Didn't it feel like time stood still when your fiancé proposed? We bet you can easily recall the feel of the plush seat in the swanky restaurant, the whoosh of the hot air balloon, or the salty wind whipping your hair around at the beach. You'll never forget the pensive, eager look on your fiancé's face, the anxiously joyous feelings in your gut, and the unexpected thoughts crossing your mind. You can easily repaint the scene in rich and vivid detail, because you experienced in both hyper-relief and slo-mo at the same time.
Time didn't in fact slow down, but your brain recorded much more sensory information than in regular-Joe moment of life. Your brain took in the sights, the sounds, the feelings, the smells because it was in hyper-memory mode. Because your brain's processing and storing all this additional information, it made it seem like time slowed down. Those tiny pictures that usually pass through your brain and float away (wow, that's really loud when the hot-air really blasts into the balloon overhead) are, during this important moment of your life, forever captured in your memory.
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If you've been in a car accident, you've experienced the phenomenon of time slowing down. Is a marriage proposal similarly traumatic? In a way, yes. Having the question popped is a lifechanging event, with a distinct "before" and "after." Before the proposal, you were just boyfriend and girlfriend. After, you immediately begin the process of becoming family. In that instance, both of your identities and family trees are changing. It's a bit of a trauma — albeit a positive one — to your sense of who you are.
Time slowing down happens even if the proposal wasn't a surprise at all or you ultimatum-ed him into getting on one knee. It's still a shock to your system, but it's a good shock that helps you truly be present of the joys and implications of saying yes. Because your brain's in hyper-memory mode, you're giving your full attention to this moment. You're not missing a thing. Added bonus: when your future children ask you to tell the "when Daddy proposed to Mommy" story again (and again and again), you'll be able to describe, down to the tiniest detail, the moment when your family truly began.
Allison Moir-Smith, MA, is the author of Emotionally Engaged: A Bride's Guide to Surviving the '"Happiest" Time of Her Life and has been helping brides feel happier, calmer and better prepared for marriage since 2002. She is a bridal counselor, an expert in engagement anxiety and cold feet, and the founder of Emotionally Engaged Counseling for Brides.