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Is it Time for Women to Start Proposing to Men?

When it comes to marriage, we’ve moved happily away from traditional gender roles.

A woman’s place is no longer in the kitchen; rather, it’s wherever she wants it to be (thank you very much). A lot of women unapologetically keep their last names rather than take their husband’s. Many men shamelessly take paternity leave and the number of stay-at-home dads is increasing.

Why, then, are the ladies still waiting for the men to pop the question?

It’s still rare and seemingly taboo to see women proposing to men. A 2017 study by The Knot revealed that less than 1 per cent of women proposed to their boyfriends. Though rare, however, it happens.

We caught up with Vancouver-based young professional Jess Sternberg to hear all about why – and how – she proposed to her then boyfriend Julian.

What inspired the decision to propose to your then boyfriend?
I always found the tradition of the man proposing a bit strange/silly. It didn’t make much sense to me. Julian is really good at making me feel like a queen every day, so I wanted to do something to make him feel special too. We had been together for four years, had moved across the country together, started a sustainable clothing brand together, and often talked about marriage and our future in general. I knew we were both ready for marriage and proposing to Julian seemed like a perfect opportunity to make him feel special in a way that men don’t usually get to experience. I knew proposing to him would mean giving up on this moment for myself, but I felt that would make the proposal even more special and meaningful.

Did you seek the advice of any friends and family beforehand and were they supportive?
I didn’t really ask anyone for advice on whether or not to propose. I simply told them my intentions and asked for advice on how to do it! My parents and brother thought it was hilarious and “very Jess;” Julian’s brother and his partner were ecstatic. I also told Julian’s mom and she was both excited and shocked,  I remember she asked “how does that even work!?,” and honestly, at the time, I had no idea. There isn’t necessarily a pre-existing outline for proposing to a man: do you buy them a ring? Do you use the ring you want for yourself? Do you get down on one knee? Some people wondered if Julian would be okay with me proposing. I was mostly confident in knowing that he would love it, but there were certainly moments when I doubted my decision. Maybe he would be disappointed that I took this moment away from him? Maybe he would be embarrassed? I’m happy to say that, in the end, he loved it.

How did you propose?
I proposed to Julian on the same day his dad proposed to his mom; Friday, July 13th. Mitchell (Julian’s brother) and Michael (his partner) came over and helped me decorate the backyard. We strung up photos of Julian and I from the ceiling leading from the front door of our home all the way to the back door. I asked Julian’s friend Brad to take him out for a couple of drinks after work and to let me know when he was on his way home. When Julian arrived, he followed the photos to the backyard where I was standing all dressed up. I had an entire speech planned, but instead, I started crying the moment I saw him. I basically just told him I love him through sobs and thrust the ring into his hands, asking him to marry me. He immediately said “Of course! Of course I will!” It was a very special and emotional moment that we’ll both remember forever.

Do you think we are going to see more of this in the future?
I hope so! I don’t think I realized how unpopular “reverse proposals” were until we got engaged. Everyone always asks to see my ring or asks if I was surprised. When I tell him that Julian is the one with the ring and he WAS surprised, people are SHOCKED. Men proposing to women is such a relic of the past that’s really not relevant to modern life. In fact, if you’re in a loving relationship and you are both on the same page about marriage, it’s kind of insane to allot this huge decision to your boyfriend by default.

Do you have advice for women who want to propose to their boyfriends?
There were so many times I second-guessed myself when planning the proposal. “What if he says no?” But remember: you know your relationship better than anyone. Don’t second-guess yourself, and don’t let other peoples’ opinions affect your decision. It’s an incredibly personal moment. If it feels right to you and to your relationship, just do it. You might be surprised how meaningful it is for your partner.

Erin Davis

Erin is a Toronto-based actor, writer and queen of the side hustle. When she’s not writing the day away in a face mask, she’s taking in the city’s vibrant arts scene, doing a red carpet interview or brunching with her leading ladies. Follow me: @erinnicoledavis