Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Ask Ladies About Engagement Rings

A reader recently wrote in:

I'm engaged and very much in love with my fiancé, who is in turn very much in love with me. Life is grand. What is not grand is the business of the engagement ring, which is seriously stressing me out — he proposed without one, I'm supposed to choose it, we're both still in school (read: poor, and carrying a manageable amount of loan debt), and I'm totally torn over whether this is a once-in-a-lifetime, splurge-on-a-symbol-of-your-love-type event, or a first world crock of shit that I should blow to the side.

I mean, to some extent, isn't the engagement kind of a silly thing to celebrate? Shouldn't he give me a beautiful ring on our 20th wedding anniversary, instead? And isn't it kind of insulting that he's supposed to show his commitment to me with a piece of jewelry?

And then there's the financials. I would want something unique (no diamonds — not a one!), and kind of simple, and after talking to a couple of jewelers it's clear that "my kind of ring" would cost somewhere between $900 and $1,000. I almost can't imagine wearing something that expensive on my hand! But I dropped that cash on a plane ticket to Turkey last year—why does this feel so different? Is it because engagement rings are kind of ridiculous, or is it because I feel horrendously guilty about displaying my wealth so openly, or is it because I feel greedy asking my guy to do this for me? I don't know!!

So tell me: how much do you love your ring? Would I regret not having one? Is it worth putting our money toward this, instead of toward my student loans or a killer honeymoon? What is the compromise between indulgence and responsibility, in this situation?

In lieu of one answer, we put the question to different Hairpin writers. (Also an obligatory Congratulations. How wonderful. But seriously.)

Lindsay Miller: We were lucky enough to have access to two gorgeous heirloom wedding rings, one from each of our grandmothers, so we spent comparably little money — we had my partner's grandma's gold ring re-sized for me, and my grandma's diamond mounted in a new setting for my partner. Then we took my grandma's setting and put a sapphire in it (my birthstone), and that was my engagement ring. If we hadn't had those two rings, I don't know what we would have done, but I doubt we would have spent much on it — we're not really expensive-jewelry-wearing ladies. What I love about our rings is that by exchanging them (TOMORROW, holy shit), we're symbolizing the joining of our two families. For what it's worth, the ring I'll be wearing is very plain — just a gold chain — and means a million times more to me than the sparkliest diamond ever could. I can't imagine I'll ever regret choosing this over my once-in-a-lifetime chance at a shiny token. Basically, I think you should get a ring if it's meaningful to you, but not if you just think "well, I'm supposed to want this, right?" That kind of money should only be spent on something you extremely definitely want.

Nicole Cliffe: I wound up not getting a engagement ring, for reasons of, I would say, 40% feminism, 40% self-knowledge, and 20% not caring enough to bother.

On the feminism front, I knew there were a bunch of lady-things I didn't want to do around getting married: have a real wedding (we got married at City Hall and then threw a fun party a year later), be given away by my dad (I love my dad, but get squicked out by the aisle-walk stuff, plus the first-dance stuff), or change my name.

And it seemed a little weird to me to be so FUCK YOUR PATRIARCHAL TRADITIONS! while still expecting/requesting an engagement ring, particularly since I heard myself subconsciously thinking about how I could get a slightly nicer ring than other women I knew and was supposed to love and support. Shut it down, you're turning into a massive bitch.

On the self-knowledge front, I buy about thirty pairs of cheap sunglasses a year, because I leave things behind me like a small child lost in the woods, and there is literally a zero-percent chance that I would still be wearing the exact same ring by now, as opposed to an insurance-purchased facsimile. As a matter of fact, I'm on my third identical plain wedding band.

Anyway, all of the feminism and self-awareness disappeared when he offered to buy me an engagement horse instead, which cost the same amount as a nice ring, but also needs new shoes every six weeks, so it shakes out to being the same goddamn thing, minus the blood diamond factor.

Every so often we look into the lab-diamond technology, because I LOVE lab diamonds, since there is NO DIFFERENCE EXCEPT A LACK OF CRUELTY, but they're still tiny and overpriced, except for those fug yellow ones.

So, anyway, that's why I don't have an engagement ring, but also why it doesn't make me any more enlightened than anyone else, and probably less so.

(Edith Zimmerman: I'm sneaking in here because even though I have no experience with engagement rings, and the letter-writer already says she doesn't want a diamond, I'll take any opportunity I can get to point people toward the classic, enlightening article "Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond?")

Jane Marie: A little of my engagement rings — plural — backstory before I tell you what I actually think: I've had four-and-a-half engagement rings. In chronological order, the first wasn't actually a ring, but a VHS tape that he handed me. It was an hour-long ad for Hearts on Fire diamonds. He'd just cheated on me with his ex-wife, though, so as I sat next to him for that hour on the couch, I made up my mind to break up with him as soon as the credits rolled.

The second ring was from my long term on-again, off-again love. We'd met when I was 15 and got engaged about, gosh, eight years later I believe? We were very, very poor — I a student/bartender and he a skater — but we were madly in love and wanted everyone to know. After deciding in bed one night (him stoned, me probably drunk) that we wanted to get married, we went that week to ... wait for it ... Tiffany's. The only ring we could afford was $200. The stone fell out a few months later so I borrowed a lone diamond earring from my mom — she'd lost it's mate — and  designed a very cool white gold tension setting for it with the help of a jeweler in my Chicago neighborhood. That cost about $300. We broke up 6 months later before invitations were sent but after dress shopping.

The third ring was a very traditional four-prong platinum thingy with a 1-carat brilliant cut solitaire. It was big and it was pretty, but he divorced me. I sold it and the previous ring in order to pay my taxes one year.

My current ring is a 100 year old "toi et moi" ring and I picked it out at a vintage shop one day when we were window shopping about six months before he proposed. It fits well within your budget. I am in love with it, but I love all jewelry, especially the pieces my fiance gives me. He has impeccable taste! It is my goal to be a living shrine to him — just dripping with the jewels he's bestowed upon me. I'm not even kidding.

So, what is the point? The point is that the ring means absolutely nothing. Nothing! I have two thoughts for you: get a ring you like if you want a symbol, it doesn't matter how much it costs. There are a million gorgeous vintage rings out there for half your budget. Wouldn't that feel a lot better? How about this one? (My current ring is from there.)

My second thought: as you go into this marriage and gather more and more of these confusing and fraught experiences, try to remember each time that they are rarely about the superficial thing you think they are about. This is not about whether to get an engagement ring or what kind, I can almost guarantee that. What else is going on in your life that has you feeling uneasy? Cut yourself some slack and don't worry about this. Worry about the thing that deserves your worry, whatever it really is.

PS – They don't make my Tiffany ring anymore apparently, but it was a plain silver band with a bezel set small diamond chip. This is the equivalent today.

Do you have any questions for A Lady / Ladies?

380 Comments / Post A Comment


"Is it worth putting our money toward this, instead of toward my student loans or a killer honeymoon?"

Nope! Save the money and put it toward something you're less on the fence about, like a killer honeymoon, future financial security, or a kick-ass set of wedding rings for the two of you.

ETA: If you change your mind later, or hit the lottery, you can always go out and get the engagement ring of your dreams. My mom's five-year anniversary present from her last marriage was the ring they couldn't afford when they first got engaged.


I always thought a separate engagement and wedding ring was a really odd concept.


@NeverOddOrEven It makes sense as a down-payment, so it's kind of a historical curiosity for a period where the families couldn't really make a couple marry if they tried to weasel out of it but it still mattered that they get married.

Marquise de Morville


I second saving the money, and maybe skipping the whole engagement ring thing. Or get a low budget, pretty ring, and upgrade when finances allow. If it's a symbol the actual monetary value should not matter that much?

My husband and me are from Europe, where traditionally both groom and bride wear more or less plain engagement bands. So that might be an idea if you want to show you are engaged without getting the traditional US diamond ring. We were pretty broke, too, and got our matching set as a gift from my grandfather-in-law, who owned a few simple gold ring sets he bought as investment during communism (the only legal way to by gold), maybe you have a similar option that fits your situation? We had them sized to fit, and they are now our wedding bands as well.


But then why need a separate wedding ring? One or the other would seem to be enough.


@NeverOddOrEven I think it's basically a "we always did rings if we could afford it" thing, so that didn't change, but then the engagement ring was introduced as a security deposit, so it got grafted on instead of replacing anything.

barefoot cuntessa

@NeverOddOrEven Historically, it was as insurance that a man intended to marry you. Back in the day, folks didn't always wait until marriage to bump uglies but more often until they were betrothed. If he changed his mind or denied ever promising marriage, the lady had proof and I think the ring also served as a sort of damage settlement.

FWIW, I have a really pretty 1930s emerald (his birthstone) engagement ring that I wear when I want to feel fancy. We got it on ebay for $750. If I were in your shoes, but felt like maybe I'd like some token for sentimental reasons, I would get the Knotted Rush ring from bario-neal. I also love pretty much everything at catbirdnyc.com.


@barefoot cuntessa: I just looked up the Knotted Rush ring, and I have one that looks exactly like it that I got off Etsy for about $20. (My boyfriend jokes that it signifies that I'm married to a pretzel.) Etsy is a cheap ring wonderland... but sometimes you get what you pay for.

New Hoarder

@Marquise de Morville When I got engaged, my husband and I were living in England. He proposed with a cheap, huge ring (which I of course still have!) from a street vendor in Florence, where we were vacationing. When we got back to London we went ring shopping together; all I knew was that I wanted "blue" and did not want to put a lot of effort into finding one. We bought each other very different rings that did not cost a lot, and that we both love so much that we decided to skip wedding bands and still just wear our inexpensive but lovingly curated engagement rings. I barely even wear mine, though!

My husband says every now and then how he wants to get me a nicer ring, but I protest because I'd rather a) use the money to go to Iceland, and b) because I love my ring so damn much because of our experience together.

Do what suits your relationship the best! If you're not a ring person, and you feel gulpy about any/ all of this, just skip it, dude!


Thank you, because it took me kind of a while (reading this blog, actually) to discover the engagement ring was separate from the wedding ring. (I guess I thought the proposed-to got theirs first, and the proposer got theirs during the wedding?) But I get it now!


beautiful performance from such a brilliant mind.@y


I'm of the Rings Are Pointless camp.

Wasn't into marriage, but got married anyway for health insurance. Bought a $50 "engagement ring" at the renaissance festival, got married without exchanging rings, I bought a second ring for $25 at Target because it was pretty. He doesn't wear one.

The main reason I got one to begin with was to have a response to all the inevitable questions, and a defense against pick-ups.


@NeverOddOrEven I got hit on way harder with a wedding band than without, and know of a single guy friend who occasionally wears a fake band just to pick up one-night-stands.

Or, Rings are a Useless Defense.




Ugh. It's worked alright for me I guess. I haven't noticed a drastic difference one way or the other.
It's most likely attributable to my Permanent Bitch Face.


@NeverOddOrEven Ahhhh ha ha ha ha! Now THAT is a proven-effective strategy!


@NeverOddOrEven I once had a guy come onto me (while my husband was getting us beers) with, I shit you not, "you look really uncomfortable" as a pick-up line.

read all about it in my upcoming self-help book: Bitchface & Wedding Bands: Two Easy Steps to Getting Hit On in Wrigleyville


@NeverOddOrEven Hello! I think we may have something in common!


@nonvolleyball Oh Wrigleyville... That uncomfortable place you walk through to get to Boystown.

New Hoarder

@NeverOddOrEven I hardly wear mine, because my ring is hollow white gold and I am super allergic to all metals everywhere (it's a miracle my ears haven't fallen off from all the cheap earrings that I wear). Since I fiddle with it, I am afraid of losing it so it stays in my hope chest, err, next to my bedside. Husband wears his, though- he loves his titanium bling!


If you're not into the typical diamond thing and you want something unique and you don't have much money, why not just go to an antique or vintage store and find something that speaks to you? There's no law that says you have to go to a proper jeweler and spend a bajillion dollars.


@werewolfbarmitzvah This is what we did - and I have a very classic, very affordable piece from the '50s (I did want a ring, because I LIKE SHINY! Also, I am somewhat old, and maybe fell to pressure of other ladies my age (mid-30s)) but also EBAY. Almost every decent ebay shop has a return policy! I cannot say EBAY enough - in fact, we're ordering wedding rings from there!


@Olivia2.0: And Etsy. Etsy is loaded with estate jewelry and some perfectly gorgeous rings for under $1K.


@werewolfbarmitzvah Or you can go to a regular jewelry store and get something small. There's no law that says you have to have something one-carat or larger. My engagement ring is 0.4 carats. My husband saved up for it for me when he was a poor grad student by eating PB&J and salad for a year. It means more to me than any giant solitaire ever could. Then when we got married, we got matching plain gold bands. But whatever you want to do - ring, rings, no rings, tattoos, etc. - is great.


@werewolfbarmitzvah I got my husband's and my plain gold wedding bands (from around the turn of the century, English hallmarks) from Ebay for little more than scrap cost. Look for a seller (selling from North America to be more safe) with a lot of perfect feedback and a good return policy.

I had an heirloom engagement ring from my husband's side that I wore because it would have been rude to reject it, but I only wear the wedding bands that we got for ourselves now that we're married. I think the big honking engagement ring plus wedding band combo is pretty dated looking, personally.


@werewolfbarmitzvah For some reason, I always think antique/vintage rings look much nicer than new ones (new ones are aggressively shiny). Plus they're so much cheaper!



Even if you go with an antique setting (which I think is a great idea!) there are some really important things to keep in mind:

1. Please don't wear any natural gem stone every single day unless it is a diamond, sapphire/ruby (same thing diff color), chrysoberyl/alexandrite, or spinel. The rest are way too soft or brittle and WILL break and fall out eventually. Chrysoberyls, spinels, and some sapphire can be found very inexpensively. If you see an antique setting with any other stones still intact, it's probably because they were either replaced or not worn very often.

2. If you're thinking of going for a lab created diamond, just get a cubic zirconia. They are very durable, sparkly, and-- in believable sizes and a good setting-- indistinguishable from diamonds to most people. They cost literally pennies (though are often marked up like crazy). Lab-created diamonds are just that-- diamonds created in a lab. They are MUCH more expensive than CZs because they are made using proprietary processes. You can get an antique setting and stick at CZ in it.

pricescope.com is a the ultimate messageboard community for buying any kind of jewelry. Those folks are SERIOUS about getting your money's worth. I particularly like the Colored Gem and Antique forums.


@werewolfbarmitzvah @Lana@twitter I second the CZ idea - that's my plan when it comes to it. If it's not a bait-and-switch and you're both aware it's not real, I don't think it's a problem. I love a bit of bling (or as I'm fond of joking, I want a big ol' rock on my finger) but I don't really care about the real deal (many reasons: anti-blood diamond, tend to lose things, cheap). I'm sure you can find reproductions of other gems if you're not a diamond girl either. Antique rings can be another good way to go for a bargain.

It sounds to me like the LW wants a ring, but feels guilty about it. It's definitely not a rational thing to want but sometimes people aren't rational (shock! gasp!). I'd try to find something you love that's not the traditional diamond for a lower price ($150-300? whatever would make you feel not guilty) and spend the rest on your honeymoon or loans. Try bypassing traditional jewelers and shop online.


If the thought of the ring guilts you out now, then looking down at the ring on your finger will likely give you the Sads later. You want the man, not the jewelry. Ask him to save up for custom bands that you will both love and will represent your Feelings and your Personalities, as a compromise!


follow up question: do you have to deal with people being weird/judgey about non-traditional ring choices? and if so, how do you do it/do you find it trying? (probably no more than all the other things in the world people are weird/judgey about i suppose)


@redheaded&crazie But, yeah, you'll get questions and odd looks. Mr. Luckier and I didn't exchange rings (we used Sharpies to draw on rings b/c they are *permanent* markers) and years later I still have people ask "oh, where's your wedding ring" and if I meet someone new they assume I'm not married and are surprised when I mention a Mr. b/c no ring. But it's an insignificant annoyance compared with his family continuing to address Christmas cards to me as Mr. Blank when they know I didn't change my name. Passive aggressive b.s.

I do have my grandmother's rings (tiny rings, ancient diamond) but wear them on my right hand. If I'm traveling for business, I switch them to my left so guys don't hit on me in the hotel bar while I'm just trying to drink a glass of wine and read my book.


@redheaded&crazie I had a nontraditional ring and honestly that's fairly standard for the people I know, so it wasn't a big issue. But I always figured that people being judgy about it was a good thing - easy signal that their opinion about my wedding or my marriage wasn't going to be worth much, either.


@redheaded&crazie I was expecting the judgey-ness for getting a non-diamond engagement ring and nobody has said boo about it (except the groom's mother questioning him on if he was SURE that's what I wanted).

I'm a little dissapointed actually, I wanted some sort of good judgey pants stories to tell!


@redheaded&crazie Well, take heart that while some people will judge you if you have a non-traditional ring, some other people will judge you if you have a traditional ring! People be judgin'.


@redheaded&crazie I was worried about that but my non-traditional engagement ring has gotten tons of compliments! People seem to get it. Now I am more worried about seeming judgey to my friends who do have traditional bling...so I go with "I couldn't picture wearing a diamond but you pull it off so well."


@redheaded&crazie Yeah, I was expecting some judgement but have gotten none. I have a lovely opal engagement ring ($200 bucks what) but it's big so I usually only ever wear my wedding band. I don't get comments about either.


@Luckier When his family sends us cards, they send them to "hisname and myname hislastname" which is even funnier because we are not married, just live together. I like to think of it as them accepting me into their family, but I suppose really it's quite passive-aggressive.


@redheaded&crazie I got a few weird/judgey questions about my engagement ring. We were both students and broke as the Liberty Bell, so we picked out a pretty "mystic fire topaz" ring for about $100. A few people made comments about me not having a diamond, but, honestly, I didn't want one and only wore the ring because he was so excited to get it for me. I generally shut them down by brightly saying, "Oh, but I love this ring! Isn't it so pretty?"

I don't wear my engagement ring now. We chose matching wedding rings so mine is a sized-down man's ring - it's very wide and I cannot fit both on one finger, engagement ring does not fit on any other fingers, I don't really like wearing rings with stones in them for comfort reasons, etc. We got titanium rings with a wee silver band inlay, they were very cheap (like, less than $300 for the two?) and I love them. A few people have commented on how they wouldn't want the ring I have (good for you? don't get this ring? wtf?) but not many.

Also re: the name thing - I refuse to open anything addressed to Mrs. HisName LastName. I didn't change my first name (I did, eventually change my last name when he requested that as his only gift for our third anniversiary....) and I don't go by Mrs so that mail is clearly not for me.

fondue with cheddar

@gidgejane You could always say that you prefer colored stones to make it seem like an aesthetic choice rather than a principled one.


While I think engagement rings are pretty (and I don't knock those who wear them/want them), I can't help but think they're a symbol of patriarchal oppression. Women/engagement ring wearers are essentially marked as unavailable before getting married, and men/the partner not wearing an engagement ring are (symbolically) free to continue doing whatever they want.


@dtowngirl File under reasons I love my fiance: he wanted one too. And now we clink them together all "Wonder Twin powers unite!"


@dtowngirl plus, my contracts professor said engagement rings were consideration for your virginity, which--gross.


@blahstudent but also: engagement rings can be really pretty and meaningful, independent of whatever historical context my contracts professor alleges they arose in. maybe i will get one, who knows!

Hot Doom

@dtowngirl this is why I told my husband I wouldn't wear a wedding ring if he didn't. For what it's worth, I DID want a ring, but mainly because I really like rings....so. Anyway, I figured, if I was going to be marked with marriage, he ought to be too, so he agreed to wear one. No name changing though, no siree bob.


@Maria Ah, my husband and I do this with our rings too!


@dtowngirl I bought myself a Taken Ring for that very reason: I couldn't see the point of asking for a ring when I was perfectly able to, and wanted to, subsidize the cost of marking my committment on my own. It's cheap and nontraditional, but looks enough like an engagement ring that there's not any question that I'm in a relationship for the long haul.


@Maria We do that too!


@dtowngirl You know, I never saw it that way. I just saw it as a symbol of my then-fiance's love for me. We considered getting him a ring, but we were poor and money was tight, and he's not much of a jewelry person anyway.

Heat Signature

@Bittersweet My thoughts exactly. I mean, different strokes and so forth, but you can also make your own meaning about engagement rings and anything else in this world. I have a traditional diamond engagement ring (dramatic gasp), a matching wedding band, and I really love both of them because I see them as symbolic of the bond between my husband and I.


@Heat Signature I totally get that. I certainly don't look at a woman wearing an engagement ring and think "oh, poor lady, she's so oppressed." I just think there's interesting historical symbolism attached with engagement rings and many other wedding traditions. While I don't personally want an engagement ring, I'm actually more in the camp of both parties wearing engagement rings.


@Maria My husband wanted an engagement ring too and he loves wearing it. We'd also clink them together all "When our powers combine!" style.


@sthrnynkee @OhMarie @blueblazes Thank you, all. You're making me feel like maybe we aren't so dorky afterall.


Just want to add quickly that you may be shocked by how much wedding bands cost nowadays, what with the price of gold going up. Most wedding bands that we found (in 2012) were between $900-2500 for a simple gold band. We ended up getting a fantastic stainless steel ring (with a stripe!) for my husband, and a smooth gold ring for me that's much narrower than most bands you see on older folk (but just right for me! since I am a non-ring person).
So it might be smart to just spend the money on the wedding bands, especially if you are not sure if you like the symbolism of the engagement ring at all (I didn't either -- so many of these traditions were invented pretty recently and are weird -- particularly all the social pressure around them -- down with social pressure and up with people doing what they actually want to do, whatever it is).


@harebell I'd suggest checking out a jewelry supply house for less expensive wedding bands. You may need to register in order to see prices from a place like Rio Grande, but checking in with my username/password shows me that a 4mm wide gold band size 7 is $127. Mine, which granted is much thinner and was purchased 10 years ago was I think $25? Most places like RG or Firemountain also carry sterling silver and stainless steel as well.

miss buenos aires

@harebell My husband and I spent $175 apiece for plain 14k white-gold bands. This was in 2010. At the mall.

Ruth Graham@twitter

@harebell Hmm. My husband and I spent about $450 for two gold bands in the spring of 2011, when gold wasn't much cheaper than it is now. We shopped at a nice-ish suburban jewelry store in Iowa and the diamond district in NYC, and prices were about equivalent.


@ironhoneybee Oh, we were in a rush, plus we did not want to buy over the internet, so we just bought rings in the Boston jewelry district, no brand names, and I ended up with a $300 ring that I liked. It's a lot simpler than most people seem to get -- the vast majority of what I saw, as I'm saying, was $900-2500. Simple was hard to find -- the vast majority were engraved or had minuscule diamond chips etc.etc.

I'm sure on-line or New York would be cheaper -- if we were in New York, I would have headed straight to Jackson Heights and gotten something great from an Indian shop!

But like many people might, I had been expecting to pay double digits for a simple wedding band, and was shocked to find that it was definitely a 200+ situation if you wanted gold.


@harebell I'm just going to throw this out here, and please note, I am NOT being reimbursed for this, but we had a positive experience: e-weddingbands.com. My band was purchased there for $87.93 (four years ago, similar now $103) and was going to be a temporary ring until we could afford the band that matched my (lovely, non-traditional) engagement ring. In the end, I liked it BETTER than the fancy ring AND it was hella cheap. Bonus: They also keep a list of the things they've engraved on rings. My personal favorite: "I'm gonna buy you so many lizards." I wish I'd thought of that one...


@angermonkey whoever engraved "Rumpshaker" on theirs I want to meet and shake their hand.


>As a matter of fact, I'm on my third identical plain wedding band.

Oh no, Nicole Cliffe! How?

Choire Sicha@facebook

@Exene She's a hot mess!


@Choire Sicha@facebook

She's a hot mess!! <--- Yes! You're right!

Nicole Cliffe

@wee_ramekin What he said.


@Exene A friend-of-a-friend bought four or five matching wedding bands for himself since he said he knew he would lose them.


Ah, the "knowing I will lose them". My partner wanted to get me a ring for my 20th birthday - I told him not to because I'm the worst for losing rings. What do I get for my birthday? A white gold ring with what I'm fairly sure are diamonds in the setting (I specifically asked NOT to be told and pretended they were Cubic Zirconia so as not to jinx myself - the more expensive, the more likely loss will happen).
I managed not to lose the ring for about 3 weeks. Then it disappeared and was never to be seen again. It took me another month to work up the nerve to tell my partner I had lost it and then I cried - he wasn't mad but we're poor and that thing was really, really expensive (I don't know how much, I'm scared to ask).
Moral of the story - if we get married, Mr TARDIStime will be getting me a necklace/bracelet!


@TARDIStime Three words; Safety Deposit Box.

I inherited my grandmother's ginormous (to my mind) diamond engagement ring. She told me when she handed it over that the only way to not lose it was to NEVER take it off. I lived in a constant cold sweat for about three months. It has enormous familial-historical value. Now it lives safely in a deposit box at the bank.

When I was born my father had a ring custom made and set with my birthstone to give me when I turned 16. I lost it in a week (it was stolen from my unlocked locker during gym class). Its been twelve years and I still haven't forgiven myself.


i am a TOTAL jewelry whore. i LOVEEEE gems. there's no law stating that your engagement symbol HAS to have a diamond in it. there are cheaper and more gorgeous options available! for example: sapphires. they come in all colors. ANYHOODLE, you don't want a stone, so my point is moot.
do not bother with jewelers. they are a ripoff. get your pretty little hands on bluenile.com...design your dream ring for at least half the price...whenever you want/can afford it! and ps: congrats on snagging an awesome man.

dj pomegranate

@bisou My sister in law has a gorgeous sapphire engagement ring. Sapphires are great!


@bisou I need to buy wedding bands for us (<6 weeks! What!) and just got lost on that website. SO MUCH PRETTY SPARKLY.

New Hoarder

@bisou My engagement ring has sapphires because I wanted blue. Loved it so much I couldn't imagine a more fitting ring for me so it became my wedding band, too.


@bisou my engagement ring and wedding band are from Blue Nile and I love them. My wedding band is diamonds and sapphires, and I love the dark blue amongst the sparklies. As for what LW should do, do whatever you want. I love my ring, not because it's a diamond or traditional, but because it symbolizes that my husband wanted to be with me, move to the US, get back in the marriage game (bitter divorce) - basically, it's him saying 'I'm in, for the long haul.' But my best friend and her husband both have rings and they buy a new band every anniversary (very very thin bands). Whatever floats your boat.


For cheaper, cool ring options, check out Turtle Love Co., Bario-Neal, or really any of the jewelry people that advertise on A Practical Wedding. No links because I'm typing on my phone but we can all Google, right??


@alpelican Also, GreenKarat.com! They offer rings made from recycled precious metals and a lot of the options are quite affordable. That's where my wedding band is from. :)


@trappedinabay , I just looked through that site and it was amazing! Thank you for sharing that, I had no idea this type of recycled ring actual existed.


@ArgosMama My pleasure! I whole-heartedly recommend these guys, they were great to work with.

soul toast

Neither my partner nor I have an engagement ring. Neither of us really proposed, either, so there wasn't any big ring reveal or anything. It was just a decision we came to together. And I've never regretted not having an engagement ring.
I was more interested in the wedding rings, but even then we only spent about $100 on each ring. Two years later they're still beautiful, but maybe some day down the road we might get something fancier. I'm not sure.
We ended up spending any potential ring money on the wedding itself. (You know what's more financially troubling than a wedding dress? Two wedding dresses!) And even then we didn't spend very much money.

Also! We got our wedding rings on etsy. I never would have thought to look there, but there are a ton of affordable, really neat options.


@soul toast I second a)no one really "proposing" and just coming to the decision together...I try not to be smug about it but like I just think the charade of a big showy proposal is ao strange and just talking it out makes more sense to me (but of course, to each their own!) b) getting rings on etsy! My engagement ring was $80 literally just so people wouldn't keep looking at my naked fingers when I said I was engaged and give me a look like they don't believe me. It's small and unique and we may upgrade someday but it's very much low on my priority list! We got tungston rings as wedding bands, suuuuper cheap but people keep telling me that if you are in an emergency and they need to get your ring off they have to cut your finger off because tunston is so strong they can't cut it or something? And the tungston of my wedding band doens't match the silver of my engagement ring but it actually looks kind of cool.


If it were possible to discuss this without getting into PATRIARCHY (oh but it never is!) I would say this LW is why it is kind of crummy to be asked to pick out your own presents. I really like the idea of couples who choose the ring together and pay for it together and it's all lovely and egalitarian, but if this were just a gift, and not a symbolic shackle of ownership/chain in a link to centuries of oppression, I'd want someone to know me well enough to pick out something I liked/I'd want to love someone enough to like whatever they picked out. Also, competing over diamond size seems silly to me, but I get the original point of the "3 months salary" thing: you are supposed to think about this/save up for it long enough that you know you aren't doing something stupid.


@bluewindgirl See, I totally disagree with all of this, because unless you spend a lot of time discussing your jewelry preferences with your friends/boyfriend/girlfriend, and go with them to jewelry stores and try stuff on all the time, I think it's pretty unusual for someone to know you well enough to pick out something you'll love. Hell, my mom knows me better than probably anyone, and she buys me clothes I don't like all the time, why would a guy be able to figure out a ring, which is a lot harder to guess than clothes?


@thebestjasmine I dunno, I guess one would have to extrapolate based on other rings you wear and stuff? I'm not sure a ring really would be harder to guess than clothes, though... for one thing, if you borrow a ring to size it there is literally no way it won't fit, and practically every kind of clothing doesn't fit a little bit, somewhere, which is usually the thing about gift-clothes that makes me sad. If it fits, I probably love it!
Also most rings are pretty? Besides, the second part of what I said was: "I'd want to love someone enough to like whatever they picked out," and I do think knowing somebody really Thought About a thing you'd like would make the hypothetical ring prettier.
Full disclosure, I have never been remotely close to a situation in which someone might want to buy me a ring, so this is possibly more romantic than practical. It's just, so ... gift-certificate-y?


@bluewindgirl See, I think that the amount of love that you have for someone in no way correlates to how much you'd love the jewelry that they'd buy you. Some guys have terrible taste and no nothing about jewelry and would buy an ugly ring, that doesn't mean you'd love them less. It just means you wouldn't want to wear and look at an ugly ring for potentially the rest of your life. And I guess extrapolating based on other rings you wear could work, if you wear a lot of blingy rings a lot? But I tend to wear my college ring, an old ring that my grandma got me for college graduation, and some fun cocktail rings most, and anyone who shopped for a ring for me based on those would have a really bad judgment of what kind of engagement ring that I would like.

I mean, I get what you're saying about the romance of the situation, but I also think that it sucks if you feel like you have to wear a ring that you don't like forever just because someone else liked it and so you feel disloyal if you don't.

cecil hungry

@bluewindgirl I think I've been pretty clear with my boyfriend that if/when we get engaged he should go to my friend "Penny" to get the ring. Penny has great taste in just about everything, is one of my oldest friends (and a good friend of his, too), and knows my stance on diamonds (anti). BF is pretty clueless about all these things, so it seems like a good compromise. I would also hate for him to spend shit loads of money on a ring, but I do love shiny things, and, despite my feminism, really really want an engagement ring (and a giant, classical wedding complete with being walked down the aisle by my dad and a father-daughter dance. Sometimes I'm a bad feminist and that's okay, I hope).


@cecil hungry I'm no longer sure what qualifies one for "bad" or "good" feminist status anymore, but I think you should have whatever kind of wedding you want. Haters gonna hate, man.

Oh, except don't have one of those "colonial" themed weddings, that's not a good idea.


@bluewindgirl My fiance and I had talked at length about getting engaged, and he even asked my family and all that. But when it came to the ring, that was something he wanted to do together. He wanted me to have something that I love, because, you know, I'm the one wearing it for the rest of my life. I didn't really wear rings before because I'm not good at accessorizing, and honestly I'm glad he didn't go to some jewelry store where a salesperson would have convinced him that I would have *LOVED* something when that person didn't know me. Also, we were getting the diamond through a former-jeweler family friend so I kind of needed to be involved in that conversation.

Anyway, we looked online together first to get an idea of what I liked. He took an interest in the process, which I appreciated, but he wanted me to get what I wanted. Then I went to the jewelry store with a girlfriend to learn more about different styles, what looks good, etc. Then, he and I went together, picked it out together, and he ordered it a little later. I ended up with a ring that I absolutely love that means even more to me because it shows that we entered into this together...not that he went into a jewelry store and decided "that one looks pretty. let's do that one." Some girls I talk to are shocked that I didn't get a super huge surprise or anything like that, but honestly, I think that would just freak me out....like....we're supposed to be a team and you did something this big WITHOUT CONSULTING ME?!


@susiequsie Also, if you do want it to be a surprise, there is the tried and true "tell him to talk to a certain girlfriend" move -- that's what one of my friends did, and I was her key girlfriend. She and I went shopping together, and she figured out what she loved and what she didn't (and honestly, that's one of the benefits of shopping, because sometimes the thing that you see in a picture and love doesn't look good on your finger, and vice versa). Then, with me armed with all of her likes and dislikes, her to be fiance started emailing me pictures of stuff that he liked, and I could say "she would not like that one. She WOULD like that one, except without x on it, and with the stone a different shape" etc. In the end, she got a ring that she loved, but she was surprised by the proposal itself and what the ring looked like.


@susiequsie After reading through this thread, I wonder if I am slightly biased about stuff like this, based on the fact that my Dad loves buying jewelry and has pretty good taste. For Christmas when they had been married 30 years, he "upgraded" the diamond in my Mom's wedding ring and had the other stone reset as a necklace. My Mom likes jewelry a lot, but I honestly think my Dad likes her wearing it more.
He also got her a squashblossom necklace for their 25th anniversary, which he bought six months ahead of time. When she went around trying to show it to friends and relations, everyone had already seen it. My Dad was so pleased with himself he'd been shuttling guests back to where he had hidden it and showing it off for months. Seriously, no member of our extended family had not seen that necklace by their actual anniversary.

Family! It shapes you and so forth.


@bluewindgirl Aww, that's super sweet. That also explains your "most rings are pretty?" from up above, because...girl, no. They are not. You have just been saved from the ugly ones because of your dad's good taste.


Engagement pony. I am just repeating the words in wonder.
And "I leave things behind me like a small child lost in the woods" describes me perfectly.
And Jane, how did you sit through an hour of that? I couldn't make it three seconds.

dj pomegranate

@bellekaren I came down here just to be all, "ENGAGEMENT HORSE!!!?" I mean, really!


@dj pomegranate For symmetry's sake, I really want the engagement horse's name to be Tiffany.



okay i have a pony crush on nicole's pony i admit it


@bellekaren I want an engagement horse! (I do not, however, want to be married. This presents a problem)

Nicole Cliffe

@bellekaren No, it was really that great. And then I saw Bella, and it was true love, and I paid A FORTUNE for her, and then she turned out to have a stealth genetic condition that no vet check could ever have detected, so she is completely worthless on the open market (she can do everything, but she needs to be ridden every single day and fed very carefully and expensively treated), but it doesn't matter because she can live with me for the rest of her life and I will always take care of her.


Ugh Nicole you are my hero. I do have a ring. And I wanted it, badly, and we picked it together and I love it. It's a beautiful tourmaline (that has been mistaken for a "chocolate diamond" LOLOLOL once) but anyway there was a lot of hand-wringing about whether I even wanted a ring and why I was buying into the whole construction of virginity insurance etc. but ANYWAY to the LW, Jane's second thought is spot-on.

Oh yeah psst my ring was like 70% off from a place where all the jewelry is unique art. So figure out when end of jewelry season is (this place was Feb I think).


@julia both of my parents escorted me down the aisle, and both of my husband's parents escorted him.

New Hoarder

@hellomynameis Oooh, me too!

saul "the bear" berenson

@hellomynameis Aww I love that!


Hey Nicole (or anyone else who's dealt with this), not that I'm anywhere near marriage, but how did your dad feel about the whole no-giving-away, no father-daughter dance thing? I can't imagine I'd want either of those things to be part of my potential someday wedding, but I don't want to offend my dad.

I went to a wedding with my parents this weekend and there was a "unity cross ceremony" where the bride had a little dainty cross because she's a delicate flower, and the groom had a solid manly cross because he's the protector, and it just all seems so outdated to me! Ahh. Maybe I'll just never find someone to marry and it won't matter anyway. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, I am capable and happy on my own & could stay that way till death do I part.)


@backstagebethy I'm not having my dad give me away. We are both coming partway in with our parents, our parents will go up & sit, then we go up together. It's really important to me to have the symbolic-ness of going in together, and I think getting both parents to take us partway is a good compromise - they did bring us to adulthood, after all. I will still dance with my dad, because that is fun.


@backstagebethy Not Nicole, but I'll chime in. We had our ceremony in the middle of a party, very casual, with no pomp and circuspants. But I realized later that my dad was sad that he didn't get to walk me down any aisle. If I did it again, I would have had some role for all of our parents, even if it was just to stand behind us.

That cross business sounds crazypants to me, but I've never really understood the unity candle or sand-pouring thing either.


@backstagebethy I wasn't big on the idea of it, but one of the first things my dad asked was "Do I get to walk you down the aisle?" with big sad puppy dog eyes and a look like he just knew his independent feminist daughter was going to say no. And really, it didn't mean as much to me to walk down on my own as it did to give my dad this one little thing that will make him so super happy.


@backstagebethy I'm not actively planning a wedding, but it's... inevitable, for lack of a better term, and it's been discussed with various family members.

I talked to my dad about it and I started with the position of, "NO WAY." I'm an adult and I've been living on my own/with my dude for a decade. No one's "giving me away" because no one "owns" me. But from my dad's perspective, it's a small moment in a big day where we can have some quality time. So it will probably happen, if we have that kind of wedding.

I'd really like to do something with both parents/both sets of parents, but family dynamics make that prohibitively awkward.


@Luckier Circuspants!

My dad would have had fourteen thousand sads, so I changed my plans and he walked me in. M escorted his mom, which worked out fine until she also wanted him to come back after we had gone out as marrieds to escort her back out of the chapel. WTF? I mean, um, <3 u MIL.


@backstagebethy We didn't do any processional or dances, so that helped--it wasn't obvious that this *one thing* was missing, it was that the whole ceremony was set up so that things like that didn't come up.

BUT when we were planning the ceremony, I talked to my father and said "We aren't really into the idea of 'first' or 'father-daughter' or 'mother-son' dances, but I want to make sure you don't feel hurt or sad about it." I know he would've loved a father-daughter dance if I'd had one, but he was okay with it. (Then again, we got a keg of his favorite beer, so he might have been okay with anything we decided.)

Lily Rowan

@backstagebethy I can see enjoying my father walking with me (because I like walking with my father!) but not "giving me away," because that's gross.


@SarahP I just thought of something: you could give him some specific responsibility/honor in the ceremony or reception, so he has a valued role and can feel like he is important to you/the wedding and can show that he cares, which is really the point of the dance anyway, right?


@backstagebethy I do not get along with my dad and we are far from close, but he walked me to the "altar" (it was just an arch thingy with flowers...simple outdoor ceremony) because I knew it would positively crush him, and he would never speak to me again if I told him I didn't want it.

I am an only child, so it's not like he'd have the opportunity again, and I know in my heart that he loves me even if he doesn't show it, so I let him walk me down. I figured my opposition to one small thing on that one day wasn't as important as a gesture that would a. make my dad thrilled and b. not ruin our relationship forever.


@Lily Rowan Exactly. My father walked me down the aisle, but I like to think he offset whatever that paid into the coffers of the Patriarchy by doing the bulk of the cooking for the wedding reception. Also, now that he's gone, I'm really happy to have those pictures of us, both looking spiffy and happy, and a little drunk.


@backstagebethy A friend and I were busy being aghast at a friend's participation in the "my fiance asked my dad's permission to marry me and I thought that was so sweet" ritual, and so then we got to my house and I asked my dad, "Hey, what would you do if a future boyfriend asked your permission to marry me?" He made a face and said, "I'd say, ask my daughter." <3 u dad!


@backstagebethy My Dad walked me down the aisle. I actually told my parents to decide amongst themselves what they wanted to do--I would have liked both of them, but my mom wanted to watch. Absolutely no actual "giving away" nonsense, though. I think just a walking isn't so bad if you don't do the terrible traditional dialogue.

We didn't have any dancing.


@backstagebethy I feel the same way as most of you, too feminist for the vast majority of wedding traditions, but also wouldn't want to hurt my dad. I think I'll have both of my parents walk in with me.

And now that I think about that, all three of us will probably be crying. We're gonna have a hot messy ceremony.


@backstagebethy What.... what did they DO with the crosses? I am picturing them being mushed together like Barbie and Ken "kissing."

A friend who got married had all the parents participate - I'm not sure if this is part of the Jewish wedding ceremony or just how he and his wife designed it, but I liked it a lot. The idea that you're making a new family and recognizing the families you come out of, rather than giving anybody away like property.


@Lily Rowan I initially considered having both my parents walk me down the aisle, but my husband nixed it, as he didn't want to "receive" me from anyone. My parents walked down the aisle in the processional together, and my husband and I walked together, both in and out of the sanctuary. My dad and I did have a first dance together, though.


@anachronistique: I straight-up lol'd at the Barbie and Ken part.


@Maria You said it perfectly.

Nicole Cliffe

@backstagebethy HEY, so, my Dad is completely adorable and a hermit, and was SO HAPPY not to have to do those things. Also, my Dad and I have party-related anxiety, so my friend Tina palmed us each two Klonopin, and it was the best party-related night of our LIVES.


@backstagebethy - So, I attribute to all of my baggage here to being raised (and having good experiences in!) a liberal but still very faithful catholic parish.

I'm an atheist now. I was a "smash all icons" 17-21 year old. But now, since my late 20s and into this first year of my 30s, I've started to really embrace the old traditions - I was even the confirmation sponsor for a friend confirmed as an adult, despite being a catholic.

I know a lot of these traditions come from horrible places, and have horrible reasons - but the people who I love, who love me, and who are around me know I am not that kind of person. So when I participate in old traditions (no wedding stuff at all in my life yet, maybe ever, i dunno?) - they ask why?

There's two parts. The first is that, tradition - regardless of where it comes from - can be a way to link our lives to those before us. I think baptism is ridiculous. I mean, dunking a baby in magic water so if it dies it doesn't spend eternity in a lake of fire? That's goofy. However, I cherish the fact that I was dunked in magic water wearing the same baptismal gown as has been used in my family since my great-great-grandmother hand made it for my great-grandfather 60 years before my birth.

Wedding stuff? Honestly, I'll mostly be deferential to whatever is wanted by whatever lady I end up marrying, if ever. My family is small and expects nothing specific out of me, so it's all good. But I - and anyone who reads my comments knows I consider myself a feminist and all - will be very disappointed if she wants to eschew the old ways. I will understand it and not think less of her for that or be disappointed IN HER for it. I'd just rather do them, if they do not make her feel negative things.

Because, the thing is - yeah, that wedding ring was to buy virginity - then. Yes, the "giving away" can be icky. But you know what? The meaning prescribed to traditions changes. Pagan traditions were appropriated by Christian ones left and right - the ceremonies remained, but people just put new stories behind them.

Instead of, "here's a fancy ring to show people I own you," how about a "Hey woman I love, let's get married. Let's call this fancy ring the patriarchy tax!" Instead of "Father giving away HIS daughter" which - I totally get why it is possessive and icky - why not have it be "Father - the man who made her exist - accompanying her to join the man who has replaced him as her favorite" (Doesn't work if you don't love your dad, but in that case, ya know, don't make him integral to your wedding!)

I'm not saying people OUGHT TO follow the old traditions. Life is for doing what we want. I'm just saying that, if you like the aesthetic / "mise en scene" values of old traditions, that feeling of participating in a world so much more than yourself when indulging in traditions, you can totally just do the old things, but tell all of your friends and family that you're bestowing them with new meanings that aren't all patriarchal and shitty and gross.


@anachronistique Ah sorry, could have elaborated. Basically his cross was like an outline and hers fit into it? I like the idea of it, just not the words behind it.

the roughest toughest frail

@backstagebethy I started out flat-out refusing to have my father "give me away". The original plan was to have the Mister and I walk in together and walk out together: we're partners through everything, etc.
My father and I are not close, but I am his only child, so I knew that telling him he wouldn't be able to "give me away" was going to crush him. We ended up compromising by having the Mister walk down the aisle with his folks, and I walked down the aisle with mine. There was no "who gives this woman in marriage" nonsense, nor did we have a father-daughter dance. He was pleased as punch with the arrangement.


@leon.saintjean I feel you, dog. I was raised by Catholic democrats, and I still believe in a higher power and basically think Jesus is the coolest. But I'm not so enamoured by the Catholic Church. I don't know if I want a church wedding if that time ever comes. But I don't eschew all Catholic ceremonies and family events just b/c I think the pope is a total dickweed & patriarchy & child abuse, etc. I go to midnight mass to be with my family b/c that's not what it's about to my family.


@leon.saintjean One of my favorite things about weddings is feeling connected to generations of human history. Even if the traditions have changed, that moment of friends and family gathering as a community to celebrate two people starting a new life together is a wonderful one. A pair of friends of mine had to move up their wedding for military reasons. A friend officiated, the wedding was in another couple's home, a different friend made the cake and the dinner, another made the floral arrangements. It wasn't the wedding the bride had always wanted, but it was beautiful to see the way a community came out and threw a party to celebrate these friends and their relationship.


@backstagebethy I walked down the aisle with my dad, but there wasn't no giving away part in the ceremony and we didn't have any dancing. A wedding I went to recently had the groom walking up the aisle when the bride entered the church, then they processed down together.

Maybe you could find a different special role for your dad to keep him involved?


@carrie80 I did the same thing, dad walked me down but no formal "giving away"...everybody's gotta do what works for them and while I think my dad would understand if I had not been walked down with him or with both my parents i had this epiphany while planning my wedding that my dad was always so normal and cool and not everyone is so lucky AND this is possibly some pop psychology nonsense but it seems like it's very easy for a bad dad to make it harder for a straight daughter to have healthy romantic relationships with men so I felt like I was honoring my dad for not screwing me up, not him giving me to my husband as his chattel.


Just wanted to add that it may be important to him that you have a ring or even a certain kind of ring, even though he wants you to pick it out. I was all reading A Practical Wedding and envisioning $20 sterling silver engagement bands (they don't tarnish if you wear them every day), and then my now-husband pulled off a surprise proposal complete with antique diamond ring (he knew I didn't want a blood one.) For him, that was How You Do It and it would be Diminishing Our Relationship to do it otherwise. So, as Jane said, you're never really talking about what you think you're talking about with this kind of stuff.
I would advise, aim for a price that won't ruin your life if God forbid you lose it or get mugged, and, DON'T WEAR IT SWIMMING (my poor husband, on our honeymoon.) Especially in salt water, why do you think starlets soak in salt before the red carpet. It makes you shrink.
Check out Brilliant Earth for plain gold, ethical bands (or diamonds, but they're more spendy) and there are plenty of great, interesting, meaningful and not too expensive options on Etsy.


@sheistolerable Just popping in to say that a jewelry insurance policy? Super cheap! We pay something like ten dollars a year for my ring (vintage, and not super replaceable, but we'd get the monetary value if it were lost or stolen). It is a pretty small price to pay to alleviate my anxiety.


@sheistolerable Gemvara is good, too! And almost all their metals/gems are ethically sourced.

Elle Marie@twitter

I was torn about an engagement ring, but my fiance really wanted to get me one, and I love wearing rings in general. We wound up going to a local jeweler who designs custom rings, and he told her his budget and we designed something to work within it. I adore my ring - it's based off of a simple vintage-style setting, and we got an antique stone to go in it. I have very large hands, so regular vintage rings just didn't work well on my hands (everything was too small, and to size it up would have not worked well with the rings I liked best). I also have metal allergies, which limited what I could do. We are getting our wedding bands made by the same jeweler as well.

If I had normal-person-sized hands, I would have wanted a vintage ring. There are so many lovely vintage rings available these days, and if you aren't restricted by metal allergies, there are tons that would be within the LW's budget.

I also strongly advocate finding a local jeweler that you like, wherever you wind up buying jewelry, because it is so helpful in the long run. Having your fine jewelry cleaned/polished/expected every 2-3 years can help keep it looking wonderful for the rest of your life, and also helps protect your investment - if you do have stones in a ring, the settings should be checked, and white gold will need to be re-plated to keep its brilliance over the years.

dj pomegranate

@Elle Marie@twitter This is a lovely idea (local jeweler-custom vintage!) and very practical also. I will be referring to this advice in my upcoming engagement-ring discussion with mr pomegranate!


We compromised with our rings. M proposed without a ring and asked me if I wanted one and we could go pick it out. We bought wedding bands and wore them on our right hands before the wedding and then made the switch part of the ceremony. This way we had our symbol but not with the extra price tag. I work as a carpenter and wearing a big flashy ring would just be a pain so this was also a practical solution for us.


@liz@twitter: Did you receive formal training in carpentry? An apprenticeship? I've always wondered how one becomes a carpenter.


I love what Nicole brings up about how there were some wedding traditions that just overwhelming patriarchal and impossible to separate from some of the horrible history of the institution of marriage, but other things that kind of seemed fun.

One thing I found when I got married is that a lot of those same things felt that way to me and there was no way I could, for example, change my name or be given away by my father, and not feel like I was compromising myself in getting married. BUT I think for a lot of modern women, what things set off that reaction of disgust and horror are going to be different. It's okay if changing your name or wearing an engagement ring or sharing a first dance with your dad sounds like something fun to do. The only problem is when you're doing something that gives you the willies just because you feel like you *should* be doing it.

What is it that you don't want about the ring and what is it that you do want? Would you like to wear one IF he wears one as well. I know a few couple who've done this and they've usually been pretty plain, inexpensive rings. If so, tell him that. Do you want the reminder of your engagement on your finger, or do you not want a reminder of the somewhat exploitative history of engagement rings? Would you rather not get annoying questions and family members bugging you? Or are you genuinely worried about regretting this? There's all sorts of options from traditional to nontraditional.

I wouldn't worry about the regret - I was resistant to the idea of an engagement ring (I am not a jewelry person), but it seemed to matter to my fiance and it wasn't a non-negotiable for me. We ended up with something like what you're describing and I did love wearing it. But I use the past tense because now that I am married I am way too lazy to wear it. I'm glad I got it but wouldn't really have regretted not doing so. Don't let fear of regret either way be a major driver in this decision.

Lily Rowan

@arrr starr Well said.

I'm not married, but most of my friends are, and I've watched them make all kinds of different decisions that work for them. They variously would or would not call themselves feminists, but all are strong women who got married as independent adults.


@arrr starr I waffled around about changing my name, until my husband, not in any kind of pressurizing way, asked me if I'd do him the honor of taking his name. Then, after I was done swooning, I said yes.


@arrr starr I get really internally judgemental about women in my generation, class, and educational level who change their names when they get married. It's a weird visceral reaction. My surname is so much a part of my identity that I can't comprehend the urge to shed it. I know it's assholish of me to judge, and everyone has their reasons, but it's less PATRIARCHY and more, just, "this is who I am, why should I change that for anyone?" that gets extended to, "and why would anyone else?"

(edit: sorry, posted that prematurely.)


@wobbletown I've had that reaction in the past, but it's something I've tried to be less of an asshole about (though I have been known to respond to people who asked about my choice with "well, see, I already had a last name"). It does still really irk me when women do it because they feel pressured or guilted into it by their husband, and the very fact that it is normal for women and extremely abnormal for men to change their names at marriage does make me angry.

I guess maybe the reason it's easy to get riled up about this is because it's the women who do change their name who perpetuate this patriarchal status quo. But to some people it really is only a name (and to some of them, it's an unwieldly name or a reminder of a deadbeat relative). It seems like it's putting even more burden and judgment on women to be a jerk about it.


I wouldn't want to change my name because I'm lazy. You have to put that shit in your tax return and tell your bank and your landlord and the Government and file All Of The Paperwork... Nup.


@wobbletown Growing up I couldn't imagine changing my name. But in my late teens I realized I probably would, at first because I wasn't very close to my dad at the time and have always been closer with my mom's family than my dad's, and don't share a name with them so it lost some of its attachment to my identity. Then it evolved into, if I get married and have children with the person to whom I'm married it might be nice for us to all have the same family name, and hyphenations could get out of control in a few generations and it doesn't matter to me whose name it was before (not that families with different last names and different parents are any less of a family!). That said, my mom hyphenated her name when she got married, and when I found out she had been planning to keep her maiden name and my dad was fine with that until his family pressured him and he got on her case with them, I was disappointed that she added his name and didn't just keep her own like she had wanted to. So I get your impulse to judge, but I think it's a little rash. There are reasons a person might have for either choice, and I would rather trust that a person made the choice that was right for her for the right reasons before I judge.

(Edit: I know I'm really late to the hairpin this week, especially to be replying to comments! Gah! Just wanted to make sure it's understood that educated feminists of this generation who don't want to be given away or other have vows about obedience or other such unequal nonsense might WANT to change their name for one reason or another and may not feel the same link between their surname and their identity)


A cool adventure I had with a dude was going to a pawn shop to buy rings so we could travel (me pregnant) in not-so-tolerant places and allow people to make the incorrect assumption.

Especially if part of what skeeves you about jewelry is jewelry stores, a pawn shop might be right up your alley. Or down one.


@noReally Pawn shops make me kind of sad? I would be thinking, dang, what kind of desperate circumstances would make someone sell sentimental jewelry! (I know, maybe they broke up or traded up for a better ring or any number of other stories, my brain just goes right to the Dickensian drama.)


i proposed to my man without a ring, but decided a year later i wanted an engagement ring to stop all the dudes from constantly hitting on me all the time. (haha, no.) i just wanted something sweet to remind me of my man, so i requested he purchase this for me, in pink:


i love it, and it's perfect, and $50.

sudden but inevitable betrayal

@madge I don't think I've ever told you this, but I loooooove your ring!


@madge Ah! This is the cutest!!


@madge So cute! I may have mentioned this before on The Hairpin, but my brother-in-law bought my sister this ring from MoMA, which is awesome. It's amusing to see the reactions of people who don't get it.


@madge Aaahh that ring is wonderful!


thanks you guys! i love it so!

@Bittersweet, i have had the same experience showing people my ring. about half are like awesome hairpinners and adore it, the other half give me pitying looks. hahahaha!


I got an engagement ring, and I love it. But before I got it, I would have told you I didn't want one. Money, patriarchy, blood diamonds, the works. This one means a great deal to both of us, though, because it belonged to his very-much-alive grandmother, who gave it to him as a way of saying she liked me (after the first christmas i spent with his family) and thought he was making a good decision. She hasn't exactly been so generous with others in the family, etc. So, he was really touched that his kindof mean grandmother was being so sweet and nice, he had the ring resized for my gigantic finger, and he waited nine months after he got it to give it to me. And it suits me perfectly, vintage setting, etc.

Our wedding bands, though, I bought from an Etsy seller for less than 200 smackers. Mine is just a tiny sliver of a stacking ring.

Anyway, what I mean to say is do what you want! But be prepared to feel pleased and surprised later on.


I totally agree. I was married once upon a time, and at that time, I didn't want a ring. LOUDLY didn't want a ring. Even threatened to make him wear a huge gold chain if he made me get a ring. But he did, and when I put it on, I loved it. It wasn't a symbol of him owning me, it was a symbol of all he thought of me. Of all he wanted to accomplish with me as we grew old. Simply put, it was a symbol of his love for me. Even though we're divorced, and he's an a-hole, when I look at that ring (yes, I still have it), I remember his love.

Now, switching from grossly, overly mushy to my thought on your ring issue - get what you want. You may look at rings and find that you don't actually want what you thought you did, so go with your heart. Don't get something because it's shiny or fancy or NOT fancy. Don't try to make a statement with it. Don't rush it. Find something that makes your heart swell when you see it because it makes you feel the love between you and your man.

Ok, go barf now. I know I made you gag with that shit. But it's what I think.


FWIW, my parents have been married for over 30 years, and although she wore her mom's rings for the ceremony, neither of them wears any kind of ring. I have literally never seen my father with a wedding band, and my mom only once or twice when she was showing us as kids. It doesn't matter to them! Of course, 99.9% of other couples like that symbol, but you don't have to want it just because everyone else does, y'know? Congrats on the engagement!


@charmcity My parents are the same way, even though they're fairly traditional. 40 years strong and no ring.


I had similar concerns when my partner proposed. I haven't worn any kind of jewelry since I was 11 years old, tend to lose things, don't like shoving wealth or my relationship choices in people's faces etc. It took me a while to start wearing it regularly, but now that I do I think I sort of understand it. It can be a nice symbol.

Jon Roig@facebook

So... let me ask you this: I'm thinking about getting my special lady an engagement ring in short order. Since I want it to be a surprise, how the heck do I figure out her ring tastes without actually going ring shopping?

dj pomegranate

@Jon Roig@facebook So, I don't know you/your lady/your style, so your mileage may vary. I would vote for taking pictures/be able to describe her general jewelry style and then going to a jeweler for help narrowing it down. Maybe show her a picture of a Not Engagement Ring piece of jewelry and say something like, "How do you like this? Because my cousin/co worker/sister just got it and I think it's really pretty!" Or whatever. Basically, open the discussion subtly but specifically, ask open ended questions. Good luck!


@Jon Roig@facebook Ask her best friends? Take a look at the jewelry she already owns?

Or sneakily ask her things to narrow it down. Like, "I'm thinking of buying my mom a necklace for her birthday. What do you think she would like? Is this style prettier or this one? Why? Is that your taste or her taste?" Etc. Broad questions. "Do you like modern clothing or vintage clothing more? If you could travel back in time, where would you live?" That sort of thing. Then you can say to the person at the store- "she likes simple modern things". Etc.


@Jon Roig@facebook You can always ask one of her best friends. Or propose without one if you think she'd like picking it out. I had a friend propose with a ring pop in a parking lot to his lady, and it became a great story, then they picked out the ring together.


@Jon Roig@facebook Talk to her ladyfriends. Because even if she's never talked to them about rings before, they can bring up the subject as if for themselves and get her input for you.


@Jon Roig@facebook Ask her friends. They all know. They've all been told what to tell you. And possibly the wives/lady companions of your friends, as well.


@Jon Roig@facebook I'd say if you're about to propose then hopefully you guys have talked about proposals and marriage and all that and you can ask her to show you things she likes without actually having her pick out the ring (which I think would be awkward). That's what me and my now-fiance did and it was actually really fun! I showed him links for a few weeks and then one day he said "Okay now never again do we mention it!" and proposed about a month later. Still the fun surprise of a proposal but with a ring that I love and is totally my style. Because let's be serious who knows what he would have picked on his own...

Baby Fish Mouth

@Jon Roig@facebook Does she have a pinterest account? Because if she wants an engagement ring, there is probably a good chance she's pinned one she likes or at least other jewelry that would help you figure out her tastes.


@Jon Roig@facebook My husband proposed to me with a GIGANTIC fake pastic ring inside of one of those vending machine bubble thingies. All of the kneel down, put on a ring, with none of the actually having to pick out a ring that she'll wear forever and ever.

dj pomegranate

@Wiscowhitney Yes! If your lady has a Pinterist account, there is a good chance she has pinned some ring ideas, other jewelry ideas, or just general style ideas which can help you and the jeweler narrow down the options.


@sam.i.am Yes, this is the way to go. It shouldn't be a COMPLETE surprise to her that this is going to happen (it isn't, is it?) so the thought has come up. And if they don't know yet, that is just a fun excursion for the girls to go on. My fiancee asked my best friend what she thought, and she wasn't sure, so we had a very wine-y lunch and then went to Tiffany's and other ridiculously expensive stores to try on a ton of styles to see which ones I liked. Then she reported back to him with a few different ones that I liked and he went out and picked one based on those. And it's beautiful!

But that certainly wasn't any soft of surprise engagement. We had discussed it and were about to move cross country together, so it was more like, "Let's get this part out of the way, and we can celebrate with family and friends before we leave them all 3000 miles behind." 3.5 years later and we are finally getting around to the wedding part.

Marquise de Morville

@sam.i.am Well, if you ask the right friends. My friend's husband decided on a ruby customed designed ring based on what he knew about my friend, and half the girls told him that the lack of diamond would result in a refusal! He stuck with his initial plan and his wife-to-be loved it.


@Maria OMG Ringpop proposal (with maybe a real ring later) is my dream. I'm not even kidding. Watermelon or blue raspberry, please.


@Jon Roig@facebook Seconding/thirding the ring pop proposal with a real ring later. That is, if she's that kind of lady (you'll know if she is!). I have to say, the ask her girlfriends advice might be good if she talks about rings to her girls a lot, but I think that advice does not work for a LOT of women, because a) do people really talk about rings with their girlfriends that often? and b) a lot of people may think that they want one thing, but once they try it on or look at it a lot, their opinion might change. Also, if you really want to do the real ring thing you could always get a plain gold or platinum solitaire at a place that has a good return policy, and just tell her that that was the starter ring, but you guys can go back together and pick out a real one.


When my dude and I got engaged, I wasn't sure whether I wanted a ring, but since we decided to have a relatively long engagement, I decided I wanted the symbol. I want to an estate jewelry shop and found a $400 vintage ring that I absolutely love. It's very small and simple and just what I wanted. We probably could have spent more, but we decided together (we'd already mushed our meager checking accounts together) that $400 was enough to buy something pretty with and not so much that I'd feel like a fool.

Oh, we just bought our wedding bands from bario-neal and I can't recommend them highly enough. Beautiful, simple designs and really lovely people to deal with. Very reasonably priced, too.


So I was similarly lukewarm on the engagement ring business (too much money, don't like diamonds etc etc). It was important to my fiance however to have something to present me with when he proposed. I went back and forth about an engagement bracelet or watch or something but finally I decided to go with a ring and I really do love it. It sounds stupid but it's just so shiny!

We got mine on Etsy- I basically just sent him a ton of info on what I wanted (Aquamarine, simple, bezel set etc) and he put together a bunch of different elements (this is it if anyone is curious: http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5456/7408279346_c481abc1e0.jpg). It's pretty perfect for me. I don't wear it all the time but i really enjoy the symbol.

At the same time- if you don't want one I don't think you should feel like you HAVE to have one! It's a lot of money to spend on something that you don't particularly want. Getting married is full of "have-tos" and most are bullshit.


@Steph Your ring is gorgeous! Do you mind if I ask which Etsy shop it came from? I'm sort of scouting things out. Also, I just love jewelry!


@rallisaurus Thank you! The seller is Garnet Girl Designs http://www.etsy.com/shop/onegarnetgirl .
I covet almost everything in her store. My boyfriend had this one custom made but she's now selling it in the store as well.

Reginal T. Squirge

Too bad Nicole is already married...

Also, of course you've had four different engagement rings, Jane. LOL @ you almost marrying a skater boi. I mean, that'sreallysadthatitdidn'tworkoutI'msorryforyourloss.



@Nicole Cliffe - how did you handle haters/naysayers who "expected" you to have a ring? Or was there none of that nonsense?


@phipsi I didn't have one either. My close friends and family know that I have pretty low interest in what you're "supposed to do" in general so with them it was easy to be like "I didn't want one" and have that be the end of things. With strangers you can always be like "that's a personal question" and if that doesn't get them to drop it you can say "Oh let me be more clear, when I say personal question I mean you're rude for asking and it's not really for you to know" - Unless you're in the mood to discuss your reasons for not wanting one.

Nicole Cliffe

It was kind of gross. People assumed I wanted one and was putting on a brave face, people said 'wait, are you officially engaged yet?' etc. But, whatever, fuck 'em.

Nicole Cliffe

Oh, and this one juicebox said something about 'well, you already know what he's worth,' referring to his money, in front of both of us, and I wanted to die.


@Nicole Cliffe The response to that is "He's worth everything in the world to me!" as you smile sweetly and murder the offender with your eyes. Or, you know, "Fuck you, jerkface!"


@Nicole Cliffe When you say you wanted to die, I'm assuming that was your polite way of saying you wanted to punch him in the 'nards, right?


@Nicole Cliffe Ugh! "officially engaged" wtf. I have been referring to us as "de facto engaged", so maybe I should just change to to officially engaged and stop sweating about a ring. (I don't really want/need an engagement ring, although a cool vintage wedding ring would be nice. The boy wants a ring tat (?!?!) which kind of makes me cringe, but then I saw someone I liked that had a ring tat and it made me feel better about the idea.)


@garli You are badass and I am never able to give the big FO to nosy strangers. Good for you!


What about engagement watches, earrings, bracelets or necklaces? Something gorgeous to remind you of this important time in your life, but not a ring with all the attendant symbolism, and associated pricing. I could see his and hers watches that you get engraved, and I bet you could get something INCREDIBLE for less than 200 each at a vintage store.

Also engagement earrings or necklace you can use as part of your bridal jewelery on the day of, and then wear on anniversaries well into the future.


You are a GENIUS! All the thumbs up!


My engagement ring is an heirloom, which doesn't quite help, but when I was discussing marriage with my last dude, I had the same question.
I was also really icked out by the idea of having the same ring as millions of other girls; I'm of the age where a lot of my friends and acquaintances are getting married, and seeing FB profile pics (ew) of their rings, with a million "just like mine!" comments ... blah. Did not want. Anyways, I ended up finding a website with ethically sourced pearl rings that I fell in love with, for under three hundred bucks. Had we actually gotten engaged (oops, he fell in love with my bestie!) I would have crossed my fingers for that, or something thrifted.


@etheline. He fell in love with your bestie? Noooooooooooo!


@chrysopoeia He did! It all became very obvious (to me, her, all of my family...) at my sister's wedding, when he asked to dance the first slow song and left me sitting alone at the head table.
She didn't go for it, but after being totally humbled by that public dumping ... I don't know. What would our three years together mean in the face of their potential sixty years of happiness?


@etheline. That in public shit is cold! You're a good person for letting go and wishing them well.

New Hoarder

@etheline. More details, please! Is everyone still friends in this scenario? This sounds like a Hallmark movie!

Nicole Cliffe



@etheline. She remains my best friend. We've been tight since we were little, and for a long time I thought, I am so lucky my boyfriend and best friend get along so well. The three of us hung out all the time! Hoorah! And how cool that he understood her role in my life so much that he never made me choose between them!

Buuuut...then my sister's wedding rolled around, and instead of sitting at the family table, he elected to sit beside her instead. I didn't see him the whole night, but got a lot of concerned looks after he repeatedly asked her to dance. After being asked by everyone if we were okay, I realized we had to have the hard talk. He had fallen in love with her.

The weird thing is, I kind of felt bad for him. All of our mutual friends were disgusted with him, and he couldn't easily make the switch to the person he wanted to be with. She wasn't into it, and not only due to her loyalty; she had only thought of him as my boyfriend, and couldn't make the switch. But - maybe you can't help who you fall in love with? If this was someone else's story, I might be empathetic to the idea that this was simply the way love is sometimes, and they might end up with a crazy how they met story.

Anyways, fast forward almost two years. She's in my wedding to someone else next month, and he has cut contact with both of us.


If you want a ring, vintage could definitely be the way to go. Both my engagement and wedding rings are estate/vintage pieces, one bought from a local jeweler and one purchased online. We got married when he was just starting grad school and I was working at a grocery store, and they were well within our budget.

He chose the engagement ring (I love him, bless his heart, but that was a lesson in Listening When Your Fiancee Says She Hates Diamonds-- god, does that sound bitchy? I do not mean it to be bitchy. Now you probably all think I am horrible?), so I chose my wedding ring. My wee antique opals were cheaper than ordering a simple gold band out of a jeweler's catalog. The band is a bit flimsy, so when we're less poor, we'll see if someone can beef it up. For now, though, it was a responsible and interesting choice.

If you don't go the ring route, more power to you! One less thing to lose and panic over.


For what it's worth, I love the jewelry here, and they have a decent selection of not-too-expensive stuff:


But it sounds like the LW is leaning towards no ring, which is fine! As for future regret over not having gotten a ring, there's no law saying one HAS to get one now, before getting married, otherwise her name will be put on a "no engagement ring" list shared by jewelers the world over. If she changes her mind later, she can go ahead and buy one!


@Lemonnier Oooh, thank you for pointing me there! 'Pinners have such good taste in jewelry, I am forever bookmarking, forever wishing I got paid a jewelry allowance...


I didn't get an engagement ring for a lot of reasons. Diamonds are icky to me, but then by that logic why would you want a lab diamond? It looks just like that icky thing, and no one can tell the difference! And that's good? Then are gem stones too close? Finally why do you have an tangible external symbol of commitment but your dude doesn't?

But also I got court house married with no witnesses other then a college photography student taking pictures for our mothers, so I'm not the most sentimental or romantic person.


My husband got my engagement ring (a very pretty, simple band with teeny inset diamonds that matches my mom's) on Black Friday. It was hella cheap and it's stayed beautiful and intact for three years now. Our bands were purchased on amazon for $15 apiece and they're still going strong too. You don't have to break the bank on this stuff, but as a girl that doesn't really like or wear jewelry, I do love looking down at the prettiness on my left hand and being reminded of my super-rad hubby. :)


I'm going to step out on a limb and say that this is the kind of symbol-of-your-love, once-in-a-lifetime type of thing that it's worth spending money on. And $1,000 is really extremely reasonable for an engagement ring.

I love, love, love my engagement ring. It freaked me out at first to wear something this valuable on my finger. However - insurance is affordable (you can add it to your homeowners/renters policy), and nobody says you have to wear your ring all the time. I'll leave it at home if I'm going someplace where I feel wearing it would be awkward (volunteering at a free clinic, for example).


@mainesqueeze I'm glad I wasn't the only one in this thread who actually likes the idea of an engagement ring.
There is nothing wrong with liking what you like, having your beliefs, and doing what feels right, but I feel like this thread is starting to get a little engagement ring shame-y.


@mainesqueeze As a non-jewelry wearer/carer, I was SHOCKED! SHOCKED! at how much I loved (LOVE) my engagement ring. I was absolutely giddy about wearing it. And I am not a giddy person. This is weird, but I'd get really paranoid when going through a drive-thru ... just sticking my hand out the window with my ring on kind of freaked me out. Anyway. I still love it, but for practical purposes, I usually wear my $30 overstock.com wedding band that I bought when I was pregnant and my fingers were too chubby to wear my regular rings. And yes, I've lost the baby weight thankyouverymuch ... I just really like my "fake ring" :)


@allofthewine I don't think the thread is shame-y, but more that people are reacting to the ambivalence of the advice-seeker. It's okay to be ambivalent! There are lots of options!

One of those options is, of course, to get an engagement ring.

To each their own, my friends! Ride on into that sparkly or non-sparkly sunset of your desires.


Aw I totally relate to this LW! I got engaged a couple months ago and felt totally uneasy about the whole ring thing. Obviously the whole idea of an engagement ring has some gross history and weird patriarchal stuff going on but... It's also sort of a nice idea right?! I don't know but basically I logged in to say that I totally disagree with Jane saying that this is probably not really about the ring because I think it very likely is just about the ring! Anyway, my ring is a diamond from the 40's off of etsy (lots of great affordable options there!) and I love it but would also have been happy with something much less expensive because really, it's not that important (but it's pretty fun).


I'm with Nicole on the no-to-patriarchal-traditions piece, (& find myself very ambivalent towards marriage & weddings in general) but still find myself desiring a ring. No diamonds, very affordable, but still: a ring. I'm just not one to turn down an opportunity for sparkly things, I guess? My partner also would like me to have one, so. A ring!


One of the best decisions we ever made was to do without an engagement ring. The wedding ring says it all, a simple gold band. We've been married for 35 years and never missed it. The engagement ring, like so much around weddings, is kept alive by the people who want to sell you things and has nothing to do with the reason you are getting married. Just say no.


@cranberries I have been married just two years, and we didn't do an engagement ring either. I can't say I've missed it, but I didn't want it in the first place. As it came closer to my own wedding, I realized that there were some things that I knew full well to be goofy cultural relics that I still wanted as a part of my wedding. I wanted a big ol' white dress, so I got one. I wanted a fancy cake. (Luckily, big white dresses and fancy cakes are available at many price points.)
I did want a wedding band, it turned out, so I got one of those, even though I didn't wear it for a good year a half, because water was getting under it and irritating my skin at my old job.
For the things I didn't want, or that my husband didn't want, we quietly skipped them. The only drawback to skipping the engagement ring was that there was a short period where people would ask to see it, or look at my hand and then look puzzled, but I took a perverse and secret joy in disappointing those people.


@frenz.lo I have to second the "perverse and secret joy" that comes from catching people trying to subtly check out your non existent bling. We skipped the engagement ring and wedding bands and bought ourselves the home theater of our dreams and never looked back. The bottom line is, base your decision on what would make you happy and not what tradition dictates.


I think that it largely depends on what the ring means to the individual person/couple. I'm not engaged/married but I'm always intrigued by discussions like this, and have come to the conclusion that I like the idea of an engagement ring for sentimental purposes. I currently wear a ring that my mom gave me (she wore it as a teenager/young adult), and I like having that symbol or thought of her to carry around with me. I also have a ring that I bought myself as a "self-vow" to remind me of my awesomeness when I'm feeling down. So to have a ring from my boyfriend as a symbolic token of the relationship is a nice idea. Essentially, I think as long as you consider what you want as opposed to what society says you're supposed to want and decide accordingly, then there's really no universal right answer.

the angry little raincloud

I have no business commenting on a thread about engagement rings because a) I'm not married, b) have never been married, c) probably will never marry, d) basically can't sustain a relationship beyond a month. So, I'm not speaking from experience with, you know, true wuv or anything. But I do know stuff about art & crap, so...

It can be surprisingly affordable to have rings (or any kind of jewelry, really) made for you. As in, you go to a silversmith. Seriously. Whether you want just a simple silver or gold band, or something with a lovely design that you've picked out, or your names engraved, or whatever, there are trained & talented craftspeople out there who can do that for you, for a lot less money than you think. And it's actually something unique and an expression of your tastes, etc etc.

Also, the difference between getting a sterling silver band &, say, platinum (which I prefer), is marginal, pricewise when you're buying it directly from the craftsperson, unlike in traditional stores where the markup is ridiculous. And you're supporting the arts or actual craftspeople as opposed to some behemoth like Tiffany's or Evil Incarnate, DeBeers.

Or, in the same vein, rather than getting a ring to wear, you could always buy art you like to celebrate your new life? For the same price as a ring (however much you'd spend, be it $100 or $25,000), you could get something you both like to hang on your wall to make your place look awesome? It's more private-- since it would be in your home--than wearing around a ring publicly, but would still be something significant to signify the importance of the occasion. Just a thought.


Engagement horse? *pricks up ears, paws ground*

Thankfully none of the proposals I've received involved bling... I haven't had to deal with this. BUT my friends had an engagement holiday – every bit as nice as a ring, and it involved more delicious Basque food.


Well. I was just proposed to (him on one knee and all) completely by surprise last week and given a ring that he picked out without any guidance and nothing to work from because I own no jewelry. None. I am about as non patriarchal as they come with strong feminist roots to boot but I'll be damned if I didn't say yes through my surprised happy tears, now love wearing the ring, and am happily planning a party with him. To me, the best part is that I look at the ring on my finger and see this thing that he got for me, in good taste and not too expensive, as a celebration of love. Also, he wants a ring on his finger now too and thinks it's unfair that only I get one until the wedding - we both agree that the engagement ring idea is a little silly but he enjoyed the secret ninja quest for ring and I enjoyed the surprise. I think I would have balked at the concept of, "so let's get engaged and now you can go select something for me to give to you to symbolize this, at an unknown price range" - I was rather (and pleasantly so) taken by the confidence of my dude.


@Uumellmahaye I LOVE THAT RING!


@Uumellmahaye Wow, love that ring too! I also had a secret ninja fiance who bought a (modest) ring on his own and planned an entire surprise engagement weekend for us. It was the awesomest. He took that whole enterprise in hand because we'd been talking about getting married for years (and were dealing with some fairly unpleasant pressure from my extended family as well), and he wanted to make the actual event a fun surprise, which it was.


@Bittersweet @dabbyfanny Thanks! Go Secret Ninja Fiance's! (go quietly and stealthily)


@Uumellmahaye Like you I was surprised by loving my ring--though who on earth wouldn't love yours!

With no particular plan in mind, we ended up only purchasing wedding rings, and then each wearing those rings prior to the wedding, so they more or less did double duty as engagement rings. (Although he did not wear his ring at work because he was afraid of freaking out co-workers who were worried that he would quit to join me out-of-state if we married. He just wore it at home and on the subway, too, which always amused me!).

I actually felt weird at times wearing my ring before the wedding, not because I was using it off-label, but more perhaps because engagement rings are somewhat uncommon among my friends/colleagues; I'm also a little unused to wearing any kind of jewelry or signalling anything about my personal life to people I don't know well? And am generally paranoid?

But I really came to love wearing it, and post-wedding, I love even more the notion that it reflects our wedding as a celebration of a commitment that's existing and ongoing, rather than the starting point of one. I like the idea that a ring means what it means to you
(so in your case, love + 'secret ninja quest.' fantastic!)


My husband picked out my engagement/wedding band set without any input from me. I hated it at first, but grew to LOVE it. It's on the flashy side, with a marquee center stone and diamonds all down the sides. I always assumed I would have one, and never considered alternatives.

I bought my husband an engagement bad as well, since I thought it was silly for only women to have them. But he lost it the next week on a camping trip when he got super drunk and his friends hosed him off in the grounds shower house. He still doesn't live that one down, because I am super cheap and I was pissed!

All that to say (like everyone else) it's a totally personal, unique decision. Maybe if you're having doubts, that's a sign? Or maybe you're just more socially aware than I was!


The issue I always had with wedding traditions was with changing my name. I did it because I felt obligated to, with unspoken judging by him, his family. But now my last name is so boooooooring!


Really. I objected on the aesthetics of the name change, not the actual feminism front.


@BornSecular Aesthetics = totally thing to base your name-changing decisions on. I am never, ever changing my name because I love that it's a double dactyl and has an equal number of Rs and Ls. (My name sounds a little bit like "Cardamom Applesauce." Which sounds delicious, actually.)


@BornSecular On the aesthetic front - remember that scene in The Wedding Singer when Drew Barrymore starts to cry after introducing herself to her mirror as Julia Guglia? That's the situation I would have if I changed mine.


@anitabath "Sir, one more outburst from you and I will strangle you with my microphone cord, do you understand me?"

I just really like that movie.


@cuminafterall Okay, that really does sound delicious! I am actually pro changing my name for aesthetic reasons. Currently, my last name is one letter off from a slang word for a particularly unlovely body part, and wouldn't you know it, that letter gets added to my name all the time by well-meaning but apparently illiterate people. I can't tell you how nice it would be to have an easily-spelled last name!


I love my engagement ring. It is my favorite gift ever, because his face when he gave it to me? Wow. He was so vulnerable/terrified/happy/serious about it, and I love him, so.


@okaycrochet Yes! My ring isn't even really my aesthetic style, but the fact that he picked it out for me (and had specific, sweet reasons), and the way he presented it to me, make it the best possible ring I could ever wear.

sarah girl

@okaycrochet Ahhh that made me a little teary!


@okaycrochet This! This right here! I also have epic love for my ring and it's because I have pretty much etched the whole proposal into my mind because he just looked so hopeful and serious and happy, all at the same time.


Agree! That's the best part about it - remembering that intense love/fear/determination from those days.

New Hoarder

@okaycrochet YES! This! Any feminist/ money/ itchy thoughts I could have had about rings (honestly, I really truly did not think about rings at ALL before we were engaged- I just wanted to legally wrangle my guy) flew out the door when my husband gave me the €5 ring he had bought moments earlier on the street because he, too, looked so vulnerable, and murmured, "I know we talked about it... and you said would... so... would you... ?"


I am super into wooden rings! They are generally made on commission, so very customizable and only cost like $300 or about $500 if you want a big ol gemstone set in it. I do not have an engagement ring but if I did I would totally want a wooden ring with moissanite. The lab created stuff so no guilt about the horribleness of diamonds!
I am in love with this one


I hate that the existence of synthetic diamonds hasn't just ended diamond mining. Why? How long can the marketing experts at Debeers keep this thing going? "It's better, intrinsically. Not in a way that anyone but an expert with a microscope can tell. But you'll know."

But, related, back in the day a friend of my sister's had been leaning on reluctant BF to marry her for a very long time. Finally she beats him down and shows up with this doorknob of a diamond. Just, Jesus Christ did he sell his own house and someone else's for this thing? And a few months later she takes it to be appraised and it's not even a lab diamond, but some kind of Diamanté something. The marriage did not linger.

So I would amend, lab diamonds are the bomb, but not for tricking people you love who would care a lot.


@noReally Yes. Agree! I do not understand the obsession with "real" diamonds either. We have a billion and one synthetic products and for some reason the marketing of diamonds has put the emphasis on the "real" ones because they're somehow better? You wouldn't buy "real" fur anymore would you? Ugh!

sudden but inevitable betrayal

@permanentbitchface Oh my gosh those are pretty!


@noReally Is it wrong that I laughed at that? I mean, that's a shitty move, tricking someone because you don't have the balls to say, "I don't want to marry you," but on the other side, why would you marry someone you had to bully into committing?! I hope they're both happier wherever they are now.


Personally, I didn't care whether or not I had an engagement ring, though I agree whoever mentioned above that if you don't have one, you'll have to get used to fielding unsolicited questions/comments/assumptions from ofteh well-meaning relatives and acquaintances. But once you're married, having a wedding band will prevent said unsolicited comments, so you'll only have to deal with it for a little while.

My husband surprised me with an engagement ring when he proposed, and I have wanted it on my finger ever second since then. Not because I suddenly turned into a huge fan of jewelry, but mostly because of what it's a symbol of. (Our love, unity, commitment, etc, not the whole virginity-insurance thing.) It's a ruby, which is not only cheaper than a diamond but one of my favorite stones, and I've only ever had one or two pointed "Oh, you guys are so original" comments. So definitely consider non-diamond stones! They are cheaper in general, but also cheaper and easier to find ethically sourced.

A friend of mine got a combined wedding/engagement ring, so she only has one ring. It was inexpensive (3 rough diamonds) and is beautiful and she never gets any questions/comments about only having 1 ring.


@SarahP The "Oh, you guys are so original" comments about your ruby are right up there with the "Oh, that's so sweet" comments about my small diamond that I used to get from female colleagues, who would never have accepted anything less than 2 carats. Ugh.


@Bittersweet Ugh, yes, they are definitely the same types! People, if you're not going to be able to be nice about a ring that doesn't meet your arbitrary expectations, please don't ask to see it.


My parents got married in China back in the day, and engagement rings, and all wedding bands really, seemed to be a purely American (or at least Westernized) thing, at least at that time. When they moved to America and were established enough, my mom made my dad buy her a ring just because, but to this day (28 years later), neither of them wear a ring.

I personally don't want one because it is just a lot of money to have on your finger, but I am weirdly fascinated by other people's fascination with them.


@lalaland same! (chinese parents and all.) my mom once thought about getting an engagement ring after a mechanic asked her out, assuming she was a widow because she drove a minivan without any rings on. but i just don't have the same romantic feelings about engagement rings that most of my friends have, despite being otherwise totally assimilated. it's the same with changing names--my mom always had a different last name than my dad, and i never felt like it "meant something" one way or another.


Etsy! Seriously, there are some great, custom, affordable finds on Etsy.

fuck fuck fuck

@Steph my fiance and i picked out my ring on etsy like three days ago! IT WAS ONLY $50. i'm sure it'll fall apart someday but who cares! FIFTY.


my mom, married in the court house, always wore a tiny gold band. when her mom passed, she inherited her wedding ring, a beautiful vintage petite thing that was all soft and worn down looking.


Certainly it comes down to 'do what you feel is right for you' however, as it's been mentioned a few times, there certainly are so many more options than dropping multiple Gs on a new diamond ring.

great alternatives are...
- vintage or antique
- alternative center stones (sapphire, ruby, emerald are popular but aquamarine or topaz are beautiful choices too)
- just go with the wedding band and forego the engagement ring. or buy one now that will work as both.
- you could also ask your parents if they think theres an heirloom hanging around, and/or if your mom has a piece of jewelry she doesnt wear/want anymore that can be restyled into a ring

etsy.com has awesome options for various price points.

oh and of course there's always the forego a ring altogether. it's not worth adding to debt especially if you dont care for a ring. but, it is nice to have the symbol on your hand every day, not as a symbol of what the wedding industry thinks should be on your hand, but a symbol of your love and commitment. it doesnt matter the metal or the materials, if you choose to wear a ring.

congratulations on your engagement!

dracula's ghost

HONEYMOON!!!!!! Just go on a crazy honeymoon with the money you would've spent on a ring! You won't regret it! I would tell you about mine but I can't do it without crying tears of joy. Will that old cold jewel make you cry tears of joy in 3 years? If so that is kind of weird.

Also there is no better way of saying I love you than paying off someone's student debts. Start your life together clean and fresh and FREE, talk about a symbol!

Our wedding rings are from etsy, I think they were like $80 as a package deal. I love my ring because it's a symbol of my marriage. The amount of money you spend on this symbol is meaningless--it's a symbol. A crazy honeymoon or becoming debt-free, though, that's where the amount of money you spend can really make a difference!

Or just blow it all at the track

Harriet Kierkegaard@facebook

So I really did not like my first engagement ring. It had belonged to that husband's grandmother and was all olde tymee femme with filigree and shit. A few smallish diamonds. The husband was really freakish about the ring because his brothers were all disgruntled that the grandmother had left it to him and not them. So when I ended the marriage that was like the first thing he said: give me the ring back. I wonder what he did with it then.

Then for my next and current husband we were in Las Vegas together where he was playing in the World Series of Poker. He had just cashed out in a satellite tournament and had a wad of cash in his pocket. We were in a mall and spotted a twisty gold David Yurman ring with a single rectangular peridot. We both fell in love with it. It was $700. He pulled out his wad of cash, peeled off seven honeybees and paid the lady. I still wear it today, still love it.


@Harriet Kierkegaard@facebook: PERIDOT!

Rachel McCarthy James@facebook

Though I'm a feminist, I like jewelry, so I wanted a ring to mark my engagement. Fortunately, my tastes were well within our budget; I'm too contrary for diamonds! I'd fallen in love with peridot gemstones when we moved in together, which are a lovely shade of spring green and quite inexpensive. So nothing I wanted was out of reach. I picked out my own ring, prior to the engagement. It cost $125, and the peridot wedding ring cost $50. My husband also got a lovely ring upon our marriage made of titanium and green riverstone - the green rings also nicely complemented my forest green wedding dress. We plan on replacing them at some point in the distant future, when we have money.


Thanks Jane for making me want to look at vintage engagement rings all day even though I'll probably never experience the LW's dilemma. Thank god for cocktail rings.

Jane Marie

@MeghanElizabeth Edith and I are currently deep, deep within the bowels of that website sending links back and forth. did you see the gold headband?


@Jane Marie WELL I HAVE NOW! Wow, that's so, so beautiful. If you wear that (or something similar) you'll show us, right? Man do I love hair jewelry and the simple fact that hair jewelry exists.


1st engagement riing: 30 bucks, bought from a v. nasty chain store. We were 16 and just wanted everyone to know we were IN LOVE. Split up 6 months later.
2nd ring, emerald cut garnet with two tiny diamonds. 150 bucks, we were in grad school and I felt uncomfortable demanding a pricy piece of jewelry (his family was well off, mine is not), Plus I think solitaire diamonds are sorta uninteresting considering how much they cost. My wedding ring on the other hand, was awesome. I commissioned a fellow grad student metalsmith to cast two teeny braids of my hair into yellow gold bands for my husband and myself. Mine is gorgeous, and romantic, and I am now divorced and it only fits on my pinkie finger.
1st commitment ring: because not doing the marriage thing ever again, but wanted to exchange symbols of our commitment. Mine is a very delicate and unusual gold ring made by a human, bought at a local crafts gallery. 125 bucks and I love it so much. His is a plain titanium band that cost maaaybe 40 bucks. Bottom line, don't spend the money on something just because. Bide your time and if you see something you love, get it. Or put the word out and see if any friends have metalsmith buddies who will work with you to make something personal and unique. I actually knew someone who got an engagement welding helmet from her fiancee, he had it engraved. It was so romantic, because it aknowledged who she is. I also know a couple who got matching ring tattoos. You can do anything you want, really - rewrite the patriarchal connotations by defining what it means for yourself.


@dabbyfanny A ring made from a cast of braids of your hair is so gothy and Victorian and I am utterly agog with jealousy at the gothy Victorian fabulousness of this idea.

I too know people who have matching ring tattoos. She has his name tattooed on her left ring finger, he has hers. They wear wedding bands too, but I think the ink is pretty badass.


@Clare Thank you! It was also perfect because I pretty often use braided hair in my sculpture, plus I made the actual braids for the ring and loved being able to participate in the making of it. I made his ring bigger and mine smaller, and it was really interesting to see how a braid could become chunky and masculine just because it was a bit bigger (I mean, Tony Soprano could have worn it). Plus, I felt a bit like I was tieing my husband to me with a rope of my hair. There's a lot of very interesting symbolism around hair that adds a whole other level to it.

sarah girl

I've had two engagement rings - one had a sapphire stone that I (yes, I) paid way too much fucking money for, one was moissanite (my choice!) in gold. I'm not sure what I'd want, if anything, if I got engaged again - I've seen really lovely delicate rings on etsy that are just thin gold shaped into a knot, and those are really cool and simple. Or maybe, nothing.

Related question: For my second engagement, I also bought my ex an engagement ring. When we broke up, I gave him back my ring, but he also gave me his ring back, which surprised me. Now I have this ring (it's sterling with a design etched into it) rattling around in one of my drawers, and I have NO CLUE what to do with it. It's just sterling, so melting it down to make something else would either be impossible or not worth it, sooo... I don't know!

sarah girl

@Sarah H. Also, my browser seems to have automatically opened a tab and gone to the jewelry listings on Etsy! What a strange occurrence that I definitely didn't cause.


@Sarah H. So sell the ring! Someone else will have it and love it.


When I got engaged, I was working retail and he was working construction, so we were not exactly the most cash-happy couple. I knew I wanted something with a sapphire/multiple sapphires (our birthstone), so he went shopping with one of our close lady friends. The key to finding a more affordable ring? NEVER MENTIONING THE FUCKING ENGAGEMENT. My (lovely, constantly remarked-upon) engagement ring was $600 at the then-Bon Marche (now Macy's). It's white gold with a center sapphire and six tiny diamonds on either side, and it was nowhere near the "mortgage all of your children for this" engagement rings section. I adore it and never want to change it, but at some point in the future, we might get nicer wedding bands (ours were $100 for two plain bands at The Jewelry Exchange) to mark an anniversary.

Really, while a ring is a very traditional symbol, when you think about all the stuff you do with your hands, remember that the ring does it too. My ring has dealt with cat puke, baby shit, prepping raw meat, me trying to vomit out a hangover, and my uncontrollable urge to try all the tester lotions at the mall. I would feel bad if I was dragging a $4k rock through that with me. A friend's engagement ring cost $15,000 (WITH THREE ZEROES) and it's straight up insane, you can see it from space.

New Hoarder

@ipomoea "NEVER MENTIONING THE FUCKING ENGAGEMENT." This is also key to booking/ ordering anything for the wedding. I just told people it was for a birthday party/ barbecure/ "family get-together," etc. and was re-directed to other reps at the same venues but with MUCH lower prices. Tee hee.

This is my new username

@New Hoarder As a newly engaged person I was wondering if that was a thing I should try during the wedding planning part!


When my parents got engaged, my dad asked, "So, do you want a ring or something?" and she said "How about a dishwasher instead?"

She figured they'd have the rest of their lives to pick out jewelry, and 39 years later, she's got a beautiful diamond ring he got her ... and a fistful of gold she picked out for herself.

Congratulations! Get the ring if you want it, and don't feel bad if you don't.


@arlette My parents have an engagement mandolin! I can never remember if it was from Mom to Dad or vice versa.


A friend of mine just did something neat which I thought I'd share. She told her fiance she didn't want an engagement ring, but he already had a chunk of money saved up, so instead he researched different charitable causes he could donate the money to and found a young girl through the make a wish foundation that wanted to take a trip with her family. My friend's fiance paid for her trip, and the girl's family trip was scheduled about a week after he proposed, so they sent back pictures and letters thanking them. Personally, I'm someone who likes rings (love the heirloom rings Jane linked to), but my friend said this was more meaningful to her and she loved knowing that the money was going toward something so memorable and important to that family.


@CMarie Your friend and her fiance are full of awesome.

El Grande Fluffio

I wear my mother's engagement ring as she died last year. My sister has her wedding band. Sister Fluffio has a diamond, I don't, so we decided to divvy it up that way, though I would have been happy with the plain band as I like stacking. My MIL gave me her wedding band and engagement ring from Mr Fluffio's father (who died when he was 12) as she remarried at 65 years old (Go MIL!) and has a new set. I like wearing both mothers' rings, for the histories of love.

Harriet Kierkegaard@facebook

@El Grande Fluffio After my mother died, I made my mother's engagement ring diamonds into earrings. It sounds sentimental but it's not - little did she know when she got that engagement ring what a living hell her life would become! So wearing the earrings bears a lot of dimension.

El Grande Fluffio

@Harriet Kierkegaard@facebook I think changing jewellery that might have bad/hard memories or associations into something new is a good idea. (Dividing things up with my sister was generally rough and not something I would want to do again. So there are those kind of fresh memories associated with it too, which I try to forget about).

the angry little raincloud

@El Grande Fluffio YEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! This has absolutely nothing to do with engagement rings, but it's the first time I've seen a comment form El Grande Fluffio!!! YEEEEE!

Sorry fellow 'Pinners. I know this person. She figured out who I was based on my username & I've been waiting for the same "HA!" moment to happen. Carry on!

PS, Miguel Bloombito would be so very proud of that name.


My grandma and grandpa got married when they were young and very poor. He invested well, and later became pretty wealthy. As they got older, almost every anniversary would bring a new fancy ring - emeralds, sapphires, and more diamonds.
I inherited the first little ring, and it has a lot of sentimental value. I love the story, too.


When my grandparents got engaged, my grandma picked out a very sensible gold band and specifically said she didn't want/need a diamond. On their 60th wedding anniversary, after building a house from scratch together, raising seven children, and with fifteen grandchildren, he gave her a diamond necklace saying he felt he owed her a diamond all those years and that she wasn't to thank him because he was basically paying a debt.


@bebiechickens Well, that's damn adorable!

Oh, squiggles

Would you enjoy wearing a ring pretty much all day every day? If no, then don't bother. Go with the savings/pay off debt/killer honeymoon option instead.


This is relevant to my recent experience. Mr. Boyfriend and I decided on Thursday to get married. It was no elaborate proposal- it just came up as a topic over dinner. He later said he wanted to do something more romantic, but that it just seemed like as good a time as any to discuss it since we were talking about our-future stuff.

Anyway, he's German, and they don't do engagement rings. He didn't know there was a difference between engagement rings and wedding bands anyhow. I'd already decided I didn't want one, because the only one I've ever seen that I liked is $5,000. I would never buy myself a piece of jewelry that expensive, and wouldn't expect him to either. We want to quit our jobs next year and travel for at least 6 months, so having an extra $5,000 will come in handy. And we'll do a city hall ceremony, with a nice dinner afterward and a cocktail party for friends around the same time.

This whole arrangement makes me very happy. I get so much more out of travel than I would out of an engagement ring, and we can still get ourselves some cool bands to symbolize the commitment.

abby normal

@RocketSurgeon Your recent experience is in turn relevant to my current/future plans! My German and I have been talking about marriage for a while and (because he is a practical German) discussing the rational ways to approach such questions. When the topic of a ring first came up a couple years ago, we were each surprised at our cultural assumptions (one of the reasons dating a foreigner is so fun - constant reexamination of your lifestyle choices!) about engagement/marriage. At first I was appalled that he was not planning on buying me a rock, but now I cannot imagine wearing a diamond or anything else so ridiculously expensive as seems to be expected in US culture! I love the German tradition of moving the engagement ring to the right hand at the wedding, and since we are likely staying in Germany for a while, the right-handed wedding ring placement would make more sense to those "nosy strangers" anyway (and boy, are Germans nosy).

Anyway, all of this rambling to say - the US engagement ring craziness is a mystery to most of the rest of the world (My bf really thought it was just something that Hollywood movies made up and no one really follows)! So, I guess my solution is: if you need more reasons to defend your choice of bucking the diamond trend (or need to convince yourself - which, I admit, I had some initial trouble dissolving my childhood fantasies of Prince Charming), research what other cultures do - learning is fun!


@abby normal I do like the German/Euro way of moving the wedding band from the right to the left hand. That way, we'll both get nice bands, and it's a symbol both before and after the ceremony. We'd talked marriage hypothetically a number of times before, but when the conversation last week took that turn, he was like, "We should get married". I said, "Yes, we should. That sounds good to me". He then said, "how about March?". And then we proceeded to lay out a framework for how we'd do it, where, who we'd invite, etc. over the next hour or so until the wine was finished. When I got up to clear the dishes, I said, "we just agreed to get married in March, right?" and he got up, gave me a big hug and said, "Yup". I love my practical and oh-so-awesome German dude.

We're planning to move to Germany after extended traveling if we can swing it. Any advice? And viel Glück to you and your dude!

abby normal

@RocketSurgeon I do have tons of advice! Some of it will possibly be irrelevant in terms of if/where you want to work, since being married to a German makes that a lot easier... but if you have any specific questions, feel free to e-mail me (abby [dot] keiper [at] gmail [dot] com) - I have only been here a little over two years (this time - I studied here during college and visited after that), but I can probably give you at least a couple tips on simple logistical things, if you are curious.


I'm really late on this but if you get this far down in the comments, my suggestion is MAKE RINGS TOGETHER. Ask every single one of your art school friends if anyone has access to a metals studio. Once you get in there, just ask the studio assistant or teacher to help you. If they're nice they'll show you the ropes-people love to help with this. I did mine at Mass Art in Boston. Melt down an ugly piece of silver jewelry, or gold if you're feeling fancy, and cast a simple ring. It's so quick, it feels almost like not enough effort, but once that thing is on there and you MADE it, it feels really special. I cast my partner's silver ring in a piece of cuttlefish bone. The striations from the bone make it look sort of fingerprinted. It has on flat edge (bottom) and one ragged edge. It's gorgeous and the whole thing took about two hours.

To add to Jane's note: I've been engaged before, and had a big ass gorgeous pink diamond with rubies and emeralds all around (first sign of a bad outcome... while it was pretty and cool and kind of Indian-looking, the size of the rock and my uncertainty about its origins made me very uncomfortable), and my tiny ring made by my now parter is so much more awesome and so much more meaningful.

Extra note: my parents never wore normal rings, which for some reason as an American child freaked me out, like they weren't really together. Nonsense. Even more nonsense: when we decided to get in it for the long haul, but not get married (NYC domestic partnership status), I was inexplicably, apolitically desperate for a ring. Emotions! I am happy, though, that I insisted on it. Mnemonics of gratitude are no joke.

ETA shit that got real long


We used the same ring for engagement and wedding. Because, duh. I didn't need two rings. And because we are poor, we bought our rings on the internet. The have a Celtic knot design, which has some meaning for our very Irish families and also looks cooler than a big ol' rock. I think if I had to do it again, I'd head over to Etsy and find something utterly unique for a couple hundred bucks or less. (And OK, I just did that, and now I wish I had more fingers.)

I also know two couples who did tattoo rings. Only one stayed together. :(

purple monkey dishwasher

I just have to second Jane's recommendation of Doyle and Doyle. My ring is from there (and was NOT expensive by any means) and I love it to bits. It's not a diamond - we wanted to avoid those for cruelty reasons - but an aquamarine which I think makes it much more "me." I actually went to the store with my best friend and picked it out, then called my fiance to get his credit card number. This is after I proposed to him because I had a weird rash on my leg and wanted to go to the dermatologist, but didn't have insurance, so I suggested we get married so I could go on his insurance. ROMANCE.

And then for a wedding band I had one custom made to go with the engagement ring. It was honestly WAY less money than any of my friends ended up spending (and also I am super cheap). The custom place was Little King in NYC, they are amazing. The whole process was just really cool.

Long story short... Doyle and Doyle is awesome, but really, fuck everyone else and do whatever makes you and your fiance feel happy.


I was not really into engagement rings, and very anti-diamond. But my fiance surprised me with a Michigan greenstone ring on a plain silver band. It worked because we're both dedicated Michiganders, and it meant a lot. There's no reason to have one just because, but if it's meaningful to you, then go for it! MI Greenstones, if you're wondering, look like this: http://raqyzrocks.com/2009/06/27/greenstones/dsc00004-2/


@Norrey it's like a baby turtle on your finger!!!!!


@gobblegirl Yeah, it's pretty cool. =)

Kirsten Hey@twitter

If you don't want an engagement ring, don't have one.

I do think it's tacky though to have a cheaper ring now and then "upgrade" later. It's supposed to be about the sentiment, not the size of the stone.


@Kirsten Hey@twitter My wife and I did this -- started out with very modest rings and then bought nicer rings a couple of years into our marriage, when we were more established financially. Neither one of us had initially planned it that way -- we kind of made the decision on a whim. But it was actually a really fun and sweet thing to do together, treating each other to a lovely piece of jewelry, paid for by the hard work we had done so far in our life together. My new ring is big and shiny and gorgeous and I don't feel the slightest bit tacky about it.


It’s sort of embarrassing that this question only just occurred to me, but:
What is an engagement ring for?
I don’t know if I thought it was the same as the wedding ring, or what, or if I just never thought about it (wait, I do know – it’s that last one). Do you only wear it for the 6 months to a year that you’re engaged, and then wear a completely different wedding ring for the rest of your life (ideally)? It’s supposed to cost an arm and a leg… so what does the wedding ring cost?
My mother only wears one ring, so I guess it’s her wedding ring, but I’ve never asked if she has an engagement ring in a drawer somewhere (or ever had one at all).
This whole thing is very confusing!


@gobblegirl So, originally, the engagement ring symbolized the engagement (obvs). The man gave it to the woman as a sort of sign of good faith. The reason they were often expensive was that it was a sort of insurance policy - if you consummated the relationship before being married and then he left, you had something of value (which is also why the engagement ring traditionally belongs to the woman even if the couple breaks up).

Many women wear both an engagement ring and a wedding ring. My mother often wears both, though I see her wear her engagement ring less now, and she often didn't wear it in the winter because it made it tricky to deal with gloves. Many women opt to get a set, so that the engagement ring matches the wedding ring; often they fit together. Some people even get the engagement ring and wedding ring soldered together. Generally speaking though, you don't only wear it during the engagement, though I suppose you *could* go that route if you wanted (it would probably be better not to spend a lot of money on it then though).


@gobblegirl Some people don't get an engagement ring, and just get wedding rings. Some people, like myself, wore an engagement ring but prefer to just wear the wedding band after the wedding (or maybe just put the engagement ring on for special occasions). Many people, especially American women, wear the engagement and wedding band together as a set after the wedding. Engagement rings are generally considered to be more pricey because of the association with diamonds (which are over-priced and have a drastically low re-sale value). However an engagement ring by no means has to be a diamond ring. Many comments here have discussed other options.

Wedding bands vary in price depending on what they are made out of. Platinum and gold are pricey, silver and other metals are very affordable. Either way, big chain retail stores have humungous markups. A gold ring that might be 200 dollars on amazon or ebay or in a local resale/ antique store will sell for 600 or something at a place like Kay's (a mall jewelry store). A plain silver band would look quite traditional and should be under 50 dollars, but some people even do titanium, wood, or other less common materials.


Congratulations on your engagement! As a daughter of a custom jeweler and witness to many a misty-eyed, happy customer, I am very compelled to say something about this topic! I'll keep it simple though and limit it to one question for the lucky gal who wrote in:

Would you regret skimping on an engagement/wedding ring if your fiance later spent the same amount on things like a motorcycle/boat/truck/personal hobbies?

Unless you have a family heirloom, I highly suggest your fiance purchase a ring (custom if you can spend a few more pennies or even engraved on the inside) that is Meaningful. It will be an item you look at daily. It will represent your eternal love for each other.

Just remember: There are always going to be opportunities for anniversary jewels. Make the first one as special as can be : )


Oh god, now my afternoon is shot as I look at all the PRETTY PRETTY RINGS all over the internet. Except Etsy, because I'm there too often and the possibilities are ENDLESS!

FWIW, my preference is to either go on a fancy vacation ("engagement vacation" - similar to "engagement horse") and not get an engagement ring, or to go on said vacation and find an inexpensive ring in some local shop/bazaar, orrr, if I end up with Current Boyfriend, who is super interested in gemstones and jewelry making, I'd probably see if he wanted to design/make/order something (also inexpensive) to my preferences. I think giving me a ring would mean a lot to him, but similar to Our Reader, the most important thing to me would be our commitment.

P.S. I totally want to drop a ton of money on a plane ticket to Turkey!!! Good call.

miss buenos aires

We didn't do an engagement ring because a) money b) feminism and c) why spend that much money on something you're not really really into?

But I did kind of want to wear something that said, "I'm engaged!" so I just took another ring with pretty gems that someone (not a man) had given to me and wore it on that finger. It did the trick. Of course, then I had to explain that that wasn't the ring, and that actually there was no ring, but no biggie.


@miss buenos aires I did a similar thing. We were "engaged" [for silly reasons involving living in conservative places and worrying about people's opinions of me] and before that, I had asked for something from here http://www.etsy.com/shop/metalicious?section_id=11198152 for my bday. So it was a bday present and a fake-ish engagement ring. Then, a year later, when we had the "you wanna really get married married?" talk, and told everyone we were really doing it, I just put the thing on again. I shared your A, B, and C above, but I do love my little ring and its history with me and us.

miss buenos aires

@bot Pretty! Did you get a metal ring or one with stones?


@miss buenos aires All metal, with a "diamond" made out of metal. I really like it a lot.

Ladies Who Punch

I personally did not want a diamond or yellow gold. I have a white gold ring with a ruby sunken in it. Husband has the same look with a sapphire. Both less than a carat. We get complements on them ALL THE TIME! We also like to look at each other & yell out "power rings: ACTIVATE!"

Have fun with it. It'll be a piece of jewelery you wear for the rest of your life. ;)


@Rebekah Ha! my fiance and I do this with my engagement ring and his wedding band (we're technically common-law married and thus don't believe it's tempting fate when we "play wedding rings"). We just clang them together and then make explosion sounds.


All this talk about engagement rings and marriage ceremonies is reminding me that next week is our 16th wedding anniversary, and now I'm getting all verklemt. Talk amongst yourselves... *fans self*


@Bittersweet Congratulations!


Honeymoon vs ring: I somehow got an agonizing case of vaginal thrush on Day 2 of my honeymoon and I felt pretty gross for the next 5 days. Honeymoons and vacations can be the ultimate anti-climax (heh)!

My engagement ring, however, I enjoy seeing on my hand every single day, as a reminder of the person who gave it to me. My husband put a lot of thought and effort into buying a ring (he scoured the city for a vintage ruby ring), so that part in particular reminds me that I'm loved, rather than the expense.

You could always forego a ring now, and wait for another milestone, like your 5 or 10 year anniversary, when it might mean more.


I've had two engagement rings. Now I have none.

First- It was a sapphire. Maybe $400? I fled from him one morning after he beat the snot out of me. I pawned the ring for $50 right before I moved to Boston for law school. I'd kept it in my jewelry box for 3 years.

Second- Now ex-husband consulted with my best friend and picked out a ring that he paid almost $4000 for. Which I only found out about after we got divorced and I had to search through the house for the paperwork so I could go pawn the sucker. I will, say, however, I loved that ring. (See HERE Mine was platinum) I wore it all the time. And then after we got married I wore it on my right hand, with the wedding band on the left. I was kinda sad to see it go, but I couldn't really keep it. How do you explain what is clearly an engagement ring on your hand to gentlemen callers? It had to go.

So I pawned it and paid my divorce attorney with the proceeds.

That said, I love jewelry. And I love rings. And I hope to one day maybe get another. Not an engagement ring, per se. But a beautiful ring I love, given to me by someone who loves me.


We got engaged in August, married in October, and our son was born in February. Needless to say, an engagement ring seemed far too frivolous for our situation. We ended up getting matching claddagh wedding rings which pleased our Irish families to no end. As we approach our 20th anniversay, my husband and I have discussed creating some sort of add-on ring for my claddagh. Maybe. If anything, it would have cubic zirconias, because I am much more concerned with the 12! years of college we will be paying for, starting in fall 2013. (How did our kids get so big? And why did we have them every 4 years?1?)


What I would like best of all is for whoever I do end up wanting to spend the rest of my life with (still TBD) to take the silver Claddagh ring that I've been wearing since January 2000, re-cast it in platinum, and maaaaaaybe put a diamond/gem in the heart part of it.

The original ring was a gift from my father, who abandoned us about 2 years ago - I took it off for 6 months after he left and couldn't bear to look at it until I realized I felt completely naked without it - so I would really want to have a "new," free-of-negative-associations version of the only piece of jewelry I wear every single day.

Also, I'm considering having a harem of my best guy friends walk me down the aisle. I jokingly toy with the idea of having them carry me on a dais, Real Housewives of Atlanta style.


"So tell me: how much do you love your ring? Would I regret not having one? Is it worth putting our money toward this, instead of toward my student loans or a killer honeymoon? What is the compromise between indulgence and responsibility, in this situation?"
To each point:

-I love my engagement ring. Loved it when I was engaged, love it now that I'm married.
-I would personally regret not having one at all. I like looking at it!
-But I would regret having gone into debt for it. No debt for jewelry.
-I think the compromise is - if you want a ring - just getting a ring. It doesn't have to be branded as an engagement ring by the store. Or, just don't get a ring. If you don't want one in the first place, then problem solved!

Also, though, I did a lot of the things being mildly bashed on this thread - big wedding, father walked me down the aisle, changed my name - and I am still a BIG OLE FEMINIST. Like, big time. I think it's important not to let these relatively trivial decisions define you, in either direction. (ok name change isn't trivial, but for that one I had rather solid personal reasons. having a party and wearing a fancy ring? like, big f'in deal, everyone got drunk and danced their face off; it was awesome).

Heat Signature

@Megoon Agree agree and agree some more. Just make your own choices about what you want to do with your life (I changed my last name to my husband's because I wanted to both symbolically and legally unite us and our future children), but whatever! Do what you want to do and who gives a fuck what other people think, seriously.


My mom: Didn't have an engagement ring, she and my dad were poor when they got engaged, and he promised her a diamond for their 25th anniversary. Which he remembered, and she cried so much and it was so lovely.

Me: Didn't want a diamond, but did want a ring. We talked about it a little, and one day he out of the blue said "red, green, or sparkly?" and I said green, guessing what he meant. He ended up taking one of our mutual friends to a guy who makes custom jewelry, and I have a gorgeous, one of a kind, emerald ring that he helped design with me in mind and I love it!!

Claire Zulkey@twitter

A while before I got engaged I too struggled with how fair it was to expect my now-husband to buy me a diamond ring. Like, why did I deserve something so pricey? But we were on our fifth anniversary by the time we got engaged and I came around, I think in part because I saw the ring as a serious indication of a serious move.

I love my ring, so that helps(here is a picture: http://tinyurl.com/btf82yf )

But I stand by my feelings of not-guilt also because a.) I don't expect my husband to keep buying my diamonds (or anything like that). The engagement ring was a one-time thing and b.) because, at least when I'm not hugely pregnant as I am now, I wear it every day and look at it every day. I'm not sure if that makes it 'practical' but it's more practical than a big piece of ice I can only take out for special occasions.


While I certainly don't think anyone needs an engagement ring, I do think there is value to them being rather expensive. Proposing is something that should not be spur of the moment, and if having to save up over the course of a few months means you really had to think about asking, I think that's a good thing. Even if for you, saving up for a couple of months means a $500 ring, not a $5000 one.

Of course, you can accomplish this without a ring (put a down payment on a house), but I believe it's important that an engagement is an active decision, and not just something you can agree to while chatting on the couch about how, now that you've been living together for two years, I guess we should get married.

Better to have cold feet before an engagement than before a wedding.

Also, I think buying "the dress" is the female (in a traditional hetero relationship) equivalent of buying the ring. Suddenly faced with charging $800+ on an article of clothing you'll wear once makes you really think about what you agreed to in a more rational light than one can muster when faced with a proposal and the hopeful gaze of your lover.

all the bacon and eggs

@Lisa_RedRowFarm These are my thoughts exactly on the significance of the engagement ring...especially when you already live together!


@Lisa_RedRowFarm Haha, we got engaged just sitting on the couch, chatting about it. But it was the culmination of much thought and discussion, and it felt like a HUGE scary deal, because we were on the couch because my parents were visiting and sleeping in the bedroom, and we decided that night to Make an Announcement the next day. The next day, sitting at a diner, holding hands under the table, getting ready to announce to the world (starting with our families), "I am going to commit to this person forever" felt like the biggest possible deal, for us. (Also, we already shared our money and lived together, so, for us, a big one sided expense would just be confusing.)

Jennifer Culp

"It is my goal to be a living shrine to him — just dripping with the jewels he's bestowed upon me. I'm not even kidding."

Jane, I love you so much. I became a friggin' metalsmith to make jewelry for myself, but I always want to wear stuff my dude or family gave me instead. (I love to make stuff for other people.) I have damn near worn out my copy of Elizabeth Taylor's Love Affair with Jewelry book because can you even IMAGINE?!! Aaaaah jewelry; I love it, I love it, give it to me.


@Jennifer Culp My boyfriend's grandfather basically festooned his grandmother with jewelry. One of the pieces she had was a 2" diameter spherical... cage-thing, made of gold wire, FILLED with pearls. It is the most fantastic piece of jewelry I've ever seen up close.

Sadly, my boyfriend does not have the festooning gene. In nearly 6 years I've gotten only one piece of jewelry (a lovely vintage brooch). I ought to festoon myself but it just feels wrong.

Jane Marie

@Jennifer Culp love you too, jennifer! and your wedding hair was AMAZING!!!!

Jane Dough

You could get your ring fingers tattooed. Inexpensive, non-traditional, and permanent.


I have maybe a dumb question but this seems like the perfect place to ask, with this thread and all. My parents aren't together so I never got to see the whole ring thang, but (traditionally) you get engaged with the diamond one...and then...get a second ring later? Do you wear both of them? Why can't I fathom this? I have somehow made it 20 years without figuring out what happens to the second ring and it is bothering the heck out of me.


@NotBlairWaldorf The second ring would be the one given at the wedding ceremony. Sometimes you stack the two rings. (You can buy an engagement ring and a wedding band as a set sometimes, so they "fit" better, but even when they're not a set, a typical engagement ring would be flat/straight on the bottom, and thus parallel to the top of your typically also-flat wedding band.) If you opt for non-traditional style rings, or if you don't want to stack them, you might consider these options:

-put one on the "ring finger" of one hand, the other on your other hand's ring finger
-wear them on two different fingers of one hand, if they fit
-put one or both on a necklace
-put one or both in a jewelry box, never to be worn again
-lose one while gardening and find it a decade or so later
-do whatever you want


@beeline96 I spend a lot of time staring at the hands of people on public transportation...


@NotBlairWaldorf I asked the same question and nobody answered, so I'm really glad you asked too! The etiquette around wedding and engagement rings is so puzzling.

The Lady of Shalott

@NotBlairWaldorf Additionally, some women have their engagement and wedding rings soldered together after the ceremony, so it essentially becomes just one ring.

But @beeline96 is right--usually it's the plain wedding band that stays on all the time, and most women after the wedding wear the engagement ring anywhere from "constantly" to "often" to "as special occasion jewelry" or whatever.


My husband and I got engaged when we were in college. I proposed and bought the rings; I got his online and mine at the greeting card store where I worked. Between them they totaled under $50. When we actually got married, we bought nicer rings (like, made out of actual jewelry materials rather than whatever the hell my $17 engagement ring was), but they're still very plain and relatively cheap. Neither of us kept wearing our engagement ring after the wedding.

I liked my engagement ring, and found it funny that I was still expected to participate in the "Ooh, let me see!" ritual even though everyone knew it was junk. I, personally, would have regretted not having a ring at all -- we were engaged for a long time, and during part of that time we lived in different states, and I liked having a marker to remind me that, yes, I really was marrying this dude. But I don't regret at all that my ring was cheap/not "real," or that I don't wear it anymore.

(Side story: at one point I dropped it down the back of a bookcase and couldn't get it out, and didn't wear it for several weeks. My grandmother noticed, EVERY TIME she saw me, and would ask all concerned, and I kept having to say "It's still behind the bookcase!" At my wedding shower she gave me a fancy ring holder with a card that said "DO NOT KEEP THIS ON A BOOKCASE." So, if I hadn't had an engagement ring, I would have deprived my grandmother of a valuable opportunity to advise/make fun of me.)


Have you considered a burning ring of fire?


I had a lot of similar thoughts about engagement rings when my now-fiance and I were starting to talk about getting married. I really didn't want the traditional, expensive diamond ring both because of everything I'd read about diamonds and because it's not my style. After thinking about it for awhile though, I realized that I did want some kind of ring. I like jewelry - a lot - and geek out over really gorgeous pieces, usually made by individual artists. So ultimately that's what we went for: something that really spoke to me that was made by an artist.

I also didn't like the idea of spending a ton of money on a ring because I couldn't really imagine wearing the value of a fully loaded new Mac computer or a good used car on my finger. So I was pretty ready to just get a cool looking $100 ring and call it a day, but my fiance felt strongly about spending more than that (which is, you know, very nice for me); so we talked about it and found a range that seemed like a reasonable compromise (which was similar to the range of what jewelers told you "your kind of ring" would cost). But I think the amount a couple spends on a ring/rings is totally up to them, and you should spend what feels right to you, not what others (whether people you know or just the general "media" tell you).

I did a lot of research during that whole process on rings that weren't from, like, Tiffany's or Kay Jewelers or whatever, and I discovered that there is tons of gorgeous jewelry made for very reasonable prices. (Etsy.com is a great resource for this kind of thing.) I mean really, everything you can imagine is out there, at every price. So if you think you want a ring but you don't want to spend a lot of money on it but you do want something you love, you can totally do that. Just give yourself permission to get the ring you want. And if you realize you don't want a ring at all - that's your choice too. And whatever feels right to you and your fiance is what will be right. Trust that.

And congratulations!


Apologies if someone else has already said this… but…

Why not skip the engagement ring and focus your time and money on wedding bands? You get to create something special that represents your commitment, but in a more pro-gender equality way. Wedding bands can still be crazy expensive – a 6mm platinum band is $2,200 (what?!) – but you can also get a less expensive metal with a meaningful inscription. If you want, you can go all European and wear it on your right hand during your engagement.


@TheclaAndTheSeals OH I thought you meant band like music band.... and I was like, "Yeah! Get the best pro-gender equality band in the world to play your wedding!!"

Better to Eat You With

I'm sure someone has already said this (I'm saving the comments for later, when I have time to savor them), but if you get something, get something you want to wear every day always.

My ring is a white gold, simple setting with a big-ass emerald-cut natural ruby in it. No other stones, no flourishes, simple and perfect next to a very plain band. It was more expensive than anything I've ever worn, but we were just beginning to explore the possibility of financial security, and my husband was damn proud when he bought that ring.

I was almost too feminist/anti-consumerist for a ring--just almost. But I look down at my hand and think of my husband and how happy he was to give me this ring, and a million other things, at least 10 times a day.

I spend an unreasonable amount of time explaining to everyone in the world the choices I made that weren't conventional (keeping my name, no veil at the wedding, etc) and a few things, keeping my name in particular, have really stuck in some people's craws, have caused actual tension. If I didn't wear a ring, I'd have to defend that choice almost every single day. (I live in the Midwest--can you tell?) That's not a reason to get a ring if you're unsure, but it's a nice benefit of having one, for me. (I only have to explain why a ruby instead of a diamond once a week or so.)


@Better to Eat You With (Re keeping your name- I just had this conversation with a Korean friend, who was incredulous that we women put up with changing our names.)

Stella Potato

I'm totally on board with @Better to Eat You With and everyone else who said their engagement ring is a reminder of your partner. It's the nicest thing in the world to have this tangible object, maybe one you picked out together, that can provide a physical link to a wonderful thought or memory. No matter what the cost.
(Also, jewelry is just pretty. I have about four wedding bands that I switch up. I drive my husband crazy.)

For about eight years now, I have been collecting antique jewelry, specifically rings, and I started on a super limited budget. About 75% of sellers will work out a LAYAWAY plan with you, which is such a help. Antique or vintage is definitely the way to go, for quality, beauty and price.

Suggestions for places to look:
-Ruby Lane
-Jewelry stores in your area (usually have an estate section, which can be awesome)
- Etsy is wonderful (Not to be one of those people, but I have a little shop on there & would be happy to help out: Bellflower Bay Antique Jewelry)
-eBay, but only if the seller usually sells old jewelry & has good reviews

Feminism and jewelry-lovin' are not exclusive of one another, luckily. Regardless of what something has historia

Stella Potato

Um, wasn't quite done soap-boxing yet. Anyhow, as I was saying: regardless of what something has historically represented, that doesn't mean it must maintain that meaning for all time.


@Stella Potato I so agree with that last point! I'm not engaged but I know I want to have my dad walk me down the aisle. I know my mom will be involved with the wedding planning, the dress shopping, etc. I want to bring my dad into the process because I love him! I could of course come up with some other way to do it, but I don't think of it of being given from one man to another, but of sharing a meaningful moment with my father who I love.


If I may. Just because somebody or somebodies walk you down the aisle doesn't mean they are "giving you away." The alternative is to establish via symbol that you're approaching this important moment in your life completely alone. Sure, that may be what some want, and that's fine. But Jewish weddings have always had both bride and groom escorted by both parents, and I see more and more non-Jewish couples doing that as well. It's not inherently patriarchal to acknowledge that you come from a family, even as you're about to establish your own.


@sheistolerable That's what we did. We aren't Jewish, but it felt like the right solution for us. We got married young--like two months after graduating from college--and we both are pretty close to our families. For us, it was just what you're describing, a nice symbol about the transition we were making in life.

Also, a benefit(?) of being married young is that we didn't have gobs of cash to spend on rings, so it just wasn't an issue. We each spent about $100. Mine is an opal (my birthstone) wedding band/engagement ring in one. He picked it out, and I love it. His was just a gold band. He lost his last year while we were traveling near our 5th anniversary, so we used the opportunity to upgrade to a nicer gold band. If I manage not to lose mine before our 10th, we plan to upgrade mine then.

P.S. The lesson from that travel blunder, for me, was to buy a cheap travel ring that has no sentimental value. I highly recommend this tactic for peace of mind if you want the symbol while you travel alone or together.


My ring story is that I picked out my own modest vintage ring (it has a 3 small diamonds, is from the 50s, cost about $600) and this served as my engagement ring and wedding band combo. I enjoy it very much because it fits my aesthetic and brings my husband and our life to mind.

If you feel you want a ring for whatever reason - and there are some reasons, perhaps social, perhaps sentimental, that you might want to have something there on the finger now or later, though it's of course not required and you may never miss it - an idea is to get an inexpensive (sub-$100) placeholder ring until you decide something you want.

My bit of advice is if you decide to invest in something, whatever it is (engagement ring, wedding band, both), just make sure it's something you like and is also both comfortable to wear (ie, make sure it fits properly/have it fitted, you may find that precious metals are more comfortable than non) and durable. I know many people who went non-traditional on their rings only to find that they were less than comfortable and/or broke within a few years. Which always seems a shame.


My husband and I were kind of in the same boat. He REALLY wanted to give me a ring, but also was pretty opposed to diamonds, and I was not opposed to sparkly jewelry but didn't want to spend a fortune. We ended up buying a ring setting and wedding band together on eBay for a couple hundred dollars, and got a friend that makes jewelry to order a loose moissanite stone for it. Total, my ring cost about $500, and I get compliments on it ALL THE TIME. I have been wearing it every day for several years, and I still love it and I don't think I'll get tired of it. Even completely aside from its sentimental value, it's just a gorgeous piece of jewelry.

ETA: I found my seller on eBay! Either his prices have gone up a bit or he's way overcharging for the white sapphire in this one, but this is the exact set (minus the stone, since we subbed in a clear moissanite) that I am wearing right now. He has loads of gorgeous stuff. http://www.ebay.com/itm/Antique-Filigree-Wedding-Band-Engagement-Ring-Set-WS8-/230616289532?pt=US_Wedding_Bands_with_Diamonds_Gemstones&hash=item35b1cd50fc#ht_889wt_1229


My partner gave me a ring when we decided to get married. I tried wearing it on my wedding-ring finger, but I felt icky. Really gross - like I kept 'accidentally' forgetting to wear it because looking at it made me cringe. (Not because I don't like it as a ring, but because of the 'engagement ring' thing.) Now I wear it on my right hand and don't feel icky at all!

Other things that squick me out about weddings/ engagements/ marriage: 'wife', 'husband' and (especially) all diminutive forms of both; 'bride', 'groom', 'Mrs'; being asked if I'm growing my hair for the wedding; the concept of being given away; all the historical patriarchal bullshit; wondering if the chairs & table that come with the reception venue are too ugly; being asked if I'm changing my name/ not being asked, people just assuming that I am; the word 'engagement'; having to host a party (stresses me out).. I do want to end up married, though. Honest.


@spanglepants Dorothy L. Sayers said "husband" was "a repressive word ... compounded of a grumble and a thump."


My suggestion is, with a straight face, eBay or Amazon.com. Estate jewelry (protip - this just means 'used jewelry') is (a) awesome, (b) unique, and (c) relatively inexpensive on both these sites.


Vintage rings can be so lovely and the prices are great. Or what about something by an Etsy artist?
Best Wishes to you!

Creature Cheeseman

Now all of my hairpin advertisements are for engagement rings and that "Celeste & Jesse Forever" movie. Oh, internet... just keep reminding me that I'll be foreveralone.


@Creature Cheeseman Oh that was a sympathy like, not a schadenfreude like.


@Creature Cheeseman Don't worry, I think Celeste and Jesse divorce in that movie! So you, Celeste & Jesse can all be alone together.

P.S. How lovely is the name Celeste.

miss buenos aires

@cuminafterall This is random, but when I worked at a day camp in the summer of '97, out of a group of 16 six-year-olds, we had two little girls named Celeste.

And two little boys named Nolan, oddly enough.

No Jesses.

This is my new username

@cuminafterall So lovely! My car is named Celeste in fact!


Love reading everyone's different opinions about rings! I had four weddings to go to this summer; all of them were very different (catered backyard party, short simple ceremony and reception, tradiitonal Catholic service and huge yacht club blowout, and barbecue and rafting shindig) and the best part is seeing that all of them were equally awesome. What was really important was that the couple was having fun and that it fitted their style- there was no wrong way to get married, which is a cool thing to realize.
And brief engagement ring addendum: My father's mom died when he was very young (about eight). He gave her engagement ring to my mother when he proposed. Their forty-first anniversary is in a few weeks. Dad, you big softie.


Rings! I have a wedding band, and so does my husband, but I never had an engagement ring. I'll admit to feeling confused when I see other people my age wearing diamond rings. Like 'why are you wearing my Mom's ring, friend?' I just can't relate to it for myself.

As many have said: this is your choice. A lot of people will have opinions about everything about your wedding and the choices you make now. The tsunamis of unsolicited advice/opinions really surprised me. Do what you want to do that you are both comfortable with, budget-wise. Start as you mean to continue! And congratulations!


I LUST after quirky vintage rings on Etsy. Question: is a Victorian mourning ring too too inappropriate for an engagement ring? They are so pretty!!!


I have been having the same thought processes! Part of me does want this sparkly thing I can look at on my hand, but what do I want it to look like? I feel like I will always want some different look. I also wear lots of silver bracelets and am a fan of big jewelry, so then I always worry it will be too much bling going on. (Like, in a bad way.)

What I think I have decided that I want is a tattoo of a diamond on my left ring finger and a line-drawn heart on my right. It's actually something I've been thinking of for years and it won't compete with anything. I don't have to worry about losing or having the ring stolen. No worried about how a ring would fit underneath my bike gloves. I think it's the best thing overall for me.

My boyfriend is currently saving to go to a bike frame building school, which is something he's been wanting to do for a long time. It's something I think he should do. I would kinda rather him go to school and do something he never thought he'd do than own another "thing," you know?


My engagement ring is from Heart of Water jewels on Etsy. It was around $250. It's beautiful but I never wear it because it gets caught on things easily. I just wear my plain rose gold band every day.

Sometimes I wish I had a "real" engagement ring, like a diamond solitaire--which nearly every one of the engaged or married women I know has, even though more than half of them are feminists/academics/grad students. It's so weird how dominant the diamond solitaire has become!--but we're grad students and don't have a lot of money. One day I would like to get a sparklier ring, but I also like the simplicity of a plain band.


@Cavendish I love my simple sparkly band, but I got SO MUCH diamond-induced ANGST when I hung out with married ladies this summer. They all had these big, sticky-outy solitaires, which are TOTALLY not my type AT ALL, but I was all, "Oh noez, nobody will think my ring is engagement-y enough!"

even though I love it and I don't like solitaires.

Also we are poor students.


@slutberry Isn't it silly? Rationally I don't want a diamond, but OMG SPARKLES!!!!!

The Lady of Shalott

@Cavendish If it makes you feel better, I hate the diamond solitaire SO MUCH. I think it's so, so, so boring and overdone. Also (I work in a wedding salon) I see tons of engagement rings, and the other one that's SUPER popular right now is the diamond surrounded by a circle/square of pave or micropave diamonds, usually with pave/micropave on the band as well. Which I think is just as uglier, if not more so, than the plain solitaire.

I have many feelings on this topic.


@The Lady of Shalott Oo, I actually love that style when it's done right, but it's often done NOT RIGHT AT ALL, and then it is ugly.

Gentleman just said if when we have money I want a big sparkly ring, we can get a big sparkly ring when we have money. Until then, I do not need one, and I love my little pretty one.


@The Lady of Shalott please discuss your thoughts on ugly rings more. I haaaaaaaaate the look of the one you are describing (halo correct?) and it is super common recently. Now tell me about the dresses you hate!


@The Lady of Shalott I want to hang out with you and discuss this topic and others.


Someone needs to buy this clasping hands ring!!!!! http://www.doyledoyle.com/cgi-bin/commerce.cgi?preadd=action&key=11096&itemtemplate=PDGCommTemplates/HTN/Item_ring_eng.html&sn=eng

God, I wish I had a real job. I would be buying that right now.


Oh my god, Engagement Horse.


@JaneBriefcase I desire Engagement Puppy.


I felt very, very weird about having an engagement ring, because we are Le Poor. But Gentleman had saved up some cash, so I said, "You may spend exactly as much as you have saved but no more", and we found a pretty little band with diamonds in it. I love it because I love pretties, but honestly, I would love it no matter what, because it is my engagement ring. When we first got engaged I had a little thread on my finger, and I loved it as fiercely and devoted-ly as I love my gold and diamonds ring.

I am also theoretically giving Gentleman an engagement ring, but I am way broke. Currently he's wearing one of my rings, a little silver and bezel-garnet ring, but I just found him a copper Celtic band in a souvenir shop, and maybe some day I will be able to afford a real ring with precious metals.

(but if we get married in October, whatever. Buying an engagement ring a month before the wedding seems silly.)

Eve Butler@twitter

My engagement ring is a diamond solitaire from Walmart. It cost $200. I know, I'm evil. But if you want a traditional-looking ring and you don't want to waste a lot of money on it, Walmart.


I want a big, vulgar shiny conflict free diamond. I love jewels, I really do and it is very freeing to just accept this about myself.


@FoxyRoxy Yes! I want a big, sparkly antique diamond and Dudefriend knows this and has been taking notes on style preferences (he literally recited them to me from memory about a month or two ago). He included "big" on the list. Big...yeah, I mean, of course, but not so big I feel like I can't go anywhere! Then I found out "big" to him means about .75ct. Perfect!

I also have had to accept that as angry as I get at the patriarchy...I totally want a wedding with all the trimmings. My dad walking me down the aisle, the veil, the rings, the name change. All of it. And sometimes I feel like a Very Bad Feminist and sometimes I think that feminism is about choice, right? Like, I can still acknowledge the BS patriarchal stuff and want it, and since I am CHOOSING it, and not having it forced on me, it's okay. Right?


@packedsuitcase No, feminism is not about choice. Feminism is about equality. I don't think it's productive to shame other people for every little choice they make, but there's also nothing feminist about having a big wedding just because you're a woman and you chose to do it.


@worldoftin Okay, then I have definitely been doing parts of feminism wrong. Firm belief in equality, check. But isn't part of equality being able to make the choices you want to make because you want to make them? Not arguing Big White Wedding as a feminist choice, curious about the way choice and equality interact. (Which wasn't my actual point above. That was poorly executed humor.)


@packedsuitcase Sorry to jump on you then, i just hate when people fall down this rabbit hole: http://www.theonion.com/articles/women-now-empowered-by-everything-a-woman-does,1398/.


@worldoftin No worries! Sometimes I suck at translating something that would be funny out loud to something funny written down. And I'm glad that the Pin is a place that is full of people who take equality so seriously, it gives me hope. I spend all day fighting BS ideas of whether or not women (especially young women) can be effective and taken seriously in my industry, it's nice to have a haven of sanity...and the best kind of insanity.


Some people get crystal rings if they want the look without the price. You just have to be more careful with them, as they are less durable. I am nowhere near being engaged, so I'll go back to just reading what everyone else has to say!

Frankie's Girl

I've had two rings - and regret both of them.

First one, typical engagement ring of solitare with plain yellow gold band. We broke up before even setting a date, and years later I dug that ring out and sold it for something like $100 (the diamond was crap - mostly the value was the gold).

Second was a modest cluster of tiny diamonds, but over the years (we did get married, and still are, and damned happy too) I got sick and tired of knocking off prongs, catching the damn ring on clothes and just the overall annoyance factor of a sticky-out ring, and it lives in my jewelry box now. Funny thing is, I thought I was over the traditional route of engagement rings after the first round, but just couldn't get over the "that's what you do when you get engaged/married" thang and I ignored my feelings that this was a waste of money at the time.

Husband and I picked up two stainless steel bands at a flea market for $8 that we both loved and I regret wasting money on a silly "traditional" ring when I think about it.

Bottom line - if you LOVE jewelry, pick out something you'll love to wear. If you feel like this is a tradition/obligation that is a waste or just not your thing, then skip the expense and get what will work for you... the ring is a SYMBOL. The intrinsic worth of it is only what you put into it. I love my $8 ring more since it's totally my style and I also don't have to fret about knocking out a diamond, but that's me. :)


AUCTION! Auction, auction auction. Cut out the middleman.

After stressing for ages over this (who knew shopping for jewellery would be so stressful) and wigging out at the prices for quite modest rings (er, £7000 for a humble solitaire anyone?) we twigged that the auction (reputable local auction house) was the way to go. The thrill of bidding on fine jewellery is not to be sniffed at, and my ring (2ct, 18kt, circa 1900ish) was valued at over seven times more than we paid for it.

I love my ring, but, embarrassingly, one of the things I love about it is that it makes me feel very clever for opting out of the wedding tax and sticking it to the Man. In the end what I learned about myself is that I really love a bargain.




I don't think there's anything wrong with either side. We are all not in the same situation, so expensive and lavish engagement rings with diamonds just doesn't seem like a viable option for those of us in school, paying debts, etc. A marriage shouldn't be merited by a ring, though something we wear each day should provide a reminder to ourselves and others that there is a husband/wife that loves us.

My fiance and I have opted to just purchase wedding bands for the day of our wedding. He proposed with a Cracker Jack ring that had our initials engraved on it, just like in Breakfast at Tiffany's (my favorite movie). Both our grandparents came from poor backgrounds and have no heirlooms or jewelry to pass down, which is fine because having them here and healthy for our wedding date is more than I can ask for. He wants to get me a diamond ring later on when we can afford nice things like that, but I'm not too big on diamond rings anyway. Our wedding bands will be good enough for me (we found a really great online shop, www.tungstenworld.com, and both our wedding bands cost $500 total). All in all, as long as you're both okay with it, to HELL with tradition!!!


I plan to propose with a twist tie. My mom & dad actually never got rings, they got rocking chairs instead, which is an adorable symbol of growing old together - it was also a great thing to make fun of them about as a teenager.


@MuffinMan That's adorable, but I think if I ever got divorced it would make me much sadder than a ring ever would. Maybe a morbid way to think about it...


AHH, I am so late to the game with this one BUT I have my own anti-patriarchal wedding issue so I'm throwing it out there. So, like most of the 'pinners, I'm down on blood diamonds, name-changing, and icky "giving-away" ceremonies. I always expected to have both my mom and dad walk me down the aisle since I am close to my parents and thought it would be a cool symbol of leaving my family of origin to begin my own family with their blessing blah blah. Then my mom went and RUINED MY PLAN by dying. (The nerve!) So, now that I'm actually close to getting married, I'm not sure what I should do. I think it would kill my dad not to walk me, but I am afraid of the whole thing coming across as too patriarchal. Should I have him walk me halfway down the aisle and then walk the rest of the way myself? Should I have my dad and my younger brother walk me together? Is that cute or just double the patriarchy?


@piekin I think this should be about what YOU want, not how it will come across. I like both the dad idea and the brother + dad idea. Unless your friends are assholes, I very much doubt that they will be like "Oooooh that's soooooo patriarchal..." - especially given that your mother has passed. That's your family, and just because they're men doesn't mean you're bowing to the patriarchy if you want them to walk you down the aisle. And if it would mean that much to your dad, it might be worth it.
BUT, that said, if it actually makes YOU uncomfortable, don't do it. But don't decide based on how others will perceive it.

And congrats on being close to marriage time!


We have matching rosewood rings -- they were only about $80 each and we chose the size, width, wood type, etc. they're totally beautiful, light, durable, simple.


My new hubby and I have family diamonds somewhere in the UK, when we decided to move on with our lives and get engaged, instead of waiting for these damn diamonds, I wanted something to be able to show off and physically show that I'm taken. I got this totally fake, totally gorgeous $25 (Prime eligible!) ring, and I love it so much. I get regular compliments on it, no one can tell it's not the real deal, and it's so much more meaningful to me than I expected it to be. Plus I don't have to worry about effing it up at work (I'm a barista at SBux).


My husband proposed with a "ring" he'd made from molded friendly plastic and a bolt from a helicopter. (He is a sculptor). It was hilarious and special, but I only actually wear the $100 gold band we got on etsy. My dad finally got my mom an "engagement" ring for their 25th anniversary. I guess I come from similarly poor / progressive (Poorgressive?) stock. Things are only special if they're special, ya know?

Dana Caffrey

Nice love story!!!! I fell inlove again! I am married fro 3 years now and my husband gave me this wonderful engagement ring. I know it was not very expensive but I appreciate his effort for giving me a decent ring.


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