Ask Team Practical: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I was shocked to find that my fella is more practical than I am. I’m having trouble explaining to him, and myself, why a $200 ring or non-engagement engagement doesn’t feel right to me. (Non-engagement engagement means there’s no asking, there’s just the eventual moving forward into a no frills ceremony and marriage.) It’s odd to have my own arguments used against me, just to a greater degree. In a past life, in a past relationship I had to really defend my want for a ring that costs less than $3,000. I saw it on APW in 2008 and it is my dream ring. Yes, I picked it out before I had the guy. Now I have him, love him, and am so excited that WE are so excited to spend our lives together. He has told me he won’t spend more than a few hundred dollars on a ring for ethical reasons and because he doesn’t like jewelry or traditional symbols BUT he will give me all his love every day of our lives. I am thrilled to pieces with him and with us. Why does this silly little WIC bother me, an APW, gal so much? Can I reconcile myself to this or help him understand why it matters to me even if he thinks it’s silly and worse, unethical?

Got What I Asked For, An APW Man


Lady, you want what you want. Whether that’s the pesky WIC’s influence, or just that shiny things are pretty (um, they really are), it’s not a terrible thing (not even a “silly” thing!) to have a sort of deep-down yearning for things to happen a certain way. Nothing wrong with that, and no need to apologize for it or feel silly about it.

The only problem, of course, is it’s not what your partner wants. His “wants” don’t negate yours, or vice versa. They’re just different. Figuring out what you want in advance is usually well and good (I’m not the only one who looks up restaurant menus online in advance, right?), but in this case, his opinions about that already-decided-on ring figure in, too.  So, you guys probably need to sit down and lay out exactly why each of you is coming at this from different perspectives. Talk about what you think the ring means (hint: gonna help you with that part in a second), and how you can make your wants (gorgeous and perhaps in the four-figure range) fit with his (ethical and more in the three-figure range), while still actually representing this whole relationship moving forward.

So, how to approach this ring-buying part? The ring is one of two things: either it’s a gift from him, or it’s a symbol for beginning your life together. If it’s a gift from him, that means all of the usual rules about gifts apply. He gets to pick it, he gets to spend what he wants on it, and at the end of the day, it’s special (not because of what it is or how it looks) because he picked it out for you and gave it to you.

If it’s a symbol of starting your life together, it makes sense for you both to pick it out and buy it together, both of you getting a say in what you get and where (and while you’re at it, maybe he should get one, too). Your whole relationship is (hopefully) rooted in mutual respect and joint decision-making. A small jewelry-shaped symbol of that would pretty practically also be a joint decision. That means that your $3,000 opinions count, but also (unfortunately for you, miss) that his $200 opinions count, too.

You’ll notice that neither meaning fits perfectly with your ideal scenario here. The idea that he picks it out as a gift for you, but that you get a say in what he gets, but that he also surprises you with it—while being a pretty messy hodge-podge of impossible, also sort of works against the whole point of the thing. There’s no situation in which this engagement ring is just you picking out and buying yourself a glittery ring with no one else’s input. If that’s what you want, go on girl. But it’s not an engagement ring. It’s a, “I like fancy, shiny things and I bought one for myself,” ring, and there’s really nothing wrong with those (if you can afford them).

Same goes for the proposal itself. While maybe you had imagined some fantastic surprise, real-life decisions about big things don’t often play out that way. Even folks who go through the steps of having the guy “pop the question” usually have a lot of discussion first to determine that it’s actually going to happen. So, if there’s something traditional deep down that’s longing for a man-on-one-knee moment, I mean, sure. You can ask him to do that for you. But, if that’s not who he is, then, you’ve got to figure what sort of proposal fits your shared story.

So, skip on the improbable fantasy that you concocted before you even met the guy, and work with what you got—a guy who loves you, but has opinions and thoughts and personal ethics. Hear his, and then help him to understand yours. Take that, figure out what an engagement ring and proposal mean to you, and then work together to honor that meaning.


Team Practical, how did you have to alter your imagined expectations about proposals, weddings and marriage?

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

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  • Amy March

    Lemme guess- his iPhone cost more than $200 right? And he’s somehow getting through his days carrying a tool made by workers in horrible conditions. But when it comes to what you want, he can’t explore any of the numerous options for people who have ethical issues with diamonds. And why does it matter if he likes jewelry any way- do you give him gifts that you think he will like? You aren’t expecting him to wear the sparkles.

    If this isn’t part of a larger ethical lifestyle (which I’m assuming it isn’t, or surely this wouldn’t be surprising, but jump in if I’m off base) it would really rub me the wrong way. It would be a symbol of him not knowing or respecting me and what I value, and one thing I value is long lasting high quality meaningful jewelry. And even if I didn’t, I’d value a partner who doesn’t think things that matter to me are silly.

    • Marie

      Woah there. Your first paragraph was kinda harsh. Actually, the whole message was really harsh. We don’t know their dynamic, or their backgrounds, or that he thinks she’s “silly.”

      Please don’t jump down the guy’s throat about some imaginary iPhone. I don’t know you, and I don’t know the letter writer, but I don’t like inflammatory comments on APW. This is a safe space for many people, and we should try to keep it that way.

      • Annabelle Kathryn

        I don’t think Amy is being harsh—I think she’s giving the perspective of someone who DOESN’T know the original poster, or the situation, but saying exactly how it sounds to outsiders. Based on what the OP said about her fiance, it sounds like she’s putting his needs above hers—and if they’re starting a life together, it’s already on slightly uneven footing.

        And the iPhone is just a hypothetical … it’d be one thing if, as the commenter says, this is part of an ethical lifestyle they’ve created and are living together, but it sounds like it could be a justification he is using to say that he just doesn’t want to spend the money on the ring, and isn’t respecting or really giving weight to her own thoughts/value on what the ring means to her.

      • Amy March

        Feel free to substitute something else for the iPhone, but I have a real problem with only having ethical issues when it comes to things you don’t value, and your partner does. Obviously we don’t know their dynamic or backgrounds, but I actually think that’s one of the best things about Internet advice- you hear things that people close to you wouldn’t say, and sometimes they’re off base, but sometimes they resonate. My post wasn’t deliberately inflammatory, and it’s exactly what I would want my bff to hear in the same situation.

        • Marie

          Thanks for the follow-up; I can understand your viewpoint a little more. I figured you weren’t trying to be inflammatory, but I wanted to make sure. I do like the method of your argument (Copper’s response below explains better than I could), I just had an issue with the tone. And as we all know, tone doesn’t translate well across the Internet.

          For what it’s worth, I definitely disagree with “only having ethical issues when it comes to things you don’t value, and your partner does.” You and I are completely on the same page in discouraging that kind of bullshit. I’m not sure this is the case for the letter writer, but if it is, I think your approach would work well. With the right tone, of course :)

      • It’s not really helpful in conversations like these to 1) set the members of the couple against each other via inflammatory ideological language or 2) make the original poster defend her guy’s position when she’s still working through how she feels about it.

        • meg

          Indeed. Thanks, Sharon.

    • Copper

      While I agree with Marie on some parts (those are some big assumptions!) you do present a potentially useful way to speak about the value of things. To say something like, “this matters a lot to me, and limiting it to such a small expense makes me feel like you value it less than other things in your life, like your phone or your guitar (or whatever example your guy has spent a lot on).” That puts things into a frame of reference that helps your desire for something a bit more grand make sense from a standpoint that’s still quite practical.


      Hi, it’s me, the woman who wrote the question. Just exploring your comments now one by one and am already very grateful and excited to have the help sorting out my thoughts about this. We are a good couple, with great communication. We have “created a hostile environment for systemic communication issues.” This issue was one I was stumped with, not sure how to understand the source of my feelings and therefore unable to communicate them well.

      I appreciate this dialogue with Amy March, Meg, Copper, etc. I do have that sense of hurt that something I value isn’t as valued to him. And communicating that in a soft way, comparing his phone to the ring does seem useful. I am happy to be working out my feelings about this with you all. I’m not decided and neither is he. We will continue our conversation about it.

      • Bessa

        Along the lines of these comments, but from a slightly different place: when my best friend and her partner were talking about marriage, she told him that she didn’t care how big a stone it had, what it looked like, or what metal it was made of, but she’d like him to spend at least as much on her engagement ring as he’d spend on gaming systems for himself.

        It ended up being a really helpful frame of reference, as he’s not a jewelry guy and she’s not a video game girl – so it allowed them each to use something they understood and valued to see the other person’s perspective. And I truly don’t think it’s unreasonable for someone to say to their partner, “you are happy to spend $X for yourself on rare occasions. I would like you to be happy to spend that amount on me on rare occasions, too.”

        Now, this might not get you the ring you’ve had your heart set on. But it might be a good start for a discussion about differing values and how to resolve them.

        • I think that is a really good way of thinking about it.

        • Caz

          I think this is great advice. When we picked out my ring I knew we didn’t have much money to spare and started looking at rings that were under $500. When I actually tried one of them on with fiance in tow he stopped me and said that he wanted the purchase of the ring to hurt a little bit financially. I found a couple of rings I loved within a price range he could afford but will require a few months of payments to pay off, and he chose one from the mix to give to me. This may not be the route for everyone, but it definitely communicated to me that this ring is a symbol of our commitment to each other that carries weight.

          And if you are comparing to a game system, make sure he includes all the accessories and games that get piled on top of the game system! :)

        • Stacey

          Agreed. My FH definitely intended to make it “hurt” him financially. The disconnect came in that I didn’t really know what kind of ring I wanted, and he had no idea how much the ring I hypothetically wanted would cost. We had to go shopping (in-person and online) together and see what was out there, to zero in on a price range that to us, represented our sweet spot. I realized that he really wanted to get me something blingy and impressive, and he was able to see that I was uncomfortable with the idea of wearing a ring that cost as much as he originally intended to spend. We were able to compromise and it felt like a really good first step. We’d been together for 8 years so there was not going to be any element of surprise, anyway. The whole engagement process was two adults looking forward together.

    • HannahMay

      OK I KNOW THIS ISN’T HELPFUL but this discussion reminded me of this skit and it’s so amazing and I just had to post it. It’s about Valentine’s Day and slave labor. You’re welcome.

  • Mer

    I was ready to get engaged long before my fiance was. But I am a firm believer that the last person in the relationship, regardless of traditional gender rolls, should be the one to purpose spending the rest of your lives together. It’s a huge step, therefore both people need to be ready for it. He had a lot of things he needed to work through and I didn’t want to push him into thinking he had to marry me. I needed him to want to marry me.

    That said, I did pointedly show him what kind of ring I wanted (Etsy favorite lists are your friend); I am the one who is going to be wearing it for the next 50 years, I want to be comfortable with it. I also made it clear that if he proposed in public, in front of lots of people, I would say no on principle. Usually this came up after watching or reading a story such a proposal. They terrify me. In my head I came up with all these great, meaningful ways he could propose. When he finally did, it was completely unromantic (well, as unromantic as a marriage proposal can be), understated, and unexpected. I think my first response was to ask him if he was sure, then I said yes. It wasn’t what I was dreaming of, but it was completely him. Yes, sometimes I regret that I don’t have a fun proposal story to tell, but I do have authentic one. The man who proposed to me (not some rom-com version of him) is the man I am marrying. And we are getting married! Whoohoo!

    • You’re getting MARRIED! YAY!

    • I was also one of those “if you ask me in a public way, I will say no” kind of people. For one thing, it would show that the person asking didn’t actually know me or care about my feelings.

      Fortunately, I was never put to the test on that, and got exactly the kind of private proposal that was just right for us.

      • I vehemently warned my fiance not to propose in public, too — but what I really meant was, “Don’t propose in front of all of my family and friends and make us into a giant spectacle.” Not authentic to who I am, and not authentic to us as a couple.

        In the end, he did propose in a public place — in the U.S. Botanic Garden in D.C., with a crowd of passersby watching — but I didn’t see or hear a soul. Once I realized he was down on one knee, I got tunnel vision for the first and only time in my life.

        • We have a similar definition of public: no spectacle. Also out: billboard, Jumbotron, into the mic at karaoke, etc.

        • Oh man getting proposed to in front of my friends/family/people I knew would be the worst, for me (he’ll be proposing soon, I have made that VERY clear). But in a public place, that’s fine, just as long as no one I know is there hiding in the bushes with champagne all “SURPRISE.” I would die! Your proposal story sounds lovely.

        • Aly

          Aw I got engaged in DC too! And I also got tunnel vision — actually, I’m pretty sure I blacked out. I made him repropose to me in our apartment after, just so I could remember what he said. :) (Also, the Botanical Garden is awesome–what a great place!)

        • Kris

          I got tunnel vision too!
          Your proposal sounds so beautiful and romantic, I wish you both all the best.

    • Martha

      I don’t have a fun proposal story either (he asked me one day when I came home from work, mid clothes-change). Now, the story in which he drunkenly told me he bought my ring the morning of his cousins wedding – that’s one for the books.

      • Future post, perhaps? :) I’m liking the sound of it already!

    • Erin

      I am the one who is going to be wearing it for the next 50 years, I want to be comfortable with it.

      It kind of amazes me how often guys seem to miss this point. This thing is going to be on your finger FOREVER. You want to like it.

      I’m not saying that means you should spend a few grand on it. But you certainly should spend enough to get something that you’re going to be happy with for a long time.

      When we got married, I stressed for some time over insisting on a wrap with stones in it over a plain band. But now that we’re a year out, I’m so glad I did – it’s the one wedding-related cost that I still live with every. Single. Day. I love my ring, and I love when I get compliments on it, and I love how it makes me feel when I look at it and remember my husband telling me to stop stressing and get the one I really wanted.

    • Rebecca

      This is EXACTLY how it went down for me and my guy. He asked me in our bedroom and I cried and asked, “Are you sure?” So, I am right there with you on the story. It’s not one that entertains others, but my love life isn’t really on display for anyone’s entertainment anyway. Also, we talked about rings before we got engaged and decided that it was best for us to shop for a ring together after the fact.

    • AshleyMeredith

      “I also made it clear that if he proposed in public, in front of lots of people, I would say no on principle.’

      I always had that same rule! I find the Jane Austen-era ideal that a guy should express and feel a little uncertainty to be silly. But a public proposal is just a little too confident, you know? Or maybe it’s just that I don’t like big public scenes – that part of romantic comedies always bugs me. Why can’t the climactic fight/reunion be private? Would that make it any less meaningful?

      (I was so excited that I totally posted this before reading on and seeing that other people agree, which on this particular thing, is just so cool to me!)

  • Caroline

    Pre-conceived ideas about weddings… we are dealing with those. We’ve been having a lot of talks about what it means to have a ceremony and why and how and how to do it so we both feel involved. It’s hard, but it’s also been great because it is a chance to really listen to each other and be heard. I think it is really hard but really good for your relationship to sit down and work through why you feel the way you do about a seemingly uncompromisable issue in which some compromise or action plan must be reached. It sounds like this is a chance for one of those convos.

    • Samantha

      SO. MANY. Pre-Conceived ideas about weddings! Once we started planning I realized that I really had no “real-life” examples of how weddings go. I was clueless – the more I researched actual real religious traditions and finally when I found APW I was free of it all!

  • Everybody. DANGER. I see a little “like” thumb under this post. Is this new? Will I be a running APW Facebook status poster? Is my online networking social life about to become a perpetual re-post?
    Am I going to land in the hospital from jamming that little “like” so hard every day that I break my forefinger? FACEBOOK LIKE ALERT!!

    And regarding this post. Girl (or guy?). Go get that ring. TP’s advice could not be more spot-on. You’re allowed to have wants and do not second guess your needs and wants. If you start second guessing yourself now, wait til you are planning this thing. Second guessing chips away at your sense of self worth and quickly turns you into a sobbing mess.*

    If the ethical thing requires compromise (and if it’s due to the industry surrounding diamonds, which is a totally another post) then consider going with something unique, designed locally. Some research might turn up that it’s not as pricey as he might think and there are SO MANY stunning stones out there. Maybe a different one might capture your heart? We went with a unique, custom stone set with ethical diamonds (lab stones are a GORGEOUS option too!) and he spent MUCH less than what he expected having it custom designed! And, need I say? Unique stones are the new black ;).

    *Said the most “collected,” self-assured person of all time. Trust me, it’s true. Meg tackles it in the book.

    • meg

      That’s… interesting. We didn’t put those buttons up intentionally, some work is being done in the backend, and they just appeared. I bet it’s a plug in that broke ages ago and got fixed!

      Anyway, I love Liz’s advice, but I kind of agree with Blair. You found the ring on APW in 2008 and it’s about 3K? Yeah, I know exactly what it is, and it’s my dream ring too, and it’s also ethical. At the end of the day, I don’t tend to agree with the argument that spending money is unethical (though it’s a complicated argument). But in general, spending money ethically is ethical, as far as I’m concerned. Spending 3K to support an artist, AND get you something you love? I’m for it. Yes, you’re not solving hunger (though it’s not like you can’t buy a 3K ring, and do work in a soup kitchen, and give to charity, and idea I really support) but you are supporting a family, and you are allowing people to work making art and beauty. I’m also another small business owner feeding my kid through ethical capitalism, so I might be biased. But MAN does that kid like to eat…

      Seriously though. APW would totally not exist if we lived by the maximum that spending money on non-charity things was unethical. I like to think both can exist in the word: art and charity. And even more so, that beauty and goodness are intermixed.

      • KC

        APW is totally a charity: dispensing benevolence and sanity without charging those of the APW crew who can’t afford to pay? C’mon, tell me what’s not charitable about that. :-) (and yes, some of those who can afford to pay go and support the advertisers, who send in money to keep the whole system afloat, but even that’s benevolent when the advertisers are all awesome and are providing benefits)

        (note: obviously, non-awesome or guilt-based advertisers would break this system, so please don’t do an APW IPO and relinquish editorial control and start being solely profit-based, because that would crush this from the inside.)

        • meg

          But Facebook’s IPO went so well! ;)

          • KC

            Man, I knew I should be worried about you guys being so close to Silcon Valley… ;-)

    • Brianne

      That’s exactly what we did and I couldn’t be happier. We got a laboratory stone and met with a local jeweler (friend of a friend’s mom) who helped me design the setting and a matching wedding band.

      It ended up being a little more than $3K and I never thought I’d want to own anything that expensive that wasn’t a house or a car. But I love it and it made him feel better. He proposed with a small necklace, just so he’d have something to give me that day. Then we met with the jeweler and bought the stone online. We also split the cost and considered it part of the wedding expenses.

  • Jiggs

    In the spirit of being practical, here are some questions to ask while heading toward a practical solution to this dilemma:

    1) Can you cover the difference in cost for your dream ring? Is that something you’d be willing to do?

    2) Can you find a version of the ring (or have one made) that uses different precious metals or a lab-created or CZ stone to move the costs down?

    3) Can you find a version of the ring made with “fair-trade” and/or “ethically mined/produced” materials? Or request one from the original seller?

    If you can meet all these concessions and get your dream ring, and your fiance still has a problem with that, then I would say you’ve got bigger problems that need discussion.

    • Daisy6564

      My interpretation of the ethics comment, though it is not stated, was that he has an ethical objection to paying multiple thousands of dollars for a piece of jewelry when that money could be put to use else where. I can’t say that I disagree with him.

      If it is simply a question of the ethics behind production of the ring or mining of the diamond, there are many places to get some beautiful (and often VERY expensive) ethical rings. Heck, I think even Tiffany’s uses Canadian mined diamonds now.

      I think his point about ethics might be more along the lines of “How can I spend $3,000 on a piece of jewelry when I owe $30,000 in student loans?” or “Should I spend $3,000 on a ring when there are people in my city who are starving and could live off that for month?” or “Wouldn’t it be more responsible to save that money for a house or retirement?”

      I may be wayyyy off, but those are questions I’ve had before that I think also deal with the ethics of how we allocate our money.

      • KC

        Right, but it’s:
        a) not just a piece of jewelry, but is also symbolic, and
        b) something that she’ll probably be wearing all the time for a very long time (and if you’ve ever read Rilla of Ingleside, consider the hat), and
        c) it sounds like this is something she wants very much that her fiance has not convinced her he is giving sufficient weight to (he may be taking her preferences totally seriously and still be coming out with this result, but they need to communicate more), so
        d) wearing a ring she doesn’t want might be symbolic representation, on her hand *all the time*, of him ignoring her desires.

        (says the person who is super-happy with her ludicrously cheap engagement ring and who wears no fancy jewelery. But I know that to some people, clothes are what you put on to avoid public indecency charges and/or protect yourself from the elements, whereas for other people, their clothes are an expression of themselves. It is legitimately hard to get the two groups to agree on what is “reasonable” financially for clothing.)

        • Daisy6564

          I tried to edit my comment to add that while I definitely used to have objections to the whole giant diamond culture, as I mature I realize that it is a personal choice and not my ‘bidness. The comments from the post a couple of weeks ago, from the CEO of Brilliant Earth, about how much many APW readers value their engagement rings were really touching.

          You are also totally right that, most importantly, he should value her feelings (and she his) and not force her to get something she doesn’t want.

          • meg

            Sorry, WHAT comment? (Between this and the FB like button showing up, I feel like I’m loosing my mind, ah, coming back from mat leave).

            APW doesn’t have a relationship with Brilliant Earth.

          • Aine

            do you mean Turtle Love Co?

          • meg

            That would make much more sense.

          • Daisy6564

            Yes, it was Turtle Love Co., I apologize. The comments from APW posters were truly lovely none-the-less.

          • Amidst all the confusion, I sense a compliment. Thank you! We at TurtleLove are so grateful for all of our APW friends and fans!

        • Daisy6564

          also, shout out to your Anne of Green Gables reference!

          • Brenda

            Ditto! Especially Rilla. I think I like Rilla even better than Anne.

            Although Anne’s pearl ring and disappointment that diamonds weren’t purple was when I decided I was not a diamond girl either. Thank you Anne for my lovely sapphire ring :)

          • Christa

            yes. You can blame Anne of Green Gables for my sapphire ring too.

          • Actually, Anne of Green Gables was one of the big reasons I started TurtleLove in the first place!

          • Claire

            I read and reread the Anne series obsessively when I was younger, so it’s probably no surprise that i’ve now got a purple sapphire :)

      • ElisabethJoanne

        I read the “ethics” thing the same way – It’s about the ethics of spending a lot of money for something not physically useful. In that respect, I think the first discussion here about what consumer goods are “useful” or “ethical” is helpful.

        • GWIAFAAM

          OP here. Yes, the ethical question has more to so with spending 3 grand on a ring when it could be allocated to something more useful or magnanimous like feeding and clothing the hungry. I do not want a diamond, I want an artisan ring by a local artist. Still there’s a price tag. I also agree that having a ring that acts as a symbol for not being heard by my mate makes me sad. It’s definitely a conversation to have over and over again in different ways. At the end of the day, even though we have agreed to marry and are planning our life together, I don’t feel engaged because my finger is naked and I haven’t been asked privately in those words, “Will you marry me?/be my wife?” I hope my liberal arts brain can make his engineering brain see where I’m coming from without compromising either of our positions. I don’t need to get what I want, but I do need to be heard and reach a compromise we both feel comfortable with.

          • ElisabethJoanne

            Meg explains somewhere else that beauty is a per se bonum – something good and desirable in itself. I’ve had the discussions going round-and-round trying to explain this to supposed “analytic” types, so I know how that goes. It is, after all, a conversation that goes back at least as far as Plato’s Republic. (I also think of it in terms of Mary Magdalene anointing Christ – “This could have been sold to feed the poor.”)

            If there’s no consumer product you can point to him desiring out of personal taste or just because it’s “cool” or “fun,” maybe look at how he/you spend his time. No one can do just “productive” things all the time. Surely there are activities he enjoys just for the sake of it, or which he does in a way that isn’t the absolutely least expensive method. That’s just a different manifestation of the same principle that there are goods other than the directly bodily/physical.

          • Is there maybe a compromise that involves a ring that meets your values (artisan, locally made) but also listens to his budget concerns? Maybe something made locally in a less expensive metal without the stone, or with a different stone (CZ, lab created, or a semi-precious). It might not be your exact dream ring, and it might make the budget go up a bit but it might be a fair compromise.

            I’d also second the idea that if the ring isn’t to be treated as a gift and you have a say in it than maybe it needs to be a joint purchase.

          • “At the end of the day, even though we have agreed to marry and are planning our life together, I don’t feel engaged because my finger is naked and I haven’t been asked privately in those words, “Will you marry me?/be my wife?””

            This was how I felt!

      • meg

        Since she says she found the ring in this post, I’m pretty sure the ring is ethical, and you are correct in your assumption of the problem.

        Though I’ll offer up this $265 ring as also pretty awesome.

        • Copper

          or if it’s the one I think it is, there’s this white sapphire from Etsy for $1275, which seems like a nice compromise zone between their pricepoints:

          • GWIAFAAM

            MIND BLOWN. Copper, you found it!

            Clearly I can find another ring with my partner, but those conversations still need to be had. You ladies got right to the heart of what was really worrying me. The initial conversation was a window to bigger concerns about values, finances and communication. So glad I don’t have to imagine a world without my women. APW 4-eva!!!!!

        • Michelle

          YOU HAVE A PINTEREST. I’m probably the last person on here to realize, but holy moly. My world just exploded a little.

  • Granola

    This reminds me a bit of last week’s ATP poster – where she and her partner had different feelings toward getting married at all, and Liz’s (great) advice was that they each needed to figure out why they felt that way and see if there was a way to honor both perspectives.

    Not that I’m trying to equate marriage and engagement rings, but the theory is similar and I think the approach could be helpful. Good luck!

    FWIW, I was in the opposite situation as you – I didn’t want a ring at all and he really did. Eventually we worked it out.

    • Annoymous

      Dear Granola,

      Do you mind sharing a quick synopsis of how you worked it out? I do not want a ring and he does want to give me one. I don’t want one for a million reasons and would feel SO uncomfortable wearing one…I don’t see a middle ground here?


      • Why does he want to give you a ring? If it’s a symbol- what is it a symbol of, and would you want to receive a gift that symbolizes that?

        My fiance wanted to give me a ring as a symbol of our commitment. If your guy wants to give you a ring for the same reason, could you find another gift (perhaps a necklace, or a simple band, or something not jewelry related but special to you) to play the part of an engagement ring (by serving as a symbol of commitment?)

        Try to figure out what the motivation is, and come up with a compromise.

          • I am now torn between desperately wanting an engagement puppy, and being terrified that aforementioned engagement puppy will hate me and destroy my home and furniture. For better and for worse? :)

          • B

            But what happens when engagement puppies die?!

          • And now all I can think of is How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days- No! You killed our love fern!

          • Copper

            Hopefully by the time the engagement puppy dies, you’re actually married and don’t need to sustain the engagement…

      • WHY would you feel uncomfortable? Because you don’t (like to) wear jewelry? Or because of the symbolism of the ring?

        I have a friend who only wears her ring for special occasions. She doesn’t really like jewelry. Her then BF knew this and bought her a simple little channel set infinity band. It’s slim and feminine and adorable and totally not the standard here where 2-3 carats (gah!) is normal.

        I rarely wear my ring around the house. I don’t like to wear it when I clean or do dishes or work out. But I can’t sleep without wearing it. I’m weird.

      • Liz

        Not Granola, but similar situation. He wanted a ring, but I didn’t (if you can believe it- it was for traditional reasons. My parents didn’t have an engagement ring, so I grew up thinking it was romantic not to have one).

        In the end, he bought me a ring. And I could tell it was really important to him that he was able to. I think I would’ve been grossed out if it was a, “I’m a big man!” need. But, when he explained it, he considered the ring his opportunity to tangibly represent to everyone around us what I already knew: how much he cared about me. Not as proof, or because he had to… but because he wanted to.

        So, I wore the ring for the duration of the engagement. And now I wear it on really fancy dress-up occasions. Pretty much whenever I think, “Imma show off my husband,” I wear the ring as part of that.

        • 39bride

          We had the same experience. And the funny thing is, I find myself wearing it more and more simply because of the meaning in it.

        • Rachel

          We did basically the same thing as Liz and her husband. Except we threw a wedding band in the mix (do ya’ll have engagement rings + wedding bands? that’s how we roll in my culture). So, I wore a lovely and fancy engagement ring for our year of engagement, and then when we got married, he slipped a very simple wedding band on my finger as well. I never got them soldered together (as many women do), and I mostly just wear my simple wedding band – which I LOVE. When I feel like a little more bling I add the engagement ring.

      • Jess

        I think the type of ring can be something to think about too. I like that there are all sorts of articles now talking about alternative engagement rings (yay progress!), but those mostly just seem to be diamond alternatives. If its the one big rock you object to, but could be ok with something flatter and wider or that has multiple smaller stones, to the Pinterest with you! I found my wedding band on a favorite fashion bloggers board, not a wedding board (originally it was going to be my engagement ring before we made a slightly different plan). But no one would be able to guess it was related to a wedding or an engagement. It’s just a beautiful piece of jewelry that speaks to my personality and style, and to my fiance who can’t help but smile when he sees me wearing it. :)

        • Mer

          My ring is a simple hammered stainless steal band. It’s my engagement ring and will be my wedding band. I don’t want anything else which was a surprise to my fiance. His will be whatever, probably similar to mine but not the same. There are so many options available, including no ring at all. Choose the one you are both comfortable with and forget what anyone else says.

      • 39bride

        We had the same situation and worked it out by talking about the underlying meaning of what we each wanted. It allowed us to find a middle ground, and it ultimately added meaning to our compromise ring.

      • Granola

        Hey there! So sorry – I’m sick as a dog and working from home today, so I haven’t checked back. But I’m happy to share our story – though it’s a little long, messy, and not right for everyone!

        I felt very strongly that I didn’t want a diamond engagement ring, but because of that, I felt like I should figure out what I *did* want so I could give my partner something to go on. He was pretty nervous about picking something out, and I’m not a huge jewelry fan. Eventually I googled “I do not want an engagement ring” and ultimately found APW. (My sanity also subsequently improved.) So I felt confident that I didn’t need or want an engagement ring – hurrah!

        However, my partner really wanted to propose with a ring – he saw it as a meaningful token and didn’t think it would be a “real” engagement without it. If you asked him now if he still felt that way, I don’t think that he would, but at the time, it was a narrative that he felt strongly about. Since he wanted to propose with a ring, that ruled out borrowing my grandmother’s, because I didn’t feel ok asking “Hey grandma, I’m not actually engaged yet, but can I borrow that ring for awhile?” Guys are affected by the WIC too, (as we’ve talked about here) and they don’t want to be looked down upon either in the diamond olympics hierarchy. That’s hard for anyone to let go of. And he didn’t have a sassy community supporting him in his new thinking like I did.

        Enter in the knot ring from Bario-Neal – beloved by APW since it’s inception. I saw it on one of the first indie ring round ups and fell in love. It was ethical, it was pretty, and it was cheap – so that I could avoid feeling bad when I ditched it to only wear a wedding ring.

        In the end, not only did I pick out the ring, I bought it, and then handed it to said partner and told him “Just give it to me whenever you’re ready.” I’m not sure that I’d recommend this course of action, but at the time I wanted to feel more of a sense of ownership in the proposal process and this is how I got to have that. At first, my partner was pretty annoyed, but he came around to the (excellent, IMO) logic that now he knew I would like it AND he didn’t have to go shopping. The actual proposal is a different story.

        So, like all compromises I guess, no one got exactly what they wanted, and everyone learned a bit throughout the process. I found a way to give him a ring that didn’t make me feel bad and that I was happy to wear. And, just as I thought I would, I took it off when we got married and hardly wear it at all. I still don’t care too much about it and would have been just as happy if I’d never owned it. Which is reassuring amid all the “Oh you’ll change your mind” carping.

        Good luck with your guy! I’m sure you’ll find a way to work it out. My strategy is always to go deeper into why you feel a certain way, because if you get there, you can usually identify several methods for honoring that aside from the first ones you thought of.

        • Catherine B

          Um. I love this story. Also, feel better!

        • Annoymous

          Thanks so much for sharing your story!

      • Jess

        This is actually my second time answering this comment, but I just wanted to add:

        I had a lot of issues with engagement rings because it tends to be an expensive thing the woman wears. It seemed unbalanced and weird, so we turned it on it’s head. My finace has an engagement ring too and we love that we both have a token of the step we’re taking in our lives.

        We get a lot of responses that are something along the lines of “Oh….is that what they’re doing in Brooklyn now?” but even more that people love the idea, think its sweet, and are now considering it for themselves.

        • I asked my fiance if he would like an engagement token of some kind. He thought about it, but ultimately said know.

        • My dad made my mom buy him an engagement ring. In 1979. Can’t blame Brooklyn for that. :)

  • MG

    When my partner proposed to me, it was a complete surprise. We had discussed marriage, but it was always something in the vague, distant future. We were out to eat at a favourite restaurant, and because I was having such a great night, I suggested we get a glass of bubbly with dessert.

    “Well, before we order, will you hold my hand for a second?” Smiling, I gave him my hands, still having no clue. And then simply and sweetly, he asked, “Will you marry me?” I didn’t say anything for about 10 seconds, though in the moment, it felt like time had stopped. Finally, my response was, “Are you serious?”

    When he assured me that he was totally serious, I enthusiastically said yes. In the excitement and shock that followed, a question popped into my head. Where is the ring? I only had pop cultural references for how proposals supposedly happened, and there was pretty much always a ring. When dessert arrived, I brought this up through a joke. “There’s no ring hidden in the cake, right? Ha. Ha. Ha?”

    He explained that he had no idea what I wanted in a ring, and that he thought we could pick it out together. Unlike GWIAFAAM, I didn’t have a dream ring in mind. When I started browsing rings online, I realized I had some definite opinions. I was really grateful that together, my partner and I could pick out something that I would be excited to wear.

    A few weeks later on vacation, we visited some vintage jewelry vendors in NYC’s wild Diamond District. For ethics and aesthetics, vintage was a great choice for us both. Navigating the Diamond District, trying on gorgeous rings, and eventually finding The Ring was such a hilarious, thrilling experience, and something I think of every time I look at my left hand. That memory is priceless.

    My proposal and my ring were not what I was expecting, but it turns out that they were even better, and more fitting, than I could have imagined. I agree with Liz – you want what you want, and that’s okay! And there’s other opportunities for sparkly things in your future – anniversaries, birthdays, etc. I wish you the best of luck in navigating your opinions with your APW Man, and finding something you can both feel good about!

    • Daisy6564

      This is how it went down for my parents. Dad proposed out of the blue with no ring because he didn’t know what Mom would want. Then they went to the store together and made the purchase together. So this idea has always been my dream engagement scenario, as I commented below. Congrats btw!

    • Yep, my husband asked me (in bed one night, actually) without a ring picked out. He knew that if I was going to be wearing it for a long time that I had better like it a lot! So, there was a week of being engaged with no ring on my finger (sooo annoying to explain to co workers!) and then we found one we loved at an estate jewelry place here in town. And it is the perfect ring!

      • I also got an “in bed” proposal. We’d been talking about it for a while, and I’d let him know that I would really like to help pick the ring, since I don’t wearing rings much and am a fidgeter. (His mom had also accidentally send me a congratulatory email the week before the proposal.)

        It was the Saturday morning before Election Day, and I had woken up a little earlier than him. I wandered to the living room to eat some breakfast, when the doorbell rang. I was still in pjs, with no bra and unbrushed hair. I figured it was a pollster or a canvasser, and was ready to ignore it, but at the last second I decided to peek.

        I looked down the stair to see a man at the door with a big bunch of roses. “Hmm,” I thought, “canvassers are getting serious in the final stretch.” :) So I went down to the door, pjs and all, and accepted the delivery of two dozen roses. Brought them back to my room and commented to my (now awake) boyfriend that the canvassers had given me flowers as a GOTV reminder. Then I put the flowers away, came back to bed, and received a smiling proposal.

    • Samantha

      A fellow “are you serious-er” hahah. Ummm…. Yes I am. Oh, of course!!

      • Karen

        Yes! I also replied with “Are you serious?!?!” And have yet to live it down…

    • My response of “What are you doing?!” and “Are you serious?!” were met with a big smile from my guy. You never quite know how you’ll react in that situation, haha! Congratulations, loved reading your story :)

      • KATIES

        Haha I’m so glad others are in that boat with me…Since we were out under the guise of just a romantic date night out near Valentine’s day, I actually yelled “Wait are you proposing?!”

  • Daisy6564

    My boyfriend and I are going through this back and forth type discussion right now!

    I would like a ring to symbolize the beginning of a new chapter together. I want to go to the store, pick it out together, and pay for half.. I do want to something nice, but not a BIG DIAMOND. I was thinking more along the lines of $1000-$2000 semi-precious stone or going to an estate jeweler and getting a ting in the same price range. I told him of this plan pretty early in our relationship (because I already had it in place before I met him) and skipped merrily along, assuming his silence meant consent.

    As we are getting closer to game time he is showing some unexpected resistance to my scenario. He told me last weekend that he feels that I have taken all of the fun and spontaneity out of it. Where I view choosing together as a balance of power, I think he sees it as me taking away HIS power. He thinks that an engagement ring should be a gift.

    By me choosing and paying for half he thinks I am implying that he either wouldn’t make the right decision or that he can’t afford it. He is afraid that I would pick out something cheap to spare him the cost. (It should be noted that I also don’t think he realizes how expensive the BIG DIAMOND rings are, and probably assumes that is more along the lines of a $2000 purchase, he has never bought jewelry before).

    We are right in the thick of this now. I really don’t want to give up picking out my own unique ring, and having a financial stake in our decision to get engaged. At the same time I don’t want to take away his chance to surprise me or to show me he can provide for me, if that’s what he wants. He’s normally such a feminist that this reaction surprised me already.

    A big part of me wishes that I wanted no ring at all but the WIC has conditioned me that once someone announces they’re engaged the first thing people say is always “Let me see the ring!” and I don’t want to have nothing to show.

    • Liz

      Reading through this, I don’t know that it’s necessarily going against his feminist grain to want to surprise you with something he picked out and bought himself. I feel that way about presents a lot! Giving someone something nice is fun. (And then, I mean, it’s possible that there’s the whole social, culturally engrained aspect of him always looking forward to doing that for you)

      Maybe you guys can go out and look together, you can point out stuff you love, but the final decision (and cost) goes to him? Plus, during all of that window-shopping, he can get an idea for exactly HOW MUCH the sparkly ones cost.

      Meanwhile, to keep up the egalitarian angle that you’re going for, you can go and pick out a ring and surprise him back when he proposes.

      • Rebecca

        This is how I have received every gift of jewelry ever from my husband. I send him a series of etsy links (like, at least 5-10- enough that there’s a real chance for a surprise), he picks what he likes best. He has excellent taste, but he hates narrowing things down from an infinite selection- this way he gets to surprise me but doesn’t have to worry about getting me something I won’t like.

        I never could find an engagement ring I wanted to wear forever, much less options- probably one of the reasons we ultimately went with engagement piggy banks…

      • Emma

        I meant to hit ‘Exactly’ and accidentally reported the comment – I am SO SORRY! It shouldn’t be so easy to report comments on here :-/

    • Daisy-
      He’ll get over it. You could also give him a list of things that you really want portrayed in it (maybe link it to symbolism or your interests and what you want your family to be like?) and then step back.
      Because we went with a unique stone I was FORCED to pick out the stone myself (!!??) and that was pretty unromantic. My lovey did not like that one bit. But then the jewler, my lovey, and I all agreed that once the stone was selected my involvement was only to identify what parts of our lives I wanted captured in the thing, and I put it into their hands.

      This could be something you let go of altogether now, do part way and then let go, or stay involved with. As long as you love it.
      You may also both be able to work through the jewler or jewelry store to figure out a way to make it more discreet. Could he pay when he buys it and you send them a separate payment later? Something like that? That might protect a bit of man-ness…?

    • Crayfish Kate

      The way we went about this was I gave “limited input.” I love good surprises more than anything, but I also wanted to be sure he knew what I liked and didn’t like, without feeling like I picked out the ring 100% by myself. So I told him something white gold, not a solitaire, and not antique style. Everything else was fair game. This way, he could still have input, yet still feel confident I would love what he picked out. The end result? A 3-stone diamond ring, but he had the two side stones replaced with amethysts, my birthstone. As for budget, I felt like the “how much, how big, and where purchased” aspects were all his choice & I gave no input regarding those. We both love how everything turned out.

      Would something like this work for you? Telling him your big 3 parameters or no-no’s & trusting him to do the rest? I have to admit, sometimes I think the fellas/partners don’t get enough credit or trust when it comes to picking out the ring. If you’re talking marriage & rings, hopefully by this point he knows what you like & what your style is?

      • Daisy6564

        I have thought of this but it is really all about the team work and partnership aspect of doing it together more than it is my fear of him not getting something I would like. Also even my mother, sister, and best friend cannot pick out clothes/accessories for me so there is not a prayer he would be able to, but again, that’s not really the *point.*

    • One More Sara

      When we got engaged, my partner was REALLY INSISTENT on getting a ring, but we just didn’t have the funds. I said to hell with the ring, let’s just get married, but it was important to him. Luckily my parents had my Grandmom’s old engagement ring, and they allowed us to get it reset. Because this made it a custom ring, we decided to shop for settings together, I would narrow it down to 2 or 3, and then he would make the final choice (while I waited in the parking lot, so romantic). I made it fairly obvious which was my favorite, but my partner was very non-committal towards it. He surprised (!) me a few days later with the official proposal/ring.

      All this just to say there is plenty middle ground between complete surprise and totally-together-not-a-surprise-at-all proposals and rings.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I also told my now-husband early in our relationship exactly what I wanted for an engagement ring.

      I received exactly the opposite (different metal, different stone, different setting). He and his family were really proud of the heirloom ring I received, so I wore it while engaged, which was over a year. Luckily for me, it would have required a custom wedding band to be able to wear a band on the same finger, which also wasn’t what I wanted at all, and that was enough for me to put it aside once we got married.

      He promised he’d wear his wedding ring, which I bought. He doesn’t. I’m mostly over it.

      So, it’s possible to adjust your attitudes and desires. It just takes time.

      • My husband doesn’t wear his wedding ring either. I’m mostly over it.

    • Janet

      Daisy – Might I suggest an option for getting both of you what you want out of this experience? My fiance surprised me on our anniversary last February by taking me to a jewelry store that sold both custom and pre-made rings. This allowed him to see what type of ring settings I preferred and what size stone fit and looked best in said settings. It also allowed me to voice my opinion regarding how little/big I would like the stone to be.

      FH knew what kinda of budget he had for the ring, so he spoke to the salesperson alone regarding his budget while I looked around the showroom. The sales person made sure to only bring in settings and stones that were within my fiances budget and kept the price stickers turned away from me. This allowed me to enjoy the process of putting together a ring, without agonizing over how much my fiance was spending.

      In the end we walked out with me thinking the ring options I had favored most were too expensive, when unbeknownst to me he had already made the deposit on my favorite ring. This allowed him to maintain a level of surprise in what ring he actually gave me and that he was going to propose soon. I was surprised when he proposed, but even more surprised when he pulled out the ring I had selected at the store.

      With your specific situation, I would suggest going ring shopping together. Stay away from the WIC jewelry stores if possible. Also, educate yourself on the actual costs of diamond engagement rings in your area (you will be stunned at how expensive a quality diamond can be, even a small stone) so that when you go shopping you don’t get sticker shock. If you have your heart set about pay for a portion of your ring and can only put “x” amount to it then possibly consider giving that amount to your guy and then let him handle the rest, especially if he considers an engagement ring as proof he can provide or thinks of it as a really special gift.

      There is lots of room to compromise here. Talk it out, be willing to meet him half way and encourage him to meet you at the other half way point. I never thought I’d pick out the engagement ring I did and I’m extremely thankful/glad my FH included me in the process. Remember, its suppose to be an exciting/happy/inlovewithyoursignificantother time in your relationship!

    • My partner and I went the route of Liz’s suggestion: I made it clear what kind of rings I liked (nothing too big!), and how much heirloom rings mean to me (we have a few floating around our family). He then went out on his own and got the stone from my great-grandmother’s ring reset in a lovely (and very practical) vintage setting. I love my ring now- and especially the history behind it. We ended up going this route with the proposal as well- he really wanted to surprise me, but we both agreed that it was important for us to be on the same page about marriage. So we had a lot of serious conversations, and I set a reverse deadline (basically, “you can propose after my sister graduates in May”). I was leaving for a temporary contract job in another state a month after her graduation, so I had my window narrowed down to a few weeks, but he still got to coordinate with a few of our friends to surprise me with a very sweet proposal. So, I guess the best advice I have is to try to meet in the middle. Sometimes diving into details and logistics and such doesn’t quite seem so “romantic,” but I’ve at least found that good communication (or even over-communication) can really help.

      • Daisy6564

        I wish one of our families had a ring floating around. Then it would take the decision out of our hands and would be vintage, which adheres to my ethical and aesthetic preferences. Alas, this is not the case.

  • Oh wait I’m not done. Maybe ladies with children can back me up here (or argue?) but I know some of my girlfriends that ended up with big honkin stones never wear them because child rearing is demanding!
    So maybe you tell him “look I’d love a pretty shiny thing because it means something to me (<–italics) but we can get a far less expensive (wedding/second/alternate) band that I will likely wear every day anyhow. If that means something to you (<—italics) then, yes, that is ok with me too."

    • KC

      Oh, yeah. A friend who worked at a daycare for a while had her stone come out of her ring *twice*. Seriously, if it can scrape up a kid or if it’s not going to recover from a death match with play-doh, it might be good for people who are planning for children to seriously consider the case. Some people have the skillz to not clonk their ring against things accidentally… but I do not.

    • I haven’t worn my (family heirloom) engagement ring in a year, because the centre stone is large and totally would have scratched my kid. I wear my simple (and cheap) and non-scratchy wedding band every day, without endangering my kid’s skin.

  • Jaya

    I realize my “solution” isn’t possible for everyone, but here’s how we avoided that! My fiancee and I both felt strongly about not contributing to the blood diamond trade/spending $5000 on a ring culture. But I also wanted a diamond ring, and I realized this was my requirement. I was fantastically lucky that I had my great-grandmother’s engagement diamond, so a while into our conversations about getting married, I gave that to him and told him that whenever he’s ready, go get that diamond set in something he thinks I’d like, and propose with that. It was still expensive, but already having the diamond meant that he didn’t have to pay for that bulk of it, and it was 100 years old so we weren’t contributing to any current blood diamond activities. And the night he proposed I had no idea, because he had the diamond for at least six months.

    I realize this is specific, but perhaps you could find a vintage diamond and ask him to go to a jeweler and get it set? That way you know you’re getting a ring and a proposal (which you know already since you’re talking about getting married) but the specific moment and ring are still a surprise.

    • That’s exactly what we did. His mother gifted us a diamond earring she had and we got it set.

    • I love this idea! I have a vintage peridot (my birthstone) ring that my great-grandmother gave my mother (we’re all August babies) when she was young. The pieces I have from my family may not be the best quality or most expensive, but they MEAN something.

    • Diane

      Very similar story for us. I am 9 inches taller than my grandmother was but I have micro-hands so A actually ended up proposing with my grandmother’s ring (which he’d gotten from my mom several months earlier) and then we went together and picked out a new setting that we both loved. Amazingly, the old setting fit but the style and size of the setting weren’t right for me.

      I think the bigger question of trying to escape symbols yet connecting to them is something we can probably all relate to and shows up in so many places on APW and more in general. Love them or hate them, those symbols come with power, comfort, instant recognition of intent, and broad cultural blessing. It’s okay to feel that and make a decision about whether you want to participate in that symbol, and I’d suggest that being aware of ambivalence and complexity is a sign of good mental health!

  • Liz, I love that your advice takes into account both partners’ feelings equally. In my experience, this discussion usually swings in one of two ways: 1) But you’re the one wearing it forever, if he really knew/loved/valued you, he’d get you something you like, that reflects who you are! 2) But it’s a symbol of his love for you, so suck it up and wear it, lady, or else you’re rejecting his luuuuuuurrrrve. In lived actuality, holding on heart and soul to one of those two extremes when your partner is holding on to the other one won’t get you anywhere.

    Our story is similar to the poster’s, but gender-swapped. My husband proposed with his mother’s diamond in a beautiful setting that he’d custom-designed. My first words, after yes, upon seeing the ring were, “I can’t wear that, I work in non-profit!” Not the most auspicious beginning, eh? A year later I hesitantly brought up to him that I wasn’t really comfortable with this ring, that when people reacted with “Oooooh, it’s so big/shiny/intricate,” I always felt weird, even though these adjectives were meant as compliments. “But I’m not a WIC drone!” I’d want to protest. “I didn’t ask for this!” My husband’s face on hearing that… it was like I’d drowned a puppy in front of him or something.

    We fought for a long time over this issue. Which sucked, but also taught us so much about each other. In our case, the core question was never the ring itself. It was about how we’d both been culturally conditioned, for better or for worse. He’d taken in all this messaging about how if your wife is the right woman for you, she’d happily wear a Ring Pop or the Hope diamond, because you gave it to her, end of story. I’d taken in all the messaging about “If he *really* knows you/it sits on *your* finger forever/the ring should reflect who *you* are.” Not to mention a hefty dose of indie bridal one-down-manship. (You know, the kind that equates not spending lots of money on one’s wedding with moral righteousness. *shudders*)

    We had to dig really far down to figure out what hopes and dreams and beliefs regarding this piece of jewelry were our *own* and what was just noise from other people. (Spoiler alert: you do this over and over in marriage.) It was only when we could both articulate what the ring/gift-giving really meant to *us* and not just what we feared it meant to other people that we could come to any kind of compromise. And then it was easy, it really was. I decided my attitude of “But it’s just not my style” didn’t stand up against his wish to give me something he found beautiful and wholly ours. So we swapped out my matching diamond-y wedding band for a super-simple gold band that looks just perfect by itself and not too much when paired with my engagement ring. And these days, when I look down at my hand, I see the both of us represented in my rings, but more importantly I see our compromise.

    I guess the tl;dr version of this is — it doesn’t matter what *anyone else* (even me!) says about what your ring should mean. It only matters what the two of you think. But you both get equal say. Rings are some of the most fraught objects, weighted down with so much expectation and contradicting societal dictates — it’s worth taking the time to dig through and past your own immediate reactions to figure out the deeply held beliefs you each hold and how to accommodate them in each other.

    • I love your spoiler alert! So true.

    • Agreed. Especially paragraph 4.

    • Megan

      Your comment that “I can’t wear that, I work in a non-profit!” totally cracked me up. When my now-fiance and I started discussing engagement rings, I told him that I needed to have something simple, low-set, and small, in part because I planned to become a public defender (also in part because of a legitimate fear that I would accidentally poke my own eye out with it – I’m not a big jewelry wearer, and a bit of a klutz). He thought I was totally insane when I said that. Glad I’m not the only one with that reaction :)

      • dash

        I’m a PD now and got engaged (with a lovely non-obnoxious diamond ring) last year. I just left it like a quarter-size too big so I can have the stone face my palm when I feel self-conscious. No biggie. I’ve only had one client bring it up and he thought I was a very fancy lady indeed when I told him it was actually platinum (he had asked if it was silver or white gold).

    • PREACH.

      Sharon, if Liz ever needs to take a vacation, I nominate you to fill in.

      • Oh lordy no. Those are some giant shoes to fill!

        • Liz


        • meg

          Ohhhhhh. Sharon for vacations! You guys have the best ideas.

          Liz came on board when I took a vacation once, true story.

  • Well, this one hits very close to home. The conversation is the most important part. You have to hear and be heard!

    Badger and I just got engaged. We asked each other, but I still wanted a ring. We ended up looking for a ring a week in advance and figuring out what works. Ours was pretty simple- we wanted something traditional and simple. Both of us are committed to the tradition of marriage, and we really wanted something timeless. At the same time, I did NOT want a diamond. But that’s another story.

    We ended up picking a white sapphire, a stone that represents both of our birthdays since we were both born in September. It looks a lot like a diamond, but it has a secret unique twist- just like us. We look like a traditional 1950’s couple (especially with the clothes I like to wear) but we definitely more than a few modern ideas that are close to us (we both identify as feminists among other things). Throughout conversation, we developed a ring that represented both of us, our feelings and aspirations. It’s amazing what can happen over the course of a few conversations.

    On a more financial note, sapphires are pretty inexpensive. We went to Jared’s (The only jewelry shop in the area that refused to show us anything other than diamonds and treat us like we were insane when we expressed interest in gemstones) and they found a beautiful stone in our budget (in the low three figures). If you’re set on a diamond, that’s great, but other stones might make the price a bit cheaper if you don’t have a preference.

    Good luck!

    • Catherine B

      You’re getting married too! YAY! :)

  • Amy

    I think you have to figure out why you want a ring of a specific $$ value first. You say yourself that you are having trouble explaining to yourself why a $200 ring or non-engagement engagement doesn’t feel right to you.

    Obviously, you guys need to talk about this and hopefully during that conversation or conversations, it will become obvious to you guys what your reasons are for your individual positions on the issue.

    For what it’s worth, might I suggest you look here:

    I have no idea what you are looking for in a ring, but this shop might provide options that are beautiful, ethical, and fit within the price range your fella is wanting to stick with.

  • It’s funny, earlier today I just made a comment on my “non-engagement” on Elisabeth’s recent Number 2 Pencil post. It was a long comment, but the gist of it was that I realized after my “non-engagement” why it was so hard for me. Only my husband (and I) didn’t come to realize this until after we were married. Oops.

    In this situation, though, I think the values, reasoning and emotions behind the somewhat divergent opinions of each person are key. If you can both understand why something is important to each of you (maybe one person wants to celebrate the liminal space of engagement and mark it with physical symbols like a pretty ring while the other dislikes the cultural noise and expectations of doing over-the-top, expensive things that feel inauthentic to the way the rest of that person’s life is lived), maybe there is a way to find a solution that reasonably meets both needs. We hadn’t realized why the more traditional engagement process (well, at least as traditional as calling it an engagement, in our case) was so important to me until after we were married, but I am guessing if we understood that while we were in the situation, maybe we would have made a few different choices? Oh well, we live and learn and hopefully we can put what we learned about communication of needs to use in other life situations….

  • Amanda L.

    Everyone else, starting with Liz, has had really great advice for you. So I’ll just leave some numbers here. (There’s a reason my first degree was in math… and happy Pi Day! 3/14)

    Let’s say you and your man spend the next 45 years together.

    45 * 365 = 16,425
    $3,000 / 16,425 = ___$0.18 per day___
    $3,000 / 45 = ____$67 per year____

    I can generally understand what your SO is saying, but if this is something that you truly plan to wear every day for the rest of your lives, I’d think those two numbers may give him comfort.

    • KE

      This is where my mind went, too! LW, I saw that you mentioned he loves camping equipment. I’m sure when he buys an expensive piece of equipment, he thinks about how often he’ll use it, and how that makes the expense worth it. Yes, a $200 ring would be more cost effective, but over the course of a lifetime, the cost per use of a $3,000 ring is still very low.

      (Btw, I use this method for everything. Overshare here, it’s how I decided to get a breast reduction. Sure, it’s expensive and not covered by insurance, but I have to live with my boobs every day!)

      • KC

        Breast reduction: for some people, most likely actually cheaper than having to get professional and other clothes tailored extensively to fit for the rest of your life. Not to mention the decreased cost of bras. And the increased comfort for exercise, etc., which would be likely to have lasting health benefits which might also have financial consequences.

        Not to say that all decisions have to be financially based to be valid (and just “I like things better this way” can be totally valid and sufficient if you’ve got the funds to pay for it anyway!), but I’m pretty sure breast reduction works out numbers-wise as well.


      You’re right, this advice has been amazing! I’m so grateful that Liz ran my question. Thank you, Liz! I have read a lot on APW about when the woman doesn’t want a ring and the man does, or when a woman wants to explain why her ring finger isn’t an opportunity for the man to show how much money he makes – I just hadn’t seen a post about when a woman isn’t “as practical” as a man. In the end, I hear you all loud and clear! The logical is not always the winning argument. My feelings are worth considering and voicing. I will explore them on my own and thankfully, I have heard a lot here that rings true for me. I know better now why this symbol matters to me. I will also learn about what is behind his feelings and find a happy middle ground. Over all I am thrilled to have this community, where I can learn about myself and chart the right path with my FH. You ladies are indeed THE BEST!

    • Suzzie

      This is the argument my husband keeps using when I bring up that I’m uncomfortable with how much he spent on my ring. Plus he comes from a culture where jewelry is not just a pretty item, it’s an investment that gets passed on from generation to generation. My practical brain spins when I think about what else we could have used the money on!

  • I always thought that I’d want a cheap ring because I’m not a jewelry person and I was scared of the responsibility of owning something expensive.

    But then someone pointed out to me that this is an item that I will be wearing every single day for the rest of my life.

    Anywhere else I’m frugal and skimp in life, it doesn’t make sense to do it here. Sometimes quality costs more and in a few places in life, that is really worth it. Even for a cheapskate like me.

  • KateM

    Liz is right on as usual. I think you really have two issues to deal with here. When my husband and I first decided to get married, it was a decision we made together, and I remember him saying “I never thought I would have this conversation without a ring in my pocket.” We both knew he wanted to talk to my parents and officially propose with a ring, and he asked me to send pictures of the rings I liked. We stopped in a small jewelry shop one day to get me sized and there was a ring that I fell in love with and was waaay under budget and not what I thought I wanted, but looking at it on my finger totally changed my mind, and it might change yours. My husband loves that we picked it out together so he knew I wanted it, since it is something that I will wear for the rest of my life. And that is something to think about, you are the one wearing it.
    But it may also be a situation like my wedding dress, I liked my wedding dress. But there were others I liked more, waaay out of my price range and maybe didn’t fit my body type. They were beautiful, but not meant to be mine, and I had to be okay with that. Much of life is like that. This is the first big financial decision that you two are going to make together and you need to come to a compromise and it may mean you don’t get exactly what you wanted but I will be willing to bet, that you will love it because it is yours, even if you are initially disappointed in it. Beautiful rings will keep being made, beautiful dresses will come along and you will still meet men that you click with. You make decisions based on a million factors a that moment and go with it.
    The second part of this, is that it is an ethical dilemma for him and that should not be taken lightly. We can’t ask our partners to compromise on their values. That to me is a fundamental truth to relationships. There maybe a work around, and your feelings on the matter are important. But that to me is the crux of this particular dilemma.

  • Kate

    I think Liz forgot one key rule about gifts: they’re supposed to be something the receiver will like. Especially when it comes to engagment rings, which the receiver often wears every day for a very long time.

    My fiance picked out my engagement ring with zero help from me (I had no idea he was even thinking about proposing), but he did a great job considering the kinds of things I like. Though it’s probably not the ring I would have picked for myself, I love it becuase he took the time to think about what I would really want (and came pretty close!). If he had purchased a ring based only on his own jewelry preferences and idea of what jewelry should cost, I would probably have an “engagement Xbox” right now.

  • Kess

    I am going through EXACTLY THIS ISSUE this week, crazy timing. Me and the boy are searching for a ring, and have settled on a jeweller and a setting but are searching for a stone. I thought I was being very frugal for wanting a sapphire instead of a diamond, but I didn’t realize how the price could rise for a sapphire of any sort of decent quality. He’s saving up for a few important things right now, and wants to keep under $1000 for the total price of the ring, but so far all the stones we’ve seen that fit in this range are either so dark you can’t tell they’re blue, or so foggy they don’t sparkle even under the generous jewelery store lights. I’m torn between feeling disappointed in his jumping at every cheap stone based on nothing but price, and feeling wracked with guilt for trying to push him up to a price he’s not comfortable with. It’s a difference of three hundred dollars or so, which doesn’t sound like a ton, but can certainly make a difference when you’re trying to save up money for a fancy new camera.

    So this is very timely and man do I ever feel for you GWIAFAAM! It’s so hard to strike the balance between what feel like reasonable desires and at the same time, respecting that if he’s buying it he has to be comfortable with it.

    So far our solution has been to keep searching and searching for a better deal on a sapphire. I don’t know yet if that’s going to work out, but maybe you should try doing some more searching as well? You might not be able to convince him to get exactly the ring you want, but maybe you can find one that will make both of you happy. As many people have pointed out, there are amazing rings on etsy for amazing prices.

    • MTM

      Opposed to a lab-created sapphire?

      • Kess

        I want to say no but honestly there’s something about it that bothers me! If we can’t find a reasonably priced natural sapphire I might have to try wrapping my mind around a created one, because that would probably be preferable to one that’s visibly very low quality.

        • Carrie

          Ack, this comment posted while I was writing mine! Sorry — I’m really not trying to pile on!

        • Brenda

          Have you considered vintage/antique rings? Sapphires seem to have been very big in the 1930s and I’ve seen loads of them in antique jewellers (my own ring is a sapphire from the 1930s, which we later discovered is exactly the same as his 100 year old grandmother’s ring!) They do tend to be a lot smaller than modern rings so if you’re looking for something bigger it may not be your thing, but maybe something to think about?

        • Mira

          I felt the same way about synthetic diamonds…until I learned that a lot of them *GLOW IN THE DARK.* A phosphorescent natural diamond was never in our price range, but, I mean, is there anything cooler than that?!?!

          He ended up giving me a lovely and meaningful family ring which was seriously perfect (exactly what I wanted and fit me *in the original setting* without resizing) but I would totally be lying if I told you I don’t sometimes think about the glow in the dark ones, still.

    • KB

      ME TOO! It’s so creepy that this post went up this week because my fiance and I have been struggling when it comes to wedding bands. He proposed to me with a family ring that I wanted since I was a wee lassie, but now that it’s time to get the bands, we’re having a conflict over how much to spend. Namely, I want something super plain (just a freaking band – no diamonds, no scrolls, no NOTHING), but BECAUSE I want something so simple, I want it to be high quality and I’m not above dropping a lot of money it because (everyone say it with me now!) I will wear it for the rest of my life. But my fiance, on the other hand, is freaked out at the idea of spending a lot of money on them because it’s just not in his nature. Now, to be entirely fair, he’s said that he’s totally willing to buy me my expensive shiny band, but doesn’t want one for himself – he’s totally happy to get one for like a hundred bucks. But part of me doesn’t believe him because he freaked out and now I’m wondering if I’m just making him do something he doesn’t want to do – and, conversely, why should I give up what I want when we can afford it and *I* have to wear it?

      Even if it was true, two separate rings would be fine – but it brings up all this other stuff. Like, part of me thinks that it’s romantic to get them as a set (or at least at the same store!), and does he think I’m shallow for wanting a super expensive thing (and, conversely, do I think he doesn’t value our relationship for NOT wanting one), and, if you think about it, we really have more money to spend on bands since he didn’t have to buy my engagement ring, etc. ad nauseum. Plus I feel like it does not bode well for other major decisions in life, as in, buying a house/car/other expensive item – am I going to have to talk him down from every financial freakout for the rest of our lives?? Anyways, I totally feel the angst here.

      • Rebecca

        I am with you on the matching wedding bands being romantic! Ours wound up being perfect for us- they’re from JesseDanger on Etsy, and they’re one metal on the inside and another on the outside. We picked the same metals, but different finishes, so they match (but also don’t). Even in fairly nice gold, they weren’t outrageously expensive- could you guys maybe reach a compromise on metal quality and total budget? Or, pick a similar metal, but buy his in a lower quality? (Truthfully, that would bug me more than us both having bands of lower quality, but YMMV)

        Sadly, the reality is that if you’re buying matching bands, his will probably cost MORE- which is probably not helping!

      • Granola

        I also felt really angsty that my now-husband didn’t want to spend a lot on his wedding band, and we had a lot of upset conversations about value and meaning. In the end, since he only wanted a plain band, we found a cheaper one in the same metal that matched by custom-made wedding band. They probably don’t match exactly, but I think I’ve barely thought about it since.

    • Carrie

      I second MTM’s comment — how would you feel about a lab-created sapphire?

      FYI in case you don’t already know this, lab-created sapphires aren’t fake — they’re actual sapphires, just created with heat and pressure in a lab instead of with heat and pressure in the Earth’s crust.

      My engagement ring (photo by my husband, Keith Kissel) has three lab-created sapphires — the same ring is selling right now for $600 total. The sapphires are absolutely gorgeous — clear, sparkly blue. GreenKarat, the jeweler who makes that ring, has a whole ton of beautiful sapphire rings.

      If having a mined stone is not so important to you, then lab-created stones can be an awesome solution.

    • A-L

      Have you looked for a sapphire directly (i.e. not getting it through your jeweler)? During my pre-engaged days I started researching what I wanted and found the jewelry forum which is really helpful (for those who want diamonds or colored stones). Through that site I found out about the vendors who would sell the stones, and it definitely provides cost savings to cut out the middle man. We got a great deal on my sapphire…the jewelry insurance document to replace it from a retail store was SIGNIFICANTLY more than we paid for it.

  • Marina

    Wow, there is a LOT to unpack in this relatively short question. :)

    “He has told me he won’t spend more than a few hundred dollars on a ring for ethical reasons and because he doesn’t like jewelry or traditional symbols”

    What ethical reasons? Because he doesn’t think more than a few hundred dollars should be spent on one luxury item? Because he doesn’t want to give money to the diamond industry? Because he doesn’t think the people designing and making the ring should be paid more than a certain amount for their work? There’s workarounds to all of those–there are ethical diamonds, and indie artisans who deserve every penny for their artwork. If he thinks a ring is an unimportant luxury item, it might be useful to talk about other luxury items and why you do or don’t chose to buy them–for instance, tech gadgets, or clothing that’s not primarily utilitarian. I think for many women, an engagement ring is more important than an item of clothing. It says a LOT about the person wearing it, it’s used to signify a hundred different things about that person and their lifestyle and their relationship and their entire outlook on life. If you had an item of clothing that signified all those things and you planned to wear it every day for the next 60 years, how much would you spend on it?

    He doesn’t like jewelry–why not? What doesn’t he like about it? Unless he only wears clothing that’s purely utilitarian, that might be a good analogy again. Or perhaps a tie? Rings for women are like ties for men?

    He doesn’t like traditional symbols–again, why? If he has a strong dislike of any symbol that has tradition behind it, this is going to come up again and again during wedding planning. It’s pretty difficult to have a ceremonial wedding that doesn’t incorporate anything anyone has done before. This is a great thing to start talking about now, and I guarantee you’ll keep talking about it through the whole wedding planning process.

    And questions for you… why is this your dream ring? Is it this particular ring, which just happens to cost more than $200? If so, could a similar ring be made for less? Is it the pure dollar amount that bothers you–maybe it’s important that the value you place in your relationship be reflected in the value of this symbol of your relationship?

    And here’s my gut feeling about why this bothers you: your dream ring is a symbol of what you were, who you were, what you wanted before you met your guy, what you imagined your life would be like. Saying goodbye to your dream ring is saying goodbye to your single self. That’s HARD. It’s a kind of death. It’s accepting that how the world sees you will no longer be based on your decisions alone, but on the decisions of your partner as well.

  • Is it just me, or is anyone else dying to know what the 2008 APW dream ring is? Pondering the archives…

  • Abby J.

    Well, I really wanted a platinum ring that had a 1 carat diamond in the middle. Shallow, I know, but sparkly sparkly. But I also had ethical issues with the diamond mining process, and with asking my fiance to spend 3-4k on a ring with ethical and environmental baggage attached to it. He would have paid it, but it would have taken us a lot longer to get engaged, and to be perfectly frank he got big-time sticker shock the first time we walked into a jewelry store together.

    We shopped for almost 6 months. I researched the Kimberly process, and looked at companies like Brilliant Earth that only do Canadian diamonds and recycled metals. In the end, though, what we ended up going with was a vintage ring on ebay. I got a platinum, 1 carat (blue!!!) diamond of really high quality, with bunches of sparkly side stones, for $1750. I later got it appraised for much, much more than that. Granted, the shopping and bidding on ebay took a loooong time, to find a ring that was enough of a deal. But we eventually got lucky. And I love my sparkler – it’s pretty, ethical, and was waaaay cheap for the quality of workmanship and stones. I love looking at it every day.

    Granted, my hubby and I were coming at this problem from slightly different angles. I didn’t have a dream ring picked out, and I really, really felt guilty about wanting something so expensive and ethically complicated. Hubby wasn’t completely against the cost of the ring, but he is very very debt averse and if I had set my heart on a $4,000 ring from Jared’s or some other big box store, I’m sure we’d have had some pretty serious fights about it.

    Liz is right, bottom line is that both your emotional feelings about this ring are valid. Lots and lots of talking about it will help you both feel heard. You want what you want – don’t feel bad like you got sucked into the WIC – it’s ok to want to show off a big sparkler. It really is. Lots of hugs from me! I hope you guys can find a compromise solution!!

  • Great answer from Liz on determining the real meaning of this ring! And on getting him a ring (or something!) too! I also agree with the other posters who say to unpack more of his ethical concerns; getting to the heart of the issue is clutch.

    I would also advise you, if you haven’t already, to go shopping with your fiance. Go to a vintage store, go to a chain jewelry store, doesn’t matter…but do it together. Picking out my ring together was one of the most romantic things I’ve done with my now-fiance and the moment we picked it out was, for me, the moment we got engaged. But I will also say that we were both SUPER nervous going in…I think because we both knew very little about diamonds and because we both thought I was going to want some huge shiny rock and it was going to be a source of a lot of frustration for both of us if he couldn’t/wouldn’t buy it for me. I had a pretty clear idea in my head of what I wanted and did NOT think a chain jewelry store would have it but turns out I was SO WRONG about what I wanted. Trying rings on makes a huge difference and the things I loved on Pinterest fell to the wayside when I put on a ring that was totally the kind of thing you could find anywhere and yet that I’d never seen on Pinterest because it’s so not trendy (marquise cut, thin yellow gold band). It was also great to go through the process together as it can be hard for someone who knows nothing about diamonds or who hasn’t tried them on to have a sense of their size/worth (Eric legit made all his pricing assumptions before we talked based on the price of Kim Kardashian’s engagement ring). Anyway, what was kind of magical was that he fell in love with the ring I loved as much as I did and we both felt good about the fact that we chose it together…so suddenly it wasn’t me expecting him to buy me this ring, or him picking something for me, it was us deciding together what my ring should be. So I guess I’d say that going shopping might be a good way to start these conversations; it can be a huge bummer if you’re going to battle over a ring you haven’t tried on/neither of you has seen in person yet. You may find that you find something you both absolutely love after a trip to a jeweler!

    • Totally agree re: how romantic ring shopping was — and my fiance was absolutely floored that the rings I liked didn’t cost nearly as much as he feared they would. In the end, I chose a ring we both liked — and wanted him to feel involved and considered throughout the process. (Also, the whole “three months’ salary” thing? Obvious baloney. But we all know that.)

      My Pinterest board is pretty laughable now, too, since I chose a petite, vintage-inspired square-cut ring . . . pretty different from the single solitaires and round stones I thought I’d been coveting. You just really never know until you try! (Just like with my wedding dress . . . but that’s totally off-topic!)

  • Alyssa

    I like pretty shiny things, and as much as I hated to admit it, of a somewhat substantial size (1 carat). I hate spending lots of money and I have issues with the diamond industry. Solution: lab-created diamond ring. We spent under $700 for a beautiful 1 carat solitaire that everyone gushes over and jewelers can’t distinguish from “real” (whatever that means, since they have the same physical properties, minus inclusions).

    It’s not for everyone, but it’s certainly worth investigating, and being blingy and not lacking cash is something I’m thrilled we chose.

  • 39bride

    My husband and I dealt with this, but with roles switched. Based on my experience, you’ve given another amazing bit of advice, Liz!

    OP, I really encourage you to dig deep with your partner and talk about what’s really underneath the feelings/visions on both sides.

    I couldn’t have cared less about the ring–had never even worn one before and came from a religion that discourages jewelry. He desperately wanted me to have a diamond ring and didn’t want to propose until he had one (and at that time he had no savings to buy one)… and I was confounded by the idea of waiting even another minute simply for him to save enough for get me something I could do without.

    We weren’t able to find a compromise until we sat down and talked about WHY giving me a ring was so important to him. When I understood the emotion he had behind it all, it melted my heart. And he understood why the idea of waiting to get married simply because he couldn’t yet afford a piece of jewelry was upsetting to me, and was touched by that. From that point we talked about what we both liked in terms of ring aesthetics. Out of that conversation, we realized that what mattered most to us was the symbolism and the beauty, and soon discovered we could have both for a lot less than we expected.

    Three months later I had a $600 gold ring on my finger that has gotten nothing but rave reviews from all who see it. Now that we’re married, I don’t wear it every day because it’s a pain to keep clean, but I’m very surprised to find myself taking it out for a spin more and more… because though it started out as an accessory, every day it has become more and more meaningful not only as a symbol of that time in our lives, but because of the emotion and conversations behind it.

    In other words, dig VERY deep into why you both feel the way you do and find a compromise… I suspect you’ll both be surprised at what happens.

    • “I’m very surprised to find myself taking it out for a spin more and more… because though it started out as an accessory, every day it has become more and more meaningful not only as a symbol of that time in our lives, but because of the emotion and conversations behind it.”

      I love this line! It’s exactly how I feel about my ring these days. No, it’s not what I would’ve picked for myself. It’s not my style. It’s not what I sigh over wistfully on Pinterest. But it’s a part of me now.

      • 39bride

        “No, it’s not what I would’ve picked for myself. It’s not my style. It’s not what I sigh over wistfully on Pinterest. But it’s a part of me now.”

        Perfect. That’s exactly it.

        • ElisabethJoanne

          Yeah, that’s how I felt while wearing the engagement ring that was the opposite of what I wanted. Also, part of his family.

          • Emily

            My partner surprised me with his great aunt’s ring. I would never have picked out the ring for myself, but I love it because it’s special to him and to his family. When we announced our engagement, his family shared their happiness that I was the one now wearing the ring. It made me feel loved and a part of the family – even before we officially tied the knot.

            There’s something special about passing jewelry through generations. Could this $3,000 ring be a family heirloom? If so, I think that’s a solid reason to purchase a beautiful piece of jewelry that symbolizes love.

  • I really really wish my partner would purpose without a ring. I’ve let him know that a million times. I feel that way for a couple reasons. 1 – saving money for a ring has been an obstacle in the last year, 2 – I really want a say in what the ring looks like, and 3 – I would love to have the experience of shopping for rings together! Unfortunately he considers it ‘part of his duty’ to purpose with a ring so I’m frequently updating my pinterest with ideas for him and trusting it will eventually happen and he’ll do just fine. ;)

    That being said, I’ve frequently cautioned him not to spend more then 1,500 because I have my own ethical concerns with spending a lot of money on a ring when it could be saved to go towards our wedding, or a down payment on a house.

  • Hannah Smith

    “If it’s a symbol of starting your life together, it makes sense for you both to pick it out and buy it together, both of you getting a say in what you get and where.” I’m so glad you said this because it was very true for me and my fiance. While I originally found the ring via etsy, we both met with the local artisan and decided what we wanted, including the type of stone. I paid for around half of it. I don’t tell this to a lot of people because I think they wouldn’t understand. For us, it was the perfect symbol of our relationship, which has always been a team effort. Great advice!

  • I remember the first time I looked for rings with my fiancee. We were on Turtle Love Co’s website, and she saw the large, sterling silver-set moonstone ring. Her first response? “That’s way too big; someone is going to try to steal that from me.” Clearly, I have a very practical fiancee. I ended up spending a whopping $94 on her engagement ring (I collect disability, so for me, that was pretty pricey). I was concerned with a ring that would be sturdy – she’s very physically active and wants to become a police officer, so she needs something that can withstand abuse and still last. I chose a mystic fire topaz because my birthday is in December, so it’s sort of a variant on my birthstone, and because it’s so sparkly and rainbow colored (she describes her favorite color as “skittles”, and if “skittles” were a color, I think mystic fire topaz encompasses that perfectly).

    Whenever I had fantasized about proposing to a woman, I always imagined myself getting a really nice ring for her (although usually including a stone other than a diamond, one that had sentimental meaning for us) and coming up with a really cute idea for the proposal that made a great story. I still feel a lot of guilt centered around the ring and the proposal; I feel like I didn’t do right by my fiancee, even though she loves both her ring and the way I proposed. The WIC keeps driving into my head that I didn’t do it right, and it’s something I’m coming to terms with in therapy (because oh yes, talking to your therapist about wedding stress is helpful. No, really, it is. Weddings are super stressful!).

    In addition to that, I feel a lot of guilt over the fact that I want a ring and don’t have one. In retrospect, I probably should have communicated that I wanted a ring but not a proposal to my fiancee while we were discussing me proposing to her. I’d never really imagined people proposing to me, so it never occurred to me to bring it up in conversation. I’m shocked by how important the idea of a ring is for me, but to be fair, I wear a ring on every finger (I’m kind of a jewelry whore), so it’s natural I would want an engagement ring. I’m really glad to hear Liz say that it’s ok to want one… outside validation is helpful there, especially since I consider myself a feminist/gender equalist and there are so many sources in that community that diss on the idea of an engagement ring. Maybe they don’t so much actually diss on engagement rings as they do support the idea of not having one, which is totally cool but not a good fit for me.

    Overall, even though the way I would have proposed to my fiancee under more ideal circumstances differs significantly from the way it actually happened, I know on some level that it was perfect for us and I’m working toward realizing that on a more substantial level.

  • Jessica

    Just want to throw out there that when my partner and I started discussing rings, he was really horrified that some people spent thousands of dollars on an engagement ring. I countered with, “but it’s a symbol of your commitment and a piece of jewelry I will wear for the rest of my life” … to which he said “OH I thought you just wore the engagement ring until the wedding and then switched to the wedding ring!” Oh my gosh the poor clueless (and not observant) guy…he thought people spent upwards of $5,000 on a ring a woman only wears while she’s engaged. No wonder he thought it was crazy! Reminding him that you won’t just wear it for a year and then put it away might help put things into perspective…its not just a symbol of your commitment now, it’ll last forever :)

  • B

    I originally didn’t want a ring but after speaking to my boyfriend about the different meanings for each of us I was actually able to say I did want one. What I didn’t want was a typical diamond ring that every girl has, I wanted something ‘me’. Thankfully we found a twin stone triangular black and white vintage diamond ring and even though it got sold before my bf could buy it we are going to get it custom made. While I chose the ring, he is going to recreate it and he gets to choose the price. It’s not my place to say he needs to spend between a certain amount for it, and even if you suggest price ranges for gifts it’s up to the giver to decide what they can/want to do. This works for both a more than you think is necessary ring and a less than what you tank you deserve ring.

    Your partner might not realize how important it is to you until you’re married for 5 years. Or not at all. But the ring is something you both have to understand and appreciate the meaning of, not just one half of the team. But if he refuses to understand that it’s symbolic and meaningful, there might be something else going on.

  • B

    I forgot to add- is it a solution to go with the $200 ring now and give your hubby to be some time to think/save money for the ring you want at your wedding? Or even after the wedding?

  • Ammaring

    Being practical and then also being easily wooed by pretty sparkly things is hard! I was lucky enough to have been proposed to with an heirloom diamond(ring – but the ring wouldn’t have worked for me) but then was given the opportunity to design what I wanted – it was HARD! So many choices, and keeping the cost low (practical me) was really hard. Now we have make all the ring decisions all over again with the wedding band(s). I feel like I’ve spent too much of our money on my e-ring that I should just be happy with the one I have, and he now gets the nerve-racking decisions about what he wants and how much we should spend on his ring!

    But anyway, to the point – check out this Etsy shop! SO much pretty, and all vintage so ethical enough (despite gems of unknown origin). You’re welcome!

  • SD

    My (now) fiance was dragging me into jewelery stores from about the 6 month mark on, trying to figure out what I liked. He was pushing much larger/more expensive rings, I kept pushing for something simpler and smaller that I could wear every day. The exact quote from the lady at the jewelers – “Wow, the ladies *never* want the smaller one, you should keep this girl!”.
    For him bigger and shinier was appropriate because thats how he loves me (…depth and breadth and height my soul can reach…). For me, the smaller, everyday one was more appropriate because that’s how I love him (…the level of everyday’s most quiet need). Once he got that, we picked one I loved for wearability and he loved for shiny.

    • Irena

      Loving the Barrett-Browning quotes! :)

  • Suzzie

    I’m a bit on the flip side. I love pretty things, but my practical side is too strong to give in to them usually. Since we were in different countries for a bit of our relationship, my fiance gave me a price range and told me to go have fun looking around with friends (fun but hard for me because the whole time I was thinking, “ok I could pay off my car loan with this” or just plain “WOAH”). Then he appealed to my accountant brain by saying, “figure out the the average years you will be wearing the ring by the cost and it won’t be so bad.” Plus he’s Indian, jewelry always gets passed down in the family, so he views it as an investment more than just a pretty bauble (like I do). I still have a hard time being comfortable with how much he spent especially when I get compliments on the ring (yes, I am strange). If it’s a price issue with him, then the two of you should go shopping together. You’d be surprised at beautiful rings that are available for slightly less (or diamonds that have more imperfections but with the way they are cut you can’t tell – which end up being less in price) or you may find something you love in a price range that is acceptable to him (something you may not have guessed you would like). If it’s ethical, then there are other options out there as well. In this day and age, there are so many options available in many different prices that are beautiful! And something doesn’t have to be thousands of dollars to be gorgeous! One of my friends has a blue sapphire wedding ring that is absolutely stunning.

    In life, I’ve learned nothing ever goes how you want it to. Recently had that with our wedding. I had wanted a big, simple affair (think park, blankets, bbq potluck) but with moving countries and immigration aspects, we had to adjust and figure out what worked best with the circumstances and finances we had available to us. In the end, we spent majority of money on flying my parents out so they could be there for the wedding and cutting costs back on everything else. And we only had 15 people at the wedding. These were people we had met in the new country and knew we enjoyed their company (bit sad they weren’t any of our close friends – but again, adapt and enjoy). We still had a lovely day even if it wasn’t how I would have originally envisioned a wedding.

    • Suzzie

      My practical side did like the fact that we got his ring free with the purchase of my ring (boo ya!).

  • S

    Would he be opposed to you paying the difference? I ended up paying for a portion of my ring set and it worked well for both of us.

  • Newtie

    Two thoughts I want to add:

    1) GWAIFAAM, I noticed in one of your comments that you’re a liberal arts woman with an engineering partner – I’m in a similar mix, and I know one thing that was hard for my partner was that I had a LOT of ideas about our engagement that I had no problem verbalizing. I wanted to be asked, even if the asking came after many months of mutual discussion. I wanted a particular ring (in my case, a family heirloom), and I absolutely did not want any other ring. I had reasons a,b,c and x,y,z for these requests, and I made these reasons well known. I thought all this talk and all this careful explanation of what I wanted and why would make it EASIER on my partner – I was being clear, right? I was using my voice, right? Well, yes and no. My engineer partner who is significantly less verbal than I felt completely overwhelmed. All he really took away from these conversations was that I had very strong, particular ideas about our engagement – and it made him feel nervous about doing anything. He knew I wanted to be asked, but what if he didn’t do it right? There were so many other things I had such strong opinions about… it made him think there were lots of other “rules” and strong opinions he was going to accidentally not adhere to and screw everything up. I didn’t know he felt this way until much later, but in hindsight I think it would have been better if I had made it clear that while I did want to be asked, I did not care HOW he asked me, etc. I think I could have given more encouragement and more reassurance that his ideas and his methods were fine to me, and that the few details I felt strongly about really were straightforward. That there were no other hidden needs I wasn’t making clear.

    2) I don’t know if you believe in personality types or things like that, but there is a philosophy that there are some personality types who NEED to be “invited” when making big decisions. They need to be invited to the party, they need to be offered the job, they need to be asked if they want to do something – it’s just part of what makes them feel secure and ok in the world. Kind of like how some people need to figure things out on their own hands-on to understand them, or how some people need to stand back at a party and listen to everyone else talk for a while before they feel comfortable. When I explained to my now-husband that I’m just someone who needs to feel “invited” in order to feel ok, (just like he’s someone who needs to listen a long time before he feels ready to talk), it helped him understand why I needed him to actually ask me to marry him, even though we’d already decided we wanted to marry someday. When I was able to frame it as a “this is what I need to feel secure in the world” kind of statement, and when I pointed out that EVERYONE has things they need to feel secure, he understood its importance and was happy to comply. Before I explained this, I think he was just confused — like, why would he ask me a question he already knew the answer to? :)

  • Kate

    Ok this far down, nobody’s probably reading the comments anymore…

    My 2 cents:
    – When I’m considering a relatively “extravagant” purchase, I like to think about the per-wear cost. Considering a $3000 ring? Let’s say you’re engaged + married for a total of 40 years (no clue how old you are, etc. etc. but I just picked 40 for simple math’s sake). You wear that $3000 ring every day for 14,600 days (and it makes you happy every day!). That works out to a per-wear cost of 20 cents a day. Seems pretty reasonable (obviously this is a complex issue but it’s one way to think about it).

    – My fiance and I decided on moissanite in my engagement ring. Now, to be fair, it’s still being made & I haven’t seen it in person yet . BUT I’m really excited about it and it seems like a good choice for us. Hard & sturdy like a diamond, shiny & pretty, economical, not a “blood diamond”. And I don’t have to panic about wearing the equivalent of a halfway decent used car on my finger. But that’s just what works for us.

    – I totally get where you’re coming from & feel your pain. I hope these million comments are helpful to you!!! APW 4-eva!!!

  • Okay, this comment is way too far down to be seen, but it really irks me that people constantly call Canadian diamonds “ethical.” They may have stricter labour regulations than mines in Africa, but they’re still open pit and strip mines in one of the most delicate ecosystems on the planet. They pollute watersheds used by indigenous people, disrupt caribou and wolverine habitats, and are releasing insane amounts of previously stored carbon back into the atmosphere.

    Many of the mines in Canada are also run by De Beers, the same company operating even worse mines in Botswana and South Africa. Your money is still going to a company that most likely uses “conflict” diamonds.

    And yes, of course, nobody’s perfect and we all do things that are bad for the environment every day, but there are a lot of alternatives available to freshly mined diamonds if you’re determined to have jewelry. Please do your research before just assuming that a jewelry company is giving you straight information when they call diamonds “ethical.”

  • Ok, question for the ladies here (I’d also submitted this as an Ask Team Practical” but this really seems like the appropriate place to ask, since so many people are discussing heirloom rings and rings that weren’t their ideal.

    When we got engaged, my fiance’s family offered up several family rings for the engagement ring. However, I very specifically wanted something non-diamond and w/o a raised stone, otherwise I’d never be able to wear it everyday. (We ended up going to a local jeweler and custom making a ring with small, channel-set green sapphires (with a shape similar to this one) based on a vintage ring I liked. I love it and can wear it w/o problems.)

    At Christmas, his mom and grandmother offered up several more family rings as possible wedding bands. I felt that, having turned down the offer of the family engagement rings, I should give these serious thought. Well, one of them is ancient and very thin (and fragile) and one was way too small (probably a child’s ring). The other two were both from his grandmother’s 1st and 2nd marriages. One was much, much to wide for my hand, and I wouldn’t be able to keep wearing my sapphire ring with it.

    The other was…ok. Not great, but ok. Definitely big, but could be resized. It looked awkward next to my engagement ring, but not hideous. It was also from a marriage that ended in an unpleasant divorce. The combination of these factors makes me really not want it, but I stayed non-committal about it, and tried not to say much of anything about it.

    On the one hand, I really don’t want that as my wedding ring. I really don’t. On the other hand, I’d feel bad about rejecting a family ring both times, and don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. What do I do? I do just want a plan gold band, but my gut reaction when seeing those rings on my finger was “not that.”


    • Katie

      I am also from a family of divorce. My mother’s diamond was given to my sister and then she divorced. She gave the diamond back to my mother and my mother again offered it to me. I told her it made me uncomfortable that the diamond had been from two divorces. As you may have guessed this was a very hurtful thing to hear and so all I can say is, do not do what I did and tell them their jewelry is cursed. My mother made it known that in her religion there is no such thing as bad luck, so the diamond is now a very lovely necklace that she wears happily. I don’t have a religion but I still didn’t like the symbolism so in the end I’m glad I don’t have it. I don’t think my story is exceptionally helpful but what I’m trying to say is, if you don’t like those rings don’t have them. Just find a better way to say it than I did. How about, “SO and I found some really lovely matching bands that we both are really excited about. It is so generous of you to offer your rings, I just can’t get these bands out of my mind…” And then go get some rings you like! Like most advice pre-wedding, it’s all forgotten soon enough.

      • Hee! Yes, proabably a bad idea to tell someone that there jewelry is probably cursed. Unless you are in a Lovecraft story and it actually is.

    • Would the family be open to you taking one or more of the rings to a jeweler and having your wedding band made out of the reclaimed metal? That seems like a way to acknowledge that they want to give you something to show their excitement over you joining their family while also giving you the chance to design something that’s more in line with your aesthetics and less… karmically fraught, for lack of a better phrase.

      • I suppose that is a possibility. It would need to be resized anyway. I could bring it up if it comes down to it, but I’d want to phrase it carefully.

      • Marina

        I agree. My brother and I both used stones from my grandmother’s rings for our engagement rings, and both of us had them reset in entirely new bands. Ask if that would be acceptable/appropriate.

    • Newtie

      Are there any girls/women in the family? If so, you can simply say that the rings aren’t quite right for you & your partner, and that you also don’t want to take family jewelry away from your future sisters-in-law, nieces, etc. And/or, you can say the rings aren’t quite right for you, but you hope they’ll be passed on to future daughters some day.

      I never felt comfortable taking family jewelry from my husband’s family, anyway. By expressing my gratitude for the offer and by being solicitous that family jewelry stays in the family (in HIS family I mean) I’ve avoided having to tell anyone I don’t like their jewelry.

      I have a brother, and if my parents had offered him what became my engagement ring (it was a family piece), I would have been PISSED. He got married before I did so it would have been a natural offer. But I’m so glad they saved family jewelry for their daughters, not their daughters-in-law. Maybe that’s selfish, but how could a woman marrying into our family feel as strongly as I doabout something that was on MY mother’s finger for decades? No matter how much she loves my brother and is a part of the family, it’s just not going to mean as much to her. After having those feelings myself, I let my own mother-in-law know that her jewelry should be for her own daughters and granddaughters, not her in-laws.

      • My fiance’s sister is already married, though she has a little girl. There are also two girl cousins and a boy cousin, so there are other people who could take the rings.

        I do have a necklace that his mom gave me for Christmas last year. It is from her grandmother (or great-grandmother?) and I love it and wear it all the time, so I haven’t rejected *every* piece of family jewelry.

        I know that my fiance would also like if it I went with one of the rings. For now, I am not making any noise on the subject at all, and will wait until he brings it up again to say anything about it. There is so much time right now.

  • picardie.girl

    I just can’t get past the fact that she’ll be the one wearing it, and that she’ll probably wear it every day! I think that means her opinion is really, super important here (and yeah, I’m going to say it does matter more than his; she’s the one wearing this thing).

    Ethics can be a curly thing to consider, but since you didn’t really get into the hows and wherefores (what exactly his ‘ethical’ issue is), I can’t comment on those. I just think if you are going to wear it all the time, you need to like it, and feel happy about it.

    Did anyone have an experience where their SO bought them a ring that he didn’t like but they did, thereby giving them what they wanted over his own preference?

  • Rachel

    I know its APW style to pick out your engagement ring together, but I am so, so glad that’s not what happened to me.

    I am a complete control freak, and dreamed about an engagement ring about a year before it actually happened. After spending too much time online looking at rings I would try to drop my now fiance hints of what I liked and didn’t like, but he refused to listen. My friends would tell me “You are the one that has to wear it forever – it should be up to you to pick it out!” and I agreed. My fiance however, viewed it as a gift from him (which it is, he paid) and thought I should be surprised. He thought it was the lazy man’s way out for me to pick it out, because it didn’t take any thought or creativity. My controling ways told me otherwise, and I was sure I was going to end up with a ring I wouldn’t love.

    I was wrong. My fiance labored over a custom ring for months. It’s completely unique and something that he created especially for me. It’s more meaningful than any ring I could ever pick out myself. Also, I completely LOVE it (and it’s nothing like what I was looking at).

    So I guess my point is, you may have found your ‘dream’ ring online, but something that your fiance picks out will be more meaningful than anything you think you ‘need’. Sometimes when you let go of control things turn out better than you could have imagined.

  • Allie

    My grandma gave me her wedding set (she’s still alive – gave it to me a few years ago) and I ended up using it to make my ring (with her blessing). My husband always said he would never do an engagement ring- so, no engagement ring. Instead, I worked with a jeweler and designed and had my own wedding ring made, which I completely paid for myself. Any conflicts (he would probably choke if he knew the price!) were completely averted…

    To address a couple of the above comments:
    -my grandparents were people who were completely mismatched and should probably have divorced; despite the fact that her ring wasn’t a symbol of a great relationship, I still find meaning in having something of hers- something that links me to my family. And my grandpa may not have treated her the best, but I almost feel like my ring is a fresh start, and also a small reminder that we need to work at it- marriage is like life- a journey, not a destination. We’re lucky (unlike them) to have started off on the right foot- with someone we respect.
    -my grandma’s rings were not to my taste and were way too small to ever wear. I felt guilty at first about the thought of melting them down, but discussed it with my mom who urged me to talk to my grandma. She was wholly supportive and she adores my ring (the diamond is shown off way better than it ever was before) and always asks to look at it whenever I see her. I think she is so incredibly proud that she could contribute and that I will spend the rest of my life wearing the ring that was on her finger.

    • Brenda

      This is lovely. I think we talk a lot about what it means to us to wear family heirlooms, and not as much about what it means to the people who gave them to us. Thank you for reminding me of the other side.

  • I’m a little late to the game but I wanted to share my stance on the engagement ring.

    To me, the engagement ring needed to represent how much I was worth to him. That might make some of you cringe, but for me, feeling valued and worth something (time, energy, money, attention – the things we humans value) was of utmost importance.

    We’d already had a lot of struggles about gifts and how they are necessary to me even if they aren’t to him, so I was worried when we hit the point where a ring talk was needed and he’d only gotten me one gift he hadn’t purchased at the dollar store. Since that gift was a very expensive, digital SLR camera, I felt confident we could find a compromise.

    Luckily for him I aesthetically don’t like diamonds (BORING!) and lucky for me, it was important to him it cost a certain amount so I got a very generously sized ring with his birthstone (aquamarine) in it. We ended up both being very comfortable at the same price point and then got a pretty amazing ring within that budget. The funny thing is, we both pay on the credit card so I totally helped pay for my own ring. But knowing he was willing to accept I was worth spending that money on, that was the priceless part. There was no monetary amount you could put on me feeling so valued.

  • Can I defend the $200 ring? Rather, the $265 ring, because that’s exactly what mine cost. It’s from eBay, real (we totally worried it was fake) and I don’t think anyone would guess that it’s less than our monthly car payment ($311.26). Also, mine is a non-engagement engagement ring. There was no proposal. It was purchased to mark our officially official decision that we were moving forward towards marriage and to announce outwardly “yo, if we elope in two weeks (spoiler: we did) you can’t say you didn’t know it was coming!”

    I didn’t WANT a $265 ring… it just happened. It was the way we were able to do things when we decided to do them. We also put a ton of work into finding alternative sources (eBay, etsy, vintage, etc.) so we could get a lot for our money. The end product is worth so much more than the money it actually cost.

    I do think it’s ok for you to set your bottom line. Mine was “less than $100 will not buy a ring that I’m comfortable calling my engagement ring and wearing every day.” To be clear, my dream ring is from Erstwhile Jewelry and cost $8500, so it’s not like I’m a frugal person by nature. I see plenty of people have offered suggestions for how to get “more” for “less” – different metals, different stones, an upgrade down the line. Let’s be honest though, there’s a difference between saying “I want to love the LOOK of my ring so I’m comfortable wearing it for forever” and “I need to know my ring cost $xxxx to prove I’m worth it.” The connotations there are wildly different.

    If you need The Ring and The Proposal, I guess the question is, do you need them more than The Guy? Someone has to compromise at some point. Maybe you get a $200 ring and amazing proposal. Maybe you get a $3000 non-engagement engagement ring. If you get neither, maybe he’s not taking your needs into account enough or maybe your needs can shift in order to keep The Guy. This hopefully isn’t a deal breaker of a situation here.

  • C

    I know this may not necessarily solve the poster’s question, but I would like to put in a (biased) plug for purchasing a vintage ring if you are not lucky enough to have an available heirloom.

    My fiancee and I had some disagreements initially regarding the ethics of purchasing an engagement ring, including ethical concerns and cost concerns (he had severe concerns about those issues, I thought they were valid but also just wanted a shiny diamond). For us, purchasing a vintage ring with its original stone from a locally owned business allowed us to bridge that gap. We ended up with a ring that he felt good about purchasing, that didn’t stretch our budget unreasonably, and that satisfied my “dream ring” desires. (I should note that we picked it out and paid for it together, which also was the right decision for us). I also found that I was less concerned about the “size” of the stone because the available mountings that were available framed the stones in a beautiful way. Plus, I enjoy knowing that my ring is unique.

    I know this decision wouldn’t be right for everyone, but it ended up being a great solution for us as to bridging differences that we had when we originally approached the topic.

  • Heather

    This is definitely something I’ve been dealing with too, thanks for posting. In the end, what it came down to for me was that if it didn’t have any meaning for him I didn’t want him to do it, but we had to talk out our individual reasoning on this issue first.

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