Those envisioning the “perfect” proposal often imagine the person proposing on one knee. But where does this tradition come from?
There are mixed stories related to the origin of proposing on one knee, according to Reader’s Digest.
“Some say it hearkens back to medieval times, when knights knelt before ladies,” a 2022 article states. “Others guess that because it was a sign of surrender during feudal wars that men did it as a symbol of surrendering their will and fortune to their beloved (and to show her family they weren’t a threat). Or it may stem from the Persian tradition of prostrating oneself on the ground to show respect.”
However, the article says proposing on one knee is mostly a Western tradition that began in the 1960s. Prior to that, most marriages were arranged as business agreements with little fanfare.
Like many of the traditions we’ve highlighted, kneeling on one knee to propose is not necessary and up to each couple’s unique situation.
“Getting down on one knee doesn’t change the question that’s being asked, and I think, from an etiquette perspective, that’s why it hasn’t been a requirement,” says Lizzie Post, etiquette expert at the The Emily Post Institute and author of “Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette 6th Edition, in a Martha Stewart article. “But in general, if you have preferences or expectations about your engagement experience, that’s something you should be sharing with your partner-if it means that much to you.”