Proposing on Leap Day

Proposing on Leap Day

Thursday sees that relatively rare event – the extra day added to our calendar to mark Leap Year.

It’s a correction to counter the fact that Earth’s orbit isn’t precisely 365 days a year.

It gives rise (for some reason) to “bachelor’s Day”. This is an Irish tradition for Leap Day in which women propose to men instead of the traditional other way around.

This got me thinking about proposals. (Naturally, in the course of my celebrant work, I am in contact with a lot of engaged couples.)

I proposed to Isobel over 25 years ago. It wasn’t a Leap Day or even month. In fact, it was July, but that shouldn’t prevent me telling the story. It wasn’t all straightforward, particularly as I wasn’t at all sure that I’d be accepted

I did stack the odds in my favour, though! I was finishing a job in Rome, so I arranged for Isobel to come out and join me there for a few days. Apart from the early start this entailed, she was more than happy to comply.

I had four days during which I could pop the question. Unfortunately, I was afraid that if Isobel rejected me, we would have a tough remainder of our holiday to endure. I therefore decided to postpone my proposal till the last evening, when I had planned we would be in the lovely Piazza Navona.

As it turns out, the Piazza would be inundated with people and, atmospheric as it still was, this was not the place for a quiet proposal (especially if a rejection was to occur!).

Fortunately, a couple of days earlier, on a perfect day weather-wise, we had taken a trip to Tivoli and had the glorious Villa d’Este almost to ourselves.

Now if you’re looking for somewhere romantic, then that is as good a spot as any. I hadn’t been expecting to propose (so was not worrying, but enjoying myself. Before I thought what I was doing, I was down on one knee, blurting out my proposal.

The fact that it was accepted joyfully was such a relief! The rest of the holiday went like a dream. In fact, most of the next quarter of a century have gone like a dream.

Whoever actually does the proposing, it’s something I can warmly recommend!

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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