Will you leap at chance of proposal?

IT'S a leap year and tradition dictates women can do the proposing - but how can they be sure of the answer they want? And anyway isn't proposing really the man's job or in an age of equality does it really matter? Today JAMES MARSTON investigates and asks the women of Ipswich what leap year means to them.

James Marston

IT'S a leap year and tradition dictates women can do the proposing - but how can they be sure of the answer they want? And anyway isn't proposing really the man's job or in an age of equality does it really matter? Today JAMES MARSTON investigates and asks the women of Ipswich what leap year means to them.

IF you think it's time you tied the knot with your man but he's being backwards in coming forwards, leap year is the time for you to do the proposing.

The tradition of women proposing to men on February 29 is believed to have started in 5th century Ireland when St Bridget complained to St Patrick about women having to wait for so long for a man to propose. St Patrick said women could propose on this one day in the leap year.

In 1288, Scotland passed a law that allowed women to propose marriage to the man of their choice in that year. Any man who declined a proposal in a leap year had to pay a fine, ranging from a kiss to payment for a silk dress or a pair of gloves.

Because men felt that put them at too great a risk, the tradition was in some places tightened to restricting female proposals to the modern leap day, February 29.

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Yet the trend towards women proposing has been slow to catch on. Modern, independent, self-sufficient women will take the initiative in most areas of their life except when it comes to marriage, where their traditional values demand a man goes down on one knee, according to research by handbag.com.

Some 9 per cent of proposals come from women these days but social convention is slow to change, according to Kate Reardon, journalist and author of Top Tips For Girls, which offers advice to women on a plethora of subjects, from relationships and dating to weddings and parenting.

She said: “We get most of our social cues from Hollywood these days, from playing with bridal Barbie to watching romantic Hollywood movies.

“I mean, in how many Hollywood movies does the woman propose? How many rom-coms do we watch a year which just reinforces the search for Mr Right?”

But if you are thinking of popping the question, how do you do it without stealing his thunder or prompting terror if he has a commitment problem?

Is there a right time and place and do you offer him a token of your love, like a ring?


Kate, who runs a Top Tips For Girls website, said: “Nobody else can really know your relationship. Yes, take advice from friends, but you have to go with your gut feeling.

“It's more important for a woman to be very confident that he's going to say yes because of our conventions and the way that society works in this country.

“If you would be humiliated for it to get out that you asked and he said, 'No', perhaps that should give you pause for thought.”

Are women in danger of stealing men's thunder by proposing on February 29?

“They possibly are,” said Kate, “but I don't think many women would do it unless they felt absolutely driven to it. Also, some men are so cool about it and love it when the woman takes the initiative, just as some men love to be asked out by women. Things are changing and becoming more relaxed.”


Kate said: “A woman bought her future husband a vintage Rolex and had it engraved, 'Will you marry me?' on the back. He was so delighted with the watch that he said yes. You can always try bribing them.”

Presenting a ring to a man isn't necessary, she adds.

“Men don't have engagement rings so women can't do all those recognisable things that men do when proposing, like hiding the ring and suddenly producing it out of the blue, where the presentation of the ring does most of the work for them.”


“If you are going to propose, don't get down on bended knee because it looks like begging. When a man does it, it's chivalrous, when a woman does it, it just looks desperate.”


There is no perfect place to propose, said Kate, although a noisy venue may be preferable.

“You could always do it in a very noisy nightclub so that if he says, 'No,' you can pretend he didn't hear you properly, or pretend it was a joke. You could say in a shocked or horrified voice, 'I said, 'Will you carry me? My feet are hurting, not will you marry me? Of course I don't want to marry you.'”


In many cases, men just aren't as attracted to the idea of marriage as women are, she adds.

“Traditionally men don't find the idea of marriage quite as romantic as women do. It might come down to the genetic urge of a woman to settle down, build a nest and breed, whereas a man's genetic urge is to rush about and be with as many people as he possibly can.”


Some women have gone to elaborate lengths on Leap Year day to propose to their man.

One woman got so sick of waiting for her boyfriend of five years to pop the question that she took matters into her own hand. On February 29, 1992, she drove to the milk depot where he worked and across the side of an advertising van painted “Michael, will you marry me? All my love, Joanne” in huge red letters. It worked.

When he arrived at the depot to find the message there were 30 workmates ready to recite the proposal in teasing unison.

Once he recovered from the shock - and the ribbing from his mates - he persuaded the van driver to park outside the hairdressing salon where his girlfriend worked and told her he would only say, 'Yes,' if she got down on one knee and that she would have to get his father's permission. The couple married in 1993.

Another woman hired a Cessna light aircraft to fly a banner which asked, “Paul, will you marry me?” while they were out for a pre-planned walk nearby. Her man was shocked but said 'Yes,' although the relationship broke down months later.


Once the proposal has been made and he has accepted, there are ways to keep the romance alive, says Reardon.

Buy a small inexpensive spiral-bound notebook. Write a note (short and sweet) to your sweetheart. Leave it in his sock drawer or bedside table. When he finds it, tell him that you wanted to leave a note saying how much you love him - and hope he'll find time to do the same.

But no schedules, no have-tos, just whenever either of you feel like it, write a sweet nothing and then leave the notebook where the other will find it. It's fun because it's loving, it's random and it's low-pressure.

Weekly date nights are a good way of keeping up communication, which can get lost in daily life. It doesn't need to be expensive - but it means you are together and focusing on each other.

Are you planning to propose to your boyfriend? Have you made use of the leap year tradition? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk


Yvonne Copping, 52, of Hilton Road, Ipswich said she would be asking the man in her life - Michael - on February 29.

She said: “We've been together for four years so why not? I'm seriously thinking about it.

“I think it's a good tradition. But women can ask a man to marry them at any time really. It's equal rights nowadays.”

Yvonne said she's fairly sure of her loved one's answer.

“I know what Michael will say - he'll say yes but only when my divorce comes through.”

Dale Munnings, 52, of Dryden Road, Ipswich, said she has been married for 28 years.

She said: “I'm still on husband number one so I think I'm doing well really. My husband proposed to me. It wasn't my place to ask him, not even in a leap year.

“I like the traditional proposal by the man.”

Louise Rose, 20, of Melplash Road, Ipswich, said she's not looking to get married at the moment.

She added: “If I was in a relationship I would ask someone to marry me if I wanted to. I'd ask on Valentine's Day as well.

“It doesn't matter who asks who. I don't want to get married at the moment though. I like the single life too much.”

Jodie Baker, 20, of Nansen Road, Ipswich, said she prefers the traditions of a man asking a woman.

She added: “I would never ask a man to marry me. I'd be scared of the rejection if he said no. I think it's the man's job to do the asking - it's tradition.

“I suppose it depends on the relationship as well.”

Julia Shaw, 35, of Winfield Road, Ipswich, said she has been married for four years.

She said: “I would have asked my husband if he hadn't got round to it. Anybody should be able to propose. I'm glad my husband asked me but people should feel they should ask if they want to.

“I don't think leap year is often enough, it's only one day in four years.”

Belinda Hanchett, 34, of Salisbury Green, Bury St Edmunds, said she is currently single.

She said: “I think girls should ask as well as men. I haven't got a boyfriend this year. It shouldn't be just in leap years that woman can propose, it should be all the time.”