Swept off their feet: Expectations rise for creative dates, marriage proposals

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The fast-paced Provo dating scene pressures men to think up one-of-a-kind, out-of-this-world dates. The BYU stereotype makes students seem more focused on getting a date than on getting a degree.

This stereotype extends to recent trends in marriage proposals. Influences from YouTube videos, flash mobs and television shows may also add pressure for men to think of original proposals that involve music, dancing and video footage.

Mark Ogletree, a BYU religion professor who teaches marriage and family, said there are expectations at BYU and within the Church about dating. He said general authorities contribute to these “wild expectations.” Elder Richard G. Scott’s April 2011 General Conference address illustrates Ogletree’s idea.

“If you are a young man of appropriate age and are not married, don’t waste time in idle pursuits,” Elder Scott said. “Get on with life and focus on getting married. Young men, serve a worthy mission. Then make your highest priority finding a worthy, eternal companion.”

Eric Morgan, a 23-year-old from Kuna, Idaho, studying advertising, said that before he came to BYU, he expected to find a girl, go on a mission and marry her when he got home.

“I think people look at BYU as a quick process,” Morgan said. “You go to school, date for two months, then get married. BYU is focused on church, school and dating, so there is pressure to be different than the other guys and come up with good dates.”

Cameron Smith, a 24-year-old junior from Orem, studying business, said he feels pressure to have fun dates because “if dating isn’t fun, it isn’t worth it.”

“The pressure to go on creative dates is pretty intense. It’s a shame that things like bowling and mini golf seem to have this stigma of not being creative enough, because they’re awesome things to do,” Smith said.

Bowling is the perfect group date activity for women like Sierra Davis. Davis, a 19-year-old junior from Burley, Idaho, studying political science, said picnics are ideal for single dates. Davis enjoys movies but doesn’t want to watch “27 movies in a row.” She said many people believe BYU is their one place to find a spouse.

Ogletree often asks the women in his classes about their thoughts on creative dating. He said many women “prefer to keep things short, sweet and simple.”

Date activities have changed over time. Dances were the place to meet people in the ’40s and ’50s, according to BYU’s TWO Magazine article “Dating through the Times.”

According to the article, “Loading couches into the back of cars became popular during the 2000s.” Some envision the “typical BYU date” to include hiking the Y, eating at the Creamery on Ninth and walking around the Museum of Art.

Some date suggestions, according to BYU Blog Roll, include building a fort, shopping for antiques and singing karaoke. Outdoors Unlimited offers tandem bike rentals for $7 an hour or $25 for the entire day.

Ogletree said most men feel the need to do something “100 percent full throttle.”

“If they cannot plan the elaborate date complete with bungee jumping, wakeboarding, skeet shooting and dinner at Tucano’s, then they would just as soon do nothing at all, or hang out,” Ogletree said.

This full-throttle approach continues after the relationship becomes more established. Many men feel increasing pressure to execute viral, YouTube-worthy proposals.

Sean Hipp, a BYU junior from Ellicott City, Maryland, proposed to his wife, Sarah, June 2014. Hipp used Michael Scott’s proposal on the television show “The Office” as his proposal inspiration.

Steve Carell’s character, Michael Scott, proposes on NBC’s “The Office.”

“I actually got the idea at 2 a.m. the day of, and I knew she would think it was great, so I planned it all very quickly,” Hipp said. “I went to Walmart at 3 a.m. to get all the candles.”

Their close friends held candles as Sean and Sarah walked through the group. Some friends would sporadically ask Sarah to marry them, and she declined each offer. Finally, Sean led her to the end of the tunnel of friends and proposed.

“I decided I would rather have it be special than big if I couldn’t have both, so it was going to just be private,” Hipp said. He had other proposal ideas, but he thanks Netflix for giving him this idea that worked out great.

As men and women continue getting to know each other, both genders need to realize each side’s perspective about the dating world, because it could lead to creative proposals like Hipp’s.

“I wish guys asked girls on dates based on common interest, not just looks,” Davis said. “Going out with a girl because she’s cute without knowing anything about her is asking for a flop date.”

Smith said he wished girls would just say how they feel. “The games need to stop,” he said. “If you’re into me, say so; it would be nice to hear it. If you’re not into me, just say so, because guys are taught to be persistent. Yes it’s hard, and it hurts my feelings, but it’s so much easier.”

Ogletree encouraged men and women to keep dating. “I do not believe that the women on campus are pressuring the men to come up with elaborate dates — at least, not in my classes,” Ogletree said. “So, men, get up your courage, ask someone out, talk about life, listen to your date, have some fun, get an ice cream cone, and then do it again a short time later!”

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