Working in the wedding industry, I hear a lot of stories about “the ring”. Why it was chosen, how it was presented, how much it cost… and all the problems that came with it. Turns out there are some important little tidbits that, while never mentioned during the romantic moment of purchase, are basically common knowledge in the industry.
The theme throughout this ranty-rant is “Know Your Audience.” KYA. So look for the big red KYA questions you need to ask yourself about your lady-friend. (For readability we’re just gonna assume “she” is the proposee… zero judgment here, folks!) Knowing your audience could be the difference between an amazing, decent, or totally disappointing proposal. For example, if you cannot answer the question, Is she, without a doubt, open to the idea of marriage? with a resounding “Yup!” then you do not know your audience. #fail. However, if you know she is DTM (down to marry) and you’re ready to put a ring on it, then the first question to ask is: Does she even wear jewelry? Does she actually want the big diamond ring with matching wedding band, or would she prefer just a super cool wedding band on your wedding day? Like these little guys.
If you think she’d prefer the latter, consider an elaborate – albeit ringless – proposal; or propose with an old family ring, or costume jewelry (not a diamond, but not plastic either). If your lady has been dreaming of a diamond, read on on…
LET HER TAKE THE REINS
Would she rather forgo the surprise and pick her own ring? It’s clearly the easiest option. But you better KYA…
“As much as I appreciated having a ring I chose, I would have preferred a ring he chose for me… and the surprise proposal that comes with it.”
~A totally honest quote, I shit you not
So is she a romantic that loves surprises, or a realist with particular taste in jewelry? If you truly believe she’d rather pick out her own diamond, consider the ringless proposal mentioned above. If you’d like to keep it a surprise, but you’re desperate for design ideas, creep on her Pinterest or orchestrate a covert ‘Ring Op’ with her bestie. If you’re still not sure and she ends up really hating it, rings can always be exchanged. Or donated… to me… I need to practice my ring shots, yo!
CRAZY IDEA: If your credit card limit is high enough, you could talk the salespeople into selling you multiple rings with the intent of returning all but one. This way you can propose… then propose again… and maybe propose a third time! She will be overwhelmed by all the romance and sparkles; it will definitely be a moment to remember. Plus, you’ll know for sure that you both love her engagement ring since you both picked it out! #genius
If that’s a no-go, maybe they’ll close the store to the public for an hour while you blindfold your babe and bring her in for your proposal and a private shopping experience. If you’ve never seen Sweet Home Alabama, you can give me credit for that amazing idea. 😉
Will her friends and family actually keep it a secret? Do not include her friends and family unless you are confident they’ll respect your surprise. While some families can pull off a surprise proposal (ever seen the “Dancing Jews” proposal? OMG #mustsee) sometimes excited parents or jealous siblings can unintentionally ruin the surprise.
While we’re at it, do not buy the ring on your joint credit card, do not leave the receipt on your bedside table, and do not causally ask “So what’s your ring size again?” If you must have it sized in advance, go through her jewelry box and measure her rings on your fingers. Uh-doy.
BE A GROWN UP – SET A BUDGET
What’s your income-to-debt ratio? “OMG What? That’s way more complicated than 3 months salary!” I know, but it’s much more adulty. The 3-month-salary rule was made up by jewelry companies to con you out of your hard earned money. In reality, that is a lot of money to spend on a ring. Do not spend 3 months salary. You spend what you can afford, and not a penny more. That means, do not blow your entire savings, do not take out a $10,000 loan, do not max out all your credit cards, and do not marry someone who insists you do any of those things. You’re too good for her. That being said, if you have nothing in savings because you have a truck, motorcycle, snowmobile, Playstation, Xbox, Rolex, and an 80″ 4K Smart TV… consider trading in one of those things. If you think you can spoil yourself and then claim “I’m broke” when it’s time to spoil her, she is too good for you.
If you’re really concerned she’ll dump your cheap ass, here’s a few tricks:
- The Halo and Pavè settings are an affordable way to get the expensive look. Most of the rings pictured throughout this post have halos and/or pavé shanks. All those gorgeous little diamonds surrounding the big diamond make it look huge, even if it didn’t cost huge.
- Platinum is the most expensive metal because it’s the most durable metal. White gold looks the part for half the cost.
- Not all engagement rings are made of natural diamonds. Some jewellers offer more affordable rings with man-made diamonds, moissanite, or white sapphire.
- Ask your jeweller about diamond size and quality. If a diamond falls just below the size cut-off, it is priced in the lower bracket. Some diamonds with barely-there flaws come cheaper, and most jewellers offer diamonds with a lower colour grade – but don’t go any lower than G or H, or it will start to look yellow.
DON’T FORGET THE BANDS!
What’s the ring-to-finger ratio? Okay first of all, for anyone living on Mars, anniversary bands are a thing now. An anniversary band is a third ring that usually matches the wedding band, and typically sits on the other side of the engagement ring. (Imagine a diamond sandwich, with the two matching bands on either side of the big pretty sparkly.) The anniversary band can be given after 1-year, 5-years, 10-years, whenever. You could also give it to her on her 30th birthday, when your first born comes along, or even on your wedding day as an extra I Love You ring, like Naomi’s hubby did. No, the anniversary band isn’t mandatory, but the wedding band is. So just don’t forget the bands… plural.
SIDE NOTE: If the engagement ring and wedding band are quite thick, the 3rd ring could stop her from bending her finger, like this, so she might give it a hard pass.
Now it can be a little difficult, after you’ve bought the engagement ring, to find the matching bands. And sometimes it will cost a surprising amount, especially if your engagement ring has twists and turns and the wedding band needs to be custom-made. If you can find a wedding set (engagement ring + matching bands) that you think she’ll like, even better. Ok, but what if The Ring doesn’t have a matching band?! Don’t panic. It’s not the end of the world. There are a ton of band options out there, and your girl might enjoy picking her own band… or bands… whatever.
CUT, SETTING, METAL, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH
Ok this is actually the hardest and most complicated KYA question… What kind of ring would she like? Try to describe her current style – her jewelry, her clothes, or her home decor. If you’re a Google addict like me, be specific in your search. Don’t bother searching “popular engagement rings” or “unique engagement rings.” She probably doesn’t want what’s popular, and searching for unique will get you anything but. Try words like:
- classic, simple, or sturdy;
- modern, edgy, or contemporary;
- vintage, antique, or art-deco;
- floral, dainty, or eclectic;
- elaborate, celebrity, or jaw-dropping.
If you want to appear smart, Google these (or just click on those links back there) to see all the choices. But I’m just going to break it down for you…
- Platinum is durable, but expensive. Yellow gold is less durable depending on karats, but more affordable. White gold is a little more durable than yellow gold, a little less durable that platinum, but the scrapes and bruises are less noticeable. Rose gold is very trendy right now, but it contains copper which can be a problem for people with sensitive skin.
- If you care about diamond quality, Google the 4Cs.
- I often hear “I really wanted a Princess cut diamond.” Cushion and Round cuts are pretty popular too. If your girl prefers to stand out from the crowd, check out a Pear or Marquise diamond. If you want it to make her feel like royalty, Emerald and Oval shapes are all over celebrity fingers right now.
- The Pavé setting is popular and oh-so-sparkly, but those tiny little diamonds being held by tiny little prongs… yeah, they’re probably going to fall out. So prepare to lose a diamond or two. If your gal is clumsy or likes to play rough, try to avoid pavé shanks, or go with a Channel setting.
- Speaking of clumsy, be cautious of rings with a big, tall diamonds that protrude from the band… it’ll snag and scratch everything she touches, including you, your clothes, and your future-children / pets / sports cars. Look for diamonds that sit low to the shank, or ask for Bezel or Tension settings.
- Rings with tiny little holes and crevices looks super cool, but they get dirty quickly and they’re difficult to clean.
- Diamonds or engravings on the side of the engagement band are impressive for sure… but a wee bit wasteful, as the band(s) will cover them up.
If you’d like something unique – which most girls really appreciate – talk to your jeweller about a custom designed ring.
“He went to the jeweller, she drew six designs, he picked his favourite and tweaked it to suit my needs. So rather than going to store and picking a ring based on price, he was able to pick a ring based on what suited me the most.”
~Justine, who’s gorgeous ring I have never photographed. #sadpanda
It can be as simple or elaborate as you want, and they’ll often work within your price range… but it will be, without a doubt, totally one-of-a-kind.
Just how unlucky is she? I know a few brides who have needed the extra warranty a few times. Research your jeweller’s warranty, what it covers and what voids the warranty. If you can afford it, get it. But if you lose a diamond, be careful what they replace it with! I’ve heard of jewelry stores replacing your diamond with one of lesser-quality.
And finally, THE PROPOSAL!
What level of publicity would you both be comfortable with? Should this be a private, intimate moment to allow for tears and cuddles? Would she appreciate having her friends and family involved? Or do you think she needs to be proposed to on the big screen at an NHL game? Proposing in a very public setting is for the brave at heart. If you are sure – I mean one-thousand-percent SURE – that she is going to love the public proposal and scream “YES!” from the top of her lungs, then go for it. Don’t get mad at me if she says no and leaves you hanging on the Kiss Cam. Even if you are sure she’ll say yes, think hard about the public proposal. Being proposed to is a very intimate, once-in-a-lifetime, remember-it-forever moment. Having too many people around can be embarrassing or make you feel like you are putting on a show, when you should be your most authentic. Which is what your proposal should be – authentic! If you are naturally romantic and adventurous, absolutely plan a big speech and propose at the top of the highest mountain you can find. But don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you and your gal like to keep things low-key, sneak in your proposal while tying your shoe or hide the ring in whatever book she’s reading at the moment. Of course, there’s always the couples-photo-shoot-with-surprise-proposal option… I know a great photographer you could hire 😉
The most important thing to remember during your ring-shopping experience is, “She loves me, and she’ll love this ring.” If the tables were turned and she planned an elaborate proposal and spent weeks, maybe even months looking for the perfect ring… Would you turn it away? Didn’t think so 😉 So take a deep breath, and enjoy this moment.