The Controversy with the American Proposal

The question:

” I think it’s a very beautiful thing when a proposal is witnessed, and I would love for the same to be done to me at the appropriate time. Why is it so much of a controversy when the thought of having an “American” proposal comes up?”

So, this post may appeal more to Africans, or maybe I should just say Ghanaians, since I’m not positive on how other cultures handle things. However, if your culture promotes anything outside of the “traditional American proposal”, this post may be for you as well. For those who are not aware, the American proposal is the idea of your boyfriend, or potential husband getting on their knee and asking you to be their wife. Most times this is done in front of friends and family, and other times it is just between the two parties that will be entering the marriage.

To my understanding, in the Ghanaian culture (in some tribes), in order for any marriage to occur, the family of the groom must go to the home of the bride to ask her family for her hand in marriage. From then, arrangements are made for a dowry, and it goes on from there. There is no part inserted where the groom speaks to the bride about this, especially in front of the family. So, the opportunity for a personal proposal is not allowed, as the groom is not allowed to really voice his opinion and is not required to be present when the two families meet. I believe that this is such an integral portion because the marriage occurs not just between the bride and groom, but between their families as well. Parents will not agree to a marriage if they have not agreed to the family and what they bring to the table.

So, in regards to the “American” proposal, we actually had a debate about this at church, and most of the parents thought the idea was stupid and disrespectful. The parents felt that it was disrespectful that the men were proposing, but then neglecting to inform the parents of their intentions. I think that’s a valid reason to be upset about the gesture, however, I think it’s our responsibility in this generation to find a way to blend both cultures. I do feel that a lot more parents are becoming open to the idea with a few limitations. For example, they will be fine with American proposal as long as they know of it ahead of time, however, they may not want you to wear the ring until the traditional engagement has been done.

Now, as products of a new generation, I think that it is important that we understand our roots, but on the other hand, it’s also important for our parents to understand that a number of us were born here in America, or came here and assimilated to the “culture” of those that live in America. It’s very beautiful when both cultures can be blended. I personally feel that it is just respectful to inform the parents of your decision to enter marriage with their daughter. In some cases, it’s good to ask that the parents don’t bring it up to their child until you (the groom) tell her yourself. In this time, you can plan your proposal and then make it a surprise with family and friends present or you can propose to her alone without company. Whatever you decide to do, just remember that until your families get together, that proposal is really null and void and may not mean anything to the parents of the bride.

What our parents may not realize is that the “American” proposal is a very rewarding experience, just as it is when a family approaches them for your hand in marriage. Personally, I had always wanted a proposal in addition to my traditional standards because it would be a day of love and just a day to feel very special. Although I knew that marriage was on its way, my proposal was very overwhelming with emotion because whether we want to acknowledge it or not, marriage is such a HUGE, yet amazing step of life that many of us will enter. It’s a time to really reflect and realize how far you have come. Not many folks felt that they would get to marriage, including myself, and so for me, that day was just a reality check in the most sincere way. Outside of the emotions you feel, a proposal also gives you the opportunity to accept the offer you are being given, hence the reason why you are “asked” and not demanded, to enter a marriage. When families are involved, they do most of the talking, and don’t really involve you much, but I do remember my mother asking me if I was willing to accept the family’s proposal, in which I answered yes. Although it was the family’s proposal, it was my culture, and it was still just as exciting.

Whatever you and your mate decide to do, just remember that this moment is very special for you, but not just you alone. Your parents or caretakers spent a great portion of their lives taking care of you and bringing you up to the state you are in whether or not you want to believe it. They have great pride about the next step in your life and it is an accomplishment for them, just as it is for you. If that’s hard to believe, just imagine how you would feel once it’s time for your future child or niece/nephew to get married.

God loves you.

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