Jenny Horton and Mat Schramm had been dating for two-and-a-half years when he told her he wanted to get up early on a Friday morning and do something special.
“I honestly thought he was tricking me into working out or something,” Horton laughed. “So I had workout gear out and he was like, ‘You might want to dress a little bit better than that.'”
They got in the car at 5 a.m. and Schramm drove them to a special place in Wisconsin where they had gone stargazing in the past.
“Then he gets on one knee and proposes and I was putting together so many pieces,” Horton said. “It all sort of clicked as soon as the ring was right in front of me. Oh my gosh! This is real and this is happening! It was a complete surprise.”
Schramm handmade the peach gold and diamond engagement ring he slipped on Jenny’s finger that day, with help from Stephanie Selle, owner of Port Townsend’s With These Rings.
“I have a business where I teach people how to make their own wedding rings,” said Selle from inside her downtown Port Townsend studio. “It started when my husband and I were eloping and I said, ‘What are we going to do about our rings?’ And he said, ‘You’re a jeweler. You teach jewelry at the local community college, why don’t you just teach me?’ And I said, ‘Of course! That’s a great idea!’ So we did it and I quickly realized, hey wait, other people should be able to do this too. I started offering it and it became apparent that a lot of people wanted to do it.”
When Selle started her business in Seattle, she mostly had Seattle customers.
“Now that I’m out here, I’ve worked with couples from all over the country and even overseas,” Selle said.
Like Horton and Schramm, who flew in from Chicago to make each others’ wedding bands. Businesses like Selle’s are not very common.
“I do a lot of working with my hands and would rather make something then go buy it,” Schramm said. “Just the thought of walking into a jewelry store is unappealing to me. So working with Stephanie to make each others’ rings was very symbolic.”
Horton also thinks that making rings is more meaningful, but she wasn’t confident she could do it.
“I have never done anything even close to this so I was like, I don’t want to make an ugly ring! She was like, that’s impossible, you can’t!”
Selle says, with her assistance, anyone can do it.
“I would say that’s the biggest concern. Most people are like, I don’t work with my hands. I’m not crafty, I’m not handy, am I going to be able to make a ring? I guarantee that everybody will walk out with rings that they’re happy with. Some rings take extra steps so if they’re going to do stone setting or engraving, that’s something we do for them after the fact. They make the band, they take it from raw, stock material to a finished band in one day.”
Schramm made Horton’s engagement ring in secret. He told her he was on a business trip in Oregon, and then he sneaked over to Port Townsend to craft the ring with Selle’s help.
“He did an amazing job,” Horton said. “It’s absolutely perfect. It’s better than I could have designed on my own.”
I watched as the couple hammered and sanded and dipped the rings in various solutions.
“One of the things I love about jewelry is that the process and the tools are the same as its been forever,” said Selle. “You’re really just picking up a mandrel and a hammer and beating metal. You can still make a ring in a very basic, traditional way and that’s how I teach it.”
Selle says Port Townsend is the perfect backdrop for a romantic weekend that starts with making rings.
“Everybody who comes here is on a cloud,” said Selle. “People walk in the door and they’re like, ‘It feels so good in here!’ That’s because it’s marinating in love all day, every day.”