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For And Against: Are Staged Proposal Pictures Ok?

© Instagram/@devwindsor

The Victoria’s Secret model Devon Windsor got engaged to her boyfriend Johnny Dex on a secluded sandy beach. Sounds private, right? Wrong. Dex led his fiancé to believe she was going to work on a photo-shoot, which meant her hair, make-up and outfit was rigorously planned. When she arrived at the shoot location the photographer and lights were set up, but there was no client. Just Dex on one knee with a ring in his hand. Staged, fake and full of lies to begin with or the definition or romance? We asked two writers with strong options on the staged proposal concept to weigh in on whether Windsor is living out an IRL rom-com or being led down a dark path…

In Favour Of Staged Proposal Pictures - Phoebe Parke, Social Media Editor

It only takes one glance into a crowd at a concert to figure out that we’re all obsessed with capturing the moment. Where once you’d see faces staring at the stage, lit up by the flashing set lights, you now see the back of phones – recording Facebook lives, boomerangs and Instagram videos.

If we document every show we see, holiday we go on and rooftop drink we have – why not a proposal? Weddings are full of staged photo ops; leaving the church, cutting the cake, the first dance – why do you think flower arches are such big business at weddings? Because people want a beautiful backdrop to their wedding pictures. With all the flashing cameras and cute candid snaps at a wedding, why are we so shy when it comes to staged proposals?

I, for one, see nothing wrong with a staged proposal. What’s the harm in having a trusted friend or local photographer hiding in an inconspicuous spot, ready to take the money shot? Cartoonist Nathan W Pyle drew his friend Dean a map for his recent proposal, while Dean hid in some bushes, Nathan proposed to girlfriend Taylor in a photogenic spot another friend Annie helped him pick out earlier in the week. Teamwork, as they say, makes the dream work.

For those who go to the trouble of creating an elaborate set up for a proposal, obviously it’s not the end of the world if you don’t capture the moment on film, but how cute if you do.

Who can forget Paris Hilton’s iconic proposal pictures in Aspen, or more recently model Devon Windsor’s clearly staged pictures which she shared on Instagram, garnering thousands of likes. If it’s good enough for Paris, it’s good enough for me.

I Can’t Imagine Anything Worse Than A Staged Proposal - Lucy Morris, Digital Fashion And Beauty Editor

The love and intimacy shared between a couple is just that, intimate. It’s not public, it’s not for show and it’s certainly not for Instagram. Setting my feminist principals and scepticism about marriage aside for just a minute, I find it hard to believe that a pre-planned proposal with a photographer hiding in the bushes is as romantic as a private proposal.

Though model Devon Windsor’s takes the biscuit, this isn’t a new phenomenon. Paris Hilton’s recent escapades in this arena shone a spotlight on this mawkish affair. Before her, Kanye popping the question to Kim with the help of a baseball stadium full of extended friends and family, a misspelt Jumbotron sign and an orchestra playing his own compositions was equally egregious. But, this school of exhibitionism isn’t just for celebrities, for years non-famous couples have co-opted concert stages, reality shows and local radio for this very reason.

Is private emotion shown publicly any less real? Not necessarily, but this level of public immodesty needs to be deconstructed. Who is it for? What is it for? Living and marrying by the principle that these days if you don’t take a blurry picture on a smartphone then did it even happen is a dangerous space to occupy.

Cynically the desire to go viral and watch the likes flood in on Facebook with a proposal snap makes me think this isn’t for the right reasons. For many the question of marriage is a complex weighing up of beliefs, money and life goals and this bandwidth of attention doesn’t allow for much contemplation of these factors. In 2018 a wedding is a juggle of tens of thousands of pounds with hours of planning and ungrateful guests, the stakes are high. If you add the pressure of a social media platform of friends aware of your impending nuptials the pressure is exacerbated.

If you’ve watched one too many rom-coms then you might be led to believe everyone loves a grandiose romantic gesture. But, proposing in front of people is a risky path. Not only does it leave the asker open to an awkward conversation in public but it’s manipulative. It’s the ultimate PDA, unyielding of the asker’s Beta traits or desire for privacy. A public proposal is for the asker to receive a clap on the back and a strong handshake, not the asked to feel the warm embrace of romantic love.

A Therapist* Weighs In

What pressures do a staged/public proposal have on a relationship?

'It would leave the person being asked for a hand in marriage to feel cornered and pressured to say yes, which might lead to them going against their true desire and actually saying 'yes'. Even a strong-minded person might feel confused by a surprise question with an audience watching and lose their courage to be honest, which can result in resentment and drama later when they back out or an unhappy marriage. This would be especially true if they sensed the other partner was uncertain and staged the event to manipulate things in their favour.

'Even if the person being asked does want to be married, if the partner asking has misjudged what would make them happy and and/or how embarrassed a public proposal would make them feel, then the public proposal might dampen the relationship for a bit. But on the other hand, if well judged, if the person being asked is very extroverted and loves a scene, a public staged proposal could bring the couple closer together as they perceive it as an exciting shared experience. '

Are public proposals for just for show?

'You couldn't make this sort of generalisation as it entirely depends on the public proposal and the people involved, and their personalities, upbringing, and perspectives. Some people come from families where they are expected to do things in a public way that includes others, so they might even feel pressured to do a proposal in public to please others or family members they respect and love. This might especially be the case if the family will pay for the wedding. Other people are naturally extroverted, and from their perspective, sharing such an important moment is a way to be kind and include others and share their love with the world.

'It's only someone with an introverted streak or bought up to be private who could not understand this. And whether or not a public proposal is embarrassing for those watching and over the top or not, it's best to leave people to their own happiness and not judge them. Who does a public proposal harm? We have bigger things to worry about in our world. Yes, some people are just attention getting, lacking in self-esteem and needing others to think them exciting and lucky, and this might be why they stage a big proposal. But we've all colluded together to create this sort of society, with our use of social media and our love of reality TV. So a staged proposal might have seemed quite over-the-top a decade ago but now it's less surprising and perhaps if we don't like it we should just turn the other way and get on with what we were doing and leave other people to their own life experience.'

*Answers by Dr. Sheri Jacobson, clinical director of Harley Therapy.