Can I use this as an engagement ring?
November 12, 2012 7:14 AM   Subscribe

Is it acceptable to use an old wedding ring (family heirloom, modifications needed) as an engagement ring, and for the actual wedding, pay for the modifications to be done?

I am preparing to propose to my girlfriend of 3 years. I have her grandmother’s ring. The ring is missing a small stone and the GF has expressed that she would like it plated in something other than gold. I know for a fact she wants it plated.
My plan was to propose with the ring as is, and then pay for the stone and plating to be the actual wedding ring. Does this violate some sort of social faux pas? I am typically quite aloof in these sorts of things and would like to cover all my bases.
Money is not the concern. While I am by no means loaded, the cost of repairs/change wouldn’t break me.
My reasons for wanting to do so are:
1. I feel it would be a neat way to differentiate between the engagement ring and the wedding ring without causing issues with:
2. The GF and I both being very practical people. We both think it rather silly to have an engagement ring that won’t be used after marriage. I know a lot of people fuse the engagement ring or have it altered to the wedding ring anyway, but we wouldn’t be doing so with this engagement ring since she doesn’t want to alter the wedding ring (aside from repair/plating).

Any advice is appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I proposed to my wife with an heirloom ring that belonged to my great-grandmother. She was incredibly touched and honored by it.

We did have to get the ring stretched slightly to fit her hand better, but that wasn't a big deal and she didn't mind at all.

When most of our friends / acquaintances found out about the history of the ring, they were impressed and pleased. I think the better question is how your prospective fiancee would feel about it. As long as she's OK with it, I don't think anyone else's opinion matters.

Hope this helps, and good luck. :)
posted by BZArcher at 7:22 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine proposed to his girlfriend with a plastic Twinkie The Kid ring. After she accepted they went and got real rings.

I proposed to my wife with her grandmother's diamond ring. I highly recommend it, it's way cheaper that way.

My point is, there is no real convention. If you think your GF is the practical type and would be ok with it, go for it. You two are the only two people in the world it needs to matter to.
posted by bondcliff at 7:26 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Typically what people do is have the engagement ring be the one with the stone, and the wedding ring be a simple band, and wear both together after marriage, like so (sorry about obnoxious diamondy rings). You're right, it would be pointless to have a ring that you didn't use after marriage, but that's not usually how it's done.

A plain band won't cost much more, and if you want to have a new ring for the wedding, which it sounds like you do, I'd go that way, and also have the ring plated in a matching tone. She'll wear both.

Meanwhile, definitely propose with whatever ring you like, and do whatever you like afterwards! I'm merely advising on social convention, which you don't HAVE to follow. Congratulations!
posted by supercoollady at 7:29 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure why you have the idea she wouldn't wear the ring post-marriage -- it's traditional to add a wedding band at that point and wear both the engagement and wedding ring.

I think you're fine proposing with the ring as-is. Then you can get all the modifications done at once, including sizing. I think you'll want to get that done pretty much immediately after proposing though. Also, you can look for a wedding band when you're getting it plated to make sure they look great together.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:34 AM on November 12, 2012

Though tradition agrees with those above, I don't see much trouble in the plan. I would however note that if she were to wear it for a while and then take it off to get the work done before the wedding, there will be questions and some of them might be appalling. It was pretty odd the reactions Mrs. Advicepig got when she had to take her ring off for a few days to get a little work done on it.
posted by advicepig at 7:42 AM on November 12, 2012

It's not especially common to use the engagement ring as the wedding ring, no. But wedding traditions are pretty free form for these things and even if it were their business I doubt anybody would care, so go for it.

As for effectively "disappearing" the "engagement" ring. Even back in the day lots of women didn't wear their engagement rings that much post-marriage because they married earlier and often the engagement ring wasn't as nice as subsequent rings they got when their joint incomes were higher.

One thing to note though: a virtue of a wedding ring is that it is resistant to a bit of bashing about if you plan to wear it 24/7. So if you want to use grandma's ring as a wedding ring then it is worth thinking about that.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:56 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Propose with the ring as-is, then immediately pay for the stone replacement and the plating. That way you'll make sure it ends up the way she wants and you can avoid any misunderstandings. (This will still be the engagement ring.)

Then get a separate wedding ring. This is worn with the engagement ring, not instead of it.
posted by cranberry_nut at 7:56 AM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Your plan sounds perfect! I got proposed to with my great-grandmothers ring, and my grandmothers wedding band got turned into my wedding band after my hubby spent some money re-doing it (he had to put new stones in it, and change the setting a little). It was perfect! The point is, do what makes both of you happy!
posted by katypickle at 7:58 AM on November 12, 2012

Propose to her with the ring as is, but then ask her what she wants to do next.

Your plan sounds perfectly reasonable, as long as that's what she wants. But maybe she does want to get a "wedding band" to join up with her engagement ring, which would imply that she'd want the alterations made sooner rather than later.

Your wedding/engagement jewelry is nobody's business but yours and hers (though everyone always wants to see), as long as you are both happy with the jewelry that you'll be wearing for the rest of your lives, whatever you choose will be fine.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:18 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Whatever makes you guys happy is the right thing to do. But just as a datapoint, I and most married women I know who got separate engagement rings and wedding bands wear both rings together most of the time, and don't have them fused or altered. The interwebs will have you believe your Doing It Wrong if you don't get a matchy-matchy set, but the truth is a lot of people get the engagement ring of their heart's desire and pair it with a plain band (which is still pretty cheap these days).

As far as how others react, I think it depends on whether the ring looks more like a wedding band with stones, or an engagement ring (a central stone, possibly flanked by additional stones). If it looks like a wedding band, strangers are more likely to assume she's married (both now and after the wedding); if it looks like an engagement ring and she wears it without a wedding band, strangers are more likely to assume that she's engaged but not yet married (which theoretically could prompt questions about "when's the date" but I think in the real world will most likely just pass by unremarked).
posted by drlith at 8:38 AM on November 12, 2012

I just use my engagement band as the wedding ring. We don't have separate wedding bands because who cares - but that's our thoughts on the matter. :)

Everyone is different - at the end of the day the big question is what is important, sure rings signify the bond between you two, but the piece of paper is what makes you both married.
posted by Danithegirl at 8:43 AM on November 12, 2012

Data point: I (another practical person) also use my engagement ring as my wedding ring. It's not that common, but it's not unheard of. My engagement ring was a claddagh, and I decided a band wouldn't look nice with it, so I just decided to keep wearing it. There was no differentiation between the two uses for me and nobody ever asked me about it.
posted by immlass at 8:47 AM on November 12, 2012

Data point, I have a beautiful engagement ring and a beautiful wedding band. I prefer wearing just my wedding band, unless it's a special occasion or we're going out. It's mostly about aesthetics, though, and I'm not a much of a fancy jewelry person.

Give her the ring as is, and then both of you can decide what you want to do for wedding bands together.
posted by lydhre at 8:57 AM on November 12, 2012

Do you have the ring in your possession? If she has already talked to you about wanting it re-plated, and you know you need the stone replaced, it might be nice to take care of all that before proposing. Sort of a show of effort (the same effort many men put into picking out the ring in the first place). It would be so nice to surprise her with it looking all spiffy and new.

You'll need to suss out what metal she wants - probably platinum or white gold (which looks like silver).

You'll also need to figure out what size she wears to see if it needs to be resized. Does she have a ring that she wears on another finger? Note that if she is right-handed, her left ring finger is probably the smallest of all her ring-wearing fingers.

You can get a cheaper price on the replacement stone if you take it to a wholesale dealer and ask them to match the color, weight and cut.

If you really don't want to do the work without her direct input and participation, then yes - wait till after you propose. But do it right after (like the in 2 weeks after), because she'll want to have a lovely ring to show everyone (and wear and enjoy) during your engagement, not one in a metal she doesn't like with a missing stone.
posted by amaire at 9:53 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

My suggestion is:

1) Fix the stone. (That is the blending of her family and your love.)

2) Make the ring as nice, polished, and shiny as possible.

3) Propose.

After that, you really can't plan, so don't try. I'm sure she'll let you know what she thinks.

posted by Argyle at 9:54 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Forgive me if I am misunderstanding, but are you expecting your fiancee to wear a ring with a missing stone, and in a metal she doesn't like, for the entirety of your engagement? Because that doesn't sound very romantic to me. Whether or not you decide to get another ring as a wedding band is a separate question (most people do, for the record, but that is entirely up to you). But please, don't propose to her with a broken ring unless you are planning to fix it up immediately thereafter.
posted by Jemstar at 10:27 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think presenting the ring that is not cleaned, plated and has a missing stone is not very exciting. If I were to give this ring as a gift, any gift and not necessarily an engagement ring, I would replace the missing stone, clean it, polish and plate it before presenting it. It would give her a surprise and she might actually enjoy the ring.

Engagements are such memorable events, make the surprise of a refinished ring part of the memory too.

Get her a really nice wedding band later, one that she has the say of designing and choosing. You'll both be pleased.
posted by Yellow at 11:04 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

it's way cheaper that way.

I'm all for practicality, like more than any girl I know, so I appreciate this sentiment. But the thing is, an engagement ring is a symbolic gesture. You don't want it to be a symbol of "not worth very much." The whole "X months' salary" price point recommended by jewelers is ridiculous, but you don't want your proposal to come off as "I got you the cheapest thing I could find." This girl is important to you, and her happiness is important to you. Picking an engagement ring that she will love to wear forever is part of how you show this.

If she has already talked to you about wanting it re-plated, and you know you need the stone replaced, it might be nice to take care of all that before proposing. Sort of a show of effort (the same effort many men put into picking out the ring in the first place).

This is so true. My above comments are not meant to indicate that she will see a correlation between how much you spend and how much you love her. She doesn't sound like that kind of girl. But the worth of a ring comes from more than its price, it also comes from the sentimental history and the effort put into making her happy. A show of effort (instead of money) would be a really nice thing, because the opposite (getting the cheapest, easiest thing) could come off like you aren't that concerned about her happiness.

I would recommend enlisting her friends and family to help gather intelligence about her ring wishes. Many young women in long-term relationships are comfortable talking about "if he proposes" or even "when he proposes" with their friends, and these questions about what she's hoping for are not uncommon from friends. If you spend a couple months getting various people in her life to suss out how she wants the ring to be when you propose (as-is vs. fixed up, what kind of plating, does she want a wedding band, etc.), she won't get suspicious, and you will get major brownie points for showing that you're willing to work to make her happy.
posted by vytae at 11:12 AM on November 12, 2012

I would however note that if she were to wear it for a while and then take it off to get the work done before the wedding, there will be questions and some of them might be appalling.
My 2 cents - this was not true for me at all. I regularly forgot to wear my engagement ring during my engagement, and also had it in at the jewelers for resizing for over a month at one point, and no one ever said anything to me about not having the ring on. If you do decide to propose with the original ring, then get it fixed up with your girlfriend's input, it shouldn't be a problem as far as comments from other people go, IME.

I think you could go either way on this - fix it up before proposing, because everyone will be asking her to show it off to them as soon as they find out about she's engaged, OR propose to her with the ring as is, then let her guide the repair process so she definitely gets what she wants, as she's the one that has to wear it. However, it does sound like you know what needs to be done - just getting it plated and fixing the broken stone? If so, just get it fixed now and propose to her with the ring all ready to go.
posted by coupdefoudre at 11:33 AM on November 12, 2012

My wedding ring has never left my finger since the ceremony. I learned that from my mother.
posted by Cranberry at 11:58 AM on November 12, 2012

Clicked Post too soon: Having a plain band is very practical. It can be worn at all times, does not need cleaning, or repair. The big old engagement ring that makes a hole in your left glove can be left in the jewelry box NEVER ANY WHERE ELSE: Your finger or the box. No tying in the corner of a hankie like my aunt. She was moving house at the time and never saw her ring again.
posted by Cranberry at 12:02 PM on November 12, 2012

If there aren't money issues, then I don't understand why you wouldn't make the changes upfront. Typically, an engagement ring is worn with the wedding band after the wedding, so she never has to take it off again. Good luck!
posted by Shaitan at 6:56 PM on November 12, 2012

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