I’ve seen it in the movies before, the guy kneeling down in front of the girl, the girl crying, the “yes”, the triumphant hug, the piped-in music to welcome a new life together. The weeks leading up to my own proposal, I researched youtube videos. I saw how Zoren proposed to Carmina, and then got married literally after he proposed. I saw how this guy proposed in Binondo with a band playing Coldplay’s the Scientist in the background. There was also this Indonesian guy who proposed to his girl inside the plane.

But then not everything that glitters is gold. People do not see the internal struggle, the self-doubt, even the practice for a speech that will change your life.

At the side of the Sistine Chapel, there is a small room which has been traditionally called the Room of Tears. Every time a Pope is elected, it is in this room where he first goes–to dress in a fresh white cassock, to sign his papal name, and to kneel down and pray as the new Vicar of Christ on Earth. The story goes that the man–who was chosen just minutes before that, is so overwhelmed with both joy and fear and the feeling of unworthiness that he cannot help but cry. And then after the crying has stopped, the new Pope signs his new name in a log book where all the previous Popes have signed their names, and he takes off the Cardinal Red and wears the Papal White for the first time. It is at that moment that Bergoglio became Francis, Ratzinger became Benedict XVI, Wojtyla became John Paul II. And he comes out of the room a new man. Everything has changed.

To a limited, but analogical extent, that is what a person feels when someone asks her a question that will change the rest of her life–overwhelmed, her life flashing before her mind’s eye, questions of unworthiness and ‘can I do it?!!’ and ‘Am I ready?’ immediately suppressed by the feeling of ‘I can’t believe this is happening!!’. It’s a whirlwind of emotion (my fiance felt like she was hit by a bus) that we all have to respect and admire because it is part of this beautiful thing we call love and life.

This I compiled after going through the experience with my fiance, and after talking to other people. Here are the Rules of Engagement for Engagements:

1. The question of “Will you marry me?” or “Will you spend the rest of forever with me?” is life-changing. It is a culmination and formalization. It is not an out-of-the-blue invitation. But even if you’ve talked about marriage and being together in the past, once you kneel down and pop the question, it is still mind-boggling. So don’t make it doubly hard for the lady to digest everything that’s happening. If you saw Carmina’s expression during Zoren’s proposal, she was forcing a smile the whole time. Props to Zoren, but you can just imagine what Carmina had to endure.

2. UNLESS YOU’RE SURE SHE’D LIKE AN AUDIENCE, KEEP IT BETWEEN THE TWO OF YOU. Unless she said she wants a splashy proposal, make it as intimate and as personal as you can. That way you can be candid, you can both cry all you want, you can take your time, and you don’t make people feel like they are eavesdropping on a very intimate moment. Proposals are magical. Sometimes they can lose their magic when the rest of the world is eavedropping on you.

3. THE GIRL WILL FORGET YOUR SPEECH, BUT PRACTICE ANYWAY. Because it’s overwhelming, the girl will most probably just cry, and will not remember anything you say. But it is good to practice. The practice is for the guy. And then when things have settled down days later, you can tell her what you said again (which I did. And this time, she cried because of what I said, and not because it was just overwhelming).

4. KNEEL DOWN, IF THIS IS POSSIBLE. It is a very small thing, but it matters. I can’t fully explain why it does, but it does. Just trust me on this. :p

5. FREAKING OUT IS NORMAL. It is the most important decision you can ever make in your life. It is SUPPOSED TO BE scary shit. Guys had the chance to prepare. They chose the ring. They are psychologically prepared. The girl, even if she knows it’s gonna happen, is NOT prepared. She will feel like she was hit by a bus. Conversely, maybe that’s the reason it’s the guy who cries during weddings. The girl (at least in our society) is the one who prepares the wedding. She is prepared. The guy’s life flashes before his eyes just when he sees the girl marching down the altar. That’s when the guy feels hit by a bus.

So when the girl freaks out, GUYS DO NOT MAKE IT ABOUT YOURSELF. When she freaks out, it is not a reflection on you, it doesn’t mean she’s not sure about you. She just needs time for things to settle down. A few days after, it was my turn to freak out and be overwhelmed and re-think my own capacity for commitment. And it was her turn not to make it about herself. She just hugged me and told me it was going to be worse, but it will get better, because she had gone through it, and was better because of it.

See, freaking out is GRACE. It is probably the greatest thing that can happen when you’re proposing. For us, the freak out period forced us to ask the right questions, the important questions. We could have made the next few weeks about color schemes and flower arrangements and who to invite and what kind of flowers to have–which are probably important, but does not really matter as much in the long run. The freak out is grace because it made us look at the important things–the preparation for marriage, praying for our families, who to talk to, what to do when our communication breaks down, etc.

And so we’re here, at the cusp of forever. Preparing for a marriage, and not just for a wedding.

This is a blessed time, minus the stress of wedding preps. We went inside the Room of Tears, and cried and prayed and signed our life away.

And now everything has changed.

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