-the story- -the ring- -the media coverage-

The Proposal (Meg's version):

During our senior year of college, Ry and I talked seriously about marriage. We were about to graduate from college, and I was applying for jobs all over the world (with London & San Francisco being the cities with the most resumes), a major fear for both of us was that we would end up separated by logistics. That fear made us talk about things that would have otherwise felt silly at the age of 21, like marriage, like the rest of our lives. Many long, involved discussions, some tears, and many hugs later, we concluded that we didn't have a reason to get married, and it felt like too big of an undertaking to step into solely out of love; we were perfectly capable of being in love without the formality of marriage, and being married wouldn't change the effects of graduating college, it would just add additional stress. To my memory, during these conversations, Ry told me that he imagined that I would someday propose, when I was ready to be married; it wasn't so much that he was ready for marriage and I wasn't -- far from it, in fact -- but we both had a sense that if we were to marry, it would be on our own terms, which meant each of us figuring out what we wanted from the idea. Ry's demands from marriage were simpler than mine, because by nature I tend to complicate things. It seemed fair, given that disparity, that I decide when I was ready, rather than leaving him to guess.

In the summer of 2005, Ry and I signed a domestic partnership agreement, primarily so that I could access his far-better-than-mine health insurance, and it sparked innumerable conversations about why we weren't married yet, and what benefits there were to marriage. In this conversation, we set ourselves some goals -- namely that we imagined marriage to be something done by grown-ups, and while we never wished to be grown-ups, we wished to have many of the attributes we associate with them. We wanted to have unified finances, a sense of family, control of our bodies and health(s), and a more formal partnership. Our conversation ended there, with the agreement that we would be married within a few years, but we set no timetable. I began, in my procrastination, to remember the idea of proposing to him, and I began to search for inspiration. I couldn't shake myself out of the idea of a ring (because we've always worn jewelry bought by the other person, both rings and bracelets), and I couldn't shake myself out of the conclusion that Ry and titanium rings were made for each other. In October 2005, I found the perfect ring. Made by Bruce Boone, a former bike parts manufacturer, with aircraft grade titanium, the ring had a cherry wood inlay. I'm not normally the sort of person who relies on symbolism to navigate major decisions, but this ring just seemed so perfect for Ry, for so many different reasons. I thought about it for a few months, while making sure I had the disposable funds to purchase the ring. In the meantime, I tried to formulate how I'd ask him to marry me.

Having concluded that if left to my own devices for a proposal, I would panic, plot, scheme, and worry, but never actually ask the question (the weather, moment, timing, or location would never be perfect enough), I set about attempting to imagine a means by which someone else would make it happen, preferably Ry. I recalled all our conversations about the difference between unmarried partners and married partners from years past, our conclusion had been that marriage had a more communal and familial meaning than just a relationship, it would mean that we shared each other's families, friends, and histories. Given that fact, and given that I knew almost everyone in our lives would be happy to see us wed, I decided that I would have our community help me propose. After formulating a list of more than 50 people whom I would have liked to have help us, I trimmed the list down to just a few friends (with an emphasis on shared friends -- people whom I really felt both of us considered close, rather than one or the other), and nuclear family members, and I began to ask them to join me in planning my proposal on a public wiki. I ran through many ideas for how they could help, from recording their reminiscences about Ry and/or about us as a couple and giving him the CD, which would end with my own recording about how much I love him and why I want to marry him, to having each person take a photograph of him or herself either at home, or somewhere they loved, holding up a sign that said "say yes." All of these ideas that I threw around had one common element -- people would show their support of us, but their presence would be limited in some way, the proposal had to happen with just Ry and I around.

I decided that in order to create a moment in which I literally HAD to propose, the participation from this newly-formed small group would have to be somehow cryptic, confusing Ry so that he would either mention it to me or ask me directly about it. I decided that the cherry wood offered a simple and easy way to both involve people and confuse Ry -- I would have each collaborator mail Ry something cherry-themed (cherry blossom, cherry wood, cherry fruit, etc.), and that something was entirely up to each collaborator. This meant that rather than presenting Ry with a finished product (CD, photobook, whatever), Ry would receive the pieces of support individually over the space of a week or more, and the process would build, slowly and organically. We were about to move to a new apartment, so the gifts could be billed as housewarming gifts, a vague category which left room for people to be as creative, thrifty, or personal as they liked.

I asked all of my collaborators to begin mailing or delivering things so that they would start to arrive after Memorial Day weekend, giving us a few weeks to settle into our new home, and giving me a few weeks to clear the idea with our landlords & postman. He got his first present on May 30, and received presents intermittently over the following week and a half. He didn't make it through all the gifts we had planned before he caught on, but the whole point was that I had no idea whether he'd notice with 2 gifts or 20. Turns out that 13 gifts was the magic number, and two more gifts arrived after that, allowing him a chance to see what people had thought about & how they had participated.

For my proposal, Ry received:

  • Sour cherry lambic
  • Canned cherries in kirsch
  • homemade cherry wood napkin rings
  • homemade cherry wood serving board
  • hot cherry pepper plant
  • cherry wood CD case
  • cherry wood kitchen utensils
  • cherry pitter tool
  • kirschwasser liqueur
  • maraschino liqueur
  • cherry wood coasters
  • cheese aged in cherry leaves
  • bonsai cherry tree
  • cherry scented candles
  • home-canned sour cherries

As I waited for him to catch on during those days, I began systematically replacing anything fruit-ish in our house with cherry versions (breakfast bars, dried fruit, jam, juice, etc.), and I also made sure that he and I were both relatively busy, so that we were never home when the gifts were delivered (by mailman or by hand depending on the location of the relative or friend in question), and I didn't have to answer any questions until he asked the right one.

As he opened up the cheese and bonsai tree on Tuesday June 6, he muttered "Man, what's with all this cherry stuff lately?" and I told him I could give him an answer. He told me he didn't want an answer yet, and we finished extricating the bonsai from its intricate packaging. He commented on how unusual it was for him to have received so many presents, and I again reminded him that I could give him an answer, and he agreed. I fetched a medium-sized box out of the closet, wrapped in cherry blossom paper, and presented it to him. He unwrapped it and found another box containing a much smaller wrapped (different cherry blossom paper) ring box. He unwrapped that, and found his ring inside. I told him it was cherry wood, and that he had to read the inside of the ring. He read it aloud "Marry me, Meester?" [ed note: I frequently call Ry Meester] and instantly agreed. We stood there, flapping, hugging and kissing, until I finally worked up the nerve to tease him for taking so long to catch on to my plan. I told him about the wiki, told him how many people I had almost gotten to send gifts. I finally got to tell him how hard it had been to keep the secret, and how much fun it had been to be in constant contact with his friends and family to organize the whole thing. Turns out he had known that something was afoot, but not enough to have guessed that the housewarming presents were really engagement gifts.

Ry's version

Meg has nicely summarized our thoughts leading up to the signing of our domestic partnership agreement, so I'll pick up right around the fall of 2005.

Having done a lot of thinking about marriage, I began to investigate how to cause such a state to occur, ie. pondering the best method of proposing to Meg. This meant having a ring to give her. As non-traditional as we tend to be, there are some traditions worth hanging on to after all. She has always been fairly firm about not liking diamonds, so a typical engagement ring was obviously out of the question, leaving me both free to choose, and stuck for ideas. That winter, while browsing craigslist of all places, I came across a jewelery maker who specialized in one on one classes for ring making. PERFECT! We went back and forth with designs for a few months, I'd found a fantastic green saphire that I thought Meg would love, and was pretty much ready to start, when my funds that I'd reserved for the occasion were thrown into the deposit and fees for moving to our new lovely apartment, thus forcing me to put the ring on hold until I could recoup the necessary monies.

I began discovering little accidental hints that Meg was up to something, and started trying to accellerate obtaining a ring with the hopes that I'd be ready to re-propose to her the moment that she proposed (if that's what was going on), but to no avail. The fabulous Meg got to it first, proposing to me in the fashion outlined nearby, and I heartily accepted, with much flapping and waving of hands.

With the short term rush out of the way, I reverted to my previous plan of actually crafting the ring myself. Once I had saved up the necessary funds I tried to get back in touch with the jeweler that I'd been working with previously, but she had fallen off the face of the planet. Website dead, e-mail going into a black hole, and phone number changed with no forwarding. I spent a good few months trying to track down another jeweler to work with who would let me craft the ring myself, but had a heck of a time finding someone who would do that, eventually failing to do so. I moved on to trying to find a custom ring maker who would do exactly the design I had in my head, and while I had a few jewelers respond, they all dropped communication when I told them that 1: I already had a stone and wouldn't be buying one through them at a large markup, and 2: the design I wanted was a rather difficult one, with a tension mounted stone, or at least the appearance of one. It was now the spring of '07, and I went back to look at inspiration pictures of rings that I'd gotten Meg's best friend Nora to send me. Something clicked in my head, and I went to Bruce Boone's site, the same Boone who made my ring, and sure enough he had a design that was nearly exactly what I had in my head, and was perfectly happy to use my stone to build it. Sychronicity! If I couldn't make it myself, at least our rings would be forged in the same fire, as it were.

I made plans with Bruce, and was about set to begin, when our cat Fedora started acting oddly. We took her to the vet a few times, racking up some significant bills, and eventually had all of her little teeth pulled at a significant expense, thus again decimating my engagement ring funds. (She's doing great, and is back to eating dry food with just her gums! Don't ask me how!) I decided this had gone on long enough, mustered all the forces at my disposal, and as soon as it was possible I asked Bruce to proceed. The ring was done within a week; the man works fast. Tension-set green sapphire, in a titanium band with a platinum inlay, and "Yes!" inscribed where mine says "marry me meester?"

Now how to propose.

Hers had been a somewhat public proposal done in private, so I thought maybe mine should be a private proposal done in public. It had a nice mirror-image feel to it. We love us some picnics, and hadn't really had a proper picnic this summer, so I steered Meg in the direction of havinng a picnic that weekend. I may have even convinced her that it was her own idea. We had a friend's car for a few weeks, so we drove down to our favorite foodie haunt, Formaggio Kitchen, and procured a spread that would have made any foodie jealous. All our favorite bits and pieces for picnicing, from proscuito to figs, cherries(!) to cheeses, and some fantastic sourdough bread to eat it all with. We found a great spot of grass beside Fresh Pond, and settled in for our picnic.

Ever since Meg had proposed to me, she'd had a habit of asking "still wanna marry me?" Which I'd reply to with an assortment of ways to say yes, but usually just a vehement "Yes!", thus the inscription. I waited until she again popped the question, pulled the ring-box out of my bag, and responded "Only if you'll marry me too...?"
*cue happy music*

She accepted, my heart was fluttering even though I wasn't exactly worried about the answer, and we had a lovely private moment there beside the path around Fresh Pond, only briefly interupted by a random woman wandering through, sitting nearby, and leaving again quickly when she saw how cute we were being.

And thus, The Hyphens were doubly engaged!

© The Hyphens, 2007