Leap year proposals: research shows that women shouldn’t have to wait until February 29 to pop the question

24 Feb 2016

Are quirky marriage proposal traditions still relevant in 2016? Vintage jewellery specialist William May sheds some light on the old romantic custom of women proposing on a leap year

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Image gallery

The arrival of a leap year gives women around the world the perfect opportunity to prove their love to their partner. And on 29th February, a tradition states that women can finally cut to the chase and ask their man to marry them.

This old custom becomes even more bizarre the more you read into it. Apparently, women have to wear a red skirt when they propose and if the man says ‘no’, they have to compensate the woman with a kiss, leather gloves, a rose and £1.

The glove tradition dates back to a time when marriage was a sign of social status. It was said that women could hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring with the gloves, should their proposal be turned down.

While these old tales make for a nice story, are quirky marriage proposal traditions still relevant in 2016?


Research by vintage jewellery specialist William May revealed that most people think that women should be able to propose to men whenever they like. 66 per cent of men and 61 per cent of women said yes” when asked if women should ignore tradition and propose to men.

Could proposing work in a woman’s favour?

    •       66 per cent of men think women should pop the question whenever they like

    •       42 per cent of women say they would wear a ring that they aren’t happy with - so why don’t they just choose their own?

Deciding to get married is a big financial commitment, but if you pop the question before your potential husband does, you get to control the budget. In fear of getting it wrong, some men may feel pressured to get the biggest diamond they can afford, which isn’t always what women want.

William May’s research found that 42 per cent of women would wear an engagement ring they weren’t completely happy with, so as not to upset their partner. Instead of running the risk of receiving one that doesn't quite suit you, those who propose get to choose their very own ring.

While ‘male engagement rings’ are an emerging trend, the most common way for women to propose is to pop the question with a ‘small gesture’, whilst choosing a ring for themselves to wear with their partner afterwards.

Presenting your man with an engraved bangle or watch gives him something to cherish the moment. It means that you can tailor the whole experience and make a much more personal statement.

Nick Whittington, managing director of William May, says: When women propose, they have the opportunity to get really creative. Obviously some of them may have been dreaming of this day for a long time and the leap year gives them an excuse to make that dream a reality.

Our research shows that while marriage proposal traditions continue to linger, many of us are breaking away from them and most people feel that women should not be apprehensive about popping the question just because an old custom suggests that it is down to the man to initiate an engagement.

Whilst many men may not have considered wearing an engagement ring before, presenting them with a keepsake gift means they can show off their commitment to you without a ring imposing on their personal style. It also leaves a bigger budget to treat yourself once you hear that all important ‘yes’!

William May has put together a guide to help women to prepare for a marriage proposal in 2016. Read it here.


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