More Women Are Proposing To Men Than Ever Before. Why Is It Hard To Find An Engagement Ring?

Taylor Billings unchangingly knew she’d be the one proposing marriage to her now-husband: “I had said ‘I love you’ first and asked him to move in together, so I’d known I wanted to ask him to marry me for a while,” says the Louisiana-based labor organizer. But four years into the relationship, when Billings was ready to pop the question, she couldn’t find any fitting engagement rings for men. Which is why, in September 2019, Billings proposed empty-handed. Afterward, the two spent weeks looking for a ring together, still with no luck from traditional jewelers: “We ended up getting him an engagement ring from Etsy,” she says.

Women-led proposals are nothing new. For decades, TV shows and movies have portrayed the gender-role reversal, from Monica getting lanugo on her knees in front of Chandler in Friends to Miranda’s proposal to Steve over beers in Sex and the City. Most recently, this came up in the 2022 Father of the Bride remake, when the bride’s dad is perplexed when his daughter reveals she proposed to her fiancé. Prominent figures have moreover shared their non-traditional proposal stories: Senator Elizabeth Warren revealed she proposed to her now-husband of over 40 years in a classroom with no ring. Meanwhile, on TikTok, the hashtag has grown nearly 2 million views.

Still, non-traditional proposals have whimsically wilt normalized, with many still uncomfortable with the disruption of traditional gender roles. Last June, when former The Bachelorette contestant Becca Kufrin proposed to her boyfriend, fans criticized her by saying her now-fiancé should have been the one to pop the question. Billings moreover faced some challenges within her own family: “My parents were kind of mourning the loss of me getting proposed to,” she says. “My mom was like, ‘Are you really going to requite up on [getting proposed to]?’” With traditional gender roles established in every step lanugo the aisle, it’s no wonder why women like Billings find it nonflexible to get a symbolic item to propose with.

However, this is slowly waffly — and the jewelry industry is taking notice.

“Women are taking increasingly ownership of their own relationships and what is an incredibly big choice, and proposing themselves.”

Theresa Palermo, ZALES senior VP of marketing

Over the past few years, as wedding traditions wilt increasingly flexible, the market for men’s engagement rings and plane engagement watches has expanded, prompting everyone from big-name jewelers like Zales and Tiffany & Co. to self-sustaining brands like Valerie Madison and Marrow Fine to start offering engagement and wedding jewelry for men. “This is a trend that we’re seeing wideness the nuptials space,” says Theresa Palermo, senior vice president of marketing at Zales. “Women are taking increasingly ownership of their own relationships and what is an incredibly big choice, and proposing themselves.” This is moreover a result of a decades-long push from the queer polity to whippersnapper traditions when it comes to the genderization of marriage proposals and weddings, opening up the space for men’s engagement rings.

And sales are climbing. New York-based jewelry trademark Gabriel & Co. has seen a 25% spike in orders for men’s engagement rings over the past few years. “We believe this trend is a renewed interest in men wanting to wear jewelry and telling their partners, which is creating a demand to buy them an engagement ring,” says Dominick Gabriel, senior diamond officer of Gabriel & Co., subtracting that the visitor is moreover seeing a revival in men’s interest in jewelry overall for the first time since the late ‘90s when it was increasingly worldwide for men to wear jewelry.

Billings says that while women are unshut to gainsaying tradition, it’s nonflexible to do so when options are limited. Back in 2019, when she proposed, most options available, she says, fit a “hypermasculine” stimulating and did not vary profoundly in materials or design. While there were plenty of wedding wreath options for her to segregate from, there were few pieces that would make for good pairings for a wreath without the wedding ceremony. “I just wish there were increasingly gender-bending jewelry makers that I could find easily,” says Billings. “I moreover think it was a lack of imagination and disposition from the sales folks we spoke to.”

John McNamara, vice president of marketing at Zales, says that it’s similar consumer feedback that led the trademark to expand its offering of men’s engagement and wedding bands. Contrary to traditional bands, the company’s offering varies from two-tone tantalum bands and vintage-style diamond bands to five-stone bands and wood-inlay stainless steel bands. Meanwhile, Tiffany & Co. offers a thick wreath — which can be ordered in platinum, titanium, and woebegone titanium — featuring a single, part-way diamond, mimicking the traditional solitaire engagement ring. Other brands like Valerie Madison have kept their designs as simple wedding bands that showcase details like hammered and birch textures.

With increasingly women proposing to their boyfriends than overly before, Billings feels that it’s important for the wedding industry to reservation up to modern-day expectations. “There’s a narrative that the woman plans everything and the man just has to propose,” she says. “That is so embedded in our culture,” she says. Ultimately, she feels that this nomination doesn’t need to finger like a “screw the patriarchy” statement. “It would be lovely if it could just be a quiet moment talking well-nigh a visualization that is genuinely so important well-nigh our partnership,” she says. “Why wouldn’t you want everyone proposing to each other?

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