Guys: Think Before Surprising Her with an Engagement Ring

kate's ring cropedIt’s going to be, possibly, the biggest purchase you’ve made to date. And it will be, almost without doubt, the most symbolic purchase you will ever make. It’s the engagement ring.

Traditionally, guys buy the ring, then pop the question, either on one knee—or maybe while skydiving. You’ve seen the photo—the girl surprised, gushing over the ring, so happy.

Well, she may be thrilled to be marrying you, but she may be less thrilled with the ring you’ve just spent thousands of dollars to buy.

The first inkling I had of this was after my folks bought their own jewelry manufacturing shop. My dad wanted to increase the size of the diamond in mom’s ring. Mom suggested a remodel they’d design together. He was flattered. Later mom told me, she’d never liked the original ring. She hated white gold but, in the 1950s, white gold was “hot,” so that’s what the jeweler convinced dad to buy. She had worn the ring without saying anything for more than 25 years.

I heard this same thing– “I’ve always hated this ring”–from any number of women who came into the jewelry store where I worked. They’d gotten divorced, become widowed, or finally just convinced their husbands that it was time to update their old ring.

My brother, who makes custom jewelry, always has one question for the guys who come in and want to design their bride’s engagement ring as a surprise. “Would you buy her wedding dress for her?” he asks.

After recoiling, the guys always say, “No!” or maybe “Heck, no!”

“If you wouldn’t be confident buying her dress, which she’ll only wear for one day,” asks my bro, “why would you buy something for her that she’ll wear every day for the rest of her life?” He almost always convinces the guys to bring their ladies into the store, and they’re (both) almost always glad he did. (Remember: custom rings and rings that have been sized are not returnable.)

I can guarantee you that your fiancée will definitely have different ideas than you about the metal, the center stone—size, shape, type and quality—and number of stones the ring should involve. For starters, you may be stunned by the size of center stone she wants, and the price of that stone. However, to get that size, she may be willing to sacrifice quality which will bring the cost back down. If you’re still facing sticker shock, you may be able to discuss the possibility of trading up to a larger stone every five or ten years as your earning power goes up. You might even buy an alternative, like Moissonite, as a place holder until you can buy the stone she wants. She may even have her heart set on using the diamond from an aunt’s, mother’s, or grandmother’s ring. (Lucky you.) These are the kinds of conversations you can’t really have until she’s agreed to marry you.

Involving your lady in the engagement ring conversation will help give your marriage a happier start. It will certainly tell you more about each other. But it will definitely mean she won’t visit a jeweler 25 years in the future and say, “I’ve always hated this ring.”

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