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National Proposal Day is celebrated on the first day of Spring and the first day of Fall every year.

Have you ever wondered where the traditions of proposing came from? Why do significant others kneel when proposing? Why is there an engagement ring?

Why the Kneeling?

Photo by Twila’s Photography

It’s not clear exactly where the act of kneeling when proposing marriage, but there are several theories. It actually appears to be a more modern tradition in proposals. There are many photos throughout history showing both parties standing during a marriage proposal.

One possible origin comes from the Middle Ages of courtly love, a man would devote himself to a noble women who he perceived as superior. Kneeling represented feudal surrender and admiration.

But kneeling in European history was seen as a sign of supplication, humility and servitude. Many iconography of Christianity shows kneeling for prayer, expressing your service before God. Knights would kneel before their Lords while receiving honors. It is believed that kneeling to a woman who you are proposing marriage represented a request for her favor and a physical demonstration of loyalty and surrender.

Why a ring?

Photo by Twila’s Photography

The custom of using engagement rings in proposals is much older than the act of kneeling. This can be dated back to Roman periods.

The engagement ring tradition has been tied to ancient practices of marking a woman as “spoken for” as well as a symbolic commitment pledge. It was also seen as a sort of “down payment” paid to the bride to be. Up until the 1930’s in the U.S. women could sue if their fiance broke their engagement.

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