Hi, we're Hunter and Sarah, a husband-and-wife, luxury wedding photography team. We’re also educators, helping other photographers build profitable and sustainable photography businesses.
Over the years, Hunter and I have had the joy of photographing more than 25 surprise proposals as we watched young men ask a single question that would change the course of their lives. Between that and our own experience of getting engaged, we’ve learned a lot! I know Hunter certainly wishes he had all this information before he got down on one knee!
But now it’s our turn to pass along our experience and wisdom to every guy out there wondering to himself, “How do I propose to my girlfriend?” Every week throughout this Spring, we’ll be posting an updated version of this 2018 blog series. It’s mostly written as a note directly from Hunter to all the guys out there who are exactly where he was back in 2016: head over heels in love with a girl, with absolutely no plan on how to ask her to be yours! But this week, I’m taking over and writing to all the ladies waiting for the big question to come!
Okay now Ladies! It’s Sarah here – taking over Hunter’s no-girls-allowed blog series, A Guy’s Guide to Proposing Well. Last week, Hunter shared some wisdom to help your man plan a day around a proposal, but now we’re shifting gears. This week, I’ll be speaking directly to all the girlfriends out there wondering if their boyfriend is ever going to propose.
Before we go any further, however, I have to ask you a very important question. Do you want a marriage, or a wedding? No, seriously. It may sound silly at first, but think on it for a moment. Are you more excited about spending the rest of your life with this guy, being faithful to each other despite whatever life may throw at you? Or are you more excited about picking out a dress, finding the perfect venue, and finally getting to be the princess that Disney has been telling us we are since we were little?
Please don’t get me wrong – we sincerely hope that you do want all of those things – and so much more – for your wedding day! But no matter how spectacular the wedding day is, it will come and it will go, and the day after your wedding you’ll have a husband. Whether you’ve been dating for a few months or a few years, committing to spend the rest of your life with someone is a huge decision that will impact you day in and day out for the rest of your time on this earth.
Globally, weddings have become increasingly complex, expensive and extravagant affairs over the last few decades. For our grandparents, a ceremony in the church and a reception in the fellowship hall was enough for all but the most well-to-do couples. But now, as our social media-latent generation grows up and has our own weddings, the focus has shifted more and more from the joining of two souls to having the Pinterest-perfect wedding day.
And trust us, as wedding photographers, we find absolutely nothing wrong with big, beautiful and extravagant wedding days. This is THE time to break the bank and celebrate in a really special way. We also think that a wedding should be reflection of the love between the bride and groom. Since love is a beautiful thing, why shouldn’t a wedding day be beautiful too? Our only concern is when the desire for that Insta-worthy wedding day begins to overpower the desire for a happy, healthy and prosperous marriage.
So ask yourself, “Do I really want a marriage, or do I just want a wedding?” If you’re having trouble thinking about that, rephrase it this way, “If me and (insert boyfriend here) got married at the courthouse, just the two of us, would I still be excited to marry him?” Of course, you aren’t asking yourself if you’d be as excited because, of course, throwing a huge party with all your friends and family is always going to be incredible. But would there be excitement left? Would your heart still be full? After all, a wedding is a mean towards the end of marriage. When the wedding becomes the end and the marriage a necessary side-effect, maybe it’s best that you take some time to rethink engagement.
Okay, so we’ve gotten that big question out of the way! I know it’s a lot to think about, and I may have brought you a bit deeper into your emotions than you were hoping to go in a photography blog. But just like Hunter stated in Part 1 when he asked the guys if they were really ready, we believe that marriage is a sacred thing, and not to be undertaken lightly.
But if you’re still reading, then you’ve answered the first question and YES – you do want a marriage and not just a wedding. Yay! Now it’s time to make sure that your man knows that! But believe it or not, we don’t believe in “dropping hints”, or at least not in the traditional sense.
It’s no secret that communication is often the single most difficult part of any relationship. And at a crossroads as crucial as engagement, it doesn’t get any easier. However, we’re fans of honest and open communication, even when it’s difficult. We think that communicating that you’re ready for engagement by sending him links to your local jewelry store every time they have a sale or looking at your friends’ engagement photos and saying in a disproportionately loud voice “WOW DOESN’T THAT LOOK NICE?!” is not the best strategy for clear and healthy communication 😂
Instead, if you feel like you’re ready to begin talking about marriage and moving things onto the next step, that’s obviously not a decision that you get to make without him! Find a time when the two of you can sit down and have a real and serious conversation about where you both see the relationship moving, and what your expectations are for the future.
Notice that I didn’t say “If you have expectations for the future”, but, “what your expectations are”. Everyone has expectations. Whether conscious or subconscious, whether realistic or ridiculous, everyone has expectations. In fact, most relational conflict comes from missed expectations, and it’s easy for your significant other to miss your expectations if they have no idea what they are.
If you are secretly hoping to be engaged in the next 6 months and married by next summer, and he hasn’t even begun thinking about engagement and doesn’t want to be married for a few more years, it’s better to have that conversation now than for you sit around and wait, slowly getting more and more irritated as he doesn’t “pick up on the hints”. Voicing our expectations has always been an incredibly helpful conversation tool for Hunter and I, especially around big and important issues. Save yourself a ton of stress by just saying what your expecting and having an open and honest conversation about that!
Also, keep in mind that just because you set an expectation doesn’t mean that there is no longer any magic or element of surprise left. Hunter and I had this conversation and agreed that we were heading towards marriage, but he was still able to plan and execute an incredible surprise proposal several months later! You don’t have to be boring to know what is going on, or completely spontaneous to have magic in a relationship. You can have open and helpful dialogue and your Pinterest board full of engagement rings!
If you’ve made it this far, then congratulations! Not only are you focused on the joys of marriage more than the wedding, but you’ve also opened some channels of communication instead of just dropping a few hints. You know that your relationship is on it’s way to engagement, and it’s only a matter of time before he gets down on one knee! Now it’s time for everyone’s two favorite things: empathy and patience! “Wait, what!? Those things aren’t fun at all – they’re, like, really hard. Boooo” (what you’re probably thinking). At least, that’s what I’m usually thinking when it comes to patience 🤷♀️
And you’re absolutely right, but they are SO necessary in this phase. If you find yourself ready for engagement far ahead of your man (as, statistically, is more likely), empathy is the first place to turn. Feel with your man. Step into his shoes and feel how scary this decision is for him. Hunter and I had dated for 5 years before we got engaged, and he told me just before he got down on one knee that he had known for exactly two years that he was going to marry me. But he was still nervous in the months leading up to it, and even scared as the big day approached. We had been together for years, and he still wondered if he was making the right decision. (Spoiler alert: he did 😉)
Patience is the other key during this phase. You can send him links to this blog series (and we sincerely hope that you do), but it will still take time for him to be ready. If he doesn’t do this of his own volition, but just does it in response to your insistence, the entire process – from the emotions of it to the ask itself – will be less genuine than you’d both prefer. So, don’t let your desire to be engaged or your desire to be married overtake your desire for a healthy and happy relationship! Plus, engagement rings typically aren’t cheap, and it may take time for him to save for one that he knows you desire (since, of course, he saw that not-so-secret Pinterest board that you “accidentally” left open on his laptop).
We sincerely hope that this has helped some ladies out there wondering when their boyfriend is going to propose. In the next section, Hunter will re-take the wheel and give some advice to help your guy pick out the perfect location for the proposal. Until then, happy waiting, you patient rocks of peace!