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Ask Team Practical: Engagement Ring Budget


How much do you spend?

by Liz Moorhead, Ask Team Practical
Ask Team Practical: Engagement Ring Budget | A Practical Wedding
I was really inspired by the recent post about co-proposing. I’ve been dating my boyfriend for seven years and we’re planning on getting engaged this summer. But the longer we’re together, and the more we talk about it, the less I’m sure a “surprise” proposal is what feels right. But then again I’m worried I’ll regret not having that “experience.” At the very least, I’ve been considering getting him a gift too. Whether it’s a post-engagement gift or a token of a joint marriage proposal I’m not really sure. But I like the idea that we both have skin in the game, not just that I’m waiting for him to spend lots of money on me. After all, he’s a student and I have a salary, so why should he be the only one who has to dip into his savings to mark our intention to get married?

The problem is, I have no idea how much to spend. I know rules like three-month’s salary are outdated (and seem insane), but I feel like I need SOME kind of guideline. Should I spend what I think he’s spending, should I not let it go over a certain percentage of my savings? When you’re already considering spending more money on something than you’ve ever spent on one thing before, it’s hard to get perspective.

Also, I feel like any amount I spend will seem like too much to my friends and family (and me?), because while we’re conditioned to think it’s okay to blow tons of money on a diamond, I feel like I have less cultural backup to justify spending as much on a gift for him. And it’s hard to shake the idea that I should save my money for more practical things, like a house, or just other joint fun things like travel or the wedding itself.

I need some guidance!

Sincerely,

Concerned About Spending Highly

Dear CASH,

Money is personal. Rules and traditions and standards about that sort of thing are kind of silly, considering all of us have such vastly different financial backgrounds, income, and relationships to money. Right? I’m all for tradition. But tradition that mandates that I spend a certain amount can kiss my butt (and its accompanying empty pockets).

So, spend whatever you want. Don’t let that word “engagement” fool you; this is like buying any other sort of gift you’ve ever bought. Think about what he’d like and think about how much you could spend without skipping on rent or feeling like you might vomit. That’s it. I know weddings feel like they warp your sense of finance, but only because (I’m assuming) you don’t have much experience paying for dinner for two hundred people or for six hours of professional photography. It’s hard to know what those things are worth. But, you do know how to buy presents. And that old, “It’s the thought that counts,” sentiment was made for this situation. An engagement ring is worth more than any other sort of ring in meaning, sure, but doesn’t necessarily need to be worth more money.

That’s it for the “universal truth” portion of this week’s Ask Team Practical. Now, I’m just going to tell you what works for my marriage (and hopefully, the rest of you readers will jump in with your gift-budgeting methods).

I find it just easiest to set a mutual budget before any shopping begins. Because a thing like, “It’s the thought that counts!” is easy to say (or type on the internet), but a lot harder to internalize. In reality, if I get my husband a really thoughtful $500 Christmas gift, and he gets me a really thoughtful $50 Christmas gift, he’s gonna be left feeling pretty crappy at the end of the day. To avoid all that mess, and because of (not in spite of) “It’s the thought that counts,” we agree on a number. If the gift really is all about the meaning and thought, then it’s not shallow or crass to set the budget. Besides, it’s not a hard-and-fast strict sort of rule (and I usually go over by a few bucks). But, having that understanding of the general expectation really relieves a lot of pressure and helps us to avoid that icky, inequitable-gift-feeling.

That’s how I would handle this situation. It doesn’t sound like you’re tied to the whole “surprise” end of things, so it’s fair to say, “Hey. How much do you wanna spend on each other?” I’m bracing for everyone in the comments to tell me how I’m unromantic and missing the point. But, relationships operate so much better when things that we’re socially trained to expect to be intrinsic or surprises or guesses are actually discussed openly and honestly. Though it may not seem like it, “How much to spend on the ring?” is an instance of expectations. And expectations are always, always better when they’re voiced. Just ask this lady.

As far as other people are concerned, here’s a secret: they don’t have to know how much you spent. In fact. They most definitely shouldn’t. How does that even come up in conversation? People and their manners, man.

Finally, practicality and frugality and planning for the big things are really important. But, you are the one person in this world entrusted to truly spoil your partner. That’s a sacred calling (and trust me, a really, really fun one). So, you know, be a responsible adult and everything. But once in awhile, take license to really spoil the heck out of him. Who knows. That may not mean spending much money at all. The only way to find out is to talk openly and honestly and make sure your expectations (if not your budgets) line up.

*****

Team Practical, how did you determine how much to spend on engagement rings? Was your decision influenced at all by tradition?

Photo by APW sponsor Corinne Krogh.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her son.

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  • Elaine

    Yeah…this one is so personal. Initially, my now-husband and I spent around $2700 on a ring (we shared the cost), but it felt so incredibly frivolous to me that we ended up selling the ring, lost some money in the process, and bought a beautiful vintage garnet ring for around $200 to take its place. It was an expensive lesson for us that just because you’re “supposed” to spend a certain sum on a ring doesn’t make that right for every couple. For me, spending an expensive (though still not on the higher end, by traditional standards) ring while we had massive student loan debt to pay off, a wedding to pay for, and trips we wanted to take was just so not worth it. I am absolutely not saying this is right for everyone; for a lot of my friends, having a fancy ring was worth making other sacrifices. I agree that you should discuss this with your partner, determine what’s comfortable for both of you, and go from there. And seriously, I recommend checking Etsy for some amazing vintage rings if you’re looking for something expensive than tradition options :)

  • Remy

    Not much tradition here, except as we ran counter to it on principle. :) Each of us purchased an engagement ring for the other, with input about style beforehand. And although I don’t know exactly how much she spent on mine, and vice versa (we’re fine with sharing with each other, if the other person wanted to know, but it’s not that important to either of us), I am comfortable with what I spent. And I am comfortable with the idea of what she spent, because I have the ring and I can make an estimate. If it had varied wildly from what I had spent, I would likely have been concerned and perhaps wanted to know exact numbers. We upheld our mutual values of simplicity and frugality, which was important. The same showed through when we went to commission our wedding rings and decided on what factors — including price — were important to us. So definitely discuss expectations about style, price, and meaning and get on the same page before you make a purchase.

    • http://www.rorygordon.tumblr.com rorygordon

      Remy! I hope you’re doing well – I’m pretty sure you’re the Remy of Remy and Lina? Anyway hugs to you and Lina! And I dig your rings too :)

      • Remy

        Awww! Thanks, Rory! The rings feature prominently in that photo you took of us flipping off the camera for FCKH8. :)

  • Anamaría

    Very good advice.

    I’m just going to go out there and tell you what we did. I lose things, frequently! So my engagement ring (and wedding band) was wicked cheap. I’ve already lost my wedding ring (9 months into the marriage!) and I’m glad now that I only spent $100 on it instead of $1000!

    Your rings, bands, bracelets, whatever item you choose, represent the sentiment of your vows, not the price you paid for them! Good luck!

  • Kestrel

    For me, the most important is that the ring functions as I want. My fiance and I are currently searching for my ring (that we’ll use for engagement and marriage) and function really takes precedence – but budget is always in my mind!

    For example, I have sensitive skin and a nickel allergy runs in my family – so no nickel. Also, I want this ring to last for a very long time without much maintenance, so silver is out for me. From there, I know if the ring has any stones that I want them to be hard-wearing, so that’s pretty much diamond, moissanite, or sapphires. This can bring up the cost, but I’d prefer a small lab-made stone, so that brings cost down again.

    From there, we just started looking and found that with the specs I wanted, that we’d probably be looking $500-$1500. Thankfully I have relatively inexpensive tastes, so it’s not too difficult to stay towards the low end of that.

    I do feel a little guilty that my ring will likely cost quite a bit more than my fiance’s simply because we have different wants (he’s looking at titanium bands, so those are usually pretty inexpensive). But the most important thing in my mind is that we both get rings that we enjoy wearing. His may be a bit less expensive, but I hope we both like ours equally.

  • Alexandra

    When I bought my boy an engagement ring, I wasn’t sure he’d even want one or not. So I spent my normal “This is something I want to be of good quality, but not overly priced.” That’s around $100-$200 for me. It was a sterling silver puzzle ring with a small garnet, because he’d owned another puzzle ring he really liked and it was starting to break. And it was sterling silver, because I wanted it to be something he wasn’t afraid to wear in case it broke. And well, I wanted it at a price point where he wouldn’t feel guilty if he didn’t wear it all the time, or never wore it again after he got a wedding band. I find about $100 is about where that price is.

    On the other hand, my ring was much more expensive, diamond solitary ring (with a bit of a twist), but that’s because he felt he had to spend that much, not because I thought he did. It’s sort of funny, in the end my ring is more “traditional” and his is more “practical”, not because of where our own values lie, but because of where our partner’s lie.

  • Jashshea

    My now-husband and I talked about getting him engagement golf clubs for awhile. The clubs he wanted were not cheap, but it’s his main hobby and they would be well used for many years. They were, unfortunately, not something I could surprise him with, since I don’t have the first clue about clubs. In the end he decided that he’d rather see the money spent on h’moon memories, so we purchased another DSLR body so we could both take pictures.

    All that to say…if you want to buy him something make sure the gift is meaningful and/or useful. And at least semi-permanent (which is why I didn’t want to get my husband any electronics) – make it something that’s cherish-able for many years.

    Regarding how much to spend – just do what’s comfortable. Whenever I make a larger purchase, I just ask myself the following: “if I get laid off in three months, would I regret buying this/spending this money on xyz?”

    ETA – He doesn’t like jewelry, so I didn’t even entertain the idea of a ring for him.

    • Rachel

      I love the idea of alternative engagement gifts! (Um, for the longest time, I really wanted to get proposed to with an iPad or a nice handbag.) But things like a watch, a cool vintage item, a piece of art, first edition of a book, etc. are awesome engagement gifts for both men and women!

      • Jashshea

        I thought about a watch as well, but SOMEBODY likes watches that cost more than diamond rings :)

        ETA: Should say “watches that cost more than cars,” actually.

      • Laura C

        Years ago I went with my friend the day before her boyfriend did a “surprise” proposal so she could buy him an engagement present. He gave her a diamond ring, she gave him a leather jacket. She spent a fraction of what he did, but it may actually have been a similar proportion of each of their incomes.

      • Copper

        I totally would have welcomed an engagement puppy.

      • Jenni

        My fiance doesn’t want an engagement ring (and can’t wear jewelry while at work). He’s military, so I’m going to get him an engagement sword to add to his uniform.

        • jess

          Woah!! So awesome!

        • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

          This is genius. My husband would have LOVED an engagement sword! I so wish I’d thought of that. He’s always been able to borrow one when he’s been in wedding sword lines and we didn’t do uniforms for our wedding, so he hasn’t had the excuse to buy one. I think I’ll steal your idea for our anniversary!

          • B (the other one)

            My boyfriend wants an engagement watch!

      • RAPTOR

        Yes to this! My friend just proposed to his boyfriend with a really nice set of copper pots. Good cookware will definitely get used on a regular basis and last for a long time in their household. Love telling people about the engagement pots :)

        • Kelsey

          Ooooooh love that!

      • Katie

        Currently reading this on my engagement tablet. :)

    • Megan-E

      My boyfriend and I have been looking at engagement rings for me, and he said, “I guess I’m going to need a new macro lens to take pictures of your ring….” Ha!

      Cameras or camera equip. for partners who love to take pictures are something I never would have come up with if not for bf’s *very subtle* hint. :)

      Edited to add: His hint mitigated most of the anxiety I had about reciprocating, what to get, how much, etc. The lens won’t be quite as much as the ring probably, but 1) he makes much more than me and we tend to go a proportional route for big expenses like rent and 2) I know it’s something he would love, use, and find meaningful — we love to go to Prospect Park and take pics — and it’s a significant enough purchase to feel special to me as the purchaser.

  • Cynth

    We talked before hand, and I bought him an engagement watch, and we picked out a ring for me together. Then I held on to the watch until he arranged to propose in whatever way he wanted- we got the conversations, he knew we were buying a ring I really wanted, I knew he was getting a watch he was really excited about and he still got to feel like he “created” a proposal experience for me. That being said, it was easier to discuss the money involved. (and side note, I could NEVER have picked out a watch for him with confidence without his input- and who wants to spend big bucks on something he may or may not like??) The end decision was about what we could get for the money- I ended up spending a bit more on his watch than he did on my ring, but it meant getting him something that he really loves,- and the difference didn’t matter to me. I think if you can spend less and totally love what you get, that’s fine, but it’s ok to go a little over the top if you think it gets you to a whole new level of adoring the end result. Of course, whether that is 200 or 20K is totally up to you! In the end, I think conversation is key. After all, you’ll be having these budgeting discussion together for the rest of your lives, start now!

    • ferrous

      We are doing this same thing: we picked out a ring (moissanite, I was a geology major, love the stuff), and then we looked at engagement watches for him. The watch is more expensive than my blingy ring! And it has *functions* (i.e., altimeter); I’m honestly a little jealous but ultimately I wouldn’t trade. I’ll hold on to the watch and we’ll exchange when the time comes.

  • Jennie

    My husband and I both used our engagement rings as our wedding band as well. We picked them out together, perhaps not terribly romantic but we didn’t have to buy two rings each and we got something we enjoy wearing!

  • CII

    I’ll just admit it. We spent an absurd amount on my engagement ring. Not in absolute terms, but in relative terms – it cost about 20% of what our wedding will cost, and four times as much as my wedding ring. Here’s my non-traditional / traditional analysis of how we got there.

    Traditional:
    – must. have. diamond. (my requirement)
    – plan to wear ring every day for rest of my life
    – I gave him bupkus as an engagement gift. I’m slightly ashamed to admit it now that I found APW and read all of these thoughtful posts about co-proposals, but, honestly, the thought just never ever occurred to me (boo on you, sneaky tricky traditional assumption that I didn’t even know I was making)

    Non-Traditional:
    – selected and purchased ring together with joint funds
    – must feel good about purchase = vintage (buy local, reduce other ethical concerns, and oh, so pretty)
    – I take my ring off for daily activities (cooking, gardening, sometimes exercise) and at night
    – we had been together for several years, and the question was when we would get married, nor whether. For me, this meant that the engagement was a bigger deal to me than the plan of an actual wedding (now I’m pretty excited about the wedding).

    We went into the purchase with a “preferred” and a “do not exceed” budget, and came out somewhere in between the two. It also wasn’t an extensive process – We went into the shop we knew we wanted to buy from, I tried on about five rings (okay, I tried on several more that we could never afford for funsies) and picked the one I liked best. We put it on 24-hour think-about-it hold and picked it up the next day. .

  • Rachel

    I went through this when picking out my fiance’s engagement ring too! I’m a gifter so I wanted to splurge, but I knew he wouldn’t want me to spend more than I could afford, as one of my pre-wedding goals is paying off my debt. And I don’t make enough to really even have that as an option. So! I was worried about this. Here’s my advice:

    1. Figure out what he likes first, and don’t pay a ton of attention to prices. It’s so easy to think you know what he wants (or even for him to think he knows what he wants) if you haven’t talked about it and tried things on. So maybe start by getting an idea of what metals he likes, if he wants any kind of gemstones or diamonds, etc. Once you know what it would cost ti give him his dream ring (and if it’s a number you’re comfortable with) you can sort of work backwards from there.
    2. I felt like it didn’t have to be the most expensive thing he owned, but it just had to FEEL like the most valuable (meaning meaningful) thing he owned. So I think picking out something that was very him but slightly different than a wedding ring made it feel really special and different without it having to be worth a ton of money? I don’t know how to explain what that sort of…gravitas…that I wanted it to have was, but I knew it when I saw it, and it had nothing to do with price.

    In the end, I spent more than I would spend on a birthday or Christmas gift and more than I’ve ever spent on anyone on a gift, but it was a number I was totally OK with. (And personally, that it was slightly more than the average gift made me feel kinda proud, like, Oh, this is special, I saved up for it!)

  • Teresa

    My sister bought her husband an engagement leather recliner–he really, really wanted it and, 9 years later, it is in their living room (and boy is it comfy!). I don’t know how much she spent, but leather recliners aren’t cheap. I do know that he told her that’s what he really wanted and so they were both thrilled with their engagment ring/recliner arrangement! I didn’t get my husband anything, though I think I did pay for dinner the night we got engaged, which was also our anniversary! I think it’s important to talk about it and to consider what he might really want, ring or not.

    • Ashley P

      I also bought my husband a chair as an engagement present! I had picked out a wooden engagement ring, but it was relatively inexpensive and I felt motivated to have more “skin in the game” since he was purchasing a gold ring for me. He loves furniture, so I picked out an Eames chair and it still sits in our living room today!

      • Lauren

        This is such a good idea. My fella is obsessed with his (ratty, disgusting) recliner and didn’t take to the suggestion of a ring or a watch. I think after we move in together I’ll get him a belated engagement chair! He will LOVE it!

    • http://teastrumpets.wordpress.com/ kyley

      I think it’s important to talk about it and to consider what he might really want, ring or not.

      Yes! This!

      My partner would not have enjoyed receiving a ring; he’s already stressed about wearing a wedding ring. But he loves watches, and didn’t have any dress watches, so that’s what I got for him, and he loves it.

      On that note, I think it’s important to also recognize that different people receive gifts differently. My partner and I have been discussing this recently. I am the kind of person who gets suuuuuper excited about getting presents. Like, you could give me a pair of socks and I’d jump up and down. My partner is just not really like that; he appreciates gifts, but in a more muted way. As the enthusiastic one, I had to prepare myself for my partner to be content and pleased, but not like burst into tears.

  • http://thedilettantista.com/ The Dilettantista

    Um I have been waiting for the appropriate moment to bust out this link and this might be it but NERD PEOPLE I have found the best customizable engagement thing EVER–it isn’t exactly pertinent to the questioner’s issues but if you are looking for affordable (especially the smaller models) and fun and nerdy, this is it:

    http://www.myrobotnation.com/

    YOU MAKE YOUR OWN CUSTOM ROBOT. AND THEN THEY 3-D PRINT IT. AND SENT IT TO YOU. AMAZING.

    I actually did this for what will be my engagement present to him–which he keeps switching around so I’m not sure what it will be just yet, but I wanted to do something that was a bit more personal than “HERE IS YOUR ENGAGEMENT PRESENT.” I made what I called the Awesome Engagement Robot of Awesome and I am looking forward to receiving the robot in the mail a few weeks and going all HI FUTURE HUSBAND HERE IS YOUR ROBOT..

    Big second to what Liz said above also about spoiling your person. I took the future husband on a surprise trip to Vegas for his birthday last year, I really splurged and it might not have been practical (I could afford it but I definitely had to scrimp a little bit) but he really loved it and we had a great time. So he might not be getting super spoiled on the engagement gift (besides the BEST ROBOT OF BESTNESS) but he’s been plenty spoiled in the past!

    • Marcela

      I just spent a good two hours on that site last night designing a SUPER CUTE BRIDE ROBOT OF DEATH KILLING, planning to wrangle the fella into making his own and PRESTO we have the best cake toppers ever.
      Until I told him about it. Apparently I’m the only one who thinks tiny robots with a deathblaster and a veil/top hat/tie/weddingy stuff would be the best idea. So now I’m crushed and robot-less.

      • http://thedilettantista.com/ The Dilettantista

        THIS IS THE BEST IDEA. I had trouble finding lady stuff (maybe I just didn’t spend enough time on the site?) so I made an adorable dude robot with a top hat and a bowtie because BOWTIES ARE COOL.

        If I were having a cake (I don’t really want a cake because I want an ice cream sundae bar at my wedding because in my humble opinion ice cream > cake) I would totally make custom cake toppers from this company, no question whatsoever. Since we haven’t exactly started planning the wedding (only been engaged a month) a cake isn’t necessarily totally out of the question, so maybe I’ll do a tiny cake (ice cream cake?!?!?) just so that I can have CUSTOM ROBOT CAKE TOPPERS.

        • KC

          I hate to be a wet blanket, since an ice cream cake is an awesome idea, but it may be logistically challenging at most reception sites, since most ice cream cakes I’ve met need to be frozen up ’til a certain point, then allowed to thaw slightly in a controlled manner so as to be cuttable (but not thawed so much that they melt). Most wedding cakes hang out on a table for hours (sometimes more hours than anticipated as things go long, etc.). However, if you’ve got someone you can put on ice cream cake shuffling duty and the fridge/freezer capabilities available, go for it! I just wanted to note the potentially hidden challenges to having an ice cream cake for cutting, as I’ve been at parties where the ice cream cake thwarted initial cutting attempts, even with full-on metal chef’s knives, and others where the cake went too far and melted before it was cut, and these outcomes at a wedding could be either hilarious or incredibly disappointing, depending on your perspective.

          I don’t know, but it might be possible to deputize someone to make you a couples’ sundae and put the figures on top at the last minute, then ceremonially spoon each other some ice cream for photos? Or maybe the figures could live on a little stand on the ice cream sundae table?

          (I’m definitely not saying that ice cream cake can’t be done, just that it might be a bit more logistically messy than one might think.)

          • http://www.thedilettantista.com The Dilettantista

            I have had my fair share of ice cream cake mishaps (including the restaurant putting a birthday ice cream cake in the fridge instead of the freezer I got soooooo mad!) and so have certainly taken all of that into consideration–like i said, nothing is being planned currently, so this is just a little conceit i have. But thank you for the warnings and suggestions.

          • KC

            Oh, good! It just sometimes doesn’t occur to people (even, apparently, restaurant people – yikes!) that ice cream cakes, while lovely, are a wee bit fickle as regards temperature. :-)

            Best wishes as you plan!

        • Marcela

          There was limited lady stuff, I settled for a satellite dish “flower” on the side of the robot’s head and kissy lips. I was going to finagle a veil out of leftover tulle from making my own veil. Colours are also very much your friend here. I think that my magenta, turquoise and orange color scheme somehow also indicted lady bot. But honestly they mostly just matched what I was wearing when I made the robot.
          You could make the robots the Guardians of the Sundae Bar. No need for cake if that isn’t totally your thing.
          Now I’m stuck trying to figure out the cake topper thing (cake is most definitely my thing. ) with two weeks left.
          Anyone know where I could find a Star Wars themed topper that would be ready and in my hands in less than two weeks? All the adorable custom ones are either a bijillion dollars or take 20 weeks to order. (Slight exaggeration for effect, but only slight.)

  • APW Lurker

    We definitely went the adopt-a-puppy-because-he-loves-dogs route. I love that I can look down at my ring and feel giddy about the life we are going to start together and he can look at our dog and feel the same way.

    • B (the other one)

      What happens when the dog dies?!

  • ZOO

    One thing to consider is how long he intends to wear the ring. If it’s going to be a lifetime thing, then spending more for high quality and a style that will weather the ages makes sense. If he’s planning to take it off after the wedding, those things take lower priority and you can go for something more like “totally sexy but contains no precious metals.”

    If it helps, here’s how things went down when I was proposing to my boyfriend. First of all, I wanted it to be a surprise so I had to ask all sorts of questions in a super-hypothetical sense. We’d long ago agreed that we should both wear an engagement ring, and that those should be made of some sort of non-permanent material since engagement is a temporary state. We’d take them off after the wedding. So for me, the answer was to get a handsome set of wooden rings. I had about a $300 budget in mind for a set, which would get me “totally does the job” rings. I had my eyes on a super awesome set of ancient kauri wood rings, but couldn’t justify the increase in price. Then I unexpectedly got $200 as a gift and that was enough to make up the difference. That was sheer luck, and I’m very grateful for it. But I was completely fine with getting the cheaper rings, and wasn’t going to blow my budget on something I knew we weren’t going to wear longer than 18 months. So my advice is to spend what you’re comfortable with.

    The addendum to this is that the proposal has pretty much ceased to matter. The first month or two we reminisced about it and told the story again and again, but now the point is that we’re GETTING MARRIED. The “how” and “with what symbolic jewelry” of the proposal doesn’t really matter anymore, because the important thing now is planning a wedding so we can start our married life together. I might feel differently about the rings if we were planning to wear them forever, but as it stands I’m kind of enjoying watching the nicks and scratches show up on the wood, a subtle reminder on my hand that every day brings me closer to marrying the love of my life. And as for the cost? The money has become irrelevant because the symbolism is priceless.

  • Lady K

    My fiance and I spent A LOT of time discussing the cost of rings and our requirements for them. In the end we found out that it’s possible to spent a medium amount of $ while still adding a ton of sentimental value. I’m an especially sentimental nut and really wanted something that wasn’t cookie-cutter. But I’m also a tree hugger with an appreciation for shiny things (i.e. sustainable and fair-trade, but don’t forget the karats). Conflicting enough, but my fiance’s ring requirements were equally tricky. He works in a mechanical engineering shop, around mills, lathes, and other sharp hand tools and power equipment. And on his off days he restores old cars so his hands are usually inside an engine most of the time.So if he was going to wear any sort of ring, whether at work or not, it had to be breakable for safety…which cut cost down considerably. If he hadn’t insisted that he really did want a ring, I would’ve forgone one all together.

    Despite all our requirements, I’m so grateful we stuck with what we wanted and were really open with each other about our choices. Mostly because it forced us to get really creative and give each other meaningful rings that not just represent us but also the new life we’re starting. He commissioned a friend to re-purpose my grandmother’s diamond engagement ring and added a couple non-diamond stones. Sentimental? Check! Ecofriendly? Check! Affordable, but not cheap? Double check!! I’m just estimating (since he won’t give me the exact cost) but since he had the diamond everything else only cost around $800. The ring he’ll soon wear is actually made from a piece of wood I collected along a trail where we had our first date. Breakable and filled with meaning for less than $220!
    I absolutely recommend talking, and talking, and talking some more about your ring budget. It’s just one of many money discussions you’ll have to have. And just remember, there are a lot of local designers and materials you can use that save $ and are actually better for the environment and your budget:)

  • Panpan

    My fiancé spent some of his savings to give me a beautiful 20k+ engagement ring, because he knew it was the setting I wanted and he felt he could afford it. I’ve been wearing it for more than a year now and have come to terms with with what it might represent to others, and learned not to care. I have student loan debt as well and we are paying for our small 50ppl wedding with help of family while saving for our future house. But I lovey ring and what it represents. For his wedding band we purchased it together for about $1500. I believe you should spend what it is that you are comfortable with, and everyone’s priorities are different.

    • Cleo

      I really appreciate this comment. I think there can be a lot of judgment from the more indie/practical side of things for people who spend a lot of money on rings or flowers or place settings or mason jars, etc.

      It’s another way the teamification of women happens, as if spending less money means there’s more value/emotion/thought put into those things, or if spending more money means the relationship is going to last longer.

      There’s meaning and love and thought behind these symbols and aesthetic details regardless the amount of money spent.

      • Elaine

        I absolutely agree with this statement re: teamification. At the same time, I know that my friends who have expensive rings (the majority of my girlfriends, in fact) get their rings oohed and ahhed at all the time, whereas I get far fewer positive comments about my inexpensive ring. In fact, I actually had a couple of people in my life ask me why my fiance didn’t get me a “real” engagement ring. The indie/ practical community has really been the only community that seemed to support our on-the-cheap wedding that did not meet the conventional definition of “amazing wedding.” I’m not saying it’s wrong to spend a lot of money on a ring or a wedding if you can afford it; I’m just asking for respect for the fact that communities like APW are really THE places where those of us who maybe cannot afford (or chose not to afford) those things can feel like our rings, weddings, etc., are totally perfect and incredible, too.

        • Cleo

          I absolutely agree with you. My point wasn’t that we should turn our noses down at the less expensive things or not give them their due, because I definitely get the “there aren’t other places for me” thing (I have highly traditional parents and non-traditional tastes, so I really do get it), but that while celebrating the less-expensive/alternative/non-WIC options we should take care not to simultaneously bash those more expensive/mainstream options.

          • Elaine

            My stupid browser won’t let me “exactly” your comment, so I’ll just say “well-said” ;)

    • Casey

      I appreciate this. We are normally frugal but didn’t mind spending quite a bit on my ring and our 50-person backyard wedding (can you say circus tent and fantastic food!?). Our frugality is what lets us splurge on occasion when we want to.

  • Laura Lee

    I think one of the most important things is to make sure to find out what kind of ring your guy wants before you even start thinking about budget. When going through the process of buying a wedding band for my almost hubby, it quickly became clear that he (and apparently many males) just doesn’t attach the same emotional significance to the ring that I (and many females) do. It doesn’t hold the same sentimental value, it’s just a visual sign of our marriage. He wasn’t interested in expensive materials, because having an expensive ring seemed silly to him. He also wanted something durable, so in the end we went with titanium. My ring was right around $2,000 and his was $90. So we spent very different amounts, but we both have exactly what I want. So if you’re getting him an engagement “gift” setting matching budgets may make sense, but if you’re getting him a ring, it may not depending on tastes.

    I will also say, if your guy hasn’t worn jewelry before, it may be a little challenging for him to figure out what kinds of rings he likes. It definitely was for my guy. So that’s just one more aspect to consider.

    • Rebecca

      Getting his opinions on what rings he liked was like pulling teeth. I don’t think he had ever formed an opinion about jewelry before we went ring shopping.

      For any one else going through this- it helped to break things down: gold/ silver/ pink (just color- metal choice was implied/ budget driven), how wide, square edges or rounded, polished/ brushed/ hammered, simple or more design going on, stone/ no stone, etc. It helped for him to try stuff on, but it was definitely deer in headlights at first…

      • Laura Lee

        Yes, I second your advice. I really had to help him figure why he did or didn’t like certain things and give names to those things. It was really just a huge learning process. By the end he had figured out what he wanted and how to find it (nothing shiny, no gemstones, had to be comfort fit, titanium for durability/lightness/price, subtle details to add interest…). So if anyone else is working through guy’s ring shopping, first be patient and understand this is a new world for them, then help them figure out the characteristics they do/don’t like but pointing out what those characteristics are.

        • Holly

          This is funny because that is my FH. I know what I want, and he has an idea. When he relays his idea to me, and I show him my interpretation, he doesn’t like it. We just decided we will go shopping on the same day and get our wedding bands at the same time.

  • Copper

    When I don’t know what to spend on something, I look at examples of what it costs. This sounds like a “duh” statement, but it always helps me. Find a few mens engagement rings you think are real options in terms of what you want it to be (quality, material, durability, proportions), and THEN look at what they cost. Is there a range in there or a consensus? Turn the numbers over in your head and see how you feel about them—are you gravitating towards the low end of a range, or are you working out other places you can economize to afford something at the top end? I guess I’m a value sort of girl, and whenever I try to set a budget for something without having an idea of what that budget buys me, it doesn’t work. So this is my method for setting a budget for an item of variable value.

  • Martha

    My fiance bought my ring with his own money – initially this really worried me because at the time he was (and still is) a graduate student with a limited income. However, he ended up being able to use a family stone and spent less than he budgeted for.

    When we bought our wedding bands, we just looked for things we liked that matched my band. We really struggled to find something in our price range (we wanted to spend no more than $500 on both wedding bands) and ended up getting a sterling silver band with diamonds – even though my engagement ring is white gold. We bought it knowing it might need replaced in ten years or so, but we didn’t want to break the budget. In retrospect, I wish I had gotten my engagement ring in silver as well. My white gold needed re-plated pretty quickly and platinum was definitely out of the question. His band is tungsten – we had a lot of options in our price range, but really struggled to find something that wasn’t shiny (this was his ONE BIG THING). After buying several rings and returning some we ended up getting something through Titanium Kay (highly recommend).

    Both of us are pretty pleased with ourselves, we only spend $300 combined on both rings and we’re both very excited to wear them – in 9 days!!!

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      I have a white gold engagement ring and we have silver wedding rings. I wear both on the same finger. Just wanted to say that, since I don’t think I’ve heard of someone with the same combo before. :)

  • rowany

    I think Liz is giving very practical advice, but…I disagree. I DON’T think of an engagement as an exchange of presents, and by extension I don’t think engagement rings are a gift, just like I don’t think wedding rings are a gift. I guess it depends on how CASH views the engagement, but for me the exchange of rings is a symbol of the commitment we made to each other on that day, and wearing the rings every day is a testament to our commitment to our relationship every day. An optional symbol that many choose not to use (which is totally fine!), but a symbol nonetheless. This is in contrast to anniversary gifts, where it’s more, “Yay! we got married and are still married! Let’s celebrate!” kind of thing.

    As much as we love our cats, we wouldn’t have gotten an engagement kitten, which would be a commitment in and of itself that requires a lot of discussion and planning. Plus unfortunately they don’t live as long as humans. Similarly, I know from the twang of seeing my thoughtful gifts eventually wearing out, getting replaced or upgraded that it’s the nature of any hobby industry (sports, geeky or otherwise) to be constantly updated. The robot I gave for Christmas a few years back is now mainly unused; the plants in the aerogarden replaced by an actual garden. Great gifts; not great symbols of commitment. Thus I think what’s most important isn’t how thoughtful your engagement item is, how much you spent on it, or even how pretty it is (which is still kind of important!), but whether it reflects your commitment to each other.

    Because we view engagement and wedding rings as a symbol, we thought first of how we could attach meaning to them, and second of the other person’s preferences so they would be happy and comfortable wearing it every day. We kept the designs secret from each other but would talk about preferences (gemstones, metal, etc). For us, that meant we went the custom route, which also meant quite a bit more time than expected making sure that it was within the realm of physical possibility to bring our ideas to life. Then, instead of seeing if it was within our budget, we saved up (separately) to afford the cost of the other’s ring. I don’t think that the cost of the ring needs to be ridiculous like the 3-months-pay rule. Instead because our designs fit our priorities for rings as symbols and our plan to wear the rings the rest of our lives, putting aside money for it didn’t feel irresponsible.

    For the record, I have a $2k gold star ruby ring with a DNA helix, and my fiance has a $885 two piece band (1 for engagement and 1 for the wedding that fit together) that contains titanium and meteorite. The disparity in prices didn’t matter because that’s just what it cost to make what we wanted.

  • Carrie

    When I proposed to my husband, I came up with a ring design that had meaning for him, and inquired with a jeweler how much it would cost to make. The answer was $550, and I could afford that amount, so that’s how much I spent.

    However, if I hadn’t wanted the custom design, I probably would have simply proposed with a plain gold band, which could have cost much less than that.

    Basically, I think it should be about what kind of ring seems right for you to give and him to receive, combined with what you can reasonably afford.

    When I chose my husband’s ring, I really, really wanted it to make clear that my intentions with this gift were serious — that it wasn’t a whim or an afterthought. But being expensive is not the only way for a ring (or other gift) to convey that meaning. (That sounds obvious, but when it comes to engagement rings for women, the diamond industry markets very, very heavily the idea that spending more equals caring more, so it’s easy to think that way.) You could choose a ring design that’s not super-expensive, but that has personal meaning (as I did). You could choose a plain band, and have a special, meaningful message engraved inside it. Or, if you’re able to spend more and the extra money would buy you something you and/or he care about (maybe he loves the look of a particular antique ring, or loves diamonds) — then go for it.

    Basically, it’s a much more personalized decision, because there’s much less social expectation about what a man’s engagement ring “should” be.

  • http://livinglnf.blogspot.com Jo

    Um, is it a “thing” to get the person proposing to you an engagement gift!? Good lord, I had no idea. Married 3 years and counting…

    • http://teastrumpets.wordpress.com/ kyley

      It’s not a required thing. As we discuss frequently on this site, nothing about weddings are actually required beyond a significant other and a trip to the courthouse. You’re not any less married because you didn’t give your partner a gift, any more than I won’t be less married because I’m skipping the bouquet toss. That being said, it’s important not to judge other people for their wedding-related decisions. There’s enough of that everywhere else; we’re pretty much pro-whatever-you-want-to-do-with-your-engagement/wedding/marriage around here.

    • Liz

      No way! I think it’s actually the reverse. I mostly hear talk of a reciprocal gift when folks are talking about more egalitarian proposals- which I think is probably partially why CASH didn’t feel like she knew where to start.

    • http://ladybrettashley.wordpress.com lady brett

      not a “thing”, i don’t think (i mean, hell, we’re queer and not a soul asked what i got my wife, they all wanted to know what she got me ’cause i’m femme, so obviously i’ve got the fancy ring*).

      but it was important to me to get her a token even though i was not proposing, not so everything would be “fair”, but to emphasize that this is really what i want. as the reluctant partner, i felt it was really important to have something that said “i’ve been thinking the same thing.” with my commitment-phobic history, i felt like just saying yes to her proposal was not sufficient.

      * “fancy ring”: we both got each other cheap rings for the proposal, not knowing what to get the other, but wanting a surprise, and then picked out our long-term engagement rings together. our “expensive” rings were both about $100 and she got *so much flak* from her friends about my simple, cheap, vintage ring which i love with all my love of shiny things (and picked out myself, and wear at all times not containing paint). it even has diamonds, which is way fancier than *we* were expecting me to like.

  • http://teastrumpets.wordpress.com/ kyley

    Here’s the thing about weddings that kills me: Everything is so expensive (in part because the word Wedding is attached, but also because it’s just expensive to throw a huge party). Because everything is so expensive, and the expectation is set that this will just be mad, crazy expensive, my whole sense of finances and what is and isn’t an acceptable amount to spend on things is completely out of whack.

    On the one hand, I’m savings more than I’ve ever saved before (preparing, of course, to write some huge checks in 2 months). On the other hand, I find myself thinking, “Oh, this is only $100? That’s totally reasonable.” when it’s actually not reasonable and is actually kind of expensive! The worst part is that I’m doing this about non-weddings things, too. I feel like my brain is being reprogrammed to looove spending money and just be all about capitalism.

    Dear LW, please resist! (I realize I might also be projecting, in which case carry on.) There is no amount that you should or shouldn’t spend. You have to decide, going into it, that you’re going to resist the “spend, spend, spend” narrative because it’s coming for you anyway, and if you’re defenses are down you might spend more than you meant to because you thought you had to.

    • rowany

      I totally agree. People’s spending habits are most susceptible to change during major life upheavals, ie weddings, bebes and funerals, and I think there is major brainpower at retailer and ad companies to capitalize on that. Using an adblocker helps!

    • Copper

      I’m trying to tell myself that after the wedding is over I’ll keep saving just as much, but for more fiscally responsible purposes.

      Maybe if I repeat it often enough it’ll come true.

    • http://brusselsproutblog.blogspot.com/ Cassandra

      I COMPLETELY agree about the ‘brain being reprogrammed to loooove spending money” in other areas! Once I started spending money on the wedding, it was like it bled over into other aspects of my life where I’m normally super frugal. I’m so (sorta) glad to know it’s not just me!

  • Stephanie

    We spent just over $600 on my ring (handmade and Eco friendly woo) and he got a watch of just about the same price!! He requested no ring since he’ll get a wedding ring someday and a watch seemed comparable.

  • Casey

    My man wanted to spend 2 months salary and put a ton of bling on me. He makes a LOT, and doesn’t particularly like jewelry, so there was no way I was going to reciprocate! (And I didn’t let him actually spend that much).

    We looked at how much I had saved up for the wedding, added how much my parents were going to contribute, and used that as a ballpark figure (so we’re both contributing about equal amounts of money to this PROCESS). He thinks it’s frivolous to spend money on a party, so I’m helping him out along those lines (along with my parents) and he doesn’t have to contribute a cent to the actual wedding.

    I’m using part of the wedding budget to get him a nice gift he can keep forever, and he requested a $150 titanium wedding band, so he does get a little bling out of this, but I guess we’re more traditional on this one – and that’s OK, it’s what felt right to US.

  • Emily

    We agreed that I would propose to DD, as he was ready to get engaged before I was. So when I proposed, he knew it was coming, but was a lot sooner than he thought, and hence still a surprise. I wanted to get a symbol of our engagement for him to wear, so I bought him a watch.

    It was hard to know how much to spend, because I knew it wouldn’t be as much as the engagement ring that I would get (not logical I know, just how it was going to be). So I had a budget of $500 (Aus $), but ended up spending $350 because that is the one I liked.

    DD likes to show off his engagement watch, but I also know that its ok if he doesn’t wear it everyday.

    In terms of price disparity between his watch and my ring, I have just made a point to pay for more of the wedding costs.

  • Blimunda

    I’ve been thinking about engagement/commitment symbols, even if we’re not (yet) planning to get married. I’m not proposing, but I’ve been thinking to get him a special gift for his upcoming birthday (milestone birthday).
    I had thought about getting him a bracelet with the engraving “as a seal on your arm”, and when I’ll have a ring engrave in it “as a seal on your heart”.
    I’ve asked and he wouldn’t wear a bracelet. or a ring. or a necklace. He will only wear his wedding band when the time comes.
    I was so proud of this idea! I’m writing it here hoping someone will steal it.

  • Lia

    For my engagement ring, I think we got the best of both worlds – my fiance planned a complete surprise proposal, but used a novelty ring (with a white rabbit on it, because the whole thing was Alice-In-Wonderland themed, which was beyond amazing) – then we discussed his budget for the real ring and went shopping so that we could choose it together.
    I asked him whether I could buy him something in return, as I felt awkward about being the only one who got an awesome piece of jewellery out of the deal, but he really didn’t want anything, so we settled on saving up for the wedding and honeymoon together instead. Turns out if you just ask, it’s easier to work things out together sometimes!

  • Gabe

    My partner and I are both men, but we first talked about the aesthetics of our engagement rings, agreed we liked silver with inlays, and ended up designing and ordering our own rings from a great jeweler. Mine has lapis, sugilite and very bright, greenish opals; his has spiderweb turquoise, sugilite, and a darker opal. We’re complimented on them a lot, and they cost us about $650 total. We’re both low-income, so we had some conversations about what we could reasonably afford, knew that the upper limit was around $700, and were happy that semi-precious stones lowered the cost significantly without looking cheap. Because the inlaid stones aren’t super-durable, we’ll be switching to gold bands at the 1st anniversary of our wedding – when we’ve financially recovered, a bit. :)

    We wanted a visible sign of our commitment to each other, as it’s also important to us that we are “read” as in a serious relationship – there’s this idea out there that gay relationships don’t have a lot of intentionality in them, that they’re flings or dalliances that just stretch on sometimes.

  • Holly

    When thinking of the gift, look at his current wardrobe. If he wears a watch, necklace, any kind of man jewelry, then he might like a ring. My FH is not an accessory kind of guy. I will be surprised if he actually ends up wearing his wedding ring. On the weekends it’s usually t-shirt and shorts (or less). But at work he has to wear suits and ties. I got him a watch for xmas and he doesn’t wear it that often. I did buy him a tie clip for one of our first anniversaries (we did months until we hit a year – as if our relationship was an infant we needed to care for), on the front it has his initials and on the back it says something very personal. No one else can see it. He adores that. I have considered cuff links, but like the watch, they won’t be worn, even if I got him locket ones.

    On that same note, you could take a cue from my mom and look at his hobbies. (I am doing something similar for my wedding present to my FH.) My dad is also not an accessories kind of guy. He works with his hands every day, at work and at home. He doesn’t even wear his wedding ring (in fact, I have it). So, for his wedding present my mom got my dad a Gibson acoustic guitar. He loves that guitar so much. No one is allowed to touch it unless they want to get their hand back missing a finger. He takes it with him to family gatherings, and on vacation. He’s made up songs with me and my siblings using it. He’s even posted songs on youtube so my son (his only grandchild) could watch them (we live several states away). That guitar has had more use and more love than any watch or other gift would have. It was, IMO, the best kind of gift: one that is well used, well loved, with an added bonus of wonderful memories.

  • phira

    My partner and I are planning on getting engaged this fall. We’re each going to buy each other a ring between $200 and $500, so that I don’t end up getting him a cheap titanium one for $50 and he doesn’t feel pressured to buy me an expensive ring for $1000+++. Since we’re planning to just wear wedding rings after the wedding (engagement rings would thereafter be for special occasions only), they don’t have to be of the HIGHEST quality and be absolutely perfect.

    We’ve been communicating with each other a lot on ring styles and must-haves and deal-breakers, and next month, we’re going to each pick a bunch of rings we’d be HAPPY to wear, and a bunch that we like but aren’t perfect as-is. For example, I’m in love with a white gold sapphire ring from an etsy shop, but it’s the wrong color sapphire and it’s out of our price range.

    Right now, I’m struggling with differences in taste. He likes titanium rings with blue-colored engravings, which I think look cheap (and these rings are actually below our minimum anyway), and I love modern, sleek bezel-set gems, and he thinks they are boring. The search for the right rings continues!

    (This is all made funnier to me because we’re both in love with plain matte-finish white gold wedding bands. So the rings we’ll actually be wearing for the rest of our lives will be the super easy, inexpensive ones.)

  • http://brusselsproutblog.blogspot.com/ Cassandra

    Agreed with all the previous sentiments– it’s really a very personal decision. Fuck expectations! It doesn’t matter if your auntie’s best friend’s dog is comfortable with what you spent on your man. Auntie’s best friend’s dog doesn’t have to dwell within your relationship on a day-in-day-out basis.

    My husband didn’t receive or want an engagement ring, and he doesn’t have the wedding ring that he wants, either. He claims to not have opinions on things, but once I draw him out it turns out that his opinions are highly specific and deeply held… and what he wants just doesn’t exist. So I got him a cheap, durable ring ($40 on Etsy, heck yes!) that will last until I can have his ring custom created in a few years. (Due to circumstances, the ring that I put on his finger at the wedding is not even the ring he ended up with!)

    As for my wedding ring? Didn’t get a new one. I’m still wearing the ring he proposed to me with (twice–or was it three times?). While I would be perfectly happy with a stainless steel and garnet number, or even a silver and moonstone/labradorite ring, it is very, very important for him to be able to fabricate a custom ring that he has been designing for a number of years. It’s completely custom, and will probably be expensive… especially since he wants a big, fat, sparkly diamond right in the middle. I’ve never been a fan of diamonds, but because it’s so important to him I will wear it when he makes it for me. It’s going to be a few years, but I’ll wait.. And while I would NEVER spend as much on his ring as he is going to spend on mine, that’s fine for both of us. We’re comfortable and happy with our decisions, and that’s all that matters. Really.

  • Kara E

    My husband did not want an engagement gift. His gift was, apparently, my “yes.” Even though he knew he would get it. He spent about 3x as much as I thought he would/should (like, I’m embarrassed to say how much), but it was money he had earmarked for it and isn’t out of line with what he makes. I’m a pretty down to earth person and it embarrasses me how much I love my (simple, but ungodly expensive) ring because it’s beautiful and because of what it represents. My wedding band is very simple, but because it’s platinum, was also pretty pricy. I had no idea how much more platinum costs, but I’m pretty hard on stuff (and am allergic to nickel), so I’m glad we went that way.

  • HyeKeen

    My husband is from Armenia and I was living there (post-Peace Corps) when we moved in together. His parents gave me a ring – that was a symbol of us being engaged (a ring I don’t currently wear). We got married in Armenia and then moved to the US about six months later.

    In the US we shopped around for our rings – we wanted matching rings of some sort, either with stones or not, we were just looking for something that we both liked. I’d gotten the idea of matching rings from my Dad and Step-mom. I really like the symbolism in the idea – that the rings which match are a symbol of our marriage, coming together and forming our own family unit and having this new symbol of that.

    We spent about $1500-$1800 on both if I remember right. My hubby wears his just about 24/7 while I wear mine while awake – it seems to bother me if I sleep with it on.

  • AVA

    6 days ago I asked my partner to marry me. He said yes.

    I never thought we’d get engaged, because I don’t think marriage is a relevant concept (for us at least).
    He knew this, and had come to terms with it over a number of years, despite being (in all honesty) a bit disappointed (I think).

    But then one day, overwhelmed with love for him, I realised that I wanted to make him happy.
    And getting married would make him happy, and having him be happy would make me happy.
    So, to cut a long story short, I trawled the internets for a ring for a long while, without a budget in mind.
    I found one (on Etsy) that was so very him, and the price didn’t matter at all.
    I knew he would love it, and he did. And it looks great on him (and secretly I’m kind of chuffed to have marked my territory – so to speak).

    Anyway, really I was writing this comment because I only recently started reading APW after googling “women proposing to men” or something, and finding this (which was awesome):
    http://apracticalwedding.com/2010/04/women-proposing-tomen/

    So thanks APW.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      Congrats! And welcome!

  • http://www.knoxjewelers.biz/uniqueengagementrings.htm Jason

    You gotta feel sorry for guys nowadays! Debeers and the whole two months salary on an engagement ring is quite a marketing ploy that makes some guys question how much they should spend. Here’s my advice (I’m in the industry), spend what you can and never borrow for it! You’ll spend enough on your wedding.