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In which the WIC makes it’s first grab at my soul. And wallet.


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

In which the WIC makes its first grab at my soul. And wallet. | A Practical WeddingSo I sort of figured I had the engagement ring thing all figured out. I’d wanted the simple platinum (or white gold, or silver, who cares) ring with a single solitaire diamond. Easy, right? Ha.

Little did I know that the search for the engagment ring is your first full blown encounter with the Wedding Industrial Complex. The conversation goes a little like this: ” You are getting married! Fantastic! There are so many things you must BUY BUY BUY! We don’t care if you want these things or not! They are traditional! They are vital to your future happyness! Everyone Else is doing it! You don’t want to look POOR do you?”

We started off at your run of the mill jewelers, and I’d tell them what size stone I was looking for and they would look disappointed, then giggle a little (who was I to know what I wanted, after all), then say they had the perfect thing. Then out would come a stone that would feed a family for a year. I have little hands. These rings looked crazy on me. And I didn’t like the way the jewelers were looking at us. It creeped me out. They seemed to be implying that David would only be a Real Man if he ponied up three months salary on the ring. I didn’t want to be the all American princess Barbie bride. I felt sort of panicked. Suddenly I didn’t even want to be engaged anymore.

So, we stopped looking at engagement rings for a while. Then I realized to hell with these sleazy Jewelers, I knew what I wanted, and what we were comfortable with.

  • A ring I could wear in a board room, and not be embarrassed by.
  • A ring that wouldn’t feel outdated in 10 or 15 years.
  • Something that had character.
  • Something I could wear in a third world country and not look like “HEY! I’M A AMERICAN! MUG ME!”
  • Something I could wear doing work in a housing project or a soup kitchen or just back in San Bernardino where I grew up, and not look like a asshole.
  • Something that was beautiful.

I was afraid my list was near impossible. But then we found it. A estate diamond ring from the 1920’s, in a gay antique store in the Castro. They specialize in estate jewelry and vintage gay porn. We just went with the ring. This time.

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • http://www.promtoaltar.net/blog nicole

    yay for antique rings!

    my engagement ring is from the 1930s and i just found a wedding band from the same era to go with it. not everyone understood our decision to go this route, but i can’t imagine going any other route!

    photos of the engagement ring: http://flickr.com/photos/intermittent/1213781481/

    i find that next to the craftsmanship and style of my ring, new rings look gaudy and just designed to hold as many diamonds as possible. they were going for beauty back then, not one-ups-manship.

    (not so great photos of the 1930s-era wedding band at http://itsloverly.googlepages.com/home
    -scroll to the bottom)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    Thanks both of you! Nicole, your ring is lovely, and my ring has almost exactly the same side view, but I can’t get a good shot of it. We also have a band from the same era… it’s a tiny and delicate eternity band with oval sapphires and round diamonds, but I’m too superstitious to post a picture just yet.

    And I feel exactly the same way about modern rings. I wanted something small and handcrafted. The only bad thing is the weird feeling I get when I feel like people are judging me for it being small, when I wanted it that way!

  • Peonies and Polaroids

    Gorgeous ring! I’m definitely going to try finding an antique ring as modern ones are just driving me mad!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00337346522730672146 Hilary

    Wedding Industrial Complex. Love it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17103373366727257334 Michelle

    Agh. Try walking into one of those places and saying that you don’t want a diamond at all. You can imagine, I’m sure.
    (Which is why I’m walking around with a ring setting but no gem stone at present, giving many a nice passer-bye a heart attack when they think my stone has fallen out.)

  • Leigh Ann

    I SOOOO want an antique ring. And I LOVE that San Bernardino is basically on par with a soup kitchen. Hilarity!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17737984894162062911 A Diary in the Tme of the Plague

    I’m a little to add but I’ve spent the better part of today going through your blog, in it’s entirety, and have been marveling that someone, somewhere has similar thoughts, ideas, dreams and goals for their wedding. And then I stumbled across this post and I knew it. My qualifications for my perfect wedding ring was something I can travel and work in ( preferably globally) without being uncomfortable. I am one half of a young couple and price was a big issue, meaning he is very traditional and I am not. I found it absurd to spend more money than absolutely necessary on my ring. The other qualifications were that there was nothing new ( metal or stone. nothing like looking at a symbol of love and thinking of the horror it has seen just to be there, on your finger), and it couldn’t scratch my face ( I am practical after all). Oh! as for style.. the metal work had to be pretty. And so.. we found a beautiful ring from the 1920s with hand cut filigree, a securely set diamond with no pokey things and best of all.. I have yet to take it off or avoid something due to it’s hinderance. The people closest to me seem to all say the same thing when they first see it, “It’s perfect for you.” I choose to hear the emphasis on “it’s perfect.”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02691922611023496964 Spiffy

    We found my ring at an antique store- rings, I should say. Got a matching bridal set circa 1950s- beautiful diamond, white gold- only $375 dollars. Can’t get a deal like that in some mall jewelers. And yet the poor fiancee gets the odd, pity glance when we reveal that we went together to buy the ring. Like its admission of his inability to man up and go ring shopping by himself. Like its less romantic that the ring wasn’t some surprise or something. sigh. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11097163969864312650 K

    perfection. couldn’t agree more wit your list. i got a 5 stone band for my engagement ring… technically a “wedding band”, not an “engagement ring” by industry standards, and i couldn’t adore it more. i’ll be able to wear it forever and ever.

    • Kat

      THIS is what I’m doing too!! Thank you!! All the jewelry stores my almost fiance and I have been to keep on insisting that I probably want to try on a “traditional” engagement ring… nope thanks!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03209113339750185034 nina@mount pleasant wedding

    I grew up in a family that owned a jewellery store–(started by my great-grandfather)–it makes me sad when I hear stories like that about a jewellery store. I would NEVER laugh at someone about the ring they wanted. Our goal was to make people happy with the ring they chose–and size has nothing to do with it.

    I'm only going to wear one ring, instead of a set, so I'm not wearing a ring until we get married and his sister and cousins ask all the time, what does the ring look like, how big is it, is it sparkly, sparkly??? It drives me crazy.

    Congrats on your choice–its beautiful!

    • Aine

      I just for the first time got ‘judged’ for the engagement ring I’ve had for about a year. My fiance and I went to two different jewelers at the mall near my house and had vastly different experiences with both. In one, (Littman Jewelers, if anyone lives in the NY area) the people were nothing but helpful, even though I said I was just looking, they took time to help me try a few different wedding bands. The other? First we explained we wanted to look at bands that might go with my engagement ring, then I got a look of shock when we confirmed that yes, that ring I have on now IS my engagement ring. Then we let him know we were just looking at the moment, because the wedding was months away, and his expression changed so much, and he couldn’t get rid of us fast enough. This was Zales, by the way, where they really should know better.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13415058998836115731 Emily

    Meg, what was the name of the store in the Castro that you liked?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    Brand X :)

  • Caroline

    My partner hasn’t proposed yet, though I’ve seen the ring, because he wasn’t sure I’d like it. It’s NOTHING like what we talked about. It’s humungo. I mean giant. (ok, it’s probably not any bigger than nicole’s. It’s in a setting that makes it look bigger though. Also, I always pictured an itsy little diamond, cause I didn’t want something pretentious, and we’re young and thusly poor) It’s platinum when I always pictured gold. I always pictured elaborate goldwork, and while the setting is elaborate and beautiful, the sides of the band are solid. And I LOVE LOVE LOVE it. It was his grandmother’s, which makes it so special.

    (I can’t wait til it’s mine to wear ;) )

  • Erin

    I thought I had found the perfect engagement ring, but even after telling the salesman early in our appointment how we would have the .5 carat from my grandmother’s engagement set in my new ring, he brings out a monstrosity of a diamond to “show me.” Not only was ridiculously huge for setting I liked (it was as big around as the halo that was supposed to go AROUND it!), it was ugly and cloudy compared to the gorgeous, sparkly stone that we already had! How dare he insult the lovely diamond that represents over 60 years of marriage! Even though I loved the setting, I decided there was no way in hell I would buy anything from that store or that man!

  • http://littleredmoleskine.wordpress.com Andrea

    I absolutely love your ring story and couldn’t agree more on your reasoning behind your final choice. I feel like all I’ve read on wedding blogs and in magazines is so far from why and how I want to get married. So glad to have found your blog and look forward to perusing your archives later.

    You hit the nail on the head- a ring that won’t make you embarrassed in diverse situations, won’t get you mugged abroad (but enough to deter the interested)…Quite the refreshing perspective.

  • Skittle

    Hi Meg! I found your blog via a google search for offbeat/alternative weddings (and how awesome is Offbeat Bride?? SO awesome). I thought that, since you seem very warm and thrilled to have a relationship with your commenters, that perhaps you wouldn’t mind me commenting on some (many…) of your old posts? I’m compulsive when it comes to doing things in order (reading a book series out of order is nothing short of blasphemy), so after I browsed around your site for a couple of days (yes, DAYS) I decided I wanted to take the journey from the beginning.

    Please let me know if I’m inundating your mailbox. I can show restraint when necessary :)

    That being said, I’m going to be engaged very, very soon, and over the past seven months I’ve been hemming and hawing over engagement rings. I should preface this by saying a part of me didn’t even want one, but it’s been so ingrained in me by WIC (The Knot, especially, as that was my go-to before tiring of all the WIC and drama-rama on their boards, and finding you!) that I didn’t even realize that until later.

    I started out with an A. Jaffe stunner: a .65 carat brilliant cut black diamond, with a kite setting, with micro pave band that really emphasized the diamond. Oh, and because I was originally resistant to yellow gold, it had to be white gold. Then I realized I wanted the sparkle and fire of a classic diamond, and also realized that yellow gold looks much warmer on my skin than white gold or platinum. It just flatters my skin tone.

    I am also an environmentally eco-chic minded bride-to-be, and the more research I did on the diamond industry, as well as the precious metal mining industry, the more I couldn’t stomach supporting either. I did the whole Brilliant Earth / Blue Nile / Green Karat thing, and eventually decided to go with a moissanite ring from Moissanite & Co. (My poor future husband has had to deal with me changing my mind at least four times!). Even so…there was always a little voice whispering, “Is this REALLY what you want?”

    As an aside, I am $30,000 in debt. The majority (thank goodness!) is student loans, but there’s a hefty amount of credit card debt there too. Which is why I started looking for more reasonably priced options. It just became absurd to me, to spend three times as much as what our monthly rent costs on a piece of jewelry. There is so much else I’d rather put that money towards, like not having to cut as many corners for our wedding, or a down payment on a house, for crying out loud.

    Well, after reading this post, along with many others yesterday, I finally relinquished my perceived responsibility to have a huge rock on my finger (did I mention that I didn’t even want an engagement ring in the first place??). We’re going to go with a simple lover’s knot or infinity knot from etsy. He’s going to spend about $100 on it, and then we’ll exchange simple gold bands when we get married.

    http://www.etsy.com/listing/93179081/solid-14k-gold-infinity-ring-gold-knot

    That is exactly what I want. It’s going to be replaced, anyway, with a wedding band.

    I love the classic, pretty look of a simple gold wedding band. It suits me. And I’m sure I’m going to be judged by just about everyone I know for not going with the diamond, for not going with something that sparkles for my engagement ring, but at the end of the day, it’s about what *I* want. It’s about what suits US.

    And Meg, I couldn’t have come to accept that without you.

  • Sara

    I love your ring story and felt the same way when my fiance and I picked out my ring. I had always thought that I’d like a little vintage ring best, but I fell head over heels for this one (http://satomikawakita.com/512-11960/R2203P,R2204P,R2205P) – the 0.20 carat version. I love it – how it looks both vintagey and modern, how the superthin band doesn’t get in my way in my busy day-to-day life, how the little diamond sparkles so much – but I have to admit, my friends and family have been underwhelmed, and the WIC has a weird way of making you question whether smaller really is better for you.., even though I know that I just wouldn’t be confortable with wearing something flashy regularly.

  • anon

    I love your ring. Congratulations!

    My now husband avoided the jewelry store completely, and instead gave me the engagement ring that his late father gave to his mom in 1968. Luckily, I have the best sister-in-law ever, who had been wearing the ring for years, but I guess she liked me enough to give it up so that my husband could propose with it. To be honest, it’s not really my style…but you know what? FUCK STYLE. I love it. I want to burst into tears every time I look at it, because my husband’s father was an amazing man who died too young. I LOVE MY RING, but you might not believe the reactions that I received from people when they found out that he hadn’t spent his entire life savings on my ring. “What? He didn’t even go shopping for your ring?” Yeah. But I love it.