Engagement questions! (ring, timing)
November 20, 2006 12:42 PM   Subscribe

Pending engagement questions re: Ring, timing, and secrecy!

Alright, so its been almost 3 years, and I want to propose to my girlfriend.

-Ring Background: I have deduced that she would like a filigree platinum/white gold ring setting (no simple solitaire bands), and that she wants a diamond (she's dropped some hints and clues over the last year or so). I would like to either get a non-conflict diamond, or better, an heirloom/antique one. Budget-wise, I have no idea. I've made up a number around $3000, but it's kind of arbitrary. We are recent college grads that are about to become poor students in about 6 months (moving for grad school, will have no sources of income for 6-24 months). I make about $1000/month, and have ~$40k stashed away in investments ($ from parents/grandparents), some (10-20k?) of which will probably be used to help support us over the next 2 years.

-Ring Questions: What is involved in getting heirloom diamonds? What should I know? Where should I go (I'm in Los Angeles, but not adverse to buying online, unless I should be adverse to buying online for some reason I don't know about)?
Is there any way to make a non-arbitrary budget for this? Will $3k get a nice rock in a nice setting? How the hell do I figure out her ring size without her knowing (she may own some rings [I've never seen her wear them], but I doubt they're fitted to her ring finger)?

-Proposal questions:
I want it to be a surprise, and I have some ideas for settings she might like (I'm thinking Disneyland or horseback riding, or both somehow [aren't there horses or carriages or something at Disneyland?]). I could wait until our anniversary, which would be nice, but that's 3+ months away. We're planning on going to Disneyland in 1-2 months. Can I get a perfecto ring in that time?

-Secrecy: Who do I tell beforehand? Noone? Our mutual friend who would be perfect for ring-shopping (she's the one who delivered the hint about the filigree setting), but is already depressed at all of her friends getting married when she just broke up with her boyfriend. Parents? Brother?

I've read the other posts tagged engagement
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd encourage you offer a diamond set in a generic setting or loose--in a little velvet pouch, or on top of a cupcake, and let her pick the setting out with you later. Just after you've popped the question, while her eyes are still bugged out staring at the diamond, ask her if she'd help you find the perfect setting for it, the one she's always imagined, because you always want to try to help make her dreams come true.

Tell no one else, it makes the event much more intimate.
posted by tula at 1:16 PM on November 20, 2006

As a girl who has thought/dreamed about becoming engaged (uhh.. far in the future... no prospects yet!!) I urge you to let her pick out the ring, or at least the setting. It's a big decision, and one that she will have to live with for the rest of her life. While it could be argued that it's more romantic to give her the ring during the proposal, it's really not practical. You're joining your lives together, and that means making joint decisions about how to spend your money. It also saves your fiancee the awkwardness of having to tell you that she would like to switch the ring, and you won't have to consult with your mutual friend, and can keep it as secret as possible. I think tula's idea is really good, very romantic. Or you could get her another ring, a nice, non-diamond ring that she can wear on another finger once you get the real engagement ring. That way, she would be able to wear a ring right away, to show to everyone!
That's what I would want to happen, and that's how my parents did it. My dad proposed without a ring, or a placeholder, which was lucky because it turned out that my mom wanted to use her great grandma's engagement diamond. They picked the setting together, with smaller diamonds set around it.
posted by friendlyfire at 1:34 PM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

Who do I tell beforehand? Noone? Our mutual friend who would be perfect for ring-shopping

Tell no one, especially not a mutual friend. I told a mutual friend that I was shopping for engagement rings, and word made it back to the fiancee within a week.

Whatever you do as far as a proposal, if you truly want it to be a surprise, make sure you do it in a place she'd expect the two of you to go. For example, to use one of your scenarios, if the two of you never go horseback riding and all of a sudden you say "hey, let's go horseback riding", she may start to suspect something's up.

Good luck, and don't be intimidated - proposing's easier than it's made out to be. It's still scary, but the odds of her saying no after three years are probably pretty small, so go forth and propose!
posted by pdb at 1:39 PM on November 20, 2006

I urge you to let her pick out the ring, or at least the setting.

Lemme offer a guy's counterpoint to this, if I might. Like anonymous, I had been dating The Future Mrs. Pdb for a couple years before actually proposing. In that time, I got to know her tastes, her likes, and her wants fairly well, and I had a really good idea of the type of ring she'd go for if I were to buy one.

As a male, I have some small input into the wedding, but a first wedding for a "traditional" female like my fiancee is ultimately a female-controlled thing. I have no problem with this, but I will say that the two things I as a male have total control over in the whole thing are the ring and the proposal.

As such, I did not solicit TFMpdb's input into the ring, but knowing her as well as I did, I was able to buy her one she is madly in love with.

So, if you are confident about knowing what your girlfriend likes, I say go ahead and buy a ring - it's a good way of showing that you know her really well.
posted by pdb at 1:47 PM on November 20, 2006

How do you know what size ring to buy? If she wears rings, you could find one that she wears on that finger, and either bring it with you when you ring shop, or you could trace it and then compare the size you traced to figure out her ring size. You could bring that sketch to a jeweler, and they can tell you what her ring size is. Or, if you want to involve someone, you could ask her mother what her ring size is. Frequently mothers know this sort of thing. But don't worry too much - these things can usually be resized. If you ask her mom, you might even find out if there's a lovely family gem that you could use/incorporate into the ring.

I don't see any reason to involve the friend. That might depress her, she might tell your girlfriend, and anyway, she may not really know what your girlfriend wants anyway. I don't think any of my friends could really pick out a ring for me - it's so personal. Unless she's shown them pictures - which may have happened - in which case they probably could tell you.

However, you might want to think about asking your girlfriend's parents for their consent/support before you propose. My family is quite liberated, and so I was surprised to find out that my father (and possibly mother) expects - and very much wants - to be asked permission first. He says it's not that he really thinks he can give or withhold permission, but he's old fashioned (who knew?!) and he would appreciate the formality of the gesture.

As for how much to spend, you need to think about what you can afford, and what you - as a couple - think would be an appropriate amount to spend on a ring. Of course, you don't have your girlfriend's input, but you should try to think about her personality and priorities. Also think about what kind of lifestyle you'll have in the near future. $3,000 sounds like a perfectly fine amount to spend on a ring, particularly given your situation. I've friends who have spent less than $1000, and I have many friends who have rings that cost between $10,000 and $15,000 (I am a young lawyer, and I'm mostly referring to atty friends). Certain of those friends would have been unhappy with a much less expensive ring, because they would have felt the ring did not compare well with the rings of their peers. But I have the same peers, and I wouldn't want my boyfriend to spend a ton on a ring. So it does depend on taste, values, social scene.

Heirloom/conflict free diamond - great call. I can't imagine she won't be happy when she learns that it's an heirloom/conflict-free diamond, even if she's not informed about that issue already. Although, since you've read the previous engagement tagged questions, you know that conflict-free is not always truly conflict-free.

Do you know why she wants a gold band? Platinum is much nicer and holds up better, unless she has a personal taste for gold color. She may just not be informed, since she may not have done much engagement ring exploring.

As for how to propose... I disagree with the comment that you shouldn't do something unusual for you as a couple. There are plenty of times that I have done something new with my boyfriend, and I haven't spent the whole time thinking a proposal must be looming. But if I were proposed to while we were doing something new or exciting, I think it would make the proposal that much more memorable and special. Both of your ideas sound great to me.
posted by Amizu at 2:42 PM on November 20, 2006

1) Don't tell anyone.

2) I was married once. The ex proposed with a ring he'd already bought - a ring I didn't like. I said yes anyway, and I wore the ring on my hand 24/7, even though I didn't like it.

Maybe the fact that he bought a ring I didn't like has some significance (we're divorced now), but if I were ever to get married again, I'd like to have a ring that I actually wanted to wear. Since I don't expect anyone to be able to read my mind, I'd prefer a placeholder. (plastic ring from a quarter machine, etc.)

Maybe you've been shopping enough to know what she wants, or maybe she's dropped enough hints that you could do it right, like pdb above. If so, more power to you. But if you're uncertain in the slightest, I'd propose to her first, then let her pick out her own ring.

And the loose diamond thing (on a cupcake, particularly) seems a little bit like an accident waiting to happen.
posted by eleyna at 2:47 PM on November 20, 2006

sears and other big boxes heavily discount their jewelry for black friday
posted by mdpc98 at 2:56 PM on November 20, 2006

Forgive my wordiness, excitable newlywed here:

I personally like tula's idea (loose diamond) if you're not sure exactly what kind or setting she'd like (there are many degrees of filigree!) . My husband picked out my ring before he proposed, but he has a really good grasp of my style and got me something I love. That said, I would have loved a loose diamond and a shopping trip too.

I think your budget is realistic, and you should be able to get a very nice diamond for the price. As far as purchasing the diamond goes, it shouldn't be too hard to find out which places are reputable with a little asking around or google-fu.

I think your proposal ideas sound great, and I wouldn't tell anyone but the mutual friend if you *do* tell anyone (and if you tell said friend, only in the ring-shopping context, and only if you're sure she can help). Being the only single can suck, but if she's a good friend she'll be mature enough to be happy for you guys and help you out. Again, judgment call for you.

I disagree about asking the parents first: only do that if you're sure your girlfriend would be okay with it. My parents are somewhat old-fashioned and wanted to be asked, but my husband knew that I would not have appreciated that, and didn't ask them. When I confirmed to my parents afterwards that yes, I would have felt belittled by the tradition, they were fine. They like my husband anyway, so it was a non-issue.

So basically, you can deduce from my advice and everyone else's that it all comes down to a lot of judgment calls: you've been with this girl for three years, you want to spend the rest of your life with her, trust yourself and go for it!

Best of luck to you!
posted by AV at 3:59 PM on November 20, 2006

I think tula's idea about a loose diamond is a good one -- or I've also heard of people getting a cheap ring to be a stand-in until they pick out the "real" one together.

I will say this: before I went ring shopping (with my then boyfriend, now husband), I was pretty sure I wanted a princess-cut solitaire. Then I tried them on and didn't at all like how they looked on my hand. I ended up with a round-cut diamond with accent diamonds on the side. I never would have thought that I would choose this until I saw how perfect it is on my finger!
posted by pril at 4:25 PM on November 20, 2006

I vote "proxy ring" unless you're absolutely sure without a shadow of a doubt you're getting the right thing. Get something you can put on her finger to make the moment, but don't spend your money. Put the proxy on her finger and let her know that the two of you are going shopping for the real one very soon.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:26 PM on November 20, 2006

And the loose diamond thing (on a cupcake, particularly) seems a little bit like an accident waiting to happen.

And on top of that, picking out stones is fun. You're in a little room with a jeweller and he's taking a bunch of stones out for you to compare and it's just neat. Nyxie says that she enjoyed picking stones (sapphire, for her) just as much as picking out a setting.
posted by mendel at 5:54 PM on November 20, 2006

When I proposed, I went with the "provide loose gemstones" approach rather than an honest-to-gosh ring. I know my fiancée's tastes well enough, had her ring size on hand, knew what sort of precious metals and precious stones would be considered ideal... but still wanted to make sure she'd get just what she wanted - which meant working out the setting at a later date.

This worked fairly wonderfully, as she got a ring perfectly suited to her tastes, with the extra added bonus that she got to have two rounds of all her female friends squeeing at her: once on the initial "I got engaged!" go around, then again on the "my ring is all done now, isn't it beautiful?" trip through the circuit.

(For what it's worth, I did not ask her parents for her hand in marriage as it seemed too antiquated, and I definitely did not tell anyone that a proposal was in the cards, lest someone blurt something they oughtn't. These tactics worked smashingly for me; your mileage may vary.)
posted by youhas at 6:47 PM on November 20, 2006

Normally I would say to just pick out what you think she would like, but your girlfriend has clearly done a lot of thinking about this and would probably be disappointed if it wasn't the right kind of filigree or whatnot. Get a pretty "filler" ring -- ten dollar silver ring, perhaps.
posted by Margalo Epps at 7:54 PM on November 20, 2006

You could also go with created diamonds, if you think she might be into that. (They're non-conflict by definition, except if you're looking to irk De Beers. (previously)). Both Gemesis and
Apollo make them.

Plus they come in blue! (and yellow and pink).
posted by nat at 10:30 PM on November 20, 2006

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