After more than two decades in the jewelry design business, Rony Tennebaum launched his own company in 2008 specializing in engagement rings and wedding bands for same-sex couples. His designs are inspired by marriage equality and range from traditional pronged settings to stones surrounded by enamel. Since he's seen thousands of same-sex couples come through his door, we asked the designer about the protocol and customs of a same-sex engagement.
Q: First things first, who proposes to whom?
A: With same-sex couples the dynamic is different. I find there are couples who choose to have the marriage discussion, in which case the proposal is less the issue and a couple might just purchase rings together. However, when one partner decides on taking that step of commitment and would like to surprise his significant other with a proposal, there is never a right or wrong answer as to who decides to go first and propose. Unlike heterosexual couples where the norm is to have the guy ask for the woman's hand, when it comes to a same-sex couple, both are in a position to do the proposing.
Q: Must a same-sex couple wear matching rings?
A: In my opinion the rings do not need to match. I believe that it is perfectly okay to maintain individuality by each getting a ring that suits different personalities. Having said that, I like to offer options that allow a couple to choose similar designs that can be custom built for each partner’s taste (one gets white gold while the other yellow gold; or one gets high polish while the other matte, etc.), therefore same rings, different looks.
Q: Should there be engagement rings or wedding bands or both?
A: Personally, I am a strong believer in getting engaged. In our struggles to achieve marriage equality, same-sex couples skip a very important part of the longtime relationship, the engagement. I am just beginning to see more couples insisting on that nice shiny diamond (or other stone) on their finger for a period of time before a wedding. And there are so many options to make a wedding set (engagement ring and wedding band) work on any finger. While some couplles might go for a more traditional look, it is perfectly okay to explore non-conventional ideas for the rings. An engagement ring needn't have a single stone standing tall in a high setting anymore.
Q: Should we shop together or surprise each other?
A: I do find many couples shop together for their rings, meaning they discuss ahead of time their plans, make decisions together and get their rings at the same time in full sight of each other’s choices. However, every now and then I get the romantic who walks in, be it male or female, who wants to get that special someone of theirs an engagement ring and “pop the question." Truthfully, those stories always tug at my heart and I find that with the acceptance of engagements among same-sex couples, these are becoming more frequent.
Q: When one partner proposes to the other, is a reciprocal exchange required?
A: Each couple is different, but the norm is usually that the partner proposed to first will then want to go out and get his or her fiance a ring as well.