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I'm Not Engaged (Yet), But I'm Already Designing My Ring

"When I say yes, it won’t be to a diamond."

I have always had ideas about how I wanted to get married. 

My dress-up clothes were my mother’s retired bridesmaid dresses. I created a wedding vision board when I was thirteen and almost bought a vintage wedding gown at sixteen. My obsession was primarily cultural, a side effect of devout Christianity and life in the middle of the country. Thinking about my own wedding had a sedative effect. The rich heritage of the tradition made me feel safe from where it stood in the distance. 

My father died when I was fifteen, which felt like the loss of hundreds of future tense happiness, beginning with the tradition of the bride’s father walking her down the aisle. It was the first crack in the facade of traditional nuptials. Once that was ruled out, I felt like I had a license to reimage the whole enterprise. I resolved to walk myself down the aisle, a decision, at fifteen—alone and in the throngs of grief—that filled every part of myself with deep peace. 

I resolved to walk myself down the aisle, a decision, at fifteen—alone and in the throngs of grief—that filled every part of myself with deep peace. 

I resent when people describe the moment they understood the gravity of their commitment to their partner with the phrase, “I just knew.” Just knowing gives a lot of credit to the human psyche. It disregards the very real factors of timing and luck, wrapping them in a bow of omniscience. But when I think about my partner showing up at my doorstep with sage blossoms from his garden and a wide smile, I can’t think of another way to describe the feeling. There was an urgency to our love, an immediacy that spoke before he even entered my apartment. That feeling predated us. The rest, to employ another axiom, is history. 

real couple

Photo Courtesy of Author; Art by Cristina Cianci

Understanding marriage as a shared vision was the same story. There were conversations and timelines, drafted and revised, but we always knew. By the time the Ring Conversation became viable, I’d already saved dozens of inspiration pictures with the intention to drop well-meaning hints for months to come. But recreational anxiety and mindreading aren’t relational habits I was looking to get into. It seemed like the way we showed up in our relationship, especially in this momentous decision, shouldn’t be altered by cultural norms. The more I thought about having to guide him gently toward what I knew I wanted, the more dishonest it felt. 

Then I realized I didn’t have to. Rituals are a way of preserving meaning, not the meaning itself. Our rituals were born of profound honesty and total commitment. One of the things I love most about my partner is how certain he makes me feel—in my work, my feelings, even the boyish outfits I wear. Honoring that certitude meant I could do the thing that felt the most instinctual. I could choose my own engagement ring

This idea was cemented for me when I met one of my partner’s incredibly chic cousins at another one of his incredibly chic cousin’s weddings. She and I were chatting at the afterparty. I was distracted by her glistening engagement ring. When I asked her about it, she slipped it off her finger, offered it to me to try on, and laughed. “You think he picked this out?” she said, pointing to her darling husband somewhere across the room. 

The simplicity of the comment sunk into me. I thought about our exchange until I worked up the nerve to pitch the idea to my partner over dinner one night. I saw a familiar warmth in his eyes and a flash of relief. He agreed—what we cared about was the unlikely chance that we met and that we’re lucky enough to know this life as shared. Celebrating that was worthy of a ritual, no gemstone cut preference slipped into conversation required.  

Rituals are a way of preserving meaning, not the meaning itself.

It turns out, the death of a fantasy can be the best feeling. Real-life isn’t as soft around the edges, but it’s sturdy enough to build on. Feeling his support affirmed my decision. Knowing that I was going to choose my ring filled me with a grounded excitement. It was time for some research. 

engagement ring design

Art by Cristina Cianci

What I knew: I wanted a ring that felt like an extension of my everyday wardrobe—oversized button-ups, loafers, the occasional puffed sleeve. Nothing dainty. Nothing ornate. Nothing flashy. I wanted to choose the ring from a brand I’d be proud to reference, a brand that epitomized the same feeling of intentional commitment I was attempting to live out. 

Ceremony, a brand founded by Jess Hannah Révész of J. Hannah and Chelsea Nicholson, under the very apropos ethos of “a collection of rings for marking new traditions,” turned out to be the perfect fit. Initially,  I thought I wanted something vintage, but that process turned out to be quite complicated. Maybe I’d pop into a shop in Brooklyn and try on the old-fashioned way, IRL. But I didn’t want to sit there for an hour, inquiring about prices, and hoping my fingers wouldn’t swell with nervousness. I spent three minutes on the Ceremony site before finding the ring of my dreams, or more aptly, of my very real-life love story. 

ring

Ring by Ceremony; Art by Cristina Cianci

The ring I decided on is modeled after a signet ring, historically used as identity markers. It’s simple and resolute in its design. I missed Ceremony’s in-person pop-up in New York by a weekend and messaged the brand about when they’d be back in the city, which led to a call with the brand’s social media director, Brittany. She and I discussed the ring in question, how the design process would allow me to customize it to my exact liking, and the beauty of adapting traditions, like engagement rings, to meet our modern terms of connection. 

She referred to my ring as an heirloom, a word I’d hardly considered, and I felt a catch in my throat. I was passing on the legacy of knowing myself and finding a partner who honors that. Finally, a tradition I could get behind.  I scheduled a call with Nicole, one of the brand’s designers, for the next week. Our conversation was easy and to the point. She understood when I said diamond clarity wasn’t something on my mind. She understood when I explained that I wasn't interested in turning my ring design process into a twenty-hour project. After fifteen minutes, we hung up, sample rings in the mail. 

She referred to my ring as an heirloom, a word I’d hardly considered, and I felt a catch in my throat. 

There is a certain fantasy I maintain of being known fully, inside and out, weaknesses next to accomplishments next to ugly pajamas and uncrossed to-do lists. It’s my childhood vision of marriage. But now, loved entirely, I feel a duty to honor the brilliant chance my partner and I have of building our own traditions, our own future tense happiness. 

I won’t see the final result until my partner proposes to me, whenever he proposes to me. And I can’t wait to plan a wedding, but more than that, build a life that fits us exactly as we are, no pretenses. When I say yes, it won’t be to a diamond. It’ll be to my partner, and to our commitment to preserving the best parts of each other, so long we both shall live. 

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