.

No matter how many times a person has daydreamed, acted it out with Barbie and Ken, and emotionally bolstered for the exchange, or if it's come thudding from the sky like an errant chunk of satellite, a proposal carries an impact that must be absorbed. How about handling that mano-a-mano for a minute, rather than out in the public eye? It's the first of many seismic shocks a marriage takes, and it's worth taking a beat to let it settle in.

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    The accompanying joy will still ripple out to the public in stages -- parents, close friends, family, friends, acquaintances, Facebook, Twitter, the barista at the coffee bar where you're the Foursquare mayor, your blog commenters. But give a lady a minute to work through the five stages of proposal shock: gasp, stare at the ring, kiss her fiancé (FIANCÉ! That's a new word she gets to say), stare at the ring, reapply makeup, rinse, repeat.

    The match is struck the second outsiders learn of a betrothal: A bride-to-be, especially, becomes public property and an age-old archetype and she is expected to fire off, on command, the event date and location, number of guests, maker of dress and, by golly, she had better loft that ring finger for inspection.

    Public proposals are no doubt done with the very best of intentions; an engaged couple is ideally a beacon of happiness in a cynical and uncertain world -- a flame from which others might catch a spark to brighten and warm their own lives. It stands to reason that a hopeful groom (and really, though there may be a handful of ladies with JumboTron operators on speed dial, it's men who do this) might think that their beloved would wish nothing more than to be adored in front of her family, friends, fellow restaurant patrons and fans of Major League Baseball. No doubt many of them are looking only to express their unfettered affection when they orchestrate a laser-lit, widely-attended and potentially viral event.

    But dude ... DUDE! If she's going to say yes, she's going to say yes (or ... there's always the other possibility), and a cast of thematically dressed thousands and dancing capuchin monkeys, with celebrity cameos, won't top the fact that the person she loves has just floated the notion of spending eternity together. Let her breathe for a second and adore the heck out of you (and maybe brush her hair and put on a nicer outfit) before the world whisks her away for Facebookable pictures.

    And I may have fudged things a little bit before. Though I was indeed in a blissed-out blur after his proposal, I do recall almost exactly what my now-husband said and how he said it. But that's for us, and us alone, until death do us part.

    Would you propose in public or want your partner to do so? Share your take in the comments section below.