The proposal custom of a man presenting a woman with a diamond engagement ring is fairly modern. Originally dating back to Roman times, the custom was then re-established in 15th century Austria, and more recently, in the United States with De Beers’ effective “A Diamond is Forever” campaign, which further embedded the ritual in American culture along with other parts of the world.
Although we’ve seen footage of people who live in small villages without running water, yet somehow know the names American pop-stars, it’s important to remember that we are not the center of the universe. Our traditions are not universal. Other nations, religions, and cultures, practice their own proposal rituals and have engagement customs totally separate from the ones we have in America. Here are some examples:
Gaining popularity in the U.S., flash mob proposals are the most popular kind of engagement ceremony in several Asian countries.
In Chinese culture, since a wedding is a symbol of the union of two families, and not just two people, there are aspects of an engagement that acknowledge this coming together of clans. Although many Chinese men will still give their soon-to-be brides a diamond engagement ring like we do here in America, they’ll also have other traditional events. For example: the woman will take the man to meet her family so that he can receive a blessing from them before officially asking her to marry him. After the proposal, the two families will meet and officially acknowledge the event.
In both Indian and Pakistani cultures, the groom’s family will formally propose to the family of the bride. The more traditional the families, the less the couple themselves will be involved. In Pakistan, if and when the bride’s family accepts the proposal, a special engagement party will be held at which the man proposes to the woman. Arranged marriages are still quite common in India and Pakistan.
In Thailand, an engagement ceremony will take place known as “Thong Mun” during which the groom gives gold to the family of his prospective bride. Gold, as opposed to a diamond ring, is the preferred currency when it comes to engagements, and dowry negotiations are generally part of the proposal process as well.
In the UK, an interesting proposal related difference is that engagement rings are usually worn on the left hand’s third finger instead of the fourth like we’re used to.
Although seldom followed, it was tradition that February 29, which occurs once every four years, was the only day when a woman could propose to her male partner.
These days, most weddings in Britain take place on Saturday. However in the past, Wednesdays were thought to be the luckiest day to get married, which resulted in far more weddings held mid-week.
In British tradition, a formal notice called “the banns” is posted in a church with the wedding date publicized. The purpose is to give advance notice for anyone to present why the couple should not get married.
From the moment a couple gets engaged until their wedding, both man and woman wear a ring on their left hands. In the USA, the groom usually only begins wearing a ring on his wedding day.
Many modern-day weddings in Ghana include a classic African tradition in which the groom’s uncle and mother visit the woman’s family to propose on behalf of the groom.
In certain Kenyan tribes, if a man is interested in marrying someone, he will send her beads. If the woman keeps the beads, she is sending the message that she accepts, making the proposal successful. Well, almost. Later on, the woman will receive an ornament from her family to add to her beads if and when they also accept.
It’s important and refreshing to remember that there are so many cultures that have traditions dating back much further than our own. Who knows? You might marry someone deeply connected to their cultural background, in which case, get ready for some fascinating moments that will surely draw you closer to each other.