Boy, do we have a treat for you today! Did you know that earlier this month, Stylebook’s very own Britt Patterson and her dashing husband Geoff Hill celebrated their three-year anniversary? And, did you know that we made her incredible engagement ring? To celebrate Britt and Geoff’s special day, I sat down with Geoff to ask him all about how he created the perfect ring for Britt (and planned the most thoughtful surprise proposal). Read on for Geoff’s take on Stylebook’s favorite realtor (with commentary from Britt, of course!) and a special “Top Tips from Geoff” feature at the end!
Meaghan: Let’s take a trip down memory lane and really reminisce about how things started. How did you meet Britt?
Geoff: Brittany and I are lifelong Alexandrians and have known each other since high school. However, we had a serendipitous reconnection working on a political campaign in 2008 — in Minneapolis, of all places — and we were able to keep in touch after that.
Meaghan: It took the Midwest to bring you together! What initially drew you to Britt?
Geoff: For those who know Brittany, they see a lot of the same qualities that made me fall in love with her. She is a very genuine, caring person. Probably the most caring, generous person I have ever met to be honest (certainly no bias here). There is nothing she wouldn’t do for any person that she meets. I also really liked the strong bond she had with her family, which meant a lot because it showed me what our future would look like.
Meaghan: Yes, it takes a special person to be able to work with their family and still like them. Britt and her family are so close and work so well together.
Geoff: Absolutely. She also accepts all of my flaws, which I think is personally pretty great because I have more flaws than most. Did I mention she laughs at my terrible jokes?
Meaghan: Ha! So, it’s clear you had a genuine spark once you reconnected in Minneapolis. What made you decide you wanted to get married?
Geoff: There comes a point in time in any relationship when you start asking yourself is this the person I want to really spend the rest of my life with? Is she the one? Well I was lucky that I knew early on that the answer to both questions was an emphatic yes. Other than intense societal pressures, I had found the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. There was no more looking. When and if you are lucky enough to find that person, it’s game over. Move onto the next step. Marriage has allowed us to look to the future of raising a family together.
Meaghan: Before getting engaged, did you know what you wanted for a ring?
Geoff: Brittany had dropped some not-so-subtle hints before getting engaged that at least gave me a framework within which to work. I however did not go into this with any preconceived ideas about what was the right ring for us, so I kept an open mind and let Tim shepherd me through the process.
Britt: Getting engaged in your 30s allows the opportunity to see so many wonderful friends get engaged and thus expose you to all kind of engagement rings. Honestly, my friends would tease me and say things like, “The poor man that has to meet your expectations” because I really became a ring connoisseur. I wanted something I felt represented myself: classic, timeless, but with a twist. Like every bride-to-be, I scrolled Pinterest for hours and I came across a David Yurman engagement ring that I kind of liked.
However, I knew #1 if you buy a David Yurman ring you are overpaying, and #2 David Yurman makes great cocktail rings, earrings, and bracelets, but for an engagement ring… I just think it’s better to design something that is truly yours.
Meaghan: Tell us about the design process.
Geoff: This was a field in which I am by no means an expert. It started with Brittany and me coming and meeting with you and Tim for an initial consultation. This occurred about 5-6 months before I popped the question to Brittany. This allowed us to take a look at a couple different options with regard to the four “C’s”, cut, clarity, color, and carat. Budget is not discussed at this meeting, and I made sure to let Brittany know that I would take her input and work with Tim and Meaghan in the future.
Meaghan: This is such a great way to do it. Get a really solid sense of what she’s looking for, but then take the lead on actually creating the ring. Britt, how did it feel to step back from the design?
Britt: You and Tim were referred to us by a wonderful friend and I knew if she trusted you, I was in great hands! It’s exciting to finally step back! Trust the process and trust the experts! And always trust fellow Alexandrians. 😊
Geoff: When it was time to go ring shopping, I called Tim and scheduled an appointment during which he was able to educate me on my options based on my budget. He was able to tap into his industry contacts to identify a stone that would fit the vision that Brittany had which also was able to lower the cost, which I appreciated. I’m sure there are other great jewelers but I couldn’t imagine going through the process without Tim.
Meaghan: Tim is so good at making the process stress free. How did you propose? Was it a surprise?
Geoff: With Brittany’s close relationship to her family, I wanted to make sure that they could somehow take part in this special day. I worked with two of Brittany’s close friends, Melissa and Leslie, and was able to set up a surprise party that would take place at the Patterson residence after I proposed.
Little did I realize that days before the surprise party was to occur it almost had a horrible ending. I was sending emails to Brittany’s mom Phyllis on her work email (Brittany and Phyllis work together) regarding the surprise party, trying to hash out the last of the details…until I received a text from one of Brittany’s work colleagues with a simple note “Brittany gets Phyllis’ emails.” Point taken! Let’s just say I’m glad technology has come far enough that we can wipe emails from somebody’s inbox without them knowing.
Meaghan: It can be so, so difficult to plan a surprise with everyone so constantly connected, and via so many different means. You can never be too careful! How did the actual proposal go down?
Geoff: Well so we planned the party and when the day came, I took Brittany and our dog to walk along the Bike Trail in Old Town. I wore a Navy Blazer in what felt like 120-degree heat in July to conceal the ring box I had in my pocket. If that wasn’t a dead giveaway that something was up, I asked her to sit on a park bench on the water that was hidden from the trail. I then got down on one knee and proposed with one hand, as I fought off our dog that was trying to do a belly flop on her leash into the river next to us. Memorable moment.
Meaghan: Anytime a dog is involved…chaos ensues.
Geoff: Right? So, I then told Brittany we were meeting our families at the Patterson house right after. She opens the door, 30 people yell surprise, tears start. Right up there in the happiest moments in my life.
Meaghan: Britt, did you sense anything was up? (Or see those emails??)
Britt: I had no idea about the party but when a man puts on a dark navy blazer in 100-degree July heat and asks you to come with him to walk the dog…you sense it’s coming.
Meaghan: Geoff, can you describe your design process in one word?
Meaghan: Exactly what we strive for! Britt, we recently saw you again at our shop for an update to your wedding set. Tell us about your new band!
Britt: Sadly, I lost my wedding band sometime during Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend 2017. Between the plaid, parade, scotch, greenery, homes tours, and bows, I honestly do not have a clue how it went missing.
Meaghan: Ugh, just the worst.
Britt: Yes! I was bummed it was missing, and honestly shocked we forgot to insure it (note to those reading this! Call your insurance company right now!) I knew Geoff wouldn’t be game to replace it right away…so we waited a while and saved. (I mean… if you’re going to replace something, you might as well upgrade it while you’re at it!)
Meaghan: Absolutely! And you picked out such a gorgeous ring. It’s perfect in that it adds a fabulous amount of sparkle but you still have room for an anniversary band when you decide to add to your “stack” in a few years. I love it.
Britt: Me, too! I’m so glad to have the pair back together. Better still, I found my next wish list item while I was at your shop…the perfect diamond hoops! A girl can dream…
While this takes some of the surprise out of the process, I truly believe this is critical. Let’s face it, the purchase of an engagement ring is a pretty critical point in anyone’s life so you want to make sure your partner is completely happy with what they are going to have on their hand for the rest of their life. It would be like a guy going to his girl and saying, “Honey as a gift I am going to get you an appointment at the best salon with the best stylist in the world. But I am going to pick the cut you get without your input.” There’s just no way.
I have heard people say that they have waited two months with the ring in an air duct above the bed before asking. Hell, no. The anxiousness and paranoia of knowing I have an expensive ring in my possession would make me crazy. I waited about two weeks before popping the question and it felt like an eternity. Just consider the timing in your overall scheduling.
It’s a good way to spend the special moment with the family and friends that really care about you.
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.