2020 was a downer year in many respects, but we were privileged to work with many couples who will certainly look back and see 2020 as a year of joy. In fact, the pandemic provided an acute reason for many couples to decide to move forward with their relationship, whether by deciding to move in together or deciding to take the next step and get married. Sometimes, spending twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week together actually leads to good things!
This week, I am happy to share with you the engagement story of two lovely clients for whom we designed coordinating engagement rings over the summer of 2020. Ayla and Kristen have known each other for a long time, but it took the pandemic for them to realize they each had exactly what they wanted in each other. Read on to hear their beautiful story…
Meaghan: Ayla and Kristen, thank you so much for sitting down for this interview! Let’s start with the beginning for you two: how did you meet?
Ayla: We both went to the University of Virginia for undergraduate school; Kristen was the class of 2011, and I was the class of 2010. We signed up for the same class, Anthropology of Religion, and that was the first time I saw/noticed her (she didn’t notice me…). We were both athletes at UVA (I ran track, she was a swimmer) and we were required to work with tutors, so we officially met when we both signed up for a tutor for Anthropology of Religion. I totally stalked her after that, and the rest was history. We dated for a year or so, but it didn’t work out because she was in ROTC and “don’t ask, don’t tell” was still in play, and well, we were also just young and stupid and not ready to be in a mature relationship. We kept in touch over the years and then in 2018 Kristen found herself back in the D.C. area where I was living, and she let me know she would be in the city on a particular weekend. I already had tickets to a comedy show with a friend, so I invited Kristen to join. The day of the show, my friend was too sick to join, so Kristen and I went on an accidental date and began dating again within a few months.
Kristen: It was my first year at UVA, her second, and I took the Anthropology class mostly just to be with my swim teammates… but I had the fortunate opportunity to be in an athlete directed tutoring session with just me and Ayla. That was the first time we were together one on one. She asked for my number and that’s how we originally started talking.
Meaghan: What drew you to each other initially?
Ayla: Kristen was talking and laughing with her teammates when I first saw her, and her laugh filled the room. She has such a warm and commanding presence, and I could tell her teammates felt the same way. She had an energy that I felt drawn to; I just knew I wanted to be around her as much as possible.
Kristen: For me, it was definitely her confidence… I was not initially out in college, so the idea of being with a woman hadn’t crossed my mind when I met Ayla. But I found myself immediately drawn to her and wanting to spend more and more time with her. The more time I spent with her, the more attracted I was to her and she… I would say… didn’t really “let me get away” (?) maybe is the way to put it? She was very confident and very forward and I think I needed that. I was too nervous to go after what I wanted and it was extremely sexy.
Meaghan: I love that! What made you decide you wanted to get married?
Ayla: I was always obsessed with Kristen, but our lifestyles are so different (she’s in the army, I’m a morning person and she’s a night owl, she has a dog and I have cats, etc.). I was nervous we wouldn’t be able to compromise to a place where we would both be happy, but during quarantine when COVID-19 first hit, we spent 24/7 together for the first time. I was honestly a little nervous about it, but we totally figured it out in a big way. It also forced us to address things we hadn’t ever discussed, and it made me realize how much I appreciate that we always strive to do better for ourselves and for each other. It helped me understand that our commitment to communication will help us get through the ups and downs of marriage.
Kristen: So, our initial relationship out of college didn’t last. I think we were both young and figuring out how to function as individuals, not to mention in a relationship. But the spark and attraction never really went away. Even in the proposal process recently, Ayla showed me how often we had stayed in touch over the years and we always kind of seemed to find each other again and again. When we started dating again recently… I don’t know, I feel like it just clicked. Not only does she never cease to amaze me with how incredible of a human she is, she is the most thoughtful, wonderful, and supportive partner I could ever ask for. I knew I wanted that forever and I knew she would be the person that I could grow and continue to build a life with and… yeah… I just wanted that 😀.
Meaghan: It’s amazing how a huge outside event can so dramatically shift one’s perspective. I think it’s beautiful that you realized something so pivotal during such a difficult time. Before getting engaged, did either of you know what you wanted for a ring?
Ayla: I honestly hadn’t given it a lot of thought. I knew I would want something comfortable and modest but hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about it.
Kristen: I wouldn’t say I really knew what I wanted in a ring. I would say that I did not want to do your traditional high set diamond that looks clunky and gets stuck on literally everything. I wasn’t a part of the design process, but I think Ayla did an incredible job with the design in capturing our unique personalities in each individual ring yet creating a set of rings that are so perfect together. From the diamonds that she used to the thought that she put into the whole process, I couldn’t be happier with the way the rings turned out. I’m obsessed.
Meaghan: Tell us about the design process – I love that you opted for coordinating bands instead of a traditional high-set engagement style ring.
Ayla: I knew Kristen would care more about the meaning behind her ring vs. the actual design. I knew she would want something simple for everyday wear, but something very meaningful. She’s really close with her family, so I wanted to incorporate something from her family into her ring. Her mom offered her great grandmother’s ring, so I decided to pull a couple of tiny diamonds from that ring to incorporate into Kristen’s. For mine, I did the same but from my mom’s ring. I wanted our rings to look similarly themed. I wanted Kristen’s ring to be two-toned and modern looking (we went with palladium and rose gold), so I made mine out of rose gold to match without being too similar and added a few extra baguette diamonds around my mom’s diamonds for a little extra sparkle in mine. I had some ideas about how I wanted both rings to look when I met with Tim, and he was super helpful in helping me zero in on the perfect designs. I loved the quick 3D rendering because I’m a visual person. I left so incredibly excited to see how they would turn out; it was exactly how I wanted to feel going into a proposal!
Meaghan: How did you propose? Was it a surprise?
Ayla: It was totally a surprise! We spent the weekend with her parents and one of her brothers at her parents’ house on the Chesapeake Bay. Kristen and I dated in college, so I put together a scrapbook chronicling our story starting back in 2007. We went out on the pier for her to read through it. She was actually getting eaten alive by bugs, so she was annoyed and rushing, and we laugh about this a lot now. We got up to leave and then I handed her one more scrapbook entry, which was a picture of my journal entry the day I asked for her parents’ blessing to marry her, and I got down on one knee. She had actually spent the whole week pressuring me to tell her why I wouldn’t marry her (it was so painful to try to convince her I wasn’t ready yet) so her first reaction was confusion and concern that I was proposing because she had pressured me. Get real!! The whole event was pretty funny, and it was wonderful spending the rest of the weekend with her family.
Kristen: Well, the proposal was certainly a surprise to me… And it was absolutely incredible. I did my best to insert the human element into Ayla’s best-laid plans… but it was perfect. She walked us through our relationship from day one with the cutest scrapbook. She proposed out at my parents’ house on the Eastern shore, which is one of my favorite places on Earth. Honestly, I already had it in my mind that I wanted to spend forever with her and so I just felt extremely happy and lucky that she decided that she felt the same way.
Meaghan: Any tips for those who are thinking about getting engaged?
Ayla: I would just say, do whatever feels right for you. This was a non-traditional engagement, and our rings were non-traditional as well, so I spent a lot of time thinking about what made the most sense for us vs. following the “rules” and I could not be happier with the outcome.
Kristen: I think for a tip, I would say talk about it. Being in a relationship with a woman, I feel like we had a little more flexibility in how we wanted to do the engagement, how we want to do the wedding, who was going to propose to who… and I feel like that added an element of mutual discussion and understanding of where we wanted our relationship to go. I think when there’s the idea that the engagement has to be a complete surprise, that is a romantic and adorable notion, but it shouldn’t be a surprising idea when it happens. You should have both had the opportunity to discuss what you want your forever to look like, and hopefully, by the time you’re getting engaged, you both already know that’s where you want to be.
Meaghan: Can you describe your design process in one word?
Ayla: Perfect. I know that’s cliché, but I went to a different jeweler before working with Tim and it was just so off, I didn’t click with the jeweler and she didn’t make me feel excited about the process. Working with Tim was so easy, and it made me feel exactly how I wanted to feel: comfortable, excited, and confident.
Alexandria & Company is an Old Town-based workshop and design studio specializing in creating and restoring fine jewelry and silver hollowware. They are the in-the-know jewelers of Alexandria and have been serving clients out of their small workshop for decades. Tucked in their historic building on South Royal Street, the team at Alx&Co. brings a personalized, modern approach to their craft – this is not your average stodgy jeweler or antique shop. Visit them during their walk-in hours or online to view their collection of handmade fine jewelry or to drop off a repair project; or, if you’re feeling creative, make an appointment to talk about that custom design project you’ve been imagining.
121-B South Royal Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Design Studio Walk-In Hours (all jewelry services): Wednesday – Saturday 12-6pm
Silver Workshop Walk-In Hours (all silver repair and restoration services): Wednesday or Friday 12-6pm, or by appointment
Appointments encouraged for custom design.