Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a popular day for a wedding – popular, at least, until you become aware how expensive it is likely to be! Wedding venues hoist their prices for special, extra-romantic days. So be warned!

Talking of raised prices, try taking your beloved out for a restaurant meal on 14th February!

Looking from a less mercenary angle, Valentine’s Day is even more popular for proposals. And they don’t have to cost a thing!

Valentine’s Day has been around a couple of thousand years. It wasn’t called this originally, but was known as Lupercalia. It was a Roman festival held in mid-February. The idea was to celebrate the coming of spring, and it included fertility rites and the pairing off of women with men by lottery.

The story (as researched by Mark Merrill concerned a cruel 3rd century Roman Emperor called Claudius II Gothicus. He spent a lot of his time fighting wars, and he soon had an issue recruiting soldiers.

Claudius assumed that the reason for the reluctance to sign up was because Roman men did not want to leave their loved ones or families behind. He therefore cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome!

The only person to stand up against this decree was, surprisingly  enough, a Christian priest called Valentine. He began secretly to marry soldiers before they went off to war.

The Emperor eventually found out and imprisoned Valentine, sentencing him to death.

Before his execution, Valentine met and fell in love with a blind girl, the daughter of his jailer. On his last evening, Valentine, who had no writing instruments available, is supposed to have written her a sonnet in ink squeezed from violets. These words are said to have restored the girl’s eyesight.

There was no happy ending for Valentine, as he was killed the next day. However, he had given his life so that young couples could be married.

At the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I made the festival a lot more respectable and replaced Lupercalia with Valentine’s Day.

Eventually, Valentine was canonised by the Catholic Church, and February 14th was chosen as his saint’s day. On that day birds (especially lovebirds, but also owls and doves) are supposed to begin to mate.

If you’re thinking of popping the question next Valentine’s Day, I hope you get the answer you’re looking for. And if you do, feel free to have a word with me for a few ideas about how you can celebrate a personalised wedding.

Down on one Knee

Getting down on one knee to propose marriage could hardly be lovelier. It does have its challenges, though. Are you going to broadcast your proposal by flying a banner from a glider? Are you going to keep it really private? What would work best?

Each couple’s relationship will be different, so I prefer not to guarantee that my advice will work every single time!  Nonetheless, I offer these five nuggets that you may well find helpful.

Where and how

  1. Do you want to propose in public or in private? Broadcasting over the tannoy in Wembley Stadium needs planning (and cash!), but what if your beloved says “no”?

Would it be nicer to propose in a public park or somewhere you both love, like a museum? Or somewhere safer?

You may want to propose in a shopping mall or in MacDonald’s; you may choose to do it in your flat over a candlelit dinner. That’s just the tip of the iceberg where proposing marriage is concerned. Your are bounded only by your imagination!

2. The important thing is to make it personal. So if you’re laying out flowers to spell out “Will you marry me?”, use your intended’s favourite flowers or, at least, flowers in her favourite colour.

If the proposal is in a fast-food outlet (!), choose one that is your intended’s favourite, rather than just yours. (And maybe check out with the outlet that it’s OK to do this!)

3. Unless you’re both strongly attached to a particular place that’s not romantic, go for a lovely location. Surely, that’s one of the things you will want to remember in days to come?

I proposed to my then girl friend in the Villa d’Este near Rome one sunny morning when there was hardly anyone else around. I hadn’t planned to do it just then, but when we arrived, I just knew it was right. (And we’re still together some 20 years on!)

It’s amazing how often we still talk about the location.


4. Depending on how discreet you are aiming to be, hire a photographer or videographer. You’re only doing this once (hopefully!), and it is very special; you’re going to want to review the shot(s) in the future, so go the extra mile.

Someone I married went to a lot of trouble to propose to his beloved. Unbeknown to her, he took the whole day off to decorate the flat with all manner of foliage and floating candles. He set up his phone on a tripod to record the event, and waited for his beloved to arrive.

It was a huge success. She burst into tears of joy, and immediately accepted him. Fabulous!

Unfortunately, he left the phone on standby, so nothing was recorded!

Don’t let that happen to you!

5. Don’t go telling anybody – even friends or family – before the proposal. Firstly, you might be declined. Secondly, if it’s to be a surprise, you can’t be sure that someone will (accidentally or not) blurt it out.

Another client told everybody but his partner the day before, including a relative in Australia. He arranged for a stretch limo to take them to the restaurant where he wanted to propose. The Australian relative rang up on the day. She spoke to the young lady and, forgetting the time difference, asked what she had thought of the limo! The secret was out and, although all worked out well in the end, the surprise was ruined.

So, however you plan to get down on one knee, give it a little thought (and put yourself in your partner’s shoes). Make the day memorable (for the right reasons!).

Once you’ve been accepted, the next stage will be to contact me, of course, to put together your personalised wedding!

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Season of Love

Season of Love

Yes, Valentine’s Day is on its way! For this is the season of love!

The 14th February is one of the most popular days in the calendar for proposing marriage.


The main attraction of that date, of course, is that love is all around! People are thinking romantically. Many are physically marking the occasion, often with an anonymous love message (whether a card or, nowadays, an e-mail [how romantic!]). They may prefer a red rose. Or what about a meal out?

I’m not denying that Valentine’s Day is a commercial opportunity.  However, it’s also a spur to think and act romantically, and that’s beautiful and all to the good.

So “love is in the air”, as the song goes, and that makes it easier to catch the mood and join in.


Whereas sending an anonymous message of love is a godsend for those who are shy, what about a marriage proposal? That can be quite another matter!

The nitty-gritty

When and where do you propose?

Do you want to do it in public? What if you’re turned down? You don’t want public humiliation.

If you’re in private, how do you bring it into the conversation?

One way to propose

I used to be shier than I am now and I had self-esteem issues. I wanted to propose (actually not on Valentine’s Day, but the principle holds good). I was fairly apprehensive, in truth, although I felt I was in with a good chance!

So I whisked my intended off for a few days in Rome. Now that’s romantic, isn’t it?!

I thought long and hard about the proposal. What if the answer meant rejection? I therefore decided to put it off to the last day, so that the majority of the holiday could pass without embarrassment.

The only problem with this was that I was on edge from the word go!

Resolution came by accident, in the event. We were in the ravishing Villa d’Este, on a fabulous day, on our second day in Rome, and had the place to ourselves. When we stopped at a bench, I didn’t hesitate and dropped to my knees.

Very fortunately, the answer was “yes” and the rest of the trip was magnificent!

Not everybody is going to be lucky enough to have Rome (and the elements) on their side.

What you do need to do is to weigh up the odds. When you’ve resolved to commit, be prepared. That means buying the ring, and deciding where you’ll propose. You might choose to do this at the end of a meal (whether self-cooked or in a restaurant), but not if you’re going to be so nervous that you can’t eat!

Wherever it is, try and set the mood (so the proposal doesn’t come totally out of the blue).

An idea

For a more elaborate plan, you could book a spot at, say, a boutique hotel or restaurant. A civil celebrant (such as myself!) could be lurking as you both come in. You propose marriage, get accepted, and give me the nod. I then come in and perform a brief engagement ceremony for you both. (The ceremony would have no legal significance, but be so beautiful!)

How romantic is that?

Yes, it truly is the sesaon of love!

A Valentine’s Day Fable

Valentine’s Day – well, it’s all about romance, isn’t it?

Visions of romantic, candle-lit dinners. Scores of love-struck Romeos on their knees proposing marriage to their beloved. It’s a magical time.

It’s a wonderful time for chocolate-makers, florists and restaurateurs too, that’s for sure! And maybe for civil celebrants?! But is it so great, for the wannabe fiancé?

By mistake I published my Valentine’s Day blog a week early (did you read it?!). Consequently, I’ve been forced to think of something else for this week!  I’ve come up with a fable (well, a true story, actually).


I wondered how many people do choose this day to propose to their intended.

Long ago, in the mists of time, I got down on bended knee in front of my bewildered girl-friend and asked her to marry me. A little to my surprise, she accepted me, and more than 18 years have elapsed since then. But, despite the result, things hadn’t gone as I had planned.

A salutary tale

I had been working in Italy, and had arranged that my girl-friend should join me in Rome. We would spend a few days together sightseeing (she thought she’d be shopping – her first surprise!).

We had been together for a year and a half, and this would be my chance to propose to her. But what if she were to say no?

I had originally chosen the Piazza Navona on the second evening for my proposal. When we got there, it was atmospheric, but crowded and busy, and it didn’t seem right.

How would the remaining days of the holiday be, if I were rejected then? No, better put it off to the last night. Yes, that was it. Wait as long as possible.

The next day, we travelled outside Rome to the Villa d’Este, in Tivoli. The gardens are spectacular, terraced, with fabulous fountains at every turn. We had chosen a beautiful morning and, for some reason, had the place almost to ourselves. (Apart from stray cats.)

As I knew I wouldn’t be proposing for a day or two, I was relaxed, and before I knew what was happening, I had done the deed. Quite easy, actually!

The right answer was vouchsafed, and I would be walking on air for the rest of our stay and, indeed, for long afterwards.

The moral of the story

So what is the point of my confession?

I would advise anybody planning to propose to take on board what I learned.

You don’t have to pre-plan when to propose – and, if you’re nervous like me, it is better to let the moment happen. If you pre-determine the moment, you will get uptight. It may spoil your dinner, or holiday, or whatever. You may even miss the opportunity altogether.

Trust that the opportunity will arise.

By all means, propose marriage on Valentine’s Day – just, don’t do it because it’s Valentine’s Day!

The Marriage Proposal

Whether you are having a civil ceremony or a traditional one, the marriage proposal is often one of the most fraught and nerve-wracking parts of the whole wedding process.

A lot of people still hanker after tradition (however ‘modern’ their thinking normally). In many cases, they don’t really know what they are expected to do.

The Proposal

Obviously, the engagement ring is an issue (and there’s not a lot of practical advice I can offer, as it’s such a personal thing), but you will actually need to propose.

First ‘minefield’

Do you ask your future father-in-law’s permission?

Certainly, in my case, I felt that my fiancee’s family was fairly traditional, so it made sense to ask. Fortunately it all worked out, but had I been rejected, I guess I could have said that I respected their decision, which they considered to be in their daughter’s best interest. As I lovedher, I would do my best to earn their permission. Perhaps they could suggest how I might do that?

At the very least, I would have been seen to have done ‘the right thing’ in their eyes.

You can ask either parent, of course, or neither. Most progressive parents will appreciate that it is  actually the bride’s decision that is crucial.

Another way round this is to ask for the parents’ ‘blessing’ (which shows respect, but leaves the actual decision with the two of you).

Second ‘minefield’

When and where do you pop the question?

I can’t be prescriptive, of course. You may want to propose 30,000 feet up during a sky-dive. You may prefer the snug in your local pub. You may choose a display of dancers in a crowded shopping mall. But I’d advise some planning – though nothing too elaborate. Keep it reasonably simple. (A lot can go wrong with those showy proposals!)

The proposal is a moment to be recalled and recounted many times in the future, so you want something that will bring up fond memories.

Choose something that you are pretty sure will appeal to her (not necessarily what would suit you!). Don’t propose at half-time during a Manchester United match, if she doesn’t like soccer! Instead, maybe there is a special spot that you both love, or an activity you both enjoy.

Atmosphere is important. A quiet picnic may be just the thing. You don’t have to be totally romantic, but it can help.

I decided to propose when we were on holiday – five days in Rome. I did plan to pop the question on the last evening in the wonderful Piazza Navona, but, in truth, was dreading it, and it might have spoiled my holiday (and my bride-to-be’s). On the second day, we went to the Villa D’Este in glorious weather, had the place to ourselves, and it just happened. Down I went on one knee!

It was what I had planned, though certainly not to the last detail.

Again, it’s your choice whether the bended knee proposal is for you. It may also be good to have practised what you are actually going to say. I kept it very simple, and as I’m not an orator, that was probably best. Once my fiancée had recovered from her shock, she was delighted! Mercifully, we could both really enjoy the rest of our holiday then!

The proposal should not be an ordeal. With a little consideration and fore-thought, it can be something you both will always look back upon with pleasure. An unforgettable beginning to an unforgettable new life together.

Michael Gordon can deliver a tailor-made civil ceremony in London or further afield in the UK or Europe.