The swoony-worthy proposal where someone gets on his or her 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, which knee should you propose on? Here, we’ll break it all down, so you can pull off the perfect proposal.
Before learning how to pull off a bent knee proposal, you’re probably wondering why it’s a tradition in the first place. The act dates back to the medieval days when knights would bow before noblewomen. Additionally, the celebrated gesture has been connected to prayer, submission, and respect. The famous “will you marry me” question, however, wasn’t added to the act until somewhat recently.
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 “bended knee” aspect 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.
Nowadays, however, a bended-knee proposal is both common and customary for modern couples. 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. Whether you’re the one bending the knee or you’re standing and trying to keep your tears contained, here’s what generally happens during a bent knee proposal:
The proposer takes his or her SO by the hand and slowly drops to their knee. Then, they say a few words or sentences outlining why they want to get married, what they love about their relationship and/or partner, and what they hope for the future. Finally, just before asking the big question (“will you marry me?”), they take out the ring from its hiding place (usually either in their purse or pocket) and present it to their SO. After he or she says “yes” (yay!), the proposer slips the ring on the ring finger of the left hand, gets up, shares a hug or a kiss, then celebrates BIG time—you’re officially engaged!
So, does it matter what knee you propose on? When it comes time to figure out which knee you bend for a proposal, the long and short of it is: It doesn’t really matter. Traditionally though, experts say you should get down on your left knee. Since the custom of kneeling as a sign of respect or service comes from medieval knights who got down on their left knees while being knighted, the same pose is used for services involving fallen military members, prayer, and—yup—even proposals.
That said, 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 (only 10 percent of the world in 2020 is left-handed, according to The Washington Post), there’s a good chance it will feel more comfortable and steady to get down on your right knee.
Just like with most things wedding-related (other than the legalities, of course), you can make a 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 the whole thing. 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, think hard 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, it’s a good idea to incorporate it in your marriage proposal plans.
If you’ve decided that a bent-knee proposal isn’t right for your relationship, 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 ring on your pet’s collar, proposing after a hike while standing at a gorgeous vista, or slipping the ring on his or her finger as they’re just waking up.
Whether or not 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.