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The new equality: proposing marriage ... simultaneously | Life and style


I hope I’m not giving too much away by saying that episode three of Netflix’s slaphappy romantic reality show Love is Blind opens with a proposal. Contestant Damian Powers is down on one knee, asking his newfound love interest Giannina Gibelli to be his wife.

Then, Gibelli flips the script.

Instead of a “yes” or “no,” she clambers on to the ground herself and announces, “One thing that I don’t believe in is roles or labels … I see you as an equal, I want to ask you Damien Powers, will you marry me?”

Powers weeps with joy, as, one assumes, do the show’s producers (what a twist!).

Like double rainbows, double proposals feel unexpected and delightful. And they don’t just happen on TV. Kirsten Palladino, editor of the LGBTQ+ focused Equally Wed magazine, has observed their rising popularity within the queer community over the last seven-odd years. “Couples we’re seeing who are doing mutual proposals really want to be equal partners in every way, and don’t subscribe to heteronormative, socially prescribed gender roles,” says Palladino, who estimates that about a quarter of the couples profiled by her publication both proposed. “It sets the stage for a relationship whether neither person has the upper hand.”

Less has been documented about the popularity of mutual proposals in straight relationships – but there too, dynamics seem to be shifting. This may be in part due to an increased sense of equality between partners, and the normalization of discussing marriage while still dating (one 2017 study found only 35% of women are surprised by their partner’s proposal). Today, couples often take the opportunity to talk about tailoring their engagement experience to suit their personalities and values.

After four years together, Canadian couple Tom Hill, 33, and Amy Shostak, 35, decided they both wanted to propose when the time was right. “We liked the idea that you can do things however you want to do them,” says Tom. “Equality has always been a big cornerstone of our relationship, so we were like, ‘Is there a way we can both propose? What does that look like?’”

Tom and Amy’s decision involved some logistical strategizing. “Once we agreed [we were ready to get engaged] we called that ‘the period’, and once the period started then it was free game for either of us to propose,” explains Tom. “Our proposal was like a safety deposit box where you needed two keys to open the box and if you don’t have both keys you can’t get married,” says Amy.

“Ultimately the trickiest part of system we developed is: if one person proposes and the other person still has yet to propose, there’s a period where the proposal isn’t complete but one of you has done a big emotional event,” he says. “So we decided if one of us proposed, we wouldn’t tell anyone else until the second person also proposed, whether that was a day later or six months later.”

While Amy admits the first few months of “the period” were “very weird”, with both of them slightly on edge every time they went to a restaurant or hiked a mountain, ultimately the couple proposed about six hours apart in November 2018. Tom took Amy on a short road trip to a lakeside resort town outside their city. When they got to their hotel, Amy napped while Tom iced an elaborate cake as part of an inside-joke; she woke up, and he proposed. Later that night, after dinner and dancing, the couple walked to the edge of a pier and Amy decided it was the right time to get down on one knee, too.

“He was shocked, because the time in between was so brief,” says Amy.

“I had just been so focused on doing my proposal I was not expecting a response proposal,” says Tom. “The thing that seemed like it would prevent a surprise provided it. I very much wept and wept.”

Adam Fleishman, 36, and Brenna Holler, 34, from San Diego and Vancouver respectively, also both proposed, though somewhat spontaneously.

Earlier this year, after about two years of dating, the couple finished walking their dog and was just settling in for a quiet breakfast at home when, explains Brenna. “We were talking about future plans and Adam got this really silly look on his face and started counting down from three. By the time he got to one and a half I sort of realized what was happening and I, as a competitive person, wanted to propose to him, so when he reached zero we both asked to marry one another.”

“I think we were both thinking it, sitting across the table from each other,” says Adam. “As cheesy as it sounds, the looks we were shooting each other said it all anyway, so I just started counting down, ’cause I knew we would both want to do it at the same time.”

Because straight engagements and weddings are rooted in longstanding, heteronormative convention, the option of having both partners propose may not even occur to some couples. Yet as more partners choose to both propose, and share their stories within their social circles, mutual proposals may catch on in a bigger way. In the few weeks since Adam and Brenna announced their engagement, they already have heard from friends who found their story inspiring and proposed in a similar way as a result.

What mutual proposals reflect more than anything is the fact that today, there are no right or wrong ways for an engagement to happen – and by popping the question twice, couples can double their fun. As Tom says: “Proposing in itself is very nerve-racking, very exciting, wonderful – and also being proposed to is a thrill and amazing. Why not do both?”

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