Married at City Hall: Ditching Tradition

For Tiffany and her husband Tomasz, it was an obvious decision, and they joined a like-minded group of Millennials forgoing custom. Furthermore, Tiffany opted out of a diamond engagement ring, insisting that “what they represent has dubious origins and is an outdated commodity.”

In 1929 when De Beers looked to advertising firm N.W. Ayer to boost dwindling diamond sales and prices, the firm decided to play on human emotion and need for status. The idea was that in order for a man to prove his love, he had to spend a months pay on a ring. The campaign worked well enough, but it wasn’t until 1947 when a female copywriter, Frances Gerety, created that famous and most durable advertising slogan in history. Within three years, an estimated 80 percent of wedding engagements in America were consecrated with diamond. A diamond engagement ring, at its most honest, is a crafty marketing ploy. A beacon of pop culture marketing. Case in point: In 2000, Advertising Age magazine named “A Diamond Is Forever” the best advertising slogan of the twentieth century.

For Tiffany it’s more than that.

Up until the Great Depression, women could sue the groom-to-be for monetary damages if the proposal for marriage fell through. I believe this was called “Breach of Promise.” The amount of monetary damages were increased if the woman had had sex with her fiance. At the time, the idea was to protect the woman’s reputation and future financial security and as these laws were repealed, a diamond ring was given in lieu as a source of financial security – to me, this implies that a woman’s virginity is worth the cost of a ring, varying depending on the groom-to-Be’s financial situation. I don’t consider my “virginity” or “marriageability” to be my prime asset (as is the case for women in general).

She continues:

In an age where we have made great leaps in gender equality, it doesn’t exactly seem equitable that a woman demand her man to shell out a sixth of his salary to “prove” that he can ‘provide’ for her, especially since women no longer need to rely on men for financial security (and in an age where female college graduates outnumber their male counterparts!). This ‘tradition’ that has been handed down to us doesn’t fit into the intellectual framework of gender equality. Unless we, as women, are still measuring our worth in a relationship in ways that men don’t.

Beyond that, in spite of generation-selfie, for Tiffany, “The idea of walking down an aisle and having everyone look at me is my worst nightmare.”

Perhaps there is hope for us yet, whether we choose tradition or opt out.

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