Women bucking tradition by asking mates to marry them

Katrina Clarke | Nov. 3, 2015 | Toronto Star


Anya Dai and Kassey Dimaculangan, the day Dai proposed. 

It’s Valentine’s Day 2015 and two bundled-up snowboarders are about to get engaged.

But the scene that unfolds isn’t the typical guy-sweeps-girl-off-her-feet scenario. In fact, it’s the opposite.

“What are you doing?!” asks a confused Kassey Dimaculangan as his girlfriend of one year stops him mid-run and gets down on both knees.

“I have to ask you an important question,” says Anya Dai, giggling as snow flies in her face and she pulls a small box out of her snowsuit. “Will you marry me?”

Anya Dai, who proposed on her knee at a ski hill to her now husband Kassey Dimaculangan, at their home in Oshawa, Ont.
Anya Dai, who proposed on her knee at a ski hill to her now husband Kassey Dimaculangan, at their home in Oshawa, Ont.  (J.P. MOCZULSKI)  

While the “proposer” in heterosexual relationships is typically a role filled by men, it’s increasingly women who are stepping up by getting down on one knee, say wedding industry pros. These women may have boldness in their blood, but some are also romantics who’ve grown up dreaming of elaborate male-initiated proposals or religious traditionalists who can’t wait to marry in a church. They’re the taboo breakers who ask their future in-laws for their partner’s hand in marriage.

“I think women are just kind of like, ‘Well, if I have equal rights in every other way, why do you get to decide when we get married?’” said Crystal Adair-Benning, owner of Distinct Occasionswedding planning in Toronto. “Women are getting ballsy and getting empowered and they want to propose.”

Adair-Benning said she’s seen a subtle increase in women proposing to men over her four years of engagement planning. Nearly 10 per cent of her engagement clients are women, but she suspects numbers are likely higher in real life.

“Women, when they do it, it can either be more spontaneous — it just kind of comes out — or they put some thought into it and already know how they want to propose,” she said, adding that men typically think women want romantic, grand proposals and women think men want low-key ones.

For Montrealer Natalia Kaplan, the idea to propose came suddenly.

Natalia Kaplan and her husband Alex on their wedding day in June 2014. Natalia proposed after deciding on a whim that she wanted to be the one to pop the question.
Natalia Kaplan and her husband Alex on their wedding day in June 2014. Natalia proposed after deciding on a whim that she wanted to be the one to pop the question.

“I was just sitting in class and it just kind of hit me — I didn’t want to wait for him to ask,” she said.

Unfortunately for her, an excited email she sent to her friend revealing her plan a week later forced her into do or die mode — she’d accidentally cc’d her boyfriend.

“I think I’m going to propose to Lex this summer. Oh man it makes me feel giddy and dizzy just writing it out,” she wrote. “I mean I’ve always felt like we will get married at some point but it just kind of hit me the other day why not now, and why can’t I ask?”

When he confronted her about it, she freaked out.

“After I calmed down, we sat on the couch … and I’m like, ‘Yes, I want to marry you,’” the 25-year-old recalls. The two were married in June 2014.

Risk and Reward

Proposals don’t always elicit happy tears, warns Toronto psychologist and relationship expert Nicole McCance.

Possible female proposal-related risks include blindsiding a man who doesn’t want to get married or sparking a certain “failure to launch” feeling in him for having de-facto lost his chance to propose.

Women, too, have to be ready to forever give up the experience of being proposed to, brace for family and friends voicing antiquated viewpoints and prepare for the inevitable question: “Show me your ring!”

For Dai, the 23-year-old snowboarder who proposed on Valentine’s Day, she was hit with some unexpected backlash.

“(My boyfriend’s parents) were like, ‘No. That’s not OK. Why would you do that?’” she recalls. “I was like, ‘Uh, I don’t know, I love him?’”

Dai also had to give up a lifelong dream — she was obsessed with tales of romantic engagements growing up — but she wanted to show her future husband just how serious she was by sacrificing that.

“I wasn’t just saying yes to him,” said Dai, who first bonded with Dimaculangan over their shared Christian faith. “I (was giving) up what I’ve always dreamed of … I wouldn’t do that for anyone else.”

Dimaculangan’s parents eventually came around when he proposed to her a few weeks later, giving her the custom ring he’d had in the making for months — but it didn’t diminish his pride in his now-wife’s boldness.

“One person asked me if I felt like less of a man in the relationship,” he said. “I feel actually more special and if anything more of a man — that a woman loves me so much that she would go against the grain.”

Same-Sex Proposal

For lesbian couples, a woman proposing isn’t revolutionary but it’s still a chance to buck tradition.

“One of the things that’s great about a same-sex relationship is that the gender roles are not there and you can make up what you want,” said Victoria Schwarzl, communications manager of Pride Toronto.

Victoria Schwarzl and her now-wife, Emily Herczeg, had planned for years to propose to each other at the same time.
Victoria Schwarzl and her now-wife, Emily Herczeg, had planned for years to propose to each other at the same time.  (TARA MCMULLEN PHOTOGRAPHY)  

Schwarzl and her now-wife, Emily Herczeg, proposed to one another in a preplanned event back in December 2013. It was a surprise-free decision that gave them the chance to pick out rings together, get their future in-laws blessings and each pop the question.

“The proposing is when the magic really happens and it’s that moment where your life changes forever,” said Schwarzl, 28. “I think it was really important that we both had that opportunity to tell the other person … these are the reasons why I love you.”

Tips for proposing

The decision to get down on one’s proverbial knee is a potentially life-changing one. It’s nerve wracking at the best of times, but if you’re a lady stepping into a traditionally male role, there are additional pitfalls to consider. To ensure your proposal goes smoothly, Toronto psychologist and relationship expert Nicole McCance, provides some tips on proposing while female.


Manage your expectations: While women are often surprised by proposals, a guy might be even more so. Give him a chance to absorb the proposal, acknowledging that he might be totally knocked off his feet — hopefully in a good way.

Talk about marriage: Make sure your long term goals align with his, and ensure that you both know you want to get married. If you don’t know how he feels, you might still get a “yes” while you’re on your knee, but a “no” later. McCance says it’s common for people who are unsure about marriage to say yes during the proposal but to break it off later on.

Talk to your friends and family: Get a feel for whether he might be planning a proposal himself. Then make the decision on whether you want to go for it, or if you’d prefer he do the proposing.

Hint at it: Try to sense how your boyfriend might respond to a proposal. An easy way to gauge his reaction? Toss out this line: “I read this article in the Toronto Star about women proposing to men. Don’t you think that’s cool!?” If he’s not into it, that’s his prerogative, but it might also give you a sense of what kind of man he is.


Do it for the wrong reasons: Don’t propose as an ultimatum. If you know he’s not ready to get married, springing a proposal on him is likely a bad move. Coercion is not romantic.

Regret it: Make sure you’re confident in your decision to propose. If you’ve always fantasized about a man professing his undying love and asking for your hand in marriage, be prepared to forgo that dream.

Have doubts: If you’re unsure about marriage, proposing is probably a bad idea. “If there are any doubts, either (go to) couples’ counselling or don’t get married,” McCance says. “This is a huge life choice.”


About Katrina Clarke

Katrina Clarke is a Toronto- and Vancouver-based freelance reporter. Her work appears in the National Post, the Toronto Star, CBC Life and J-Source. Reach her at katrina.clarke24@gmail.com or on Twitter at @KatrinaAClarke.
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