Authenticity and Engagement and Wedding Rings

I only wear a wedding ring. It’s a choice I never thought I’d make, given how much I struggled with finding an engagement ring that felt right for me. But, the day after my wedding, I took off my engagement ring and never looked back. Being engaged was tough for me, and I really grappled with the feeling of being public property, the fact that when people noticed my diamond solitaire, they felt empowered to boss me around. So I didn’t want to wear it anymore. I didn’t want to signal to the world in neon lights, with the classic diamond solitaire and wedding band combination, that I was a wife. I wasn’t sure I wanted to fit the mold of wife, I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with people’s immediate assumptions when they saw my hand. I liked the gender neutrality and subtlety that my small wedding band(s) offered. I never in a million years would have expected this for myself, but here I am. A simple wedding band wearer (I don’t have any great pictures of my wedding band, but you can see it on my hand at the seashore in Italy, if you look closely).

So when Adrianne of Turtle Love Co. (an APW sponsor, but this is in no way a sponsored post) emailed me to ask if she could write about just wearing a wedding band, and what she’d learned over the last ten years of doing that, I lept at the opportunity. Before we get started, I want to mention something Adrianne refers to, what I’ll call the Diamond Olympics. Adrianne worked for a long time in Big Corporate Life, something I’ve done through all of my engagement and marriage. In the world of big firms, there exists a culture of diamond comparison. Who has what ring? How big is it? How much was spent on her? It’s insidious and painful (one more instance of women judging each other and tearing each other down), but it’s true. So, I want you to know that when Adrianne refers to that, neither she nor I is judging those of us with diamond engagement rings, big or small. She’s talking about how tough it is to come to terms with said Diamond Olympics, and what coming to terms with that can teach you. And with that, I give you Adrianne:

My wedding band came from Sears, Roebuck. It’s as plain as you can get, and my husband’s is almost identical. It cost $50 (back in 1999, when gold wasn’t $1200 an ounce). I still have the white faux-leather box that it came in.

I didn’t have an engagement ring—that wasn’t our style. And I’d been engaged before, and worn a small-ish diamond solitaire that scratched people left and right. I don’t remember explicitly discussing the engagement ring thing, simply because an engagement ring was so obviously strange in the context of our relationship, but I wouldn’t have wanted to go back to engagement ring land anyway—I was moving ahead. So we got married, I went to law school, and then plunged into the big-city, large-firm legal environment that’s fodder for best-selling books and television series. I was surrounded by (apparently) Fancy People. And their Fancy Stuff.

All the women wore significant diamonds with their usual variations in size and shape and setting. Some people might have felt self-conscious without the requisite engagement ring, but I loved my simple wedding band. It was one thing I didn’t have to worry about in the stress of trying to find my way in this new group and new work environment. I was wearing the same band as all the men, and not competing or comparing with any of the women. And it made me feel confident. It reminded me: I’m still regular old me, proletarian at heart, even though I’m working on insanely large deals and eating fancy foods and bustling about in a lawyer costume.

Several years later, at a different firm, I had a conversation with a colleague who wasn’t wearing her (very, very large) diamond engagement ring. She told me that the center diamond had broken (yup, that’s right!) when she hit it on her bathroom counter while brushing her hair, and while the (insured) diamond was being replaced, she was actually enjoying not wearing it. She liked the simplicity and ease of the plain wedding band. I was mind boggled. This friend of mine, who had by far the largest diamond of anyone I’d ever seen, didn’t seem to value her achievement in the Unspoken Engagement Ring Competition.

I started looking into this—I knew plenty of people who didn’t have engagement rings, or who didn’t have diamond engagement rings, but there didn’t seem to be much public discourse about it. Before I knew it, I was sucked into this topic and had started an online retailer focused on artisan bridal jewelry. (Don’t get me wrong, I’d actually spent lots of time thinking about this over the course of my life—Anne of Green Gables and her disappointment that diamonds weren’t purple was an early influence, and there were many more, plus the fact that I majored in Women’s Studies.)

At different points over the course of the last thirteen years or so, you could ask me about this topic and hear me rail about DeBeers and diamond marketing, or about blood diamonds, or engagement rings as bride prices. All of those things are still major issues. But when it turned out that most of our customers wanted to purchase engagement rings that featured white or clear stones, or colored stones in simple solitaire settings, it finally dawned on me that an engagement ring is a social signifier. It tells people, without having to speak, about your social status. You’re taken. This is how you roll. This is what you wear. And the things that we wear have a lot of functionality in our society—they help us sort out the types of people that we’re looking for. Each of us, even when we think we’re not, picks clothing that says something about ourselves and our group membership to others. It also means something to us.

So if your engagement ring is so unusual that it’s not recognizable as an engagement ring (like if it’s invisible, or if it’s actually an engagement necklace, or if it kind of looks like a mood ring), you’ll have to explain this with some frequency (at least until you get a wedding band, if you do). Not so with a diamond solitaire, or something similar enough to a diamond solitaire. Everybody gets it. They can tell what’s going on.

So I get it now, too. People wear engagement rings as social signifiers—they mean something to the person who wears the ring, to the person who presented the ring, and to the people who see the ring. We crave that sort of efficiency and order.

Now my goal is to help people make meaningful and authentic choices about their engagement and wedding rings. Those rings are telling us and others who we are and who we want to be. And if we can make authentic choices about these signifiers at the beginning of a marriage, we’ve got a leg up on taking authentic roles and promoting gender equity in that relationship over the long haul.

That’s really exciting.

So if you really want a big diamond, go for it. Obviously, there are ethical and environmental considerations (and probably financial ones), but there’s lots of guidance out there about those topics.

And if you want something else, do that. Just make the choice authentic—about you and your relationship. Don’t do it because that’s what the guy at Zales told you are the guidelines; do it because that’s what you really want. And, shockingly enough, you can change your mind. You can decide in five years (or five months) that the ring that once made sense for you and your relationship doesn’t quite say what you want it to anymore. Maybe you go bigger, maybe you go smaller, maybe you take it off altogether because it’s not important anymore.

And don’t be too harsh on other people. You might wish that more people had the same tastes and values as you do. But somebody who wants something that you don’t is helping you (directly or indirectly) to define and challenge your tastes and opinions, and helping you find the community that will best support you.

As for me, I’m still wearing my Sears ring. Sometimes, I’m tempted by some of the (amazing) pieces that we sell. Sometimes people tell me that I really should wear a more interesting ring to promote my company. Sometimes, I do. But I always go back to the Sears ring. There’s something about it that’s just right for me.

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  • Jessica

    What a great post! My engagement ring is not the traditional solitaire, though it’s more traditional than others– it’s a diamond three-stone style that’s usually used for anniversaries and the like. When he bought it for me, my now-husband decided it was “the one” because he thought it was prettier and more unique than all the others. I love the idea that my engagement ring doesn’t look like anyone else’s.

  • Rose in SA

    I’m kind of fascinated by your story of not wearing your engagement ring, Meg. Mostly because that feels so foreign to me. My engagement ring is without doubt my most precious possession (I’m actually feeling a bit weepy now thinking about the love that went into it and the proposal, and everything). I love having this treasured thing close to me all the time; I almost never take it off despite the sometimes impractical hard, scratchiness of it.

    I work in the centre of town in Johannesburg – an area with a bit of a crime reputation – and one of my colleagues once remarked that she couldn’t believe I would wear my ring to work, but for me there is no other option. I think of it as part of how I look – along with my watch and contact lenses.

    And I completely agree with Adrianne on the social signifier thing. I know that I ALWAYS look at my colleagues left hands to get an initial reading on their life situation. But maybe that’s just because I’m nosy, and fascinated by just how many types of rings there are out there.

    • Liz

      i think that’s a piece of it for me, rose. my engagement ring is so extremely precious to me- it’s become very personal, i guess. and by wearing it, people always notice it (my husband was very… generous) and talk about it. and it feels oddly personal to show it off publicly. which is the opposite of how i felt during engagement (i used my left hand for EVERYTHING)

      • Rose in SA

        Weirdly, I found when I was engaged random strangers (eg. cashier in grocery store) would often comment on my ring. Once I was married it suddenly stopped. I now get a comment maybe twice a year. Clearly I was subconsciously projecting some big flashing arrow over my left hand when I was engaged :)

        • Carbon Girl

          That happened to me too! And my wedding band is tiny, like you have to look to really notice it.

      • I agree, Liz. While I certainly think an engagement ring/wedding band is a useful social signifier tool and that this post makes a lot of good related points, I never really thought of it that way until now. To me, it was always just a really nice present – I mean, the man knew I was going to marry him, there was no need to impress – but he put a lot of thought into the design and style, trying to figure out what I would like to wear (which was a lot of pressure, especially considering I very rarely wore any jewelry at all). He landed on something perfect – classic white diamond in a unique but simple setting – which just felt so… me (my mom, who knows me better than I know myself sometimes, agreed). And that’s why I still wear it, because I can look down and think about his thoughtfulness. Don’t get me wrong – I adore my wedding band (picked it out myself!), but it just doesn’t have the same effect.

        With that in mind, I am also totally appalled by the very existence of engagement ring competitions. No outsider can ever know what went into that piece of jewelry and no comparisons should ever be made. Your partner went to the trouble of trying to find something you love, and that’s beautiful, no matter the size, shape, style, etc.

    • meg

      I love my engagement ring too…. I just think it’s no one else’s business, I think. Besides I love my wedding band(s) WAYYYYYY more.

      • C

        That’s one of the reasons I didn’t want an engagement ring – lots of people I know don’t wear theirs, and I figured the wedding ring would be much more important. My fiance bought me another gift instead – an antique cross – and I do love wearing that.

  • I’m the opposite of you, Meg. I have one ring which I have worn since our engagement. It is a dark blue sapphire, so not super traditional “engagement” ring, but definitely not a marriage band.
    Both my husband and I got rings when we got engaged (Danish tradition – he said if I got to get a nice ring then, so did he!) and I love love love my ring. I didn’t want to wear two (I never was a ring-wearer before) and I liked the symbolism of having one ring to represent the promise of commitment made to each other since our engagement and solidified at our wedding.
    I have to answer a lot of questions though, usually from women asking “but where’s your wedding ring?” and I just answer “this is it”. Sometimes I get frustrated having to explain the whole thing but mostly I like having a story to tell, to get to remember why this little piece of jewellery is so special to me.
    Thanks for your interesting thoughts Adrianne – as someone who went a different route, it’s important to be reminded that there is still meaning and significance in the traditional, well-trodden rings path – that’s exactly why the path is so well trodden!

    • Mayweed

      Exactly! I only wear my engagement ring – it’s an antique, and unusual, and I love it. I couldn’t find a wedding band that “matched” and I didn’t want to get one for the sake of it – my engagement ring just felt more significant to me than a wedding band ever could. People do look at me oddly, but I don’t care.

    • I, too, only wear my engagement ring. I’ve been engaged before, and had the “perfect” princess cut diamond ring. It just felt fake (and that engagement didn’t work out). This time around, I wanted something that was really me, and my husband really got it. I wear a green peridot ring, and got tired all during the engagement of hearing “Oh, that’s DIFFERENT” followed immediately by “Is that your birthstone?” It’s not, it’s my favorite color (and this question made me want to ask “Is a diamond your birthstone?” but I’m proud that I didn’t).

      The very best reaction I got to my ring was the day after my engagement, from my male supervisor at work. I told him that I had big news, showed him my ring, and he replied, “Well he sure knows you!”

      After all that, I couldn’t picture a wedding band with it, so I wear it by itself. The only time this was uncomfortable was when I had to take it off before the wedding in order to put it back on during the ceremony!

      • Katie

        I also get the “that’s different, is that your birthstone?” comments from strangers, or people who don’t know me well. I was lucky enough to get to design my engagement ring myself (with my love’s grandmother’s diamonds and my choice of centre stone, aquamarine) and the people who are close to me see it and say “that is so YOU!”

      • Ha! I get the “Is that your birthstone?” question all of the fricken time! Um, no, it’s just my favorite semi-precious stone thankyouverymuch.

        • Laurel

          It’s funny because my ring is also aquamarine, which is my birthstone. We picked it because it came from a mountain 40 miles from where we live. People literally find chunks of aquamarine just hanging out on the surface near the top.

      • Loz

        I have a sapphire and diamond engagement ring, and people ask me ALL THE TIME if it’s my birthstone. It’s not – I just wanted something a little diffierent!

    • I’m with you guys. I have a really traditional solitaire diamond/platinum, and it’s the only ring I wear. One of my coworkers said once “What, you’re just going to look like you’re engaged your whole life?” How do you even respond to that?

      Sometimes, when people ask me where my wedding band is, I’ll say “I already had one nice ring, I didn’t need two. Besides, I was too busy fighting with my husband about whether I would change my name to try to find a wedding ring.” That usually shuts them up :)

      • Wsquared

        “You’re going to look like you’re engaged your whole life?”

        I think the appropriate answer is: “how is that any of your business?”/”*Is* that any of your business?”

        One of the things we’re dealing with here– me included– is that we often feel as though we need to have all the answers when it’s someone else who has the problem. The trick is to train ourselves to question their questions; lob the ball back in their court, so to speak. The trick is to try to not come across as having all of the answers, even if we think we do, and even if we have some pretty good ones.

        The heart of the matter is why this other person doesn’t “get it,” and this is where the emphasis– and the pressure– should be.

    • Jen

      Wow. This is great to hear and perfect timing too! I’m currently engaged and have been looking at wedding bands for the last few months and the whole thing just hasn’t felt ‘right’ to me.

      I, too, have a beautiful blue sapphire that my fiance picked out for me all on his own (with a little help from his grandmother) and I really don’t want to ‘replace’ it with a wedding band. I am so proud of my ring and the relationship it symbolizes that I was thinking that getting another one didn’t make sense for me (I also never wore many rings before, so that might be part of it). However, so many people have been commenting about getting a wedding ring to me and what type (I’ve been mentioning to people that we were thinking about getting inexpensive, but nice rings because both of us are not really ring people and I’ve got a lot of ‘You can’t do that! Those rings are so important!’) that I’ve been afraid to mention that I don’t even want to get an official ‘wedding band’. I, too, thought that to keep the same ring for our marriage was honoring the commitment we made when he proposed and I said yes.

      Your decision have given me the confidence to go with my heart and do what I feel is best for me. Thanks! (Is it a Danish tradition to keep the engagement ring as the wedding ring? I’m part Danish and have never heard of it, but it would be great to honor part of my heritage at the ceremony!)

      • Morgan

        My engagement ring is (basically, see post below) a family ring, and it’s large and expensive. My wedding band? Cost a couple of hundred dollars at the mall. I love them both. The cost of the ring matters not at all. (If you decide you *want* to wear one.)

        • Jen

          Completely agree…its not the cost, but the meaning and commitment behind the ring that matters. I was so surprised by those comments, I was at a loss for words.

          Just met the fiance for lunch and got the courage to finally mention that I didn’t really want a wedding band. Go figure, not only did he tell me that the wedding band is the one traditional thing that matters to him, but he even wants to get matching ones! (plain white gold bands) So now that I know it really means something to him, a band will have true meaning to me too. Never say never, right?

          Morgan – the story behind your ring is BEAUTIFUL!

    • I have a sapphire ring that is my wedding band also! I just love sapphires, and I love that my fiance knew that about me and didn’t get me a traditional diamond.

  • I live in a country where engagement diamonds are basically never used. Instead the women wear a silver ring on their right “ring” finger. I was really disappointed about this as I inherited a beautiful diamond ring from my mother. It took me a really long time to “feel” like I was engaged without the diamond. It seems really silly now. I’m proud of my little silver ring now. And I think I’ll be a bit sad to retire it on my wedding day… I plan on wearing the diamond ring on my wedding day but I already know that in the future I’ll probably wear nothing but a wedding band. I wore the diamond ring when I was home in the US a few months ago and I felt like a silly little girl playing dress up. I felt like a fraud. It just wasn’t me.

    • This is really interesting. What country do you live in, out of curiosity? :)

  • Mattingly

    What a lovely and thought provoking post! I do have a diamond, and it’s sort of a solitaire, but in some ways I think you’ve captured a lot of how I feel about the whole idea of diamond rings… See, I’d always figured I wouldn’t have a diamond at all because whoever I was going to marry would be ‘sensible, down to earth, and probably poor.’ I know right? I was a strange child… But any way, along comes the perfect man, who proposes, and perfectly for me, with no ring because he wants me to help pick it out. I was all ‘Great! I can get something simple and exactly what I want!’ And then he pulls out of his pocket this huge gold ring with an inset diamond that’s been given to him by his grandfather, and says ‘he gave me this to have melted down into an engagement ring for you.’ And I was undone. Not by unhappiness at all (!) but from awe at the lovely gift of his family to us. So now I do have a diamond, and it’s much larger than anything we could have afforded by far, but instead of meaning ‘bling/social status’ to me I see family love now. Plus since we got it set in a white gold band with large celtic knots leading up to the stone, it feels less mainstream and more me anyway, and I get to tell a really sweet story on top of it.

    But I have seriously considered moving to just a simple band since this stone and setting are so large…Thanks for the food for thought!

    • Morgan

      My engagement ring belong to my husband’s beloved godmother, and she gave him the ring a few years before she died of cancer, “for his future bride”. It’s… large. The kind of large I’d never have imagined wearing, but with a loving gift like that? How can you not love it?

      • Yup. My diamond came from his mother, as a sort of “Welcome to the family” gesture. Her tastes are waaaay more extravagant than mine, but how do you say no to that kind of love? (Answer: you don’t.)

        • My engagement ring has the diamond from my husband’s grandmother’s ring. She died rather suddenly shortly before we got engaged, and his mom gave it to him and said she would have wanted me to have it. It’s not a perfect diamond (or so a jeweler told me), but it’s perfect for me.

          When we got married, I didn’t change rings. It’s already thick band with the stone set inside, we couldn’t afford much, I couldn’t find anything else I really liked, and there were plenty of other things to stress about going into the wedding day. I might change my mind somewhere down the road, but for now– I’m happy.

  • Liz

    i made the same surprising choice. i absolutely love my engagement ring, and i wear it when it’s a special evening for us. but otherwise, i wear my $44 silver band by itself.

    • Liz, we have silver wedding bands too! :)

  • Emilymn

    This really made me think about the decisions I’ve made in regards to my rings. I have never really explained to anyone, or thought really hard about my decisions, but they do reflect my personal values. I choose a vintage engagement ring for the sake of ethical and environmental purposes and was very pleased with it. I am choosing not to continue wearing it after I am married in a month because it is so old (engraved inside is the date May 6, 1883 with a primrose and the name Henry), because it scratches my friends and family, and because I just like the visual style (maybe the gender neutrality) of a simple band.

    Something not mentioned here is how the diamond is supposed to represent the wealth of the man. My fiance definitely did not like the “two months salary” rule of thumb. (He’s a grad student so his income is really non-existent). I wonder how purchasing an engagement ring makes a man feel in general. Do they talk to their friends about it? Do they look at their friend’s girlfriend’s rings and feel inferior? Maybe not to the extent that women do, but it is an irritating materialistic measure of wealth. My fiance’s brother got engaged this past weekend to his girlfriend with a much larger ring than mine and while I am still beaming with pride over my antique I wonder if a part of him felt insecure compared to his brother’s large diamond purchase.

    • Brilliant point, emilymn! That two months salary shit floors me every time I hear it. I literally cannot imagine how anyone even mentions a standard like that! Awesome if the rin-o’-your-dreams costs the equivalent of one or two or five months salary. I understand that once upon a time it afforded some financial protection to the woman/couple, but jeepers (!!!), now? Still?!

    • Aine

      That always bugged me, and I remember my mom saying “Its not a status symbol. Its a promise to you, to show you that he has a job and is willing to support you- even if its not an expensive ring.” And then she told me about the Italian tradition that the girl (or her family) gets the guy a diamond, too. Maybe not a ring, probably cufflinks or a fancy tie-pin or something, but there’s a reciprocity there that I liked.

      • I love the idea of reciprocity, especially because my husband is Italian! I talked to him about getting him a fancy watch or something for the engagement, and he reminded me of his already fancy watch with a broken wristband. And I promptly said we could go out and get it fixed… and we still haven’t. It’s an errand we need to do together (we need to add a link, but we need to make sure it fits, etc etc), and we just haven’t remembered. Maybe next February when I go in to get my rings cleaned & replated. :)

        • Aine

          I had a hard time coming up with the gift for my FH- he proposed last Christmas when I was over in Ireland celebrating wtih him and his family, and I’d gotten him a cool fancy watch without knowing the proposal was coming, so I couldn’t get him an ‘engagement watch’ like i’d wanted to. So I spent months trying to come up with something, finally asked him how he’d feel about a ring;, and he said he loved the idea; I found a gorgeous (and manly) Claddagh ring on etsy and I’m going to give it to him this Christmas, which he’s spending in NY with my family. It doesn’t have astone, but its decorated enough to be a little different from an obvious wedding band.

          He said once we are married, he’ll wear his wedding ring on his finger, and the Claddagh on a chain around his neck, “like a hobbit”. He’s 6’5″ so its kind of a funny picture…

    • Liz

      i’ve tried to rationalize the 2-months-salary bit in my own little head. my husband didn’t spend two months salary on me, but i know that he would have if he could have (and in my opinion, he spent way too much- in his, he wishes he had spent more) so i guess i can understand finding a man who would WANT to invest that kind of cash into your commitment. but um. that’s about as far as i can rationalize that standard.

      and i come from parents who didn’t have an engagement ring. so there’s that.

      • Whenever my husband talks about how much my ring cost (an amount he felt comfortable with, but which I will never know), he tells me that I’m wearing his motorcycle. The world’s slowest moving motorcycle… It’s hilarious and also speaks to what the commitment means to him.

        • This is the first time I’ve read anything about the cost of a ring that I am actually super jazzed about. That is sweet. Kind of like the story where she sells her hair to buy him a watch chain and he sells his watch to buy her a hair clip.

    • Liz

      and re: how men feel about it. i can only speak on behalf of mine, but he says that he’s supremely proud of that ring because he knows that i know he loves me, but the ring is a demonstration to the world that he does. so for him, size/price mattered to that extent. he just now said, “i wanted it to be the biggest sign of what i was willing to invest in you. it had nothing to do with impressing your girlfriends or comparing to other people.”

      • Exactly. I honestly think my engagement ring is more important to my fiance than it is to me (which isn’t to say it’s not important to me — I love my ring). For someone who has never bought a car less than 10 years old or a house or anything else big, it was the biggest, most significant purchase of his life. Plus, I told him since it was a gift it was entirely up to him to decide what it looked like, as long as he didn’t go into debt to purchase it. It’s not about impressing anyone for him. It’s a symbol of growing up and making a huge commitment, and I love that about him and the ring.

      • My fiance was exactly the same about the ring. I told him that I would gladly wear a ring pop if I had to, but it was really important to him that he bought something of good quality. We got a huge discount on it because the jewelry store was going out of business. As someone who thrives on a good deal, I really wanted to tell my friends about the discount we got, but then he asked me not to, because he wanted its value to be symbolic, like you said, of how much he was willing to invest in me.

    • Aleza

      I’ve thought about this issue before too. My husband and I picked out a ring for me that’s served as both the engagement ring and now the wedding band. It’s a simple gold ring with a moonstone that I love. But I have noticed when we meet someone who’s engaged or married husband will ask me if there ring was nicer than mine, sort of jokingly, but with a hint of true concern. My other friend who is more traditionally than I took the size of her engagement ring as a testament to how much her fiance loved her. She had a rough time for a bit when the ring wasn’t what she expected and seemed to symbolize that he didn’t care enough about her to save more money for a ring. I’d love to hear from some men about this.

    • Krista

      I can sorta answer this one on behalf of my boyfriend. We’re both working part-time minimum wage, so finances are really tight for both of us right now. He’s in the process of saving for a ring, however, it’s not going so well/fast with the financial set backs we’ve had to deal with. I found out that the fact that he’s having difficultly saving up for the ring he thinks I deserve makes him feel inferior. Especially since we’ve had two friend couples get engaged recently, and both their rings have been huge (one guy makes a six figure income, while the other was able to use his grandmother’s giant diamonds to make a new ring). I’d actually be interested in seeing a post from a guy about their feelings regarding engagement rings, saving up, and being judged on their wealth or “value” once the ring has been purchased (because we know it happens).

    • Regarding the price of the ring – I had a woman I work well tell every girl in our office that the ring had to be over $10,000 for the man to be worth it. When a couple of us tried to tell her that it was okay for her to make that decision for herself, but that she shouldn’t for us, she flipped out and said we’d be sorry. That’s just not how I want my marriage to begin, you know?

      • Class of 1980

        Yes, a lot of men do feel the pressure. They just don’t talk about it directly.

        • Some friends of ours got engaged a month or two before we did. We took them out to eat not long after they were engaged. A few weeks later when I told the dude of that duo that my fiance and I had just gotten engaged, dude friend mentioned he noticed my fiance repeatedly checking out his fiance’s ring the night we had dinner together. You’re right, they feel pressure, and they’re taking notes on rings too. Though I don’t think he does it anymore, I think it was mostly on his mind because he’d just purchased my ring.

    • Kashia

      When my fiance and I were getting engaged we talked a lot about the ring. He was all for getting me a big (in my opinion) diamond solitaire. I was all for getting a plain wedding band and no “engagement” ring at all. So after … may discussions… (yeah we’ll go with that) we compromised on a diamond eternity band (so I will only have one ring). He had it made at a local jeweler so that it could be custom engraved too. Before I continue I should tell you that I love the ring. But it was not what I would have picked, and even with the compromise he added more diamonds than we had talked about.

      I asked him about this because we’re both just a few years out of our undergrad and I’m back in school for a grad program so I think we should be saving rather than spending money on bling. He said that for him it was really important that he got me something that would show me (and I think even more so my family) that he could provide a good life for me and was willing to invest in me and our life together. I had a hard time understanding how a guy who was raised in a family where both parents worked and his mother is no shrinking violet by any means still would feel that way. But I think it’s pretty deep in our culture that men need to be able to prove that they can provide.

      As an aside, I also love that people see the ring and assume I’m already married. It saves me from having strangers ask inappropriate questions about the wedding etc. and seems like a wedding ring is even noticed by creepy drunk guys (extra bonus). So yeah I totally get wanting to have something that is an easily culturally recognizable symbol.

    • Morgan

      I was at a work function with a bunch of mainly male engineers and asked about that. (There may have been drinking.) Pretty much all of the men were young and married, and all mentioned that it was tough to buy a ring – cost and size and trying to figure out what she would like… I found it interesting that even such a pragmatic group would have spent so much thought time on it, and be quite willing to talk about the challanges (to someone they’d just met, no less).

    • meg

      I think it depends on the guy. We look at the ring as a joint purchase. We picked it out together, and we bought it with what were technically David’s funds at that moment, but were really our funds (or were about to be). I actually talked David UP in price, because he’d never priced diamond rings. He told me anything over $1,000 for a diamond solitaire would be absurd (this from the kid who’d spend $5,000 on a flat screen TV if he was allowed). I gently suggested that he might want to price diamond rings before making such an announcement ;) We spent more, but not lots more. Which is just as well, since I don’t wear the thing. So for David it was never a status symbol, or something that felt really personal to him (I picked it, after all). But I think that may be unusual.

      • KA

        “I think it depends on the guy.”

        I hope/think so, as this is something I wonder/struggle with. My engagement ring was my grandmother’s diamond anniversary ring, and I love it because it’s beautiful and meaningful. Sometimes I think my fiance feels a little guilty that he didn’t buy anything at all, but most of the time I think he knows it was the right thing for us. I should probably just ask him, haha.

        Surprisingly, after being the big advocate that said all along, “you don’t have to buy anything, we have this already!” I have since struggled with the conventions of the man “proving his ability to provide for you,”/picking something out for you/picking something out together. He’s going to “buy” my wedding band (umm, it’s *our* money anyway), and we’ll pick it out together, so same thing, right?

      • For Eric, as an economist, the entire concept of diamond engagement rings makes him fly into a rage (well, an Eric rage, which compared to a normal person’s rage scale would register at “slightly peeved,” but I digress). The fact that diamonds would be worthless were it not for the fact that a concerted advertising effort by a near-monopoly made them valuable hurts his brain. Obviously although the same concept of holding no intrinsic value can be extended to rings in general, we’ve discussed that it would be important to me to have some kind of signifier of something as hardcore as marriage, and he’s of course on board with that. Maybe it would be more of a problem if I were really into big diamonds, but luckily that’s not an issue for us. But yes, it DEFINITELY depends on the guy.

    • peanut

      My husband and I are both grad students, so the two-month-salary rule would mean homelessness for two months, so we clearly didn’t follow that rule. He moved in with me and my roommate for two months, and we used the money he saved on rent to buy my ring. I LOVE that we both bought it, and that it wasn’t a fairytale magical surprise, and I tell everyone who asks about our engagement that we decided to get married, we casually went on blue nile and picked out something I liked that seemed affordable, broke out the CC, and then paid it off two months later. I have gotten a few comments like “Oh, well, when he starts making money you can trade up” and I answer “why would I want to do that?” Geez.

    • FM

      This was definitely important for my husband, and it surprised me that he cared. I grew up in a place where there weren’t diamond olympics, and he grew up in the heart of that (although I also work in the corporate law world in NYC, the epicenter of the diamond olympics, so it wasn’t like I was oblivious). I have little fingers, so wanted a smallish diamond, but when we were looking at rings together pre-engagement my husband looked sick when I told him I like some of the smallest ones and told me no way. I think he had a minimum acceptable carat in his head that he would have been embarrassed about going under. For him, I think it was both the appearance of it and actually the carat size, because people did ask that. Which was unexpected to me (other than from someone else who is ring-shopping and wants to get a sense of what different sizes look like). I’m not sure if the fact that I work in that world, where he knew my ring would be evaluated, played a part in his feelings?

      Another friend of mine told me that he was concerned his fiance’s friends would think he was “cheap” if he didn’t appear to have spent a certain base amount on her engagement ring, and that was a really big concern of his.

      • meg

        That’s why opting out came up for me. I didn’t want to be evaluated, I didn’t want to play the game, I didn’t want a bigger ring because I like small jewelry, etc. etc. So if you just wear an wedding band (mine has diamonds actually, well, one does and one does not, but both are teeny tiny) or you wear something totally different (a blogger I know has a HUGE and KILLER aquamarine cocktail ring as her engagement ring, which she now wears on her right hand) then you sort of opt out of the conversation. Which you don’t have to do. But I wanted to do. And what your describing is exactly why. If you have no carats… there is no number. Wheee!

        • I have a HUGE and killer aquamarine ring that my mom gave me to wear as my something blue and I LOVE IT. I wear it on my right and my titanium band on the left.

          • I have my mom’s beautiful aquamarine, too. I love that ring.

        • Clare

          I (kind of accidentally*) opted out of the Diamond Olympics by choosing a coloured stone (a sapphire! Yay! And I’ve had more than a few people say “Wow – is that a blue diamond?” which always makes me giggle on the inside). People don’t know the cost of coloured stones so well. The friends I had that got engaged before me all happened to be Of Money, and the rings were huge. My stone (which is larger than I wanted, but finding *the* stone proved harder than I thought, so I wasn’t going to turn it down for that) holds up to theirs, but noone knows how to price it. And instead of “Wow, it’s big!” I get “Wow, it’s beautiful!” (not that diamonds aren’t beautiful too!)

          I love wearing mine because my husband doesn’t really buy me jewellery, or extravagant gifts. For me it was really important to have a really beautiful token, that did have a certain amount of cash tied up in it. I really wanted one special piece of jewellery associated with him. My wedding band, at his insistence and my happy agreement, is just dead plain. I kind of love the symbolism of this flashy engagement ring to announce to the world your happy news, then this quiet, modest wedding band, a sober personal reminder of your vows.

          And he got an engagement ring as well as a wedding band, and wears them both all the time. I take my engagement ring off to sleep, and sometimes forget to put it on in the morning.

    • Alexandra

      A zillion times “Exactly!”
      My fiancé is an artist & musician and I’m the primary breadwinner. He takes care of all the dirty work around the house. ;)
      So, his ‘salary’ for a ring? Not so much. I have an awesome opal ring which was a gift from him for my birthday almost seven years ago [!!!], and a unique knotwork silver ring that he got me just because, also several years ago.
      When we got officially engaged [after knowing for awhile that we planned to spend our lives together], we didn’t have a ring, and I wore placeholders for awhile.
      Turned out we had a modern heirloom that is perfect for me–channel-set sapphires in different colors. I never wanted a diamond and always liked sapphires, and them being like a rainbow is SO me. It isn’t a standard ROYGBIV rainbow, but it’s gorgeous. I love that it is different and doesn’t scratch or snag. :D

  • I love how different our experiences with our rings are! Adrienee, this is an awesome post.

    My engagement ring is made up of five small, imperfect diamonds in a row. It is from the 1900’s (which is just about ok for me from a South African history pov). My wedding band is a ring of small green tourmalines that was made especially for me by a friend. I wear the two together, but they probably look better by themselves. I wear them together because I like the story they tell. I also like that neither of them would qualify me for the diamond olympics. I’ll probably only take the green wedding band travelling. Mainly because it’s hard to replace something that’s over 100 years old.

    • It is really interesting to read about the variety of ring choices. It’s so refreshing to read these very personal choices!

      I also love that I completely opted out of the Diamond Olympics. It wouldn’t have been authentic for me to take part. Instead I have a beautiful asymmetrical ring with a compression set amethyst.

      • meg

        Yeah. I think just wearing the wedding band was part of me refusing to play the diamond olympics game… given that in my surroundings, there was no way to opt out other than not wearing an engagement ring.

        • I live in Québec where most people don’t get married, so most people don’t have engagement rings either. In fact, two weekends ago, we were with francophone friends and my husband actually had to explain the tradition of giving an engagement ring to one of the females in the group. As in….she had NO idea. I was pretty surprised, to say the least.

          So this post is making me realize how much environment and social groups impact a person’s feelings about their ring. I mean, before I moved to Québec, I was in the states planning the wedding ringless, and had to answer those kind of questions a lot, because everyone kept looking at my hand when I mentioned the wedding. Then I moved to Québec and my husband proposed the week of our wedding, and so I have only worn both rings here in Québec and there are no (or few) Engagement Ring Olympics here (at least among francophones). I LOVE wearing both rings, but I wonder if I would feel different if I felt like people were always commenting/judging/etc? Interesting to think about.

          • Olivia

            I moved from Montreal to the US and got engaged down here. So I’ve had a somewhat opposite experience to yours! All of the ring and wedding planning hoopla was very new to me. I wonder sometimes, actually, if I’d have gotten married when I did if I still lived in Montreal. I think that, yes, I would have, but I definitely think being in a place where marriage is much more the norm had some influence on how I approached getting married.

          • Olivia, that must have been a shock! My Québécois now-husband was completely unprepared for all the engagement/wedding culture, and we even had, as my dad says, a “low key, relaxed wedding.”

      • Aine

        I actually found it really helpful that I didn’t pick my ring out myself- we went together to get some ideas, and then he wanted to surprise me with the proposal and the ring. I’m totally uncomfortable having someone buy me smoething fancy when I’m there- I hate saying “I like that really really expensive thing! Get it!” This has even happened when my mother years ago pointed out a pretty opal ring in a store and said “Would you like that for your birthday?” I totally panicked and went on and on about not wanting a ring, I already had birthstone jewelry, etc and talked her out of it. Even though she would hardly have asked if she couldnt aford it.

        So when I get the “Diamond Olympics” questions, I get to, with complete honesty, say “I actually have no idea how much/how many carats/etc. Isn’t it nice and sparkly?”

        • Yup the sparkles. I love me some sparkles.

  • Oh God, the engagement ring. I HATED* wearing mine when I first got engaged because I, too, felt like public property. Mr. J proposed my senior year of college, so I was newly engaged when I began my job hunt. Many of the people I interviewed with had the audacity to bring my marital status into the conversation (one asking if I wasn’t too young to be getting married (!) and another stating that the job was very demanding and that if I had a personal life with my fiance, perhaps this wasn’t the job for me). It was insulting and inappropriate and it taught me a lot about what the jewelery on my left hand was saying about me without my permission. These experiences also prepared me for the inevitable judgment that would befall me throughout the wedding planning process (such as: if you are engaged/married, you clearly won’t be able to prioritize anything besides your wedding/marriage).

    Now that I’ve been married for a year, I adore my engagement ring for the very same reason that I once hated it. I’ve grown more confident about the institution of marriage and am proud to defend my definition of it. I almost *want* people to ask me so that I can reclaim a little bit of the dignity that is often stolen from engaged folks by the WIC. It is also a very good litmus test for potential jobs since wearing my ring clearly weeds out the crazies a bit. (I also wear it because, hey, he bought it for me and I know he’d be upset if his would-have-been motorcycle sat in my jewelery box instead of on my hand. Not that he’d ever say that out loud. But that’s just us. I totally dig it when ladies keep it gender neutral with just the band).

    *Side Note: I used to tell people that the most romantic part of our engagement was that after he proprosed, Mr. J told me that I didn’t have to wear the ring if I didn’t want to, he bought it because he wanted me to know how he feels about me. Swoon <3.

    Romantic for me? Yes. Buzz kill for anyone expecting me to go "I'M ENGAGED!!!!" and then flashy-flash my ring around? Absolutely.

    • Abby C.

      LOVE the story of his proposal. So right. :)

    • Insulting and inappropriate and not to mention illegal (if you live in the United States…don’t know the laws for other countries). An employer cannot inquire about your marital status during an interview — just the same they can’t ask if you have or are going to have children. It’s a very discriminatory practice.

      If that ever happens to me, I would love to get the chance to tell that person that my marital status has no bearing on my career and that the U.S. government backs me up.

      • Morgan

        Illegal in Canada too. I mean, clearly you wouldn’t want to work at a place that did that, but I would have made such a fuss. “How DARE you” and all…

    • SeptBride

      I often do not wear my engagement ring to interviews. I don’t want to get the whole, “well, you may not be able to handle this job since you are married and therefore clearly two steps away from getting pregnant.” But also because I don’t want my worth/potential salary to be judged by the size of my diamond.

    • Kristin

      That happened to me all the time at job interviews. They’d see my engagement ring and make a comment- and with the best of intentions, I think. But it would still throw me off.

      It also didn’t help that I was a “city girl” applying for jobs in rural towns. I’d always get asked how I ended up living up here (which I can’t blame the interviewers for, they want to know if I’m planning on sticking around etc.) and then have to explain that I followed my fiancee. Then they’d ask where he works, which happens to be the big employer in the area that pays very well and then I’m sure the assumptions about me run wild from there. Again, I think the interviewers were only trying to be friendly (especally now after being hired and working with them every day) but it really peeved me that my maritial status and what my partner does have anything to do with my attaining employment! Ugh.

  • Oh, and big ups to Turtle Love Co.! Portland is my hometown, and I’m so excited that we get to host such a kick ass company.

  • Carreg

    Love this post. All that stuff about comparing and showing off nearly led me to not have an engagement ring at all — or have something unrecognisably so. But then my future mother in law very generously and amazingly un-pushily offered us the one which had belonged to her grandmother… It’s recognisably an engagement ring but the stones are quite small, the band is quite narrow, and most of the time I don’t think people even notice it.

    I want to keep wearing it after I get married because it’s been in a box for years and I’m sure it likes being on a finger again. But the two stones kind of stick out either side, so a wedding band would need to have a wiggle in it to fit next to the engagement ring. I don’t really want a ring with a wiggle — seems like I shouldn’t be fitting my wedding ring around my engagement ring. After all, the engagement may come before the marriage, but the marriage is logically prior to the engagement (if you see what I mean? Definition of engagement includes concept of marriage, not vice versa). I’ve more or less decided to wear my engagement ring on my right hand ring finger and wedding ring on my left hand. Don’t know what message that sends?

    Anyway, that’s one more way of doing things, to add to the list. Thank you for this post. It’s great to have options.

    • Sarah

      I’m doing the same thing – engagement ring on the right hand after we get married. And I agree – it doesn’t make sense symbolically to fit my wedding band around the engagement ring so that it looks silly by itself. For me, the wedding ring is the one that matters, the one that lasts.
      My engagement ring cost almost 40 times as much as our wedding bands, and yet, I love them both. The engagement makes me feel special and excited and valued by my intended. So the ring (filigree and sparkly stone) does that. But my marriage? I want it to be solid, but with timeless personality (tree bark pattern), and requiring a little polish from time to time (silver).

      • ElfPuddle

        Sarah, I just love that imagery!

    • ElfPuddle

      When we get our wedding rings (we’re engaged and planning, still), mine will be fitted around my engagement ring, which means it will look really weird by itself.

      I totally see what you mean about the marriage being central, but my engagement ring already says that.

      It’s my Great-Aunt’s wedding ring. When she and her husband got married, they couldn’t afford the huge diamond thing on their own, and didn’t want to ask for help from his parents, who were very wealthy. Then Great-Uncle Lawerence was shipped off to Europe in WWII and Great-Aunt Lois stayed with her in-laws. Her father-in-law felt badly that she didn’t have a ring, so he bought her this beautiful three-diamond treasure. It isn’t huge, but it is gorgeous. Lois and Lawerence never had children, though they had several miscarriages. When he got MS, she took care of him, doing everything for hm until the day he died, even while continuing to work (she taught second grade). She became the aunt and caregiver to her students, nieces, and nephews. She’s never remarried because Lawerence was her other half. A few years ago, Lois gave the ring to my mom because she didn’t want any of her hordes of nieces and nephews fighting over it when she died; she wanted someone who loved family to have it. (My mom is one of maybe two of that horde who make sure to check in with Lois…the family is huge and the childless can get left behind.)

      When Mr.Puddle-elect and I got serious, my mom asked if we’d like Lois’ ring when it “came that time”. How could either of us say no?

      It’s my engagement ring, but it tells the story of what marriage and commitment and family is all about, and I think it’s perfectly fitting that my wedding band be fitted to it the way my ideas of marriage are fitted to Aunt Lois’ marriage.

      • Katelyn

        Oh gosh. That is seriously one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. Thank you for sharing!

        • I love this story.

        • ElfPuddle

          You’re welcome. It’s what I think about every time I see my hand.
          If I’d chosen an engagement ring, it would’ve been completely different…I’m so not a gold and diamonds girl. I am, however, a family girl, and this ring, the man who gave it to me, and my family (who gave it to him) rock my world.

    • meg

      That was my plan! It lasted for about 24 hours into the marrage when I took off the engement ring. But it’s still a good plan!

    • I do the same thing. My engagement ring is a big fancy heirloom (I requested a sapphire; I received a sapphire flanked by two horking big diamonds, the ring was his late grandmother’s), and I wanted a wedding band that matched my huband’s. So I wear the engagement ring on my right hand, and my wedding band on my left.

    • I had the same problem. I really didn’t want my wedding band to have a wobble in it, I knew I would want to wear it without my engagement ring. My engagement ring is an antique ring and I absolutely love it, but I don’t like it at all with another ring, it’s just too much. So, we had a ring made that matched the engraving and I wear it always on my left hand. Most of the time, I wear my engagement ring on my right hand. Sometimes, I feel self-conscious about it (I don’t know why, but some people just don’t get why I wear them on different hands and it bothers me that it bothers me but…) so I wear them together, then I remember how I like them better separate so I switch them. Which, of course, means that more often than not I just wear my wedding band. Thankfully, my husband could care less how I wear them. He says they’re my rings after all. But he loves my engagement ring that we picked out together, to the point that he cleans it for me. That’s just him, it’s sparkly and almost as cool as a gadget and he likes that he bought it. So I wear it a lot because we both like it and it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks.

  • A-L

    I love my ring, and I was instrumental in picking it out (I found the sapphire and picked out the setting and my fiance paid for it). It makes me happy when I look at it, and I love the fact that it was a gift from my fiance (husband in a week and a half!). So it’s like I get to keep a part of my fiance close with me at all times. Most everyone has been able to figure out that it’s an e-ring, though one guy I work with kept saying, “But it can’t be an engagement ring; it’s not a diamond!” But I love it and expect to wear it for a very, very, very long time.

    • That’s exactly how I feel. When I look down at my ring, I don’t see an engagement ring, I see my partner’s love manifested in this ring. It swells my heart with pride. It’s not something to show others that I’m taken, it’s something to show ME that he loves me so so much.

      • Vmed

        The first few days I wore my ring I could have sworn the sparkle was J winking at me over and over.

        Heck, it still feels that way.

    • meg

      Ah, that’s how I felt. ‘You never know’ is the moral of the story I suppose.

  • Carbon Girl

    I feel very lucky to work in an industry where there is definitely no Ring Olympics. Some people wear their rings, most people wear just bands, and no one compares. I have experienced both types of rings. I love my engagement ring and the wedding band we found that matches it. But as an ecologist, I am often getting really dirty with my hands and am traveling and camping, so I often wear a simple silver band on those days and in those months when my hands are really “roughing it”. I have to say wearing the band makes me feel tougher somehow, more prepared . . . for what I do not know. I love the way it looks and what it projects to the world. But I always go back to the e-ring and its sister wedding band when I can, perhaps due to the meaning and intention that I know is behind those rings. They are the symbol to me of our love and commitment.

    Lastly, my brother and his new fiance are in circles where there is a ring olympics. When picking out a ring over the summer, he called several times distressed when his friends told him “it has to be at least a carat, no less.” I know his financial situation (in school) and their lifestyle (world travelers and hikers), and used that information to help talk him off the ledge. The ring is less than a carat, and no surprise, she still loves it.

    Oh, one more. I was talking to an aquaintance the other day and she was complaining about how much she wants to be engaged. And I asked if they had talked about it. Her response was yes they had, but they were waiting until he got enough money to buy her a really big ring. All I could do was nod silently so as not to be rude.

    • Yeah, the whole Ring Olympics thing is *so* foreign to me. Whether at work or in family and social circles, I have never heard even veiled references to ring size/value as some sort of measuring stick (or I am just blithely ignorant), and I’ve almost never had anyone ask about or comment on my ring. If anything, I’d hazard to guess there might be a reverse version at work, that a big diamond would be a sign of being Not a Serious Woman.

      • “If anything, I’d hazard to guess there might be a reverse version at work, that a big diamond would be a sign of being Not a Serious Woman.”

        Yup. There are definitely industries/social circles that do the reverse Ring Olympics where if you don’t have a totally eco-friendly, non-showy, inexpensive ring, you are Not a Serious Woman, or (worse?) a Very Bad Woman. Sigh.

      • Jess

        I have heard that hiring managers don’t think you are serious or “need the job” if you have a large engagement ring and the like. I wish people wouldn’t assume. How would they know how long your fiance/husband saved for the ring, if you purchased it together, family heirloom, etc.

        As for me, I love my e ring, but don’t wear it too often since I have a fairly physical job and don’t want to damage it. I feel totally blinged out on the weekends though when I wear it – and it’s less than a carat. I’ve been sheltered from the Diamond Olympics, however, so I think mine looks huge lol.

      • Clare

        I’ve never experienced it as an overt thing, nothing rude or to people’s faces, but fact is sizes of stones and prices get discussed behind people’s backs. Mostly in a kind and awed way, but I still didn’t want a part of it. Honestly, it’s about as ‘nice’ as it could be, but I just didn’t even want people thinking “Oh, well fair enough, it’s not like they have family money so of course the rock will be smaller.”

    • Jessica

      Good for you for talking your brother off a ledge! On a completely shallow level: I helped pick out my e-ring, and one of the things we discovered while shopping… unless there’s a huge difference in carat weight- like .3 carats vs 1 full carat- it’s hard to see the difference. When the stones are held up together, you can tell, but that’s not how rings are worn. No one would ever know he didn’t get a full carat unless he (or she) flat out told them (I’m talking normal people, not jewelers).

  • InOurLittlePlace

    Thank you for the great post Adrienne (and Meg for sharing your comments). For me, its almost the culture of “unspoken engagement ring competition” that makes me uneasy about wearing an engagement ring. Despite knowing a lot of intelligent, well spoken, and considerate women, the scope and nature of the ring on your left finger seems be a frequent topic of discussion (for example posting multiple pictures on Facebook when you are engaged). Don’t get me wrong, I love that people are so excited about the prospect of getting married, but for me, I don’t want people eyeing my ring and trying to figure out how much money my fiance had at the time. I am also a private person so that is likely where these thoughts come from. I just really like the idea of equality that comes with each of us wearing one ring.

  • Dianne

    I love this discussion! My husband, Chuck, proposed to me on the night we found out I had stage IV cancer. The ring came much later, while we were deciding that instead of having a $10,000 wedding we’d rather try to raise that much for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. My ring, with it’s very slim wedding band that sort of wraps around it, is simple and lovely and cost about $400. Once, right be fore the wedding, someone said to me, “Congratulations! Let me see the rock.” (meaning the expected large diamond). I happily showed her my ring but told her that my “rock” was actually Chuck himself.

    • Liz

      this is awesome.

    • Aw, this is a lovely story. What an amazing thing to do. Love the reponse that your husband is your rock :)

    • Laura

      I like you. :-)

    • That is so perfect… now I know exactly what to say next time someone asks to see the rock!!

    • That’s such a great response! Love it.

    • JEM

      You gave me chills then the tears came with your “rock” comment.

    • That is the sweetest. And the whole point, right? Whatever kind of ring it is, I want to look down and think of my wife, and that’s exaclty what it’s for. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Instead of an “Exactly!” button this comment needs an “Awwww!” button.

  • I didn’t have an engagement ring (nor did I want one). It seemed to me to be only a social signifier.

    I picked out my own wedding band and my husband doesn’t have an emotional attachment to it (but I love it beyond all reason). As a wedding present, though, he bought me a ring that I wear on my right hand and it is not what I would have picked out for myself, but I also love it beyond all reason and will probably wear it forever.

  • I’ve been lucky enough to skip the ring olympics largely because I work in an office full of men – they never noticed its arrival! I do know exactly what you mean though, I am also a lawyer and the whole show of wealth thing really turns me off. I know one girl who liked to tell people that her ring was sooo expensive that it wasn’t insured if she took it off. Frankly I didn’t want or need to know that. Strangely that is why I love wearing my ring. It isn’t huge or showy but it is beautiful and my partner, who has no interest in clothes or shopping or any such things, chose it for me. Looking at it reminds me that the whole corporate just for show thing and one upmanship isn’t who I am or who I want to be. I’m the person who cuddles up on the couch with my partner, buys things second hand over new in an attempt to be socially responsible and crys at cartoons. It reminds me I have a home and a partner which are more important than my work. To be fair if he had bought me anything else I would have felt the same way about that, just so happens it was a ring with a diamond in. I never realy thought of it as a statement to anyone other than me but I guess it is just because of what it means to other people
    Its really interesting to hear how other people feel about it.

  • My ring is definitely not of the ‘two months salary’ kind, more like 2 days salary if that, it is a rather unsubtle (aka huge) swarovski crystal which means that anyone trying to play ring olympics with me in the office gets very baffled because clearly if I had a diamond this big I wouldn’t need to come to work in the first place!

    Sadly it hasn’t stopped people trying to play the game and I cannot count the number of times I have been asked if I mind that my ring isn’t ‘real’ or if I worry that because he didn’t spend much money on it it means he doesn’t love me very much. I’m not entirely sure what isn’t ‘real’ about it, it is a ring that he chose for me that says heaps about who he is and who we are as a couple. So no, I cleary don’t ‘mind’ but it does sadden me that the financial value of a ring is somehow seen as a signifier of how much love there is in a relationship. You want a big diamond because you love it, well that’s brilliant and amazing but I’m not entirely comfortable with wanting it because of the value (each to her own obviously)

    So, as much as I love my ring and as much as I am happy with having to defend unfortunately frequently it I am so very excited that I get NOT to wear it in a week and a half. I have decided that when we get married I will stop wearing ‘the rock’, partially through practicality (washing up a no no) and partially because my engagement ring meant so much to me about being engaged and my wedding ring (which I tried on for the first time yesterday) says so much about us being married.

    Whatever the choice it’s really nice that someone is talking about this as a choice rather than an assumption that we must all want the same thing, solitaire plus band, thank you Meg and Adrienne. Another cracking APW post as usual.

    • Class of 1980

      Wench said: “I cannot count the number of times I have been asked if I mind that my ring isn’t ‘real’ or if I worry that because he didn’t spend much money on it it means he doesn’t love me very much.”

      And I can’t count the numbers of times I wonder if the people who say such thoughtless and cruel things were raised in a barn. Is acting in a decent manner just an extinct expectation?

  • What a great, thought-provoking post! I wore an engagement ring, but it cost $20. My fiance and I each paid for half of it because that was important to us. It was from a small, hippie store in town, and the stone may or may not have been turquoise. It was tarnished. I wore it on my left hand, and one one ever looked at it and asked when I was getting married. It felt like a secret code of some kind.

    Now I wear just my simple wedding band. The engagement ring was too big and looked silly with a wedding band. I still have it, but it served its purpose.

  • Jess

    I love this post. I find myself absentmindedly judging women on the train who have rings on their left ring fingers that are not the iconic engagement ring + wedding band set. It’s as if I am annoyed that I can’t instant capture their marital status by their jewelry.

    The funny thing is, though, that I have nontraditional engagement and wedding rings. They both have blue lab-created diamonds, and my engagement ring is a three-stone where the stones are about the same size. I know that when I wore my engagement ring alone especially, plenty of people on the train probably wondered what my deal was. (What do blue stones mean? If all of the stones are the same size, is it an engagement ring or wedding band? Why do you not fit into a category that I understand??) I still can’t keep myself from having those same thoughts about others, though. It’s as if I don’t know what is on my own hand.

  • Laura

    How funny, today I am only wearing my wedding band. I don’t know why, I just felt like it.
    Both of my rings are deliberately tiny. I love them for that. They’re just a little private bit of sparkle, and when I look down at my hand, they make me smile. But, I live in the land of giant rocks (NYC) and when we got engaged, some people seemed a bit taken aback by my very small, champagne colored diamond. My best friend even advised me to get a big, showy wedding band with giant diamonds going all the way around. I don’t know why. She also lectured me about how the rose gold would “get old” and said I had made a mistake not getting platinum like her.
    I can’t understand that kind of thinking. Everyone is different. But for some reason, the minute you get engaged, you’re supposed to become this person who only wears platinum, enjoys big stones, and wants a center-entrance colonial in the suburbs. Not to denigrate those things…they are perfectly valid and wonderful things. But they are not for me. And I’m good with that.

    • meg

      That’s so funny. As someone who went to art school in NYC, and then worked in the arts for years, that’s not the New York I know. We used to call the huge huge rings we would sometimes see Mug-Me-Rings or I-Can’t-Take-The-Subway rings. Which goes to show that there are a million sub groups in every single area :)

      • Laura

        I actually know a lot of creative types, but they’re all media/entertainment industry folk, and the big rings are all over the place in that world.
        There are so many New Yorks. It’s amazing how they all exist in the same place. My father in law, who is from Tehran, is continuously amazed at how well everyone gets along despite all the differences.

        • Bee

          A bit off topic, but that’s one of the things I love so much about living in New York! Everyone’s experience of the city is different. Slightly more on topic, while I didn’t go to art school (though if I remember correctly, I think I went to the same university as Meg, NYU? Though I was in the education school) but my friends call giant diamonds begging to get mugged rings. Most of my friends are teachers, and as a high school history teacher, I’m the only woman in my department, so the ring competition stuff isn’t really something I’ve had to deal with; I guess I got off easy in that way. I don’t think I’d be comfortable wearing a big old diamond to work anyway. I mean, I walk to the subway station with a security guard if I’m at school after dark! However, not everyone works in the kind of environment I do, so if they want to have a giant diamond ring, that’s their prerogative.

          • meg

            Yes, same University, very different school :) Something about riding the subway in New York makes huge rings seem like a scary idea. Like, there were a few incidents where women with HUGE rings (and this is NYC, so I’m not talking about a carat, I’m talking about six) got on the subway, and heads turned and eyebrows raised. Like, “Woman! With that on your hand, you need to take a cab.” And that… I never envied. It seemed more like a safety risk than anything else, something that limited how you moved in the world. And that was a big part of how I thought about things when I did get a ring. I knew I lived in big cities, I knew I came from (we came from) a really rough city, and I wanted something I could wear everywhere without worry. In fact, I think me discussing that is the third post ever on this blog (read oldest to newest ;)

            Since I only wear my wedding band now, I got that even more than I planned, so there you go.

          • Slightly off-topic, but I got engaged while I was at NYU and I will never forget the feeling of utter humiliation when a friend of a friend loudly congratulated me on my engagement while on the elevator in Silver (from opposite corners of the elevator no less). I was like, um, thanks for broadcasting that to the sardine can.

            I don’t know why, but I felt like such an oddity wearing my ring at school. It’s narcissistic, but I just assumed everyone would be looking at my hand and making assumptions.

          • meg

            Because no one at NYU (undergrad…) gets engaged my dear. Not narcissistic, normal.

    • Sarah

      This sounds so familiar.

      I’m in an area dominated by large rocks, as well. Specifically, our apartment building. I’ve actually caught girls in the elevator look at their own rings, then look at mine, and sneer. Each time it happens I feel like ripping their faces off. I mean, whose business is it, but mine? Yes, my ring isn’t huge … I have a whole bunch of reasons for choosing it (not the least of which is that anything bigger looks/feels silly on my small hands) … but that doesn’t mean I’m less than you/your husband makes more than mine/I’m loved less than you. Get off it, people.

      Though, I think worse than that even was when my mother and sister started in on it. My sister was willed my grandmother’s ring. Which is beautiful, and so exciting for her. The diamond is slightly bigger than mine. Which is fine by me. But they couldn’t help pointing it out over and over again and saying how “bigger is better.” Jeesh.

      My dad, however, was awesome. Right after I got engaged, he took me to lunch. Trying to play the jewelry connoisseur he “inspected” my ring. And said “It’s lovely. Very … dainty.” Then he paused, while I was a bit disappointed the of all things he would bring up the size of the diamond. “It’s perfect for you.” YAY DAD!! He totally got it. (Oh, and the dainty comment was apparently an observation of the band style (which is very thin and delicate), not the diamond, at all.)

      I think the most interesting comment I’ve gotten was from a friend who by-and-large wins the “diamond Olympics” … I kid you not, her diamond is 7 carats. (Family heirloom on his side.) Out at dinner one night she was practically drooling over my ring, saying how badly she wanted something similar. Her ring (as much as she loves it) makes her feel self-conscious … and she gets nasty looks and comments about it. All. The. Time.

      Just another example of things never being good enough for everyone else. ::shakes head:: It makes me sad that no matter what our decisions are, we all have to deal with this.

      • meg

        Poor thing. Seven carats of heirloom is a lot to be saddled with, particularly since you’re like “ow, my hand is heavy and people keep looking at me,” and then people are envious and mean about it. (Goes to kick things.)

      • This reminds me of my mother’s engagement rings. After she and my step-dad divorced, she got engaged to this total a-hole and he bought her a huge 2-Carat cushion cut diamond solitaire. It was gorgeous, but so not her. She’s just not a sparkly lady. When she got engaged to her now-husband, he bought her a very simple diamond engagement ring that was set in an artisan band that wrapped around the diamond, enclosing it in a sturdy setting (very similar to turtle love’s simpler stuff). It’s perfect for her, and she can still wield a hammer while wearing it, but most people wouldn’t expect it as an engagement ring.

        And you bet your ass my sister is salivating for that damn 2-carat beauty. So, you know, to each her own.

  • I have an engagement ring and a wedding ring that I wore for about 4 months. I couldn’t wear them anymore because I had an allergic reaction. At first, it was weird to not have a ring. Now I kind of like that my marriage is private and people who don’t know me, don’t know about my marriage and therefore can’t say anything to me.

    • Katelyn

      My beau’s mother is also allergic to metal – so when his parents got married in their shotgun courthouse wedding on a road trip from California, they went with a vending machine ring.

  • Lethe

    Very interesting discussion. My engagement ring is an antique from about 100 years ago – I wanted something vintage, for both stylistic and ecological reasons. But it’s also not immediately identifiable as an engagement ring, since it’s a flat setting of a bunch of different little sapphires and diamonds in an art deco-ey type pattern. I guess I wanted the freedom of a ring that COULD be identified as an engagement ring, but still might not be identified as one immediately. And it’s a little embarrassing to say, but I just didn’t want a diamond solitaire because I hated the thought of being price-tagged in the “diamond olympics.” So many people know more or less what a half carat, one carat, etc solitaire costs, and will even rudely bring it up with you. This way, people are never quite sure what my ring cost. I wish people didn’t judge me based on a ring, but since many people do, at least this way I feel like the judgers can’t put me in a price box right off the bat!

    Since it’s an unconventional shape, though, I can’t wear this ring on the left once I add the band, so it’ll be moving over to the right. I love love love it, and figure it’ll be a nice compromise to have the simplicity of the band alone while still wearing this one on the other side.

  • Josephine

    I loved this post – thought-provoking and sensitive. Thank you. I am also a lawyer who works in a big, East Coast city, so I’m well versed in the Diamond Olympics concept. Here’s the thing, though – it’s REALLY hard not to get sucked into it. I think that over the last couple years of working in that environment, I’ve drank the diamond Kool-Aid a little bit. I notice everyone’s ring, and while I don’t judge ladies for not having huge rocks, I do secretly hope that when I get engaged, I have a sizeable, if not ginormous, ring. Not sure where that comes from, other than just being immersed in the culture for so long.

    However, my bf, who I have been with for three years, is always there to talk sense into me, thank goodness. We aren’t the kind of couple who would ever go ring shopping together (we’re both into the whole ‘surprise’ element of the proposal), but the discussion about rings has come up, mostly in relation to people around us who are engaged or married, and my bf has reminded me, gently, that the types of boulders I see on the fingers of women in my office are not normal (in terms of national average, global traditions, etc.). I get it. It is hard to disentangle oneself from the web of competitive ring wearing, though.

    • Clairelizabeth

      I totally hear you about getting sucked into the diamond olympics – My coworkers are wonderful ladies, but the minute they heard about our engagement the karat talk started and it hasn’t stopped yet (2 months later). And while there is still no engagement ring on my left hand, and I’m fine with that, I’ve tried on some rings and I really, REALLY like the huge sparkly ones.

    • Vmed

      Seriously, region and city make such a difference in what looks “normal” or “right” on the hand. Your eye just gets used to seeing it that way. But I think the same thing might happen once you get used to your own personal ring (if you choose to have one).

      Maybe you should come visit the midwest for a bit if you’d like to temper your appetite for carats?

      • Josephine

        I actually grew up in the Midwest but have been living on the coasts since I was 18, so my perspective has been kind of, well, warped. It happens, right? ;)

        I’m actually living in another country where diamond engagement rings aren’t done as much, except among a certain set of people who have lived in the US or whose spouses are American (or from other countries that are big on the diamond thing), which is a change from what I’m used to and pretty refreshing for me. And, some of the men here wear engagement rings (simple bands), as well! Nice.

        But all of this global perspective has not dulled my own personal yearning for a sparkler of my very own. Oh, well.

        • Class of 1980

          I lived in Dallas, Texas for 17 years and women train very hard for the Diamond Olympics there. Yes, it’s prevalent in some places. One woman I knew said that her diamond encrusted engagement ring was so normal in Dallas and yet would be considered so extravagant in New Hampshire and Massachusetts where she was from. None of her friends back home had anything like it.

  • Eli

    Perfect post! I always saw myself as someone who would wear a simple band alone. When my fiance proposed to me he surprised me with an art deco inspired engagement ring with a large (at least to my eyes) diamond and emeralds that he designed. We never talked about an engagement ring but i did mention that I didn’t really care for diamonds.
    As much as I love my ring I hope to reach a point where wearing just a simple band will not make him feel like I don’t like the ring, the money on the ring was wasted, or that it will hurt his feelings. My mother wears an old beautiful silver band shaped as olive branches from her family, I think it’s perfect. I know that will be me a few years after we are married.

    • Megan

      I get where you’re coming from. Even though my fiancé and I did some ring shopping together so that I could show him what I liked, what he bought is still too flashy for my taste. He offered to let me take it back, but I couldn’t do it because I knew how important it was to him to give me what he considered a great ring. In a few years, hopefully we can pick out something more my style instead.

  • ee

    Does anybody know if there is particular symbolism related to gold wedding bands (as opposed to silver)?

    • Class of 1980

      I can’t believe I have an answer for this.

      In the church I grew up in, there were words in the wedding ceremony about the metal in the rings. They went something like this …

      “These rings are made of a metal that will not tarnish …”

      The idea was that the metal reflected the nature of love and the rest of the words compared the couples love to a metal that would not tarnish.

      • Interesting. My first thought after seeing this was- oh, my ring is silver, which tarnishes. But then I realized that I think silver tarnishes because of lack of use. And since I wear my band all the time, all is good. No problems this first year anyways. :)

        • Class of 1980

          Jenny, I love silver. It’s color is unique among the white metals – warmer and lighter. Gold and platinum are the conventional choices, but there is no rule.

  • We got engaged spur of the moment, and headed to the mall that night to pick out an $11 silver band for each of us. I eventually got a fancy ring with my grandma’s diamond and added a band when we got married. He kept his until I swapped it for a wedding band.

    After a few months I switched back to my first engagement ring, and now it’s dinged and tarnished, but so much more me than the diamond set.

    This post is a good reminder to do whatever you want.

  • Anna

    The topic of engagement rings has always been a difficult one for me. I don’t wear one and that’s mostly because of the symbolism it has for me. The “i’m now promised to someone” symbolism. I told my fiance that if I was going to wear a ring he would have to as well.

    It’s frustrating explaining this decision to people. I think the idea of not wearing an engagement ring can be foreign to some and to me it feels a lot like a WIC invention.

    I think it’s great that we’re having this discussion today :)

    • Natalie

      “I told my fiance that if I was going to wear a ring he would have to as well.”

      I said the same thing, so we each bought each other an inexpensive ring….after we had already announced to our families and close friends that we were getting married. It turns out that when you tell people you’re getting married, the first thing they do is look at your left hand, and the second thing they do is ask, “How did he propose?” People got so confused when I wasn’t wearing a ring at all (or later, when I was wearing a garnet ring) and when I said, no, there was no proposal — we’ve just decided to get married next year. We ended up presenting each other with the rings in two proposal-type moments, which was fun. And after that, whenever anyone wanted to look at my ring, I always grabbed his left hand to show off his as well. Now that we’re married, we both just wear plain thin bands (although we did go with platinum for durability, as I’m a klutz and we both like to work with power tools and do outdoorsy things).

      Thanks for this post — and especially for the Anne of Green Gables reference!

      • Sara

        Seriously. Of all the great things I’ve read on this blog, I think that Anne reference made me the happiest.

        • meg

          Oh, Anne.

    • Liz

      i liked people knowing i was attached to someone. i guess i can get the historical implications of being someone’s property, etc. but i didn’t feel those. i felt more of, “you watch who you’re talking to mister, because i have someone who cares a lot about me!” sense. and, josh wore a ring, too.

      interesting point, anna- and i’m actually surprised there aren’t more comments like yours on here.

  • I’m glad the wedding/engagement ring issue is coming down to a more personal choice for couples. Engagement rings are a LOT of money to spend on something you might not even enjoy. That said, I do enjoy wearing my engagement ring (not married yet so no wedding band). It’s a nice signifier for me that my relationship is deepening. So far, I haven’t felt any pressure from the engagement or having a ring as a reminder of that stress. But again, I think a lot of wedding-related traditions should be very loose. If you like something, do it; if not, don’t. And don’t let anyone pressure you otherwise!

  • Class of 1980

    My parents are both remarried. Funny thing, my mother told both my biological father back in the fifties and my stepfather back in the eighties that she didn’t want an engagement ring at all. So mom has worn a floral carved wedding band alone for both marriages.

    My grandmother (deceased) married at a time when engagement rings were by no means a standard thing. She only wore a floral carved platinum wedding ring.

    I am also not really into the engagement ring thing, but feminism has nothing to do with it. I actually don’t mind if men spend more on rings than women, because frankly, women take more risks in getting married than men do because of childbirth. How many men are left alone with a baby or small children to support? It happens to women a lot more than men because very few mothers leave their children. Spending money on a ring was meant to be an indication of the man’s sincerity (not status) and it doesn’t bother me a bit.

    At least the money is going to the bride now, and not the father of the bride in the form of a bride price!

    Not so long ago, men didn’t wear wedding rings at all. My mother and father’s wedding announcement in the late fifties used the term “double ring ceremony” because it was new at the time.

    But I’m still not personally into engagement rings for lots of reasons. No matter what I weigh, my fingers are naturally fleshy on the palm side, so rings are never comfortable for me. The most I can handle is ONE ring and it has to be thin underneath my finger.

    I also hate the Diamond Olympics because size takes a back seat to aesthetics. Fewer people care if a ring is pretty – they are more impressed by size. I’d rather not play the solitaire game at all because I don’t want to be categorized.

    And it’s not that I’m against large diamonds at all. Here is what it is – I’m against people choosing rings based on status signals alone. I know there are people out there who just love large diamonds because they think there is nothing more beautiful. Those people should definitely get them and I promise to admire them.

    What bugs me is the lack of variety in what constitutes an engagement or wedding ring. It can’t possibly be that everyone really wants the same thing in their heart of hearts!

    For instance, I love rings with botanical themes. I love them because I think they’re beautiful. I’ve read that anthropologists think the earliest wedding rings were woven from plants, so I think it’s cool to wear a permanent version of that.

    At my age, if I remarry it’s likely that the guy could afford something fairly extravagant. But my heart just isn’t in that. I have a vision of a custom botanical ring with dewdrops in the form of clear cabochon stones. If I had to forfeit my personal vision of a wedding ring for something that would reflect his financial standing, I’d feel like I missed out.

    I’d just like for everyone to feel more free to follow their heart without being questioned.

    • ElfPuddle

      “I’d just like for everyone to feel more free to follow their heart without being questioned.”

      This. And not just with engagement/wedding rings, either!

    • m

      I prefer to think of engagement rings as a sign of sincerity, not status. hadn’t thought to put it that way though!

      • Class of 1980

        I would prefer to think of them that way too. The world very often thinks differently.

  • Annika

    I’m so glad to see so many other people doing something different with the engagement ring thing! We both chose to wear engagement rings, which is traditional in my family, and I think it’s fair, because otherwise I get a little bit of a “female as property” vibe off of it. Our engagement were $50 silver bands that are replicas of rings from 14th century france. They’re engraved (they say “Vous et nul autre.”) but don’t look engagement-y at all. And our wedding rings are the same thing, in gold.

    It was important to me to have a non-diamond ring because it’s so expensive, so breakable, and so flashy. I didn’t want my hand to scream “I’m engaged!” to every person I met. I’m ok with people wearing gems/diamonds for engagement, but it just wouldn’t have been “me.”

  • Abby C.

    What a great post. MY FH and I are currently going through this right now. I have to admit that there’s a small girly/princessy part of me that loves sparkly diamond bands and would proudly show off a huge rock.

    On the other hand, the louder part of me says that it means alot to both of us that I not wear something that doesn’t fit our ethical or environmental concerns (No conflict diamonds, please!). And the idea that he has to prove his love to me with money is ludicrous – I feel his love to my very bones and I have never doubted it. I’d rather we both spend money on a future house or world travels.

    But still, that small part of me says, “But they’re preeeetttyyyy.”

    • Josephine

      Right, this is how I feel. Logical part of brain is like: this shouldn’t matter for the following 20, very important reasons…. Aesthetic part of my brain is like: SPARKLY!!!

      • Class of 1980

        Just do what YOU want. There is nothing wrong with aesthetics. ;)

        • Josephine

          Very true. I feel like judgment goes both ways on this issue and it can be hard to step away from it. But when it comes down to it, I’m a girl that likes sparkly things, and sort of loves the idea of a big ol’ sparkly thing on my finger.

          Anyway this discussion is all theoretical at this point for me, but it’s interesting to ponder!

      • Morgan

        I can’t lie – my favourite shallow joy with my engagenment ring is when I’m driving and the light hits it at the right angle and then there are little rainbows everywhere. Sparkily!

        • I am sometimes even more shallow and take a lazer pointer to mine. It’s like a freakin’ disco! :D

          • Morgan



            *starts innocently looking around the office for a laser pointer*

          • Class of 1980


          • Vmed

            Be careful you guys! lasers can hurt your retinas!

            I mean, I guess there might be enough scrambling of photons if the light’s really going into the stone and then coming out, but if it’s just reflecting off a surface plane, you might get undiluted laser beams in your eye.

            Don’t do it!

        • Sarah

          Oh sweetie … try getting in an elevator. I’m not sure what it is about the lighting, but holycrapsparkles!

        • Jessica

          I love that! I once was painting in a closet, and the light came in just right that my diamond was throwing rainbows EVERYWHERE. I was enthralled for a good two or three minutes, just watching it. Love it.

        • Tina

          I’ve been reading these deep comments for a good while now, and this was seriously a funny lighthearted intermission. sparkles and rainbows! Love it.

    • Mallory

      I felt a lot of these same things. We bought my ring from an estate sale jewelry store. This helped in little ways to make me feel better about the purchase. It was more eco-friendly since we were reusing a ring rather than supporting more mining and manufacturing. It was also significantly less expensive than buying a new ring. We paid less than 2/3 of what it appraises for. I couldn’t get over the part of me that wanted a beautiful sparkly ring so I compromised on other things to help my more practical concerns.

    • Liz

      “During this time, it is estimated that conflict diamonds represented approximately 4% of the world’s diamond production.”

      “Today 74 governments have enshrined into their national law the Kimberley Process Certification System, and now more than 99% of the world’s diamonds are from conflict free sources. ”

      not trying to say you SHOULD get a diamond. i just did a bit of research pre-engagement because it was a big deal to me. and thought you would like the info also.

      • My husband got me a Canadian diamond because I feel strongly about the conflict-diamond stuff, and it was fun because he is from Canada. Hihi. :)

      • Also: The genuine diamond industry is incredibly important in so many African and other developing countries. It creates countless jobs where there might otherwise be crippling unemployment and sustains weakened economies.

      • Abby C.

        Thanks for the info, Liz!

      • Dragon

        Folks that are concerned about conflict diamonds should be aware that the Kimberly process is flawed. Since it’s inception, neighboring countries (including some that do not even have any diamond mines of their own) have seen their diamond output increase dramatically. Diamonds are simply smuggled across the border, but many are still originally from conflict zones. You might liken it to laundering drug money.

        This is a difficult issue and I am not trying to slam anyone that chooses to wear a diamond (my own ring has a few small diamonds). I just thought folks should have the information as a counterpoint to how much press the Kimberly process gets. It hasn’t solved the problem.

  • My fiance knew that I would want to pick out the ring (opinionated!) but as he is a clever kinda guy, he bought me a Swarovski crystal ring, so that I would have something to wear until we could afford one.

    In the months following our engagement, people would ask to see the ring, and I would hold it out shyly, and usually after a few seconds explain to the people asking that it was crystal, as we were saving up money to buy a “real” one. The typical response of the women (always women) asking about the ring was, “It’s gorgeous! Why would you try and explain that it’s crystal?!?” But I felt like I needed to somehow clarify that this large and shiny object wasn’t a real diamond – I didn’t want people to think I would have chosen something that ostentatious.

    And today I really thought hard about it, after reading this really thoughtful post, and realized that I hated this concept of comparing diamonds, just like I hate when people one-up each-other about colleges, or high schools, or anything else. I just want to find something that works for me, and since a diamond is not something we can afford right now, then its not something I can have right now.

    This summer, when I was visiting my great aunt and admiring her diamond ring, she told me, “Well, after many years of marriage, your (great) uncle decided to honour me with this ring, to tell me how much he appreciated me.” And that sentiment is something I can fully support, and hopefully somewhere my fiance and I will be…someday.

  • Erin

    I have a non-traditional engagement ring, and my husband didn’t get it until for me until after we had been engaged a year (mostly because I got sick of people hassling me about it). It is three stone (one diamond and two sapphires) offset on a crossed band. I ended up using it as my wedding ring too, because I never found a band I liked. Now, I couldn’t imagine it any other way!

    • Class of 1980

      It never ceases to amaze me that people feel free to comment about the lack of an engagement ring, let alone hassle someone about it. They are both rude and stupid.

      • Yeah….somebody told me I shouldn’t be planning our wedding without a ring. I knew it was stupid when he said it, but somehow I let it get to me anyways and I let myself feel not-engaged during our entire planning-a-wedding-ment. :( I wish I had had then the confidence I feel now about it all. But maybe the ringless engagement experience was what taught me all that?

  • I’ve been lucky to enter an industry where the diamond olympics isn’t important. Right now I’m in academia/nonprofits, and it’s always interesting to see what the women in my field choose to do. So many just wear bands of varying bedazzlement, there are so many nontraditional engagement rings, and some forgo the ring altogether. Every ring has a unique story behind it and I love that.

    I also love that no one where I currently work has questioned what’s going on with my finger — is it an engagement ring or a wedding ring? It’s a ring, it’s beautiful, and they respect that as is. No questions needed about my marital status.

  • B$

    I wish i could carry this post around in my pocket. My hubs bought my ring during a rainstorm in paris while we were studying there. we were poor college students and i had never put much emphasis on jewelry. I’m not sure what carat the diamond is but i know its small comparred to most and although its never bothered me in the least, everyother person who sees it says something along the lines of “well you can upgrade one day,” how rude! I love my ring the way it is and in my eyes, if i were to change it at all it wouldnt be MY engagement ring, it would be some pretty random ring i bought for other people to feel more comfortable. i look at my ring and am transported back to the moment i first saw it, so in a way – for me – it acts like a magical and fantastic time machine.

    I had planned to go “band-only” after we said the vows, but i still wear it out and i think i will for our first year of marriage before I ceremoniously retire it to the jewelry box. I choose the most simple white gold band i could find in the store because i wanted it to act as a quiet, ambiguous symbol of our connection rather than a symbol of status.

    honestly, i sometimes feel like smacking those girls who look at me sympathetically. they have no idea the goods i got!

    • Class of 1980

      You know, I never heard the term “upgrade” until the mid-nineties.

      The first time I heard it was from a newly engaged girl with a substantial diamond. They were already planning for a future “upgrade”.

      • Tina

        I know. What is this? It’s okay if it’s small “for now” because one day he’ll honor you when you’re making the bigger bucks with a giant ring and a McMansion. ugh.

    • Amanda

      “they have no idea the goods i got!” This, exactly.

  • Leahismyname

    Hey!! I’ll never forget that moment in Anne of Green Gables either.

    This post is really appropriate, I think. The behind-the-scenes judging that happens when women start wearing rings kind of scares me.

    I wasn’t totally committed to the idea of wearing an engagement ring, but my fiance really wanted to give me one. He saw it as giving me a gift, and he loves when I wear it. I know that wearing engagement rings comes with a lot of baggage (bride price, etc), but just like marriage itself, I take what I want from the historical facts, and leave the baggage behind.

    My engagement ring is a small, silver band with a tiny orange sapphire in the center. I actually wear it on my right hand, which makes it kind of a stealth engagement ring. See, due to years of playing musical instruments, my right had is more than a full ring size bigger than my left (no, it doesn’t look weird, but the difference is important for ring sizing). So, in order to avoid the ring stacking (which I don’t like) or hand-switching (which would require resizing), I just had the engagement ring sized for my right hand.

    No one at work caught on that I was getting married when I started wearing the ring. I thought it would be glaringly obvious, since I never, ever, wear rings. But I guess we’re completely programmed to look at the left hand, and to look only for a diamond solitaire.

    We bought plain gold bands for both of us. I love them and I can’t wait to wear it, and I think he’s excited about it too. I’ve actually caught him trying on his wedding band in the bedroom when he thinks I’m busy elsewhere! It’s too funny!!

    • Vmed

      I hear you with the musical instrument issue- I play violin and intentionally chose a palladium setting so it wouldn’t interfere with my left hand dexterity (Pd is lighter than silver). But it is still cumbersome enough for me to notice (hypersensitive much?).

      Also, anyone get muscle strain from starting to wear a ring? It’s not bulky or heavy or sized wrong, it’s just different than not wearing anything. Or maybe I use my hands differently now.

    • That’s adorable that he secretly tries his on!!!

  • “Just make the choice authentic – about you and your relationship.” This needs to be added to the bottom of every post all over the place.

    Can I exactly this a million times, please? For us, getting engaged was our first big thrust into people’s expectations and judgment and pressure. When we were just dating we did whatever we wanted. He moved in a month after we met and no one cared. But as soon as we decided to make that next move and buy a ring, the pressure was on. Most of it was pressure we put on ourselves. Actually, all of it was. We were really scared through all of it and so we went ring shopping together for both our engagement rings and wedding bands. We felt like we were alone in our opinions and ideas so we took even the smallest steps together. I think it’s made each of our rings feel special (actually, hold up, he lost his engagement ring at a bar. booo!) so I wear them both with pride. One was the whole 2-month salary thing (we were babies and had no idea what to do so we followed silly rules because we knew nothing else) and our wedding bands were just over $100 together. Regardless of cost or metal or style, they all have the same value to us. And when we look at them, that’s all we see.

  • Laura

    “And don’t be too harsh on other people.” I think this is really important – because it goes both ways. I have a “traditional” engagement ring (which I adore), but the majority of the people around me (perhaps this is just my industry and area of the country) where only their wedding band. I’ve received many lectures on the diamond industry, been subject to many convos about the diamond industry and how I have allowed the industry to convince me I need this as a “social signifier,” etc.

    But I LOVE my engagement ring – and I love my friends’ gold bands – because everyone is different and the ring (whether it has diamonds, or rubies or sapphires or none of that) signifies that you have found a partner with whom to spend your life. And that’s all that matters.

    • Class of 1980

      New diamonds can be sourced ethically, so no one should make assumptions or lecturing you.

      There needs to be a rule written in stone about what sort of remarks are allowed about anyone’s ring.

      How about: “How exciting! Congratulations!”

      THE END.

      • Class of 1980

        Typo: no one should BE lecturing you.

      • JEM

        Can’t we go back to the 2nd grade and tell everyone to “mind your own BEESWAX!”??

        • Liz

          …i still say this….

          • … yeah, i possibly said that at one point today…

    • lou

      i agree! for me my engagement ring isn’t a big social signifier, it doesn’t define my gender role, hasn’t made any friends start to tell what i ‘should’ be doing for my wedding, hasn’t made me feel uncomfortable because strangers will know i’m engaged.

      it’s just a ring. a very beautiful ‘traditional’ ring that was my grandmother’s engagement ring and therefore is lovely to wear.

  • Elisabeth

    I proposed to him- so I don’t have a ring. I bought a hand-made ring from Etsy that is made from mahogany wood from a fallen tree in Canada. I was able to work with the artist to design the perfect size/shape and given that we are both very environmentally-conscious, the fact that the ring is sustainable suits us.

    However, it is weird to not have my own ring. I’m ok with it logically- we don’t have a ton of money and neither of us are ‘fancy jewelry people. We plan to get ethically made wedding bands when the time comes (I’m definitely checking out the Turtle Love website!) But I think because I proposed, and I gave the ring, I feel like the engagement isn’t yet ‘complete’ and struggle with that as a feminist… shouldn’t it not matter who proposes to who? I want it to not matter but a teency part of me wants a ring- nothing fancy or expensive- but just a token.

    I also get asked by friends ‘how he proposed’ and have this weird mixture of pride and the need to provide justification when I explain that I proposed.

    Anyways. I’m proud that we are a unique couple and are starting off by writing our own gender roles, but sometimes a part of me wishes I could just show off a simple ring on my finger.

    • That’s awesome that you proposed! My now-wife and I had talked for awhile about the whole ring/proposal thing and it was clear that I would propose and she wanted a ring… and it took me awhile to realize that I wanted a ring, too, for the symbol of it, so that it would be seen as a “real” engagement. Isn’t that a little silly, and totally valid at the same time? Of COURSE it’s a *real* engagement, even if only one person has a ring. It sucks that it seems “imcomplete” without that, as you said.

      In the end, I did end up also getting an engagement ring, and I LOVE it. Do what feels right FOR YOU – but I’m sure you know that already. Also, congratulations on your engagement :)

      • Elisabeth

        Yeah- we’d been talking about getting engaged for a while and we didn’t want it to be a ‘he asks, she acts surprised, he gives her a ring’ kind of thing, because that isn’t really us. I think our engagement was really beautiful- we live in Kenya at the moment, we were driving through the Mara (the Kenyan version of the Serengeti) and there was a huge herd of elephants walking towards us, so we stopped the car to watch. I leapt out, ran around the car, got on a knee, and choked out something ooey-gooey about love and pulled out the ring. It was perfect (especially because elephants are a matriarchal-clan-oriented species- the females are the leaders of the herd!) Anyhow. I’m so happy with how it turned out, it’s just that occasionally, I wonder what it would be like if it had gone the other way.

        I know that he really loves the ring, loves that I proposed and loves that we are quirky like that. That makes me very happy. I love hearing him tell the story of our engagement. I love making people do a little double-take, too… “wait, she proposed?”.

    • Lethe

      I totally sympathize. We’re a same-sex couple – when we announced to everyone that we were engaged, my friends kept asking me “so how’d she do it??” (Maybe because I look like the more “girly” one?) But, um, I was the one who proposed. I half think that her friends feel a liiiiittle bit like she “won” and my friends feel a little bit like it doesn’t quite “count.” At first it bothered me, but now it makes me laugh. ;) Anyway, I love it when opposite-sex couples can break out of the mold and do what’s best for them, too.

      • Elisabeth

        I know what you mean! I love that we subverted the societal norm…. but it also means having to justify/explain a little more. I look forward to the western/American culture moving away from the expected “he asks/she says yes” model.

        I love hearing about flip-flopped/unexpected proposal roles. I guess I’m just getting used to mine being one of them. :)

    • Lethe

      …oh yeah, and – if you want a ring, tell him it’s important to you!! No shame. He loves you and wants you to be happy. My fiancee and I totally went ring-shopping for me together after I proposed to her. ;)

    • Kinzie Kangaroo

      Yeah, I proposed to my fiance too, except I proposed with a plastic Mickey Mouse ring that was on top of a kid’s cupcakes at school. The kid’s parents brought the cupcakes for his at-school-birthday-party and I snuck a ring into my pocket and proposed to my honey that night. We have since ordered and started wearing really cool (cheap) rings we found on Etsy and love them.

      I fully expected my co-workers, who are much more traditional and also more money-focused than I am, to be surprised when they saw the small turquoise stone, rather than diamonds. But other than one girl who called it “… cute,” every single other reaction has been along the lines of, “Oh, that ring is so you!” I guess I misjudged my co-workers which has been a nice surprise.

  • My engagement ring looks nothing like a “normal” engagement ring – it’s still a diamond, but it really doesn’t scream “I’m ENGAGED”. I’ve had people say, “that’s an engagement ring?” or “what a unique ring..??…” My husband designed it himself and I love it, but it pretty much takes me out of the running for the “engagement Olympics”. Which I’m pretty darn okay with.

  • Aly

    Love this discussion! I find it fascinating to see how different groups of people I’m around seem to judge my ring differently. Its a simply gold ring with a diamond solitaire that sometimes I consider GIGANTIC, even though it’s really not (it just feels that way when it runs into things….like my pockets). I’m currently in academia, where simple seems to prevail, but when I hang out with friends who are more established in their careers by now (or more specifically, whose boyfriends/husbands/fiance’s are established) my ring is unmistakeably tiny and boring.

    What I think will be even more interesting will be to see how these perceptions will change over time. Right now I’m the fiancee of a poor medical student- in that sense having a diamond at all is impressive. But one day I will be a doctor’s wife* and I know my ring will be again, tiny, compared to the other wives who get married when their husbands are already practicing. My fiance once suggested that in 10, or 20 or 30 years we could always “upgrade” my ring to something more impressive, and I told him ABSOLUTELY NOT- I want to always wear the simple diamond he gave me and be reminded of the day he proposed. If I’m not going to upgrade him, why would I want to upgrade my ring?

    *Don’t even get me started on how not excited I am about being called a “Doctor’s Wife” and dealing with all the assumptions and cultural noise that comes along with that.

  • Class of 1980

    I think everyone agrees that we should be more authentic to ourselves without judging other people’s choices.

  • My mother only wears a wedding band. It’s only since I’ve become engaged that I’ve seen her engagement ring, which I think is interesting.

    My engagement ring has a sapphire, not a diamond (I’m not a sapphire person) – people will usually remark on what a pretty ring it is, but people don’t assume I’m engaged because of it.

    • Also, your jewelry is FAB and I want to steal it all. Did you sell at Crafty Bastards in DC in October?

  • Rose in SA

    Reading all these interesting and thoughtful comments made me realise that all this angst/concern/worry (I can’t find the right word) over rings and how they compare feels like the distant past to me. I’m coming up to my 3rd anniversary and although I still wear my gorgeous diamond engagement ring everyday, NO ONE comments on it, even people I meet for the first time.

    I think this is something that is somehow magnified when you’re engaged and newly married, but just fades into the background with time. This probably comes off as a “you’ll seeeee”, but really it’s meant as a comforting hug – all this complicated wedding related stuff won’t always be like this (you’ll seeee).

    • Class of 1980

      Totally true. Hardly anyone will ever make a remark once you are married.

    • ddayporter

      yep, true. for the most part. Certainly the nosy questions about the wedding planning stopped dead! I thought I was done with the competition until a few days ago, I was standing outside a restaurant, typing out a text, and some guy walked by and said something like “Hey you should tell your husband to buy you a bigger ring!” something about making sure guys like him don’t try to pick me up. Of course my usual reaction to any random stranger speaking to me in a friendly tone is to smile and maybe laugh politely if I thought they were making a joke, so that’s what I did before I even realized what he was saying. He was gone before I could let off the string of curses at him.

      When we were ring shopping, my then-fiance gave me a (generous) range he was comfortable with. I chopped a grand off the top for my own maximum, and ended up coming in even more under that. Had I known the grief it would save me, I might have picked a bigger diamond. Had I known how it would reflect on my husband, I Definitely would have picked a bigger diamond. I hate that my small stone makes him look bad. I can’t scream “I picked this out you asshat!” to every person I see.

  • Eat Broccoli

    In our close circle of friends we were the first to get engaged. His friends commented about the “pretty penny” my ring must have cost, the first time they saw my ring. They then preceded to talk about how they were not going to spend any money at all when it came time become engaged because there was such better things to do with their money. With me sitting right in the room. I felt horrible for my fiance, his own friends were basically telling him he wasted his money. But had they digged deeper they would have found out we had spent time picking out the ring together and definitely didn’t spend anywhere near 2 months salary, plus we split the cost of the ring.
    Its the assumptions that are associated with engagements rings that I have a hard time with. That is why when we finally decided to start telling people about our engagement ( yes a case of a secret engagement) I just quietly started to wear my engagement ring and none of my work colleagues noticed for months! It was fabulous, I got to continue being myself with out all kinds of wedding questions and discussions! I also think that because my ring “flys under the radar” so well it means we picked a ring that perfectly suits my style!

    • Katelyn

      Yeah, it can be hard to be put in a position where you’re put down because of money, regardless if it comes from a “you spent too much” or a “you spent too little” perspective. Because by defending yourself, it can come across as you making the opposite accusation of “you’re cheap” or “you’re vain.” When really, the right thing for each individual couple is just that they made a conscious decision about what to spend rather than trying to live up to some societal expectation.

      • Eat Broccoli

        I just keep reminding myself, we are comfortable with the amount we spent on my ring. i think thats the most important thing. Whether the ring is made of gold, plastic or wood. you both have to be comfortable with it and love it.
        I also feel it is important that it not snag and scratch everything it comes in contact with, but that’s just my practical sidecoming out.

  • Carmar

    This is a great post, and I love hearing about everyone’s different experiences with rings.

    Even though I am smack in the middle of the diamond olympics (law school, big law), most of my friends would consider themselves the social justice, policy wonk and non-profit crowd. I have a very traditional diamond engagement ring, and have gotten some “holier-than-thou” comments from friends and acquaintances about how they would “never want something that big,” or about how they don’t even want a diamond. It’s funny to hear this b/c that’s what I told myself before we got engaged. I didn’t want to be “that” girl with the huge diamond ring, and suddenly I was. I used to justisfy it by reminding everyone that it was my great-grandmother’s ring, but I shouldn’t have had to. I love my diamond engagement ring with its blingy-ness. I have always loved fine jewelry but never had any, so perhaps part of wearing my engagement ring was the excitement of wearing something so pretty. :) (This all makes me sound very superficial, I know, but it’s true and I’m owning it!) I also love my very simple wedding band and I like the idea that if I wanted to, I could wear just my wedding band. Like a lot of other people have mentioned, I love it for the symbolism of our marriage.

    Again, this is why I love APW. I know noone here would judge me for my decision to wear my big fat diamond engagement ring. :)

    • SeptBride

      Oh, yes – yes, EXACTLY! Whenever someone comments on my ring (which is huge), I feel it necessary to say, “It was my husband’s great-grandmothers.” Agh. I so feel you.

    • Why is it that women on all sides of the engagement ring issue feel like they have to defend their ring? I felt like I had to preemptively defend my amethyst, you had to defend your diamond, others who do not have a ring get accused their engagement isn’t “real,” etc. What is with our society that no choice seems to be the right choice?!

      • I want to exactly this a thousand times.

    • Luna

      Ya, I totally have to admit I’m guilty of being one of those people “you spent how much on a ring?? But that’s a down payment on a house!!” Judgy, but in the other direction. It was really eye opening to me how it felt when people would see my ivory ring (that has been in the FH family for a long time) and tell me with so much distain in there voice “that’s so UNIQUE” Like being unique was the worst thing in the world.
      This ring suits me, and I love how it looks, how it looks on my finger, and how it belonged to his mom. So to all the peeps out there that I judged… I’m sorry. I now know how it feels, and it sucks.
      Now I have a new mantra: “As long as your happy, I’m happy!”

  • This reminds me a little bit of the name-changing discussions, in that regardless of what choices people make, it’s something everyone seems to have something to say about.

    I’m actually a little surprised that I’ve continued to wear my engagement ring daily since getting married. I don’t remember my mother every wearing anything but a wedding band (though it turns out this was because I flushed her engagement ring down the toilet when I was a wee tyke), my sister almost never wears any jewelry besides her wedding band (largely because her engagement ring is a huge, ornate, completely impractical heirloom from her husband’s family), and I guess I had always thought of the engagement ring as a symbol that you were engaged, and thus superfluous once you had a wedding band, or something.

    But, now, I feel like when my husband and I decided to get married, i.e. got engaged, that was when our relationship really transformed, much more so than with the actual official wedding, so it turns out that my engagement ring is symbolic of more than just that transitory status. My wedding band just underlines it.

    • ELLE

      I love the story of why your mother didn’t wear an engagement ring! Mine didn’t have one at all – she got a dishwasher instead. I think that gives her serious Team Practical credentials.

      • Violet

        “Serious Team Practical credentials” Yes! My mother got an engagement carpet (which she still has 40 years later). My sister and I went with my parents a few years ago to a jewelry store so my mom could finally pick out a sparkly ring. She wears her simple gold wedding ring on her left hand and added a simple channel set band with diamonds and sapphire for her “sparkle”. She is a geologist so even the sparkle is simple!

  • Chelsea

    Funny, I was the opposite of Meg: I always expected that I’d go with the wedding band only look. It seemed classy and elegant and more like me (I never wore rings before getting engaged, and still don’t wear any other rings).

    But when I told Hugh that I just wanted to wear the band, he was noticeably disappointed. I think it was because, like other people have noted, so much of his emotion about getting engaged was tied up in the engagement ring. (Even though I had picked the engagement ring out, but he surprised me with the band!) The diamond is also a family jewel that he reset, so there’s some history behind it that we both love – I feel like having a stone with a history exempts me from the diamond Olympics in some ways.

    So now I usually wear the engagement ring, too, and I’ve gotten used to it and like it. It helps that we picked something delicate and lightweight and with a low profile that I never (well, rarely) bang into things!

  • I love this topic and so spot on at the moment for me since I just picked up my wedding band two days ago and LOVE it – cannot wait the 5 and 1/2 more weeks until I can wear it every day!

    I do have what would be considered a traditional e-ring, although it’s by no means a 2 months salary or anything like that (and not that big diamonds aren’t gorgeous…just for us 2 months salary wasn’t really a sound financial decision given where we were/are at the time). But it’s the band itself I love the most, vintage with a lot of filigree and just so special to me. I knew when we started talking about my band though that I wanted something more simple – for many reasons.

    1. I’m definitely a 9 to 5 e-ring wearer. it comes off almost instantly when I get home, maybe this will change over time but right now I just don’t want to have to worry while I cook dinner, do laundry, sit in my pjs watching tv, etc. I don’t wear it in the shower (I feel like it would just gunk it up and require that many more trips to have it cleaned – and seriously, what is the best way to clean a diamond at home?!) and I don’t wear it to sleep – ow, it goes straight into my cheek, not very comfortable.
    2. I travel, a lot. I live for traveling and I’ve spent a great deal of my time living/working/traveling in Latin America especially. Walking around flashing a big diamond is not really the smartest or safest thing to do – and it’s also just not “me”. I travel to blend in and explore other parts of the world, not stand out – and to me – a big rock (and tho mine isn’t by American standards, in other parts of the world it certainly is) is such an American ideal most of the time that I feel like I have a flashing red arrow over my head. My fiance’s family saw the ring first out of everyone since we were in Scotland when he proposed…and as I looked at the hands of all his aunts, his mum and women cousins…I didn’t notice one “traditional” engagement ring. And I know to them, my ring was flashy and a status symbol…and something they just don’t really do there.
    3. Lastly, I love the idea of a simple band because for me it’s the “one” that matters. The one that you hardly remember your wearing but is always there to symbolize the commitment the two people made. I don’t need everyone else to notice it or talk about it, but I always know that it’s there and that our relationship is there…

    As soon as I got home the other day with the band, all I wanted to do was wear it around …by itself. My fiance laughs because he knows I’m having a hard time waiting to wear it, and he certainly takes no offense to the fact that I take my e-ring off at night. he knows that I’ll always love it, it’s still going to be a part of me, but he knows how much more the band itself signifies for me.

    • Rose in SA

      You get ring cleaning solution (one jar has lasted me 4 years), drop the ring in for 30 seconds, take it out and brush with the brush that comes in the jar for about 10 seconds, rinse and dry. Takes all of one minute and I do it once a week.

    • Kirsty

      Or, you can just clean it in warm soapy water using an old soft toothbrush to get into all the little nooks and crannies. My engagement ring belonged to my husband’s mum (his parents are divorced), and before he gave it to me he waited until I was out and then cleaned it this way so that it was sparkly when he proposed. I love thinking of him researching the best way to clean it, and then sitting at the kitchen table with a toothbrush and the fiddly little ring, trying to make it look nice for me. Even though he couldn’t afford a ring, he still put his heart into it and did everything he could to make it special, and I love him a little bit more every time I picture that scene.

      For the record, though, I too just wear my wedding band now that we’re married. His mum’s engagement ring is lovely and very unique, but never really felt like “me”. At the time he propsed, he said it was just until he could afford to buy me a “proper” ring but, to me, the ring he proposed with will always be my engagement ring – what would be the point in getting another ring? I sometimes wear my engagement ring for special occasions or if I just feel like it, but I don’t find it that comfortable wearing the two rings together anyway.

      My wedding band is very special to me because not only did it belong to my great-great-grandmother but it was also the wedding band my mum wore when she married my dad, and has their initials and wedding date engraved in it. My mum had treatment for breast cancer about ten years ago which made her hands swell up permanently, so she now wears a different wedding ring, and offered me this one. Her cancer has now come back and cannot be cured, so I know that I will treasure my wedding band forever, not only because it symbolises the promises my husband and I have made to each other, but also because it was hers. In a way, I feel that this is all part of the same thing, the “for better, for worse”, the importance of family, and standing together and supporting each other through good times (wedding, yay!) and bad (cancer, not so yay). Plus, the wedding band looks really nice on its own (I might be sentimental but I’m kind of shallow too). One work colleague (I am a lawyer) did comment in a snidey way “ohhhh, you’re not wearing your engagement ring?” but I think it’s great to be different, and I love that so many of you ladies are doing what is right for you and for your own reasons. Another great APW post and very interesting, insightful comments.

      • ElfPuddle

        I love your story!

        • Kirsty

          Thank you! Me too :)

    • Kirsty

      Oh I just belatedly realised that your finace is Scottish – we’re Scottish too – go Scotland! Unfortunately, the diamond olympics are definitely starting to appear here (my boss has not one but five HUUUUGE diamonds on her engagement ring, plus twelve little diamonds in between – wowser. It’s a miracle she can move her hand at all) but you’re right that you see parents, grandparents etc with much more interesting and unique rings – they were so much cooler back then… *sigh*

      • Yay for Scotland! (Where in Scotland are you? He’s been here in the States for 5 years but his family is all still there) Yes, his friends’ wives from home have more bling than his aunts, tho your boss’s ring wins the Olympics for any country!!

        I agree with your thinking – even if the e-ring isn’t totally “you” I would be saying the same thing, Why get another ring when we have this one? Especially if for you the band means so much.

        That’s such a sweet story picturing him cleaning it and making it all shiny.

        Thanks for the cleaning tips ladies!

        • Kirsty

          We are in Edinburgh but I’m originally from North Berwick (seaside town) which is where we got both engaged and married, right next to my parents’ house. Also lived and have family in Glasgow. But in true Scottish style we both have lots of family in the States, including my now father-in-law, and I can guarantee that your American guests are going to love the Scottish wedding angle – everyone loves a guy in a kilt! Hope you have a wonderful time in 5 and a half weeks and don”t get too stressed in these last few weeks – you are readingAPW though so you definitely have a good head start! x

          • Lovely!!!
            My in-laws to be are in Troon, but the whole rest of the family is in Edinburgh (he proposed at the Castle so it’ll always have a special place in my heart ;)

            Yes, the Americans are quite excited for kilts and pipers! (and I am too!)

            Thanks for all the well wishes…going to be one hell of a celebration

  • This is an awesome post. I love the part about the social signifier…

    When I was a kid, my dad told me how my mom refused a giant diamond for her engagement ring and asked for something smaller. As a child (who loved sparkly things), I told him I thought she was crazy. Bigger is better! Of course, when I got engaged I didn’t even have a ring at first. My husband was daunted by the idea of walking into a jeweler’s and he didn’t want my help even though I was okay with providing my opinion. We knew we wanted to get married, but the only reason the “official” proposal didn’t come along was because there was no ring.

    Finally, one night he asked me, “Do you need a ring?” And I knew I didn’t. So I said no, and he asked me to marry him.

    Still, I couldn’t believe I was engaged. We ended up buying a ring off of Etsy with a pretty blue topaz stone for less than $100. I never wore rings so wearing this ring was a physical reminder to me that I was going to get married. It made the surreal dream experience of knowing I was going to be with this person for the rest of my life so much more real. But after I got it resized, the stone kept falling out :(

    In the end, we bought a $20 silver ring off Etsy and I wore it as a “placeholder” engagement ring, expecting that my wedding band would be my grandmother’s white gold band, but when we found out that it couldn’t be resized without losing her & my grandfather’s engravings on the inside, the little silver ring became my wedding band. I don’t wear the topaz ring ever. I love how simple and easy my little silver ring is (never catches on things, and it’s subtle enough that no one really notices it, but if they’re looking, it’s obviously there). I think it’s very me :)

  • Rachael

    My husband and I did the engagement thing a little differently (besides getting engaged at a beer festival!) He proposed to me with a simple band, which I still wear. When people heard we were engaged, they would do the customary “OH MY let me see your RING!” then they would look confused. One person actually said, “Wait, did you already get married? That’s a wedding band, not an engagement ring.” It irritated me to no end because I felt judged, but also because a little part of me was afraid that our “weird” ring situation meant that we were somehow less than other couples. Then I thought, oh wait, my husband is awesome and we love each other and everyone else can just BUTT OUT. A few months later, husband gave me a ruby ring that he designed with stones from a ring my grandmother wore when she was living. I love it so much, because not only did he design it, but it is something from a very beloved family member who isn’t with us anymore. I wouldn’t change a thing about my rings, including when my partner gave them to me. Doing things differently forced me to confront the WIC from the first day of my engagement, and working through those issues really helped me make better, more conscious choices for our wedding.

  • I’m loving reading everyone’s stories about their rings or why they chose not to wear a ring.

    I’ve been thinking about taking off my engagement ring since I got married. I do tend to scratch people with it, and I constantly hit it on things, and I’m afraid I could break it. It’s so so precious to me, but with my wedding band… sometimes it feels like too much. I was never a ring wearer to begin with. I like the feel of just my wedding band, and I like the way it looks… the simplicity. But it’s just been hard to actually take that step and remove my engagement ring.

  • I think like women, and like couples, and like men, all situations are different.

    Couples decide what they want to do in regards to the ring, their relationship, their wedding, their family. And it’s their business, they don’t owe an explanation to anyone else. They don’t have to do what is considered “traditional”, they just make their own way and own their choices.

    I don’t understand why we need to justify our choice to wear a diamond/ruby/pearl/gemstone/glass chip or not or a wedding band or not…just like we shouldn’t have to justify who we are choosing to share our life with. I guess I’ve never really cared what jewelry other women or men are wearing on their fingers, and I’ve never questioned why or why not.

    • Class of 1980

      Unfortunately, the world isn’t exactly full of people who think as you do.

      It’s full of people making very rude comments and/or questioning other peoples’ ring choices. Believe me, it’s true.

  • Kashia

    Speaking of the Diamond Olympics, when the Boy and I were getting engaged people he works with recommended that he should buy me what he can now because in 5 years we can always upgrade to the “REAL” ring. Ugh! That made me mad, because it seems really insulting to assume things like that. The industry he works in is mainly men so every office Christmas party turns into a big Whose got that biggest rock contest between the wives. Not a culture that I fit into very well.

    • I have heard this a lot too — the “upgrade to the REAL ring” thing. I actually think it’s so nice when I see women in these kind of environments walking around with a teeny diamond that their husband bought when they got engaged years ago. My mom has only taken off her engagement ring one time since 1974, when she was in the hospital, and has had to resist a lot of “upgrade” pressure. I think my mom’s tiny diamond is such a nice symbol of my parents’ life together.

    • SeptBride

      To each his own (especially in the world of jewelry politics), but I am personally very opposed to the “upgrade” idea. To me, the whole point of having an engagement ring and/or wedding band is that it is something you carry with you from the start of your baby family to the end. I love looking at my mom’s very simple band (no e-ring) and knowing that she still wears it because the continuity means something. My dad can buy much nicer jewelry now, but he can’t re-buy those scared, 19-year old kids taking a chance on life and love.

    • I’ve gotten the upgrade comment a lot myself. It shocks me every single time. I even had a friend (who I would normally consider a very classy lady) suggest a jeweler that we could go to when we were “ready to get real wedding rings.” As if the titanium bands that we picked out were somehow inferior because they were inexpensive and simple. These are rings we picked out because we absolutely loved them, and they were in our price range. We also got to support an independent jeweler who is just starting out. How great is that?

      • When I worked in the wedding industry in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, my co-workers & I worked with Brides-to-be with a lot of money & very large diamonds. When my boss got engaged, she got a BIG rock. Only to “upgrade” after her wedding to keep up with the customers. So sad & disheartening!!!!!

    • I hate that. A lot of well meaning people have said that to me – that we can upgrade. Why would I upgrade to a ring that has no value to me? I want to always have the original ring he gave me, with the original diamond… a diamond that I don’t actually think is all that tiny, so I’m not sure why it would need to be “upgraded.”

      I guess that’s fine for some people if that’s what’s important to them, but I just find it so insulting when someone says that to me.

  • I will also say, while I did not want a diamond engagement ring (I’m more of an estate sale emerald kinda girl, but apparently they’re fragile and I’m a bit of a menace, so diamond it is) I am quietly very excited about passing on what I hope will one day be a family heirloom. My parents, Mr. J’s parents, and both my sets of grandparents are divorced and being the hopelessly nostalgic romantic that I am, it makes me a little sad not to have that physical reminder of time-tested love to cling to (yes, I cry when watching “The Notebook” and “Titanic”). So when we got engaged, I put it in my mind that ours would be the heirloom that gets passed down.

    Now when I look at my ring, I have this image etched in my mind of passing it on to our future generations and regaling them with stories of our youthful adventures while they sit slack-jawed in awe at how friggin cool we were.

  • I love this post. I live in the South where many women get engaged upon graduating college (sometimes before), and the Diamond Olympics are very, very real. There have been so many times in the past six years (I’m 28 now) where I’ve felt so self-conscious being surrounded by friends with humongous flashy diamonds on their left hand — like something was wrong with me that I didn’t have someone who wanted to put one on my own hand. I realize that’s ridiculous now, but in the world of the Diamond Olympics I felt like I was in last place.

    I do love my engagement ring — I told my husband-elect that I didn’t want him (a high school teacher) to go into debt buying me a ring, but refused to have any other input in the process because I felt it was his decision to buy a ring and that with it being a gift it was not my place to dictate what it would look like. He bought a beautiful ring — I love it, and I know he’s proud of it too. It would in no way win the Diamond Olympics, but that doesn’t bother me now. At the same time I try not to flash it in anyone’s face, lest they feel the way I did five years ago or lest they feel compelled to judge the size of my stones compared to their own. I don’t know yet whether I will continue to wear it or not when we get married in June, though I think it would break husband-elect’s heart if I stopped.

  • Patty

    I love this blog, but I’m actually kind of insulted at what I feel is an implied implication that my engagement ring is somehow materialistic and misprioritized.

    If you don’t choose and engagement ring, I respect your choice. But please don’t insinuate that my choice is wrong (“Obviously, there are ethical and environmental considerations” in addition to the overall sentiment of this post.)

    • Class of 1980

      You obviously did not spend time reading the comments. If you did, you would not feel insulted.

      • Class of 1980

        Also — I own a diamond pave ring that I love. The design looks like I tied a double string of diamonds on my finger.

    • I wear what my mother fondly refers to as a “skating rink” and I don’t feel insulted at all. We all have different reasons and different backgrounds, and what Adrienne talks about is really reflecting on our rings and what it means to us and to society. I’m happy with my skating rink, and I’m not ashamed of what it means. I think the comments to this post reflect that diversity.

    • ann

      I mean, there ARE ethical considerations with diamonds. That’s just true, and stating it doesn’t necessarily imply judgment. It is possible to separate these processes.

      For example, I am vegan, but when I go home to my meat-eating, dairy-loving Wisconsin family, I occasionally eat my Mom’s mac and cheese. It makes her happy. That is really important to me. While doing so, I’m saying that not eating her mac and cheese is MORE wrong than eating her mac and cheese, but I don’t forget that what I’m doing is wrong in some sense that’s quite important to me.

      People make decisions for all kinds of reasons, there are ethical considerations about all sorts of things, and in the end it’s up to each of us to weigh the costs/benefits we know of all kinds of things and make a decision.

      I think the comments on this thread reflect this balance.

      • Alyssa

        Also? Mom’s mac and cheese? ALWAYS awesome, no matter who your mom is. :-)

    • meg

      I was explicit that there were no judgments, so if you’re feeling judged, that’s something going on with you, not with me. Worth thinking through.

      I have a diamond engagement ring (as do a HUGE number of other readers… take a glance at all the comments before you). There were of course ethical and environmental considerations to be made (that’s just reality), but we made them and we got a ring. I don’t wear it now, but that’s neither here nor there.

  • I, too, was very influenced by Anne’s disappointment. I’ve never really liked diamond rings (although while wearing one for a costume I started to see what you’re saying about the social signifier). I’ve been thinking about an emerald ring because both of our birthdays and the day we met are in May but something just doesn’t feel right. I love wedding rings. I even have what looks like a wedding ring on my right hand, but I just don’t know about the engagement. Also, why am I the only one who has to wear a ring? We’re both engaged! Or soon to be.

  • To wear or not to wear. What a very interesting topic! I find it fascinating that if a woman decides not to wear her ring, people start to talk.. If a man chooses to leave his finger ringless, it’s seen as no big deal, if recognized at all. It’s a personal preference. If no ring makes you comfortable, for goodness sake, leave it tucked safely in your jewelry box. If you just want to adorn the band then do so! You could also wear it on a chain around your neck or try a different finger…. But the choice is yours. Bling if you want to. Or don’t. Just be happy!!

    • Morgan

      Really? In my circle, a married man without a wedding ring is a strange thing, and is generally perceived that there must be a problem with the relationship. Which isn’t fair, of course, but it does show how standards are different everywhere.

  • Kayakgirl73

    I feel almost as if that post and subsequent comments are designed to make those of us who wear a diamond or who wanted one to feel bad. I wanted an engagement ring, I view it as an outward symbol of our love. We picked it out together. We looked at several different types of settings and I choose a round solitaire because I like classic things. My wedding band is plain white gold.

    We got the ring at a local jeweler known for their diamonds. They follow the Kimberly process rules.

    I’m all for folks choosing to wear whatever they like or to not wear a ring if desired. I think family rings are neat, however there were none offered on either side.

    • Class of 1980

      Several of us have bent over backwards in the comments to say it’s perfectly okay to get an engagement ring, even a large one, if that’s what YOU truly want. And I posted a comment that new diamonds can be sourced ethically, so no one should be lecturing anyone.

      However, MOST of the judgment going on in our society is against nontraditional rings/stones or smaller diamonds. That’s why we are talking about it.

      I think we’ve all agreed several times in the comments that there should be freedom to choose without being questioned or judged.

      • Class of 1980

        And have you read the stories in the comments of the harsh things that have been said to some of these women?

        It breaks my heart that people are so rude and callous.

        • Kayakgirl73

          I did read all of the comments up to the point where I wrote my original post. I was not judging anyone, I thought I made that clear. I’m just saying that I felt judged. Maybe I’m overly sensitive but that’s how I felt reading the comments. Please don’t accuse people of not reading the comments, when you don’t know if they read them or not. By the way I usually agree with a lot of what you write.

          • Class of 1980

            Kayak, It was hard to hear because I thought most of the comments tried to be nonjudgmental.

    • meg

      As I said in the post, and people have said all over the comments, there is zero judgement. I have a diamond engagement ring for goodness sakes! If you’re feeling judged, please look within and figure out why. I’m not juding you, Adrianne is not judging you, none of the other commenters are judging you. We think your ring is just great.

      • Kayakgirl73

        Thanks. I’m just sensitive, I worry far too much about what others think but I’m working on it. By the way I did read all the comments up until my initial post and I’ve tried to read the comments since, but I my have missed a few. Several folks seemed to think that I hadn’t read the comments which wasn’t true. I know lots of the responders had diamonds. I don’t think I was judgmental.

    • Liz

      i think the majority of comments have been by ladies who HAVE diamond rings.

      ie: me.

  • Harriet

    I love this post. I don’t have an engagement ring and I didn’t want one–my mother didn’t have one, and for whatever reason none of my friends’ mothers wore them when I was growing up, so I seriously thought they were only in TV and the movies until college! But I have absolutely no problem with other people getting them if they have meaning for you. My best friend got one, and it is lovely, and she really wanted to show people that she was “taken” during her two-year long engagement. It’s weird–when I tell people I’m engaged, they ask if I’m getting a ring, and when I say no, they seem to think I’m judging those who do have them. My fiance’s step-mother actually gave me a justification for why she had one! Why would I have any problem with her having one? In what world would it be right for me to pass judgment on her (or anyone else) for having one? I don’t want to make a statement by not having an engagement ring, I just don’t want an engagement ring. I do have an awesome engagement immersion blender, though.

    • Chantelle

      OMG, you’re a girl after my own heart. Engagement immersion blender!!!!

    • Love that. Love it.

  • Jess

    This is ridiculously amazing. I’ve been struggling for years now, trying to reconcile my deep need for an engagement ring and my confusion as to why I felt I needed one (especially since I’m a flaming liberal feminist), and BAM! You ladies nailed it on the head.

    Thank you for helping me not feel crazy anymore. I don’t need a 3 carat Tiffany diamond, but I realize I *do* need something that signifies to everyone where I am in my life.

    Meg, Turtle Love, Ladies of APW, you gals rock. Come to Chicago! :)

    • ann

      See my comment below…I’m in Chicago, too!

    • meg

      For the record I lovvvvveeee Tiffany diamonds. I always thought I’d get one. And then I tried it on and it didn’t feel right. So there was that. But it’s interesting stuff.

      • Katelyn

        Oh, Tiffany.

        My beau and I are ring shopping and while we’re not specifically budget-conscious, I can’t swallow a $30,000 price tag. We’re looking at sapphire center stones anyway… but we just had to stop by and see the sparkle.

        But please excuse me if you’re one of the ladies with one… because I *will* drool.

  • I’d really like to hear a man’s perspective on this conversation, because mine had an enormouse role in how blingy my ring is.

    I’ve always wanted a really thin, simple band, ever since I was little. When we started talking about rings, however, my husband informed me that he would look like a cheap jerk if he got me something plain. He felt like I deserved more glitter; he wanted to spend a serious chunk of money on this piece of jewelry (because apparently men see it as a social signifier, too). Because of that, I have an insanely sparkly wedding set that I wear every day. I do intend on switching to just the wedding band (I really really love my wedding bands) someday, but we’re only three months into our marriage, and I don’t feel quite ready to ditch the bling yet (I also really really love the bling, right now). And it doesn’t have to do with how it appears to anyone else, it’s just that I know how much thought and effort my husband spent choosing this particular set for me.

    • SeptBride

      Yes! It has also surprised me how much competition re: diamonds there is within my husband’s circle of friends (a group of generally cheap, very down to earth guys).

      • Class of 1980

        I have a friend with a beautiful ring with graduated diamonds. Her husband has commented that they should have gone bigger. And he’s an aerospace engineer. It’s weird which guys care about such things. You would never think he’d feel that way.

  • ashley

    My husband had an opal (my birthstone) necklace of my mother’s turned into a ring for me. I used to play with it as a child and beg to have it. Though I hadn’t seen it in years, I immediately recognized it before it even hit my finger. It’s colorful and fits me perfectly, but the thing that I love most about it is that my father, my mother, and my husband are all tied into this beautiful symbol of the joining families.

    I did, however, get married with a $25 ring I purchased from an Etsy artist. It’s a simple sterling silver band with two hearts stamped inside. I’m not really a jewelry person, so when I need something lighter and easier to manage, I wear that one. I like having options.

  • amanda

    Wow, this post is so right. My engagement ring is not a diamond and looks nothing like it. It is actually in the color of mother of pearl ( 5 flat stones) arranged in the shape of a butterfly or flower. I love this ring for what it means, because it is original, because it is much more like me, and because it is the ring my husband chose for me. Actually first we thought it was moon stones, when I checked, it turns it is polished glass ! Then we learnt about a russian tradition that says love is like glass , because if you hold it too tight, or you let it lose, it breaks, so you have to take care of it. I like this metaphor, but at the same time it broke my heart because in the end it is saying that whatever you do it will break…
    Whenever people saw my ring or asked about it I got a lot of shocked reactions as in “but that is not an engagement ring” and “it should at least be a stone” .
    As if implying that the question that came with it is not what is important.
    I am still wearing it, since it is big and flat it does not fit together with the wedding band, but I am wearing it on the opposite hand.
    Anyway, though I do love shiny stones, and through the process sometimes I wished my ring was a stone (maybe a blue, and not a diamond at all necessarily) I have come to really like it for what it means. And I love the fact that it is so completely different/ unusual.
    So thanks for this post.
    Also, there is a short story on the book “Women with big eyes” , from mexican author Angeles Mastretta which talks about it, it is hilarious, the story of a girl who is wondering why she has to wait and wait and why she can not get a ring herself.

  • Noelle

    Great post! I love reading all the different perspectives. I have a somewhat “traditional” engagement ring/plain wedding band combo, and I find that I feel as though I need to justify why I have diamonds (similarly to my feeling that I need to “justify” why I chose to change my last name), even though I’ve never actually been asked about it, since the blood diamond issue is a concern of mine. The fact is, I inherited a large-ish diamond from my grandma, and then my husband’s parents gave us some diamonds that came in a ring from his grandma, and we had a custom design made to hold each of the stones. Our families are very much intwined in my ring. I love the story behind it.

  • I never thought I would participate in the Diamond Olympics, even though I work at a NYC law firm. But now, my girlfriend and I are in the process of picking out engagement rings. I know she is planning to propose to me but I want to have a ring on hand (haha) so that when she asks, she gets a ring right away too. But then, she let it slip — totally by accident — how much her ex spent on her ring (she was married before), and I was overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy because I can’t spend that much. On top of that, her old ring was from Tiffany’s so half the price of the ring was the brand name. And because it’s New York, apparently when she wore it people said all the time “Oh TIFFANY’S” in that way, because they could recognize it. Yikes, Diamond Olympics.

    After some talking, though, I am comfortable with what I can spend. She said how much her ex spent on her ring actually made her uncomfortable (especially the “Oh TIFFANY’S” part). She also says whatever I get her will mean a lot to her just because it is from me, and will symbolize that she is taken — as mine will. It feels less like property, and more like pride — maybe because we’re both women so we have a different set of issues (although I think some straight women feel the pride feeling about their ring too). When ring shopping, once I clarify that I am buying a ring for my girlfriend, rather than creating a “wish list” for my boyfriend, I get a whole different set of unfortunate reactions. Rather than “Oh you silly girl, you obviously want to tell him it has to be at least a carat or no one will even be able to see it,” I typically get at least 10 seconds of awkward silence while the sales person recovers.

  • My husband and I are high school sweethearts, and sometime in my junior year of high school we both decided to get promise rings; the pre-engagement rings that showed what we meant to one another. Now, my husband LOVES jewelry. Even in high school, he would loiter at the local jewelers and learn about stones and settings; he just loves beautiful jewelry. So for our promise ring, he gave me a beautiful and delicate fiery opal and diamond ring; he had a simple silver band (that we had to keep replacing as he grew, hee). We’ve had rings on our left ring finger since high school.

    When we got engaged, my husband was just finishing up his bachelor’s degree. It meant a lot to him that I have a traditional engagement ring with a big rock. We went ring shopping together so we could look at styles and sizes (I have tiny hands and knew that I wouldn’t want something TOO huge). He ended up getting a ring that looks pretty big on my tiny hands, but it’s absolutely perfect. He picked it out, and it represents his love, his dedication and promise to our future, and is the cumulative love from all our years together.

    My wedding band is my grandmother’s wedding ring. It fits perfectly (the magic of genetics, baby!), and looks like it was made to match my engagement ring. It’s a platinum ring with a string of itty bitty diamonds across the top; I actually wore it as my promise ring for a couple years after the opal broke (for the third time). While I love my engagement ring, it’s bulky and definitely a STATEMENT. It says HELLO, I WAS ENGAGED, I HAVE A PARTNER, I AM TRADITIONAL. My wedding ring is quieter. It fits absolutely perfectly, it’s sparkly and pretty but subtle. I know it’ll be the ring I can wear when I’m cleaning up baby diapers and painting walls or shoveling snow. I love both my rings, for different reasons; both represent me and my relationship with my husband, and I’m proud to wear them.

  • Ashley

    I am one of the few people I know without a diamond solitaire engagement ring, and thank goodness for that. Before getting engaged, I told my husband that I wasn’t a big diamond solitaire person. Although I think they’re pretty, I wasn’t ready to deal with the consequences of the big ring – the ethics of diamonds, the cost of the ring (and what it’d mean for our priorities), the insidious competition among engaged women to see who has the biggest or best ring, the fact that I would be ashamed to wear the ring in certain settings (how can you work with and represent extremely low-income people with a huge sign of your own person wealth on your finger?), etc.

    My lovely husband ended up getting me a beautiful white gold band with a few stones in it. I love it, but admit that I had a few moments of falling into the trap of trying to justify my ring to others who were clearly less than impressed with it. One horrible time, we were in the midst of registering at a giant, fancy store. (Which, by the way, we boycotted and didn’t register at.) The saleswoman asked to see “the ring” with that typical “I know it’ll be huge” gleam in her eye. As I showed my hand to her, I said, “oh, it’s just a simple band…”. I think it was the big store + the fact that I knew she was expecting a fat diamond made me insecure. The look on my husband’s face after I said this killed me….I had inadvertently insulted the ring he chose for me, and that really I chose for myself, because I was worried that I didn’t fit in. Really, having something different on my finger was my first foray into being a little different when it came to wedding stuff and ignoring people who didn’t seem to understand me. Again, thank goodness for that.

    PS – Ethics and emotion aside….From a fashion standpoint, my rings are amazing. I have one white gold and one gold ring, and they look great together. I bought a wedding band that has other rings that can be stacked with it. Endless anniversary gifts at the ready for my husband :) Oh, and I love that you can’t tell who I am or how much my family makes my staring at my hand.

  • Emily Elizabeth

    My husband proposed (well… asked if I wanted to talk about getting married) with a beautiful engagement ring that his grandmother gave him when she passed away, back when he was in high school. I’m sorry I never got to meet her, but I love wearing her ring and feeling a connection to his family history. The band is even worn down from the years of her wearing it next to her wedding band, which my mother in law wears. I do sometimes wear just my (plain online-bought but still so wonderful) wedding band, especially when I’m out doing field work or, say, picking blueberries, but it’s more of an I-really-really-don’t-want-to-lose-this kind of thing.
    I hadn’t ever considered wearing an engagement ring, but I hadn’t known about his grandmother’s ring. I did feel very self-conscious when others would ask to see it & exclaimed over it (“so big! so pretty!”), and interestingly always felt the need to explain it was his grandmothers, and that he/we didn’t buy it–almost as a way to get me out of those Diamond Olympics, or to keep them from judging us somehow (we’re both 24, I’m a grad student and he’s a freelancer, and there’s no way we could afford a ring like this without, say, eating only rice for a year).

  • ann

    I feel silly and self-conscious about this topic. I assumed I wouldn’t want to wear a ring at all for the same reasons I insist on being a “Ms.” and don’t plan to change my name…basically, it’s no one’s business whether I’m married! I didn’t really want to spend that much money on a “piece of jewelry.” I also feel weird because my fiance doesn’t want to wear a ring (he hates wearing jewelry, and has my total blessing on this front), and I’d feel weird being the only one of us publicly “marked as taken.”

    But, it turns out I actually would like to wear a ring and I have no idea why. I found a very simple small band-large band set that I really like, but have been stalling on purchasing it/prompting said fiance to. I’ve been engaged for almost a year (wedding next summer), and don’t have a ring because…we never got around to it? I guess? And money was tight? Money’s still tight, but this set is modest. I also think me wearing a ring wouldn’t carry the symbolism for him as it does for me, and as this marriage thing is a partnership, I’d feel weird about wearing it then, too!

    Anyway, I’ll have to think about this post. Maybe the first question to deal with is the why-did-this-suddenly-become-important-to-me one…keeps along with this post’s theme of maintaining authenticity in your choice.

    • meg

      I think it’s FINE that it’s important to you, and you can just let it be something you want. I wanted a proposal with a diamond ring. I got it. It was lovely. I’m glad it happened. And now I don’t wear my ring, which is fine too. But I’m not any less feminist because I wanted and asked for and got a sparkly proposal. That just means I know my own mind.

      • Ann

        You’re definitely right about the no-less-feminist thing. I think it’s really great when people go after what they want and admire them all the more if it’s outside of social context (whether that means you DO want a sparkly diamond ring or you don’t…can be either…).

        I guess, unfortunately, I don’t know my own mind on this topic. A bit more meditation might solve the problem…

    • If you want it, go for it! I find my self unconsciously playing with my wedding band, especially when I’m feeling anxious or upset. I’ve found that it settles me a bit, brings me back to the present and reminds me of things in my life that are wonderful. It’s a very physical reminder of my relationship, so it instantly makes me happier. Or at least calmer and more at peace.
      My now husband also didn’t want to wear a ring. I found it was important to me, but only after he said he didn’t want to wear one. To me the wish to not wear a ring reflected on his dedication to me, and his desire to be married and committed. (Was this totally silly, and was I projecting fears based on past relationships on him? Yup on both counts, but there it is.) When I told him how I felt, he agreed to try wearing it. At first it was only during the day, then he only took it off to shower. Now he wears it all the time, and loves it. Not saying your fiance would feel the same after he got used to it, and I’m definitely not advocating trying to make someone do something that doesn’t feel natural to them. Just saying that if it’s important to you, he might like the ring once he’s used to wearing it.

  • Chantelle

    I’m in a somewhat long engagement (it will be four years once we actually seal the deal) and I don’t have an engagement ring….I asked specifically for an engagement puppy. My fiance proposed with a lovely little Dachshund pup, and on so many occasions I’ve found myself incredibly happy that I have a warm fuzzy living dog to cuddle with rather than a ring to wear, especially on Saturday afternoon naps on the couch.

    However, my fiance got quite a bit of flack over it, even though this was something I specifically asked for. He asked me to speak with my parents, because as excited as they were when we got engaged they kept asking when I would get the “real” ring. He said they were making him feel like he was some cheapo because he didn’t get me a ring. I sometimes kidded with him that he should have got me a Great Dane pup since he could then play the Diamond size game, but with puppies.(I really do want a Dane, but once saw one take a dump in the park, and OMG, I’m not sure I’m ready to deal with something that size! LOL)

    Strangely enough, a few months into our engagement I started wanting a ring, mainly because it was a social signifier, and people would just know my status by looking at my hand. It was strange to be caught up in the peer pressure aspect of it, and a small part of me just thinks that it would be easier than having to explain my choices to everyone I meet. And some rings are just purty ( I blame Meg and the post on the little knot ring, that’s what started me thinking about how maybe I should get one :)). So far, I’ve stuck to my original intentions and I’m constantly amused by my sillly little dog. He makes me laugh, and I couldn’t think of anything that was better than that to symbolize what our relationship was about.

    p.s. I was horrified by the number of people who asked me “What happens when your dog dies? Will you get re-engaged?” wtf!

    • JEM

      Engagement Puppy is the best!

    • Emily Elizabeth

      an engagement puppy is an awesome idea! we adopted a dog shortly after moving to Canada (a sweet sweet sweet rescue beagle) and did get questions (woahhh you have a dog together, isn’t that serious?). when we decided to get married 5 months later, his younger brother said “of course they’re getting married, they have a dog”, which is awesome logic coming from a 13-year-old.

    • Alyssa

      I have an 1 year anniversary puppy! (Well, 3 yr. old rescue dog.) It wasn’t intentional, but we wanted a dog and just happened to find her the week before our anniversary. And she’s cost so much in medical bills at this point that The Boy likes to say we just should have left her there and gone on a cruise. (He kids. He pretends to only sort of like her, but I’m not the one sneaking her treats at 3am…)

    • DACHSHUND PUPPY!!!!!!!!! (Sorry, I have a pretty unhealthy obsession with adorable dachshunds…)

  • Jessie

    We had my small solitaire engagement ring placed inside a band (I didn’t want an engagement ring, but knew that people would grab for my hand immediately when I said I was engaged. The compromise: not leaving the store with a ring that my then fiance couldn’t pay for outright.), and I’ll admit that some of my more flashy, diamond hungry friends gave me a disappointed look when they saw it. That didn’t bother me. In fact, I loved it.

    My band represents who my husband and I are perfectly. We don’t spend unnecessary money. He knows he doesn’t have to impress me with extravagant gifts because the things that mean the most to me are him folding the laundry or simply bringing home a bouquet of flowers… or even an extra long kiss before work in the morning. To me, this ring signifies to everyone else my values and our values as a couple. And, everytime I look at it, I smile.

    Even when we get to the point in our lives where he could buy me a more flashy ring (we probably could get one now), I don’t want it. This ring signifies what made us strong and what I don’t want to lose in our relationship. No multiple-karat diamond can take the place of that.

  • margiemive

    Early in our relationship we had a really heated argument about diamonds which is so silly in retrospect. I was arguing that lab made or vintage diamonds are fine to wear, and he was arguing that even getting an alternative diamond still in a way feeds demand for a destructive, ugly, artificial market. I was angrily and passionately arguing my case. And then all of a sudden I realized, I don’t even really like diamonds. Settled that!

    I really love our rings. So much love was poured into them. And I know it’s a THING but it was a thing made with love. Both of our parents donated gold to melt down into the rings, and my mom donated a big, glorious sapphire that her mother had given her for my engagement ring. A family friend designed all the rings. Ahhh. I just feel loved whenever I look at them, and I used to get lost staring into the sapphire. It would change with the light and the weather, and it was like staring into a blue pool of water. But I stopped wearing my engagement ring pretty soon after the wedding, partly because I gained a little weight and one ring was more comfortable than two, but also because I felt like a wedding ring just said “This is it, I’m married, I’m all set.” It felt less fussy.

  • I used to want a (small, discrete) engagement ring until I found out that the general “thing to do” was to continue wearing it once you got married. I can’t stand the feeling of multiple rings, I am way to pragmatic at heart to demand a ring that I’d wear for a year or so and then take off forever (but would by then be too sentimental to give away or sell), and so I’ve now decided that I will just skip the engagement ring step and wait until marriage for a ring – one that’s worth wearing forever (uh, not monetarily “worth,” I just mean hopefully it will be rad because I like rad things).

  • JEM
  • Morgan

    I work in a place without any real Diamond Olympics (Western Canada/Oil and Gas) and I almost have the opposite problem. My engagement ring is large and showy, with the main stone being substantially larger than most people I know. It’s a family ring, left by David’s beloved godmother before she died, so we had nothing to do with picking it out or paying for it. However, I can see the negative assumptions in peoples eyes sometimes. It’s really uncomfortable, so I always tell the story, but I feel bad that such a lovely gift can make me feel a tiny bit of shame. But the woman loved flashy jewelry, and she loved David, and David loves me, and now here I am with a sparkly ring on my finger – there is nothing I should be ashamed of, right? Shame busters time…

    Also, can I just say how much I love reading everyone’s stories? And how much I would love to see pictures of some of these fabulous untraditional rings? So much pretty!

  • Mitcherman

    This is a hard topic for me because I am always so torn about whether to wear my engagement ring or not. My husband designed our rings and they are beautiful. I love wearing my wedding band and I feel naked without it but my engagement ring, while also beautiful, is big and expensive and for me, overly ostentatious. For some reason, my self-described “cheap bastard” husband bought into the three months salary standard for engagement rings. It is so beyond his normal behavior that I never expected him to get on one knee with a ring that cost more than both our cars are worth. Don’t get me wrong, it is a wonderful ring and I really do like that he designed it himself and I don’t mean to sound ungrateful but it is just not me. It stick out and catches on things and I live in an eternal nightmare of losing it every time I leave the house with it on my finger.
    People don’t seem to understand my aversion to this ring or buy my complaints about it being too big. But it just so noticeable. It just makes me uncomfortable to have something like that on my finger. Something that causes people to make assumptions about our lifestyle and financial situation that just are not true. We do not live beyond our means or make extravagant purchases. Mostly I regret that my wonderful husband felt that it was necessary to make such a grand gesture in order to avoid being seen as unworthy because unfortunately, many people did not accept his love for me until it was displayed with rocks and metal.

  • It’s so funny to me how our thoughts on engagement rings evolved over our pre-engagement period. At first we thought we wanted a gemstone. But then decided on a diamond. At first we thought that he would pick it out and then surprise me with it. But then we picked it out together. I think when you actually get to the moment, what you find that you really want surprises you. Right now I’m planning to wear my ring and wedding band after I marry, but who knows, maybe I’ll surprise myself again.

    I love my engagement ring to pieces; it’s the most valuable thing that I own, besides my car and my education. We decided ahead of time that we wanted a gold three-stone ring in sort of an unusual setting. We ended up popping into a jewelry store that was going out of business and bam– saw it. When I tried it on, the jewelry store owner said, “You know, that’s the ring that your children will fight over after you pass away.” Gave me CHILLS.

    Also, side note: can I just say how much the gold market SUCKS right now. Two completely plain wedding bands in 18k gold come to $600 for us. GAH.

    • I’m going to give you a hard time because I heart you Mary — diamonds are actually gemstones. I think what you are thinking of is precious vs. semi-precious.

      • Gah, you’re totally right. Brain fart.

    • Kayakgirl73

      I hear you on the gold market. Our very plain wedding bands were crazy expensive compared to what they would have been a few years ago.

      • Eat Broccoli

        One word Titanium, its strong and pretty cheap, makes amazing jewlery

  • I loved this post! So well-written and poignant and true.

    I definitely faced a lot of confusion and guilt and just overall icky feelings surrounding the selection of my engagement ring. (Because, yes, my fiance and I picked it out together.)

    This is going to sound awful, but I always thought I wanted a massive diamond ring (the bigger, the better!) I’ve always loved jewelry and diamonds and that’s just kind of the way I pictured it going.

    Of course, my perfect rock didn’t exactly end up matching my perfect life partner – he’s currently in medical school, loaded up with debt. It would have been totally irresponsible for us to buy a massive ring on credit.

    After realizing a big ring might not be in the cards for me, I totally swung to the other side. I didn’t want a diamond at all! I’d rather have colored stone! Or a twisty tie! Whatevs.

    The funny part was that, when it came down to it, it was my fiance who really wanted me to have a diamond ring of some kind. He liked what it signified. He liked that people would know we were engaged by looking at my hand. It was important to him.

    In the end, we managed to take into account my love of sparkly things, his tendencies toward the traditional, and our budget with our ring choice. We picked out an intricate and delicate setting with a small center diamond. It certainly won’t be winning me any competitions, but I think it’s so me, and, most importantly, so us. It reflects exactly where we are at this point in our lives and in our relationship. I absolutely love it. I’m so glad we went with what felt right for us.

  • I also proposed to my husband… like a hundred times before he said yes officially… It was kind of a running joke between us. We knew we would get married, but he’s a bit younger than me and was feeling intimidated by the idea of BEING married…

    He was also a philosophy grad student, and I had just finished my Americorps term, so we had $0 to spend on rings. We didn’t even have a car. Instead of an engagement ring I got an engagement bike tune up. Then one day we borrowed a friends car and went to the mall, found the cheapest simplest wedding bands in the jewelry section, and put them on lay away. Every month Aidan would take a 2 hour round trip bus journey to make a $25 payment on our rings, and when they were finally ours it felt like something we had worked for and invested so much in…. the bus journeys meant so much more than the money. I think I would truly be devastated if I ever lost my $100 hunk of robo-cop (Aidan’s term for our bands, as they are made out of titanium or something).

    Sometimes I get little twinges of wishing that I had an engagement ring, especially when I look at Turtle Love (Love you guys, and I always recommend you to EVERYONE, wish I had known about you before I got married), but I actually never wanted one, not even when I was a kid. I’ve never been much of a jewelry person, and always thought that it looked rather odd on me. I also felt uncomfortable by the gender role implications, and the bloody history of both diamonds AND gold.

    If one chooses to go with out and engagement ring, I DO think that it is really important to mark the occasion by doing something else that is special. My husband agreed to marry me, we changed our facebook statuses, and then went of to Philosophy drinking night…. So it ummm took awhile before we really felt engaged, and when I told people they would inevitably look at my hand, look at me, look at my hand and make some comment implying that we must not be serious.

  • SeptBride

    I love this post and hearing everyone’s stories. An engagement ring/wedding band/tattoo/choice not to wear anything is a really special, personal choice and often signifies one of the first decisions made in your baby family.

    What I wanted – a very small, deco ring in a silver-colored metal. One that looked nothing like a “traditional” engagement ring.
    What he wanted – My husband thought is was only an engagement ring if it was a diamond solitaire – as big as possible. It’s funny how much more the big ring meant to him than to me.
    The compromise – In the end, we compromised on style and I said I didn’t care what it looked like as long as it was “old” and “flat” (I hate wearing jewelry that can get caught on things, as I am not a careful person).
    What I got – his great-grandmother’s cocktail ring, which is incredibly hard to describe because his great-grandparents had it custom made in the late-1940s in a very 1930s style, with their own twist. But. It’s big. Really big. And totally not what I expected. But, it is “old” and it is “flat,” so I can’t complain. :o)

    Side note: I mentioned above, I can’t seem to stop telling people that is an heirloom when they compliment me – it’s almost as if I need to say, “don’t judge me because I have a large diamond! Don’t think I am someone who values that!” Although, of course, I do value having nice things. Especially things that come with history. Ack, this subject is complicated.

    Having a wedding band was really important to me. I knew that there would be lots of times that I did not wear my engagement ring – hiking, traveling, kneading bread, you name it – but I always wanted to have something to symbolize the commitment we had made. So, at the end of the day, my (free! unexpectedly discovered by my mother in a cache of vintage jewelry she bought years ago at an estate sale!) wedding band is much more precious to me than my very precious engagement ring.

    • Morgan

      “it’s almost as if I need to say, “don’t judge me because I have a large diamond! Don’t think I am someone who values that!” Although, of course, I do value having nice things. Especially things that come with history. Ack, this subject is complicated.” Yes yes yes! You’re not alone in this, and I for one, find that comforting.

    • Carmar

      SETPBRIDE, I know you commented on my comment before, but we must be ring-feeling twins!

  • Jessi

    When my fiancee (now husband) proposed he did it with a $2 wooden ring from a hippie market. I loved it and wore it for half our engagement. His aunt had given us a diamond so he wanted us to be able to design the ring together and decide on a budget together. This way we were able to get a ring that was environmentally and socially responsible..

    It was one of my favourite things about being engaged.. being able to show people a wooden band when they asked to see a diamond. Who says I need to fit their mold?

    • ka

      For some reason when I read this quickly, the wooden band and diamond converged in my mind, and now I love the idea of a wooden band with a small diamond (or other stone) set in it!

  • tupelohoney

    I too love this post. I LOVE just wearing my wedding band. I think it’s so much more beautiful by itself. The wedding band is the symbol of the marriage, is what my hubby held around my finger while promising to be with me forever. I often think that engagement rings overshadow the beauty and shape of the wedding band… at least on my own finger. All that being said, I do often stare at my good friend’s rock, encrusted with diamonds, next to her glitzed-out wedding band… it’s beautiful, just not for me.

  • zach

    My fiance and I got engaged without rings, but a friend insisted it wasn’t real until we had an official proposal. So I wrote a poem ad proposed, but had forgotten about the whole idea of a ring for official proposals (note: I am a forgetful grad student, and also we’re queers and weren’t so into the marriage thing except we wanted to have kids and protect them). So after my fiance said yes, she asked about a ring, so I pulled out some of my knitting and made her a (st)ring! She still keeps that one in her glasses-case, but a few months later when I was traveling for school I bought us each wooden rings in argentina. Hers ended up being way too big, but it only cost about $.50 american. So I bought her a $10 silver ring from a vendor at sf gay pride. Shortly after that, we passed a few pawnshops on our way to a picnic in Dolores Park, and decided that pawnshop = ultra recycling. We bought our wedding bands there, plain gold bands, non-matching, for $210, combined, and couldn’t be happier. She stopped wearing her engagement rings immediately, because the (st)ring was too fragile, the wooden one way too big, and the silver one also too big (she is an awkward 5 3/4 size). I wore both my wooden ring and the gold band, but the wooden one felt as if it would break if I kept wearing it daily. We got the rings engraved, ani v’dodi l’dodi li, I am my beloved and my beloved is mine, to reflect our commitment to judaism but also our low level of hebrew reading ability.
    anyway, that’s our ring story. I like it. : )

  • Class of 1980

    I was in an antiques store a million years ago and they had a ring with a small diamond that knocked my socks off. It had the most impressive metalwork I’ve ever seen in my life. Among all the carving, there were two bows on each side holding the small diamond up, so the ring sat up high.

    I’ve never seen anything like it since. I have often wished I could have seen it on the person who ended up buying it. It was magical. But it was so fairy-like and fine that it needed a very fine-boned wearer.

    There are lots of rings that aren’t for me, but that I absolutely love looking at.

  • erin

    Wow, what incredible timing for this post… as we’re going to pick up our non-traditional rings in just a few days. We went around and around about this for a while after deciding to get engaged. I’m not someone who would choose to wear a diamond on my own, but he inherited a (huge) diamond ring from his late mother. Still, we were both ambivalent about using it– it is in a safety deposit box out of the country that he wouldn’t have access to anytime soon, and I was nervous I would damage or misplace this irreplaceable thing or conversely, offend him or his family by not wearing it. So after lots of discussion we ultimately decided to not use the heirloom ring and do some sort of simple gold bands instead.

    After looking around a bit and liking the look of engraved bands, we managed to find an incredible artisan jeweler in the outer Bay Area who specializes in hand engraving. We worked with him to design 2 yellow gold wedding bands that are engraved with a combination of patterns from each of the 6 countries where our grandparents came from.

    I still found myself wanting to wear some kind of engagement ring while we’re planning the wedding, perhaps for those social signifier/shortcut reasons above but also because I already feel committed and partnered. I’d had a hard time deciding on a yellow gold wedding band since I alternate between wearing silver and gold watches and jewelry (all simple stuff from my grandmothers). So we also had the jeweler create a white gold band engraved with a pattern we found on an old Ketubah (Jewish wedding contract) from the region where his grandfather was born.

    So my plan is to alternate between the yellow gold and white gold bands once we’re married. Now we just have to get engaged– my partner still wants to surprise me with some sort of proposal, which I’m excited about. And the whole process of making this decision about wedding jewelry was a great one for us– as my partner pointed out, we’ve stumbled upon a mantra for the entire wedding: “simple, but meaningful.”

  • I’ve loved all of the comments (killer post, both of you!) and Meg, you’ve done a fantastic job repeating that there’s no judgment. Hugs.

    We’re doing it all backwards, but I love it! We’re not officially engaged yet, but buying a house and planning the wedding. After we’d talked about marriage, and C decided it was important to him to propose, we started looking at rings. They’re our engagement/wedding rings. We spent a long time discussing it, and we collaborated and picked out together. His is a stainless steel band–sooo fitting–and mine is more fussy than I would’ve guessed, but it was important to him that it have sparkle, and important to me that it not be diamond. Mine is actually interlocking bands that we designed together with our amazing etsy jeweler, and I love it. We’ll both wear them when we’re engaged and then switch hands after the wedding. I really like how equalist it feels to me.

  • Love, love, love this post. I’m eager for my workload to slow down a little so I can participate in the discussion that is going on.
    It actually surprised me at the time when I realized that I wanted an engagement ring. It took me a lot of thinking to puzzle out that I wanted the social signifier. I knew I didn’t want the status symbol, but I really wanted one. I wrestled with a fair amount of guilt over it, as I felt like I was buying into the WIC by wanting one. In the end we picked a ring that was pretty modern & vintage art-deco at the same time, one that totally didn’t look like a typical engagement ring. Now I wear it on my right hand sometimes. (It doesn’t sit in a way to be able to wear it with another ring.) Most days I just wear my wedding band. I feel like that suits me, and my personality a lot better.

  • One of the biggest things of my engagement was that none of my friends’ first reactions to hearing I was engaged was asking to see my ring. In fact, I didn’t even see my ring until I’d already been wearing it for several minutes (it was pitch dark when he proposed). Instead they were happy for us. The focus wasn’t on what he bought or how much he spent on it the way I’ve seen it with so many others. I really only recall a small handful of people even getting around to asking about it at all. And I thank them for letting it mean something to us without it having to mean something to the rest of the world as well.

    • Same here! That was one of the best gifts our friends could give us, in my opinion.

  • Cody

    LOOOVE this topic, because it’s something my fiance and I talked about so much before getting engaged. We talked through what my expectations were, what the engagement ring meant to him, looked for ages online at ring ideas. And from the beginning I’ve wanted only the wedding ring after we’re married.

    So, in the end, he got me a little crystal owl ring. Totally quirky, totally our style. And of course, nobody thinks it’s an engagement ring, and when people find out, some of them say, “Wait, seriously. THAT’s your ring……” and some of them say, “That’s rad. And so you!” So whatevs. It’s true that whatever says “love” to you, is the perfect ring.

  • Candice

    Thanks for this insightful post.
    The engagement ring does strike emotion in everyone for different reasons; some envy, some regrets, others anticipation.
    As a sociologist (Ok, I have a degree and practice in my spare time) I researched the wedding industry and the history of the diamond engagement ring. Its been a while so I’ll paraphrase:
    The diamond engagement ring came around during a period of time where women were shamed and deemed worthless in society if they were not virgins and pure. In the event where a man and a woman planned to get married, it seems a little safer for the two to have premarital sex without the social stigma and consequences because, after all, he would eventually be her husband. As we all know, engagement periods are trial periods and they don’t always end in marriage, and for the women then, this made them worthless, as in, no other man would want them and they wouldn’t be able to become a wife, a mother, have money, all the social spots on the social ladder. Hence, the engagement ring! Consider it similar to a an expensive promise, almost as a downpayment. Women expected engagement rings so they knew that the men were investing in their engagement and less likely to leave. The women’s worth soon became the size and the amount of the ring. (Diamond olympic syndrome)
    Now, things have definitely changed, (Thank goodness!) but the tradition of an engagement ring reamins.
    I personally have had a few encounters with an engagement ring; five to be exact! (Keep in mind they have all been the direct result of planning to marry the same wonderful man who knows I have a tendency to change my mind and question things!) Part of it is because I don’t want to except its cultural meaning and because I know where it came from. Some days I don’t wear it, other days I can’t stop admiring its sparkle:)
    Every ring is different, every love is different, every marriage as well. One thing that is the same is why we are all questioning wearing an engagement ring or the “diamond olympic” size of it or lack of size or lack of ring. What I’ve learned is that its important to push past all the pressures and others comments because in the end its only meaning is that someone loves you and promises to always do so, whether you have a ring, or not.

  • My now-husband proposed with a gorgeous ring. It was exactly what I wanted and I was thrilled that he listened to my subtle hints. It was a tiny ring with tiny stones and was flat and non-pokey.

    I was even more charmed after hearing about him going to the store to pick it out and spending hours going back and forth and resisting the salespeople trying to talk him into a big, pokey ring.

    When we decided on wedding rings we picked out titanium ones that cost 25 bucks apiece and we both wear them every day and due to the undestructible nature of them, never need to take them off. I love that about them. And us.

    We even bought a second set for when our fingers get bigger with age.

    • I, like you, love the story of my husband spending pretty much an entire day going to all different stores trying to find the right ring (small) at the right price (definitely not even a month’s salary, let alone three or whatever it’s “supposed” to be).

      • JEM

        This is my favorite part of the story too :)

    • I love our titanium rings for the same reason. They’re light, and comfortable, and can be worn no matter what.

  • abey

    It’s funny, I was never a diamond girl, or a jewelery girl for that matter. My mother just wears one sapphire ring, so I didn’t have a particularly traditional role model. But I ended up getting an antique diamond engagement ring (which I picked out with my fiancee). I adore it-I love the design of it (it’s not a simple solitaire), that it was more affordable than a new ring, that buying an antique was more socially and environmentally conscious, and I love that the ring has a story, a story that I will continue. I wasn’t going to get a wedding band but I recently found one that went incredibly well with the engagement ring, so I got it. It’s also an antique and is beautiful. I don’t know what I’ll do when I’m married but so far I love having a diamond ring, although being traditional feels weird.

  • Estrella

    Thank you! I’ve been harboring this secret sadness and confusion about my engagement ring(s) for a while now and this post was so helpful. Most of my friends got married way before me. Their rings are all either in the two months salary range or have been passed down through their families. The first time I got engaged, I made it clear that if I were to have an engagement ring, I wanted something ethical, that I could feel proud to wear, knowing it wouldn’t cause significant damage in the mining/making. Of course, that means it was way more expensive than other rings out there, and my fiance at the time could only afford a tiny stone. I loved the ring, but I found that I couldn’t help dropping it’s ethical merit into the engagement conversation, as if I needed to offer an excuse for it’s size. Yuck. And then the engagement didn’t work out. We broke up and I gave back the ring.

    Fast forward three years, when I met and fell in love with an amazing man, who comes from a working class background and is saddled with massive amounts of school loan debt. I knew he would ask, but I couldn’t help but wonder: what would he do about a ring? He’s traditional in some ways and I knew a ring would be important to him. I decided that this time around, I didn’t need a diamond. The whole things wasn’t worth the hassle. But when I was honest with myself, I knew that I did want some visible bling. I was so excited about the idea of marrying this man, that I wanted to shout that to the world, even if just from my finger. So when he asked, and offered me a lovely white gold/solitaire sapphire ring, I was thrilled. I wore it proudly. It wasn’t exactly my style, or what I would have picked out for myself, but he chose it, wanting to announce to the world that I was his and our love had a future. And then something happened. Maybe it was my skin, maybe I used a funky cleaning product one too many times, I don’t know. But the stone got cloudy. And I was surprised by how bummed I got. When it looked like a diamond, I was happy. I didn’t care that it wasn’t. But when it no longer did, I don’t know, I’m ashamed to say that I was worried about what other people would think. I tried to get it cleaned/repaired but to no avail. And then my mom mentioned that she thought she had her grandmother’s ring lying around somewhere (um..hello mom? A little late to the party?). It’s beautiful, totally bling worthy, and while we have no idea if it’s a diamond or not (and yes, I’m too lazy to get it appraised), my heart jumped a little when I saw it. And then I saw his face. Close to tears, he didn’t even want to look at it. Later, he said, “I thought I knew you. I never thought you’d be the link of person to care about sporting a showy rock. And the ring I gave you is from ME. I carried it around in my pocket for 2 months, waiting for the right moment. I wore it on my toe into the hot tub where I proposed. I chose it, and while I know it’s not much, it’s all I could afford at the time. And I know, I’ve told you that it’s only temporary, and that I’d like to get you something nicer someday, but that will always be your engagement ring. It represents all the love I have for you and that I want to share my life with you.”
    I. Am. A. Jerk. He’s right. I couldn’t believe that I (who tries so hard not to buy into the WIC) had bought into the whole thing, hook, line and sinker. So I put the ring in a drawer, and haven’t looked at it since. But the reminder was a good one. No matter how hard we try to fight for our individuality, and to be proud of our choices, sometimes it’s hard. It’s difficult not to get wrapped up in what other people think. It can be a challenge to go out on a limb and go against the grain. And finding the balance between what we really truly want for ourselves and what other people will expect of us is a life long process. I’m just glad that the hub is here to stay. And we wear our wedding bands with pride.

    • Class of 1980

      Made me cry.

      And your fiance is so sweet. ;)

  • Carrie

    I never realized it was an expected thing to wear both engagement and wedding rings until my friends started getting married, and kept wearing their engagement rings along with their wedding bands. My parents and all their married friends wore only plain wedding bands, so I assumed that was standard procedure.

    I wore both for a little while, but quickly switched to just wearing my wedding band. I love my three-sapphire engagement ring, but somehow wearing both just feels like too much for me. The plain, narrow gold wedding band alone just feels more right for me somehow. I don’t have a good philosophical or political reason for this; it’s just a matter of my taste. *shrug*

  • I LOVE my engagement ring. Seriously, I love it. It is by far the nicest thing I own.

    When I got engaged, I spent months gazing at it. I probably spent way more time gazing at the ring than at the computer screen when I was at work, which is definitely a no-no. I wore it almost every day for over 2 years when we were engaged and I felt naked on the few times I left without it.

    People noticed it. Strangers complimented me on it. I loved the attention and the excuses to talk about the wedding and the awesome man who gave me such an awesome ring. I loved that it seemed to scream to people “Someone loves me enough to buy me this amazing THING!!” I was looking for a wedding band that screamed at people equally loudly.

    And then, as we were paying for the wedding, my husband changed jobs and money became a real issue and suddenly, spending X on a wedding band was really not an option. Maybe spending x/10 was more realistic. We could always upgrade.

    So we bought gorgeous hammered silver rings from etsy for $50 apiece. And I love my wedding band. Maybe even more than my engagement ring.

    My wedding band doesn’t scream. It doesn’t even really announce itself in polite company. It sits quietly, and if asked will blush and smile and say “Yep. Married.” And somehow that’s perfect.

    A few months ago a stone came loose from my engagement ring and I’ve been meaning to have it reset, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. I guess I don’t miss it as much as I thought I would. I still love it, and I think it’s beautiful – a work of art even.

    But maybe part of what getting married means to me is that I don’t have to scream to get noticed. That I’m worth noticing even if I’m just sitting quietly, blushing and smiling.

    Yep. Married.

    • I really enjoyed how you described your wedding band.

  • Steph

    I LOVE this post. Love love love it. For many reasons, I was never a fan of diamonds. (My geology major has emphasized this…”Why would someone want polished decayed organic matter on their finger? Don’t they know diamonds decay to graphite [millions of years later, yes…but still]? I had to. It’s the nerd in me.) I mentioned sometime last year to my now-fiance how cool it is that zircon is actually the oldest mineral found on Earth. So when he proposed this past summer, he gave me a ring with a white gold band, and the stones were zircon. But now just zircon – BLUE zircon (pretty rare). But not just blue zircon…the zircon stones were arranged in the shape of a HORSE (I’ve been involved with horses for most of my life, and that’s something about me that will never change). Sure, it doesn’t look like a “real” (by most people’s standards) engagement ring, but it is 100% unique (he designed it himself), and I wear it on my left ring finger…that should be sufficient for people to see without asking that I’m taken. Plus my stones just so happen to be the oldest mineral on Earth…how’s THAT for forever?

  • Christina

    Having seen my father give his succession of (ex-)wives ridiculously large, gaudy rings — I came to associate jewelry with status symbols and buying love. My husband and I both don’t wear ANY rings. No wedding or engagement rings. Neither of us really felt comfortable with any kind of symbol. And I’ll tell you what, that makes some people really panicky. “But won’t people think you’re SINGLE?!” “What about when your husband goes out to a bar or something? No one will know he’s taken!!!”Ummmm. Yeah. I have more faith than that in my husband, people. I even got, “People won’t understand your ceremony if you don’t put rings on each other!!” Instead of going on a fancy honeymoon or buying rings, we bought a business together. For me, that was the best money ever spent.

  • Aiyana

    I never wanted an engagement ring, but my husband had a family heirloom (filagreed white gold with diamond) that was his grandmother’s aunt’s. She was apparently an incredible person who really contributed to the family. I admit that I was a bit skeptical when he gave it to me (I am so not a jewelry, filagree, or diamonds girl!), but the family significance means a lot to me. I love that I am now a part of his family, and I’m carrying on their family history (as well as my own birth family, of course). And, I have to admit, the shiny-ness grew on me. But I’m glad that if anyone wants to see the ring, the thing they notice is that it is old, and I can tell them about the history, rather than the degree of shiny-ness.
    However, I work with my hands, in the dirt, and fancy, old, diamond ring isn’t practical for day-to-day wear. I wear it on “town days” when I won’t be getting dirty at all, or occasionally around the house.

    Our wedding bands are simple titanium bands, with little gold inlays. Light, comfortable, durable, and inexpensive. And still pretty, in a practical sort of way. Perfect for us. Those we wear every day.

    • Aiyana

      I should add that I did not love my wedding band when it arrived. I thought it was fine. But I love what it stands for–US. And now that the ring is on my finger, I love having it there.

  • Oh, man I love this post. I wear an enagagement ring, we bought the engagement ring and wedding band together as a set and together as a couple (which worked really well for us).

    I recently had to send in my ring to have a couple of the sidestones tightened and I wore the wedding band for a while, while it was away. I got used to it and started to love it. No more girls grabbing my hand to see my ring two years into our was a nice 10 days.

    I posed the idea to Isaiah of just wearing the band after we get married, and he was not happy. There are a couple of reasons I agree…1) He bought the ring when we didn’t have hardly any money (not much is different now), but he saved for it…we traded my mom’s solitaire from her marriage to my father (no emotional attachment) and we picked a ring that looks exactly like my grandma’s engagement ring. It has such emotional meaning to him as something he got for me when he could hardly think to spend the money, but knew what he wanted to do – and that he found a ring that represents my grandmother’s ring almost to a “T.”

    The second reason (2) is that we got that ring before I found the Practical Weddings of the world. For me to change my tastes just because I’ve been exposed to a world of level-headed women who aren’t wearing engagement rings and what not isn’t any better than adding bunting to my wedding just because everyone else is doing it.

    Well this is obnoxiously long, isn’t it? I just wanted to say, YES to you and PROPS for doing it your own way and I couldn’t agree more with your statement that it’s a super personal choice.

    • meg

      You know, you can always just wear it on special occassions for a while, and then go back to wearing it all the time. You’re totally allowed to grow and change and keep changing and change back with these things… even though no one ever says that ;)

  • My engagement ring is made from 100 year old saphire and diamonds (tiny, tiny diamonds) and the setting created for my mother-in-law 50 odd years ago. It means the world to me, which is why I don’t wear it every day. It’s far to precious to me to risk my daily life beating it up, it’s quite delicate. That ring signified to me that not only did my husband want us to make a family, his family wanted me to as well, and having had a diamond the first go round, this was absolutely more wonderful than anything we might have picked out anywhere else. My wedding band makes it so that I have no room for my engagement ring on my finger. It goes on the right hand, for special occassions.

    I wear a thick band that looks like a man’s. We had them inlaid with a pattern of our first initials in Arabic. We know what it means, anyone else looking at it thinks the design is nice (when the rings have been in something that makes the silver look black), or doesn’t know it’s there at all. Signifiers to anyone looking that we’re married, but the story they tell to us everyday is like a little secret. That secret makes me smile. The people who are shocked at my decidely indelicate band and lack of engagement ring make me smile as well. It’s always surprising the reactions one gets when you willingly remove yourself from the Diamond Olympics.

    Oh, and thanks for the reminder that I need to do less internal, and external, ugh-ing where people’s ring choices are concerned. I did need that.

  • Becca

    I have a (relatively) big diamond engagement ring that of friend of my husband’s family gave to us upon hearing of our wedding plans. It’s beautiful ring but nothing I would have chosen for myself. I wore it for our wedding day and maybe a month afterwards, when I dispensed with both rings. I don’t like the feel of rings, generally speaking. I do bust it out on special occasions but talk about feeling like Smegial! When I wear that diamond, I immediately start glancing at other women’s hands and making comparisons. Eek!

    Not wearing any rings to indicate my married state occasionally has to be explained to people. I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business if I’m married. I know I’m married. My husband knows he’s married. Who else needs to know? A wedding ring never stopped anyone from doing bad things.

  • Being proposed to last year came as a big surprise, and my fiance had gone ring shopping all on his own (an even bigger surprise, as he’s not one for romance). When he got down on one knee in Central Park and opened this little box holding a glittering diamond ring, I was amazed. But it’s not really something I am always comfortable wearing. I feel like I’m judged for having it (“I thought you were a hippie!?”) as opposed for being judged for NOT having one. It is fancier than I am, and my husband and I, converse-sneaker wearing folk, both know it. For our wedding bands, we picked out sterling silver bands (his wide, mine narrow) and had them engraved with our initials and our wedding date. I wear my diamond most days that I’m at work, because let’s face it, I do like the way it sparkles in the elevator. But the much more “me” ring, and the one that means so very much to me, is my plain simple wedding band. It feels perfect on, and I love that my husband and I have our sweet, simple rings to remember our vows by each and every day.

    Thank you for this post. It makes the relationship I have with my engagement ring seem much more… normal. :)

  • My turn! My husband proposed to me with a rubber band (he’s very impatient) and I would wear that forever if I could (it’s in a locket that I wear occasionally instead).

    While the ring I picked out (a simple solitaire) was being made, I wore a placeholder: a pearl and garnet cocktail ring that was his grandmother’s. I’d also wear that forever, if he wasn’t so set on getting me my OWN (diamond) ring.

    Funny this post came when it did, though, because I’m been toying with the idea of ditching my diamond lately. The cool thing about it is that I can. Whenever I want. And I can change my mind, too.

    • *I’ve* been, that is.

  • LBD

    I’m not married yet, so I can’t say how I’ll feel once I have a wedding ring too. I’ve actually kind of wondered what happens then, because I don’t want to stop wearing my ring. I imagine we’ll go back to the same local jeweler that designed my ring, but I think I’ll want something more simple. I can’t wear my engagement ring all the time sadly because I have a job that involves a lot of time spent with dirt and mud, so I want my wedding ring to have, eh, fewer crevices.

    I have been going through a very stressful time in my life lately, and through it all my fiance has been my rock. Through the entire 11 years we’ve been together he’s been my rock, and I’ve been there for him in turn. When I wear my ring, when I feel it on my finger, when I catch a little gleam of it out of the corner of my eye, it reminds me that he’s there, that he loves me, that he’s got my back when nobody else seems to. It helps me not get lost in the bad feelings when I’m going through those really bad stressful times. I know that if all else fails, he’s there, and he’s promised to always be there. I don’t have to do this alone. I really miss it when I can’t wear it. I’m a very visual person, and I think because of that symbols are very important to me. I’m not sure.

    There was a local jeweler I’ve always liked, so I showed the boy pictures of things I liked, told him I preferred sapphires, and sent him to it. It was important to me that I be surprised. He worked with the jeweler to come up with a design, picked out the sapphire. So really, it’s very much HIM in the ring, and that’s what makes it special and important. I think he’s really proud of it AND himself too, and that also makes it special.

    I honestly don’t think I pay much notice to people’s rings outside of newly engaged friends, for whom I think it feels kind of right to admire their rings (it felt good when people admired mine when I was newly engaged, and I want to return that feeling). I don’t think I’ve felt jealous or a need to compete, because no other ring will have that special something that is the love and effort my fiance invested in choosing me that ring.

    I think it’s like that for all couples. Be it a big ole diamond or, something more sedate, it’s whatever works for them. It signifies something to them, and the meaning that ring gives to that couple is what’s important.

  • Who knows, I could change my mind but I plan to wear my engagement ring & my wedding band always. To me, the engagement ring symbolizes the promise we made to spend our life together & the wedding band will represent the vows we made to spend our life together. It may not seem like a big distinction but it feels that way to me. I look at my ring & it instantly takes me back to the moment on the winter beach when my fiance proposed. Hopefully, I will look at my wedding band & picture our marriage ceremony. Both rings symbolize meaningful things to me & I want them with me always.

    That being said, to each their own!

  • m

    I never thought I would be the type of person to wear an engagement ring, especially not without my fiance wearing one as well… but once we began talking about getting married, I started to notice/look for a ring on other people’s left hand. I think it may have been out of curiosity, but it was a weird obsessive thing that I had NEVER done before.

    Right before we got engaged, there was a strong possibility that we would be spending 10 months apart, with me in another country. Despite all of my feminist ideals, I think my desire to have an engagement ring sprung from wanting people in this foreign country to take my relationship seriously and know without asking that someone cared about me a lot. All of this was a strange departure from everything I had thought about engagement rings before.

    Long story short, I’m not in another country and I have stopped looking at people’s hands obsessively (now only every so often). I wear my engagement ring all of the time, and even though I am uncomfortable when people comment on it, I can’t imagine not wearing it along with the wedding band (once I have one of those too). This ring was a huge deal to my fiance, who wanted to spend way more than I could have imagined. To him, it was showing a commitment, and now I sorta wish there was a similar gift I could give him!

  • Diane

    For as long as I can remember, I did not want an engagement ring. But, then, when my boyfriend and I started talking about engagement, I started to warm up to the idea of wearing a gift that he selected every day. I actually think it was more important to him than it was to me, and for that reason, it made me feel okay about it. I had never priced diamonds before and honestly thought that we would be able to find something that cost less than $1000. Well, I almost started tearing up when we visited the first jewelry store and the lady put a $xx,xxx ring on my finger. I felt sick about it. I’m not judging those who have high-priced rings, but it just wasn’t representative of who I am. In the end we found a nice ring that we both liked, and we picked out together, and we purchased it that day because it was on sale.

    This has caused a whole new set of problems that I would have never foreseen. We are not “officially” engaged yet and we are both catching a lot of disappointed looks when we tell people that we picked the ring out together. – “You mean she’s already seen the ring?! Where’s the surprise??!” “I will NEVER go ring shopping with my boyfriend because I want it to be a surprise.” – Not only has the ring become this weird social competition, but the “proposal” has to be the “biggest and the best and the most surprising” – all kinds of pomp and circumstance that I think is silly. “Who will video tape it and who will take pictures??,” they ask him. I’ve actually started to pretend that I don’t know if he’s bought a ring yet because I’m tired of the looks of shock and horror that I helped pick it out, and it’s easier to play the social game. “Technically” we’re not engaged yet because he hasn’t “proposed”. I know he wants to create a special experience and a nice proposal story for us to experience together and for him to tell family and friends so it looks like he “did a great job” and we don’t look so weird under the social spotlight. For that reason, because it’s important to him, I don’t mind waiting to experience the “proposal moment.”

    It’s made me realize guys are under a tremendous amount of pressure to do all of this perfectly. No matter how much reassurance that I give him that I love that we picked a ring out together and I don’t need a “surprising” proposal with trumpets and flares and hikes through the mountain or mariachi bands or seaside sunsets, it still does not remove the sense of pressure he feels to do it all “right.”

    • Michele

      What blows my mind is how many women PRETEND they were surprised, when they KNEW the engagement was imminent. I do it myself!

      I was 100% positive that my fiance was going to propose when he did. He’d been acting like a crazy person for weeks and was being terribly secretive about where we were going and what we were doing on this “impromptu” road trip he’d planned.

      But as far as he’s concerned, I never saw it coming, which is a myth I propagate for his benefit because he’d be heartbroken if he knew I’d been on to him the entire time.

      • Michele

        And actually, that’s why I continue to wear my engagement ring now, even though I’d prefer to simply wear a wedding band: I’m pretty sure my fiance would be heartbroken (and pissed!) if I stopped wearing the ring that he so painstakingly designed and generously purchased for me.

        And then inevitably, my overly-practical, anti-sentimental self would come up with some ridiculous idea like ‘what’s the point of having the ring at all if I’m not going to wear it? let’s just sell it and buy something we’ll actually use,’ and my husband’s head would explode because he’d realize that he really IS married to a robot!

    • Ann

      Yeah! My fiance and I got engaged over a series of relaxed conversations. I suppose to the extent there was a “moment,” it’s too personal for me to completely share with other people. My family looked at me like I was nuts when I said there wasn’t really a proposal. I think they didn’t believe me. They got over it, though.

    • Diane, I felt the same way about not being “officially” engaged because we had not had an “official” proposal experience, even though we were actively planning our wedding, had a date for less than four months later, had the dress, etc. But I had this idea in my head that engagement begins with a proposal of some sort. Well, my now-husband didn’t propose until the Wednesday before our Saturday wedding (we lived in separate countries and he had put a lot of pressure on himself to have an awesome proposal, so he waited.) It was sweet and fun and perfect for us, but I wish I had realized that if we were planning our wedding and had decided to get married, we had a valid engagement, with or without the ring and with or without an official proposal. I think I tried to minimize my enthusiasm/bliss about it all because “we weren’t officially engaged,” but I wish I had allowed myself to enjoy the engagement experience more and not feel Less Than Official because we re-ordered our process. Anyhow, I wish you much joy in your path towards marriage with your partner, with or without an official proposal and/or ring. :)

      • Diane

        Jenny, thanks for your post. It is interesting that you mention the distance being a factor in the order of engagement/planning your wedding. My boyfriend and I currently live about a +four-hour plane ride away and it is the main factor in this limbo period – I don’t want to announce our engagement until it is convenient to tell my employer that I will be leaving; he doesn’t want to consider us to be engaged until he’s proposed. The whole process gets elongated when you don’t see each other every week. And you’re spot on – I feel as though I’m trying to minimize enthusiasm, when really, internally, I’m very excited. I’m pretty sure it will all be out in the open in the next two months, but rather than try to make the time go by faster, I should probably focus on enjoying this period as well.

        • Yes, long distance certainly complicates things for sure. I wish you a smooth-as-possible planning process!

  • Michele

    This post is so spot-on, that it’s almost embarrassing. As if Adrianne is on to me somehow.

    Long before I knew I wanted to marry my husband (or if I wanted to get married at all), I knew I was not interested in a diamond engagement ring. There were environmental and ethical concerns, of course, but the truth is that those were convenient and practical excuses, as opposed to being the real reason.

    No, the REAL reason I was disinterested in diamonds was that everyone (ok, not EVERYONE, but almost) gets a diamond engagement right, and I didn’t want to be like “everyone else.” By wearing a ring that clearly breaks the mold of what a traditional engagement ring looks like, it’s as if am signifying to one and all that I break the mold of what a traditional woman is like. I know. I’m ridiculous. And Adrianne is totally on to me. ;)

    Indeed, an engagement ring IS a social signifier, and it signifies a hell of a lot more than just the meta-info that you’re “spoken for.” Depending on who’s viewing it, it might signify any number of things – most of which have more to do with THEIR values than with yours. For example, a woman with an exceptionally large diamond might have simply inherited the stone from a family member and never given it a second thought. But to be sure, there are people who will view her ring and assume that it signifies that she and/or her fiance is shallow, materialistic, wealthy, in-debt, or any number of other things. Likewise, the same woman might have inherited an exceptionally small diamond and never given it a second though. But there are people for whom this might signify that she and/or her fiance are too poor to afford anything else. For others it might signify that she’s anti-materialistic and is deliberately making a statement as such. Others might see her modest diamond and think she must be a very practical woman.

    And while none of these things are what the ring means to the wearer, this social signifier sends many messages to many people.

  • Loving this discussion :)

    Here is one thing that I can’t figure out….so, we’re doing the both-wearing-engagement-rings thing, which we feel good about…..but we’re not getting wedding rings, since we each only want/feel like we need one ring. So if we’ve already exchanged those rings during engagement, do we take them off and RE-exchange them during the wedding? Or keep them on and skip the ring part of the ceremony altogether? Or something else? Has anyone who just kept one ring each dealt with this?

    • Michele

      I didn’t get a wedding band when we got married, so I took off my engagement ring and we combined that with his wedding band and exchanged rings in the midst of the ceremony.

      Though I suppose you could certainly skip the ring exchange altogether if that’s what feels good for you.

    • Emily

      Oh, the exchanging rings part was my favorite moment of the whole ceremony! Don’t skip it. :)

      Maybe even take your rings off a couple of days before the wedding and switch them so that when you get them back the moment will be more meaningful. :)

    • Do whatever you want to do, Kate. Maybe you could write something into the ceremony about the symbolism of the rings you exchanged at your engagement and how the meaning carries through to your married life.

  • Ann

    I always assumed that I wouldn’t want a ring for the same reasons I don’t plan to change my name and insist on being called “Ms.” — I am not his property and my relationship is none of your business, thank you very much. So here I am, about a year into an engagement (wedding next summer), wanting a ring with no idea why.

    I found a very simple, pretty stacking band set I really like, but have stalled on actually making the purchase happen. I can think of so much more we could do with $500. My fiance doesn’t seem to get the symbolism of the whole ring thing (“I just want to marry you. Do whatever you want on the rest.” Sweet and wonderful, but also confusing), so I feel a little silly wearing one, especially one I picked out. I also feel weird wearing one as he won’t be — he doesn’t like wearing jewelry, and doesn’t want to wear a ring (he has my wholehearted blessing on this). AND we’re already a year into the damn thing, so isn’t it a bit weird to start now?

    Anyway, so what I took from this post was a sense that — hmm, maybe I should start by figuring out why this ring thing is now important to me, and go from there. Can’t go wrong with the authenticity referred to above, huh? Thanks for the lovely idea for today!

    • Ann

      Whoops. Disregard. This is very similar to something I said earlier — I just thought it hadn’t posted due to my extremely flaky Internet.


  • Tricia

    I appologize in advance because there are a lot of comments…and its the end of the day…and i got through many but I may be repeating something already said…sorry!

    I truly don’t think one piece of jewelry can tell the world your personality, (regardless of size). When I look down and see my ring, I immediatly think of my husband. I think of what it represents to me and it’s a constant little reminder of him and “us” and a symbol of our marriage. And while its an outward symbol that I’m married, its more of a personal, private and inward symbol to me of our marriage, and of him. It doesn’t tell the world anything about our marriage. And when I see his ring on him, it makes me proud, because there is a little bit of me that he carries around everyday. There is my representation physically presented on him. And him on me. Our rings are little, solid, heavy, (hopefully unbreakable) earthly reminders of the other person. And it makes me smile.

  • I wanted a solitare sapphire in a celtic setting. No, it is not my birthstone (opal is), and no, blue is not my favorite color (green is). But I don’t particularly care for opals (as a kid I always felt “cheated” that I didn’t get a sparkly gemstone as my birthstone), and I don’t like how emeralds look with white gold. Plus, I found out after, that sapphires/blue represent fidelity, and emeralds/green represent fertility, and I liked the message of the sapphires. Of course, my decision was already made; this just reinforced it!

    My husband only wanted me to have something that I loved, and he actually tricked me into picking out my ring before we got engaged.

    I got a wedding ring that matched – 5 small sapphires, also in a celtic setting. The rings weren’t made together or anything, but they do match. The jeweler (a local Irish store, actually) went above and beyond in making my ring(s) match my vision. And I LOVE my rings. I love how they look together. I love what both rings represent and the journey we took. A lot of people say things like, “Oh, that’s different!” or “It’s okay, not everyone likes diamonds!” I know they’re trying to be nice, but they don’t really get it. Which is OK – they don’t have to, and not one person has been rude (to my face, anyway) about my choice of a non-diamond.

  • april

    Whoa – this post is on FIRE!

    I read Adrianne’s post (very eloquent and thoughtful, BTW), but skimmed (OK, skipped – who are we kidding) most of the comments.

    For me: my rings are very, very important and I wear both the engagement ring and my wedding band every day. Couldn’t possibly dream of wearing one without the other!

    I remember years ago when my fiance (now husband) and I were talking about the type of rings I liked, and we chose mine together, and it wasn’t a classic diamond solitaire, even though they’re pretty and I adore all sparkly things. I personally just gravitated towards an engagement ring wth a sapphire because, well – they’re pretty. That said, many people called it a “promise ring” or gave me pitying looks when they saw it because they assumed it was a “starter ring”. Truth is, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’ve been married a little more than a year, and every time I look down at my hand, I just love seeing my rings there. I love what they mean to me, and so does my husband.

    Here’s something interesting though: he doesn’t wear HIS ring all the time. He just prefers not to have that “public / outward symbol” on his hand. The irony is: as important as my rings are for me, that he doesn’t wear his doesn’t bother me a bit!

    • Emily

      The pity! What is with the pity?

      Some girl at a party recently said, “I wouldn’t marry *anyone* without a nice rock.” Then looked at me an aawkwardly said, “Oh, sorry Emily. I didn’t mean–“

      • Oh my. I really have no words.

      • Vmed

        While that’s obviously a ridiculous thing to say it got me thinking- Is it the case that the awkwardest comments (“I would never marry someone who didn’t give me at least x”) come from women who have not been engaged before?

        I mean, if so we should maybe be thinking “hey lady!
        a) perhaps you don’t realize you are coming off sounding rude
        b) maybe there’s some insecurity going on about your relationship status and you’re compensating by trying to shame mine with your flippant dismissal (shame blasters activate pew pew!)
        c) if you haven’t ever navigated the quagmire that e-ring decisions can be, you just don’t know how precious and personal what you do or don’t put on a ring finger is.”

        When J and I were discussing The Ring it was a major growing experience. He proposed without one because he wanted me to have something I would love and wear every day. But then I had to learn to own my shockingly traditional desires in order to express them to him. It was not easy saying, Hey. I do need this symbol. It is important to me. But these are the lessons that are preparing us for other decisions in our marriage.

  • Renee

    I have a different view of the engagement/wedding ring choice. And forgive me I haven’t read all the comments so I may be repeating what others have said.

    Regardless of color/size/cost your rings should remind you of your spouse/fiance, not be a source of comparison. Just like it says in the marriage ceremony “let these rings be a symbol of your commitment to each other.” As someone who is (very) recently engaged, everytime I look at my ring I think of my fiance and that he loves me and chose this for me. It’s a personal choice if you choose to wear your engagement ring after you are married but I would never choose not wear it because of what other people may (or may not) thing about it.

  • Emily

    YES! Yes. Yes. Yes.

    Our wedding bands came from one of my favorite jewelers. Mine matches my husband’s, which I love, and because we eloped, there was never an engagement ring. (Which is just fine with me. Diamonds are not really my thing.) They’re simple and silver, and together they didn’t even break the triple-digit mark in cost.

    To be honest, sometimes I feel a little insecure with my simple band because of the whole Ring Olympics thing. But whenever I catch a glimpse of my wedding band on my finger when I’m driving or picking something up or doing whatever, my heart skips a happy little beat. I really love it. To hell with social expectations.

  • Laura

    Since discovering APW, my wedding blood pressure has decreased significantly. This post is a perfect example of why: community is nice. Mindful decision making is something to be celebrated. Thanks, Meg.

    I’m a member of the $20 engagement ring club. My fiance bought it from my favorite local designer store, where a whole lot of cute lives. When asked, I told him I like simple rings and that I didn’t want a diamond. Check.

    There are family rings that my fiance’s mother really wants me to have, but I’ve politely refused. I really am not a diamond kind of girl. I’m a modern dancer. I roll on the floor, and then I serve food at a restaurant. And, more importantly, I just don’t like diamonds. Future mother-in-law thinks her son is cheap, feels badly for me. Actually, it was a joint decision.

    We’re buying wedding bands that will cost a couple hundred bucks, and then I will just wear that. Very happily. I’m sick of the bling wars. That said, I obviously recognize that whatever decision you or I make is an incredibly personal one. I support that.

    One thing that encouraged my anti-bling desires was hearing from blogger DOOCE on the subject. She regularly buys cheap rings at Target or Etsy and wears them as wedding rings. She didn’t want thousands spent on a ring– she wanted home remodeling instead. There are so many directions to turn in this decision making. Your relationship isn’t actually changed with or without the sparkles. It’s your comfort at stake. And the rest of the world can get a life.

    Thanks for sharing your stories!

  • When my husband and I first has serious discussions about getting married, I told him that I didn’t need a ring at all. And I honestly felt that way. But he’s quite traditional and, and many other readers have commented, it was more important to him to get a traditional ring than it was to me. But since it was it was so important to him, I wasn’t going to argue. He ended up getting it custom made, and while it isn’t what I would have chosen for myself, I kind of like that part; that it’s something he chose for me instead.

    When we went to pick out wedding bands, we went back to the jeweler to get a band that sat flush with the ring I already had. I was very conscious of the wedding budget, and so I chose a lower-cost option. The funny thing was, I had very strong feelings about what my wedding band “should” be, much more so than the ring he chose for me. I ended up picking a simple band, with the idea that I could always upgrade . . . even though I knew I never would. I know that doesn’t make sense, but I just knew that once I started wearing the band, I’d like it because it is a simple reminder of our commitment, and I knew I didn’t need anything flashy for that.

    I wear both now. I like the band on its own, and that was important to me when we bought it. However, I would feel weird that he put a lot of thought and effort and emotional energy into the ring and then I were to only wear it for the nine months or so. Screw everyone who wants to make assumptions, I say. People make assumptions anyway, based on how you’re dressed, what bag you’re carrying, what you’re driving, whether you use reusable bags at the grocery store . . . the list goes on and on and on. When I wear the rings, I think of us. And until I choose to pass on the ring as an heirloom or something, I’ll continue to wear both.

  • Jessica

    I have a traditional e-ring… probably a little bigger than I expected, but my fiance wanted to impress my mom (to kind of prove himself I think). I pretty much picked out the band, he picked the diamond, and we had a ton of fun shopping together… sometimes I wish we weren’t engaged so we could go ring shopping again. I would have been happy with a smaller ring, or a less elaborate ring, but that’s not what I ended up with, and I certainly have nothing but love for my ring. When we were shopping, some jewelers were saying we could always get a smaller stone and then “upgrade” later on… where did that come from? What’s wrong with what we picked out?

    As for wedding bands… I cannot wait to wear one! I fully expect to wear both my e-ring and wedding ring together, because that’s how I was raised. Only once in my life have I seen my mother without both her rings on (she was going in for surgery and they told her no jewelery, but she insisted on at least her wedding band) so to me, it’s normal.

    As for judging other people’s choices- I am my mother’s daughter. I notice jewelery EVERYWHERE, and I love engagement rings. I love the diversity of them all and I especially love when I hear about the engagement. I’m horrible. It was weird though, when I met someone for the first time and her eyes went first to my ring, then to my face as she was shaking my hand… maybe I’d better stop looking at people’s rings ;-)

  • Sammie

    The ring and the act of becoming engaged was a hard one for me. I had been engaged before and it was an unexpected surprise. The ring was a non tradition ring made of family stones. The wedding was called off a month out and his mother (her stones) wanted me to keep the ring.
    My mother didn’t have an engagement ring although my father did give her a beautiful opal that she wears constantly. They have matching wedding bands and I always thought that was a beautiful idea.
    This go around I was afraid of the surprise engagement and wanted the planning of our life together to be an active conversation. I am lucky enough to have found a man that had this conversation with me. While on vacation this summer we stopped at my folks’ place and the morning we left my FH and I asked my father if he would be willing to ask his mother if she had any Montana Sapphires left. My grandparents used to mine the sapphires together before my grandfather became sick. We are so blessed that she had one stone left and she was willing to share it! The ring was designed by a friend of my families and between the gift of the stone and the friends discount we were able to afford more ring than we ever thought possible. It has a very art deco angular design to it and the stone is a turquoise green. I LOVE that we have a ring with a wonderful story and a stone from such a loving and strong marriage. They were married almost 50 years before my grandfather passed away.
    I am amazed at how many women I feel judge my ring and the number that have tried to tell me my stone is an emerald. I have been guilty of checking out other women’s rings but to be honest I enjoy looking at my friends rings and seeing how much they reflect their personalities!
    As to my FH, I know that he is bothered by our untraditional engagement. I think he would have liked to have been able to get down on one knee and pop the question. Although when the ring arrived he DID get down on one knee. I am very lucky to have the guy I do. We looked and looked till we found a wedding band the reflects my FH’s personality and is as unique as our engagement ring. I look forward to the day when we both get to wear our rings together.
    Back to the e-ring. It is a set, the wedding ring notches into one of the curve/angles. It is a non adorned band. I am currently struggling with the decision of wanting to solder the bands together once married and buying a separate wedding band to wear on the days when I am working with my hands or if I want to leave the dainty notched band free to be worn with out the e-ring.
    Thank you for all of the stories and opinions shared!

  • I was surprised at how much I wanted an engagement ring, and how important it turned out to be to my fiance. We knew we wanted to get married before he proposed, so when he proposed, he said to me, “I’ve been thinking about what I would like for my birthday, and what I really want is for you to wear my ring. Will you marry me?” And when we’re holding hands, he frequently plays with my ring.

    I thought I would be uncomfortable with the rather traditional view of ownership or branding, but it turns out, I’m not. I like feeling like there is this thing that tells the world that I belong. He’s kind of a traditional guy, so he didn’t like the idea of him wearing an engagement ring, but we bought our wedding bands early, and he does sometimes want to look at his, which makes me feel all warm and gooey knowing that he likes the symbolism of belonging to me as much as I like belonging to him.

  • Before we got engaged, I kept telling my soon-to-be fiance that he could get me a ring out of a Cracker Jack box if he wanted. I didn’t really mean it, but I could tell he was taking the whole “two months’ salary,” “the bigger the better” mindset to heart, and a) I thought it absurd to work months to buy one single piece of jewelry and b) I would feel terribly gaudy wearing a really big ring. (I mean, he couldn’t have afforded a REALLY big ring, but it still could have been bigger than I was comfortable with. I like low-key jewelry.) But, at the same time, I cared a lot about what it looked like. I was a little worried about letting him pick out the ring by himself, because I would hate to feel disappointed in my engagement ring, but he wanted to surprise me, so we talked a lot about stones and settings in the months leading up to the proposal. Then his mother offered us his great-grandmother’s antique family heirloom ring, and I LOVE it. He showed it to me beforehand to see if I liked it, and I absolutely did. (It then sat on his bedside table for 2 months before he proposed – during which I had to live at his apartment for a month and a half b/c of a flood at my house. I used to wear it around the apartment while he was at work. (Shhh! I don’t think I ever told him that.)) It’s the perfect size (in every sense – it didn’t even need to be resized for my finger!), it’s beautiful, and my genealogy-obsessed, history major self can’t get enough of the fact that it’s a family heirloom. (Everyone reacts the same way when I tell them it’s an heirloom: “Oh, that’s PERFECT for you!”)

    And yet, on more than one occasion, he’s looked at it and said “I could have afforded something better.” I try to impress on him that he could have afforded something BIGGER, but nothing could be BETTER than my ring. But he definitely sees it as a status symbol/indication of his worth/indication of his feelings for me, and I think he thinks that other people see it that way, too.

  • YES! I wear only my engagement band, which is a narrower incarnation of my mother’s gold band. My husband wears my dad’s band, which is cool because my dad died before they were able to meet. We like to clink our wedding bands together when we’re at home and tackle something together as a team. It’s kind of dorky, I know.

    I was very vocal about not wanting a diamond, and when I got my pearl engagement ring, I felt sure Joe understood where I was coming from. He had a hard time getting someone to sell him a pearl engagement ring, and I know sometimes he felt judged for not getting me a diamond by people who didn’t understand my reasons. I wear my engagement ring on my right hand when I dress up, but I like that my band is a reminder of my commitment and my family without any sort of status implications.

  • “I was wearing the same band as all the men, and not competing or comparing with any of the women. And it made me feel confident.” -i love this!! i agree with this statement so much.

    i ‘m also with everyone who has said that their engagement ring prompts comments of “oh that’s interesting,” or “is that your birthstone?” i even had someone ask, “is that a mood ring?” and that one ticked me off. my engagement ring was designed by my husband and has a green tourmaline as the stone. its slightly chunky and looks nothing like an engagement ring. i got sick of explaining it to people and it made me angry that they would even ask. i mean, can’t a girl just wear a ring, who’s business is it anyway who bought the ring or what it symbolizes? (unless i want to tell you that is)

    now i wear my very simple wedding band. there are days when i think about wearing my engagement ring again, and even days that i wish i had a different ring, but this is my wedding ring, and i love the symbolism of it. i love that it says, “you are loved” on the inside. i love it and what it stands for. i cannot imagine telling my husband i want something different or new. maybe someday i’ll change my mind. is that becoming a more common thing to do??

  • db

    Scott and I decided to get married on a Monday and got married on the Thursday, so we were more concerned about finding wedding bands in time than an engagement ring, although we had looked at a few together.

    He had been saving money in a “Polar Bear Fund” (I’m Canadian and wanted a Canadian diamond) basically since we met, and wanted to wait to buy it until he had enough to get me something he thought I’d like. He ended up getting me one a little different than I’d expected, but very beautiful. Also bigger than I’d expected! although I think it looks bigger than it actually is, or something. Anyway, he gave it to me on the anniversary of our “engagement,” just a few days short of our first wedding anniversary. I really love having that shiny thing on my finger, I don’t care if it means that I’m shallow. IT’S SO SHINY! (Princess cut, set in platinum, yellow gold band too match my wedding band)

    As far as how he and his co-workers look at it, he was walking with two of them the next day after he’d given it to me, he was saying that I was happy about it and so on. Co-worker A asked how much it cost; Scott told him (I still don’t know the exact number although I guess I’ll have to in order to insure it). A said, “Oh, that’s too much money to spend on a ring.” Then co-worker B said, “So, A, how much did your divorce cost you?” and that, of course, was that! My mother never had a diamond, and his mother doesn’t have one either. I don’t know why it even mattered to me that much, but even though I had basically given up on ever getting married when we met, and thus on having a diamond ring, I’m glad I asked for my little piece of Canada that will be with me wherever I go.

    What’s funny is that I would say to people, “Look, I got my bling!” and show them, and they’d say, “But aren’t you already married?” and be really confused.

  • Heather L

    I never really wanted a big fancy ring (it’s impractical for lab work and I would feel gross if my boy spent over a couple hundred on it). However, his grandmother had offered him a diamond from one of her bracelets and paid for the ring to get made (I picked out the setting), so big sparkly diamond I have.

    To be fair it’s absolutely beautiful, a marquise cut with a slanted set and smaller diamonds on each side. And it symbolizes that I’m a part of his family, now which is the real reason I like it.

    ….okay. And and it’s shiny too. Sooooo very shiny.

    But it’s caused some serious frustrations. My friend’s fiance got jealous because the her ring isn’t as big as mine (friend is quite happy with her ring) and he feels inadequate. My mom and my brother only see huge and sparkly…my brother left a comment on my facebook regarding the size and my mom wouldn’t leave me alone until I posted a picture of the damned thing.

    Luckily the only comments I’ve gotten from random people are from the coffee shop lady, who was all “OMG PRETTY I LOVE THE SETTING!”

  • My husband proposed to me with a white gold band he purchased at Fred Meyer Jeweler and I love it because I can wear it all the time without feeling as if it’ll break/crack/chip. I didn’t need a statement ring, although his mom wanted to purchase a much larger ring for me, he knew I didn’t need or want such a piece. I did get a few looks about my engagement ring when I informed people, but knew and explained that a simple piece suited my taste. We picked out our wedding bands together; his is made from Tungsten, and mine is a 1940s white gold band with an aquamarine in the center, two small diamonds on either side, and Forget-Me-Nots engraved into to the band next to the diamonds. I didn’t have it banded with the other ring, but wear both on my ring finger. I must say that wearing something this fancy (to me) took a little getting used to, but now it’s a great part of my hand and marriage.

  • Pamela

    Growing up I was told the engagement ring cost idea came from an advertising campaign run by a diamond company (possibly de beers?). Back then it was only 1 months salary, but seems to have crept up over the last 15 or so years since I first heard the idea.

  • Very well said. Your comment on society and general thinking is really right and impressive.

  • This post and the comments have me thinking a lot about jewelry and its symbolism in our relationships. I love my engagement ring, an antique sapphire ring from 1920. I’ve occasionally considered just wearing my wedding band but I love that my engagement ring reminds me of all of the conversations we had planning our futures together. I love the little things I learned/really got about him while shopping for it. I love our wedding rings too. We made them together which makes them more special to me. Both rings are huge symbols of my getting an even deeper understanding of him. I hadn’t really understood or even considered the stone comparison stuff until a friend was getting engaged to a woman who was a lawyer in New York. He definitely bought a ring with the competition in mind. I sorta thought he was exaggerating until I read this thread. I guess my thought on engagement rings is sorta how I feel when I see him wearing our wedding band, I get a little tingly that he is committed enough to me to let the whole world know. It’s not really about me being property or anyone else, but then again I work in a field where people seem fairly oblivious to what you’re wearing in general let alone on your left hand.

  • I’m starting to think I’ll use my engagement ring as my wedding ring. It’s a band, I picked it, I’m not really a ring person and finding something to go with it has been difficult. Mr Fiancé on the other hand will want another ring as he wears four or five everyday.

  • Pingback: The Ring Thing « Maryland Mel()

  • What a wonderful topic! I was thinking of this as many of my friends spa clients have been opting for non-traditional or no rings. I was engaged at 21 and felt like I HAD to have a sparkly diamond. I was fortunate to get an old family stone that we could set as we pleased. I felt compelled to compare my ring to those of my college classmates who were also engaged early.

    I’m in my 30s now and my tastes and values are so different that the ring just didn’t suit me anymore. For years, I never wore it, opting instead for a placeholder band. This year, I took the stone and had it re-set into a cool setting into much sturdier ring that was unique and suited my personality and lifestyle.

    For me, I like wearing a ring to signify that I’m married because I’m so happy to be married to my husband. I don’t feel any sentimental attachment to the ring or stone itself though, and I expect that in 10 more years I’ll have different tastes and perhaps even re-style the ring again into something that works for the 40 year old version of me. :)

  • Erika

    So happy to see this topic on APW. Thanks Adrianne. I found picking out a wedding ring so freaking hard. Way harder than the dress, way harder than any wedding-related decision. So I gave up on it for a while. I wore my (nontraditional, non-blingy) engagement ring as a wedding ring for almost two years after we got married. This summer I finally bought a vintage wedding band with tiny little diamonds, and stopped wearing the engagement ring.

  • Brenda H

    Who’d have thought that later in the day after reading this article my boyfriend and I would end up talking about this? Thanks for the great post, definitely takes on a different perspective when we’re talking about how we will approach this. :)

  • Muister

    I’m sooo glad you posted about this. When my fiance and I were getting engaged, I obsessed over having the right ring that would fit me and my personality perfectly, but also be something totally unique and not traditional. I inherited a gorgeous diamond antique engagement ring with lot’s of filigree from my grandmother when she died when I was 6; the ring was her mother’s who I was named for. I agonized over getting the ring reset in something a little more wearable, but the custom setting I picked out was going to be too expensive for my fiance to afford at this point, and I didn’t want him to drain his savings for my ring when we are just getting started with our independent lives, plus planning for a wedding and our future. I also wanted something really different, not necessarily the typical white diamond engagement ring, so we ended up creating a custom ring on Etsy with a gorgeous silver grey rose cut diamond, set in a very simple rose gold bezel. It was super affordable and is very me, but I still sometimes obsess over my grandmother’s ring, and whether or not I should have just had it reset into something really simple and inexpensive. I plan to wear my grandmother’s ring on my right hand on special occasions, and am mostly glad I didn’t change it because it’s truly one of a kind, but my point is just that there are sometimes so many options out there, and when you want something truly special, it’s easy to second guess the decision you finally end up making. That said, I love both my rings and now am obsessing over what wedding ring to get! :)

  • Ally

    Thank you for this post. (And the millions of comments after.) It’s so interesting to hear that there are so many different opinions on this. I did not have an engagement ring (by choice) and our wedding bands are plain silver on the outside. We spent less than $300 on the pair not because of our budget, but because that was what we wanted. That way, if in five, ten, or twenty years we want new ones, no worries, we can do that. And if one gets lost (as they often do in my family) no worries. Though they may look plain on the outside, they have an awful lot of meaning to both of us and it is exactly what we wanted. It’s amazing the things people will say to us when they see my ring. “You couldn’t get him to buy you a diamond?” (Insert vomit here.)

    And another thing, I treat my ring just like any other ring I’ve ever worn, I take it off from time to time, including when I sleep. I never realized that people quite literally never take these rings off! Too bad, my marital status is not so important that I need to wear it when I swim or work out or any other activity I woudn’t ordinarly wear a ring for. But that’s just my opinion.

  • Jen

    With respect to the ring competition this post SO HITS HOME!!! So many people I went to law school with were so competitive when it came to engagement rings. A lot of people got engaged in a really short period of time and there was a silent but obvious competition. And really, why are we competing? When it comes down to it we’re all loved. You’re not loved more or less depending on the size of or lack of diamond. Its all so ridiculous. Do I love my engagement ring? Yes! But I’m not going to judge someone else or make assumptions because their ring is bigger, smaller, or they don’t wear one.

    The engagement ring was initially such a sticking point for us. I cared way too much about it to begin with and after more reflection realized I was being completely ridiculous. It is so easy to fall prey to all the stupid cultral forces out there telling you what things mean or how important they should be/are. Letting go of all that is liberating. An engagement ring can be significant without being all consuming or defining.

  • Cris

    I have read so many times this blog and once more I found a subject to identify with!
    I have a lovely three diamond ring,that my future husband chose for me last year.I didnt even want a ring in the first place since for me the ring was only a symbol but the really important stuff was the everyday respect and love to each other,etc.When he did surprised me with one I loved it although is not the convential type…the boy knows my taste.
    I dont wear all the time,first because is probably the most expensive item I have and my work involves a lot of lifting and dusting and moving big cages of stock and I dont want to ruin it.
    And second because I like making an ocasion of everytime that i wear it,something special to reminds us how special is what we have.

  • The ring Olympics SO exist–and my sister-in-law is a gold medalist. I find it fascinating how impressed her friends are (strangers, too) with her ring, and how proud my brother is as well. I don’t wear rings at all, and cannot imagine dealing with such a rock. But it makes them happy.

    As for me, I’ll know I’m with the right person when they totally understand and love that I’d prefer to have an engagement kayak rather than an engagement ring. Seriously.

    Heck, even an engagement trip to Mexico sounds better to me than a ring, but that’s just me. How far out of the Olympics can one opt?

  • Claire

    This is a great discussion. My mother is very traditional (she sort of expected to get some piece of jewelry for every anniversary) and over the years she’s amassed a considerable jewelry collection. I think I’m going to reset one of her diamonds to use as an engagement ring, since neither I nor the Mr. have enough money to spend on a new one and I like the idea of using a family ring. When I visited her recently she laid out all of her rings to let me look at them. I loved a small, delicate little diamond, but when I admired it she dismissed it as “not worth much” and kept trying to push me towards some of the bigger ones. It’s interesting to me how the size and price of a diamond can be so important to some people – more important than the authority to make your own decision, sometimes.

    My mother got her jewelry expectation from my grandmother, an old southern debutante if there ever was one. For her 25th wedding anniversary, my grandfather bought her the biggest diamond I’ve ever seen outside of a museum. It cost him half a year’s salary or something. Anyway, the ring is so big and so eye-catching that it made her very nervous to wear it, so she had an exact replica made with CZ. For the rest of her life she wore the CZ about twice as much as she wore the actual diamond. If this doesn’t sum up some of the absurdity of the Diamond Olympics-type thinking, I don’t know what does.

  • Wsquared

    This is a very interesting topic.

    My own engagement ring is a family heirloom– came from my fiance’s great-grandfather’s tie-pin, which his mother had re-set in a rather large, modern-art-y, avant-garde-y, type ring. It’s too big for my left ring finger, and so I wear it on my third finger; and even then, it’s a bit loose.

    We’ve been waiting a very long time to get it reset, because more important life-related things get in the way: money needed to travel to academic conferences to give papers and to see friends, and to drive me to and from various academic fellowships requiring residency. To say nothing of various paperwork. Plus, my mom-in-law tried to bribe me by telling me that she’d front the money for the ring (she could have been polite enough to not tell me to my face!), and I had to tell her that I could wait and that we could handle this ourselves. I also put it away for safe-keeping, saying that I wouldn’t wear it until we were ready to have it re-set.

    I still don’t have that ring reset, but that’s okay. While I do look forward to it, it’s more than okay. I went back and forth on that ring, trying to wrestle with what it actually meant versus what advertising and all that tripe says that it means. There are a lot of self-worth-type issues entangled in perceptions of what a diamond engagement ring symbolizes that I had to sort through. And I was not helped by people hearing of my engagement thinking that they had a right to grab my left hand, because they “wanna see the ring!” Not having the ring at first upset me more than I cared to admit, and that confused, annoyed, and embarrassed me.

    But not having the ring right away taught me a few things about being engaged, and about myself: that one wrestles with enough baggage about self-hood when engaged. One doesn’t need any ring to therefore feel engaged. I also realized that I’d rather have the man who drove me all the way to Madison, WI from Philadelphia PA to give a paper at a conference, and so we could see friends and family in Chicago. You can’t put a market value on stuff like that. Furthermore, I thought of a worst-case scenario: what if I’d gotten my ring, and I got mugged and it got stolen? What would I have then? The answer: still a whole hell of a lot.

    I’ve taken to wearing the ring again, just as it is. I have to take it off while I’m working, given that it doesn’t allow me to type my usual 100wpm with any real ease. But, as my fiance so wisely tells me, I should see it as a symbol of things to come, and not “stuff that’s yet to get done.”

    And so I do.

  • Megan

    Great post! I unfortunately had most of my diamond olympics experience at the family dinner table with my (three!) sister-in-laws, who all have huge honkin personally designed diamond rings. And here I was with my antique simple pearl ring that my now husbands grandmother’s ring. And I loved it- and I still love it as much. And though I had to diffuse some faux-pity from some naysayers early on, I am so glad I am not a competitor in the diamond olympics. It must get terribly tiring…

  • Lulu

    I love this discussion! As a fellow women and gender studies major, I recognize some of the internal struggles that occur. And for a full disclaimer, I can be materialistic and sometimes find myself wanting to keep up with the Jones’s or at least have something pretty and sparkly to keep myself distracted.

    I am engaged so I don’t yet have the wedding band, instead I have my fiance’s grandmother’s engagement ring which has sapphires and diamonds. I love it, and wear it proudly, and feel confident that I will continue to do so even after married since it is a family heirloom. However I am looking forward to the day when I have the choice of if I want to wear just my wedding band or if I want to wear both.

    I like having a clear signifier that I am part of a loving happy relationship in which we have chosen to make a commitment to each other. I also love that it functions to let people know that I’m not really interested in them hitting on me. Ironically though, for some reason my ring has stopped “working” lately. People don’t really remark upon it anymore, and if they do it’s often a man who asks if it’s my birthstone, when I respond that it’s my engagement ring they no longer feel the need to discuss jewelry with a stranger!

  • Alexandra

    There is a bird species in which the male creates an elaborate display of found items on the forest floor, to show the females that he is so well-fed, and taken care of, that he can afford the time to make this unnecessary decor happen.
    I figure that’s a bit akin to the engagement ring.

    A friend of mine lives in Indiana, in a working-class social scene, and no one she knows has an engagement ring, or a ‘romantic proposal’ story. Unless you count lying in bed together as romantic. Which it is, but it isn’t a sunset-on-the-beach version of romantic. (& the implication was that they were lying there sated, post-coitus) ;p

    I have channel-set multi colored sapphires for an engagement band. Looks more like an anniversary or wedding band, perhaps. So that’s my opt-out. I’ve never been a diamond girl, so I’m really happy with what I have. Might do Moissanite stones in my wedding band, just to have super sparkle. ;p
    (& I love that it doesn’t catch on anything!!!)

    A friend of mine used to work in the Federal government in DC, at a place where most [if not all?] of the employees would have a Masters in Public Policy. Apparently there were some Serious Rocks there. I hadn’t heard it called Diamond Olympics till this post, but that is the situation I thought of upon reading! ;p

    • Alexandra

      Oh, and I love the “hands off” signifier. Being ‘chatted up’ can get really old. ;p

  • Tracy

    I’m a new reader of this blog, and this post couldn’t have been more perfectly timed for me. I also only want to wear a wedding band once I’m married, but no one I talk to seems to understand this point of view at all, so it was really great to hear it. Part of it is philosophical and part of it is practical and part of it is that my mother only wears a wedding band, as with most of the women I knew growing up, so it does not seem automatic to me that a married woman wears an engagement ring, in fact my default picture is that of just a band.
    The philosophical part is that I would rather the visible ring be the one that represents actually getting married. That being said, I never thought I would want an engagement ring at all, and I find I’m quite happy that I have one afterall – there is something to the idea of symbols that remind us of intangible things in our lives, like commitment. I like having the physical reminder that we are planning to get married. However, I think once it has served that purpose I would rather the reminder be that we are married.
    The practical part is that I don’t like my hands being hindered by a stone that sticks out and gets caught on things and I have to protect. I know this depends on the ring, and mine is larger (though not diamond by request) than I would have picked for myself. No criticism intended to my fiancee – I know and appreciate that a lot of care and effort went into his selection, and I definitely think that at least some men feel like they have to live up to their responsibility, real or imagined. Also, I’ve very self-conscious of being ostentatious – I guess it’s the opposite of the diamond olympics – so I worry about being more glitzy than my peers in certain circumstances.
    I mostly just wanted to say thank you for the post – it’s really nice to not feel alone in opinions about weddings. It was nice to be able to share some of my thoughts that are in the same vein as well.

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  • SeaWaterStone

    That was such an interesting take on engagement rings,
    We exchanged gifts when we got engaged – I also felt uncomfortable with the idea of a ring feeling like a ‘marker’ and as I don’t wear rings normally it just felt wrong. I suggested that if I wear a ring, he wear one too, that gave us something to talk around and we were so much happier to give each other something else that had meaning for us.
    What was really liberating was a few months later, it occurring to us that were able to ask each other – “Shall we have wedding rings?” We’ve decided yes, for similar reasons as us as not having engagement rings.
    APW really hits on how much it means to negotiate a wedding and marriage in an environment where nothing has to be taken for granted and its possible to build it all up gradually. Thanks for the blog and the community who make it up, I love it when I dip in!

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  • Emily

    I think it’s a matter of taste. I have a small three stone diamond engagement ring, and I love it. It wasn’t way too expensive (half price at an estate sale) or flashy, so some people are kind of surprised it’s not a solitaire or have large diamonds on it. But there are also some people who thinks it’s great. But at the end of the day, I’m the one wearing it, and it’s just a ring. I would still wear it after getting married because I love that it’s my style, and I even found a band that would match it perfectly. But who cares about what people think. People are going to think things about you all the time and judge whether you like it or not. Men judge each other too, but on different things, like cars and the sports team they like. I really don’t see it as a status thing nor I will look down on women who chose to wear only their wedding band. I believe the choices women make about their engagement ring and wedding band or jewelery in general makes them unique. For instance, my mum in law never had an engagement ring and she is not a diamond person, so she only wears her original gold wedding band and a gold anniversary band with some small sapphires on it. Some women wear rings on every finger and some like large solitaire diamonds. I am wearing the two because I love jewelry and they are the only rings I will ever wear.

  • Like some of the ladies above, I was never planning on a diamond ring, but when we got engaged his mother offered her late mother’s diamond ring for us to re-purpose. We took it to an antique jeweler in town, who made a replica of a really cool 1880’s ring using recycled white gold and this family diamond. I love it because it’s beautiful and it connects me to his family – and because there’s no new materials in it (that was important to me). Plus it’s low profile so it doesn’t catch on stuff. I wear it by itself.

    I didn’t have a new engagement ring. He actually proposed with a “living” ring made of evergreen, baby’s breath, and silver ribbon, to signify an evergreen relationship (and also so I could pick out my own ring). It was a really romantic surprise! We dried it and it’s in a shadowbox with the first rose he ever gave me. While we were engaged I switched the ring I always wore on my right hand to my left hand, just to be a signifier. It’s an inexpensive silver and peridot ring he got me for my 20th birthday (like above posters, peridot is not my birthstone – just my favorite color). Now that I have a new wedding ring, that one is back on my right hand.

  • Emi

    I’m so glad that someone wrote about engagement rings and their significance. Personally I’ve never understood their importance, nor have I been able to breakthrough my judgment on the what is referred to here as the ‘Diamond Olympics.’ But I don’t want to sacrifice my friends who have beautiful, large diamonds either. So thank you, thank you, thank you for shedding light on each of these themes. Also with the support for personally authentic rings and for what they symbolize.

  • InfamousQBert

    i know this comment is WAY late, but i wanted to say “Thank you!” for this. i wear what looks like a pretty traditional engagement ring/wedding band combo. but both pieces were chosen based on my and my wife’s personal ethics and desires. the engagement ring is an antique ring that was her grandmother’s. besides the fact that it cost $0 for us and eliminated any worries about contributing to the blood diamond industry, i love the fact that it’s NOT a giant stone – i never wanted a traditional ring and was looking at antique-style artisan rings before i knew this one existed. it’s 7 small stones in a flower setting, raised above a simple band. it’s simple, and elegant, and passes the societal test you mention, but is different enough to feel unique and get lots of admiring comments. it fits our relationship very well in that sense. the wedding band came from brilliant earth and is simple as well, complimenting, not overwhelming the small engagement ring.

    i was always annoyed by the ring talk amongst women at work, and the pressure my male friends felt when deciding to propose. i’m so glad that we were able to do something that just felt right for us, without having all that pressure from the outside. i hope, as more artisan jewelry sites pop up, in combination with the recession making more people rethink their budget and look at other resources, that we’ll see more and more divergence and personality showing through in this particular arena of the wedding world.

  • Emily

    Apologies for coming late to the discussion.
    Meg – You wrote that you felt that wearing an engagement ring signalled to the world that you’re a wife. Doesn’t your wedding ring still symbolise this?
    I’m also really curious to find out more about how noticing your ring led to people bossing you around.

    My naked left ring finger symbolises (in my culture) that I am single – a generalisation which in my case is true. I guess not wearing a ring is a social (relational?) signifier also.
    Love the discussion generated here.

  • Liz

    Love this post, it brings up a lot of things I hadn’t thought about. My almost-fiancee and I just picked out a ring (he wanted me to pick it out and then hes going to “officially” propose when he feels like it, different I know, but it works for us) and I spent forever trying to find the perfect ring.

    Upon describing it to my mom (and mentioning that the center diamond is small, and btw I like it that way), she goes into the whole “well you can replace it when you have more money” spiel. To me that takes the whole point out of an engagement ring. Isn’t it supposed to symbolize your love and commitment for each other? Why does it have to be huge and expensive to show that? I don’t usually get sentimental about jewelry (I still own and wear jewelry I received from exes just because I absolutely love the jewelry), but I feel like my engagement ring/wedding band is something worth getting sentimental about, and that I will cherish forever as a reminder of how much my almost-fiancee and I love each other.

  • Lauren

    I’ve probably read this particular post and its comments 5 times, especially when I’m trying to stay grounded. I’m now five months into my engagement and the ring situation has been a bit of a sore spot for me. When my fiancé and I first discussed engagement, I didn’t want a ring. I don’t object to jewelry in any way, in fact, I love it! I enjoy creative pieces that show my personal flair. But with the engagement ring, I hated the idea of being the center of attention and having people grabbing at my hand to see “the rock”. So I decided I would rather design an awesome wedding band that would be more near and dear to my heart.

    Fast forward a couple of years and relationship obstacles later, my fiancé decides that I “deserve” a ring. He really wanted to buy me something as a show of affection. So I agreed. I didn’t want to take over the entire process and tell him exactly what to get. But I did want to provide suggestions and show him what I like and let him take it from there.

    We discussed a price that he was comfortable with. I’m practical when it comes to these things and I never wanted him to overextend himself to impress me. I wanted something vintage and not over ½ to ¾ carat. We visited jewelry stores, antique shops, websites etc. etc. and soon I became excited about this ring.

    Finally the day for the proposal came and the ring was nothing like what I had hoped for. And I am ashamed to say it, but I was sad. It was the opposite of what I wanted. The gesture was sweet because the ring belonged to his grandmother. But I suspect that the only reason he gave it to me is because he had to use the money he had saved to help his mom with some financial troubles. Which I understand, but I wish that we would have talked about it, maybe delayed getting a ring or none at all.

    Sometimes it feels worse to wear something I’m not in love with or conflicted about. People have made some crappy comments about my ring or awkwardly try to avoid mentioning it at all because they pity me, I suppose (which is totally f’ed up). And I don’t have the energy to defend it because I’m not wild about it myself. Even though I firmly believe that it’s the relationship and not the ring that truly matters, when I think about the situation, I find myself struggling to come to terms with my own insecurities about what others think of me and materialism. I grappled with whether I should buy a new ring, have the diamond reset, wear it and just deal or not wear it at all. I realized that there is no solution that won’t disappoint someone, either myself, my fiancé or his family.

    • Chiara

      I know it’s been a long time since you said this, but I wanted to offer some support. I’m pre-engaged (and in a place where I’m practically engaged; we know we’re going to get married when I’m done school), but we haven’t made it official yet. My boyfriend wants to surprise me. He’s allowed that, but I’m worried that he’s going to go and pick out a ring and it’s going to be awful, and I’m not going to like it. I’ve been shopping for rings online (I love the TLC ones!!) and have sent him some pictures, but he’s told me he’s not sure about any of the ones I’ve shown him and he wants to choose it himself. When I first heard him say this, I was worried. He’s so practical, and it might not be sparkly and what if I don’t like it? But I’ve recently come to the conclusion that this is his thing for me. He gets to choose it and I get to wear it, even if I don’t like it too much, because he loves me and this is one of the things I need to do for him.

      I know your situation is different. It maybe feels like a bit of a cop out because he didn’t use the money he saved up for you, but maybe he just wants you to have a ring. Does he feel proud to have found a ring to put on your finger? Even if it’s not the nicest thing in the world, it’s a pretty important gift. Sometimes you just have to smile and accept gifts and maybe grow to love them over time. You might never like it, but you might learn to appreciate it because it has meaning for someone you love. That’s how I see it. I don’t know what the ring will look like, and I might be pleasantly surprised, but if I’m not, I’ll be so happy to wear something that makes my future husband proud and happy that it won’t even matter.

  • You are so awesome! I do not believe I’ve read a single thing like this before. So great to discover somebody with some original thoughts on this issue. Really.. many thanks for starting this up. This site is one thing that’s needed on the web, someone with some originality!

  • Spot on with this write-up, I really think this web site needs far more attention. I’ll probably be returning to see more, thanks for the info!

  • Aaron M.

    Congrats on rejecting the engagement ring tradition, albeit belatedly. I could never understand how one person spending hundreds of thousands unilaterally could be consistent with equality. I plan to not wear a ring at all, as it does nothing more than inform strangers that I belong to someone else. Love and commitment do not depend on any material things.

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