Meet the women who took the leap to propose on February 29

February 29 only comes around once every four years and traditionally it is the one day women can ask for their loved one’s hand. Remarkably, even now, very few women take the leap to propose to their partners. Deirdre Reynolds met two of them.
Meet the women who took the leap to propose on February 29

After three loved-up years together, wedding photographer Carrie Davenport couldn’t wait until this leap year to propose to her boyfriend Dee McAdams — so she popped the question on New Year’s Eve instead.

Following a fancy dinner in Michelin-starred restaurant Ox, the couple returned home to ring in the New Year, where romantic Carrie presented her other half, a music promoter, with a specially-pressed vinyl record.

On one side, their favourite song; on the other, a recording of the 35-year-old from Belfast asking the big question.

“A lot of people, including Dee’s parents had made jokes about 2016 being a leap year,” says Carrie of “Eventually I got to thinking, ‘Well, it won’t be a surprise if I wait until February 29, so I’m going to get in early!’

“When the night came, it took a while for him to realise what was happening. Thankfully, once the shock wore off, he said ‘Yes’ — and how happy he looked totally dispelled all my worries about being the one who asked! Afterwards, everyone was so excited it was amazing,” she continues. “We had a few days of celebrating followed by a family holiday, so it really was the perfect start to the year.” Today’s the day when women around the world traditionally get down on bended knee.

Coming around once every four years, it’s thought to based on an ancient feminist deal struck between St Brigid and St Patrick.

When it comes to affairs of the heart, pre-marriage counsellor David Kavanagh reckons it’s good to flip the script occasionally. “Onlookers can read too much into the engagement,” says the author of Love Rewired: Using Your Brain to Mend Your Heart: “When a woman arrives to work with a ring on her finger, the first thing she’s usually asked is, ‘How did he propose?’ If she turns around and says she proposed to her partner over tea and toast, the response can be less than enthusiastic.

“Irrespective of who proposes to whom, getting engaged is a symbolic cementing of what is already there. At an unconscious level, it gives couples the chance to test the idea of marriage. Before a couple gets engaged, nobody is saying to them, ‘congratulations, you’re getting married!’,” he explains. “So the proposal becomes a way of testing whether they feel comfortable with the idea of marriage, and that can be a positive thing or it can be a negative thing.”

Just do it

Twelve years after leaping at the opportunity to pop the question, Limerick woman Emer Sexton and her husband Colin Hayes couldn’t be happier.

Marrying was on the cards so Emer Sexton took the initiative, proposing to Colin Hayes. Picture: David Keane
Marrying was on the cards so Emer Sexton took the initiative, proposing to Colin Hayes. Picture: David Keane

“We had been together for ten years, so getting married was on the cards anyway,” recalls the mum-of-two. “When I realised we were coming up to a leap year, I just decided that I would ask if he hadn’t asked before then, and he didn’t.”

Sneaking a bottle of Champagne and two glasses onto a completed balcony of the home they were building together, the planning and ecological consultant thereafter followed in the brave footsteps of Zsa Zsa Gabor, who claimed to have proposed to all nine of her husbands.

“Funnily enough, that morning he turned to me and said, ‘Are we getting married or what?’” she laughs. “I said ‘Don’t be ridiculous’ to put him off because I had the whole thing planned.

“I’m sure some people would have been a bit horrified that I had done myself out of some sort of occasion. But I was never the kind of person that wanted the big engagement, so it was fine for me to do it, and Colin was just delighted that it was done!

“If anyone has it in their mind to do [it], they should,” says Emer. “They’ll always be one of the few women who did propose because there aren’t many of us out there.”

Singer Pink, who’s married to motocross star Carey Hart, and actress Jennifer Hudson, who’s engaged to former wrestler David Otunga, are just two of the celebs who also took the plunge.

Jennifer Hudson
Jennifer Hudson

Here, No 25 Fitzwilliam Place in Dublin was among the businesses offering women the chance to do it in style with special leap year competitions.

“The entries have been quite romantic,” says wedding planner Denise Bevan of the Dublin venue: “One woman wrote in to tell us that she had been wanting to propose to her partner for quite a while, but hasn’t had the courage to do so. She’s determined to use this leap day as an opportunity to pop the question.”

Bride-to-be Carrie Davenport didn’t just get in before the extra day this month, she pipped her fiancé to the post too, and, yes, she got a rock.

“Later, Dee confessed he had planned to propose on a trip he had booked in April, so I guess I beat him to it, though I knew it was something we both wanted anyway,” she says.

“At the end of the day, if you decide to propose, you do it for exactly the same reasons your partner would — you love them and want to spend the rest of your lives together.

“Being the one who asked, I really didn’t expect a ring,” adds Carrie, who had presented her future husband with cufflinks to wear on their big day, “but I do love having something that reminds me of the big moment every day.

“Some friends seemed to think I missed out by not having the big surprise, but honestly, if I could do it again, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

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