What knee do you propose on?

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So you’ve bought the ring; you’ve planned what to say; now it’s time to ask your beloved to marry you. But one question might still remain: if you’re going to get down on one knee, what knee do you propose on?

We’ve all seen it in films and some of us may have been lucky enough to see it happen in real life, too – in a park, at the beach, or during an event, perhaps. When someone wants to propose to their partner, it’s tradition to get down on one knee before they ask the question. But despite it being the norm – in fact, probably because it’s the norm – it might not be something you’ve ever thought about in depth before. For example – why do we get down on one knee to propose? What knee do you propose on? Is there a specific way to do it? What does it symbolise? We’ve got the answers to all of these below.

Why do people get down on one knee to propose?

The origins of getting down on one knee to pop the question is actually really interesting: it’s a combination of an age-old action given relatively new meaning. Some people say that the action of getting down on one knee – a practice called “genuflecting”, if you want a random fact to impress your friends with in your next conversation – goes back as far as 328BC, when Alexander The Great introduced it into his court.

It was originally a display of respect, obedience, and loyalty, the same that we might see today when people bow in front of royalty. However, it’s usage in proposals – that is, as a display of respect, obedience, and deep loyalty to your partner – is only decades old, as opposed to millennia. It added a sense of romance, flair and occasion to a question that was once much more like a business transaction.

This lineage hasn’t been 100% proven, though, so some people believe that it comes from the symbolism of kneeling in religion instead. Because marriage and religion used to be inextricably linked, the practice became tied to marriage along the way. Alternatively still, some people say it’s a sign of surrender; surrendering your heart to the person you love most in the world (and putting the ultimate trust in them that they’ll look after it, and say yes!)

What knee do you propose on?

Traditionally, the answer to ‘what knee do you propose on’ is: the left. (This is because that’s apparently how knights used to do it!) If you want to follow the ‘proper’ etiquette down to the letter, you should kneel on your left — so that your left knee is touching the floor — with the ring box held in your left hand, enabling you to open it with your right hand.

(However in practice, the answer is: your partner probably won’t notice which knee you’re on, because they’ll be so surprised and elated to see you on either knee in the first place! So don’t get too hung up on the question of what knee do you propose on.)

And of course, there’s every chance that you may feel much more stable doing it on your right knee instead, as most of the population are right-handed, so if you would feel more secure going down onto your right knee, then do whatever’s right for you.

Do I have to get on one knee to propose?

As with most things to do with wedding and engagement traditions, what matters most is what matters to you. For some people, a bended-knee proposal is something they’ve always dreamed of; but for some people, it’s a tradition they’d rather not take part in. So if it doesn’t feel right for you or your partner for whatever reason, then don’t feel pressured to do it.

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