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I asked Australian women why they proposed to their partners

IMAGE VIA @SARAHANDSEBASTIAN/INSTAGRAM
WORDS BY BELLA BACKWELL

Put a ring on it.

In 2021, you would hope that gender roles have evolved enough that a woman deciding to propose to their partner is no big deal. Attitudes towards all things marriage are shifting, and the societal pressure for women to wait for men to propose is diminishing. However, in heterosexual relationships, men are still the ones popping the question most of the time.


Interested to hear how others navigate the world? Head to our Life section. 


If you want to propose to your partner, you should (of course) just go for it. But if you need a little encouragement, consider this your sign. I spoke to eight women who proposed to their partners about why they decided to take the leap and whether it really is a ‘stick it to the patriarchy’ moment or just a decision to marry the person they love.

Shannon, 38

Set the scene for us.

Every year in May, we head to Hepburn Springs for a weekend. It’s one of our favourite places to go to, so I knew that’s where I had to pop the question. My heart was pounding and I started to shake. I bent down to get the watch box out of my jacket but had wrapped it up so awkwardly that it took some time to get it out. Once I found it, I turned to Liam on one knee and started crying.

I was crying so much that I could barely get my words out. Liam just looked at me in shock and as I went to say “Will you marry me?” he blurted out “No wait, what are you doing? I’m meant to do this, not you!”. He then picked me up and said “Yes!”.

What was the response?   

I was never worried about what anyone would think about me proposing after I had made up my mind about it. But I did have one friend who didn’t think it was a good idea, as she thought it would upset Liam. I was quite shocked by her response, but at the same time, I didn’t let it get to me. I knew in my heart Liam wouldn’t be upset by it.

Carlee, 36

Why did you decide to propose?

Primarily, it was important for me to marry someone who would be okay with me proposing. For me, this shows an openness to genuine equality and I’m lucky that I have found someone who is a feminist and supporter of women. I’m someone who will challenge you and whose career requires some sacrifice from my partner, and so I was never going to be okay in a relationship where there wasn’t genuine equality. 

Set the scene for us.

We were in Chamonix skiing, and the Vallee Blanche is a famous ski run that we had looked forward to doing together. Dustin was doing a week-long ski touring course, and I knew they were skiing the Vallee Blanche on the Wednesday. I got in touch with the guide company and hired my own guide to take me out to the perfect spot to surprise Dustin. 

The guide, myself and the photographer all went up the lift before Dustin’s group and had a stakeout in the cafe while waiting for them. When the time came, I skied up beside him, he turned around shocked and said “What the fuck are you doing here?” which really set a nice romantic tone. I got awkward, then proposed whilst holding back tears, which is very unusual for me!

Melissa, 33

Set the scene for us.

When the day came to actually propose, all bravado and confidence disappeared pretty quickly. I had it all planned out. It was our two-year anniversary. I’d bought the nicest watch I could afford, packed a picnic basket and Mike drove us to Kings Park for a midday date.

I was so nervous. Suddenly, I couldn’t bring myself to summon up that one minute of crazy courage required to ask someone to marry you. I fumbled for the words but only got out the “Will you mar… ” part of the sentence before he said a definitive “Yes”.

What was the response?

Our friends and family were very supportive. There were a few awkward moments at first, but it was mostly just initial shock. Once they saw we were happy, the logistics of the proposal fell away.  

Evelyn, 47

Photography by Tim Campbell

Why did you decide to propose?

When we began dating in 2009, Sandra was not officially out to her parents. As it was not legal, we never really gave it much thought, but always felt like we weren’t taken as seriously as couples who could marry. When the marriage equality law passed in 2017, we realised we did want to be married.

Set the scene for us.

I really wanted to be Sandra’s wife, so I told Sandra that I was going to her parents’ house by myself and was going to ask them for her hand in marriage. She completely freaked out, as she wasn’t officially out to them, even though they had welcomed me into the family the moment they met me, but she let me go. It was one of the most terrifying things I have ever done. Once they knew, we realised it was going to be okay [and] we became engaged by default!

Lucy, 37

Why did you decide to propose?

We’d both been married before and so marriage wasn’t always on the top of our minds, but we had been trying for a baby and after our second miscarriage, Clancy was so amazing throughout the whole process, I really wanted to do something nice for him and take the pressure off him to ask me. Spoiler alert – we ended up having a miracle baby, Piper, so the struggles were totally worth it!

Any advice for other women?

It doesn’t matter what gender, persuasion, or sexuality you are, or what kind of relationship you’re in. If you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, don’t wait for them to ask you. Plan something beautiful and start your life together as soon as possible. Love is love. Always.  

Erica, 33

Why did you decide to propose?

The proposal was spontaneous, but my partner and I had been talking about getting married for a while. I decided to propose (somewhat on a whim) as I didn’t particularly like the gendered expectations around proposals.

Set the scene for us.

It was about 1am on a Saturday, deep into Melbourne’s second lockdown. We were on the couch quite a few DIY cocktails in, and I thought to myself ‘Well, now’s as good a time as any’. I turned to him and asked if he wanted to get married, and he said sure. And that was that! There was no ring, although I did put a bottle opener on his finger afterwards.

Becky, 37

Why did you decide to propose?

My partner John had teased me for a while that if I ever wanted us to get married, I had to ask him. I think this was partly just that he liked the idea of it and partly because he has been married and is divorced, so he wanted me to initiate it. I decided to propose on February 29, as it’s the traditional day for it – Leap Day. Of course, it wouldn’t come around again for four years, so I thought I might as well go for it.

What was the response?

We’d been dating for four years and living together for more than three, so I don’t think anyone was surprised. My father had teased my mother earlier in the day that, as it was February 29, she should propose and she said ‘But I already did,’ which is true – she asked him back in 1975. The reaction that day was lovely, but less than two weeks later the pandemic hit Melbourne, we locked down, and it quickly became one of the less dramatic things that happened that month!  

Maureen, 50

Why did you decide to propose?

I knew that my partner was very conscious of the fact that I had come out of a previous relationship where my ex-husband had been deceitful and unfaithful, so he was prepared to give me the space and time I needed.

Set the scene for us.

We were in the process of redecorating my house, I had pulled the wallpaper off and was about to paint. I had bought a ring a few weeks prior and had gone down to collect it from the jewellers. When I got home, I noticed the big blank unpainted wall in the entrance foyer, so I decided to write my proposal on it.

I had always told my partner that when I was ready, I’d let him know. I painted on the blank wall “I’m ready. Are you?”. When he got home from work that night, I was standing at the door with my three little girls and when he walked in I got on my knee and did the traditional thing. He was very surprised!  

For more tips for women who want to propose to their partners, head here.

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