MY best friend just got engaged. It was on holiday in Cyprus with her boyfriend of six years.
In between a flood of squeals (hers) and screams (mine) down the phone, she told me all about his romantic proposal on bended knee on a moonlit beach. Aww.
Engagements are a funny old thing aren’t they? You see, she and her boyfriend had been talking about marriage for a long time.
They’ve lived together for two years and both say they knew early on in their relationship that they’d found ‘the one.’
They’d already begun planning when and where the big day would be and even started putting money aside for it. We all knew it was just a matter of time until he ‘surprised’ her with a beautiful sparkly ring and made the whole thing official.
Which is really what an engagement is all about these days. Sealing the deal. Locking it down. Dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.
In the 21st century, when a man asks a woman to marry him, unless he’s jumping the gun a bit, he’s fairly confident her ‘yes’ is already in the bag.
By the time a question is being popped, many couples are living together and some already have children (or at least pets) which are a far bigger commitment to one another than a piece of paper in the grand scheme of things.
I mean, a guy would be pretty shocked to find out - a mortgage and two children into the relationship - that the woman ‘hadn’t really seen this as a serious thing,’ wouldn’t he?
Logistics has slowly edged-out bare-faced romance and nowadays we all prefer to speak of feelings and plans for the future long before a diamond ring comes into the equation. It certainly makes financial sense! But this hasn’t always been the case.
Take two or three hundred years ago, when a proposal was an actual question, with an unknown answer, bearing little resemblance to the ceremonial event it has become.
The two people involved had usually ‘courted’ for a relatively short amount of time; perhaps they’d never even kissed. An engagement was a man declaring his feelings and a woman’s acceptance was her reciprocating.
It was a modern day ‘I love you.’ What a scary and exhilarating time that must have been!
When Hugh Grant’s character proposed to Emma Thompson’s Miss Dashwood in the classic Sense and Sensibility, the poor dear wasn’t even aware that he loved her (though we all suspected as much, didn’t we?).
Their relationship went from cordial nods and curtseys to frantic kisses in the time it took him to say ‘come on baby, how about it, you and me?’ (I’m paraphrasing).
I suppose we’re more cautious these days.
We like to try before we buy, take the relationship for a test drive before committing to a long term lease.
I think it’s important though, as we charge onwards and upwards into a modern age filled with feminism and sexual equality, that wonderful traditions like these remain.
In such cynical times, I think it’s a great moment when a man can drop to one knee in a grassy meadow, declare his feelings for the woman he loves and ‘officially’ ask her to spend the rest of her life with him.
Even if they’ve already got a joint mortgage and a German Shepherd called Bob waiting back home.