So you’ve made it to the point where you think you ought to start shopping for an engagement ring. Congratulations! This is a huge step in your relationship, so just take a second to step back, take a deep breath, and ask yourself…are you sure? Ok, if the answer is still yes, take a look a the points below – my aim is to help uncover the questions you haven’t even thought of yet and get you through the next few months or weeks as you get ready for P-Day. (Yep, Proposal Day!).
Establish a Budget
While popular culture tells us that 2-months salary is the right number to spend on an engagement ring, just know that this is in no way a hard, fast rule. Many couples opt for a less expensive ring and prioritize other financial goals – like becoming debt-free, buying a home, or paying for a wedding reception. This is easy to do with so many popular alternatives to the diamond engagement ring like Moissanite stones, alternative precious and semi-precious stones like morganite, sapphire, and topaz. Others want to go all-in on a diamond ring to impress friends and family. Whatever you choose to do, just know that there is no wrong decision, as long as you make a responsible choice on how to finance or pay for your ring that doesn’t put your financial future in jeopardy.
Here’s where many couples make the first mistake. If you decide to go into debt to purchase an engagement ring without telling your future spouse, think about what their response would be. Remember, once you are engaged and married, those financial decisions – and debts – will belong to both of you. You may come to find that your fiancee did not want an expensive ring after all – and their financial goal was to purchase a home in the near future or pay down student debt.
Annie and Doug were in this situation. She had her heart set on buying a home soon after the wedding, but Doug wanted to knock her socks off with a huge engagement ring on par with the ones her newly-engaged friends were showing off. After a romantic proposal with a jaw-dropping ring, instead of feeling elation, all Annie could think of was “How did he pay for this?” and worry about how far back this purchase had set their home-buying goal. If he had asked her, Annie would have told him that she thought her friend’s rings were ridiculous and that their financés were now knee-deep in debt. She would have been happy with a vintage conflict-free ring with some history to it at a much lower price point.
So before you make any financial decisions with long-term repercussions you need to look at topic #2, below.
Should the Proposal Be a Surprise
While many couples romanticize the surprise proposal as seen in movies and TV, in reality very few occur this way. In this day and age, most couples share financial responsibilities and for one partner to go make a big financial decision without consulting the other is a no-no IMO.
And then there’s the issue of style. We all know what happened in Sex and the City when Aiden surprised Carrie with a ring that was so-not-her-style. Unfortunately, most women see the ring choice as a sign of how much her man knows her and her wants, so unless you are 100% sure what her dream ring looks like, a surprise proposal is a hard thing to pull off successfully. Still set on it? Carry on to the next topic.
Pick an Engagement Ring Style
Whether you’re flying solo on this or working with your partner to find the perfect ring, an understanding of the terms around engagement ring setting styles is a good thing to have. That’s why I created this engagement ring style guide.
If you’re trying to make the proposal a surprise, you may have gotten some input from her friends or her google search history. Make sure you understand the terms before you set into the jewelers – or start shopping online – so you have a good idea of what she wants.
Here’s the good news – no engagement ring style is unattainable no matter what your budget is. I’ve made it my goal at Engagement Ring Voyeur to show readers how to reverse engineer – or hack – any engagement ring style for any budget. If you follow the blog or search my archives you’ll find a hack to bring any ring style down to a price you can afford. So go ahead and dream big. The engagement ring you purchase today will be the one she wears for a lifetime, so make sure it’s one she loves.
Where To Buy An Engagement Ring
If you are looking for the best price and variety, I strongly recommend buying an engagement ring online. Your local jeweler, no matter how large they might be, simply does not have the inventory of diamonds and settings that can be found at a reputable online jeweler like James Allen or Blue Nile. A physical jewelry store has a set inventory of stones and the incentive to sell what is in-stock. Online jewelers, in contrast, have access to a huge database of diamonds and custom make each ring to perfectly fit the stone you choose with no pressure or sales pitch.
And with advancements in technology including the 360-degree rotation and 40x Super Zoom available at JamesAllen.com you’re likely to get a better view of any diamond you consider online vs in a retail setting.
To compete with local jewelers, reputable online jewelers also offer perks such as lifetime warranties, money-back guarantees and upgrade policies.
Even if you are looking for a vintage ring or alternative stone, the selection online can’t be beaten. For vintage styles, I love shopping on Etsy. Handcrafted alternative rings made from recycled metals and rough-cut stones are also easier to find online.
Understanding the 4Cs
If you’re going the route of a diamond engagement ring, an understanding of the 4Cs is crucial. The 4 Cs refer to the Color, Cut, Clarity and Carat weight of a diamond – and the grading of these factors is what determines a diamond’s price and sparkle.
Make sure to read this guide before you go any further.
Decide on an Engraving
While everyone will be able to oooh and aaah over the engagement ring you select, only you and your fiance will know what’s on the inside. With many online jewelers including James Allen offering Free Engraving, there’s no reason not to inscribe your ring with the perfect message for her eyes only.
You might be tempted to skip this step. It feels too sentimental or you just don’t know what to say. Don’t. Some of my favorite ideas include the date of your first date (show that you remember!), the special nicknames you use for each other, or lyrics from a favorite song that you share.
At a loss for ideas? Here are some suggestions for a meaningful engraving.
Decide How to Pay for Your Engagement Ring
We’ve already talked about the budget, but now that you’re ready to finalize your purchase, there’s also the decision on payment type. Whether you’re financing your ring or paying cash, make sure you take advantage of any discount or savings you may be able to get through wire transfers, cash-back credit cards or other incentives. Learn more about engagement ring payment options here.
Now that you’ve got your ring details in order, it’s time to think about the proposal. Everyone wants to make this event special – but it does take preparation and willpower to pull it off. My husband had the ring for a whole month hidden in his underwear drawer. Over this period of time, he gave me a pair of New Balance sneakers for my birthday – to my complete chagrin – while he waited for the perfect day and setting to pop the question. Other guys have trouble waiting even one day after they receive the ring. My brother-in-law proposed to my sister in her PJs at 6 am in the morning after he picked up the ring from the jewelers the night before.
Here’s my advice:
Make it special. You put so much time and effort into picking the perfect ring. Put at least a fraction of that into how you give it to her. This is a moment she’ll remember forever.
Make sure she looks good. “We-Just-Got-engaged” pictures are de rigueur these days, so make sure she’s photo ready. Proposing when she’s all dressed up to go to dinner – Great. Proposing when she’s covered in mud pulling weeds in the garden – Not so Good. I know I might catch some slack for this one – but you know I’m right! My sister’s husband proposed at 6am when she woke up after a night out drinking with friends. He just could not wait any longer to pop the question. Sweet, yes. Photo-ready moment? No.
Include Family and Friends. If she’s close to her family, make sure you give them a heads-up before the proposal. While it’s not necessary to “ask” her father in most cases these days, paying them a visit on your own to show them the ring is never a bad idea and will score you points with her. As long as you’re sure they won’t object!
It is only natural to want to show off the ring and celebrate with friends and family right after you get engaged, so planning to meet up with friends that same day or the next is a great way to make the event more special.
My husband proposed during a staycation in NYC where we lived at the time. We were visiting the top of the Empire State Building when he proposed. We then went to a nearby restaurant for dinner. When he suggested an after-dinner drink at a nearby bar I had no idea that I would walk in and be surprised by my entire family and loads of friends. It was the perfect way to end a perfect day.
Want to read more engagement stories for inspiration? Visit the James Allen Engagement Moments page for more inspiring stories.