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Proposals, Parents, and Purchases

On April 11, 2010

By Ryan and Anna Snyder

In the most recent edition of Mutuality, we wrote an article titled “When We Said ‘I Do,’” which discussed how we tried to tell an egalitarian story with our wedding.  From the making of mutual decisions while planning the ceremony, to the symbol of equality we provided by having both sets of parents walk us down the aisle, to the promise we each made to love, respect, and submit to the other in our vows, we tried to put our beliefs about the equality of women and men on display.  However, as we noted in the article, often we followed more traditional ways of doing things.  Sometimes we wanted to – but often we knew of no other option.

Thus, in the spirit of encouraging conversation, we wanted to discuss a few of the more firmly-entrenched traditions we followed, and ask for feedback about how others might choose differently. We aren’t saying we regret our choices, or criticizing people who choose these paths. We simply want to provide a forum to discuss new ideas, options, and resources for those who want them.

The Proposal

Traditionally, the man enjoys the privilege (or bears the burden, depending on his viewpoint) of planning the proposal – often without any input from the woman at all.  This places sole responsibility for the leading of the relationship with the man while requiring the woman to sit and wait patiently (or not so patiently, depending on her viewpoint), for the man to make one of the biggest decisions of their relationship on his own.  If a couple were so inclined, what would it look like for both him and her to be involved in this decision?  Would it be possible for a couple to sit down together and collectively make the decision to move forward into engagement? Would this method ruin the “surprise” factor of a proposal, and if so, is it a sacrifice worth making?

Talking to Parents

Many men approach the woman’s father (and sometimes both parents) to ask permission to propose. This custom developed because people viewed the daughter as property. The man’s parents and the woman herself are left out of the conversation.  How could the woman and the man honor all of their parents at this stage of the relationship? What would it look like to get away from the stereotype that requires a woman to get her father’s permission to get married, while a man needs none?

Engagement Ring(s)

As in a traditional engagement, Ryan purchased an engagement ring which he presented to me (Anna) when he asked me to marry him. My acceptance and wearing of the ring indicated my commitment to future marriage, which was visible to all. So why, I now wonder, do men not also wear a sign of their commitment? I’ve done some research and found evidence of the growing popularity of male engagement rings, along with other tokens of commitment such as watches. I find giving Ryan gifts highly enjoyable and if I could go back I would have presented Ryan with an engagement ring of sorts, whether at the time of his proposal to me, or another time. What do you think of the tradition of only the woman receiving a sign of the future marriage? What are your thoughts of men wearing a ring? How could a couple better show their mutual commitment to one another?

This list is by no means exhaustive. What other subtle signs of hierarchy do couples face? How could a couple put a belief in equality into practice in those areas?

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