I saw the above title on Historic UK  it well it seemed rather appropriate for this post!

Wednesday, 29th February 2012 is leap year day when, by ancient tradition, women can propose to men. But how did it all start? What is the folk lore and traditions? I’ve done some trailing and this is what I have found……………


Well no one seems to know for sure, there are a variety of opinions.

According to wikipedia  a 1288 law by Queen Margaret of Scotland (then age five and living in Norway), required that fines be levied if a marriage proposal was refused by the man; compensation ranged from a kiss to £1 to a silk gown, in order to soften the blow.[9] In some places the tradition was tightened to restricting female proposals to the modern leap day, February 29, or to the medieval (bissextile) leap day, February 24

BUT according to others, the leap year proposal can be traced to St. Patrick in the early 5th century when St. Bridget, head of a nunnery, went to St. Patrick, then the bishop of Ireland, for help insisting women should have the right to proposal to suitable suitors. St. Patrick was sympathetic and understanding and decreed that women be permitted to do the proposing one year out of four. This new “open season on bachelors” soon began to take place during Leap Year, another quadrennial event, and so it has been since. Supposedly Bridget then proceeded to ask St. Patrick the big question herself. He gently refused, and to soothe her hurt feelings, gave her a kiss and a silk gown. Henceforth, men would be obliged to make some sort of payment for refusing a woman’s offer.

OR is it simply that the 29th February had no recognition in English law thus a break in tradition was acceptable on this one day only

Whatever the origin of this tradition it remains today


During the Middle Ages, if a woman intended to propose to a man, she had to give him some warning. She was required by law to let a red petticoat show beneath her dress.

If any man said NO he would have to buy his loved one a new silk dress!

Keep an eye out next week for my modern day proposal ideas for leap year 2012




Antique Trader

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1 Comment

  1. Claire - English Wedding blog on 31st January 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Excellent article, brilliantly researched!

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