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Couples' Tattoos
Is ink the new diamond ring?
Tradition is falling by the wayside in more weddings than one lately. Brides and grooms are opting for a personal celebration of their love, swaying away from details like traditional tiered cakes and classic diamond rings.

I stopped by Atomic Tattoo (1507 E. North Ave.) last week to talk with couples who weren’t quite talking nuptials, but making permanent declarations of love on their bodies.

“Do you see a lot of couples getting tattooed wedding rings?” I asked artist Ryan Manske. “That trend is falling by the wayside. The skin on your hand regenerates so often that it kicks the ink right out, sometimes just as quickly as it takes the tattoo to heal,” he explained. “But some people don’t mind getting it touched up often.”

Under the quiet hum of the needle, I continued to implore as he worked. Manske has been tattooing since 2006 at various locations in Milwaukee. He can create anywhere from three to 22 tattoos in one day, depending on size and detail.

(At left) Jessica Ciesielczyk, 18, and Jake Berry, 18, just celebrated their two-year anniversary. They asked for Manske's opinion on meaningful coordinating tattoos. Ryan shared the historical tradition of the U.S. Naval tattoos, where the man would get a lighthouse and the woman would get the ship.  They loved the idea, but Jessica opted for a compass rather than a ship. Even after eight tattoos, she still gets scared and a little squirmy right before it happens. Jake had just gotten his lighthouse and showed me that both designs will point toward each other on the back of their arms when he and Jessica hold hands.

Jessica and Jake both love expressing themselves through body art and feel that if they do marry in the future, they’d definitely opt for a tattoo or something nontraditional.

Rachel Groening, 27, and Peter Jackson, 30, were also getting a couples' tattoos last week at Atomic. They chose an inside joke – a spoon and fork to symbolize their love of food. She tends to eat everything with a spoon and he, a fork. Rachel has about 20 art pieces on her body and Peter has about six. They wanted the tattoos on the undersides of their forearms so when they hold hands the utensils are together.


                                                                            Peter and Rachel.

Rachel also has a jagged half-heart on her forearm that caught my attention. “Was that once a couples' tattoo?” I asked wide-eyed. It was indeed a matching tattoo from a different boyfriend she dated when she was 20. When they broke up, she chose to add detail and put an inspirational message around it, while he completely covered his with a zombie design. See, tattoos aren’t totally permanent.

Manske explained that the fad changes for locations on the body – “Couples tend to choose just below their thumb on the outside of their hand so they match up when they are holding hands. And women really like to get tattooed on their ribs lately.”

I am not what you would consider a traditional tattoo person, but after an hour with these couples, even I considered what type of tattoo my fiancée and I might get to symbolize our love.

Please use the comments feature below to voice your opinion on couples tattoos – is it a romantic gesture or a recipe for relationship disaster?

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