Engagement Ring Traditions

Time to talk engagement ring traditions. We’ve all seen the movies. A guy on bended knee proposes to an awe-struck girl atop the (insert romantic landmark here) to tick all the boxes and make her dreams come true! Is that really the way it’s expected to play out? Yes and no. Most women want some creative version of the above, but we want it to be your own. Yes, that means work. Sorry guys...it is what it is.

Pick a Ring, Any Ring!

So what exactly are engagement ring traditions? The first involves a ring. It is customary to have engagement ring bought and ready to offer when you propose. Some people opt out of this and pick out the ring as a couple. There are benefits to both options.

The obvious benefit to picking out a ring together is that you’ll be able to get something she likes. The downside is that she may set her sights on a diamond slightly out of your budget (see the engagement ring cost section here). If in any doubt, just propose with a ring in hand.

The crux of not having a ring to offer during a proposal is that she may think you haven’t thought the idea through. If you don’t have a solid proposal plan in place, it could come across as an afterthought. This is especially true if you propose after a roll in the hay or after a haymaker (as in argument).

Any proposal that does NOT involve a ring MUST involve about twice as much effort, so as to convince your lovely that you’ve thought this whole marriage thing through. You’ll never, ever live it down if she thinks you proposed on a whim. It will haunt you for the entire marriage.

Phone a Friend

If you've decided to go the route of picking out a ring ahead of time, do your homework. I have been enlisted by many a male friend to help pick out a girl's engagement ring. It takes a special eye and attention to detail to get the job done. There are three ways a man can get this done.

Listen to what she says!

  • Pay attention to the comments she makes regarding the engagement rings of friends or those in magazines and television. Familiarize yourself with diamond-speak (see the diamond information page for more) and learn the difference between carats and carrots!

Enlist the help of one of her trusted friends.

  • You must be absolutely certain that this person can keep a secret. It's hard work NOT telling your best friend that the most exciting thing to happen to them is just around the corner! Once you get the right person, have them do some discrete digging...don't forget to get the size of her ring-finger!

Go ahead and ask your girlfriend her opinion on rings.

  • What does she like? What are her favourite styles? Is she more contemporary or is she traditional? No one knows what she likes better than she does! If you can, sneak a peak at her Pinterest boards. Many women have "secret boards" they add photos of rings too. Start by finding out her user name and looking at her public boards.

Diamonds Really Are a Girl's Best Friend

Although the traditional engagement ring is typically a white diamond one, this tradition isn't nearly as old (or as romantic) as you may have thought. In fact, a little comapany called De Beers has used clever marketing to make the diamond engagement ring the fantasy of almost every little girl on the planet.

You see, after an initial surge in diamond sales after a mine discovery in South Africa, diamond sales dropped dramatically for the two decades following 1920. Things became so bad that De Beers had to use sales agencies to convince Hollywood actresses to wear diamonds in public.

The publicity paid off with diamond sales skyrocketing 55% between 1938 and 1941. Cap that off with the amazing Diamond Is Forever campaign born in 1947 and by 1965, 80% of engaged American women were sporting a diamond engagement ring.

So, in essence, a white diamond is still the traditional choice. It's timeless and classic but, if you want to opt for something more unique, your options are endless. Coloured diamonds have recently made an incredible comeback and offer an incredible pop for an unconventional bride. When it comes to engagement ring traditions, part of the fun can be creating new ones for generations to follow!

Who Shows You the Money?

Other engagement ring traditions include the man paying for the ring in its entirety. I know it may not seem fair, but I’m a big proponent of this one. Call me old-fashioned, but I think the person proposing should pay for the ring. I play fairly though – I expect women proposing to men to pay for a piece of engagement jewellery (ex. Watch, pendant etc) to present him with.

Banding Together

When it comes to wedding bands, the tradition is less clear. Most people insist on buying each other’s bands and having some sweet message engraved as a surprise for the wedding day. I personally find this idea to be the most romantic. Other couples enjoy having matching wedding bands and choose these together.

In my case, my husband had a custom-designed wedding band made to match my ring and I only saw it on the wedding day. He, however, chose his own ring but I had a special surprise message engraved for him to see at a later time. Since we already shared funds, the issue of who paid for what ring didn’t really come into play.

I guess it comes down to this – if a matching wedding band comes with the engagement ring, buy it. If there is no matching band, play it by ear and take a wait-and-see approach to the wedding band purchase. There’s enough to think about with picking out one ring – don’t stress yourself out by choosing two at once just because you want to follow engagement ring traditions!

Your Left or Mine?

Other engagement ring traditions include wearing the ring on the left-hand ring finger. Some countries opt for the right hand and then switch to the left. In North America, however the standard is left-hand from engagement through to marriage. In North America men don’t customarily wear engagement rings, but many South American men do. It’s really just a personal preference!

Engagement ring traditions definitely have their place, but it’s up to you to decide what will work for you as an individual and for you as a couple. There isn’t any point in following a tradition that makes you uncomfortable. In this day and age there is always wiggle room. Do what feels right...just be sure that, no matter what that may be, you do it with all of your heart.

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