When Love is in the Air–Then and Now

Pam Sig

Just before Christmas, my third daughter, Kristi, got engaged.  From the time she first met Sam, it was love at first sight.  Everyone knew marriage was on the horizon, and when Sam was awarded a 3-year full-ride fellowship to earn his PhD in the very specialized field of Rhetoric and Linguistics, we collectively held our breaths.   The mother in me knew that with Kristi in Nebraska and Sam in Virginia, it was only a matter of time before she followed him.


Understandably, their first semester (last fall) apart was hard, and though they talked constantly by phone and webcam, they missed each other terribly.  Sure enough, when he came home for Christmas break, Sam set the wheels in motion to make Kristi his wife. 

From the get-go, time was going to be tight.  They wanted to be married by August, before school started up again in Virginia.  Kristi wanted a Friday night July wedding at the beautiful church on the Creighton University campus (her alma mater), but on such short notice, the first availability was May 22nd.  Gulp!  Our diocese required a 6 month waiting period, and they were just under that.  And so on.  But they conquered the hurdles, and now we’re running full steam ahead with preparations.

The historical writer in me wondered how different weddings are nowadays, compared to the 1800’s. I pulled out my trusty, but oh-so-fragile copy of OUR MANNERS and SOCIAL CUSTOMS – A Practical Guide to Deportment, Easy Manners, and Social Etiquette to find out.  Published in 1892, I bought it for a song at an antique shop, and it’s one of my most prized reference books.

The Proposal

propose2The Courtship section of the guide shows the proposal comes first.  Which Sam did second.  But never mind; keep reading.

Following is an actual proposal the book’s author shares with her readers and attests to its authenticity for the time:

“Gentleman–‘Well, miss, the long and short of it is this: Here I am; you can take me or leave me.’

Lady–scratching shyly in the sand with her parasol. ‘Of course, I know that’s all nonsense.’

Gentleman–‘Nonsense! By Jove!  It isn’t nonsense at all!  Come, Jane, here I am; come, at any rate, you can say something.’

Lady – ‘Yes, I suppose I can say something.’

Gentlemen–‘Well, which is it to be–take me or leave me?”

Lady–(very slowly)–‘Well, I don’t exactly want to leave you.’

The poor guy really had to work for that rather blase answer, didn’t he?  She was probably being demure like a well-bred lady should, but let’s hope she at least sealed the proposal with a kiss, eh?

Of course, I can’t attest to how Sam worded his proposal, but I do know he tried to be creative about it.  He baked a batch of sugar cookies and propose1wrote “Will you marry me?” in frosting, a letter on each cookie.  Alas, while waiting for Kristi to come home from work, one of her cats jumped up onto the counter and licked the frosting off.  The entire batch had to be thrown in the trash.

Sigh . . . not being a cat lover, I found this really annoying, but I’m told when the moment arrived, Sam got down on bended knee and proposed, then slid a beautiful diamond ring on her finger.  And it doesn’t get any better than that, eh?

Consulting Her Parents

“The proposal over and the lady’s acceptance secured, the next thing is to “see papa” . . . You may not be very coherent, and possibly, you will be quite ridiculous, viewed from the strictly critical standpoint; but never mind, the old folks will understand and make all necessary allowances.”

My book lists this as the second step, but Sam considered this the first one.  It was the Monday before Christmas, 9:00 pm on a frigid cold night.  Doug and I (aka ‘the old folks’) couldn’t figure out who would be ringing our doorbell at such a time, but as soon as I saw Sam standing there, I knew.  I also knew how much courage it took to come to us and ask permission to marry her.  It was wonderfully old-fashioned, beautifully romantic, and showed so much respect for us, and so much love for her.  I will forever admire him for the gesture. 

After hugs and blessings, he went home, and Kristi was none the wiser.  He proposed the next day–after baking cookies.

The Engagement Ring

Wringhen the engagement has been duly made and ratified, it is customary for the young man to seal the compact by some present to his affianced.  A ring is the usual form of the gift . . . among the wealthy, the preference is for diamonds, and either a solitaire or a cluster ring may be chosen.  But the ring may be set with any other stone–the diamond is not essential–or it may be a family heirloom.  The engagement ring should be worn upon the ring finger of the right hand.

Kristi did indeed get a diamond ring–with lots of sparkle.  One big difference from the etiquette of old–the engagement ring is worn on the left hand.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll continue on with Part II – The Wedding, Then and Now.


With Valentine’s Day next week, love truly is in the air.  Let’s talk engagements!  Share how yours came about.  Was it traditional and old-fashioned?  Or something more unique?  Did you follow the rules of 1892 etiquette?

As for me, Doug proposed while we sat in his car in a park.  Soon after, he and I both went to my dad to ask for my hand, and it was traumatizing for all 3 of us, but probably most for my dad.  I suspect he didn’t think anyone was good enough for his little girl.  Ah, well.  Thirty-four years and four daughters later, we’re still married.  After all that, then I got my engagement ring!

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Pam has written 30 romances, most of them historical westerns, but her newest releases are contemporary sweet romances featuring the Blackstone Ranch series published by Tule Publishing. Stay up on the latest at www.pamcrooks.com

40 thoughts on “When Love is in the Air–Then and Now”

  1. Awww…Pam this is just delightful. Congratulations to the darling couple and to you. Sounds like you’ll be having a hectic but happy spring. Glad you finished the novella.

    p.s. For what it’s worth I have blocked the memory of my engagement but looking forward to some great stories here.

  2. Kristi and Sam will remember and laugh over their cat story for a long, long time! Sounds to me like kitty was jealous! 😉

    My proposal came in the form of a card, with the requisite ‘will you marry me’ written on the inside. When I said yes (ah, the fool I was then) he said, ‘good, otherwise you wouldn’t get this.’ and handed me a stuffed unicorn. Still have the unicorn–not the husband. 🙂

    We got the ring before we told much of anybody–mostly because no one would have believed the engagement if we hadn’t.

  3. Pam what a great thing to happen to your daughter and you and hubby that is so neat and he sounds like he will be a wonderful husband for her. I know it will be busy with all going on but you will have a blast.
    My hubby proposed to me when I was 17 at Pizza on 132nd & Center which is not there anymore (cry) and we had been shopping at the service merchandise a little ealier I had went to the bathroom and I guess he bought me a ring. I had no clue thought we were just going to dinner. As we sat there he said I have something important to tell you ( I thought on no he doesn’t want to be with me anymore) and then he got down and I thought he dropped something and he asked me to marry him. Of course I said yes we will be married 25 years in March and I love him more everyday. It takes a lot to put up with me. LOL

  4. Pam, I’ve done two weddings, welcome to madness. 🙂 I know, you’ve done them too. What a sweet proposal. Even the cat-wrecked cookies give it a nice twist. A great story to tell.

    These days a romantic setting and huge effort to set it up is almost REQUIRED for engagements.

    My first to be married daughter had rose petals sprinkled on the floor, leading in a trail to a table with candles and champagne and her fiance, who knelt and proposed. He did NOT ask ‘DAD’ for permission. His reason: “I figured I’d just spare myself and Ivan (my husband) an awkward moment.”

    Nice, funny, sweet, smart man. And they’d been dating about five years, all though college, so this was no shock.

    My second daughter was proposed to while they were on skis, on a mountainside in Utah. They were skiing along and he asked that they take a break, so they pulled over and out of the snowsuit, here comes the ring.
    Everytime I think of it, I picture the ring being dropped in the snow, but it didn’t happen so that’s okay.
    These two hadn’t been dating that long, but they were older. He was going to come to our house and ask permission but he couldn’t tell my daughter that or she’d know and frankly, he had no idea where we lived….in the back of beyond, twisting gravel roads, almost impossible.
    So he phoned. My husband took the call and when the fiance asked permission??? My husband’s reaction???

    Who is this again????
    And his (my husband’s) answer?
    Well, if it’s okay with my daughter, it’s okay with me.

    Okay, we can’t all be poets.

  5. What a charming post. Great excerpts from the book (I covet it), and I think I’m in love with your your daughter’s husband-to-be as well.

  6. Brenda! I loved your proposal story!! Only 17, but many of us were that young back then, weren’t we? I was not yet 19, and got married just shy of my 20th birthday.

    We weren’t living in Omaha yet 25 years ago, but close. Was the pizza place Zio’s? And I remember Service Mdse! Wow–a name from the past!

    It sounds like your hubby really pulled off his surprise for you. Too funny how you thought he dropped something when he went down on bended knee. I love it!

  7. WandaSue, thank you for your kind wishes! I appreciate them so much.

    Mary, you had me chuckling about the snow and Ivan not recognizing the name of his future son-in-law. I can see Doug getting all flustered and forgetting, too!

    But those rose petals were very romantic, leading up to candles and champagne. sigh . . . what a beautiful image they make!

    Kristi and Sam went out to Newmann’s for noodles–their favorite restaurant–after their proposal. Noodles? Not champagne? Ah, well.

  8. Good morning, Pat! Everyone loves Sam–Kristi is so blessed to have him in her life. And vice-versa! Thank you for stopping by!

    Thank you, Cheryl! My family is growing and growing. Good thing we put in that new kitchen, eh? 🙂

  9. I didn’t tell my own proposal story.

    Well, no great shock. We’d been talking marriage for … six months … might have even decided a date. I graduated from college mid-december so we’d be married in January.

    We went shopping for the ring together, so see, no surprise. But I told him I wanted him to propose, not just hand the ring over after we’d picked it out in the jewelry store.

    We were 20-years-old, sitting in the car in my parents’ driveway and he asked me and (shocker) I said YES.
    Then, because my older sister, the first one of us eight kids to get married, had her fiance ask for her hand from my parents, I asked my husband-to-be if he wanted to do that, ask my father’s (Jack) permission.

    My husband said, “Nah, Jack’ll let me marry you.”

    And you know, what with us dating for FOUR YEARS, I figured he was right.

    We were engaged from Thanksgiving to January 29th, our wedding day, so about two months. Planned a very nice wedding, white dress, flowers, engraved invitaions, in that time. No sweat.
    It didn’t used to be so hard to get married, did it? None of this year or two engagement stuff.

  10. I’ve never met Ivan, Mary, but he sounds ver-ry laid back. 🙂 Pulling off a wedding in two months? Yikes! Did your mom have panic attacks? And here I thought five months was fast!

    Doug and I bought our engagement/wedding set together, so no surprise for me, either. My motives were purely selfish–I didn’t trust him to pick out a ring I would wear on my finger for forever . . .

    Pam, the control freak

  11. My first husband and I eloped. Maybe it was to avoid all those sticky moments, I don’t know. I do know my parents were quite set in the belief that I didn’t need to get married. They wanted me to stay at home forever and probably be an old maid. I had other ideas though. So Johnny and I eloped and told my parents about it afterward. I never had an engagement ring. And we bought the wedding ring about an hour before the ceremony.

    My second wedding was in front of the Justice of the Peace. My dad had already passed away so there was no one to ask for my hand. Again, I didn’t have an engagement ring. It all happened so suddenly. He proposed; I said yes; and the next week we were married. Not very romantic I’ll agree. Just very factual. My husband was never one to waste words or show affection in public. But he was the light of my life and shared my heart.

    Good luck on your daughter’s wedding. Sounds like she got a winner in Sam!

  12. Congratulations on your daughter’s upcoming wedding. As a mother who has gone through planning a wedding all I can say is just take deep breaths and keep smiling. I am sure everything will go very smoothly.
    As for my proposal, my husband was in the service and he gave me his school picture. On the back he wrote “I will tell you in 3 months”. I didn’t really have a clue what that meant. 3 months later we were parked at Point Definace in Tacoma when he asked me to marry him. That was 44 years ago.

  13. Pam the pizza place was Pizza Hut I still wished it was there. So we could go back there this year. Every year after that we celebrated at Mr C’s which is now gone and I am not sure what to do. On our tenth anniversary we had one whole room to us for our celebration just the two of us. It was nice a violin player and limo the works not sure what is in store for this big one. We teased that last year we were going to have dinner catered into the parking lot of Mr C’s and eat our candle lite dinner. LOL

  14. Congratulations to your daughter and your family. She will be getting married on my anniversary and since we’ve been married over 20 years it must be good luck.

  15. It wasn’t even hard. Invitations took a couple of weeks. I ordered them from the local newspaper in Wayne Nebraska where I was going to college. Just picked the cheapest (a theme begins to develop) a friend’s mom made the cake.

    I wore my older sister’s wedding dress, she altered it slightly for me but not much. She got married six months before me.

    I bought a mountain of fabric…I wanted red velvet for the winter/almost Valentine’s Day wedding but they only had enough fabric for three bridesmaids in dark blue so we had that. Blue velvet, very beautiful. Bought three patterns and dispensed them to two sisters and a best friend.

    No dance.
    Reception in the church social hall. Cake, punch, coffee, nuts, mints. That’s it. We didn’t even give our poor guests a sandwich.

    We had a professional photographer but he wasn’t doin’ nuthin’ that day.

    We had a florist, one meeting with our minister. It all went very well. It was a beautiful wedding.

    Wedding at 2, we were on the road to the honeymoon by 4.

    The whole wedding cost $400, including the pictures. We were both twenty. Now the thought of a twenty year old getting married is chilling, guaranteed disaster…except when it’s not, of course.

  16. *liz, your comment got hung up in spam, darn it. I’m glad you stopped by, even if I found you a little late!

    I find it remarkable that you still have the unicorn. It must represent the love you once had for your husband, eh? And, oh, isn’t hindsight 20/20?

  17. Linda, I had no idea you were married twice! Since you are one of the most down-to-earth practical people I know, your quickie weddings reveal that all the fluff doesn’t matter. Only the marriage counts. And there’s nothing wrong with that. You built a wonderful married life with your hubby–that’s what counts most of all.


  18. Judy, thank you for sharing your proposal story with us. Would you believe I was at Point Defiance, too? My brother was stationed in Tacoma about 5 years ago. Romantic country out there with all that beautiful scenery!

    And congrats on 44 years of marriage!

  19. Brenda–PIZZA HUT! That’s right–I remember now. I was thinking of Baker’s Square across the street.

    I’ve been to that Pizza Hut many times myself! Bummer that it’s gone for you since it obviously holds such fond memories for you. 🙁

  20. Maureen, what a coincidence on your and Kristi’s wedding days being the same!

    Would you believe in my Social Customs book, May is the worst month of the year to get married? Go figure, but be sure to come back to Wildflower Junction in a couple of weeks to learn more!

  21. Oh, Mary–your wedding story is amazing!!!

    But you know, you and I are close to the same age, and I do indeed remember weddings where only cake and punch was served. At showers, too. Way back when, folks were more practical and far less inclined to be swept away by the whole affair.

    Now, with both of my daughters, and soon Kristi’s, wedding activities will consume 3 solid days of food, family and EVENTS.

    Weddings are big business these days, aren’t they? BIG business!

  22. Pam,
    Oh, I’ve been married for 35 years this May. I barely remember the proposal. We were so young and we went to dinner at the same beautiful restaurant where we ended up getting married. Since we’d discussed it, I wasn’t surprised or anything. But I got the ring of my heart and more importantly, a really good man.

    My son’s engagement just a few weeks ago was very romantic with candles everywhere, champagne, dinner at the house and her favorite flowers. He really outdid himself. I was very impressed. I almost feel sorry for guys these days, they are hard-pressed to come up with something original and exciting for their proposals. My son asked us a few times, how he should do it. He wanted to make it so special. 🙂

  23. I just attended a wedding where the party, AFTER the wedding reception, at the bride’s home was CATERED. This at 2 a.m.
    Of course the gift opening was catered too, the next day. We had to RSVP.
    Don’t ever think there aren’t more ways to make it even harder work and more expensive.
    An acquaintance had his daughter’s wedding in… oh some destination spot, the Bahamas maybe.
    So, okay, the point of those is yes, it’s expensive, but it’s SMALL right?
    Nope, they came home and a week or two or three later had a HUGE reception, just as big and bad as if they’d had the wedding here.

  24. Charlene, your son sounds like a doll! Doug would never think of candles, but is there anything else more romantic than when it’s paired with champagne?

    I know what you mean about keeping up with the status quo. It’s for mothers like us who love to talk about it. Hee!

    Congratulations, sister Filly. It will be very different being the groom’s mom than the bride’s, eh? Much less stressful and expensive!

  25. I hear Destination Weddings are the new trend, Mary . . . but yeesh, the cost! And you know, it’s a hardship for the guests, no matter how few, to have to come up with that kind of money to attend a wedding.

  26. Well, when they first started the destination wedding deal it was so it’d be tiny. Often just the bride and groom. Sometimes parents and siblings. But that’s all gone out the window now.

    My daughter attended a wedding of a then boyfriend’s sister.
    In a church, wedding dress, TWELVE PEOPLE were invited. The couple getting married, my daughter and her boyfriend, who was the best man.

    A bridesmaid for the sister and a date, two sets of parents. Maybe a couple of other siblings.

    That was it. The father of the bride took everyone out to a restaurant afterward for the reception.

    My daughter said it was very nice. Just lovely really, intimate and she could hear the vows and hear the couple who seemed to be actually making promises to each other.

    Everyone could THINK instead of PERFORM.

  27. Pam, what lovely stories! The romantic in me loved them. 🙂 Congratulations on your daughter’s engagement! And I wish them all the best!

    I had no idea you were celebrating over the holidays–must have been very touching. As for my own engagement, it had happened on the first of January. I had just finished a 12 hr night shift at the hospital after having worked NY’s eve. He picked me up at 7:30 am, fed me breakfast and popped the question as I was nodding off. It might not sound romantic, but it was! Of course, I couldn’t sleep then at all. So Jan 1st is always special to us. Thanks for reminding me!

  28. I was just thinking how we women love talking about this stuff. Nothing can top this topic, except if you ask any of us what our labor and deliveries were like. Then you can’t shut us up, either! LOL

  29. Mary,

    As I was detailing all of Kristi’s plans to a friend recently, she reminded me of how a wedding is all about the CEREMONY.

    I truly needed the reminder. Not the reception, or the dress, or the rehearsal dinner, or the gazillion other details that make up the wedding, it’s the CEREMONY.

    Boy, she was so right!

  30. Hi, Kate,

    You’ve given us more proof that less is more for many of us. Sixteen people–wow!

    January 1st is special at our house, too. It’s Doug’s birthday–he was born 15 seconds after midnight (his poor mother was ready to deliver at 11:30 pm but the docs made her wait because there was no other babies imminent.)

    Anyway, he won all the prizes for being the first baby born in the New Year.

  31. Kate–loved your comment about what women love to talk about. We’ve become such good friends here on Petticoats and Pistols, haven’t we?

    All that’s missing is the kitchen table, but it’s easy to imagine all of us sitting around talking around one. 🙂

  32. My husband and I had a date to go to my sister’s for supper and he was late so I left without. When he finally arrived at my house he asked my father for my hand in marriage and then met me at my sister’s to propose. It was a great surprise we had only know each other 3 months (been married 21 years).
    My husband’s grandmother married us in his parents home.

  33. Boo, I’m just getting into the discussion toNIGHT. I’ve been sick in bed most of the day.

    What a wonderful post, Pam.

    We’re in wedding mode around here as well, August 8 is The Big Day. Scott (future SIL) took hubby to an Angel division playoff game in OCTOBER to ask for her hand…but didn’t propose until Thanksgiving weekend. He took her to a gorgeous B and B in Santa Ynez wine country, very romantic. So I had to keep it a Secret for seven weeks. (Although I did tell Charlene LOL.)

    Our wedding was 35 years ago this summer…I recently dragged out the photo album for a coffee-table book. We are still recognizable 🙂 My dad did not make him ask for my hand; he said he hated having to ask my grandfather. So he lucked out.

  34. Sherry, thank you for sharing. How interesting that your hubby’s grandmother married you! A female minister must have been rather uncommon back then, eh?

    Three months and then a proposal . . . amazing! But you two called the cards right, eh?

  35. Hugs, Tanya! I hope you’re feeling better by now–bummer about having to be sick in bed. 🙁 Hopefully you got some reading done!

    It’s incredible Scott kept from proposing for 7 weeks! Was it nerves? Or maybe some significance for Thanksgiving? But that 7 weeks must have been agony for you! I don’t know how you kept the secret.

    And you’ve been married only a year longer than Doug and I–we’re all ‘old folks’, eh? Hee!

    Great to hear from you, dear.

  36. My poor Honey asked me several times before I
    finally agreed! Why? I was five years older and,
    back in those days, it was OK if he was older but
    not if she was! Also I’m Hispanic and “Society”
    frowned on mixed marriages! I was concerned about
    problems in the future because of the differences.
    When I accepted, we went to my Dad together. He, too, had concerns about the ages but finally did give us his blessings as did Mother. We selected a date but it was during Lent. So we finally married on April 8, 1961, on the first
    Saturday after Easter. Our next anniversary is
    the 48th!

    Pat Cochran

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