He said 'yes': the women taking marriage proposals into their own hands

From writing rap lyrics to hiring a special venue, some women are popping the question themselves

Nora Achmaoui proposed to her partner of nine months Khalid Alherani. Photo: Nora Achmaoui
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The UAE can offer some of the world’s most stunning destinations for a wedding proposal. In 2022, however, it’s the ladies in the region who are dropping to one knee.

More women than ever before are popping the question in the Emirates, according to wedding and proposal planners, and it's thought the number will continue to rise.

The trailblazers

Sakeena Karam, 26, always dreamt of being proposed to in a grand way, but had a change of heart after meeting her partner of three years Adam Dmello, 27, an accountant. The couple, who live in Dubai, were introduced by a mutual friend at university and quickly became inseparable.

“Adam has done so much for me, so I thought it would be nice to do something special for him,” says Karam, a senior research analyst.

I know many women who say: ‘I want him to propose to me’, and all of them are still waiting after years
Nora Achmaoui, Dubai influencer and business coach

“I was the girl who used to dream about the big proposal that would show me how much my man loves me and finds me special. I'm sure men also think along the same lines at some point. I wanted to make him feel appreciated.”

So Karam combined scenes from Dmello’s favourite TV shows — The Office, Friends and Community — dressing up in a peanut shirt and rapping self-penned lyrics in a roomful of candles.

“When he walked in, he had no idea what was going on,” Karam says. “I popped up from my hiding place and sang the song I wrote for him, laughing the entire time because I couldn't believe what was happening.

“We’re getting married later this year, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Sakeena Karam proposed to Adam Dmello by singing a rap song she wrote herself. Photo: Sakeena Karam

Dubai influencer and business coach Nora Achmaoui, 27, had been planning to propose to her partner of nine months, Khalid Alherani, 25, a fellow influencer and engineer, but he stole her thunder on a romantic holiday.

“I always had in my mind that I wanted to propose to Khalid,” Achmaoui says. “My plan was ruined when he proposed, but I decided I’d go ahead and do it anyway.

“Two months later, I got down on one knee and, surrounded by his family and friends, asked him to be my husband.”

Now Achmaoui is encouraging other women to treat their men with the “attention and magic” they deserve. “I know many women in my circle who say: ‘I want him to propose to me’, and all of them are still waiting, after years,” she says.

“If you know you’ve met the one, why not just go ahead and propose? There’s no need for all the drama.”

How do female proposals differ?

Liz Nunez, co-founder of Easy Wedding, believes women have a more considered way of proposing than men. “Women tend to organise more adventurous proposals in terms of the great outdoors, rather than going over the top with flowers and balloons,” she says.

“Usually, the woman will pick a fun activity, such as paragliding or hot air ballooning, and propose in the middle of the action. It’s a more mature and straightforward way of making the next step.”

In Nunez’s experience, most of the women going down on bended knee are over the age of 30 and particularly successful in their careers.

“These women have accomplished so much already that they aren’t afraid of moving forward,” she says. “To put it simply, they know what they want and they’re not afraid to make it happen.”

Confidence is key

“People come to the UAE for the opportunities it offers, especially for women,” Nunez says. “More and more companies are hiring women for top positions and management roles in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. We have the freedom and opportunity to progress professionally in the region, so it doesn’t surprise me this confidence is showing itself in our personal lives too.

“Women are free to marry who they want to marry, and they’re acting on it.”

Women have got more freedom in our choices than ever before, and the days of waiting to be asked are numbered
Caroline Ralston, founder, Proposal Boutique

Easy Wedding was launched to plan the nuptials of couples living internationally and recently began to organise lavish proposals, with most enquiries coming from women. “It doesn’t surprise me at all that women are proposing more,” says Nunez’s husband and company co-founder Florian Ughetto. “Traditionally people got married because it was expected of them. Now they’re doing it because they want to.

“Currently, 32 per cent of requests are from women, 20 per cent are from men and the rest are unspecified.”

Caroline Ralston, founder of Proposal Boutique, also reports an increase in the number of women proposing to their boyfriends, especially after the Covid-19 lockdowns caused many new relationships accelerate.

Ralston, who started her proposal-planning business eight years ago, says about 20 per cent of her enquiries come from forward-thinking women who are looking to take this next step in their lives.

“The UAE is a place where women are empowered and championed every day,” Ralston says. “We've got more freedom in our choices than ever before, and the days of waiting to be asked are numbered.

“I feel like so many people moved in together during lockdown, and now women are ready to take the [relationship forward].”

The best of both worlds

Ralston believes the influence of social media is a driving factor in the surge of female-led proposals. “These days you can’t go on Instagram without seeing lavish proposals that have gone viral,” she says. “Now that women are seeing what’s possible, they want to incorporate these elements in their own proposals.

“It isn’t just about the wedding any more ― if anything, the engagement sets the tone for what’s to come. Who doesn’t want an equal marriage?”

It might seem scary, but it’s daunting for men to propose too ... why not give him the best day of his life?
Liz Nunez, co-founder, Easy Wedding

Most of the women who contact Proposal Boutique arrange the full scenario, but sometimes the groom-to-be can have a major part to play, too.

“We often have women getting in touch with us to organise their own proposals, but although she will decide on all the details, the guy will be the one to actually pop the question,” Ralston says.

While Elias proposed, his fiancee Nancy arranged the venue and vibe. Photo: Proposal Boutique

“One of our clients, Nancy, arranged for her partner, Elias, to go down on one knee on a lavishly decorated rooftop overlooking the Burj Khalifa. It was a nice way for her to get exactly what she wanted, while still having that nod to tradition.”

The future is female

Nunez and Ralston both predict that the number of female proposals will increase in the coming years and encourage women to take the leap.

“I think there’s going to be a spate of women proposing and I can’t wait to see it happen,” Ralston says.

“It might seem scary, but it’s daunting for men to propose too,” Nunez says. “I say go with your heart and do it. There are two people in a relationship; why not give him the best day of his life?

“I encourage women to take control of their own narrative. In today’s society, we’re equally independent and financially secure, so why not have confidence in all our life choices?”

UAE's spectacular wedding proposals — in pictures

Updated: September 19, 2022, 7:57 AM