I proposed to my boyfriend — the outdated stigma I faced shocked me

Katrina and Steve's wedding (Sakshi Ramakrishnan)
Katrina and Steve's wedding (Sakshi Ramakrishnan)

Last March I married my partner Steve. I proposed to him in May 2022, and we had the big fat Indian wedding of our dreams not long after. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we’ll cherish forever, and it was me who popped the question.

When the story of my proposal comes up in conversation, people’s reactions are usually the same. They seem interested and slightly confused in equal measures. “Oh wow, that’s amazing, what made you do that?” they’ll ask with raised eyebrows. I can see the intrigue, and sometimes judgment in their eyes. Is it supposed to be a feminist statement? Was I trying to be edgy? Not really. I just wanted to.

After announcing our engagement on social media, it was always assumed that Steve asked me to marry him. People turned to him and asked, “So, how did you propose?” I could see their hunger for the big story where Steve turns into Prince Charming and gets down on one knee. After explaining how it went down, we were always met with further questions, the main one being, why?

The Indian ceremony from Katrina and Steve's wedding (Sakshi Ramakrishnan)
The Indian ceremony from Katrina and Steve's wedding (Sakshi Ramakrishnan)

Some other responses include, “But that’s his job, not yours!” and, “You’ve stolen his limelight”. The news of our engagement quickly became tarnished with the opinions of others. We had to come armed with explanations. Of course, not everyone reacted this way. My closest friends and family were ecstatic.

The truth is, the dynamic of our relationship is fluid. We consider ourselves to be a modern couple, and we don’t follow many traditional gender norms. I cook, he washes up. I make the phone calls, he does the email admin. I’m an extrovert and he’s an introvert. We don’t expect one another to perform certain tasks, they just naturally click into place. My proposal was just another example of this.

As far as tradition goes, I didn’t see the point. Our wedding followed elements of tradition that incorporated my culture, but we did it in a way that aligned with us as a couple. I wasn’t given away by my father, and I wore clothes that couldn’t be further from traditional. After we married, we decided to keep our own names as we felt they are vital parts of our identity.

The news of our engagement quickly became tarnished with the opinions of others

For context, we didn’t see marriage as a priority, but Steve always said he would do it if I ever wanted to. We’d previously thrown a big party for our fifth anniversary, and we had the best time. It felt like a mini wedding. I wanted to continue celebrating our love, but this time with all of our friends and family from around the world. Plus, who doesn’t love a good Indian wedding, right?

So, I began planning the proposal. I dreamt up a number of wildly outrageous public proposals but remembered how much Steve hates any attention. I settled for a classy picnic in the park. I put on a cute dress, packed some Champagne and nibbles and prepared to woo him. It was a picture perfect scene, just the two of us.

After a few drinks, Steve headed to the toilet, and there was my cue. The nerves kicked in and I quickly put on my ‘proposal playlist’. When he returned, our favourite Paul McCartney track was playing. “Our song!” he said.

I adjusted my position to be on one knee and delivered a short improvised speech confessing my love. Then I popped the question. I could tell I’d caught him off guard. His body froze and his expression went from confusion to shock before settling to wild joy. I felt like I’d just delivered him a present, and enjoyed waiting for the final reaction.

He said ‘yes’, and I presented him with a makeshift ring I made from the caging of the bubbly I popped when we sat down. In the following weeks we both bought each other rings to show off before announcing the engagement formally.

People often ask Steve how he feels about me proposing. “Relieved” is always his answer. Despite this, it always feels like people don’t believe him. Like they’re waiting for him to explain some deeper elaborate reason or say how he was planning something himself but I beat him to it. Some men ask him if he’s ‘okay’ with me proposing.

I wondered if it’s because some heterosexual men might feel emasculated if their female partner took the reins. If it threw off the power dynamic of the relationship. Research data from Guides For Brides found that almost a third of men shared they would rather ‘stick to tradition’ and propose themselves, with over a quarter insisting it’s a ‘man’s responsibility’.

Women proposing to their male partners is not a new concept, but it’s still fairly uncommon. The notion of it being a man’s role feels so outdated to me, but perhaps this year will be different.

Bachelor's Day, which is also known as Ladies' Privilege, is upon us. It is an Irish tradition where women propose to men on Leap Day, 29 February.

Another survey found that 1 in 4 women would consider getting down on one knee for the Leap Year tradition. Reasons for this include not believing in the tradition only men can propose, finding it ‘empowering’ and being ‘fed up waiting’ for their partner to propose.

Katrina and Steve have been together for 7 years (Katrina Mirpuri)
Katrina and Steve have been together for 7 years (Katrina Mirpuri)

This sounded familiar. A friend of mine is desperate for her partner to propose. “If he doesn’t propose in one year, I’m dumping him”, she jokes. I asked if she would ever consider proposing, but she said it “seemed wrong that way”.

I wondered why there was still such a stigma around women proposing. It’s not entirely unheard of, and a handful of influential people have done it. Rita Ora, Elizabeth Taylor, Bella Mackie, Britney Spears and Pink to name a few, but we’ve still got a long way to go until it’s considered a norm.

In a world where anyone can marry anyone and gender roles have evolved, why is a woman proposing still seen as an unusual thing?

I asked a close male friend how he would feel if his girlfriend proposed. “It’s always been assumed that I would propose so I’ve been working on a plan. I’d be disappointed if I didn’t get to do it. But then again, maybe I’d be flattered.”

For any women that are thinking about popping the question this leap year or in general, my advice would be to trust your gut, ignore the critics and do it! The possibilities are endless, so why not take advantage and give your partner an experience they won’t forget.

The significance of my proposal wasn’t obvious at the time, but now I look back, I see it as a hugely empowering move. For many, marriage is such a huge life decision. So, why is it left to the man's whim to decide the fate of the rest of your life?