Ed and Melissa are both improvisers. We’re not talking self-reliance, resourcefulness and ingenuity here (though they probably possess all three in spades). No, we’re talking about the kind of improvising you do on stage, after a bunch of strangers have yelled suggestions at you.
Though they both now have traditional careers (he’s a commercial real estate agent, she’s a program director for a major arts foundation), the two met during the 00s as performers at Washington D.C.’s Washington Improv Theater. They weren’t in a group together: they met in the theater lobby, when they were both late for a post-show trip to the local pub. “Our respective groups had already left the theater, but the two of us were late, and were standing in the lobby, wondering where everyone had gone.”
As in a typical improv performance, it took a while for the participants to get in sync. First, they walked over to the pub, and Ed got carded. “I was like 30, but I didn’t have my ID and the bouncer wouldn’t let me in.”
Ed told Melissa he was going to get his I.D. If this was an “offer,” in Improv speak, Melissa “blocked” it pretty quickly: instead of walking back to his car with him (and continuing the premise, if you will) she went into the pub by herself. Ed interpreted this as a lack of interest on her part, so when he reached his car he got in and drove home. End of scene.
The two didn’t see each other again for many months. Ed moved to LA, and Melissa eventually enrolled in NYU. As it happened, Ed was an NYU graduate, and after seeing each other on Facebook, they started talking. He visited New York a couple of times, they started dating and, eventually she moved out to LA to live with him.
Advancing the Scene
As Improv veterans, Ed and Melissa were used to collaborating to advance a scene, and Ed wanted to keep that dynamic going as they took their relationship from living together to married. “I absolutely knew that I wanted Melissa’s input when it came to getting her engagement ring,” he says,” but I also wanted it to be a surprise.” So he did a little improvisation of his own and bought a “placeholder” ring to make his objective clear.
“A placeholder ring was something I thought would be perfect,” he says now. “It was similar to another piece of jewelry she had and really liked.” But life, like improv, is about the unexpected. When he popped the question at one of their favorite LA spots–the Lake Shrine Meditation Center (George Harrison used to meditate there, so you know it’s mad legit)–Melissa said “Yes, and…I hate this ring.”
“She didn’t like the style of the ring AT ALL,” says Ed. “I mean, she loved that I gave it to her to propose, but she only wore it for like a day. I was glad I had waited to get her help for the real engagement ring.”
Focusing On the Ring
Melissa has a particular fondness for old theaters from the ‘20s and ‘30s, so the couple decided on an Art Deco style for the ring. Being in Los Angeles, they had a wealth of “old Hollywood” vintage stores to explore. They ended up working with the jewelers at SN Queens, in Downtown LA’s diamond center.
“We loved our experience there,” says Ed, who eventually went back to them for his wedding band. “They were open, honest, helpful. They worked within our budget, which was likely below their average given their clientele.”
“We live in Queens, and I thought that this was a sign,” says Melissa. “I wanted my ring to feel unique, like it had lived and had a story.”
“I knew of women with massive fracture-your-wrist-diamonds who only wore their engagement rings on special occasions,” she continues. “I wanted to wear mine always. I didn’t want it to be too bulky and get caught on sweaters or in my hair; it had to be sturdy enough so I could wear it to the gym.”
An unusual–and “unmistakably art deco” design frames three stones: two smaller diamonds flanking a larger center stone. The design also features a cool negative space in which portions of the center section look as though they are floating.
“We’re told it was made in the 20s, and I like to think someone like Mary Pickford wore it,” says Melissa. “It’s certainly unlike any that I’ve ever seen. It’s one of kind, like our love.”
(Pictured: Melissa’s ring inside Ed’s wedding band)