The New Rules of (Gay) Engagement
With the recent election legalizing gay marriage in three more states, there is an expected surge of same-sex couples who will tie the knot in the coming year. And now, a new set of rules come into play. For heterosexuals, the norms are well-established– man woos woman and buys the engagement ring, the bride wears white and they live happily ever after. But what is the new etiquette for those in a same-sex relationship?
HAPPILY EVER AFTER – I believe everyone has the right to a “happily ever after” – no matter their gender or sex. But the etiquette of engagement and rules of marriage are evolving and I find myself in the heart of this transition. As a gay jewelry designer, I have enjoyed crafting beautiful works of art that couples will enjoy wearing for generations as symbols of love. For decades, I have helped same-sex couples translate their sentiment into meaningful custom rings – and guiding them on how to maneuver and redefine some of the ‘stereotypical’ rules of engagement.
GET ENGAGED – The LGBT community has been so focused for decades on receiving equal rights to marry; yet, I find so many couples bypass a very beautiful part of a relationship – the engagement period. Whether the act of proposing comes from one partner or both, the joyous experience of receiving of a ring and promising to exchange vows is a sentimental part of any couple’s journey. And what better way to commit to one another if you live in a state that has not yet legalized same sex marriage? Call it an extended engagement!
ELEMENT OF SURPRISE – Many of the behavioral patterns and characteristics we find in heterosexual couples are also seen in same-sex couples. There is the “romantic” who wants to surprise the other partner and then there is the couple who does due diligence, planning each step together.
While I am a romantic and love the idea of one partner secretly shopping for another, I understand the discomfort that may come with a surprise purchase of jewelry that is intended to be worn for a lifetime. My advice, for any romantic, is to familiarize him or herself with the partner’s taste and let the timing of the proposal be the surprise.
THE PROPOSAL – I am often asked, “Who proposes to whom and is there reciprocation?” Since there are as many dynamics as there are partners, there is no standard. If a couple shops together, the role of the “ring bearer” has probably been decided. In some cases, the ring exchange is mutual. In others a more dominant partner might take initiative and other times the quieter of the two steps up and surprises. Once the proposal takes place, there may be a desire for reciprocation, which can lead to a second proposal.
MIX ‘N MATCH – The most asked question: Are matching rings required? In my youth, I probably would have advocated for matching, but now my answer is a resolute ‘no.’ Diversity is acceptable, even laudable, and it is important that each person promote his or her individuality within the unity. For example, my Air collection offers a choice of princess cut diamonds or round, black or white diamonds, and yellow, pink or white gold settings. The options are endless and I love the idea that each partner has the opportunity to set themselves apart and, yet, be true to themselves.
IN STYLE – When it comes to style, there may be a preconceived notion that lesbians want daintier versions and the gay look is more masculine. But, in my experience, the men more often buy the glitz and sparkly, while lesbians seem more practical than the men – will this design get scratched easily or is this the right fit for my daily activities? Quite a reversal from typical sexual stereotyping! This is how I learned the valuable lesson of unisex – gender does not necessarily determine style.
FINANCE & THE FIANCE – Before beginning to shop for rings, establish a budget. Consider the potential cost of two engagement rings and two wedding bands. Once a couple sets a limit, they should stick to it and not be afraid to just say ‘no’ when bigger and larger budget items catch their eye. There are many options to keep couples within a budget and sometimes settling for just a fraction of a size smaller in diamond weight can save a considerable amount on the final ticket. Couples shouldn’t be afraid to ask for options on designs they fall in love with. (Plus, there are always anniversaries for upgrades!)
Manhattan-based fine jewelry designer Rony Tennenbaum specializes in wedding and engagement rings for the gay and lesbian community, with designs inspired by his commitment to marriage equality. His collections are available on www.ronytennenbaum.com as well as at Maurice’s Jewelers, 11865 S. Dixie Highway, Miami, FL 33156.