The element of surprise has it's origin in the diamond business. When large diamond deposits were found in South Africa, the fear of the loss of value became an acute threat. By introducing the diamond engagement ring in 1939, De Beers successfully created a large market for diamonds, securing their value. The same company realized also that women chose smaller diamonds than men, and so the man was cajoled into buying a ring in secret and surprising the woman with a proposal.
The tradition stuck, for we're still doing it.
In a survey created by Men's Health and the wedding website The Knot, most men feel that a surprise proposal is mandatory:
Don't think so? Well, Men's Health partnered with The Knot.com to ask almost 1,500 engaged or married men and women, and the results suggest guys like to go Old School on proposing. More than 80 percent of the guys thought they should ask permission from his intended's parents before proposing. And more than three-quarters of them said a guy should drop to a knee before popping The Question. (Read the article here)
47 % of the women said the surprise factor was important and only 16 % chose the ring together.
But should a tradition created to inflate the value of a gem be our guide when deciding when and how to become engaged? As an egalitarian Christian I believe our ethics should decide, not the market.
So how can we create an egalitarian engagement? By following the same principles we believe should guide our marriages we can begin our journey to becoming one in a way that affirms our egalitarian beliefs.
One of those principles is mutual decision making.
In the traditional model, the woman is reduced to a passive receiver instead of being an active agent. She cannot decide when she will get engaged (other than nudging the man to propose), or what ring she will get (again, she can influence the decision, but not make it). This will set a precedence for the marriage, one in which the woman has no part in decision making. An egalitarian engagement should therefore secure the woman's agency by allowing the woman to decide with the man when and how the engagement will take place.
But what about the ring? Christian modesty (the real kind, not the fake one) requires that we live within our means. But an ostentatious display of wealth goes against the grain as well. Regardless of what kind of ring you decide to get, consider getting one for both. The man is, after all, getting engaged too.
When I recently got engaged to Jason Dye (of Left Cheek fame; visit the blog here), we decided jointly that we wanted to get engaged. We chose the rings together (we both got one), we both asked the other "Will you be mine?" and gave a ring as a sign of our love, loyalty, and fidelity. It was as egalitarian as it was romantic.
There are as many ways to get engaged as there are couples; there is no right or wrong way. As long as you feel that your beliefs are accurately represented and that your wishes are respected, getting engaged is a thrilling experience, and one that can give you an opportunity to express your commitment to equality.