Engagement Story: Wes & Jenni

Wes sent this story and I thought it was so beautifully told that I couldn’t bear to ask him to cut it. It made me cry and I suspect it might have the same effect on you! Enjoy! (Remember, submit YOUR engagement stories to natasha@theweddinglens.com)

“Finding a ring for Jenni took longer than I’d expected. Something that we’d talked about — a sort of philosophy — was this belief that we should consume the fewest resources possible. This has led us to make large purchasing decisions based on the lasting power of an item, and looking for re-used things rather than new when possible.

I decided to try this tactic with a diamond ring, and I very quickly learned that the world’s biggest diamond supplier, De Beers, pushes its “diamonds are forever” campaign to not only encourage people to buy diamonds, but to never want to get rid of them either (more precisely, pass it down the family). A company that can control both the supply and the demand side of the curve is quite a business indeed…

The only real after market for diamonds shows up in lot auctions, which is really only useful for jewelers. Otherwise, you might be able to find something online from a divorce, and even the least superstitious might have an aversion to that.

I decided to actively seek out a used diamond, and so the logical place to start was with my parents, who had rings from their parents. These rings, though, were set in an old Hong Kong style (very high and ostentatious). I was planning on resetting the stone anyway, and it seemed the prospect of destroying the original ring didn’t thrill my parents.

My next thought, then, was to look to purchase a stone from someone who might have influenced Jenni. I immediately thought of Marie Curie, whose house we’d made a special trip to see during our trip to Paris, and who Jenni felt a special kingship, not only because of her background in radio chemistry and as a woman in science, but also because of her Polish ancestry. Marie Curie, though, famously (according to the internet) did not have any jewelry.

But her grandchildren might. I was able to locate a Dr. Helene Langevin-Joliot, a nuclear physicist working in France and international speaker on women in science, who coincidentally had last spoken at Berkeley in Spring, 1997, the semester before I started school. I could not find a mailing address for her office, especially tough without a working knowledge of French, but I did happen on a book that she had published through a company in Amherst. I wrote (what I think was) a nice letter outlining the various reasons I might prefer purchasing a used diamond, along with some photos and information about Jenni’s work and my companies.

Months later, it was still unanswered, which I’d expected would happen. I figured that she either did not even read the letter, or it sounded like a complete scam. It may as well have been sent from Nigeria. It also occurred to me that it was a good thing Dr. Langevin-Joliot was in physics, because that would minimize the chance Jenni might come in contact with her and be totally horrified.

I eventually wound up picking a gem stone from an online retailer, Blue Nile, and having it set in Park Slope at the Clay Pot, which we later found out was the store for “hipster engagement rings”. Jenni had picked out the setting because of the old fashioned look of the thing; on the designer’s website, they claim that they use tools that date back to the late 19th century.

Once I placed the order for the diamond and started the process of having the setting made, I had about a month and a half to prepare for the actual proposal. I’d decided that I would learn how to sing and play a song on the mandolin, and the tune that I eventually picked was “If I Had You”, strongly influenced by a version Nellie McKay sang at a TED conference. The song as normally sung is more of the unrequited variety, lovesick and yearning, but I thought to interpret my version in a different light, one that would come across as hopeful and promising.

On the evening I decided to actually propose, I called my parents (it was my mom’s birthday), and chatted with them. They already knew I had the ring in my posession and that I was to pop the question soon, but they had no idea how soon. My dad jokingly said that the best present I could have given my mom was an engagement to Jenni. I replied that I still had a couple hours left that night (it was 10:30pm).

After I hung up, Jenni and I started surfing the Internet in search of new bands and music, and I eventually worked up the courage to as her if I could sing a song for her. She said yes, apparently oblivious to what was about to happen. I’d hidden the ring box inside the mandolin case, and earlier that night she’d moved it around, so I was lucky she hadn’t discovered the ring yet.

I started singing, and at the end, got down on the obligatory knee and opened the mandolin case with the ring box open inside, like one of those Petrushka dolls. Jenni was so happy that she didn’t even look at the ring or give me an answer for a while. But eventually she did look at the ring, and she did give me an answer, and it was yes.”

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One Response

  1. […] digital photos from your wedding guests in one shared & private album. … View post:  Engagement Story: Wes & Jenni « The Wedding Lens Blog – Wedding … Share and […]

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