How to ask about engagement rings without proposing
December 22, 2016 8:36 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to ask my SO to marry me. I'd like to get her a ring. I'd like to have her input on the ring. I'd like to have the ring before the proposal. How do I do this?

I've been online window shopping rings for over a month and given that it's going to be something I'll be asking her to wear for the duration of the engagement, if not the duration of the marriage (hopefully a long time), I want her input. The difficulty is that, while we have been planning the rest of our lives together (logistical, financial, etc.), I can't recall the word "marriage" coming up when discussing us. So I'm afraid that any discussion of engagement rings will turn into an actual proposal. For those who did have ring discussions before proposals, how was it done?

(I should add, because I know it will come up in the comments, that yes, I am sure she will say yes even if we haven't talked about us getting married, we've planned out the next four years or so together and have a few strategies worked out for what we're going to do when she gets her PhD and job hunts in academia. We've been together for 3 years (although with 1.5 years of being on opposite sides of the world), so I'm sure about us long term.)
posted by Hactar to Human Relations (48 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is the one single time in your entire life where you can talk to her best friend about your relationship without it getting back to her. I had this discussion with the woman who would be my wife's maid of honor. Nailed the cut, the band, even got the size bang on. My wife never heard a peep until the day I proposed.
posted by IanMorr at 8:45 AM on December 22, 2016 [29 favorites]

We had been together for 7 years. We were on a trip to the US Virgin Islands, where apparently taxes on diamonds are much lower, and on arrival my boyfriend said, "I thought we could take some time to go ring shopping." We did, and were able to pick out a nice set that we liked and could afford. Later that night or the next night, he took me out to a nice restaurant and did the formal "will you marry me?" bit.

So the fact of getting engaged wasn't a surprise, but the manner, the words he used, and the timing were all (sort of) unexpected. (Sort of, because when we left for the restaurant I noticed that he left the hotel room safe door a little ajar, and I knew what was about to happen.) It wasn't out of the blue, but I appreciated that he took the time to compose a little speech--and then abandoned it to get right to the point, because he was nervous.

Congratulations and best of luck!
posted by Liesl at 8:45 AM on December 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

One option is to get an inexpensive "stand in" ring for the proposal, and then shop for an engagement ring together afterwards. Author Beverly Cleary wrote in one of her memoirs that her husband proposed to her with the ring off his cigar -- she added that she still had the cigar ring. I've also heard of people using something cute like a heart-shaped mood ring. I know it would be nice to have the real engagement ring all ready to put on her finger when you propose, but there's no way to get your SO's input on the ring without giving the whole game away, and if she's going to be wearing this ring for the rest of her life, it is important that it be to her taste.
posted by orange swan at 8:46 AM on December 22, 2016 [36 favorites]

Canonically, one gets a pretty non-engagement ring as a placeholder for the proposal in this situation. (Pick out something she'd like from Etsy or a local maker - something that she'll actually want to wear sometimes going forward, but not as big a commitment as "you will wear this all the time FOREVAIR". ) This does involve two rings, true, but at least you'll have a ring when you propose while still being sure that she'll like the engagement ring.
posted by Frowner at 8:46 AM on December 22, 2016 [6 favorites]

To clarify, are you definitely wanting to have a ring before the proposal? Or would a stand-in (ribbon/sweetie/something) be acceptable with a "I can't wait to go ring shopping with you"?

My brother in law managed to be reasonably subtle by saying "so and so at work got engaged at the weekend and she had an enormous diamond on a gold band". From his now-fiancees discussion he managed to narrow the field considerably!

Best of luck!
posted by threetwentytwo at 8:47 AM on December 22, 2016 [5 favorites]

I would go with a stand-in ring, if you want the proposal to be a surprise. Cracker Jack ring, something like that.

I had very strong opinions about my engagement ring, which we shopped for together. Neither my sister or any of my friends had any idea what sort of ring I would have wanted, so that wouldn't have been helpful.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:48 AM on December 22, 2016 [18 favorites]

I got a loose stone and proposed with that... then we went ring shopping together, and after she picked out what she wanted, I had the ring made.
posted by Huck500 at 8:52 AM on December 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

Since this is an act of love and not war, the element of surprise is not necessarily an advantage.
posted by amtho at 8:55 AM on December 22, 2016 [97 favorites]

You really have one of two choices:

1. Sleuthe with the people she is closest to -- sister, mom, BFF. One man I know who did this ended up using a ring that had been in his family for two generations. It absolutely melted his wife to be. It was her sister who steered him to her taste for antique engagement rings.

2. Stand in ring, then take her shopping after the proposal. That is what my husband did, and that melted me. (Yes, I still have the butterfly marcasite ring he used to propose.)
posted by bearwife at 8:59 AM on December 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Strongly suggest using the placeholder ring if you want to surprise her with the proposal. Or, if you have a jeweler in mind, you could get them to give you an appointment reservation card, so she finds that in the box. Please don't try to stealth-anticipate her preferences from her friends or hints. It really sucks when an offered engagement ring isn't 100% right.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:01 AM on December 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

What my husband did was ask if I wanted to go jewelry shopping that weekend. I said what kind of jewelry are we taking about here, engagement style or necklace/bracelet because I have plenty of those. He said engagement style and I said OK! Actual question was popped later.

Timing I bad - you could have done it under the guise of Xmas gift. But you could do it as a Valentine's day gift.

Or lie. Say your buddy is getting a ring for his GF, it's a round fancy cut plain band white gold, that's ugly right sweetie? And gauge her response.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:01 AM on December 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

Check out her pinterest.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:04 AM on December 22, 2016 [6 favorites]

My husband used one of those plastic spider rings leftover from Halloween. Then we picked out a real ring together. And yes, I still have the spider ring, too... :)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 9:07 AM on December 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

For those who did have ring discussions before proposals, how was it done?

We decided (together) that we wanted to get married a long time before the actual proposal event. And we went ring shopping together.
posted by mskyle at 9:13 AM on December 22, 2016 [8 favorites]

an inexpensive "stand in" ring for the proposal

The jeweler we bought our rings from allowed me to buy a "stand-in" ring in the style of what I knew she wanted. She had dropped enough hints that this was fairly clear and specific. The jeweler then allowed us to trade that back in as full credit towards the ring she ended up commissioning. This allowed us to get the custom ring she wanted, but still allowed me to do (a little bit of) a surprise proposal.

So I'd recommend talking to a jeweler and seeing if they'll do something like this.
posted by bonehead at 9:17 AM on December 22, 2016

We had talked enough about our future life plans that we were comfortable saying things like "when we get married/engaged," so "You free this weekend? We could start looking at rings" in the winter before we got engaged wasn't unexpected. Mr. Kouti knew I was both knowledgeable, since I worked in a jewelry store for a summer, and P-I-C-K-Y. So I pulled together a list of local jewelers whose work I liked, and we visited them over a couple of weekends. He took careful notes on what I liked, even though that actually covered a fair bit of ground, stylewise, hahaha, poor Mr. Kouti :D And then life kept us both busy. 2-3 months later, I was about to head out grocery shopping when he called, saying, "It's gorgeous outside! Let's drive to the country for lunch!" [It was gorgeous; the first warm weekend in April after a long gross New England winter.]

jeffamaphone: Mr. Kouti would have *killed* for Pinterest back in the day, because he knows I would have created a jewelry board and dropped all of the ring pics in there, and then he could've printed it out and had a portfolio to show various jewelers. Ring window-shopping with me and taking pictures of the ones I spent more than five minutes admiring was as close as he could get. But even with that, I actually really *liked* going to look at rings together, because we were doing it *together*, and that was more important to me than any element of surprise.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 9:19 AM on December 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've been online window shopping rings for over a month and given that it's going to be something I'll be asking her to wear for the duration of the engagement, if not the duration of the marriage (hopefully a long time), I want her input. The difficulty is that, while we have been planning the rest of our lives together (logistical, financial, etc.), I can't recall the word "marriage" coming up when discussing us. So I'm afraid that any discussion of engagement rings will turn into an actual proposal. For those who did have ring discussions before proposals, how was it done?

How? You discuss marriage using that actual word, and shop for a ring together, with the understanding that you are planning to do the cultural ritual of making a romantic formal proposal of marriage at some later date.

You're already actively planning your future with her, so in the sense of affirming your long-term term commitment to the relationship, you've already proposed to each other in a manner of speaking -- there's no surprise being ruined there.

However, long-term commitment is different than getting officially married, and it very well may not be a simple "of course I know she says yes!" situation -- the fact that you two haven't used the word means that you also haven't discussed what "married" means to each of you. She may have more complicated feelings or expectations around the topic, as may you. And that's not even getting into the issue that "engaged" means "planning a wedding" and that's a whole OTHER set of feelings and expectations to navigate together.
posted by desuetude at 9:20 AM on December 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

The stand-in ring would worry me that she might assume it is the real ring and be disappointed upon seeing it.

Depending on how you generally communicate to one another, you maybe could start the discussion in a semi-humorous vein by saying something like:

"So.... if I were to buy you a piece of jewelry... say, a ring you would wear for a VERY LONG TIME, what sort of rings do you like?"

Assuming she catches on enough to continue playing along with the "hypothetical" ruse, she can then tell you what she likes or let you know if she'd prefer to pick it out herself. Without the whole thing turning into a proposal, because, well, it's all hypothetical, you see.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:26 AM on December 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

Or get her bff or her mom to take her jewelry shopping, as though it's for them. Tip off the sales person that it's actually for your GF so they can be all pushy "just try on a ring just for fun!" That way they can surreptitiously determine her style.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:28 AM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, if the word "marriage" hasn't come up, you haven't talked enough about it, is my opinion. We talked about it enough that it was explicitly stated that I wanted a ring, he wanted to propose, I did not want him to discuss with my parents in advance, he felt like we were basically married when we moved in together, I didn't want to get formally engaged until X date, and other details. Somewhere along the line he told me he didn't want to just guess, so I told him my ring size and made some suggestions.
posted by mchorn at 9:28 AM on December 22, 2016 [16 favorites]

For those who did have ring discussions before proposals, how was it done?

I think we'd talked about getting married, and at some point I asked her what kind of engagement rings she liked. I didn't ask her to marry me until about 6 months after that so the actual event was still a "surprise".
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:31 AM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm firmly in the "pick it out together" camp. If it's a piece of jewelry that she's going to wear for many years, she should have a say in what it looks like. Plus, shopping together is really fun! My husband didn't have a ring when he proposed (and it was a complete surprise), and I really enjoyed the process of picking it out together.

I don't think you "need" a placeholder ring, but something like a ring pop or a plastic gumball machine ring is always fun.
posted by radioamy at 9:32 AM on December 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'd involve her in the shopping. If you'd asked me what I wanted, I would've said I liked a certain style, but ultimately, when I tried that style on, it didn't work. In part, I was just wrong -- they looked neat in the pictures that were all over my Pinterest board but didn't look so good when I tried them on. In part, the kind of rings that were that style and within our price range were very different than those of that style that I'd seen on Pinterest (which turned out to be really expensive). Within our price range, something far more traditional worked out really well. Asking me what I like would've resulted in a ring that didn't work out as well as our final plan.

The other reason is that sometimes, a certain ring will have great magic. We found maybe 1-2 rings like that during our four weekends shopping. I'm not a jewelry person at all, but that was when I understood why people will pay a lot of money for jewelry. If you shop together, you might find one that embodies the warmth of the sun and the smooth flow of honey dripping off a spoon, or seems made of bubbles of laughter and joy -- that's what I mean by "magic" -- and it is very much in the eye of the beholder, so you'd have to see what magic works on your SO.

One thing that might be worth trying is to go to jewelry stores, especially estate jewelry stores that have a lot of items in your price range. Come up with a pretext if you like, such as wanting to get your mom a nice necklace for her birthday. If the jeweler is the kind that likes to show things just to show them to people (or, I suppose, if you called ahead and got them in on a plan), you might get lucky. Otherwise, I vote for the stand-in plan. But I wouldn't even lock yourselves into buying from a certain jewelry store, in case she wants something really unique. Congrats and good luck!
posted by slidell at 9:33 AM on December 22, 2016 [6 favorites]

The older I get the more I realize that a proposal should not be a total surprise. Meaning, both parties should have already explicitly talked about marrying each other and their desire to do so. This includes a discussion of what sort of proposal is desired (some people DONT like public or surprise proposals!) as well as a discussion of jewelry (not everyone wants a ring). You need to have this kind of conversation.

How do you do it? Literally by saying something like "hey sweetie, what do you think the future holds for us? Do you see yourself married to me?" If they respond in the affirmative then you can proceed with "What kind of ring would you like? Would you be willing to go look at some jewelry with me so I know what you like?"
posted by joan_holloway at 9:47 AM on December 22, 2016 [11 favorites]

My husband asked me around December of last year 1) what I thought of marriage in general, 2) what kind of wedding I might want to have (how big, which details were important to me, etc), and (raised idly as if it was a "let's chat about the future in an abstract way") 3) had I thought at all about what kind of engagement ring - if any - I would ideally want. Four months later, he proposed with the ring I'd told him I'd wanted (actually my grandmother's, which I had in a drawer and had told him where I kept it during that "haha we are talking about the future teehee" conversation). When the moment came, it was spontaneous and he didn't have the ring on him (as he said at the time, we were on a spur-of-the-moment "let's keep driving" weekend away and it just felt right) but what was far more important than having The Ring (or even a ring) for the proposal was the proposal itself, the moment - the place, the time, the light. If you'd like to have a ring to propose with and would like it to be a surprise, I can't help but suggest a cute but simple adjustable ring (costume jewelry from a shop like Claire's) followed by a "hooray we're engaged and shopping for a ring" trip to a jeweler together.
posted by pammeke at 10:07 AM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

My fiancé bought two different boxes of paperclips, one brass-tone and one steel-tone. He straightened one of each, then twined them together, and made that into a circle of approximately the right size. He was careful that no sharp points stuck out.

When he proposed, he presented me with this ring he had made, then we went and got a more usual one later. The paperclip ring does catch on things occasionally, so I don't usually wear it, but I love to look at it and I never want to be without it.
posted by amtho at 10:10 AM on December 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Here is the checklist I would use when deciding whether it is OK for you to choose the ring for her before your engagement:
1. You are confident about what materials, gems, settings types she loves.
2. You know her ring size.
3. You are aware of any no-go areas such as an objection to diamonds, rings given be previous exes, etc
3. You have given her jewelry before - and it has gone down well to the extent that she regularly wears it and compliments her friends on your taste.
4. You have kept the receipt - and, beyond this have a good understanding with the jeweler which would make a either a swap or a return for cash completely OK.
- If you fail with any of these give her an obvious stand-in ring.
posted by rongorongo at 10:12 AM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

My now-husband took me to a jewelry store "just to look." Obviously I knew what he was doing, but we both played dumb in the interest of doing a fun "surprise" engagement. We still got to have a fun moment of a romantic proposal, but I also got a say in the ring and -- more importantly -- to do my own thinking about our relationship/potential marriage before the proposal happened.

Honestly, you know your girlfriend better than we do, but my feeling is:

If you have had enough conversations with your girlfriend that you are 100% sure that she wants to marry you (and that she knows you want to marry her), then adding in some joint window shopping at a jewelry store is not going to spoil any sort of surprise. After all, you are both in agreement that you want to get married, right?

If you're not 100% sure that she wants to marry you, then a surprise proposal in which you attempt to pressure her into saying "yes" to a lifelong commitment because of a romantic gesture or expensive ring is a pretty terrible idea.

If you're 100% sure she wants to marry you, but she doesn't know that you return those feelings because you're trying to leave it ambiguous so that you can do a romantic proposal...honestly that is a pretty shitty thing to do to someone. It's way less romantic to leave her waiting to know how you feel than to just be honest about your feelings.

Bottom line: doing some ring window shopping together will make her know you love and value her, and want to treat her as an equal person in the relationship. The specific timing and details of the proposal can still be a surprise -- and this can be really fun! But the yes/no of you guys getting engaged should not be sprung as a one should be making the decision to commit to marriage under pressure or in a couple of seconds -- both people should have the opportunity to do their own serious thinking about it and also to discuss it with each other in a non-pressure way.
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:14 AM on December 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

Remember that most women have two ring fingers. If you're at the talking-about-the-future stage, and she's not leaving magazines with conspicuous dog ears lying around, finding ways to make sure you know about about her Pinterest boards, or going on rants against the diamond industry anytime a jewelry commerical airs, she probably doesn't expect you to be psychic.

What Mr. Motion did was to buy a beautiful, reasonably-priced, not-typical-engagement-ring-looking*, ring to give to me as a gift when he proposed. And then we went shopping together for our wedding rings. I wore my engagement ring daily through the engagement, but now I wear my wedding band (which I guess technically is a "men's" band, no stones) pretty much at all times. My engagement ring is a right-hand ring for special-occasions. I especially love this set up because the act of putting on my engagement ring takes me back to the memories of the first time I put it on, which is dorky and romantic in a way that a daily-wear ring is not.

Maybe your GF will want the standard engagement-ring-with-band-attachment setup, but by proposing to her with a ring that doesn't blow your ring budget, you're giving her the option of buying a new engagement band (with the proposal ring becoming a special-occasions-only ring right away), or staying with the engagement ring and buying a matching band for the wedding (you might have to have it custom made, if your proposal ring is very non-engagementy), or staying with the engagement ring and doing something completely different for the wedding band (seriously, I don't understand how ladies manage with gemstones on their hands every damn day).

The trick is that when you propose, during that giddy snuggly happy time right after, you need to let her know that you are open to any of the options above. If she's going to be disappointed with your choice somehow, that's not going to sink in until after the happyhappyjoyjoy of the moment fades. If part of the happy time is talking about how excited you are to shop for both of your rings with her, she'll never get the chance to be disappointed.

*I'd like to think I dropped enough hints to let him know that I never wanted the standard diamond solitare.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:23 AM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you mention rings at all, she will put two and two together. But I guarantee you, she will have the same heady excitement she would have had if it were a surprise. I mean, at this stage in your relationship, you're already past the point where it would be coming out of left field, aren't you?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:40 AM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Two people who are very dear to me were married this year (I officiated at their wedding). Before they became engaged, everyone and I mean EVERYONE knew that it was only a matter of time before the deal was sealed.

He surprised her with a proposal mainly because he proposed in France and she didn't expect it since she couldn't figure out how he would transport a ring secretly (you can't just put it in luggage and expect it to be there when you land, and if he put it in carry on, she thought she would know).

Okay anyway enough of that business and down to the ring. He chose the ring. He based his decision on her aesthetic, on the kind of jewelry she liked to wear, and on her personality. He bought the perfect ring. It honestly could not be more perfect. In fact it's so perfect that she didn't want a wedding band -- and their jeweler agreed when they were buying his band.

I could describe it, but that wouldn't help you. Instead, let me tell you about the ring that my now ex-husband proposed to me with. He purchased it based on his aesthetic and took into consideration the kind of wedding band he would want to wear, believing that they should match or at least coordinate. It was quite modern. At the time I was wearing antique brooches every day. Do you think I liked it? It looked all wrong on me. How he could possibly think that a very modern, hard edge ring would look good with my vintage and antique jewelry escapes me. He was also far too "sensitive" for me to have said, oh thank you so much and can we exchange the ring for something closer to my style? So uh no.

The moral of the story is: If you know her well enough, and you pay close enough attention to the kind of jewelry and other ornaments that she wears, you're very likely to be able to find something that she'll love, and you should also let her know that your feelings won't be hurt if she wants to look at other rings just to be sure that she has the one she feels is most perfect.
posted by janey47 at 11:00 AM on December 22, 2016

Having a ring, as opposed to having nothing, shows that you have means, the willingness to invest them in the relationship, and the ability to plan ahead. All of these are important. You also now want to demonstrate that you have an appreciation of her taste, which means that actually choosing a ring for her is not appropriate. What you can do is demonstrate all of this in other ways.

What impresses the ladies nowadays is the ability to form a plan and follow through with it expeditiously. At least, it would impress the heck out of me.

If you have prepared:

- A generous budget (whatever "generous" means for you) that is not so much a hard single number as an acknowledgement of basic costs and the value of something exquisitely beautiful and inspiring;

- A generous block of time, or more than one, to invest in finding or creating what you want;

- Whatever she needs so that she can allocate time to this project;

- Whatever other resources you both will need (transportation, a comfortable computer to search, physical proximity to stores, adequate sleep and food).

it will go well for you and make her very happy.
posted by amtho at 11:00 AM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

My now husband and I had been dating for almost ten years, but he really wanted to keep the proposal a surprise (from absolutely everyone - it was sweet and actually meant a lot to me that I was the first person to know he wanted to propose). He went the 'get a nice ring that isn't an engagement ring and then we'll go shopping together later' route. And he somehow got the ring size right on accident despite the fact that I have an unusually large ring size for a lady.

I loved the stand in so much that I kept it as my actual engagement ring. It's not a diamond, it 'only' cost $250, but it is beautiful and I've worn it every day since.

You just need to figure out what matters more - the surprise or having the right ring the first time. You might accidentally pull off having both, but I wouldn't assume it's likely. I'm glad my husband went the 'surprise' route, but I know many others who have been happy with the 'having the right ring' route instead.
posted by CharlieSue at 11:23 AM on December 22, 2016

One more story to add into the mix. When I proposed to my now wife, the jeweler we went with allowed me to buy the diamond, and they set it in a super simple solitaire gold band. Then we went band shopping together with the stone that I'd already picked. This meant that the initial ring was nice enough to be on its own, but then we got something more ideal for her.

(fwiw, I'm still pretty happy that the band I guessed she'd want ended up being the one she picked)

Also, this is a nice, independent little guide about some of the things to look at while diamond/ring shopping.
posted by themadthinker at 11:59 AM on December 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Assuming she catches on enough to continue playing along with the "hypothetical" ruse, she can then tell you what she likes or let you know if she'd prefer to pick it out herself. Without the whole thing turning into a proposal, because, well, it's all hypothetical, you see.

This. That a proposal is coming should not be a surprise. The only surprise should be in the actual circumstances of the proposal. And shopping beforehand both lets her know that something is coming, and also makes sure she gets the exact ring she wants (which only she knows).

Unless she is like my sister, who simply circled her choice in the Tiffany's catalogue and left that page open on the back of the toilet. Subtle as a freight train, that one.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:27 PM on December 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

My wife proposed to me with a necklace of two interlocking rings, it's really lovely and I still wear it frequently (or rather did before I had a grabby baby, and will again as soon as she stops grabbing everything within reach). It was perfect because it was just my style, was symbolically lovely, and wasn't actually a ring. We went ring shopping together and ended up designing our own engagement/wedding jewelry with an independent jeweler.
posted by insectosaurus at 12:35 PM on December 22, 2016

Ask her sister and/or mom.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:48 PM on December 22, 2016

I don't remember which of us first said "You know, I want to spend the rest of my life with you", but one of us did. I'm pretty sure I'm the one who said "okay, then that means we're getting married" and she said "okay, then I want to be proposed to" and then I said "okay, we're both wearing rings." We sent links back and forth over chat (we were long distance at the time) and ended up with something totally unlike what either of us had thought we wanted (we ended up with $25 spoon rings from Etsy. They were perfect and durable, and now we don't have a ton of money sitting in a box because neither of us are wearing them that much - my hands have been really bothering me this winter, and between our wedding band and the ring her GF gave her on one hand and her class ring on the other, she's out of fingers; I love mine when I wear it and don't feel bad when I don't).

She knew when I was going to propose (there was dressing up and dinner reservations involved), I knew she was going to say yes, and trust me, it was still an amazing occasion with lots of tears and emotions involved, and honestly, I was very happy that it was a process, that we picked out the rings together, and that it wasn't a surprise.
posted by joycehealy at 1:12 PM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

My husband and I discussed the concept of marriage abstractly for a while. Early on, one of the biggest things we agreed on was that if you are surprised by the question, it shouldn't ahve been asked. Eventually after a few conversations that were essentially, "yes...we dig each other enough to get married", we had a few more conversations on things like what kind of wedding, division of housework, kids, and finally rings.

I don't wear jewelry. At all. I dated a man who made jewelry for 8 years and I never wore a single thing he made me. I get extra creeped out by the whole metal touching my skin. Additionally, diamonds are revolting to me. So we talked about it. A lot. After a few conversations about why rings were important to us both and what kind of alternatives there were to diamonds, we took an afternoon and went to a jewelry store. I had no idea what ring size I was and didn't even know very much about the whole thing. I told the jeweler how active I was, how I hated diamonds, etc. and we tried on about ten different rings. I found one or two that I like and then the jeweler dropped the knowledge about moissonite (a lab-grown diamond like thing that came from space).

After that, we went back to our regular lives. A few months later, my husband causally asked me if I preferred princess or round. I couldn't remember which was which so I looked them up and told him the answer. From then on, I had a clue that it might happen, but when he actually asked me I was completely taken by surprise. And so very happy. I knew it was coming, but the actual when was a little up in the air. Overall, the whole process took about 9 months, but at no point in the process did I feel rushed or like we were taking too long.

Talk it out. There is very little to lose by discussing things like adults. You're gonna be partners in life, you should make the big decisions together and there aren't many decisions bigger than this.
posted by teleri025 at 1:31 PM on December 22, 2016

We were shopping at the mall, and as we passed a jewelry store, my (now) husband said, "Let's take a look and see if we can figure out your style." At this point, we had also been discussing logistical things and were actually planning a future for the two of us, so this seemed like a natural next step to me. We figured out what I liked and my ring size, and that was that. I was still surprised by the timing and the beauty of his proposal. Looking back on it, I wouldn't have changed a thing about the way we did it.

If you're going for the element of surprise and ask her mother/sister/best friend, be sure they can actually keep a secret. Mine cannot!

Good luck!!
posted by BlueBear at 1:50 PM on December 22, 2016

I remember that giddy feeling when I knew that we weren't ready yet, but we were heading towards marriage.

We discussed a lot of things in the time, including when we would likely get married (my sister is travelling next year, I work in Education, I don't want to get married in winter unless I can wear pants and both of us want the standard white dress style church wedding.) I even told him that I would need a minimum amount of time to plan a wedding (six months- he had thought 4 would be reasonable!!) and so I knew it was coming, if he wanted to get married in April, instead of November, if at all.

However, he absolutely and totally surprised me with the proposal- so much so that I asked "are you serious?" after I said yes! The ring was a 3D printed one (that didn't fit- we had to reprint one to fit my finger- even after I had given him my ring size!) - something that is geekily special to the both of us.

We then had a ring designed using stones from a ring my great-aunt left to my sister and I to split. This ring is amazing- it's absolutely perfect. If he had proposed using this exact ring (impossible!) I think I would have exploded. I got to have two lovely surprises- the proposal itself, and then another mini one when the ring was finally here!

My sister has a totally different story to me: she had absolutely no idea he was proposing and had not even dropped hints, and he proposed with a ring, and loves her ring so much. (She absent-mindedly twisted a foil candy wrapper around her fingers, which he 'stole' to use to size the ring, and got it spot on!) It was special to her that he was able to choose something that was perfect, a sign that he was paying close attention and knew her well. Me? I have a very different taste, and definitely said to the future mrfeet that I wanted to be able to pick out the ring together.

You're going to get a lot of people saying what they did and what happened for them, what to do and what not to do, and some of that advice will be conflicting! The best thing to do is to know your girlfriend.
posted by freethefeet at 3:51 PM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you've never talked about marriage, how do you know she wants to get married, or wants a ring? I know you want to be together long-term, but that doesn't mean marriage or a ring for some people. If you haven't talked about marriage or rings, you shouldn't assume she wants marriage or a ring.
posted by decathecting at 5:16 PM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Agree with decathecting and all the others that communication beforehand is better than a surprise proposal with The Ring. I have been proposed to...four? five? times. (I know, it sounds terrible to have lost track, but I don't want to dig through the memory bank on some of those too elaborately.) Of which 0 came with a ring. The one time I did marry, we discussed it -- marriage -- and then discussed rings, and went shopping together. I asked for it in a particular sort of box, and left him to find the box. I didn't know when he'd find the box. We went out for a nice dinner and the question was formally popped, and I had a ring that was just right -- and I would not have been happy at all to have a not-just-right ring, and I also would not have been happy to have a here's-a-ring bended-knee thing without having discussed marriage to the point where we were both sure about it to the point where ring shopping together was on. The discussion was roughly just "well, we need to go shopping!" -- "I'll look up some stores and chart out a route for us, and meet you after work."

My mother, sister, and close female friends (and the other men in my life) would have little to no idea what I would want. (No diamond! And I know a fair whack about gemstones, so it would be important to me to pick out the stone, and...)

All that said, "know your girlfriend" is also excellent advice. Certainly some of them do like surprise proposals with fairly classically styled diamond rings. Maybe you just want a store with a good return policy just in case.
posted by kmennie at 8:39 PM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

> Ask her sister and/or mom.

Depending on her relationship with her sister or mom, this could be a) wildly misleading or inaccurate as to her taste b) incredibly insulting to her that her mom/sister knew before she did that a proposal is in the works.
posted by desuetude at 10:28 PM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

My sweet husband asked me to marry him and when I said "yes!", he said "Good, because we have an appointment (in about 30 minutes) at the jeweler's to talk about having him make our rings." Now we laugh about how sure he was that I'd say yes!

I appreciated him not choosing a ring without my input - it was fun to design them together, and I would never have told him I didn't like a ring he'd chosen without me for fear of hurting his feelings. We had fun designing them together, and looking back it was nice to have a few hours of enjoying our "new news" together before sharing it with our families and the world.
posted by summerstorm at 9:23 PM on December 23, 2016

Does she actually want an engagement ring? You say that you'd like to get her a ring, and that you expect her to wear it for a long time, but nothing in your post says that you know for sure that she wants one. I'd check that first before assuming...

Anecdata - the bloke proposed without a ring, I accepted, there was about 5 minutes of bliss before he suggested going shopping for an engagement ring the next day. At which point I had to explain that I really didn't want an engagement ring. Which killed the mood a bit - he was a little discombobulated by my reaction. He got over it though, and we now have matching wedding bands. I accept that most women do want an engagement ring - I'm just suggesting you make sure your fiancee-to-be is one of them before making grand plans!
posted by finding.perdita at 12:07 AM on December 24, 2016

First: this is wonderfully exciting!

Second: I concur with the many posters above who say that you can talk about this in advance and still have a proposal a little later that can satisfy any romantic desires for surprise. The phrase that comes to mind is, "So, I've been thinking about the planning we've been doing for our future. I know we've planned a few years ahead, but there's something I'd like to discuss that might last quite a bit longer than that."
posted by ocherdraco at 5:26 AM on December 26, 2016

Thank you to everyone. I talked with her about rings and then my mom said that she'd look for her mother's engagement ring. So we're on hold, waiting to see if that ring is not in the storage units. Otherwise, we go shopping.
posted by Hactar at 1:55 PM on January 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

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