Shortly before my fiancé and I officially announced our engagement, I saw the diamond ring emoji pop up on my Instagram feed once more. Another friend had gotten engaged and included the hashtag #notcubiczirconia alongside the announcement of her happy news. Although I was happy for her, I couldn’t help but wonder: Knowing that there is no diamond ring in my future, will my own engagement be filled with quite as many big “Congratulations!” as hers?
I’ve known from a very young age that I wanted a fairly traditional path to the altar. My parents became pregnant with me during college and, although still happily married today, I wasn’t exactly planned. There was no fairy tale proposal or magical ring in their past, but I was nonetheless under the impression that this was the ideal road to your happily ever after.
You fall in love, you move in together, your fiancé surprises you with a proposal by kneeling down on one knee and presenting you with a diamond ring that cost at least two month’s rent and you get married. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to go?
When my fiancé Adam and I first met, our story certainly started out as a fairy tale. I had just made a dramatic move from New York City back to my hometown after 12 years of living away and he had recently come out of a tumultuous relationship that ended badly. We both decided to take a chance on online dating and were each other’s first date. There was never anyone else for either of us and, just a month later, we were saying “I love you.”
From there, our relationship only grew and strengthened. As I learned more about him and we united our lives, one thing became instantly clear: We wanted to be together for the long haul. Shortly after that, another thing became clear: There was no way we were cut out for the traditional love story that I had always imagined.
In the years since I first imagined myself walking down the aisle in a huge, pouffy white dress wearing a big ring on my finger in front of hundreds of my closest family and friends, a lot had changed. I was no longer a little girl with a big dream. Instead, I was an adult making my own choices, leading my own life and making priorities that didn’t quite adhere with the fairy tale image that I had grown up with.
For one, I considered myself a feminist. I didn’t need a man to tell me my worth or a ring to make me happy. Instead, when I turned on the Bumble app the night before I started chatting with Adam, I was looking for a partner. Someone who would be my equal in all walks of life, who would choose to be with me through thick and thin, who would love me and support my career, who would take on life’s challenges (like kids and maybe someday buying a house) with me and who would even enjoy lazy Sundays doing chores together. I no longer wanted a fairy tale marriage, but a relationship and marriage filled with love, support and understanding.
When Adam and I finally got engaged, it was everything I had imagined it to be and at the same time so different than what I had originally thought I wanted. There was absolutely no surprise element. He didn’t get down on one knee or present me with a diamond engagement ring. I didn’t cry tears of joy at the shock of “finally” hearing the words “Will you marry me?” And there were no engagement ring selfies or diamond ring emojis being posted when we announced our engagement.
Instead, our engagement was a mutual decision. We had been talking about our intentions to get married since a couple of months into our relationship. Eventually, we got to the point where our vague conversations about marriage became more specific. We started to discuss what we wanted in a marriage, how many people we’d like to invite to our wedding and when we would actually like to officially declare in front of friends and family that we were legally binding our lives together.
It was, in a way, not romantic at all. The conversation to get married took place over almost a year and the final decision about the when and how that marriage would begin took place over several months. Eventually, we settled on all of our most important details, like that we wanted to get married in the city where he was born and that I still fully intended to wear white (though in a much less pouffy version of the dress I imagined as a little girl).
But at the same time, our engagement was incredibly romantic.
The fact that our engagement was a mutual decision showed exactly how much we love each other and how we act as committed, responsible, loving partners. Our engagement was romantic because it wasn’t about one person telling the other that they are worthy of marrying but rather a decision by two adults who are choosing to tie their lives together.
For me, the romance of our decision lies in the fact that we made it together — something that will continue to happen over and over again if we have any hope of continuing to have a happy marriage well beyond our wedding day.
So now, whenever someone grabs my hand and looks disappointed to see my simple $35 engagement ring, I tell them the truth: I didn’t need my fiancé to buy me a diamond ring and get down on one knee to “prove” how much he loves me. I already know he loves me. Instead, what we needed to show our commitment to one another was to make a mature, adult decision in the same way that we will now live our lives: Together.
And isn’t being together the most romantic thing of all? I think so.