Burning Question: Why Do People Propose in Public?

Piper Weiss, Shine Staff
Love + Sex

It's one of the most widely asked questions on search engines this year. The collision of elaborate question-popping and social broadcasting has made the process of getting engaged more crowded than ever. As of 2010, 43 percent of brides said I do in public, many of them on YouTube, according one study. So what compels someone to organize a flash mob or live-tweet pending plans to thousands?

It's practically in our cultural DNA, according to Slate's Elizabeth Weingarten. She dates the public proposal back to 12th century France, when priests broke the news at church on behalf of each engaged couple. In Colonial America, couples hung proclamations of marriage outside town hall.

It's only natural that as our communities expanded through multi-media, so did our staging of the big question, and perhaps our desire to share the best and worst examples with each other.

But according wedding planner Siobhan Craven-Robins the public proposal is a result of a more modern phenomenon: the super-sizing of weddings in general.

"The increased level of expectation that surrounds weddings these days has led to people feeling that their proposal also has to be out of the ordinary," she tells BBC News. Fueled by the Prince Charming fantasy, the dress, the cake, the reception and even the proposal is expected to have a fairy-tale quality unmatched in every day life. As divorce rates have spiked, so have bridal expectations. Perhaps the high stakes of a JumboTron or the enormous effort of designing a movie trailer proposal is a way of saying I'm in to win it. The more unlikely the proposal scenario, the better the chance for happily ever after, or so it seems at the moment.

For those popping the question, there may be a practical aspect to the decision. "It's possible that some men think that this will pile pressure upon her and increase the likelihood of getting a positive response," suggests Psychologist Glenn Wilson. "She must think that he really loves her if he goes to this extent of trouble and trickery."

Nothing says 'I love you' like 5 million 'likes' and an interview on Good Morning America.

More Burning Questions:
Why don't men wear engagement rings?
Why do women date jerks?
What does a contraction feel like?