It’s been a running joke that I wasn’t allowed to propose to my girlfriend. Since the early stages of our relationship she’s been adamant: she’ll do the proposing one day. I didn’t feel strongly one way or the other, so I agreed. Then, in late August 2018—ten years after we’d met—she got down on one knee on the beach and asked me to marry her. I barely had time to gaze down at my ring or think about the chain of phone calls we needed to make to share the good news before it hit me: Am I supposed to get her a ring, too?
I hadn’t really thought about the idea that maybe my wife-to-be needs a token to signify she’s engaged, too. Though I was in a same-sex relationship, I was so used to the standard story of proposals that I didn’t stop to consider anything different. But the more I thought about my fiancee and her love of big moments, the more fitting it seemed that I propose to her too. Asking someone to spend their life with you is a hugely important question—why shouldn’t she be asked?
Double Proposals Are Gaining Steam—And Changing the Wedding Industry
I decided to propose back to my partner, not knowing that I was taking part in a growing wedding trend within the LGBTQ+ community called “double proposing.” The idea is fairly self-explanatory: two people propose to each other, either the same day or at different times.
Queer people have been creating our own unique traditions for years, but only since same-sex marriage became legal in all fifty states have marriage traditions—and the wedding trends surrounding them—begun to catch up. “The LGBTQ community is changing the industry by demanding more of the vendors who work in it, being intentional with who they give their money to, and reinventing traditions to celebrate instead of hide their queer identities,” says Ainsley Blattel, a queer and non-binary wedding planner with event planning company Modern Rebel.
For me, double proposing to my fiancee was an exciting and reflective time to really surprise my partner the same way she wowed me. Instead of a ring, I bought her a custom locket she’d been talking about since we’d met. It was amazing to see the genuine surprise on her face when she turned to find me down on one knee nine months after she’d asked me to marry her.
More Proposals, More Power
So many facets of relationships are bogged down by centuries’ worth of gender stereotypes. For those feeling the pressure, double proposing can be empowering way to rethink the way romance is “supposed” to look—especially for those who don’t identify as a specific gender. “I’d often been the partner to buy flowers, and perform romantic gestures,” says Addie Tsai, 39. “I realized when I met my partner that I’d always felt more comfortable in that role but because of gender conditioning. But he allowed me to occupy a different space than I had before and it was through our relationship I started to uncover how genderfluid and nonbinary I truly am.”
Tsai and their partner double proposed two weeks apart over the holidays. “Double proposing neutralizes the way you enter into a marriage from the beginning, without having the gendered burden of proposing on one person or the other,” says Tsai. For many, it’s an antidote to the heteronormative expectations that follow couples of all orientations.
While smashing gender expectations can be fun, a lot of couples double propose simply to celebrate their equal partnership with one another. Rebekah Giley, 30 and her partner Breda, 32, first started thinking about a double proposal when they realized they had totally different ideas of how a proposal should look: Breda definitely wanted someone taking photos with lots of people around, while Rebekah had a totally private proposal in mind.”We kinda looked at each other and then I said, ‘we could both propose to each other,’ and Breda agreed,” Giley says. “I think the biggest thing was that we both got the proposal we wanted. Especially because we wanted such opposite things, it was really lovely and fun to both see our dreams fulfilled.”