How I Proposed with a Goat (instead of a Diamond Ring)

tim chan —  March 21, 2013 — 3 Comments

Exactly 5 years ago I asked Olive to marry me. Rather than popping the question with a diamond ring, I planned to propose to her with a goat. It wasn’t a pet goat for her to keep in the yard and take for walks in the park, it was a goat to give away to a family in need. It was what she wanted, and it was one of the reasons I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this particular girl.

How I Proposed With a Goat (and no Diamond Ring)Olive and I met on a missions trip to Japan as college students. Her captivating smile, beautiful voice, and joyful spirit attracted me to her right away. After the trip she emailed me to say that she wanted us to “stay friends” – which I took to mean, “you’re a good guy but I’m not interested in dating you.” So I waited patiently. It took three years, but finally we started dating. After dating through Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, and another Winter, we arrived at the goal of our dating relationship: deciding whether we should get married or not. We decided it would be yes.

The idea of spending 2-3 months worth of salary on a diamond engagement ring had always seemed impractical to me. I didn’t want to say this out loud because I was afraid this might hurt or offend Olive. Worse, I feared that she would interpret my hesitancy to spend that amount of money as a limit of my love. So I was relieved when Olive brought up the subject – about how she had reservations about my purchase of a diamond ring.

“I’d rather us use the money for a down payment on a home, or to give away to someone in need,” she said to me. Her comment brought a smile to my face. A wave of relief washed away the knot I had been feeling in my stomach whenever I saw the “Diamonds are forever” ads on TV and in magazines. This was one reason I loved Olive: she was both practical and generous.

This conversation sparked the planning for my proposal to her. When it came to proposals, my theory is that the girl should be surprised but not too surprised. Surprised about the timing or method of proposal, but not surprised by the proposal itself. I wanted Olive to have had time to consider her answer, so she would not be put in the awkward spot of being proposed to without knowing how to answer. I would fly from my home in Vancouver to her home in Toronto one day earlier than expected and surprise her with the help of her parents and best friend.

Knowing what a homebody Olive was, I decided to propose to her in the comfort of her home. Since she was an introvert, I also decided to make the proposal private, and share the news with our family or friends afterwards.

Instead of giving her an expensive diamond ring, I gave her a series of gifts – each one signifying an aspect about our relationship:

  • Boxing Gloves: to represent that we would fight together to build our marriage and fight with each other to resolve conflict
  • Dance Lesson: to represent our desire to learn new things together and laugh at ourselves (I am a terrible dancer)
  • Sports Jersey and Journal: to represent the unique things we love – the jersey of my favourite hockey team (the Vancouver Canucks) and a journal because Olive loved to have time alone to write
  • Novelty Clock from California: to represent the time we spent travelling together, both in the past and in the future
  • Song: I sang her a song on the piano to represent our mutual love for music and my desire to keep growing our romance
  • Goat, Olive Trees, and Fruit Trees (from the World Vision catalogue): to represent how our marriage was not only about ourselves, but also about serving and loving others. The goat was something she had asked for, the olive trees were in reference to her name, and the fruit trees were because she loves fruit.

When I gave Olive the card indicating that the goat, olive trees, and fruit trees had been given in her name, she looked up at me with a big smile and tears in her eyes. “Thank you,” she whispered to me.

Then I got on one knee and opened a small box with a ring inside. It was a simple ring. There was a small gem inside an elegant design, and it was a fraction of the cost of a diamond ring.

“Will you marry me?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

It was a special and memorable evening, and we were both ecstatic to be engaged (Olive’s version of the story is on our blog). It was also meaningful as the proposal represented who we were and what we hoped for.

We now have a reminder of how we hope our marriage would be about more than just our own happiness, but that it would be a channel to serve, bless, and love others. That reminder is a goat.

If you were going to propose with something other than a diamond ring, what would it be?
photo credit: Brendon Burton, Ben Clifford

  • Felicia

    This is such a beautiful story!

  • David

    Thank you for sharing the lessons you have learned throughout your lives, I have been encouraged and have learned alot. This article was especially cool and helped me show that God works in ‘mysterious’ ways lol

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