It takes a self-assured woman to ask for a man’s hand in marriage, like Monica who asked Chandler on Friends (pictured).

It comes around once every four years, giving us that extra day to do with as we please. This Friday is a leap day. Traditionally, it’s a day when women turn customs on their head and ask for a man’s hand in marriage.


As Barbara Sutton-Smith, author of The Leap Year Book, explains it’s a practice that found its roots in a legend from the fifth century when Saint Brigit (the Irish patron saint) wanted to appease her disgruntled priestesses and begged Saint Patrick, the bishop, to let the women propose to eligible bachelors. He finally conceded, allowing this to happen every four years on a leap day.

“The custom certainly began somewhere in there,” says Sutton-Smith. “Then, in 1228, a law was passed in Scotland, giving women the legal right to propose to an unmarried man (on a leap day). Should he refuse, legally, she could claim a new gown or a pair of gloves in addition to a cash payment of one pound — and one pound in those days was a lot of money.”

But every four years just won’t cut it for most modern women. Despite their recent split, singer Pink did propose to her husband Carey Hart and it wasn’t during a leap year. And if modern day television can be any sign of the trend in society, Miranda did ask Steve to marry her on Sex And The City as did Monica, who asked Chandler on Friends. And then there was Brenda, who proposed to Nate on Six Feet Under.

Kateryna Spiwak, dating and relationship coach from Dating Essentials (, says she’s not surprised to see more women taking the lead in marriage proposals. “Women are often the catalyst for taking a relationship to the next level and (women proposing) is simply an extension of that,” she says.

It takes a confident, self-assured woman to ask for a man’s hand, but it also takes a confident, unconventional man to accept.

“It depends on the man, but I think men who are used to being the traditional male might be a little more resistant to it,” says Spiwak.

That said, many of the men Spiwak deals with in her practice are pleased when women take the lead and ask them out.

“They find it really refreshing because it takes the pressure off them.”

For women pondering popping the question to their beloved, Spiwak suggests incorporating some sort of theme that he might enjoy. “For instance, if he’s crazy about cars, do it at a car show,” she says.

But before revving up that engine, Spiwak says it’s important to make sure both partners are on the same track and have discussed their future together.

“You want to know he feels that sense of commitment to you,” she says. “And that he’s going to say yes.”

Kasia Iglinski is a journalist who enjoys her work and her dating life. Armed with a notepad and a curious mind, she’s always on the prowl for a good story and a good date.

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