The Unconventional Bride: Why I’m Glad My Husband-To-Be’s Proposal Didn’t Go To Plan

Lizzy Dening didn’t spend her childhood fantasising about getting married. Now she’s engaged and navigating the weird world of weddings. Send help.

the proposal

by Grazia |

In my relationship – there can be little doubt – I am the planner. Some might even say I verge on control freakery… My partner’s phone is awash with my texts and emails, making helpful suggestions about dates and times he might like to do things. (I know, he’s a lucky guy.) So while I’m all for women proposing to their men-folk, I decided that when it came to our nuptials, I would stop scheming and diary double-checking, and leave him to his own devices for once.

So it was that, unbeknownst to me, he began planning his proposal months before my 30th birthday last summer. The thought of him spending hours on Google researching the perfect day makes me melt a little, although it wasn’t without significant stress. He decided to pop the question in one of my favourite places in the world (as strange as it sounds!) – the sloth rainforest enclosure at London Zoo. I’ve always been mad about animals, especially stoic, loon-faced sloths, and ZSL’s Clore Rainforest exhibit is particularly good for several reasons. Firstly it’s deliciously warm, making it a perfect habitat for those of us with no circulation; secondly it feels almost like being in an actual rainforest, as they’ve combined several species in one space; thirdly once a tiny monkey tried to climb into my handbag. (I didn’t get to keep him).

Ross’s dream was to take me to a quiet corner, ask the zookeeper to step away for a moment, drape a sloth around his neck (OK, maybe not that bit) and drop to one knee on the forest floor. However, like all of the best laid plans, it wasn’t to be.

Whether you’re the proposer or the proposee - don’t sweat the details

Despite repeated emails explaining his plans (and even offering to buy all the slots up for the ‘meet the animals’ experience) the zoo wasn’t terribly helpful, and sold the remainder of the tickets to a small boy’s birthday party. Not the hopelessly romantic setting he’d planned then. Oblivious, I was happy as Larry feeding tamarins with the birthday boy and watching an armadillo scurry around our feet. But I think the sloths knew things had gone awry – they refused to come down and see us.

It’s testament to my husband-to-be’s character that he was as cool as a cucumber, even in the tropical rainforest. We had a wander around the zoo, and he whisked me away for dinner at the OXO tower without breaking a sweat – although no doubt he was running through numerous back-up plans by this stage. It’s a wonder he was able to hold a conversation, without darting up from the table to hunt out deserted corners (we’re not big on making a scene, so it was never going to be in front of a room full of diners.)

Anyway, after a lovely meal, and giddy on Champagne and evening sunshine, we took a stroll along the South Bank, past a quiet jetty… And he seized his chance. After a shell-shocked moment, with ring firmly on finger, we watched the light changing across the surface of the Thames and knew everything had changed.

So basically what I’m trying to say is – whether you’re the proposer or the proposee – don’t sweat the details. Yes, a perfectly planned knee-drop is lovely, but not if freaking out about it ruins your evening/day/holiday/life. My fiance’s ability to stay calm under pressure, and put my enjoyment above all else, made me appreciate him more than ever. When things didn’t go to plan, he was able to roll with the romantic punches and come up with a speedy solution – if that’s not appealing in a life partner, I don’t know what is. And our private moment was everything I’d ever wanted.

Plus I think it’s given him a sense of how stressful it is to be ‘the planner’ – our wedding will be a 50/50 affair. Ok, maybe 60/40, I am a control freak after all.

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