4 LGBTQ Couples on How They Redefined the Traditional Proposal

“Well, I was going to propose after we drank a little, but you beat me to it, so, my turn!”

Updated 03/20/19

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While proposing marriage is unique for every couple, LGBTQ couples often find freedom in delving from tradition and creating new, personal rituals. Whether one partner is down on one knee asking another to marry them, or both are simultaneously swapping rings, there’s so much creativity and meaning in not having to prescribe to historical gender roles. So Brides talked to LGBTQ couples to show just a few of the ways in which same-sex proposals can beautifully defy tradition.

Matching Rings

Kat and Meg Plessner’s engagement during a six-month anniversary trip to the Temecula Valley Wine Country was more of a surprise than Meg expected. The couple had already discussed getting engaged and even decided to have custom rings designed to suit their aesthetic. “We’re not your typical diamond girls,” Kat tells Brides, laughing. She originally planned on only wearing a wedding band, but as Meg puts it, she wanted “the b*tches to know Kat was taken.” The amethyst rings the to-be fiancées picked out weren’t ready in time for the trip, but Kat pleaded with their jeweler, Dan (at L.A.’s Concierge Diamonds) and ended up secretly picking up both rings right before their scheduled weekend away. Before the trip officially started, Kat plotted with the manager of the resort to find the most romantic place on the site.

The next day, Kat asked Meg to go on a walk with her around the property, requesting a photo of them at the exact spot she’d visited the day before. When Kat handed her phone to Meg to swipe through photos and pick one for Instagram, Meg found a picture that Kat had staged earlier, on her knee holding the ring in the exact same spot. And of course, when Meg looked up from the phone, Kat was back on her knee, ready to propose. “When you plan and design custom rings, there is not so much surprise,” Kat says, so she did as much as she could to surprise Meg—and of course, it worked. Meg was really emotional in the moment, but later that day, back in the hotel room, she asked to see Kat’s ring and asked if she would marry her too. “So we both proposed and agreed,” says Kat. And while the pair “threw tradition out the window,” Kat still told Meg’s traditional Irish Catholic parents about the proposal before their trip (not asked, which Meg “would have hated”).

A Family Affair

Giulia Umile’s fiancée, Jess Herron, proposed to her in their backyard in Fishtown, Philadelphia, by including her two sons (now Giulia’s stepsons). Jess made custom signs for her children to wear, asking Giulia if she’d marry their mom-ee, adding a sign for Giulia’s French bulldog too. To complete the celebration, Jess put on a playlist of the couple’s favorite songs, had a fire pit ready with s’mores ingredients (including dark chocolate, Giulia’s favorite), and, for the adults, champagne. “Everything about it was pretty personal and unique,” Giulia tells Brides, from the way Jess personalized the way her youngest son says mommy on the sign, and showcasing how her older son called her Ms. Giulia, now Mommy Giulia. Breaking from tradition were the rings. “I don't really wear jewelry, nor do I believe that the size of the engagement ring has anything to do with true love,” says Giulia. “Our rings are custom-made using a Japanese style called mokume-gane, which fuses layers of differently colored metals to form something completely unique.”

A Cute Coincidence

After eight and a half years, an engagement felt inevitable for Tyler and Mike, who had been discussing proposals and rings for a while. Knowing that his ring was already waiting under their bed (he promises he didn’t open the box once he accidentally found it), Tyler had Mike’s ring made and shipped to his office. An original plan to propose while visiting Tyler’s twin brother and his husband in Miami backfired, so Tyler, not knowing when Mike would propose to him, still decided to propose that weekend. He planned a staycation in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, booking two nights at the swanky William Vale, reservations at nice restaurants for three meals a day, and hours of treatments at a nearby spa. The first night’s dinner on the hotel’s rooftop ended with a bottle of champagne in their room, which is when Tyler planned to propose. “My plan was to immediately get back and start drinking so I would be more relaxed to propose—oddly enough, I wasn’t really nervous about proposing until the day of,” he says. “But once we walked into our room, Mike turned the lights off and opened the floor-to-ceiling blinds that exposed our view of the downtown Manhattan. He insisted we go look out at the view.” Tyler agreed but encouraged drinking champagne to appreciate the skyline. “He was then even more insistent on me immediately going over to our window view of the city, which is when I knew he was also going to propose. That, of course, is exactly what happened! He grabbed my hand, got on one knee, and gave me a really nice proposal. I was thrilled and had a huge smile plastered over my face.” And when Tyler of course said yes, he added, “Well, I was going to propose after we drank a little, but you beat me to it, so, my turn!” And then gave his own heartfelt proposal. “Secretly though, I’m happy I was officially proposed to first!”

Egalitarian Ring Exchange

Danya almost proposed to Eliza when gay marriage was legalized nationwide in 2015, only Eliza admitted at the time she disliked public proposals and Danya ended up losing the Etsy ring she ordered in Chicago. Over a year later, they had both moved to New York and Danya told Eliza at The Cloisters, a museum at the top of Manhattan, about their almost engagement. “I couldn’t believe it, but I also felt relieved she didn’t propose because it would have been too soon,” Eliza says. Still, she knew she wanted to marry Danya one day. “I feel like with gay couples, an engagement can still be thought of as a surprise for one person, but I didn’t know who asks who.” She decided that the more reticent person to get married should do it, and since Danya made her intentions clear, Eliza felt like she needed to propose. But the more time passed without Eliza (who set a lot of preproposal conditions, like meeting many of each other’s family members) proposing, Danya felt unhappy waiting. “We decided that arrangement didn’t make sense anymore, so we went ring shopping together,” Eliza says. We decided we’d get engaged by the Cloisters, where we’d first talked about getting married, and the venue was free and beautiful. “We both got manicures together so we’d be ready for our ring pic,” Eliza adds. On the night of the engagement, the couple decided to meet at the park with surprises: Eliza had rose petals laid out and special love notes and Danya provided champagne, chocolate and played music on her guitar. They exchanged rings at sunset, toasted, and had a jogger in the park take photos for them. At home, Danya had more rose petals waiting. “For us, it wasn't so much about one of us asking each other, but making a public commitment,” says Danya. “We got to agree to be engaged and commit to each other mutually, have time alone as a newly engaged couple without anyone else knowing and then making phone calls. We’d talked about marriage for so long, but telling people really sealed the deal.”

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