WHY I TOOK A LEAP AND PROPOSED

There’s nothing wrong with making your own magic happen. For me that was a Barbados beach wedding.

I’ve always been a big believer in seizing the day. Life can be disappointing if you sit around dreaming of what you want but don’t do anything about it. You can’t expect things to inexplicably turn out exactly the way you want them to, because they probably won’t – and life’s too short for that. So you give them a nudge – or even a great big shove.

People are often surprised that I proposed to my longterm partner. “Wouldn’t you rather he asked you?” they say. And ‘Why bother getting married after so many years together?”. Well I had my reasons, both personal and practical. Most of all I wanted us to make a statement to the world.

By this point we’d been together for 14 years and had two children under ten. Having got through the toddler years with our relationship miraculously intact, it was clear this love was real. We’d discussed marriage and the fact that we’d probably get round to it one day, but had no clear date in sight – this had never bothered me. One day we’d go and get hitched on the beach we said, no fuss, just our boys and an amazing holiday somewhere exotic. One day.

But hitting my mid-40s I decided I wanted to get round to it soon. A few years earlier I’d been through redundancy and for a while had got a bit lost. The gradual process of restoring my confidence had left me with a desire to do something really special with my family, something that felt like I’d got my life back. Heck I just wanted to prance around on a beach in a Vivienne Westwood dress. It was time.

On February 29th 2008 it suddenly occurred to me that I had an opportunity to let him know. I texted our friends, a couple who know us both very well and asked ‘Shall I propose or is that a mad idea?”. Not a mad idea at all, they said. Later that night, when my beloved got home from a stag do, suitably squiffy, I handed him a card with a picture of a beach on the front and inside was a huge question mark. He stared at it, looked a bit confused and then twigged what it meant and started laughing. “Yeah OK…” he grinned and I reached under the sofa for the box with a ring in it that I’d hidden there, handed it to him and said ‘Well go on then!”. So actually he proposed, giggling drunkenly – but OK, I’d pretty much ambushed the poor man.

And I’m so glad I did. We had our Barbados dream holiday, staying in an old colonial-style house with only a garden gate to separate us from the beach. Apart from a few palm trees there was nothing but white sand and a few rocks at either end. Out of season, it was pretty much deserted. The magistrate booked, we’d lie together in the hammock strung across the rafters watching the windsurfers and fishing boats and speculating about where exactly we’d do the deed. Would the tide be in or out at the appointed hour? We tried to imagine what it would feel like, what we’d say. There was one rocky promontory – ‘our rock’ – that was raised above the sand enough to stay dry even when the tide was in; we’d found our wedding venue.

The rocks by the villa were crawling with crabs that scuttled their way right up into our garden. We’d spend our days body boarding with the boys, snorkelling, swimming with turtles and delivering the wandering crabs back to their watery home. In the evenings we’d cook fresh red snapper, play card games and sip rum and coke in the hammock.

On the day we got married the sun shone and the beach sparkled as we stood on our rock with the boys at our sides and there, with the waves crashing behind us (and three of us in tears), exchanged our vows. It was all so natural. No gazebo, no wedding music, no bridesmaids – just the sea, my mum and my partner’s brother as witnesses and the four of us sharing as a family the moment we got married.  

Of course we had a huge party for family and friends when we got back. And then we got on with our lives – happy, utterly broke but with amazing unforgettable memories. Is it weird that I proposed? It’s actually pretty common. A third of unmarried women are considering making a leap year proposal, according to a recent study. Women are just good at getting on with it, aren’t we? Weddings and proposals aren’t for everyone, and the Leap Year tradition feels thoroughly antiquated in today’s world. But I guess when the 29th of Feb came around that year it helped put the idea in my head, emboldened me and ultimately triggered a very happy event. The other day an old friend said “Thank goodness you did – it needed to be done”. And she’s right. If I’d waited for mister to make this happen, I could be waiting still. And equally, if I’d waited for the right moment to co-launch an online platform called Audrey for amazing women, well you wouldn’t be reading this right now.

See what I’m driving at here? If you want magic to happen, sometimes you need to give it a shove – or take a brave but calculated leap.