Proposals are supposed to be the kind of romantic whirlwind, men want to be creative enough to make it a memorable one and go down on one knee but why do guys kneel to propose? Why go through all that trouble just to say “be my wife”?
What does it mean?
What does it symbolize?
If you stop to think about modern marriage proposals in the Western world for more than two seconds, you can come to the conclusion that they’re bizarre.
What might seem to be cool and romantic might just be unnecessary and weird but for thought process, let’s go back to when and how it started.
There is no clear history to kneeling proposal as there was nothing about it in the bible but it dates back to medieval times (knighthood) and European history. Kneeling in European history has been a sign of supplication, humility, and servitude.
During the knighthood era, Knights would get down on one knee in front of their lord as a display of respect, obedience, loyalty, to receive honors and surrendering armies kneeled before their conquerors. Gradually this was infused into marriage proposals because when a courteous gentlemen was proposing to his lady, pledging his allegiance to her and declaring his undying love for her, getting down on one knee was the natural thing to do, Kneeling to the woman you’re going to marry to be a part of the same thing: a request for her favor and a physical demonstration of loyalty and surrender.
Another possible origin of the modern kneeling ideal is in the Middle Ages tradition of courtly love, in which a man of good birth essentially devotes himself to a noblewoman he perceived as superior. The entire principle of this popular attitude was that the man was a kind of servant to the woman, whom he idealized beyond all reality; and he performed his servitude by kneeling, spiritually and figuratively. Kneeling represented feudal surrender and admiration.
So there you have it: if your partner goes to the lengths of getting down on one knee to ask for your hand in marriage, what they’re really trying to say is that they plan to be loyal, respectful, and do to what you say for the rest of time (that’s the obedience bit). This doesn’t automatically mean you’re handing your life or authority and manhood to her
This seem to have emerged as the fashion at some point and stuck around indefinitely, for reasons nobody can quite pinpoint.
But if you think about it, it’s actually kind of odd; the getting down on one knee bit. I wonder how it was done before the knighthood and medieval times.
How was proposal done traditionally here in Nigeria, a patriarchal state where Men would rather die than kneel before a woman?
How did our grandparents and ancestors propose or get to marry?
Among the Urhobo of Midwestern Nigeria, Otite noted that marriage proposals were executed in forms of betrothal from an early age; sometimes while the mother was still pregnant, with hope that a female child would be birth. This was usually a decision by the father of the man involved and the request was made to the family of the woman; based either on interest in the character of members of the family or long standing relationships between the families. The decision to accept or reject this proposal was made by the girl’s parent.
Similar accounts of betrothal and marriage proposals have been recorded among the Igbo in Eastern Nigeria (D. J. Smith 2001) and the Yoruba in Southwestern Nigeria (Salami 2005). While individual choice gradually became recognized over the years, great deference was still given to kinship ties (Adomsky 1991:203) and marriage proposals were made directly to the father of the girl by the suitor, who was sometimes accompanied by his relatives (Otite 1971:128).
Although parental consent is still sought in most parts of Nigeria today and families still conduct informal background check on the family of a suitor, these happen as part of traditional marriage rites which occur after a man has personally proposed marriage to the woman of his choice.
Basically, proposals were done formally by seeking marriage consent first from the parents, in form of betrothal from an early age till a marriageable age or asking her hand in marriage (of course without the kneeling part) after which she introduces you to the family.
In a society that is as patriarchal as Nigeria, the kneeling element of proposal is definitely a question mark as said by Pete Edochie “it makes you a fool and relinquishing your authority to the woman” as men are socialized and trained to not kneel when they come into the presence of another. They are expected to prostrate as a sign of respect to the elders while women are expected to kneel as a sign of respect.
It’s even surprising that as patriarchal as Nigeria is, most men adopted the kneeling act during proposal
According to traditional men, prostrating to the family elder is most acceptable because they earned it by raising and grooming her is African but it is actually taboo for a man to kneel down for anybody talk less of a women. Right?
A virtuous woman is supposed to do the kneeling for her husband and elders, while a cultured man prostrates before his elders (male or female); not his wife.
According to Pete Edochie, Nigeria’s legendary actor, kneeling while proposing isn’t a traditional but white man’s and should be shopped or not be adopted into our culture.
Getting pastoral consent before proposing marriage to a woman or seeing a vision from God (will of God) to determine who your wife, being friends with her and seeking pastoral consent then from the parents.
As earlier noted, marriage proposals in Nigeria now bear semblance to that which was earlier described as the European way. Whether you’re kneeling, doing it the traditionally way or going to your pastor, it doesn’t have anything to do with the outcome of the marriage. Your self-respect is still intact, your authority is still intact, ‘manhood’ still there and every other thing.
But kneeling has been a sign of supplication, humility, and servitude as opposed “you’re handing her your power”.