Molly Gib­ney joined a very ex­clu­sive, won­der­fully ro­man­tic club when she asked her hus­band Paul to marry her on February 29 last year. Here’s why she de­cided to do it

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Fans of Amy Adams’ movie Leap Year can take in­spi­ra­tion from Molly Gib­ney, who pro­posed to the man she loves on February 29 last year.

AAs mar­riages go, it was a small, un­fussy af­fair: Molly Gib­ney and Paul Sterry tied the knot on De­cem­ber 15 at a reg­istry of­fice in the English city of Bris­tol. Just two close friends at­tended the ac­tual cer­e­mony, while post-vow cel­e­bra­tions con­sisted of noth­ing more ex­trav­a­gant than meet­ing fam­ily and friends for a low-key party. Af­ter­wards, the cou­ple sim­ply went home to the flat where they al­ready lived. Two months on, they are only just start­ing to plan a hon­ey­moon.

‘I’m just not some­one who’s ever been into the whole fairy-tale wed­ding thing,’ ex­plains Molly, 26, a fes­ti­val as­sis­tant.

Yet when the pair tied the knot they joined a very ex­clu­sive – and won­der­fully ro­man­tic – lit­tle club. They are one of a mi­cro­scopic mi­nor­ity of cou­ples any­where in the world who wed af­ter the woman pro­posed to the man on a leap day. Molly took ad­van­tage of this an­cient Ir­ish tradition and popped the ques­tion to Paul, a 33-yearold il­lus­tra­tor, on February 29 last year.

Ac­cord­ing to a poll con­ducted by As­so­ci­ated Press in 2014, that means they are among just 5 per cent of all mar­ried cou­ples in the Western world. That’s how many are thought to have wed af­ter the wife pro­posed. In­deed, three quar­ters of peo­ple ques­tioned dur­ing the same poll said they ac­tu­ally be­lieved it was un­ac­cept­able for the woman to ask.

‘I know there’s that view out there,’ says Molly. ‘But it’s quite old-fash­ioned. I’ve never once re­gret­ted that we did it this way. It gives us an un­usual story to tell. And, as a cou­ple, it’s very us.’

When we spoke to Molly re­cently, weeks be­fore the one-year an­niver­sary of her mo­ment of brav­ery, she told us the full story of how she took things (and rings) into her own hands: ‘It’s funny be­cause, up un­til last year, I’d never ac­tu­ally heard of the tradition of women propos­ing to men on a leap year day. I was hav­ing lunch with a few friends – I guess it must have been early Jan­uary – and

one of them said he knew some­one who was think­ing of do­ing it, and I had to ask what he was talk­ing about. I’d just never heard of the tradition.

‘He had to ex­plain the whole thing to me. He was say­ing, ‘‘How have you never heard of this? Ev­ery­one knows it.’’

‘But I hon­estly hadn’t. That was that, re­ally. I didn’t leave that lunch think­ing about it and I cer­tainly never ap­plied it to me and Paul. It was just some­thing I’d learned.

‘Paul and I had met a cou­ple of years ear­lier, in 2014. It was a street car­ni­val in our home city of Bris­tol. I was walk­ing down a road when I saw a friend out­side a house. He called me over and in­vited me in for a drink; and it turned out that was Paul’s place.

‘We got on from the mo­ment we met. He be­came my best mate. We’re al­ways laugh­ing. He’s got a grumpy face, which makes him look in­tim­i­dat­ing, but he’s a real gen­tle­man. We get very silly around each other and I think that’s why it works.

‘We be­came pretty in­sep­a­ra­ble pretty quickly. We en­joy the same things – live mu­sic, walks, so­cial­is­ing – and we’d hang out with both his friends and mine. We moved in to­gether af­ter about six months and as soon as we did, it felt like the most nat­u­ral thing in the world.

‘All that said, though, mar­riage just wasn’t on the cards. I’m not one of those peo­ple who had dreamed of get­ting wed, and nei­ther is Paul. We’d spo­ken about spend­ing our lives to­gether – it was some­thing we both wanted – but I don’t think ei­ther of us nec­es­sar­ily felt that meant mar­riage.

So, what hap­pened to change that? ‘I’m still not sure ex­actly.

‘It was a morn­ing a cou­ple of weeks af­ter that lunch with my friend, and Paul and I were talk­ing about how it was a leap year. It was early morn­ing and we were get­ting ready for work, and he just sort of said, “Well, leap year – that means it’s your time to shine.”

‘He was talk­ing about that tradition and my in­stant re­sponse was sur­prise – even he knew about it. I felt like the only per­son in the world who hadn’t heard of it.

‘Then that same morn­ing – he worked close to where I did at the time – I popped into his of­fice to see him and we had a cup of tea and we were just talk­ing, and as I left I very clearly re­mem­ber think­ing how much I loved him and I thought, “I’m go­ing to do it – I’m go­ing to pro­pose”. ‘I called my mum and asked what she thought, and she was to­tally for it. Then I did the same with Paul’s best friend – just asked him how he thought Paul would take it, and he was say­ing I should ab­so­lutely do it. I told a few of my friends too and not one of them said, ‘“Molly, are you sure?” and ob­vi­ously I took that as a pos­i­tive.

‘So I got plan­ning. I looked on­line for ideas and there were quite a lot of neg­a­tive com­ments about women propos­ing. A lot of peo­ple – a lot of women, ac­tu­ally – were say­ing it was forc­ing a man into some­thing he should do him­self or that it was in­ap­pro­pri­ate, but those com­ments were like wa­ter off a duck’s back to me.


wanted to make it spe­cial and I spent some time think­ing of the best way. There’s a big trend for pub­lic pro­pos­als these days but nei­ther of us are into that kind of thing – I wanted it to be more per­sonal but still mem­o­rable.

‘Around the same time I was look­ing to de­velop some photos I’d taken while we were on hol­i­day in New York a few months ear­lier, and I no­ticed there were 10 pic­tures left on the film. And that’s when the idea came to me. I’d use those 10 pic­tures to take photos of me hold­ing up five signs in five places in Bris­tol that were spe­cial to us. The five signs would say ‘Will’ ‘You’ ‘Marry’ ‘Me’ and ‘?’

‘I ar­ranged ev­ery­thing, made the plac­ards and got a friend to take the photos. At this time, Paul and I would quite of­ten meet for lunch on work days. So, on February 29, I ar­ranged for his two col­leagues to pre­tend they had a meet­ing out of the of­fice, so that I could go there and we’d be alone. I took round the New York photos with the pro­posal ones at the bot­tom of the pile.

‘We sat down to look at them and he seemed to take for­ever go­ing through all the hol­i­day snaps. He was study­ing ev­ery picture, and I felt so ner­vous. I just wanted to tell him to hurry up.

‘Then when he saw the first one – “Will’ – he kind of looked at me strange, like “What’s this?” Then he saw the sec­ond – “you” – and he re­alised what was com­ing. He was pretty sur­prised, ob­vi­ously but he had a huge smile and he just said, “Of course I will”. By that time I was cry­ing and we were hug­ging, and it was pretty per­fect.

‘I’d had an old fam­ily en­gage­ment ring melted down and the gold put into a bracelet for Paul and a ring for me, and I gave him his and showed him mine. He couldn’t get over it all – al­though the main thing he seem be­mused about was the fact that his col­leagues had lied about go­ing to a meet­ing!

‘He said, “Well, I guess I’m not work­ing to­day,” and we went for a walk along the

Paul and I were talk­ing about how it was a LEAP YEAR. It was early morn­ing and we were get­ting ready for work, and he just sort of said, ‘Well, leap year – that means it’s your TIME TO SHINE’

har­bour. I’d ar­ranged for his parents, who live about 160km away, to come down and stay with us, and so we met them for food, and then I’d or­gan­ised all our friends to meet us at a lo­cal venue and it was a lovely, sur­real day.

‘We set the date to marry for just be­fore Christ­mas. It was small; just us and a cou­ple of friends at a reg­istry of­fice, and then a lit­tle cel­e­bra­tion. We’re hav­ing a big wed­ding party in the sum­mer but we liked the idea of the ac­tual mar­riage be­ing sim­ple.

‘In the year since, I’ve never re­gret­ted propos­ing. And I think Paul likes that it turned out that way. I do think it’s ro­man­tic.

‘My ad­vice to other women think­ing of do­ing the same? Go for it! I’d say, if it’s right for you both and you want to do it, why not? Why even wait for a leap year day? Just ask the ques­tion when the mo­ment is good.’

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