The Leap Year Proposal ~ A Fun, Romantic Gesture, Or Old Fashioned & Unladylike? Discuss…

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Well excuse the title there, I don't mean to rile anyone but I did want to get your attention!  So, morning lovelies! It's been a little while since I featured a discussion post on Love My Dress and so I thought I'd put pen to paper {ahem, fingers to keyboard} regarding a topic that's tickled my curiosity for sometime now.  And I'm reall keen to hear your thoughts on this one.

The leap year proposal.

2012 is a leap year as we all know, a leap year being the one year in every four when it is traditional for a woman to propose marriage and initiate an engagement.

If you research online most websites will state that the tradition is believed to have been started way back in the 5th century in Ireland, when supposedly, St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick about women having to wait for so long for a man to propose. According to legend, St. Patrick said the yearning females could propose on this one day in February during the leap year.{}.

Love My Dress Wedding Blog – Image Source and Image Source {right}

Draft_lens18482651module153108103photo_1315516504LeapYear Leap_year

Wikipedia suggest this is a dubious claim, as the tradition had not been attested before 19th century.  In 1288 however, Queen Mary of Scotland {according to records, aged 5 at the time!}, supposedly established fines for any man who turned down a leap year refusal, which included the princely sum of £1, a silk gown, or indeed a kiss – all designed to soften the blow I guess! 🙂

In the early 20th century, humourous postcards were published depicting the woman chasing the man, to celebrate the leap years of 1900, 1904, 1908 and so on…

Image Source {left} and Image Source {right}

Leapyear leap year vintage postcard

This imagery, whilst not intended to be taken all too seriously, paints the woman as kind of desperate and comical, don't you think!?  Looks like it was fun back then to have a pop at the ladies for proposing to their men!

For a long time actually, it was considered improper for a woman to propose – infact, the general consensus for centuries has pretty much been that the woman should wait until the man is ready to propose his hand in marriage…

Image Source {top} and Image Source {bottom}

leap year vintage postcard

leap year vintage postcard

As these centuries have past, we have held on to the tradition here in the UK, though these days, most people consider the notion of the leap year proposal old fashioned and out of date. Or do they?  Is the idea that it is the man's duty to propose old-fashioned?  Deep down, do we all, as women, secretly want to be proposed to, as affirmation that our boys love us – indeed enough to commit a life time to us?

Or is the leap year proposal more romantic than that?  It is steeped in tradition after all, and surely reflective of a woman who is confident in her relationship?  Do you consider it 'improper' or unladylike for a woman to propose?  And in an age when women wish to be equal to men, why is it only acceptable for the woman to propose to the man in one year out of every four?  Or should we just stuff the tradition and have fun proposing when and how and in which ever which way we want to?

I'm really keen to know what my readers think and especially keen to hear from anyone who proposed in a leap year or indeed who are considering proposing this year!  Would you consider proposing to your man, if he hasn't yet, or didn't pop the question first?

Answers on a vintage leap year postcard please.  Or failing that, the comments box below 🙂

You can engage in more discussion posts on Love My Dress here.

Much love all,



Annabel View all Annabel's articles

Founder of Love My Dress. Passionate Podcaster and Editor. Annabel lives in rural North Yorkshire with her husband and business partner Philip, their two daughters and menagerie of furry hounds. She loves photography, meditation, walking, being outdoors and star gazing. She is fierce when it comes to championing talent within the wedding industry and when she's not working on Love My Dress, she supports her husband Philip in the running of the family's sustainable flower farm and floral design business, Moonwind Flowers. In 2013, she became a published author.

22 thoughts on “The Leap Year Proposal ~ A Fun, Romantic Gesture, Or Old Fashioned & Unladylike? Discuss…

  1. I don’t think that the Leap Year is the only time a woman should be able to propose, all the time is good in my book!. Perhaps it is believed to be this way as men in general would be perhaps prefer to do this the traditional way? Perhaps they might feel embarrassed if people found out she asked him? It doesn’t need to be the 29th, but I think it is perhaps more socially acceptable for both the man and woman to use this day if tradition suggests it!
    My H2B had discussed getting engaged before he popped the question, but I can assure you if we weren’t engaged now I would be preparing a big romantic gesture for the weekend of the 29th, and asking him myself. Sometimes they just need a helping hand don’t you think!?

  2. I’m a leap year bride! after years of poo pooing marriage and scaring my (now husband) witless about asking me when we had conversations about it….well the proposal needed to come from me, saying that, he secretly bought me a beautiful engagement ring and proposed to me as well weeks after. Best of both worlds there!
    At the end of the day, I would have proposed any time but that one day coincided with me thinking it was time to pop the question so it felt right….if I had to wait a year or two for that date I wouldn’t have, I’d have popped it anyway.

  3. I proposed to my boyfriend on his birthday last year and I am so glad I did. I thought about waiting until the leap year but just couldn’t manage it – I think I surprised both of us when I handed him his birthday present (a watch with the box engraved with the words ‘Marry Me’ on it).
    It felt right for us, I’ve always been impatient and I’m still not sure how I managed to last 6 years without doing it earlier!

  4. Reject all programming! Tradition is the stuff that dead people who don’t and aren’t around to judge you once did.
    Seriously, just do what you want, when you feel like it because you love someone and you want to get married.It such a shame that people reject the things that resonate with them, because of traditon. Meh! Tradtion! 🙂

  5. getting married is such a big step, and I think that if a woman wants to ask the question she should be able to do it whenever and however she wants. It’s the biggest thing you can ask someone to do, to spend their life with you, and you’re putting a lot on the line when you ask. If my husband hadn’t proposed when he did I’m sure I would have gotten round to making a big gesture to him to show him what he meant to me!

  6. I like to think that you can do away with a tradition like this and that it’s old fashioned, but I’m not sure I’d have had the guts to propose to my fiancé!

  7. Morning all!
    Great to see some responses already.
    I love your reply Amma – I love the notion of doing it your own way and stuffing the tradition, but then I can see something lovely and romantic about Vicky Rowe and Jo’s experiences of making the proposal themselves.
    Ultimately, I love the idea of the woman making the proposal – at ANY time of year. But I have to admit, I’m ‘secretly’ kind of pleased that Phil proposed to me – I was starting to get a little bit ruddy impatient after 7 years! 🙂

  8. I was going to propose last leap day, but knew OH was quite traditional at heart (and so am i) Instead I gave him a promise ring over a picnic in our lounge, promising to say yes when he asked me. He did, 18 months later and im glad I waited, it was such a beautiful moment.

  9. Such a timely post! I am currently having an internal debate about this very thing. My man and I talk about marriage regularly and I know he will get around to it but I fully admit to becoming impatient (after 5 1/2 years)and am considering a Feb 29th proposal. But at the same time, I really don’t want to miss out on him proposing to me or steal his thunder. I am a bit of a romantic and like the idea of being asked. Just can’t decide what to do…
    That being said, I think a girl should ask whenever she wants if she chooses – who cares what has gone before, we get to make our own traditions!

  10. I’m thinking of proposing on 29th too! We have been together for 3 years, have bought a house together and are trying for our first baby, so it feels just right. I know I’ve found the person I want to spend the rest of my life with, so why not pop the question? But I’m a little nervous. What if he says no?! I don’t want to put him on the spot. and I don’t want to steal his thunder, if he’s thinking of proposing in the near future. And even though I like the idea of romantic tradition, where the proposal comes from the man, it really appeals to me. I love reading your stories girls x

  11. Fantastic read!
    First of all we should all do whatever we want and not be tied with any traditions, customs and other silly things that make our lives more complicated. Thanks god for XXI century and freedom of making our own decisions, so propose away ladies whenever you want, how you want to who you want if that’s what will make you happy. 🙂
    Having said that I personally support the idea of a man proposing to a woman. Apart from all the romantic aspects to me a lot of it is down to the way male and female function. I would personally want to be asked to make sure he’s into it just as much as I do. It must be an awesome moment – the guy you love properly proposing. That’s just me. 🙂

  12. I Proposed to Paul back in September and it was one of the most romantic weekends.
    We had been best friends for about 8 years and then realised a couple of years ago we were actually in love.
    I planned his birthday weekend in Brighton, booked all our fave places, asked his parents, bought him a ring and kept it a secret (something I can never do normally) I asked him next to the sea and he said YES! It was the most amazing moment and I will remember it forever.
    I don’t feel like I missed out on being asked and I don’t doubt that Paul isn’t into the idea of marriage as much as I am. We have both put an equal amount of effort into the planning of our wedding day and are both excited to talk about it.
    We did however get some funny reactions from people, mainly male friends asking if he felt less of a man for not asking me, which we found really odd! We are both pretty secure with each other and our relationship, so me asking him wasn’t anything strange. I can’t wait to become Mrs Barker in August! xx

  13. Personally I wouldn’t do it – while I’m impatient to get married after 5.5 years, I can’t help but feel that if he really wanted to get wed, he’d have asked the question by now. I’m sure he’d say yes if I asked, but he knows I’m ready and waitin so the lack of a ring makes me think he isn’t..
    It sounds really unenlightened and anti-feminist, but I just want him to show he’s ready for that commitment.
    Not that I disagree with any woman who does the proposing – good on you all – it’s just not for me.

  14. I think it is wonderful that people have the freedom to express themselves in a way that makes them feel right. A woman making a proposal doesn’t harm anyone and shouldn’t be a taboo. I am all for tradition but not at the expense of people being able to live the lives that we have been blessed with. Tradition has a funny way of being organic so why can’t people create their own family traditions? Communal traditions are great but so are family traditions, that is what makes us all unique. When two people want to be together they get to know their individual quirks, likes and dislikes so I believe that a woman will know if her man will find it degrading or uplifting or even a relief to not have to make the proposal. Some men may find it a relief to not have that pressure on them but others may feel emasculated. Why not be the judge of your own relationship and just enjoy the short time we have together while we can?

  15. Oh it’s like everything we leave up to men to do, it takes them a lifetime to get round to it 🙂 I’m all in favour of the pro-active stance..and if he says no, well at least you know where you stand 🙁

  16. So, if the woman proposes, she’s supposed to buy her own ring to give to HIM to put on HER? Or…is she supposed to buy HIM a ring? Or, no ring? What’s the tradition on that?

  17. I bought Paul some cufflinks to give him when I proposed and then after 2 weeks he decided he wanted to buy me a ring and he did. So no tradition, just what works best for you!

  18. Thank you Annabel for posting such an interesting article! I work on a daily radio show in Scotland (that is broadcast nationwide and worldwide over the internet and digital) and was wondering (particularly Sparkles and Katy, if you’re already thinking about it!) if any ladies fancied proposing to their partner on air on the 29th?
    You don’t have to be in Scotland, we have studios throughout the UK, but it might be a nice, interesting and passionate way to do it!!
    If anyone does fancy it, please do drop me a line: [email protected] – thanks!x

  19. I am a student at Salford University and currently in the process of creating a radio show, we have decided to have the theme as 2012 and thought it would be great if we could get someone in to the studio to be interviewed about how they proposed to their boyfriend on 29th february and how it went. If anybody would be willing to do this, please get in touch via commenting or email [email protected]
    Thank you very much

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