There’s nothing I love more than an engagement story that encourages a balance of honest communication with trust in your partner and then sets it with realistic expectations. Because let’s be honest, most of the time the narrative around engagements is…troubling. While I love a surprise as much as the next person (who may not actually like surprises all that much, to be honest), I’m not a fan of the engagement trope that suggests we shouldn’t have a say in the symbols we wear or that discourages conversation on the subject altogether (lest we be too “pushy”). So to add to our recent exploration of the art of engagement (check out intern Elisabeth’s story on choosing and then losing her engagement ring, or intern Rachel’s Buying A Guy An Engagement Ring for some recent forays into the subject), today Sarah gives us Remember The Lesbians: Engagement Ring Edition.
Back when our marriage was just a dream, just pillow talk that we whispered to one another, the subject of getting engaged came up. As two women, we had the advantage of living without the normative script of who would propose to whom and how. But that’s a post for another day. Today, I want to share how we decided on and procured engagement rings.
1. Discuss what an engagement ring means to you. I was of the firm opinion that an engagement ring was a rather silly social custom that had some problematic undertones. Don’t get me wrong, I love jewelry, but as someone who winces whenever she spends a glob of money, I theorized that I could be content with something very simple or perhaps nothing at all. And I was troubled by how often I saw someone greet an engagement announcement with, “Oooh! Let me see the ring!” On the other hand, my wife-to-be was firm: She wanted the symbol of commitment, she wanted it to be a ring, and she wanted us both to have one. As it turned out, I was okay with this.
Lesson learned: It is okay to want what you want.
2. Discuss what your low and high ends of spending are. We agreed to both get rings, but more importantly, we agreed that each ring would be a gift from one of us to the other. Although we had shared a joint credit card ever since we’d started living together, this was not to be a joint purchase. That meant that the person buying the ring got final say over how much the ring cost. That said, we discussed what we were comfortable spending. We had disparate incomes at the time, so this was important. I did not want to get her a ring that was worth a fraction of whatever she got me. (Even though price does not correlate with awesomeness.) I also was uncomfortable having a piece of jewelry on my hand that was worth more than a certain amount. We created a ballpark range that we were both comfortable with.
Lesson learned: Agree on cost—and agree who gets to make the final say on cost.
3. Discuss what the ring will be like. This is the perfect conversation fodder for long car rides. We talked about metals, stones, cuts, designs, etc. We talked about how long we wanted to wear the rings (daily, but only through the wedding—thereafter just on special occasions). We talked about our styles (clumsy, so not conducive to delicate or high-set rings). We listed adjectives that we would want to describe our rings—was it, “modern, sleek, and unobtrusive,” or “classic, shiny, and colorful”? These were fun discussions, but they were also thrillingly exciting, because although we were discussing the general vision, the ultimate rings were still going to be a total surprise. I wouldn’t see the ring she gave me until the engagement, and vice versa.
Lesson learned: Talk about your vision for the ring—and agree who gets to make the final decision about what it actually looks like.
4. Find a place to buy the ring. I went with word of mouth and found a jeweler who would custom design a ring with me, giving me a large degree of control over materials and costs. My wife-to-be used Yelp and found an area jeweler who was well known and loved. Both of us felt comfortable with our vendors (and made sure they were comfortable with us—we didn’t want someone telling us that we were “doing it wrong” in some way). Frankly, while picking out the rings felt so stressful at the time, it was probably one of the easiest parts, because when we got there, we each had a budget, a vision, and each other’s blessing to make decisions. In other words, even though we hadn’t researched the ins-and-outs of jeweler speak or setting designs, we had enough information to pick out a ring.
Lesson learned: Find a vendor that lets you be the expert on what you want. And then relax.
5. BUT WHAT IF IT IS ALL WRONG AND MY PARTNER HATES IT!? Honestly, this is worth discussing, especially if the ring is being given as a surprise!
Optimist: “Honey, any ring that you get me is going to be beautiful, because it’s given to me in love from you.”
Realist: “Honey, let’s make a deal: I will wear whatever you give me, and love it because you gave it to me. But if, after [a certain amount of time] I decide that it isn’t exactly to my long-term tastes, we’ll go back to the jeweler together and tweak it until it is. Will you be okay with that?”
Miss Manners suggests that this time period be after the wedding, and I’m inclined to agree. Frankly, while I love my ring and wear it more often than I thought I would, the post-wedding outlook is this: The ring is just a symbol. Ultimately, what it looks like is much less important than that for which it stands.
Lesson learned: A ring is just a ring.