Engagement Rings for Same Sex Couples
With several states across the country now allowing same-sex marriage, the LGBT community is getting the chance to do something it was never allowed to do before — put a ring on it.
But unlike heterosexual couples who know the traditional drill — man proposes on bended knee with an engagement ring to his dream girl — those in same-sex relationships are in uncharted waters. Which person should propose? Do both get engagement rings? Should their wedding bands be the same or just similar styles?
And the questions are coming up more and more among gay couples who want to get hitched, according to Rony Tennenbaum. Cellini Jewelers of West Haven recently held a reception with the New York-based jewelry designer and the Connecticut Alliance for Business Opportunities, as it’s one of two shops in the state selling Tennenbaum’s pieces.
“I think people are starting to think about it more and focus on how they have the opportunity to get married now,” said Tennenbaum, who has been with his partner for two decades and plans to soon make it official. “The same-sex couple is really about two people of the same sex, and you’re not talking about the same dynamics as a straight couple, where she knows she has a solitaire bridal ring, he knows he has a band, end of story. Now the dynamic is different.”
Nine states — Connecticut, Maryland, Washington, Maine, New York, Vermont, Iowa, Massachusetts and New Hampshire — as well as Washington, D.C., have passed legislation allowing for gay marriage, but most bridal jewelry collections don’t specifically target the LGBT, or gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender, community market. That’s why Tennenbaum, a long-time professional in the jewelry industry who is originally from Israel, stepped in a few years ago and began designing engagement rings and wedding bands for gay and lesbian couples, although heterosexuals may be attracted to the styles as well.
“It’s something that’s close to my heart. They were lacking someone attending to them,” Tennenbaum said, adding that he had a lot of gay friends looking to tie the knot. “When you’d Google gay jewelry, you’d get triangles and rainbows, gaudy party jewelry.”
His rings couldn’t be farther from that. Some have black or white enamel with a diamond in the center, while others aren’t a full circle and have more of a cuff shape, while still incorporating a nice, sparkly rock on the cuff’s ends. There are some bands that are engraved on top with “LVOE,” since, as Tennenbaum says, “love is love, no matter how you spell it.”
Cellini Jewelers began offering the line less than a year ago after encountering Tennenbaum’s pieces at a convention. The store liked the idea of selling to such a niche market and the look of the rings, said Lou DeSimone, one of the shop owners. Though its billboard advertising the collection got some negative reactions, the store has mainly received positive publicity and “is very proud of it and very happy to be associated with Rony,” DeSimone added.
Tennenbaum notices that those in the LGBT community prepare to say “I do” one of two ways: through customary, romantic proposals with engagement rings, or simply through a discussion and agreement to wed. But there are no defined roles or time-honored traditions as straight couples have.
Tennenbaum, who also supports anti-bullying efforts through his work, has met those who model straight rituals, with only one person in the couple getting the engagement ring. But he’s also seen same-sex couples who peruse his ring collection together and surprise their soon-to-be-spouse later on.
“A couple came to me, two men, and discussed the kind of rings they wanted for engagement rings. Then they knew what the other wanted and got each other a ring as a surprise,” Tennenbaum said. “The first one who got a ring did the whole proposal, got down on one knee on a beach. A month later, the other got his ring done and surprised him at a restaurant. I was at their wedding two weeks ago.”
Robert D’Errico, a Hamden resident who attended the Cellini Jewelers event, said he proposed to his partner of 17 years.
“I always wanted to … I remember a long time ago, I said I’d love to get married, and now we have the opportunity to do it,” D’Errico said.
Though they got married in a town hall ceremony in November, they are planning a more formal soiree for Edgerton Park in New Haven where they often bring their dogs. But they haven’t yet purchased any rings.
Jenn Tracz Grace, executive director of CABO, which is the state’s chamber of commerce for businesses owned by or supporting LGBT community members, chose the same ring setting as her wife, but a stone of a different shape. Her girlfriend proposed to her, but only because “she beat me to it.”
“We had talked about proposing, but thought we’d play it by ear and see what happens,” she said. “We went to a Kay’s (jewelry store) near us with a straight friend and asked for help. It’s not all that common that lesbians come strolling into a jewelry store.”
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman officiated their wedding, which incorporated the usual elements: Both women wore white dresses and had maids of honor.
Many couples getting married recently or in the near future are long-time partners, like Cheryl A. Hensel, who also attended the Cellini’s promotion, and her wife. The pair was one of the first same-sex couples to be married in the state and a “media couple,” followed by news cameras and reporters as they went to town hall for the ceremony. Having been together for 14 years at that point, they were already committed and didn’t execute an official, over-the-top proposal.
Dena Castricone, CABO’s founder, said her now-wife proposed to her on their fourth anniversary as a total surprise and that they were married by state Comptroller Kevin Lembo. She received an engagement ring, and although she made the same offer, her spouse only wanted a wedding ring. LGBT couples have no societal script to follow, but that’s OK, she says.
“That’s sort of the fun of the whole thing,” Castricone said. “There are no rules. You do what you want, what’s important to you.”