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New bonds are created when you are ready to say I do.

For 63 years, Bob Mims has set diamonds in engagement rings in the Miss-Lou; brides all over town wear his work.

And for almost as many years his staff has been zipping their lips and throwing away the keys.

“The best part of the job is knowing about (the engagement ring) and the bride not knowing and (us) being able to keep a secret,” Ginger Mims said.

“When I see (brides) in public, I can’t ever say, ‘Did you like it?’ I have to wait until they say something to me about it. That’s the hardest part.”

But the work inside Mims begins long before the moment of surprise.

Ariel Gardner, a saleswoman, said in the past three and a half years she’s worked at the store, she’s noticed a few commonalities when it comes to future grooms.

“A lot of the guys put a lot of thought into (their ring purchase),” Gardner said. “They will usually come in without their future fiancé.”

Ginger Mims said most of the men she helps with ring purchases have at least two things in common — they are hoping they make the right ring choice and they want the ring to be a surprise.

“We do a lot of by-appointment consultations because they don’t want people to know their business,” Ginger Mims said.

Once safely inside the store, there is a bit of male bonding that occurs, she said, as the more experienced shoppers begin sharing tips, advice and stories with the nervous newcomers.

“We all get to be friends through this,” Mims said.

But once the ring is bought and the proposal is accepted, male bonding must come to at least a temporary halt.

There’s a new bond to shape, and a new family to make.

Most men look a bit uncomfortable trailing behind their fiancées as Beverly Jenkins points out the differences in Wedgewood and Lenox at H. Hal Garner Antiques, that is, if they come at all.

But it was china patterns that made a unique connection for Meg O’Beirne and Andy Payment before their recent wedding.

“Andy’s grandmother left him her china, and it was something he had and kept and never used but wanted to use,” Payment said. “He showed the china to me after we got engaged, and I loved it.

“We take this part of our heritage a little bit for granted. I never knew Andy’s grandmother and now we have these beautiful pieces. Our families’ histories have been united.

“It’s the sentiment of having something of (Andy’s) grandmother’s and belonging to his family coupled with the new traditions we are starting with our family that makes it so special.”

Jenkins, the store’s china saleswoman, said similar stories are common in the south.

“The thing about having fine china that you love is you can pass it down and pull the pieces together,” Jenkins said.

“It’s a Southern tradition. All of our grandparents had fine china. People like giving these fine gifts because they are giving tradition to a couple.”

Jenkins said each bride she assists is special and is looking for something that will stay with them throughout their lifetime and even longer.

“The brides here are precious to me,” Jenkins said. “I like for them to have formal china for those special occasions.”

However, Jenkins said she tells her brides in order for them to make their china a part of their lives they should incorporate it into their daily lives.

“I tell them you need to use it and enjoy it. Don’t just put it in a cabinet,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said the connection people make through looking for modern-day china pieces that match their grandparents’ heirloom china creates a special bond between the generations.

“It’s important to think about your grandmother’s and mother’s patterns,” Jenkins said.

“These purchases are for a lifetime. China is not just for a cabinet — it’s loved and picked out at a specific time in their lives.”

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