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Leap year proposals: how I proposed to my boyfriend

29 February 2012

Ever since my boyfriend realised that 2012 was going to be a leap year, he'd been practically daring me to pop the question on 29 February - though I knew that he wasn't really expecting me to do it. But why shouldn't I be the one to ask for his hand in marriage?

However, I think I now know why women still generally leave the asking to the men. Planning a meaningful and romantic proposal is incredibly traumatic and nerve-wracking. Never again shall I scoff when I hear of yet another marriage offer at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

The big question (other than 'Will you marry me?') is: should the proposing be done differently when it's a woman doing the asking? The consensus among friends, colleagues and the odd random bloke was that, yes, it should. So I found myself sitting at my laptop wondering, Carrie Bradshaw-style, 'How does a girl ask a guy to marry her when everything about a traditional proposal is designed to impress a woman, not a man?'

Surely, I thought, Google will have the answer? Apparently not. While the search engine will spit out countless ideas on how to melt your prospective Mrs's heart, when it comes to grooming your groom it's frustratingly unhelpful. Pearls of wisdom that I came across included, "Add a dash of humor and fun to your marriage proposal [by] tying a note to a cute puppy youve [sic] bought as a gift". Hmmm.

Undeterred, I returned to the stereotypical proposal ideas. My new approach was to use them as a starting point and then strip out the fluffy stuff. First to be cut: diamonds, flowers and public declarations of undying love. I decided he wouldn't care about a breathtakingly beautiful view that would make me go weak at the knees. After a wobble where I almost booked a speedboat ride down the Thames (no, I don't know what I was thinking either), I was left with three basic areas that I knew would tug on his heartstrings: good accommodation, good drinks and good food.

As this was the first and hopefully only time I would be proposing, I was in the market for something unashamedly romantic and reassuringly expensive. I settled on the Haymarket hotel in London and told them what I had planned, which meant chilled champagne on arrival, private cocktails by the pool and some not-so-subtle massage oil.

Next up: drinks. I booked the too-cool-for-school Experimental Cocktail Club in Chinatown. We made a personalised cocktail, served in metal cans linked together with a lock. The food was easy, after a friend pointed out in a delightful Captain Caveman voice that "Man. Like. Meat". We went to Hawksmoor steakhouse for a feast of cow, followed by peanut butter shortbread with salted caramel ice-cream.

At some point during the planning process you have to decide when exactly to propose. Should you leave it to the end of the day when the wooing is in full throw, and risk them guessing what you're up to? Or should you spring it on them early and whisk them off for a day of fun and festivities to celebrate? I plumped for the latter and, after running through various clichéd scenarios, I settled on one that was low-key and specific to us.

The week before I popped the question we had had an offer accepted on a flat. Outside our future home just felt like the 'right' place to do it (unless the purchase falls through, in which case it will turn out to have been a totally stupid and pointless place to have proposed ...). I lured him there on 25 February under false pretences and, just as he began to suspect that something was up, I went for it.

My voice cracked, his eyes boggled. My heart skipped, his jaw dropped. Then a pigeon pooed from the tree above, narrowly missing us. After asking me a couple of times if I was joking, he got down on one knee and said yes. And we both wore Haribo rings for the rest of the day.

• Doubles from £310 at the Haymarket hotel via Mr & Mrs Smith.

How do you feel about proposing to a man, or, if you are a man, being proposed to? Is it still a big deal, or are proposals themselves outdated?

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2012

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