Chaps, this is how you propose

2012-01-04 07:30

I was dismayed early last year when Robyn’s chums told us how they’d taken their respective fellas to jewellery stores to pick out favoured styles for potential engagement rings. They gushed about how they sampled different designs in front of their soon-to-be fiancés, and spoke, post-engagement, about how they just knew that a proposal was soon to follow now that they’d picked their perfect ring. 

It was all wrong, all so terribly perfunctory and far from the fairytale romances I thought all girls dreamed of. These ladies knew which engagement rings they would be getting, and worse still, they’d practically pinpointed the date it would occur.

With these dreary tales of expected engagements highlighting how robotic relationships can become, I declared to myself that no such grim and uninspired fate would befall the lovely Robyn.


Plotting a surprise and seemingly sudden engagement requires a fair amount of secretive planning. You can trust no one. Not your parents, not your best friends, not even yourself. To achieve maximum astonishment and a shell-shocked look of disbelief from your target you need to talk down future wedded-bliss at every opportunity – but it’s a fine line. Disparage too much and you’ll be shown the door.

Damning outbursts of “fools, the lot of them” when your males friends start dropping on one knee are entirely acceptable, but only when followed up with subtle hints of dreamy married life to come, like “wouldn’t it be great if we had boys, so we can send them to that fine institution, Wynberg Boys’ High”.

This should keep your future wife in the corridor of uncertainty, somewhere between excited and utterly perplexed, unsure of whether to play a shot or leave the ball alone. Around six months of subterfuge should do the trick. Any longer and a resounding “NO” would be the most likely response to your bolt-from-the-blue proposal.

Naturally, any sort of sudden engagement requires the utmost confidence from the asker that the fiancée-to-be and, indeed, the father-in-law-to-be will agree to the proposal. Asking the old man for permission, by all accounts, is a nerve-wracking experience, but when you’re asking him, and intending to ask his daughter the very next day, you better hope you’ve played all your cards right during the preceding three years.

Normally Pete, Robyn’s dad, is busy with some handyman repair work whenever we visit over the festive season. I’d banked on being roped into some paint-can holding or electrical-chord unravelling (my handyman skills being so insufficient that any actual handymanning is left to the pro) where I could pounce in private and ask my question.

For the first time in three years, though, the intuitive bugger just wanted to sit in the lounge and watch cricket. When I suggested we do something together, like re-tile the roof, he knowingly asked if I was feeling ill. By the end of the weekend, with Engagement Day less than 48-hours away, I was forced to hi-jack Pete in his car and pop the question as he pulled into the garage. Needless to say, he now needs to spring for a new garage door as well as a wedding.

Surprise, Surprise

Robyn (after the affirmative from Pete, of course) was a far easier – or more gullible, I should say – proposition. I’d booked us into a game lodge in Kenton, under the guise of visiting a friend in the area. Having secretly packed for the two of us, we arrived at the lodge with a yet-to-be astonished Robyn asking “does your friend live in the lodge?” No, you dork, this your ‘Christmas present’.

A torturous, four-hour long game drive later, where the helpful game ranger described in great detail every blade of grass, insect and buck poop on the property, we made it to a stunning lookout deck, aptly named the Eagle’s Nest, overlooking the Bushman’s River where elephant and rhino frolicked below.

With a Monty Pythonesque wink and a nudge, the ranger disappeared to his car and I asked Robs, a lover of presents if ever there was one, if she’d like to see another early Christmas present I’d brought along (know you’re quarry, gents. I knew Robyn would never make it to Christmas before asking for her pressie).

Close your eyes, I said, while I fumbled for the damned ring that had given me more sleepless nights and horrific visions than Frodo ever had to endure, and now open them...

“Yes, yes, yes” was her immediate response, before I calmly interjected that I hadn’t actually asked her anything yet...

The ranger reappeared with a bottle of bubbly, the elephants trumpeted down below, and the sun dipped behind the hills, allowing for the river to appear as golden as the ring on Robyn’s finger and the smile on her face.

That’s how you propose, gents.
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  • Betweenuandme - 2012-01-04 08:23

    So old fashioned David!! In today's times why must the man propose to the woman? Why must there be this element of surprise for her? It's a bit condescending if you think about it. And choosing the ring together is far more practical - seeing as though the woman is the one who's going to wear it.

      vanessamoodley - 2012-01-04 09:06

      I don't think being 'old fashioned' is wrong - if that's what works for you and your partner, but it's bloody condescending to 'feel sorry' for people who decide that doing it differently is what works for them (and is still fulfilling their romantic desires!). If a woman proposes to a man, if they go choose rings together and then the time of the proposal is the surprise, if they choose rings together and decide together to get married instead of a proposal from one to the other and that's what suits them and makes them happy then who are we to judge? Not all women dream about knights and white horses and 'fairytale romances' and not all men feel their masculinity is challenged if they're to receive a proposal from a woman.

      Pete - 2012-01-04 10:22

      Haha. If the woman does the proposal, then the man should wear the ring. How does that work for you? Some traditions should not be changed. Good work David!

      Betweenuandme - 2012-01-04 10:53

      These days men and women wear wedding rings. But I think my partner wouldn't want a diamond in his...

      Mike - 2012-01-04 11:59

      Congratulations David!

      vanessamoodley - 2012-01-04 12:31

      Pete, your viewpoint on change is a bit narrow - you're assuming that if people do things differently, then it will be a direct opposite of the 'tradition'. Who says this is the case? Whether some of us think traditions should or shouldn't be changed, fact is they are and do. People make their own traditions. Anyway, I would think that in the case of a woman proposing to man, she's unlikely to to be the type who worries about not wearing the ring in the first place!

      macguire.colin - 2012-01-04 13:16

      If you know your woman then you would know what type of ring she would like and you would know her finger size because you've bought her a more basic ring as a gift beforehand. Even if it doesn't fit her 100% or the design isn't 100% what she wanted you could ALWAYS go back and have its size changed or have it exchanged. With regards to it being "condescending": Utter nonsense! I can't imagine a woman that would prefer the "practical" approach to what David did here. I planned a similar thing to David, and my Fiance (whom will be my wife on the 20th Jan) freaked out with excitement when I proposed! She loved it, and so did every other woman who heard how I proposed. Come on, liven up and live a little. You might just enjoy it.

      vanessamoodley - 2012-01-09 15:18

      *sigh* You can't imagine it, therefore it must not be true. Someone might like things differently than you do - impossible! There must be something wrong with them! Nope, not condescending at all.

  • Clementine - 2012-01-04 09:01

    Give that David a Bells, I'm all goosebumpy and almost teary-eyed @ betweenuandme, you can still be "practical" by not getting an actual ring, but u see that takes away the "beauty" of sum1 knowing you on that level, besides David probably knows his woman well enough to be able to get just the ryt one.

  • Stephen - 2012-01-04 09:01

    I like your style, you brought tears to my eyes.

  • 3DADS - 2012-01-04 09:03

    @Betweenandme .... You have got to be kidding me right?

      Betweenuandme - 2012-01-04 09:35

      Nope, not kidding ... btw, I'm a woman ... I just don't go for the fairytale proposal thing.

  • ajakubowski3 - 2012-01-04 09:37

    You can only really get it 100 % right if your partner is some what predictable, good on you for using the Christmas present excuse! May you have a beautiful journey together!

  • uzair.parker - 2012-01-04 09:48

    Nine years ago I treated my (then) girlfriend to an evening out at one of the finer seafood restaurants in Cape Town. Amid the orange hues of a brilliant sunset and the soft, romantic ambience I stared lovingly into her gorgeous brown eyes and smiled. I held aloft a sterling silver masterpiece and with eager anticipation from the crowd and her excited nervousness I got down on my knees and slipped the toe ring I had bought her on her pretty dainty toe! The crowd laughed, she giggled and a year later I married her for real.

      Pravani - 2012-01-04 16:55

      Wow! That's romantic and incredibly original!

  • Libby - 2012-01-04 10:05

    I think that's awesome... everything these days are so predictable and planned out that a little moment where your breath is truly taken away is fantastic. And good on yer for asking her dad first - it's nice to know there are some gentlemen still out there! Congrats :)

  • Skysurfer - 2012-01-04 10:07

    Congratulations man!!! Awesome story!!!

  • Michelle - 2012-01-04 11:26

    Well done David. Although I had a say in the type of ring I liked, I actually thought I was getting an entirely different one.... and the engagement was a complete surprise! I had been expecting something to happen and then it never did... so I kind of just gave up. Then he proposed while we were scuba diving. And asked my father via a phonecall, 5 minutes before we got on the boat... he ofcourse said hell yes, very happy to finally get rid of me. Like you, he did not tell anyone of his plans. His reason for proposing while we were diving was that if I said no, he would have just closed my tank, stole my regulator and then send me on my way in to the big blue yonder.

  • Juliette - 2012-01-04 11:36


  • Eugene - 2012-01-04 12:21

    haha - classic. Good one.

  • Jacques - 2012-01-04 12:57

    What a feel good article! I loved it! Know your quarry, indeed! Congratulations, and thanks for the great articles, man!

  • Andre - 2012-01-04 14:42

    That's cool! Nice Story...awesome idea too!

  • Trevor - 2012-01-05 07:22

    What has this to do with being "old fashion" or "getting with the times"??? You love a woman then the way you propose tells her and yourself, how much you love and respect is as simple as that...sometimes a man must put some effort into a relationship...;o)

  • DayanGovender - 2012-01-05 07:26

    I like - very nicely done and @ Betweenuandme - We still like the old fashioned way. Congtrats!

  • Pumlani - 2012-01-05 10:14

    Great article David, totally agree with you 100%...why change it if its not broken? Old school proposals still rock! Well done guy and all the best in your new adventure!!!

  • Alexander - 2012-01-08 14:29

    "Know you’re quarry, gents". Really, David? Know your grammar if you want to lay even the most tenuous claim to the term "columnist".

  • Marion - 2012-01-10 19:00

    Congratulations to my nephew and my soon to be niece. I thought that it was sooo romantic the way you proposed and it is something that Robyn will never forget or tire of telling people. Well done!!

  • Heidi - 2012-01-11 23:43

    How utterly romantic. But...I dont think you had her completely fooled David! she said yes I think she probably guessed you're intentions. Well done anyway!I hate to be asked what I ant, becuase then I'd choose the dullest cheapest ring there out of guilt. Rather surprise me with something you'd think I'd love. Congradulations you two!!

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