We Made Our Own Engagement Ring—Here’s Why

This weekend, Kevin and I got engaged! 💍We have been together for the past three years, and have known for a long time that we are in it for the long haul. It comes as no surprise to our close friends and family that we’ve decided to tie the knot, and I feel very lucky for all the twists and turns in my life that led me here. Okay, enough sappiness…

Naturally, we have been thinking a lot about “engagement”—particularly, how it happens. Traditionally, an engagement follows a proposal—usually an offer extended by the groom to be, who gets down on one knee and whips out a ring. Typically, the ring is expensive. And in some cases, the proposal is a surprise—or a public event, where onlookers gasp and gawk.

Earlier on, Kevin and I had floated different possibilities to each other. Maybe “I” would propose, hence flipping the stereotypical proposal process on its head. Or maybe we would both plan to surprise the other person at a specific time. Or maybe we would just skip the “proposal” and focus on the marriage. Over time, however, it became very clear that no matter how we handled the situation, we should approach it the same way we approach our relationship: by working as a team, and doing things our own way.

In Taiwan and Hong Kong, an engagement (訂婚) is a family event that comes with a number of traditional procedures (禮俗). Usually, a special meal is prepared and families from both sides have to be present. However, in the US, an engagement is typically a more personal affair, something arranged between the couple. Of course, what I’ve described is just a reductive explanation of how engagements transpire in different parts of the world. But they do usually share one thing in common—an engagement ring.

Ah, the ring—’twas a source of stress for both of us early on in this process. Did I want an engagement ring? Yes, but I also knew I didn’t want Kevin to shell out $$$ for an engagement ring that I’d eventually trade for a wedding band (I’m not the wear-two-rings-on-one-finger type). I can think of so many ways to better spend that money. I also knew that nothing would stress Kevin out more than picking a ring out by himself, since we like to make big decisions together. So, if we were to get an engagement ring, we’d pick one out together. And I did not want to ring-shop online—I wanted to try the ring on in person. Then came our next challenge: due to the pandemic, all the shops were closed. What next?

Kevin and I had planned to get engaged and married around this time, and the timing would have been perfect—my mom was scheduled to visit the US in May, so she would have been here to celebrate with us. However, I reiterate: the pandemic happened. We realized that we had to improvise… which brings me to the ring.

I have been beadmaking since I was young, for both my mom and my aunt enjoy making beaded jewelry. Almost all of the jewelry I’ve worn in my life has been handmade by them, and this is a big reason why I never wanted to pierce my ears; my favorite earrings were clip-ons that they made using beads, thread, and wire:

Last December, when I returned to Hong Kong for the holidays, I started beadmaking again. In fact, I started to make rings. Here’s a sample at some of my creations:

So when I returned to Chicago in January, I brought with me a box of beads. And last month, my aunt shipped me even more beads (alongside masks, bless her).

So although Kevin and I could not go ring shopping in person, we had everything we needed to make a very special ring right at home. And given the number of rings I’ve been making since December, I think it’s safe to say that I knew my beadmaking experience would come in clutch very soon…

MAKING THE RING

Both Kevin and I are very hands-on people; we enjoy DIY, making food and supplies from scratch, fixing furniture on our own without calling the landlord (well, I guess he enjoys that), etc. So constructing a ring together made sense and seemed very fun (unlike stressfully shopping for a $$ ring).

To make the band, we followed a very simple beading technique that I use for almost all my rings. We used fishing string—which feels symbolic since Kevin and I have very nice memories fishing in Alabama and on our first camping trip together.

We initially considered a different centerpiece, one made using beads and pearls. Here was an early candidate—a sunflower!

However, we both then thought that it might be better to have something more prominent as the centerpiece. Looking through my jewelry box, we found the gem you now see in the picture. It was originally attached to a pair of my earrings, but it sometimes fell off. So I decided to just remove both of them (I have jewelry tweezers at home). As you can see, the earrings look just fine without the beads. Here’s another fun fact about these earrings: I bought them in Mongkok while Kevin waited for me to make up my mind for like, 40 minutes. So in a kind of sweet way, they remind me of Hong Kong—and Kevin’s indefatigable patience.

The next step was to affix the gem onto the ring. Ultimately, the best way to go about it was to glue the gem onto the beads using Gorilla Glue. Here’s trial 1 (spoiler: it didn’t work). The glue work was kind of messy and bubbly, and the band itself was also too loose.

So we tried a different technique… As you can see in the photo below, we altered the beading of the band so that the gem could actually sit on the ring more comfortably (thus leading to a cleaner gluing process).

Before finally tying the ring together with a surgeon’s knot, I wore it for a while (loosely tied) to make sure it was the right size. We also had to glue the gem back on a few times (lol). But here it is now, looking quite good!

FINAL THOUGHTS

I’ve been thinking about the Taylor Swift song “Paper Rings,” which contains this lovely line: “I like shiny things, but I’d marry you with paper rings.” In truth, I have been thinking about that song since last summer (lol). But I also think it’s notable to mark the difference between Taylor’s first worldwide hit, “Love Story,” and “Paper Rings.” In “Love Story” she sings about a prince who “knelt to the ground and pulled out a ring and said ‘Marry me Juliet’….” In “Paper Rings,” we see a more practical, less fairytale, yet just as romantic version of marriage. For ultimately what bonds two people together is the relationship they share and their commitment. A ring, shiny as it is, shouldn’t be at the center of any engagement. One day, this engagement ring is going to rust and I might just tuck it away somewhere. But the relationship that forged it is everlasting. 😊

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