Engagement ring etiquette.
May 11, 2014 10:27 AM   Subscribe

I know next to nothing about weddings, so I'm looking for advice to successfully support one of my best friends who is having a disagreement with her soon-to-be fiance about who gets to pick the ring out.

They: Discussed getting engaged and he is to propose within the next year.
He: Told her to pick out a ring, find out her size and he'd buy it and set up a romantic proposal.
She: Spent 2 weeks picking out a practical ring, a simple filigree band that she could wear even while she worked (has a job where she works with her hands) and that fits her lifestyle (very active/involved in sports) and that would double as both her engagement and wedding ring. She is in love with this ring.

In the mean time his mother offered her old wedding ring to him(she has since divorced), to use instead and he took his mom up on the offer and accepted this ring to give without consulting her. His mom is not really involved in their life other than twice a year at family dinners, so this is not some big family sentimental custom.

The ring is not to her taste and she can not wear it during her work or sport because the large set diamonds would be a danger and catch. She is also disappointed that despite his 6 figure wage that he is giving her a "free" ring, and that the ring came from a failed, unhappy marriage. She is the one to wear it every day for the rest of her life, she wants to like the ring, she argues.

He thinks she is being unreasonable and "princess-like" and insists that it's usually the man who picks out the ring to propose with. He does not want to disappoint his mom. He says he'll get her the other ring she picked out "later" but won't elaborate on what later means.

Aside from my personal feelings that this does not bode well for their future, What is supposed happen here, etiquette-wise.
posted by tenaciousmoon to Society & Culture (54 answers total)
Etiquette-wise, butt out. There is no part for you in this discussion. How they deal with this conflict now is going to teach them a lot about their relationship, which is as it should be, because it's just going to be the two of them in that marriage, not the three of you. So, support your friend by just supporting your friend. Don't get into what's right or wrong or whatever here.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:29 AM on May 11, 2014 [31 favorites]

You're not supposed to have to use "etiquette" with your future spouse.
posted by acidic at 10:32 AM on May 11, 2014 [10 favorites]

Some options include:

-Reset the diamonds from mom's ring into either a more practical shape, or into another piece of jewelry

-Wear mom's ring now, and then she gets the one she likes as a first anniversary present and switch them out

I mean, yes, it's technically a gift and you're not supposed to tell people what to get you, but it is her finger.

But agreeing with the other posters that this is seriously something they need to work out, and does not bode particularly well for working out other future problems.
posted by damayanti at 10:33 AM on May 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

What is supposed happen here, etiquette-wise.

For you, to mind your own business and let them work it out themselves. As a practical matter, if they can't work this out, there's no hope for their relationship. It's a good thing to find that out now, rather than later.

For them, it doesn't really matter for what is "supposed" to happen. It doesn't matter who "usually" picks out the ring or if the ring is "free" (really?). It matters what the taste of the couple in question is. They should be deciding this based on what makes sense for them, not what etiquette dictates.
posted by saeculorum at 10:34 AM on May 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

I don't really see this as a question of etiquette. A proposal and marriage are essentially a social contract between the two parties, and it's up to them to decide the terms of that contract. If he proposes with a ring she doesn't like, she can say no. If she wants to choose her own ring and he's being obstinate, she can propose to him.
posted by payoto at 10:38 AM on May 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

Etiquette-wise, a gift is a gift. The giver gets to pick it. Then the receiver gets to choose what to do with it.

But etiquette is not at all the issue here. There are a lot of stupid, thoughtless, uncompromising moves they could each make in this situation that would not be etiquette violations but would still be bad news.

They need to work together to figure out a good way to settle this, as a team.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:38 AM on May 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

To clarify, I am not and have not been "butting in". That's a big assumption.
My friend has come to me more than one, very upset. I just listen.
I was curious whether there was "a way things are done" cultural custom like there seems to be for weddings in general.
So, I should just not discuss and redirect her back to her partner? I can do that.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 10:39 AM on May 11, 2014 [7 favorites]

Because he asked her to pick out a ring, the normal business of it being his to pick out and offered as a gift is out the window. He shouldn't have done that if he intended to ask for his mother's ring and if he hadn't intended to do that and she just offered, it should have been politely declined.

If he were asking us, I'd tell him to grow up and return the ring to his mother, explaining to her that he had previously asked his girlfriend to pick out a ring for herself and she had already done so and that he should have declined the ring in the first place.

As for you? Unless you're asked, stay out of it. If this is their end, it's better to know now than later.
posted by inturnaround at 10:39 AM on May 11, 2014 [39 favorites]

Wife-to-be picks out the ring she wants. Husband-to-be takes his mothers ring, removes the stones, discards what's left. Stones from the mothers ring are used in the ring/setting that the wife-to-be picked out. Anything that doesn't fit is used elsewhere (earrings, necklace, etc.). Everyone wins.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 10:45 AM on May 11, 2014 [17 favorites]

My dad gave my mom a family engagement ring, which my mother keeps in a safe because it is unwieldy and expensive, and wears the wedding ring that they both picked out for everyday use. It is absolutely a thing that people do to accept family engagement rings, and I don't think it would be impolite to accept, but explain that she will not be wearing it daily. In fact, I think that is quite normal. It seems like the perfect solution here is just to get both rings -- which, incidentally, the groom may have figured out for himself, if his plan to get the ring she picked "later" is just his way of being coy about a surprise engagement.

If I were you, I would tell you friend to be patient and perhaps a little understanding about the family dynamic, but stop worrying that she will have to wear that diamond clunker on the daily. It is perfectly acceptable to accept the ring, but not wear it. Marriages are about compromise, so now is as good a time to start as ever.
posted by likeatoaster at 10:46 AM on May 11, 2014 [15 favorites]

If she has found a ring she really likes, she can always buy it herself. Then she can wear whichever ring she wants to.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:47 AM on May 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

If she was asking us then, I'd tell her this: marriage is about compromise. Do you want to marry this man? How much does the ring matter in wanting to spend the rest of your life with him? If you love him, work with him to make this not be the end.
posted by inturnaround at 10:47 AM on May 11, 2014

Family rings have a long, honorable tradition. If her engagement ring has stones in a high setting, then it's common to wear your wedding ring for daily wear and your wedding set for times when you don't use your hands. (I do this.)

It's a ring that marks her commitment. If she doesn't like the ring he's giving her, she could buy her own ring and wear that.

By the way, the "free ring/he makes 6 figures" thing reads as trouble. A ring is his gift to her. She doesn't get to specify how much the gift costs or how the gift is procured. Pouting about the ring and gossiping about the ring doesn't reflect well on her.
posted by 26.2 at 10:50 AM on May 11, 2014 [18 favorites]

I agree with people about resetting the stones in a more practical/preferred design or if the stones are too big resetting them in earrings, a brooch or necklace that she can wear at the wedding and for other occasions.

You can offer this as a possible compromise solution and then bow out of the discussion. I would also be clear with your friend about how you want to involved in the conflict (give suggestion, wish her well in solving the problem, move on to other topics), so you don't set up a pattern for getting caught in the middle of future marital disputes.
posted by brookeb at 10:55 AM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Miss Manners answered a similar question in this way: "if you two can't find something more important than this to fight over now, perhaps you should not be getting married."

I don't suggest you tell your friend this; I think the best you can do is nod along sympathetically and be there to pick up the pieces.
posted by tel3path at 10:56 AM on May 11, 2014 [7 favorites]

She should buy the other ring herself, and plan to use it for daily wear. She should accept the ring from his mother that he is choosing to give her.

He should tell his mother that his fiancée already has her heart set on another ring she picked out, and thanks but no thanks. And then buy her the ring she picked out.

He could make the stones from his mother's old ring into a beautiful necklace as a belated Mother's Day present (nice symbolism since it's from the marriage that produced him).
posted by amaire at 11:07 AM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

The first thing this young man will need to learn about marriage is that his wife needs to be more important than his mother.
If he could learn this now, this ring issue will be gone.

There is no etiquette about it, but misplaced priorities.

It's lovely that you have been a supportive ear for your friend. You might not be surprised when your friend's husband puts his mother first in the future and causes more confusion and problems.

My sincerest best wishes to all.
posted by littlewater at 11:07 AM on May 11, 2014 [18 favorites]

He did a "bait and switch" and WOW do I disagree with the consensus here.

Also, he's allowing his mother to "dominate" what's going on between the two of them. Danger danger.

This man is not adult enough to get married, and your friend should not marry a little boy who goes along with whatever the playground bully in the dynamic dictates.

In this case the bully is his mother. Tomorrow it could be the company he works for, a bossy client, etc..

This man is not putting his soon-to-be wife's feelings first in a situation that directly effects her daily life.

Also, he's gone back on a promise to her without getting her input.

She should go back on her promise to him and call off the wedding, at least temporarily.

They need to explore in couple's counseling whether or not he's mature enough to understand that his primary relationship partner comes first and that his word to her needs to be sancrosanct.

tldr: He done fucked up by reneging on the original plan he suggested and encouraged.

He's failed, not her. It does not bode well for future major decisions. Sorry.

Also, YES, you should stay out of it!!
posted by jbenben at 11:08 AM on May 11, 2014 [49 favorites]

She is also disappointed that despite his 6 figure wage that he is giving her a "free" ring

Tell the would-be fiancé to run.
posted by Tanizaki at 11:08 AM on May 11, 2014 [12 favorites]

So, I should just not discuss and redirect her back to her partner?

The two of you sound like you are very close, so you probably have a good sense of the type of support she needs from you, but if not you can always just ask. Does she want you to listen sympathetically while she vents, to help her problem solve, or something in between? If she's on the venting side of the spectrum, it's not important for you to have practical suggestions about how to go forward.

Otherwise, you might ask whether she'd like to use the ring she picked out as her wedding band, and wear the larger one as an engagement ring only occasionally. My wife wears just her wedding band most of the time (for different reasons than you've described here) and that suits us both just fine.
posted by heisenberg at 11:12 AM on May 11, 2014

I would buy the ring I wanted for myself and consider dating someone else instead whose mother did not autocratically assume control of private and personal aspects of their lives.
posted by elizardbits at 11:16 AM on May 11, 2014 [30 favorites]

This whole scenario reads as weird to me. Like I think she should be worrying more about who she is spending the rest of her life with, and excitement about that future, rather than the details of the ring itself. It may be that ring has become a way for her fixate more diffuse anxieties about the proposal. My guess is that there is some other feeling that underlies this, not trusting him, not feeling that he values her enough, a sense that the proposal has taken too long, not being able to deal with this being out control, etc.

I had a similar scenario happen with my proposal. I had picked out a low profile sapphire ring from a designer that I really loved, and we had tried it on and ordered some variations. Then my boyfriend ended up surprise proposing with his mother's ring when we were visiting with both our families. After the proposal, he let me know that we could buy one to my taste if I wanted or get the diamonds reset in a way that I preferred. At first I assumed that was what I was going to do, as I thought I did not want a multiple diamond princess-cut ring. However, I decided to give it six weeks and the family ring really grew on me. It wasn't what I had imagined I wanted at first. I had worried about a high setting impeding my lifestyle, but it hasn't at all, I barely even notice it. I found I really fell in love with the new ring. Plus, I also was excited to use our money to build a life together.

Basically as a friend, I would encourage her to focus more on whether she wants to marry her boyfriend, and their relationship and future, than on the accessory, which my guess is somewhat of a red herring. I would try to get to the feelings that are probably behind this issue. Plus if her boyfriend, said she can exchange it or have it reset later, she should be able trust him. Otherwise, they probably should not be getting married in my opinion...
posted by amileighs at 11:17 AM on May 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

To me, to reuse a ring from a failed marriage is bad-juju. I would suggest she ask her future intended if they can sell it and use the proceeds to buy a ring unique to your friend that also suits her taste and lifestyle. A family heirloom can be a beautiful gesture and tradition, but it doesn't sound like this is one of those situations.
posted by cecic at 11:17 AM on May 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

A family heirloom isn't free. It's a gift from the past to the future. She can wear the mom's ring as a formal engagement ring, and then it can live in the jewelry or safety-deposit box while she wears the wedding band she picked out everyday. I've been married nearly 30 years and I don't wear either one on a daily basis as jewelry bugs me.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:18 AM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, tell your friend to read this AskMe from a few years ago to get a sense of what kind of interferences could potentially be in her future.
posted by elizardbits at 11:18 AM on May 11, 2014 [8 favorites]

Is it possible that your friend, a little jittery and sensitive before hitching herself to someone for life, assumes that if they don't agree on a ring that it's a sign they aren't really on the same page?

My engagement ring wasn't at all my style (I'd wanted something much smaller). I realize now that my then-fiance had loved it and loved seeing me wear it, but it made me feel... quite not like myself. I never said anything. Eventually, I just wore my wedding band, which we had picked out together and suited both of us.

She should accept the ring graciously, wear it for the engagement, have no guilt whatsoever taking it off when she is working with her hands, and then switch to just the band. The ring isn't bad luck.
posted by mochapickle at 11:21 AM on May 11, 2014

I think it's reasonable for her to be upset that she and her boyfriend had discussed this and come to an agreement that made both of them happy, and then BF changed plans on her and now wants to give her a ring that fits neither her aesthetic nor lifestyle, just because of pressure from his mother. He's not marrying his mom and neither is she; he doesn't have to accept her ring. If I were in that situation, I'd feel like he was choosing his mother over me, and I'd probably be second-guessing the engagement.

Passing down rings from one generation to the next is a tradition in some families, but it's far from a universal tradition - and it can be a burdensome one if you're not on board, because you're stuck with an expensive piece of jewelry that you don't much like and have no connection to. And if it were an important tradition in BF's family, he would have known about it and not told her to pick out a ring.

It's totally unreasonable for her to be upset that the ring is "free." It's understandable, but it falls squarely in the category of selfish upsets that you just have to get over.

It's obvious that I'm pretty firmly on Team Girlfriend, except for the "free ring" part. But my opinion is irrelevant, and it doesn't matter which one of them is right. The only thing that matters is that they work this out together and figure out a solution that satisfies both of them. That's what marriage is: two people working out what's best for them. You can continue to listen and sympathize, but don't lean too strongly on her side, and encourage her to work this out with her boyfriend.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:25 AM on May 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

One common variant is that he proposes with the family ring (which may or may not be reset) and the band she wants can then serve as the wedding band, with the engagement ring worn whenever demanded by family occasions or if she grows to like it, and so on. She should wear a ring or rings she actually wants to wear on a regular basis. I had a friend with a stunning heirloom piece and she wears it maybe four times a year...it's not like she's any less married or loved when it's in the safe.

That said, it's weird that he changed his plan without mentioning it or asking her. The questions that are coming up appear to be coming from a different place-- that the ring is maybe a catalyst?
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:26 AM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just to be clear about my answer, you should super push for them to seek counseling to make sure they are even ready for marriage.

People do this and it isn't shameful! Let her know, stay out of the rest.


Between you and me, it's concerning he has picked this petty stupid should-be-a-no-brainer thing to send a message (unconscious or not) that others will come before his wife, should they get married.

He's displaying some deep pathology here, and your friend should be cautious.

Also, I'm pretty sure she's clinging to the $$ thing because she can't quite yet verbalize, "Why are his mother's feelings more important than mine when I'm the one who has to wear it every day?" This isn't about money, it's about the message this choice of his is sending.

Also, I'm pretty sure it is poor etiquette to promote use of a ring from a failed union. I have a few vintage etiquette tomes, but I don't have to crack a book to know no one wants to start off their union with a ring from a divorce.

Likewise, spiritually, I would not wear a ring with that history.

Everything was smooth and easy until her guy decided to change it all up without consulting her.
posted by jbenben at 11:29 AM on May 11, 2014 [12 favorites]

Considering the section where you said "His mom is not really involved in their life other than twice a year at family dinners" I think it's not a mommy-control issues as others seem to think. The most benign reading is the mom had a ring of value which she no longer needed. She offered it to the couple as a gift. That's not pushing into the delivery room or mommy control.

A few thousand bucks would go a long way to a wedding or a down payment on a house. It's entirely possible she thought it was a nice gift to a couple just starting their marriage.
posted by 26.2 at 11:37 AM on May 11, 2014 [7 favorites]

Is this the ring from when his parents were married to each other? If so, she should be careful labeling it as a trophy from a "failed, unhappy" marriage. That marriage produced him, and he may have some happy memories of when his parents were married, even if the marriage ultimately ended.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:42 AM on May 11, 2014 [7 favorites]

I know I'm not very traditional, but I'm surprised by people suggesting she suck it up and wear the mother's ring. She has legitimate reasons why she wants the ring she wants, and why the mother's ring won't work for her job and lifestyle on a regular basis. I'm sorry but there's no way I would wear a mother-in-law's ring if I didn't like it, and it didn't work for everyday wear, just so I didn't have to have a confrontation or because my soon-to-be husband didn't want to make waves.

If I were the husband, I'd say, "Wow, thanks for the thought mom. It's a beautiful ring, however my fiance already has a perfect ring picked out that will fit her job and lifestyle. Perhaps we can still use this ring as a right-hand ring or make it into earrings or a necklace!"

Something you wear on your hand every day is not a compromise, and as a woman who wears a ring with higher set gems, it CAN be annoying and doesn't work for some people.

As stated by others above, it seems like there are other issues here. If you're a close enough friend, recommend the script I said above for the mother.
posted by Crystalinne at 11:49 AM on May 11, 2014 [14 favorites]

Culturally, at least in American culture driven by marketing and media, I think the most-promoted situation is that he picks out a ring to propose with, psychically divining which ring she will love the most AND her ring size, so that when he proposes it will fit and it will be the ring she tore out of a magazine when she was 12 and put on her bulletin board.

So...there's a lot of loaded, minefield expectations that make no sense whatsoever to start with.

I think the general jewelry-store interpretation of this is that you go in with a price in mind, take your best guess at the perfect ring and size, and then after the proposal you bring the ring in and resize or swap for a ring she picks out. "If you don't like it, we'll get something else," he'll promise, still down on one knee.

In real life, other than people who are really tied to the fairy tale, people decide to get married together and they go buy a ring, and the wearer of that ring pretty much picks the style because they have to wear it.

I have friends who wear their mother-in-law's divorce ring and are fine with it, but they found the ring attractive and wearable and budget-compatible and came to their own peace about the symbolism. I don't think a ring like that should ever be offered in obligation, and it's entirely possible the mother did not do so.

I don't think the bride-to-be should be expected to wear a ring she doesn't like and is incompatible with her life. But I also think that expensive engagement rings are a marketing scam and a vestige of a different time (because she does not need to hoard money in valuable jewels lest she need to escape nazis or zombies or whatever) and stupid, so I think the decision to make an incredibly frivolous purchase should be between the two of them and not something she believes she is entitled to. But that's not my business or yours. If she was looking for some kind of evidence to back up her demand, there isn't one unless you want to get it from the diamond/jewelry industry. I'm sure your local jeweler will make up any story you like, if you ask.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:55 AM on May 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

The most benign reading is the mom had a ring of value which she no longer needed. She offered it to the couple as a gift. That's not pushing into the delivery room or mommy control.

This could be true, but then it means that he'd rather give her the "free" ring than spend money on a new ring that would actually suit his fiancee's lifestyle-- after he already offered to buy a new ring and had her find the right one. Which is a little frustrating.

He apparently has enough money to buy a ring and also offered to buy a ring, so the switcheroo is obviously annoying. If I were the affianced, I would say no to the mother's ring and explain I'd rather buy a ring myself or find a cheaper ring, if the money was bothering him. It would be difficult not to feel a little resentful after such a pointless conflict (because, why on earth did he do this), but if your friend doesn't really care about having an expensive ring, this should be a fine compromise. If he continues to be angry that she won't take his mother's ring, then I'd call him an idiot and bounce.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:59 AM on May 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

There is nothing that says that a woman must wear her engagement ring every day for the rest of her life.

She should (graciously, hopefully) accept the vintage ring and wear it as an engagement ring, taking it off when she is doing things that cause the ring to be inappropriate. If this means she doesn't wear it for large chunks of most days, that's fine.

Between the engagement and the wedding, she and her future husband should purchase the ring that she picked out to wear as her wedding ring. After the wedding, she can wear her engagement ring as a right hand ring when she chooses (dressing up days, maybe), and/or keep it as a treasured heirloom in a pretty box.

I should avoid going into this, but honestly, this much drama about tiny pieces of jewelry does not bode well for their future marriage hopefully they realize this and stand down. I wish them the best!
posted by sparklemotion at 12:06 PM on May 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Plenty of people specifically plan to wear a wedding band or engagement ring daily as a positive symbol. Heck, some women wear a false ring in professional settings to protect them from harrassment. Her plans for this personal choice are not up for debate, especially by her BF.

Also, she was planning on using the same ring for engagement and wedding band.

She's already being frugal and not demanding a lot.
posted by jbenben at 12:16 PM on May 11, 2014 [7 favorites]

and/or keep it as a treasured heirloom in a pretty box

It's not a treasured heirloom... it's a ring in disuse because the couple in question got divorced. They're not even that close to the mother. She can graciously accept it if she wants, but the days I'd feel comfortable wearing such a ring would be basically never. And wearing an engagement ring/wedding band daily is a tradition that many hold dear, so there's no shame in the friend here wanting to do so, and have it be a ring that suits her life as well. Different women feel differently about jewelry-- not a difficult concept. There's an idea that everything relating to weddings is inherently evil and women are bridezillas for having preferences (about jewelry they wear everyday??) and it's all a little worn out.

It sounds like it would be a different situation if a beloved grandmother passed down an heirloom ring, or if there had already been an heirloom ring in question. I'm sure the couple could've worked around that using many of the nice suggestions in this thread. This ring is the second-hand ring of a divorced couple. Not intrinsically "cursed," but also not exactly an heirloom, and definitely just someone else's old ring they're getting rid of.

The couple needs to talk this out very thoroughly or get counseling. "I don't want to disappoint my mom" = not a good reason. "This ring is not expensive enough" = not a good reason. They're both talking past each other. They need to talk about their REAL needs, here. What they're emotionally not getting out of this situation. Good practice for marriage, if they can get through it.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:25 PM on May 11, 2014 [7 favorites]

if it were me, i would honor the wishes of my bride-to-be. this relationship is going to be a disaster. i wouldn't even fly on the same plane with these people.
posted by bruce at 12:28 PM on May 11, 2014 [6 favorites]

I had a suggestion all ready to go about her buying the ring she likes and her fiancé proposing with his mother's, so she wears Ring A but accepts Ring B as a gift from the family, but, you know what? It doesn't matter.

If this is at the stage where he's accusing her of being princessy and she's accusing him of being cheap, and he already changed his mind unilaterally about something they'd agreed on, and she already rejected his mother's ring because the marriage (which presumably produced him?) was failed and unhappy, then they have a lot of hashing out to do and they need to do it themselves. If they can both calm down, put this in perspective and start making peace with each other, they'll find a compromise that suits them both. Until then, nothing you suggest is going to help - other than, perhaps, "Gosh I don't know about etiquette, these things are so complicated, but it's a shame to see you and Bob arguing so much over this when you're such a great couple. Tell me again about that lovely venue you picked!"
posted by Catseye at 12:30 PM on May 11, 2014 [9 favorites]

Sounds like a bunch of bad communication and nothing that can't be easily resolved. But your friend is being a jerk.

He: Told her to pick out a ring, find out her size and he'd buy it and set up a romantic proposal.

Which she did. She is in love with this ring.

But then, his mother offered her ring which he accepted, except his fiance´already has picked out a ring. So that's the ring she should get, if we're using standard rules of etiquette. When someone says, "Pick out what you like," they have to go along with whatever is chosen.

What's jumping out as problematic is he made this offer, she accepted, and now he's calling her unreasonable and "princess-like" and insists that it's usually the man who picks out the ring to propose with.

Maybe as a friend you can ask him what's up that; why did he tell her to pick out her own ring but then insist it's his job? It's kind of an ass-hat thing to do.
posted by kinetic at 1:27 PM on May 11, 2014 [16 favorites]

I think it's not a mommy-control issues as others seem to think.

Sorry, to be more clear, my referring to that other askme was more from the angle of "i think it is bad news that the husband to be is automatically deferring to his mother's wishes and overriding the wife to be's wishes because i feel this sets a bad precedent" and not because I think the mom is already being wildly and inappropriately overbearing.
posted by elizardbits at 1:28 PM on May 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

This can be resolved with no hurt feelings as follows:

1) The boyfriend buys the filigree band as agreed

2) The two of them take the band and the MIL ring to a jeweller and they design a new ring with the old stone that sits nicely with the selected band

3) Your friend only wears the ring with the stone on special occasions

4) She gets over the idea that a "used" stone is cheap or has bad karma or is anything other than a lovely gesture by her mother in law and she becomes totally gracious about this.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:18 PM on May 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

The offer of his mom's ring is a lovely gesture, but not as her engagement ring for all the reasons I said upthread but also, I totally understand that bad juju feeling of wearing a wedding ring from a marriage that ended in divorce.

I dont care how stupid that sounds. I wouldn't want that ring as my engagement or wedding ring. Marriage is about many things, including symbols. Previously worn ring from a broken marriage would be a symbol I wouldn't want to wear.
posted by kinetic at 2:34 PM on May 11, 2014 [7 favorites]

Yes, it was a nice and probably well meaning gesture from his mother. The mother is not the problem.

Her future husband is the problem when:
#1 They agreed on a plan and then he went back on it,
#2 He is blaming her for not going along with the unilateral plan change instead of accepting that HE CREATED THE PROBLEM,
#3 He accepted his mother's offer seemingly without saying or thinking "maybe I should ask Fiancee what she thinks first",
#4 Whether you "read" an engagement ring as a gift or a symbol between partners of commitment, it's still shitty in either case for it to be something he KNOWS she doesn't want, but still thinks his desires or reasoning are more important.

He wants her to wear something he knows she doesn't even like. He is literally telling her "I know you don't want this but xyz is more important". That is a terrible way to propose a marriage.

So much of my marriage has worked, I think, because my wife and I are able to think, "I don't necessarily understand why you want or need this thing but IT'S IMPORTANT TO YOU so that's all that matters".
posted by nakedmolerats at 2:53 PM on May 11, 2014 [16 favorites]

For better or for worse, there IS a lot of cultural meaning associated with engagement rings, at least in some cultures (at the very least, people are going to ask her about the ring when she first starts wearing it ...). If he's willing to get the ring she picked out at some point anyway, why not get THAT ring for the engagement, as she wanted and as he had offered, and then use this other ring from his mother's failed marriage as the ring he gives to her at some unspecified "later" point? Why make this unwanted ring the touchstone to their engagement?

I don't wear my engagement ring every day, but every time I do wear it, I get a giddy little thrill from remembering when my wife proposed to me, and how much time, love, and thought she put into getting a ring that was so very me. I love wearing my ring. For your friend to instead have an engagement ring that reminds her of how she and her fiance had agreed to one thing but then he a) went back on what he'd said and b) accused her of being PRINCESSY because she wanted him to stick to his word ... if it were me, I'd rather have no damned engagement ring at ALL. It would have nothing to do with the money.

Etiquette-wise and just about every-other-wise, I think the right thing to do here would be for him to respect his fiance's wishes and keep his word.
posted by DingoMutt at 3:21 PM on May 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

The wearer of the ring gets to pick the ring, within reason on things like "I want a $2 million gigantic rock from Tiffany's" type concerns.

I wouldn't want someone else's ring I didn't happen to like foisted on me, either. I think her issues about how much money he makes and the unluckiness of a ring bought for a "failed" marriage are silly, but both the aesthetic and practical concerns are very legitimate and a perfectly good reason for her to not go with the future mother in law's ring.

No, it's not "usually the man" who picks the ring. How absurd. Has this dude thought at all about the realities of wearing a piece of jewelry every day for the rest of your life that you had no input in choosing, at all?

On the other hand, it's also not traditional for people to have one ring as both the engagement ring and the wedding ring (usually those are separate pieces of jewelry). Can she do the ring she wants as the wedding ring and then quietly retire the engagement ring after the wedding? It could be something she has as a family heirloom, maybe give it to another family member someday, etc. but not something she wears everyday. Maybe break it out for special occasions with the mother in law, if it matters a ton?

Agreeing over all that this is not a problem for you to solve, unless your friend asks you for advice. I do however give you permission to say all of the above in a venting/bitch-fest/support session with your friend. I think "ugh OMG who DOES THAT?" is definitely the tack you want to take, and I'd avoid trying to argue his side of things or make her come around on the matter. I'd be frustrated with a friend who didn't have my back on this, even if it's not entirely said friend's business.
posted by Sara C. at 3:33 PM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

He should buy her the ring they agreed upon. She should also take the mother's ring. Then, she should devise an elaborate, romantic evening where SHE proposes to HIM and, if he accepts, she then presents him with his mother's vulgar ring to wear because, clearly, they are a modern couple who do not conform to silly, "gender binary" customs.

posted by DMelanogaster at 3:53 PM on May 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm stuck on the "doesn't want to disappoint his Mom" thing. Is it actually important to BF's Mom that the ring given to her by her ex-husband is passed on to her daughter in law? Because that kind of sentimentality would make a LOT more sense to me if she were widowed, but in this case I'm having a hard time seeing why this would be important to her. So I wonder if BF is actually creating a problem where none exists, and if he were to turn down the ring Mom would just say, "OK, I just thought I'd offer! I guess I'll put it up on eBay now."
posted by Asparagus at 4:02 PM on May 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

This sounds like a test, and everyone is failing the test.
posted by bq at 6:50 PM on May 11, 2014 [8 favorites]

To be clear, a ring worn by his mom who then divorced is NOT an heirloom. It's more of a "you take it, I don't want it," kind of thing. An heirloom is something that is cherished from generation to generation. That is not the case here. This ring was merely used and discarded, and it should be treated with the gravity of anything else that has been used and discarded.

While a man often does pick out the ring his intended will wear, and while true heirlooms should be accepted as acceptance into a family with history and tradition, this ring is a castoff, a symbol of failure and unhappiness.

The fiancé insisting your friend wear this ring of all rings really does not bode well. If she loved it, it would be different. She does not. She should not have to wear it.
posted by clarkstonian at 7:17 PM on May 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

It seems like people are bringing huge baggage to this very answerable ask.

Etiquette dictates that one accept a gift gracefully. It also dictates that the giver doesn't get a say in how or how often the gift is used or worn. Nobody has to wear an ugly ring that they don't like or that isn't convenient.
posted by ftm at 7:17 PM on May 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Ugh, I wouldn't want this ring either. An ugly ring from a failed marriage? I'm sure she gets all misty-eyed gazing at it. Turns it this way and that in the sunlight and marvels at how it's just what she wanted.

No. He needs to take this ring back to his mother and explain that he had already made an agreement with his fiancée and he doesn't know what he was thinking, thanks so much, it was really sweet, I hope you understand.

And I don't necessarily think their marriage is doomed just because they're having an issue. It's just kind of a terrible phase of life, trying to meet everyone's expectations and dealing with a lot of bullshit cultural baggage. But he told her to pick out a ring, she did, and now he needs to leave father and mother, cleave to his wife, and buy her said ring.
posted by HotToddy at 9:11 PM on May 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

Calling someone "princess-like" is a sign of contempt. If she goes through with this marriage, she'd better get used to hearing that and a lot worse.

How did this engagement discussion come about in the first place? Has she been pushing for him to pop the question? Or did he dangle it in front of her like a carrot? This whole staged proposal thing is really weird, whose idea was it? So now she has to wait until sometime in the next year for him to do it, and then what if he doesn't ever get around to it? More tears and more contempt for being a demanding princess?

So she's damned if she does, damned if she doesn't. Accept the secondhand ring or be accused of being a gold digger. He's put her in a no-win situation by not telling his mother that he'd promised her she could pick out her own ring. That's kind of like... lying. Lying to his mother (by omitting certain facts) and lying to his girlfriend by telling her she could choose what she likes.

My husband doesn't call me names in contempt. He calls me his Queen, and he means it in a good way. We got married on someone's lawn. I wore a $2 suit from a thrift shop and he wore a sweater out of his closet. My ring was from a pawn shop and cost less than $100. I had told him getting married was important to me, and the next day he left work in the middle of the day, bought a ring, and burst in on me at home and proposed to me when I was in the bath tub. Holy crap, did I love that cheap little ring!

I suggest you tell your friend to go see a therapist and explore why she is willing to put up with some dude who drags out the proposal, calls her names in contempt after telling her to pick what she likes, and then tries to foist off a piece of jewelry on her that she doesn't like or want. Because that is really shitty behavior toward someone who you want to live with for the rest of your life.

And if she in any way engineered or steered the staged proposal thing, I suggest she perhaps wants the fairy tale wedding and romance and has pinned her hopes on the wrong guy. Romance comes in many forms, but being called names is not one of them.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:26 AM on May 12, 2014 [16 favorites]

This is not a great situation that this couple has gotten themselves in to, but I think it is your job as a friend to cut everyone involved a boatload of slack since wedding planning and family and money issues bring out the worst in people.

Should he have called her princessy? No. But if she expressed not wanting a "free" ring, then yeah I kinda get where that comes from.
Should he have told her to pick out a ring and then accepted the ring from his mom instead? Eh, not really. But I don't think that is actually what is going on here.
I think his mom put him in an uncomfortable position and he acquiesced thinking the gf would be ok with it and now she is not.
I think since he clearly cares about gf's happiness enough to think of her needs and want her input and want to marry her in the first place, that he is already thinking of ways to fix this.
He might be planning on proposing with the ugly ring and then secretly having the other one stashed, or he might be planning on buying chosen ring as the wedding ring, or he might have something else up his sleeve.

I would give everyone the benefit of the doubt here and not jump to the worst conclusions about the future of their relationship and the way they have acted in this fight.
Predicting the end of this couple is not what you should be doing right now. You should be helping your friend calm down and see the important things about marriage, and not working her up more by building your case against him.
Somehow or some way, hopefully from the bf, your friend will and can get the ring she wants. If he doesn't come through, she can buy it or make him buy it for their anniversary.

But give him a shot to fix this, and give her a chance to chill and forgive him. There are going to be a lot more things they disagree over in the course of wedding planning and helping her practice de-escalation is the nicest thing you could do as a friend, and the thing that will most help her relationship. She doesn't sound like a pushover who needs your help realizing when bf is wrong. So as the friend, you should just help her through the fight and remind her of the real goals of engagement. She can figure out for herself if this is part of a terrible pattern of his or just a screw-up under pressure.
posted by rmless at 12:16 PM on May 12, 2014

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