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I have a friend that got engaged yesterday. How he got engaged is a really good story (you can read the blog post his fiancée read here and see the video of the proposal here). He wrote a blog post detailing their relationship, and on the second page was “Will You Marry Me?” with a picture of the ring.

Throughout all of the interviews and informal conversations I’ve had with people about marriage, the question of how people got engaged often comes up. It’s usually a really good story, whether good, bad, or simply unexpected. In a society that cultivates Bridezillas for commercial profit, this is the beginning of the “all about me” bride centered extravaganza: a man is plotting and planning how to propose to you, how to keep you off his trail, enlisting help. After all, you have to have a wonderful ring to show off on facebook, proposal pictures and/or video, and a wonderful story to tell.

One day not too long ago, Mr. Perfect was talking about his own views on getting engaged. He told me that he may just go to the bathroom and come back with a ring and propose one day. My  first thought (the same thought I always have when anyone talks about going to the bathroom) is that I hoped he washed his hands (I know he does; it’s a quirk. I’m very conscientious about hand cleanliness). My second thought is “oh great! Now every time he goes to the bathroom I’m going to be looking for a ring.” My third thought is “what kind of story is that? I wouldn’t want to tell people he proposed on his way back from the bathroom!”

After all of my talk about my proposal essentials, even I (or especially) want a good story. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Hearing stories of string quartets playing, of having “will you marry me?” written in chocolate on your dessert plate at a fancy restaurant, of romantic sunset proposals on exotic islands are fun. Who doesn’t want to know that someone prepared themselves to ask you to marry them?

At the same time, in order for the marriage to work, you need more than a really good engagement story. Many of the couples I’ve spoken with don’t have elaborate engagement stories; some read more like contract negotiations. It would be nice to have an “aww” worthy story to share with friends and family, but the best story should be your relationship. It should be an example and encouragement to others. It should be a solid foundation to build one another up. It should be a relationship that draws you closer to God and makes you a better Christian and person. It should be worth all the thought, effort, and ingenuity put into asking and accepting the offer of being in a covenant relationship with someone.

I’ve read a lot of stories about wedding days gone wrong. There’s even a new TV show of wedding do overs for those whose plans went awry. Life doesn’t always go according to our plans, nor to our expectations. The most important part of the proposal should be the act of proposing itself, no matter how it’s done. The response should be to the question, not the ring or the setting.

I don’t know much about my friend’s relationship, but I wish him all the best in his engagement and eventual marriage. I’ve had other friends marry recently, and I wish them every happiness and a long and fruitful marriage. I’m an advocate of marriage and I respect anyone who makes a sincere commitment, an informed decision to endeavor to spend their life with another person. To me, that’s always a really good story.