What Knee Do You Propose On? And Why?

Wait a minute, what knee do you propose on? Don’t fret, we’ve got the answer to that, to why people get on their knee, to what it symbolizes and, alternatives!

By Georgie Darling

Graphic image of a man proposing to a woman
Photo by Zola

You’ve chosen the ring. You’ve planned out the perfect marriage proposal idea. You’re about to pop the question — but wait a second. How do you propose? Are there rules or traditions you should follow here? Does it matter what knee you propose on?

It turns out there’s a quick, simple answer. But in the end, even if you choose “wrong,” you’ll be just fine.

The swoon-worthy proposal where someone gets on their knee and asks their partner to marry them is one of those iconic moments you’ve probably thought about plenty of times.

Since it’s the ultimate symbol of love showcased in romantic novels and rom-coms, there’s probably a good chance you’re considering incorporating it in your proposal. But is it necessary? And if so, what knee should you propose on? We’ll break it all down, so you can pull off the perfect proposal.

What knee do you propose on?

According to experts, it’s not super important, but traditionally you propose with your left knee on the ground. You should hold the ring box in your left hand, and open it with your right. The custom of kneeling as a sign of respect comes from medieval knights who got down on their left knees to be knighted.

The day it all began - Zach & Sean 2

Does it matter what knee you propose on?

The long and short of it is: It doesn’t matter. Odds are your SO won’t notice which knee you get down on in the moment. Since the majority of the population is right-side-dominant, there’s a good chance it will feel more comfortable and steady to get down on your right knee during the big moment.

Why do you get on one knee to propose?

The act of getting down on one knee dates back to medieval times when knights would bow and kneel to noblewomen. The famous “will you marry me” question wasn’t added to the act until somewhat recently. While it's optional, it's a classic, romantic way to show your SO just how much they mean to you.

According to a study done by Men’s Health, 76 percent of men believe they should go down on a bent knee to propose, and many people dream of having their SO drop a knee to ask the big question.

What does getting down on one knee symbolize?

Why do men get on one knee to propose? Getting down on one knee is often considered the ultimate sign of respect: quite literally putting your other half above you. Proposing in this manner originally symbolized respect to royalty. And we guess your fiance-to-be is pretty regal in your eyes!

It wasn’t until about a century ago that marriage was based upon love, intimacy, and mutual respect, and even more recently that marriage proposals and weddings became such an important part of modern marriages.

For couples getting engaged prior to the 1960s, the “what knee do you propose on?” question probably wasn’t a part of the proposal. Instead, casually asking the other person to get married was more the style. Prior to that, proposals and marriages weren’t even necessarily about love.

Instead, they were more like business deals between families in order to gain power, money, and connections.

What to say when you get down on one knee?

The best way to figure out what to say when you propose is to think about what your SO would appreciate hearing the most. Generally, the proposer takes their SO by the hand and drops to one knee. Then, they say a few sentences outlining why they want to get married, what they love about their relationship and/or partner, and what they hope for the future. What comes to mind as you imagine it happening? Say that.

Need more help planning the proposal? Check out our Wedding Proposal Checklist.

Do you put the ring on when you propose?

Just before asking the big question, take out the ring from its hiding place (usually either in your purse or pocket) and present it to your SO. After they say “yes”, you slip the ring on the ring finger of their left hand, get up, share a hug and kiss, and then celebrate BIG time.

Do You Need to Get Down on Your Knee for a Proposal?

No. Just like with most things wedding-related (other than legalities), you can make any traditional marriage proposal your own. There’s no hard and fast rule that you have to get down on one knee, present your SO with a diamond ring, and have a photographer hiding in the bushes, capturing it all.

So, instead of wondering what knee do you propose on, you might decide that kneeling isn’t the right decision for you. While many western couples choose to go this route, doing something different won’t make your proposal, engagement, or marriage any less special.

That said, before nixing the bended knee proposal idea, take some time to think about what your partner might be envisioning in a romantic proposal. This is a big moment—probably one they’ve dreamed about for a long time.

Even if they’re non-traditional, they might still picture you down on one knee. Unless they’ve explicitly told you they’re not a fan of bent-knee proposals or a close confidante told you to avoid getting down on your knee, you may want to incorporate it in your marriage proposal plans.

Zola: Which Knee Should You Propose On?

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Bended-Knee Proposal Alternatives

If you’ve weighed up the “which knee for proposal” debate and decided the answer is “neither”, there are plenty of other options to consider. If you’re at a restaurant, ask while sitting at the table. Or, if you’re home and keeping things low-key, sitting side by side on the couch is a great option.

If your SO isn’t about going the traditional route, don’t be afraid to opt for something completely unique, like tying the engagement ring on your pet’s collar, proposing after a hike while standing at a gorgeous vista, or slipping the ring on their finger as they’re just waking up.

Whether you get down on your left knee as tradition suggests or you choose your own proposal stance, the key is to make the special moment about you and your future spouse.

Ready to start planning your wedding? Start with our Free Wedding Planning Suite.

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