In our fortnightly column ‘Great Sexpectations’ the Woman Alive panel answer your questions on sex, faith and intimacy. Drop us a confidential email on email@example.com and ask us anything. Here, we help a reader who is considering proposing to her boyfriend.
Dear Woman Alive,
My friend jokingly said that because 2024 is a leap year, I can finally propose to my boyfriend! I laughed it off but ever since she said it I’ve been secretly thinking about it. We have been together for five years and both want to get married but he hasn’t proposed yet. I’ve always been more outgoing and he is really shy so sometimes I wonder whether I should make the move. We go to a really conservative church and I don’t know any women that have done this. Should I propose to him and is there anything in the Bible that says I shouldn’t?
What a great question! The summary of my answer, if you don’t have time to read it all, is: it’s up to you!
Apologies if that is not helpful but let me explain more. Personally I would not want to be the one doing the proposing. I would want to be sure my boyfriend is ready. In general, when a man is ready, he will ask. And in general, a woman is ready a lot earlier than the man.
There is no guidance in the Bible on whether a man or woman should propose, as in Bible times marriage was arranged, and a woman had very little agency to make life decisions such as who she would marry.
Personally I would not want to be the one doing the proposing. I would want to be sure my boyfriend is ready.
The tradition of a woman being able to propose on a leap year comes from Ireland, and is called Bachelor’s Day, or sometimes Ladies Privilege. It is based on the legend of Saint Bridget (c. 451 – 525) striking a deal with Saint Patrick.
Bridget is said to have gone to Patrick to complain that women had to wait too long to marry because men were slow to propose. She asked that women be given the opportunity to propose. Patrick relented and said women could propose on one day every seven years. This was too long for Bridget, and she convinced him to make it one day every four years. So this year, 2024, is the next opportunity for four years to propose.
You say you have been together for five years, so one could ask, what is he waiting for? Do you know any concerns he has, or fears that would mean he feels unable to propose?
If you are happy to do the asking, then go ahead, but if, deep down, you know you would like him to get down on one knee, then perhaps ask a friend to have a word.
I remember some years ago at the church I went to, there were a few couples that had been together for a while, and not yet engaged. An older married man had a word with the men, perhaps allaying their fears, and soon after, engagements were announced!
The tradition of a woman being able to propose on a leap year comes from Ireland, and is called Bachelor’s Day, or sometimes Ladies Privilege
To see if it might help you, I asked someone who did propose to her boyfriend on the last leap year in 2020, she said:
‘I did it because he was taking ages. He needed the reassurance because he didn’t think I’d accept, and he also was (and still is) nervous about his family at the wedding. I knew I would ask him from probably about a year before. I was going to wait until the day itself, but a friend and I were having drinks at home, covid was kicking in, and at five minutes past midnight I threw myself onto one knee and declared my undying love.
Read more on engagements
‘I garbled something about this being the only chance I’d get for four years and he would have to say yes or we’d never get around to it! So he did (no pressure!). I’m one of those people who never really does things by the book. I have always been slightly alternative, so it didn’t scare me in the slightest, I just found it funny!’
So it doesn’t sound as if there were any regrets there! You are the one that knows your boyfriend, and knows your relationship. If you feel like it is the right time, and you want to do it, go for it – and send us a photo of the wedding!
Are you thinking of proposing this year? We want to hear from you! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Great Sexpectations column is written by a number of different contributors who make up the Woman Alive panel. If you have a question for us, email:email@example.com,uk
The Woman Alive podcast is out now! Available on Premier.plus, Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Please do rate and review the podcast and share the episodes you’ve enjoyed, with the women – or indeed men! – in your life.