I always think its weird when I read in posts that if a couple is seriously discussing marriage 'they are already engaged' (usually followed by 'why do they need a ring' or 'a proposal isn't necessary'). Seriously discussing, and even know the plan is for it to happen someday, does not mean a couple is engaged - discussing a plan and implementing a plan are two separate stages of being.
That's exactly what inspired my question! I encountered a few posts opining that a couple who have agreed that they will one day marry are already engaged and there is 'no need' for a proposal. The combination of 'every couple should discuss marriage seriously', with 'when they agree marriage is the next step, they are engaged' pretty much kills the very concept of the proposal event, which I think is a shame, because I think proposals have a certain charm to them, and are often a great story.
Perhaps its my masculine pride rearing its head, but I would greatly resent being deprived of the chance to execute my (entirely hypothetical) ultimate romantic proposal.
I agree with this, I am a woman and a proposal was important to me. A female friend of mine expressed disappointment over her non-proposal. One friend and her FH had been discussing and planning on getting engaged. They went ring shopping together and he handed her the bag with the ring. It sounds so anti-climatic to me. My DH didn't do anything dramatic, we were on a visit to NYC taking a walk in Central Park, but the fact he got on one knee and asked me formally made the moment very special. I don't consider myself a demanding woman, but I would have felt let down if he had just considered us engaged because we had talked about marriage and wanted to head in that direction.
I think the marriage conversation should come up before a proposal (both people should agree about the direction of the relationship), but simply because two people have discussed marriage doesn't automatically mean they are engaged.
POD. No-one, including a couple, should commit to anything without properly considering it first. And when there's more than one person involved, that means discussing it together. For all one person knows, their partner is against marriage as a concept, or is strongly against the idea of certain types of proposals (e.g. public ones), or whatever. Maybe one person is expecting to have children when married and the other has always been a "no children" person. Basically: it's a huge life decision, and therefore the most important thing is whether both people are on the same page. Getting engaged means officially being committed to getting married at some future point. It needs to be discussed beforehand.
DH and I, for example, before we were married or engaged, talked a bit about things. It was all hypothetical. Largely because he was terrified that I would not want to get married or something, and once I realised this, I made sure to comment whenever there was a wedding in a film or something: "I love the way they did ..., what do you think" or "I could never do ... could you?" From there, we talked about personal preferences and beliefs and knew roughly where each other stood. A proposal before knowing those things would have been recklessly irresponsible.
If one person is going to say "yes" or "no", the other should hopefully have a good idea of it beforehand. Nothing certain is possible, of course, but at least an inkling of what the answer would be. Similarly, they should know if the other person detests public proposals or something before they commit to doing one.