10 Nov 2023

With this Ring

The proposal has been accepted and it’s time to put a ring on the bride-to-be’s finger. The engagement rings is laden with symbolism. It announces a forthcoming marriage to the world, is a substantial love token and above all it symbolises commitment. It is a conventional feature of becoming engaged, but it is not ‘compulsory’, and some brides choose to eschew them altogether.

There is a tradition that the ring, which represents a substantial investment, should cost the equivalent of 2-3 months of the groom’s salary, but there is no obligation whatsoever to adhere to this expectation. The cost of the ring should of course be commensurate with the groom’s budget and ability to pay; it would be an extremely ominous sign to enter a marriage with substantial debts because of an over-extravagant engagement ring. No bride-to-be should assess her engagement ring on the basis of its bling factor or feel that a more modest purchase in some way signals that she is being undervalued. Buying an engagement ring is just the first in an accelerating list of purchases and expenses that accompany a marriage, and inevitably grooms will need to make their books balance. If cash is tight, some couples opt for a modest engagement ring, with the understanding that they may upgrade it later or add a subsequent purchase of a classy eternity ring at a later date.

Choosing the Ring

The romantic cliché, much reinforced by movies, is that the future groom approaches his proposal well-prepared, with a ring box secreted in his pocket. Some men will choose to go down this route, but they should only do so if they are confident that they understand their partner’s taste and, preferably, know her ring size. They can, of course, enlist help and advice with both these questions – perhaps by confiding in her best friend, mother or sister – and this would undoubtedly make them more secure and confident in their choice.

It is increasingly common for couples to choose the ring together and, while this route lacks the romantic element of surprise, it is a safe option. It is very important before making the selection that the budget is openly discussed – the ring should be the very best that the bridegroom can afford, and the bride must accept his own estimate of his upper payment limit without questioning it.

Some grooms are lucky enough to have an heirloom ring, perhaps from a grandmother, aunt or mother. If this is the case, they should not assume that this treasured ring will be the ideal option (the choice of a ring is a very individual matter) and should always offer to have the ring adapted or re-set. By offering an heirloom ring the groom is welcoming his partner into his own family, and the ring (even if it is much altered) symbolises family continuity.

Use trusted and recommended jewellers where possible. A large diamond is not necessarily more valuable than a smaller, well cut, flawless stone, and a discreet ring may be more suited to everyday wear.

The bride should try on and experiment with different styles and shapes of stones and settings. It is best to try them alongside a wedding band to get a true feel for how the ring will eventually settle on the finger.

Diamonds are the traditional choice, but other stones, such as sapphires and rubies, may also be chosen or used as side-settings. Popular metals for engagement rings are white gold, gold and platinum, which is the most hardwearing. The metal of the wedding band should be the same as the engagement ring, both to ensure that they match and to avoid a harder metal rubbing away at a softer metal.

What if you Don't Like the Ring?

If the groom chooses the ring, there is always the danger that the bride will be disappointed. If your first reaction on seeing an engagement ring is disappointment or dismay, conceal those emotions. Give it time and see if the ring grows on you (many jewellers offer a 30-day return period). Your first reaction might have been because the actual ring falls far short of your fantasy ring, but a sense of reality and an acknowledgment that this ring has been painstakingly chosen for you, might reconcile you to it. Seeing it in different lights, and noticing when it catches the light and sparkles, might go some way towards persuading you.

If the doubts are still uppermost, don’t upload triumphant engagement pictures, featuring the offending ring, on social media. If you do decide to change the ring, you might find yourself having to explain the whole saga to your nearest and dearest, and it could well be humiliating for your partner to find that everybody knows about his mis-fired first choice.

Test the ring out on somebody whose judgement you trust and solicit an honest opinion. Do not canvas the opinion of your entire social circle; it will become a hurtful talking point and will make your partner feel bad.

If you’ve decided you really don’t like the ring, grasp the nettle as soon as possible. Start by finding positive things to say about the ring (stone, setting, metal) and reiterate how much you appreciate the care and attention that your partner has shown. Then gently explain that you don’t think the ring is right for you; it will be much easier if you can find reasons to do with yourself, eg your taste is more contemporary than his choice, or you tend to like understated clothes and jewellery and the ring is too big and bold. You can even explain that the ring doesn’t really suit the length of your fingers, or the shape of your hand. Never repudiate or challenge his taste.

Finish by acknowledging that the ring has been a big investment, which you will be wearing for a lifetime, and remind him that it is obviously extremely important for both of you to get it right.

Engagement Rings and Divorce

If the marriage is not destined to last, bear in mind that the engagement ring is considered an outright present given to the woman on condition of marriage, and having met that condition, she is entitled to keep it even after the marriage’s dissolution. If the ring is a precious heirloom, handed down to the bridegroom, its return is entirely at the woman’s discretion.


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