More women popping the big question
IT may not be the bended knee proposal you expect, but an increasing number of women are shunning 1600 years of tradition by popping the question to their boyfriends - and they don't need a Leap Day to do so.
The Irish folklore, which dictates women can propose on February 29, is said to originate from a deal that Saint Bridget struck with Saint Patrick.
But social demographer Mark McCrindle says out of an estimated 300 to 350 marriages in Queensland on February 29 this year, about a third of women would propose across the state on the leap day this year, rather than the usual 10 per cent of female proposals.
"Women are a lot more empowered now and those traditions are declining," he says. .
"A lot of the traditions in this era where people feel more empowered, where the traditions don't govern their life, where the social norms don't have that same influence, its people making those decisions and what they themselves feel comfortable with.
"Women proposing is not unusual and particularly for a new generation - it's now Generation Z moving into this era and they're now in the marrying age group - are not bound by tradition at all and particularly in a world of social media where they see trends globally, where they want to share their own story, stepping out of the box or even not being aware of what that box is, is more their circumstance."
Nicole Fredman, 29, was one woman who 'took matters into her own hands' and proposed to her boyfriend of two years Tom Bjorksten, two days before Christmas as the sun rose across their Byron Bay farm on a misty morning.
Ms Fredman said the decision was not because she wanted to break tradition, but because she knew it would bring the most joy to the both of them and decided to turn their morning ritual of sharing a coffee as they stroll their farm at dawn into a magical moment by having coffee cups made with the words 'marry me' stamped on the bottom of Tom's cup.
The thoughtful gesture brought Tom to tears.
"The beautiful thing was that he would never guess that I was going to propose and I love surprising and I just knew it was going to make the most amazing surprise," she says.
"Any kind of romantic gesture he could have done, I would know straight away - I just knew it would be way better for me and him if I did it because I love creating these moments.
"I knew what I wanted and there was nothing holding me back and it was just like 'why not?' but it's also each to their own.
"The joy and happiness of being able to give him it was everything and more to be able to do that than wait for him to stress and make a magical moment for me."
Other women consider how their actions can set a good example for the younger generation of females.
Brisbane couple Caitlin and Matt Jones got engaged after Caitlin popped the question on a bushwalk with their dogs in Toohey Forest.
"I work in the medical field and I'd had a pretty hard day essentially and I just decided now was the time and embraced it and I did it all within five hours," she said.
"My brother helped me out with it to put it all together but it just felt right.
"Life's too short. I feel like there's that expectation women get to a certain age and then we have to wait for the men to propose and I just didn't really like that idea.
"I took him for a bushwalk with our dogs - technically my dog proposed to him. She had a little sign around her neck so technically it was Lily that proposed."
Now together for 10 years, Caitlin wonders why she ever second guessed it.
"I was just uming and ahing over it for a couple of hours and at the time I had a young niece and I just felt like I could be a good role model to her and wondered why I was even tossing this up," she says.
The likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Pink, Judge Judy are some of the famous women to pop the question to their significant others.
But, it's not just the tradition of who proposes that changes - marriage as a whole is being turned on its head - but the Leap Day phenomenon still holds strong for many romantics.
McCrindle says national data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows 83.7 per cent of all weddings conducted by a civil celebrant in Queensland, with the figure being 79.7 per cent nationally.
"In other words, couples in Queensland are more likely to be married by a civil celebrant than a religious minister," he says.
"The previous leap year in 2016 on February 29 saw almost three times as many marriages on that day, as an ordinary day.
"So people do respond to these special days - this February 29 will be a Saturday so a big day anyway and then you add the novelty factor and it's probably going to be one of the biggest wedding days of the year … about 300 to 350 weddings on the leap day in Queensland this year."
Wedding planner Janette Newell said despite tradition changing, the leap year remained popular.
"All through 2019 we were getting so many more inquiries for 2020, I think purely because it's the new year with the dates, February 2 is popular with all the twos," she says.
"I booked out the leap year quite early in the year - it's a Saturday as well so super popular.
"There's definitely less stigma around women proposing, I honestly think it could be whoever to propose now, especially since it's been a couple years since the same sex marriage has been legalised - a lot of the tradition is now pretty much out the window."
Psychologist Evette Braunstein says the lack of female proposals was due to fear.
"When we step outside traditional gender roles, there is always that fear of what other people will think, and that may, from an evolutionary perspective, relate to the fear of being different from the tribe," she says.
"Historically and as a society, we may mistrust those who don't follow conventions, and this links into our fear of being cast out, or exiled.
"Conformity may be hard wired into our psyche to a certain extent, and a sense of belonging or being rejected historically may have been about survival."
Brisbane wedding planner Roxy Hotten says most couples had lengthy discussions about marriage, and were increasingly changing traditions.
"Some couples are choosing different ways of entering the ceremony space, than the traditional 'bride with her father'," she said.
"For some, they want to greet their guests as they arrive to ensure maximum time with them, for others they are entering with their partner as the whole 'father giving bride away' does not resonate with them for feminist reasons. I also have brides who arrive without anyone walking them down."