2020 is a leap year, meaning that the month of February has 29 days instead of 28. This happens once every four years only, making it a special occurrence. The 29 February is known as Leap Day.
Throughout history, it has been traditional for men to propose to women in heterosexual relationships; however, a long-standing tradition for Leap Day is the notion of women asking men to marry them instead.
So, how did this tradition come about, what are the rules surrounding this, and is there anything that should be done differently when it’s a woman popping the question? We’ll answer all of these queries and more in this leap year proposal article.
When did Leap Day proposals begin?
Legend has it that this tradition began in Ireland back in the 5th century when a nun called St Bridget of Kildare became frustrated at how long women had to wait for their partners to propose to them.
St Bridget took this complaint to St Patrick, who listened and agreed that a change needed to be made — declaring that on every 29 February, women should be allowed to propose, instead of the other way around.
Tradition also states that the woman should ideally be wearing jodhpurs or a scarlet petticoat at the time of the proposal — although this aspect has lessened over time.
The first documented instance of a woman proposing marriage on Leap Day was in Scotland in the 13th century. A law was passed at this time stating that a man declining such a proposal must pay a fine.
In fact, in the middle ages, many European countries issued penalties to any man who declined a marriage proposal by a woman on Leap Day. These penalties included a gift of money for the woman, new clothing, and 12 pairs of gloves (with which to hide the lack of engagement ring).
While these penalties are no longer governed, it is still universally frowned upon for a man to turn the woman down in this situation and a compensatory gift would be encouraged.
Why would a woman want to propose to a man?
A better question is: Why not? There is a wide range of reasons that a woman might want to be the one to propose in a heterosexual relationship.
If you are in a relationship with a man who lacks confidence, you may want to take the pressure off him to pop the question.
Alternatively, you might be the primary decision-maker in the relationship, and it would be expected of you to do the asking.
Another reason could be that you simply want to celebrate your non-traditional relationship through a non-traditional proposal.
What about the engagement ring?
Much like any proposal, an engagement ring for your partner would be a lovely touch. In fact, in some countries, such as Norway, both men and women wear engagement rings when engaged to be married.
Before you buy an engagement ring, give some thought to your partner’s tastes and the clothes he wears and decide on a ring style — be it simple and sleek, modern, or sparkling with gems.
This will help to narrow down your ring options, and you can then go on to consider budget, band width, material, and so on.
Alternatively, you could propose without a ring, and go ring shopping together when he’s said yes. You might both like to choose a ring to wear to celebrate your commitment to each other.
If your boyfriend isn’t the ring-wearing type, then get down on one knee with a luxury watch instead — that way, he’ll make it to the church on time!
If you’re not sure how much to spend on the engagement ring or watch, we wrote a blog post to help you out.
Does it have to be Leap Day when a woman proposes?
No, it absolutely doesn’t have to be a Leap Day for a woman to propose to a man!
We are living in modern times, and equality is alive and kicking — if you want to propose to your man on a random day in October, you do it!
Elizabeth Taylor and Pink are just two female celebrities to have done so in the past, and there will be plenty more in the future we’re sure.
Can couples get married on Leap Day?
Couples can get married on Leap Day and those who like the idea of having the rarest of anniversaries actively choose to do so.
While it could be an excuse for only celebrating your anniversary once every four years, most couples — like those born on 29 February — choose to celebrate annually on either 1 March or 28 February (or on both days!)
When asked why they chose Leap Day to tie the knot, Lara and Nicholas in New York said:
“I think it’s interesting that there’s one day every four years that we have to kind of correct a human mistake. It brings this idea of we’re all kind of flawed, and so I think it’s kind beautiful.”
If you proposed on Leap Day, it would be romantic to plan a wedding on that day also — although, you would have to wait four years to get married! To get around this, you could consider doing the legal part on Leap Day but having a wedding party on another day of your choice.