Lovebirds, take note: a betrothal Cinderella would envy is now compulsory. A whole industry is forming around the bestowal of such trinkets, before the wedding roller-coaster even sets off. A simple tale of love shared with a close few is no longer enough; this filtered, curated world requires fireworks (literal, if possible).
A two-headed social media selfie with ring waved camera-wards while the ‘likes’ flood in is entry level. How can I be sure? While minding my own business recently How He Asked appeared uninvited in my Instagram feed. Endless couples in the blush of proposal, interspersed with adverts for rings and dresses, offering up their magical moments to the gods of the internet. Competitive romance may now be the pinnacle of our utopian capitalist existence, except… certain elements seemed a little, well, creepy:
- The pre-arranged third party aka the photographer. Does ‘what if it’s a no?’ not figure in the planning? Has the hapless askee failed to spot the dude with the zoom lens stalking them around Disneyland or peering from the bushes as they are rowed across a deserted lake? With distances ranging from nostril hair inspection to restraining-order-respectable (which somehow seems creepier), these magical moments were designed with an audience in mind.
- Money talks. Squeals breathlessly, judging by most of the photos. Surprisingly the cause of the hyperventilation isn’t the mounting bills (ring that’s worth more than your car, the rising cost of string quartets, and have you seen the price of glitter cannons these days?) but the sheer joy of coupling. This is not free love in any sense.
- The lack of spontaneity. The website features venues ranging from tiny bit tacky to downright sinister. Festive proposal ideas in a feature entitled ‘Say yule be mine’ (holly up and get me out of here…) include multiple uses of a Christmas tree farm (“abandoned tree farm” a particular winner for aspiring serial killer fiancés) and persuading an entire apartment block to hike their electricity bills to illuminate the big question in their windows. At other times of the year, ski lifts, using a dog’s collar, hot air balloon, atop a hillock, at home – basically ‘anywhere’. Thanks for that.
- Adverts for blood diamonds. I mean, probably.
- Tired gender role play. Unless there’s an unusually high number of proposers with aching legs who couldn’t stand for another moment, most proposal pictures go for the down-on-one-knee-man and the standing-woman-with-hands-over-mouth gasp. Is this an involuntary thing? A medical condition? Kudos to those wonderful couples who say enough is enough.
- The entourage. One man brought 100 people to watch him propose. Another had friends and family scattered around an abandoned tree farm (alive, apparently). And as for flash mobs… The world record for most people at a proposal is still up for grabs, if you really can’t resist.
- The military-style planning. Who doesn’t cherish the idea of a partner who knows them intimately? Who wants to see that translated into a proposal “broken into three phases, each tailored to have a different effect and send her on an emotional roller coaster, hopefully creating a crescendo of joy by the end.” When phase one is “intended to bring shock” and phase three ends in an abandoned tree farm, assume Homeland security will be on the guest list (or interrupting proceedings with heavy weapons).
- The like-like-likes for love. Who is it all for, these staged scenarios? For fans to find you, pin your moments to their inspiration boards for their future starring roles. For the ‘friends’ you’ve met once or twice (your actual friends would no doubt just want you to be happy). For the large scale mass marketing of love. The words ‘submit your proposal’ on any other website would mean business, and that’s what this is. If you want to have to tick a special extra box if the ring was platinum, you may have found your spiritual home. If not, maybe give your romance a truly personal touch, embrace actual spontaneity, and switch off the audience for a while. I know an abandoned tree farm where you probably won’t be disturbed?