Grand engagements are all the rage, with people spending thousands of dollars setting up extreme backdrops just to hear the answer to a simple, four-word question, “Will you marry me?”
Historically, marriages were arranged by the patriarchs of families, so there were no engagements or “save the dates” mailed out a year beforehand. Dad chose who his baby girl was going to marry, and that suitor gave him a dowry that consisted of a couple of sheep and an ox or two.
Once the agreement was made, the blushing bride was to show up at the altar to meet the man she was going to live with the rest of her life. Then the vows were shared. Even if he did smell like a barnyard, or spit when he talked or had a weeping eye. The bride didn’t get an engagement period to find those things out. Her husband came “as is.”
As time passed, there were fewer fathers who had a place to store oxen, but a dowry was still necessary, so courters began bringing gold and jewels as a sign of their worthiness. (Those jewels evolved into what we know as the modern-day engagement ring.) Once the young lover got the father’s permission to marry his daughter, he then had to get the flirty female to agree. Accepting his proposal was most often a no-brainer because gals didn’t have a lot of choices. Between plagues, hundreds of miles between towns and the lack of dating sites, most girls took the first proposal that came along or risked being labeled at the town spinster at the ripe old age of 17.
As the world grew, so did the choices. Men couldn’t just assume the young filly would be a slam dunk when he asked her to come along and “birth his babies.” He had to bring his “A game” when asking for her hand in marriage, or she may just say no. Thus, engagements turned into events so he could wow his gal, knowing if he impressed her there was no way he would be rejected. Those events typically included flowers, music and candlelight. He would then get down on one knee as an act of complete surrender, or as some referred to it, the “begging” position, and ask her those simple words that world change the destiny of them both. Forever.
Impressing a woman takes a lot more effort in today’s world. Some engagements are pricier and more elaborate than the wedding itself. The trend of traveling to some exotic location so you can stand upon a rock with the ocean crashing behind you may look amazing in pictures, but really fellas, I have to ask: How are you going to maintain that level in the years to come?
I can ask this thought-provoking question because I am coming up on 39 years of wedded bliss, and my proposal was definitely not Pinterest-worthy. Nothing impressive, but I still remember it like it was yesterday.
It began when my boyfriend at the time wanted to go fishing with his best friend for the afternoon. We were to meet for dinner afterwards at a couple’s house that were friends of his that he wanted to introduce me to.
I met him there, and as I stood in the kitchen with my new friend, the menfolk walked in stinky, sweaty, and covered in fish stuff. He walked up to me and nervously said, “While John and I were fishing, he asked me why we weren’t married yet. I couldn’t come up with a good answer, so why don’t we get married?”
Yep, there he was, hands still smelling like stink bait, standing in the kitchen of someone I had met just hours before, asking me to be his betrothed. Not surrounded by family and friends in celebration. No Jumbotron. No trip to Paris with him kneeling before the Eiffel Tower.
Did any of that stop me from jumping up and down, fist pumping in the air, throwing my arms around his sweaty neck and sobbing into his collar, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” Nope. Did that stop us from living the most amazing life? Nope.
So, I guess the moral of my story is, save your time and money when it comes to a big proposal, because even a smelly, unimpressive one can bring forth a beautiful union. Set the bar the low, and don’t oversell. Just be grateful that your dad didn’t trade you for some barnyard animals.