Marriage Proposal

Wonder Why Wednesday: Proposing On One Knee

When I played high school football my favorite phrase to hear at practice was, “okay guys, take a knee.” That meant the running was done, the drills were finished and practice was over. It was time to relax and pretend to listen to the coach spout out some motivating football jargon, before going home.

Thanks to those years of football, taking a knee symbolizes to me a finality, something coming to a close. The other day I was told of a marriage proposal where the guy performed the popular custom and went down on one knee to ask his girlfriend to become his wife.

I started thinking about that tradition. It sort of fits with my view of knee-taking. As he takes a knee, a single man’s life is coming to a close. Did this custom begin thanks to a former football player? That can’t be the case, can it?

Let’s find out in today’s installment of Wonder Why Wednesday…

Where Did The Custom of Getting on one Knee to Propose Marriage Come From?

It is a little hazy where the one-knee-proposal came from, but one thing seems to be clear…it has nothing to do with football. Trust me, I checked multiple sources just to make sure.

The common thought is that the custom dates back to medieval times when knights would bow as an act of service to their master or mistress. Knights would also kneel when they were given an award or an honor by the king or queen. So the common belief is that marriage features kneeling as a sign of receiving an honor, such as a hand in marriage, or to portray an act of respect.

There is also much thought that the tradition could have some religious symbolism. Kneeling during prayer is common at religious ceremonies and resembles an act of faith. Dropping to one knee in the sign of genuflecting is done before entering a church. Also, to reinforce the above viewpoint, kneeing shows of a sign of spiritual respect.

The last theory has less to do with faith or honor and more to do with surrender. Taking a knee or bowing to an opponent is seen as a gesture of relenting or relinquishing. When a man proposes, the couple surrenders their lives as single people and commits to one another.




Sources:,,, Examiner

Photo credit: Wikipedia