12th January 2024

Leap Year Proposals: How To Propose to Your Man on February 29th

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Every four years, February gains an extra day to even out the calendar. February 29th is a date which only exists during a leap year, and thanks to it’s mythical elusiveness, this date has plenty of lore associated with it. One of the most famous leap year traditions is the idea of Bachelor’s Day. This is an old Irish tradition, which allows women to propose to men on the 29th of February. Of course, we live in a modern world where proposals no longer exclusively mean a man proposing to a woman. In theory, women can and should propose to their partners whenever they want to. However, even today it is often still considered an “out there” choice for women to pop the question, particularly if their partner is male.


Where Does the Tradition for Leap Year Proposals Come From?

leap year proposals, Saint Bridget

Bachelor’s Day, sometimes known as Ladies Privilege, is an Irish tradition. Legend says that Saint Bridget appealed to Saint Patrick, claiming that women had to wait too long to get married because men took too long to propose. Saint Bridget asked that women be given the right to pop the question themselves. While Saint Patrick originally suggested that women be allowed this privilege once every 7 years, the final agreement was that it could occur every 4.

This quaint story was not born from nothing. Single people in Ireland were not only frowned upon, but publicly shamed in several forums. The onus to become married extended beyond a will to be partnered, and was an essential aspect of social survival. The date of late February was most likely chosen because of its proximity to Lent. Marriage ceremonies were banned during Lent, and people who remained single until Easter Sunday would be publicly named in Skellig Lists, and ballads about single people. It’s no wonder that there would be a spate of late February proposals in Ireland during this time!

Ireland is not the only country with this kind of tradition for leap year proposals. The idea swiftly travelled to Scotland, where women were allowed to propose only if wearing a red petticoat.  In England, February 29th was not considered a legal day. This meant that the legal ban on women proposing to men was not considered applicable to that date, thus encouraging the tradition to grow.


What if Men Refused the Proposal?

So what happened if the fine gentlemen refused the ladies’ proposal? Well, the tradition stated that there would be some form of repayment required. In Ireland, this came in the form of a gift, which ranged from a pair of new gloves (to disguise the lack of ring) to a new dress, to a fur coat. In some areas, the men would be expected to perform a juggling trick on Easter Sunday. Not sure of the logic or origin of that one, but it’s a pretty fun fact all the same. In Scotland, the penalty for refusing the proposal was a fine. This consisted of anything from a kiss to a new dress.


Who Can Propose on a Leap Year?

Today we are blessed with a more accepting society, less expectation to be partnered, and much more equality between men and women. We also have marriage laws which allow couples of all gender pairings to wed. Thanks to all of these social progressions, the idea of leap year proposals is a little bit unnecessary. Tradition tells us that women would be allowed to propose to men on the 29th of February only, although in some areas of Ireland this was actually extended to any day in a leap year.

While there are no laws preventing women from proposing now, it can still be fun to honour traditions like this if you do plan to propose. After all, a lot of marriage traditions were similarly born from folklore and have no material meaning in the modern era. We know this, and we take part in them anyway. Why? Because they are fun!


Is the Idea of Leap Year Proposals Outdated?

Ultimately, yes. Of course a tradition that is based upon 1800s gender roles does not have much of a place in our changing world. The idea began to die out significantly post WWII. At this time women entered into the workforce and questions about equality became too loud to ignore. By 1980 the tradition was mostly consigned back to folklore.

Attitudes today towards women proposing are shifting even further than ever before. According to a survey by Glamour, 70% of men would be excited to be proposed to. We know from experience as a maker and supplier of engagement rings, that it is becoming increasingly common for women to propose to their male partners. While officially around 30% of proposals between heterosexual couples are instigated by the woman, that is still a significant increase from the past.

If men want to be proposed to, and women want to marry them, then what is stopping us? It seems that people need to adjust their behaviours to their attitudes, which can be easier said than done. And that’s why the leap year proposals tradition is still in many ways relevant. We think any encouragement towards liberation is only a positive thing.


What Does a Woman Give to a Man When She Proposes?

leap year proposals eternity ring
Black Zirconium eternity band with 1ct tw of black diamonds and a platinum interior

Engagement gifts for men range from traditional rings to more creative choices like a watch. The idea of engagement rings for men is not a new one. In case you hadn’t noticed, gay couples get engaged and married all of the time. It is not just LGBT couples who are buying male engagement rings though. There has been a newer trend of heterosexual couples choosing an engagement ring for the male partner after he proposes. This way he can have the romantic engagement experience too. It is also a lovely sentimental gift that women enjoy giving to their partners. Glamour’s survey found that 41% of men expected a ring when proposed to, and this was 2015. Attitudes towards gender roles have only loosened since.

Our clients are always really creative when choosing engagement rings for men. When our client E proposed to her partner, she chose a laser engraved gold band which emulated a Victorian design. WRD client couple Kevin and Owen chose wedding bands set with significant diamonds, which doubled as engagement rings.

We are also seeing a rise in the trend for eternity bands for men. These are a sweet way to combine romantic traditions unexpectedly.

Remember, proposing is just a little footnote on what will be a long and exciting marriage. We put so much pressure on the proposal and the wedding, that the focus is pulled away from the real end goal. An engagement ring is just a symbol of love, and that should have no gender.