At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Chinese diver He Zi took home the silver.
Following years of training and fierce competition, she was dubbed second best in the world in the three-meter springboard dive. After stepping down from the podium though, she found fellow Olympic athlete and long-time boyfriend, Qin Ka, down on one knee, proposing.
Imagine being upstaged by your significant other during a defining moment of your career.
That is a day He Zi will forever look back on and see, not only her crowning achievement but the day that her boyfriend proposed. If might just be me, but I think those things could easily have been on two separate days.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a sweet moment (she said yes, for one). For years, though, the word on public engagements has been a resounding “no” with feminist writers detecting hints of manipulation in what should be a sweet and significant moment for the couple.
But the brides have had their say too. According to David’s Bridal’s “What’s On Brides’ Minds” survey, brides overwhelmingly prefer a more personal, private proposal. 80% said they would scoff at a public Facebook proposal, 63% would not want to be proposed to on a jumbotron, and 57% of the respondents would not want to be proposed to via flashmob.
And with good reasons.
Number one is public pressure.
Imagine being surprise proposed to by your significant other in front of a crowd of strangers. Your response has to be “yes” because if it isn’t, the whole situation will be awkward. The public pressure, then, is definitely manipulative because if you wanted to say no to the engagement, you risk embarrassing yourself and your partner, as well as hurting your partner’s feelings.
There is enough pressure in a private setting without doing that in front of other people.
Another key reason brides tend to stray away from public proposals is the stage fright. She won’t be able to savor the moment if she feels like she’s on stage, even if she wants to say yes.
“I think the biggest thing you can do to help a marriage is to have absolute privacy [for the proposal],” said Calgary-based marriage conflict specialist, Debra Macleod. Macleod has had clients whose marriage began with a showy proposal only to have one of the partners be quietly resentful that their “private moment” had been transformed into a public spectacle.
So, if the evidence clearly states that public proposals are a no-go, why do people continue to propose in that way?
Take Bharat and Romi, a beautiful couple that was engaged recently. By the end of Bharat’s flashmob engagement at the Leicester Square Christmas Festival, the pair looked extraordinarily happy. Romi was definitely surprised but seemed genuinely happy as well.
If you remove everything I previously stated – the pressure, the stage fright, the manipulation – this engagement was perfect. It feels like a romantic movie moment from the 1980s where the woman had no doubts that this is who she wanted to be with and had no worries about being in front of a crowd.
The main issue with public proposals, though, is consent.
Yes, I get it. It is meant as a romantic gesture but too many proposals are complete surprises to the significant others, and too many of those proposals are done in front of crowds of friends, family, or strangers.
As one Redditor points out, a general rule of thumb is that the proposal itself should not be a surprise. The couple should have a discussion about marriage and if that is the direction they’d like to go in, the creativity can start from there, based on your partner’s interests.
If Romi was interested in romantic gestures then, Bharat did an amazing job.
Engagements are beautiful. It’s a moment that is meant to signify the rest of your lives. It’s for the couple – however the couple wants to express it.
But if you’re going to propose in public, be sure your fiance-to-be will be comfortable with it.