Is Chivalry Dead? Technology Twists The Wedding Proposal

By: By Liane Membis, CNN
By: By Liane Membis, CNN

(CNN) -- In decades past, your grandfather may have taken granny to the park, got down on one knee and proposed to her, with a sparkling ring in hand.

Nowadays, some suitors are reaching out to their brides-to-be through their computer, pushing a button and proposing: right through the internet.

As technology continues to touch on almost every aspect of social life, there is no stopping this generation's use of the internet as a tool -- even for marriage. But with these nontraditional methods of courtship, can we help but wonder: Is chivalry dead?

Johannes S. Beals was surfing the net recently when he was inspired to propose marriage. The engagement ring for his long-time girlfriend had been hidden in his home for four months, and it was while chatting with other filmmakers that he figured out how he would propose to his wife.

"I saw Alyssa Milano tweet about the Old Spice Guy's personalized video responses and that's when the idea popped in my head to ask him to propose to my wife," said Beals, a producer and director in California.

He tweeted to Isaiah Mustafa, the shirtless shower man who plays the Old Spice Guy, "Can U Ask my girlfriend to marry me? Her name is Angela A. Hutt-Chamberlin."

Three hours later the deal was done. The Old Spice Guy, wrapped in his towel, appears in a bathroom, dims the lights, rolls in candles, holds out a ring and reads the proposal in a deep, chivalrous voice.

The video proposal went viral and Beals is now on his way to becoming a married man.

Beals' proposal is one example of the power the internet can have in personal lives, and raised the question about how technology impacts the tradition of the marriage proposal.

Sarah Pease, owner of Brilliant Event Planning, said that as time passes, proposals are becoming more elaborate and that technology encourages more opportunities for lovers to express their creativity. However, she finds the idea of proposing online as a substitute for the traditional act of getting down on one knee a bit puzzling.

"Any proposal where the girl says yes is a great proposal," Pease said. "But would I recommend proposing on Twitter or online to my clients? Never."

The current world of technology pressures people to do things bigger and better than they were done in the past, she said. Yet she believes that by using social media or the internet as a sole medium to propose devalues the wedding proposal and denies the man the true creative buzz that comes from planning a wedding proposal.

"Proposing online may work for some people, but I think there are just so many other creative ways that you can pop the question and still embrace the tradition of getting down on one knee," Pease said.

It is men's fear of rejection that pushes them to want to go public with their proposals online, said Michael Rosenfeld, an associate professor of sociology at Stanford University. Just like proposing on a JumboTron at a baseball game, proposing in public gives men control by creating a situation that pressures women into saying yes.

"Proposing online or in any public space has something to do with power in the relationship," Rosenfeld said. "There might be fear if you ask them one-on-one because the woman might say no. Proposing in public helps to reduce that risk."

What also makes proposing online more attractive is the economic benefit and feasibility.

"The internet is a lot more accessible -- it's more difficult to get a billboard at a baseball game or to hire a jumbo jet," said Christina Warren, whose fiancé proposed to her on Twitter in January 2009.

"Grand gestures can be made online at little to no cost, and depending on the people that are involved, the proposal becomes more meaningful," Warren said. The reporter for Mashable.com and her computer programmer fiancé are self-proclaimed computer nerds whose obsessions with all things tech made their online proposal feel appropriate.

Yet it is this dramatic sense of efficiency, Rosenfeld said, that supports technology's "obsessive and overtrumping culture." The meaning behind the tradition of the wedding proposal and the chivalrous man coming to court his lady's hand gets lost in a whirlwind of information that appears to be attempts at just being noticed.

"With the internet, people tend to be less concerned with privacy," Rosenfeld said. "They want to be obsessively public about something that people may think of as a private matter."

"Fame and notoriety is something that people always have sought. In the internet age, the border to fame and notoriety is much lower, and because we live in an age of very gratifying self promotion, online proposals can sometimes devalue tradition."

But for those who fame has hit for venturing online with a wedding proposal -- such as Stephanie Sullivan Rewis and Greg Rewis, who became the first couple to propose on Twitter -- chivalry is still alive.

"I didn't feel any different than women whose boyfriend proposes on the JumboTron or billboard in Times Square feel," said Stephanie Rewis. "Is it the method that matters or the thought and outcome?"

Rosenfeld said he agrees with the latter. "I think that people can still have a very old fashioned view of relationships and the pursuit of marriage. The way people meet and are doing things are rapidly changing, and the internet is increasingly becoming the intermediary for all that.

"So chivalry isn't dead. I think it is every bit of alive as it has ever been."

The-CNN-Wire/Atlanta
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