Why is it Traditional for a Woman to Propose to a Man on a Leap Year?

Today is leap day also called ‘Bachelors Day’ by some, and historically it has become the traditional day in various countries for a woman to propose marriage to her partner should she decide to marry. Traditionally men are recognised as being the expected ones to ask the big question. Where did the tradition for women to propose on leap day start?

There are various different accounts of why and when this tradition started, with most attributing this four yearly custom to St Brigid. In Irish legends St Brigid struck up a deal with St Patrick who declared women were allowed to propose to men on a leap day only.

leap year
Will you be mine?

Should a man decline a woman’s proposal of marriage, he would be required to pay a penalty for his refusal. In upper class society the penalty was supposedly a new silk gown or twelve pairs of gloves. The gloves were to hide the woman’s hands to save her the embarrassment of not sporting a new engagement ring.

Thankfully times have changed and a woman’s hand devoid of an engagement ring is no longer considered to be a cause of embarrassment. Silk dresses aren’t as popular as they once were either. (I do have two silk dresses and many pairs of dress gloves, all purchased however by myself rather than declined marriage proposals).

Queen Victoria, who gave us many of the wedding traditions which are still followed now including the bride wearing a white dress proposed to Prince Albert. No one can propose to a reigning monarch, the monarch has to propose.

Regardless of if they are crowned royalty, or whatever the date is, women propose marriage all over the world, every day. Having to wait four years to arrange a ceremony with somebody you want to be with can be a long wait. If you love them, ask them regardless of what day of the year it is. As Harry said to Sally:


“When you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible”.

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