It’s rare to get a do-over on any part of wedding planning. Instead, we make the best choices we can in the moment, move on, and live with them. Je ne regrette rein (or as close as you can get). Unless you get your engagement ring stolen.
Last fall, I came home from dropping the baby off at school, walked through the door, and immediately knew something was wrong. Drawers were open that shouldn’t be (even with a somewhat-mobile baby). Everything felt wrong. I ran out of the house, pulled the car out of the driveway, and made emergency calls. Then I sat there and waited, and cried about my engagement ring. Without even walking all the way into the house, I knew it was gone.
I’d had an on-again-off-again relationship with wearing my engagement ring, quite literally. I took it off the day after we got married because I realized that wearing it screamed “married” in a way I wasn’t comfortable with. Plus, being engaged had been difficult, and I was ready for a new phase in my life. A little over a year later I put it on for my first professional speaking engagement and I wore it till my fingers swelled enough during pregnancy that I couldn’t keep it on. Shortly before the break in, I’d started wearing it again, only to have it scratch the baby’s face repeatedly, and make him cry. So off again. I kept meaning to hide it, put it somewhere safe. But I was overwhelmed with a kid and very little sleep, and I’d never managed to actually act on that impulse. So it was sitting there, in a jewelry box, on my dresser, when we got robbed. Of course it was gone.
I was devastated. No matter how I felt about the ring itself, it was the artifact of that moment that we’d decided to build a life together forever. In the middle of a really hard year, the fact that it was gone was too much. I pretended I was mostly fine, but more than once I woke up in the middle of the night after dreaming I had the ring back, crying.
shine bright like a diamond
This month, after a fair amount of foot dragging (on my part) we finally received our reimbursement from our insurance company for the ring, and we started shopping for a new one. I’d forgotten how hard it was. Here is what we learned:
We didn’t know much. I always joke that the time that we’re least qualified to choose a college is when we choose a college. (At eighteen? Please. I was barely qualified to choose an outfit.) It turned out, for us, picking engagement rings was about the same. We were in the middle of making an emotional decision to get hitched, and walking into a store and finding a ring was one of the moments that sealed the sentimental deal. That means we hadn’t done a ton of research, and the scales were slightly tilted toward what David liked. I’d been very clear that under no circumstances did he get to pick a ring (I thought) I’d wear for the rest of my life without consulting me. But since he was the one deciding he was ready to get hitched (I was ready a year before he was) he ended up more in the driver’s seat than either of us realized at the time.
Timeless is a waste of time. When picking an engagement ring the first time around, I thought that the best way to stay happy with this piece of jewelry for a long time was to go timeless. Translation: I played it safe. Turns out, the best way to stay happy with a ring for a long time is to pick something that matches your taste, and my taste is pretty quirky. While this seems obvious in retrospect, it was the least obvious thing ever at the time.
Our tastes are different, but they both matter. Because the first decision was made quickly and emotionally, we didn’t spend tons of time discussing who liked what. This time around, I already had an indie engagement ring Pinterest board running (hazard of the job), so the first thing we did was sit down and pick our favorites. There was… almost no overlap. David liked semi-traditional, I liked straight up indie. David liked dainty and simple, I liked dainty and slammin’. I was not buying this ring for me, we were buying this ring for us, so we had to work it out.
Finding middle ground is good for your relationship. Last time around, I’d given in to David’s preferences (for good reasons, including that I loved him). Unfortunately, good intentions don’t always lead to the best choices, and we ended up with a ring that David loved in practice, I loved in theory. As a result, I didn’t wear it very much. This time around we faced up to the fact that the difference in our jewelry tastes is actually pretty representative in the differences in our personalities. David’s a semi-traditional person with a semi-traditional job (ex-theatre professional, non-corporate lawyer). I’m a reasonably non-traditional person within societally recognized boundaries (I work a full-time, high-stress job… running an indie company). We have to find the overlap in our personal lives, and we had to find the overlap in our ring search too.
Research. Or just go somewhere super reputable. Last time around, we stumbled across the rings in an antique shop. It made for a great story, but it also meant that we didn’t know exactly what we were getting. Right around the time we got the first rings, I found a bad review of the antique shop’s practices online. David said it didn’t matter since I liked the ring, but I spent the ensuing six years wondering if my rings were fakes, and also wondering if I even wanted to know. After this ring search I can say that I don’t think they were fakes, but I do think we overpaid. Upside: our lack of knowledge six years ago ended up resulting in a much nicer ring for almost the same amount of money. We didn’t set up to get a fancier ring this time, but sometimes the universe works in weird ways.
It’s just a symbol. Last time around I spilled a lot of ink on All The Things To Think About When You’re Meg And Trying To Pick The Right Ring. When it disappeared, I realized I didn’t give a shit about the ring we’d picked, I missed the symbol of the time we decided to spend our lives together. This time around I would have gotten a sparkly piece of glass (David did not agree; see more traditional), because I realized what we were really doing was marking this moment in time.
MaximizE The (Diamond) Sparkle. Last time, I got a small ring because we couldn’t afford a big reasonably high quality diamond (I mean, hello) and intentionally getting a big really low quality diamond seemed… not sparkly? In the intervening years, I learned that if you want a lot of sparkle but can’t afford a big diamond, you should look for a ring with a lot of little diamonds all jammed together. Even as more established adults, we still couldn’t responsibly afford a 1.5 carat diamond. It turns out that we could afford 1.5 carats of diamond (which I joke sounds the same if you say it fast). The best part of that for me is that a lot of small diamonds has a low profile, which means it won’t catch on things, like the baby’s face.
I still care what other people think. One of the more difficult things the last time around was finding a way to reconcile all of my selves. I’m someone who’s never exactly fit in with one group, in one place. I grew up as a bit of a fish out of water in an educated family without a lot of money in a city that was mostly pretty desperately poor. Then I went on to a really good school with a bunch of kids who’d grown up fancy. I never quite got away from the fancy; I never quite fit in (there or at home). Engagement rings are powerful symbols, which is tricky if you’re a person who’s spent her life trying to pass in more than one environment. Too small is problematic in one place, too big is problematic in another, the fact that it matters to people makes you uncomfortable always. I still haven’t gotten a handle on any of that. Last time, I went inconspicuous. This time I went quirky, to make it harder to translate. Maybe one day I won’t care. Maybe I always will.
Be Nice To Yourself. All those rings David didn’t like? I’ve decided that I might buy one or two for myself, one of these days. Just like your wedding is not really the last fancy party you get to throw (if you like parties), your engagement ring is not the last fancy ring you get to buy (if you like rings). Because David and I don’t have the same taste in everything, I’ve learned it’s important to carve out space just for me. I found a couple of rings with my name on them; now I just need to find something to celebrate.
Make sure your ring is insured. Add a rider to your renters insurance. I mean, thank God, right?
Putting a ring on it (again)
We looked at traditional solitaires with black diamonds, to try to bridge our differences. We looked at teensy and quirky. We ruled out big and morganite (sadly). We ruled out vintage and more traditional. We ruled out vintage with a non-diamond stone. We almost bought a bunch of small diamonds artfully designed. In the end, the ring found us. Vintage, just like the last one. Diamond, to keep David happy. A Victorian dinner ring, not actually an engagement ring. Exactly my taste. And slammin’.
It’s been a hard year. New baby, new stressful job, serious family illness, not a lot of time to invest in our marriage. So maybe it was a blessing that six years later, we had to decide to slip a ring on, again.