If you came here for a cute story of how Roman proposed to me, then you will be let down. This is a story of a me planning a proposal for him. I’m sure it would be a lovely surprise, to get proposed to. I, like many womxn my age, was raised in a cis-hetero normative household. I grew up with Barbie dolls and Disney fairy tales. Part of the expectations held for my life, by others, was to grow up and get married. That my “prince” would propose, that I would have a fairy tale wedding and live happily ever after.
It’s a lot of work to separate the expectations of others from your own desires and determine who you are, what you want. This post isn’t about self-love and discovery (though both are essential in life). This is about how I picked up clues from my partner, and planned a proposal that’s personal and meaningful!
Early in our relationship I recall Roman saying something along the lines of: I want my partner to propose to me. He will say that it wasn’t said with a serious thought, and that might be true. However, what he said stuck with me. I wondered why men are always the ones to propose in a hetero relationship. All those movies and books where womxn drive themselves nuts waiting for a ring, one that sometimes never came. I realized that there was no reason a womxn needed to wait — she could decide for herself if she wanted to spend her future with someone and ask instead.
Late 2017 I began to formulate my plan to ask. We saw some of Auguste Rodin’s pieces in Washington, D.C. and I decided that when we eventually visited La Musée Rodin in Paris, I would propose. I even shared my intention over Snapchat, not that anyone took note of the post!
When we returned home I began thinking of how a proposal might look. I didn’t want to use a ring. Figuring out the ring size for a man who wears no jewelry would be a little suspicious. Moreover, I did not want to waste money on a ring that was not something Roman wanted to wear long term. I knew he would need time to figure out what it was he wanted, and expressing anything beyond passing interest would also generate suspicion. I take surprises seriously!
Instead, I landed upon cuff links. It would have made more sense if he actually wore cuff links already, but I thought it was something he could wear at our wedding and it would be more symbolic.
I began considering what design I’d like for the cuff links. I decided to use one of the fireworks designs from Hanabi. Hanabi means fireworks in Japanese. It’s a cooperative card game, played by up to 4 people, who work together to build the perfect fireworks show. It was the first game we played together — on our second date. I liked the game so much that I went and bought my own copy!
By January 2018 I had chosen the 3 out of 5 of the fireworks imagery from the game and reached out to Tamara from Studio 1098. Studio 1098 is a local boutique, near Rosedale subway station, that is inspired by Art Deco and the Art Nouveau periods. They create everything they sell and they do custom work.
I worked with Tamara via email and an in-studio consult to finalize the design of the cuff links. She actually finished the cuff links a lot sooner than I had expected — I had reached out to her 3 months before I needed the cuff links, and within a week of our in-studio consultation she had completed the cuff links! I picked up the cuff links 2 months before the trip where I would be proposing.
If you haven’t guessed yet, I proposed in Paris. April 2018, we visited visited London and Paris together. I carried the cuff links in my purse literally every day of the trip. All I knew was that I would propose to Roman after I saw Musée Rodin, and that I did not want him to find the cuff links by accident in our packed belongings.
When we travel, we find various cafes, restaurants, museums, parks and other areas of interest and group them together based of location. Then while on our trip, we will decide which area to explore and try to hit up those areas of interest. Due to how we plan, we didn’t get to Musée Rodin until our last full day in Paris. And still I did not have a real plan for my proposal.
We started the day packing a picnic and then heading out super early so we could be one of the first ones entering the museum. I seriously love Rodin’s work and was serious about this museum visit! After spending a couple of hours at the museum we walked to Jardins du Trocadero. It was quite busy, naturally, so we decided to visit Musée D’arte Moderne. In the gift shop, I came across the most perfect card (as if things were lining up just for me)!
Things were finally coming together, and at our next stop, Le Petit Palais, I decided to write in the card. I slipped into the bathroom, opened the card up and realized it wasn’t a card at all! It was a postcard made of thick card stock and completely black and all I had to write with was a blue ball point pen! Well, I committed to the new plan and attempted to write my message into that black card stock.
After all the museums and walking we were tired and ready for our picnic. We returned to Jardins du Trocadero, found a good spot to spread out and waited for sunset. If you’ve never been to Paris before and don’t know: the Eiffel tower lights up after sunset. And once it’s lit up, the first 5 minutes of every hour the tower sparkles. I don’t know how long into the night this happens, but I can tell you that I thought that the tower would light up immediately after sunset. Except, it’s not dark at sunset.
Sunset that evening was supposed to be around 7:30-8pm. As we waited and enjoyed our wine and snacks, it got more windy and we began to feel the chill more. I kept delaying Roman, who was ready to go back to our hotel. I was determined to have the sparkly lights shimmering during my proposal! In my head, it would be perfect — shimmering tour in the city of love while I proposed with fireworks cuff links? I was determined!
Well, the city didn’t get dark until nearly 9pm. The tower did a gradual light up from 9-9:10pm. The first shimmering By this point, Roman was done and there was no way I would have been able to delay another 50 minutes until the first shimmering occurred. I decided to just go ahead and propose. Except new problem: it was now dark out, and I had written on a black postcard with a blue ball point pen!
Being who he is, without having read the card or even been asked anything, Roman opened the card and moved the dial to “Oui.” Then he tried to read the card a couple of times, before asking if I was proposing to him. This is when the waterworks occurred — planning a proposal is seriously stressful and nerve-wracking!
Even though I knew Roman would probably say, “yes,” there was still 10% chance that he might say, “no.” I suggest discussing marriage and what your future life might look like with your partner in advance of proposing. Not to mention discussing deal breaker topics (like children, political issues, any any other topics that could be deal breakers for you specifically). Springing a proposal on someone without ever having any of all of those discussions could result with a negative answer — think about it, why would you want to legally tie yourself to someone who hasn’t bothered to know your thoughts on marriage?
Your proposal also doesn’t have to be a cliché. I chose Paris because of my love of Rodin’s work. I also chose Paris because it is a cliché that I would be turning on it’s head. It all sort of tied in together for us. I had looked forward to exploring Paris for years, while Roman was not as into those big European destinations that were so popular with tourists. He won’t admit it, but he really enjoyed Paris, more than he expected. My proposal was supposed to be super romantic, with a picnic in front of the Eiffel tower while it shimmered into a darkening sky. The light show would worked nicely with the fireworks cuff links, which connected to one of our earliest dates and Roman’s love of board games.
The reality of my proposal was that it wasn’t ideal. My card was hard to read. The tower lit up much later than I expected. We were cold and tired and I didn’t get to have a shimmery light show while I proposed. Despite all the imperfections, or rather, because of them, my proposal was perfect. Hanabi, the game that inspired my cuff links design, is about making the perfect fireworks show by working together. Even if you don’t get a perfect score, if you win, the show is still beautiful. That was my proposal, not a 10/10, but perfect for who we are.
Similarly, if you are thinking or planning a proposal and are stuck, there is no need to do what everyone else has done. Just as there is no shame in doing what someone else has done. As long as it makes sense for you and your partner. You can use a ring pop, or cuff links, a painting, a book, or absolutely nothing as the symbol of your proposal. You can ask at home, in a park, on vacation, at a family gathering, while walking the dog, while eating take out — anywhere or doing anything, if that’s what makes sense for you as a couple. It comes down to: do you know this person that you want to bind yourself to? If yes, then you will figure it out, and it can be as elaborate or simple as feels right to you.
The images of Roman & I in Paris were shot by Roxanne Matiz, shot a couple days prior to my proposal. I take numerous photos while travelling, but I took no pictures once we settled for our picnic. I just wanted to keep the whole thing private and personal — something just for us, retained in our memories, while we lead increasingly more digital lives. If you would like to see me tell this entire story in a Target a few months after the proposal (fair warning, I do not look cute and it’s not a high quality video), you will find it on my IGTV.
Lastly, I love proposal stories. I’d go so far as to say I love expressions of love (proposals, weddings, cute gifts for no reason). Feel free to share your proposal stories, regardless of whether you proposed or were proposed to! It might inspire someone else 😉