Marriage Proposals Around the World: Traditions and Trends

In the 1800’s, a gentleman who desired to propose to a lady sent her a pair of gloves signifying his intentions. Then he had to wait until the following Sunday to see if the lady wore these gloves to church. If she did, the proposal was considered to be accepted and further arrangements could be made.

In Wales, the gloves were substituted with a wooden spoon carved by a man looking to propose. If his loved one accepted the wedding proposal (and liked the spoon), she showed it by wearing the piece of cutlery on a ribbon around her neck.

Yeah, things were pretty simple back then. But we’ve come a long way from there, haven’t we?

The wedding proposal is sometimes a more public occasion nowadays (more on that later), but it still usually involves a man (or a woman) getting down on one knee and presenting their loved one with a ring.

While this may seem natural to most of us, this culture of proposing is not universal at all. This post will look into some less familiar wedding proposals from around the world.

Wedding Proposal Customs Around the World

Let’s take Ghana for example. In this country, an age-old African tradition of a “knock on the door” is still alive nowadays. It’s not the hopeful groom-to-be who does the knocking however. Instead, his mother and uncle visit the future bride’s family to ask for her hand on his behalf.

In China, families are also involved in the marriage proposal. Although they don’t decide who you have to marry, a blessing from both families is still pretty much obligatory for the engagement to take place.

The “speak now or forever hold your peace” part is taken care of way before the wedding, possibly preventing awkward situations later on.

Traditionally it was often the future groom or his family doing the majority of the legwork associated with a proposal.

Though this is not necessarily so in many Western countries anymore: women proposing to men is on the up.

In Scotland and Ireland, February 29th has traditionally been the only day in the year (well, every four years to be precise) when a woman could propose to a man. In case the proposal was rejected, the man was expected to provide the woman with enough cloth for a new skirt.

So things were the same for quite some time: a man would propose to a woman when they’re alone or in a close circle of their family and friends. But for some this seems to be changing in the age of Internet, as public proposals are becoming more frequent.

You may also want to take a look at different gift giving customs and etiquette from around the world.

5 Public Marriage Proposals That Will Shock You

Nowadays, we have smartphones with high quality cameras and YouTube, many public proposals are filmed on purpose, while others are captured by random passers-by, so even the most romantic private proposal can become public in a matter of minutes.

So what are some of the most romantic, unusual, wacky, interesting, and exciting marriage proposals ever?

There are plenty of different ways that the hopeful groom-to-be can choose to ask for his loved one’s hand. Here is a variety of the most creative wedding proposals that YouTube has to offer:

  1. The Plane Malfunction Proposal

Scaring your girlfriend might not seem like the best way to propose, but this pilot managed to do just that. The couple were flying together in a small plane when the guy asked his soon-to-be fiancée to stay calm. He told her that the flight controls weren’t responding and he needed her to read through the emergency procedure.

Instead of actual guidance on landing the plane, the girlfriend found an instruction to initiate the “ring engagement procedure”. After a few more clever lines, the manual read “Will you marry me?” Brilliant, isn’t it?

The Hidden Choir Proposal

Most flash mob marriage proposals involve a lot of people who are singing and dancing, so they turn out to be rather cheesy. That can’t be said about this one however, as the way this member of a university’s choir proposed to his girlfriend turned out to be quite subtle and romantic.

The proposal included a hand-made wooden Scrabble board used to spell out the question and a hidden choir that started singing a beautiful song from their repertoire just as the future groom got down on one knee.

The Year-long Proposal

Some proposals need more planning than others. The guy in the video below wrote down the question on a sheet of paper every day for an entire year and assembled the short clips he filmed into a video he showed to his girlfriend on her birthday.

The actual proposal took place on a beach in Aruba and the girlfriend’s family were all there to witness the occasion.

The Traveller’s Proposal

The other video-proposal in my list took even longer to create. According to the future groom, he knew he wanted to marry his girlfriend right after their first date, so he came up with a short clip of him singing “500 Miles” by The Proclaimers while visiting 26 countries all around the world.

No words can really show the boyfriend’s commitment as well as this video. After all, it did take him four years to make.

The Movie Trailer Proposal

If you end up filming a video for your proposal, why not show it on a big screen?

“Because I am shy and the last thing I want to do is to share my personal life with the whole world” you cry….ahh come on.

The guy in the video below did exactly that. He captured the moment he’s asking for his girlfriend’s father for permission and his trip to the cinema where the girlfriend was set to watch a movie. The result was then shown as a trailer, followed by a live proposal.

Sure, some of these might seem a little over-the-top, but we’d like to think that the groom-to-be is the one who knows his girlfriend best and judged accordingly.

But as all ladies know, men occasionally (only occasionally) read them wrong.

Either way, the proposal is rarely a straightforward process. In fact, there are plenty of things that men and women see differently.

We picked some of the more interesting common misconceptions we could find and listed them below.

Common Proposal Misconceptions

  • Modern women want to propose. A recent study by the University of California, Santa Cruz established that only nearly 3% of women would “kind of” like to propose to their boyfriends. None of the ladies or the men said they’d “definitely” want the woman to pop the question. (Huffington Post)
  • She’s always surprised. In another survey, 64% of women said they knew the proposal was imminent. 88% of them named the “surprise factor” as an important thing however – that’s one of the reasons why the examples in the videos above worked so well. (The Knot)
  • She wouldn’t change a thing. If they could, plenty of women would change something about the moment they were proposed to. The most popular adjustments include the setting, the proposal speech, and the engagement ring. (David’s Bridal)
  • A stadium is among the best places to propose. While thousands of fans chanting their and their fiancée’s names might be appealing to a large number of men, it’s far from the truth for most women. Only 10% of them would choose a packed sports arena as their top place to hear the question. (The Knot) This perhaps raises some questions about how enthralled the ladies in the above videos REALLY were about their private life suddenly going public at a key moment.
  • The size of the stone isn’t important. It’s all about the quality of the ring, right? Well, 7% of women would disagree – for them, the carat size is the most important thing in the engagement ring. For another 68%, the size is just as important as the quality. (The Knot)

For those of you who have already tied the knot, you may be interested in our wedding anniversary gift guide. It covers years 1 to 60 with detailed ideas and suggestions as well as a romantic quote that you could use in an anniversary card.

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