Help me marry.
April 15, 2008 8:14 PM   Subscribe

Considering an elaborate marriage proposal, need help.

So I am in no way about to propose to my girlfriend. If I were to go ahead with it the actual proposal would be two years away at least, but I'm a long term planning kind of guy, so I'm thinking about this stuff. OK, so here's the plan:

I give my g/f a necklace. Then a year later I get down on one knee and give her a hammer, she breaks the necklace and there's a ring inside.

So pretty romantic huh? I think pretty romantic. The downside is that it's a buttfuck of a logistical effort. For example:

Is this a corny idea?
How much will it cost?
Can you find people who'll do this sort of thing for you?
What if the jewellery maker I find steals the ring while making it?
How practically could such a piece of jewellery be made?
What if she breaks the necklace early?
What if she loses the necklace?

So, I don't really know what my question is. A big one would be, has anybody ever done this before/ did it work? Also reactions to the lameness/coolness of the scheme would be good, especially from women. And if anybody is a jewellery maker of any kind then you're experience would be invaluable. Could this be practically done given the state of jewellery making technology today? What materials would be best to use? In short any help would be massively appreciated. Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (32 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Hmm. It sounds rather complicated. What if, you give her a necklace with an ornate key pendant, the key to which opens up a box which you can then put the ring in? This way, you can get some antique reproduction lock with fancy skeleton-type key, and it will just be a necklace/charm to her until the day comes. That way, no risk to the actual ring - do you really want her to hit an engagement ring with a hammer? What will it be encased in that will keep it from getting at the very least dinged by such a blow?

The other pro to giving her a key, beyond all the obvious metaphors you can use to disguise it (key to my heart, etc) is that so long as it's a reproduction you can get more than one key. So if it, say, accidentally falls off and into a sewer grate, your fancy engagement ring won't be lost along with it. After all, you can't blame her for losing it if it's on a chain, even the best of which break/clasp fails, etc.
posted by SassHat at 8:29 PM on April 15, 2008 [8 favorites]

- It doesn't matter if anyone else thinks it's corny, it only needs to be right for you two.
- Not much, I immagine, in relation to the ring and what it stands for.
- If you don't feel you can trust them, don't do business with them in the first place.
- It might be easiest to use a ceramic or clay, but the heat from the firing might damage the ring. Glass is probably out for the same reason.
- You propose early or feign ignorance and go to plan B.
- If it were my gf this is probably the one I'd be most worried about. Insure the ring for it's replacement value and keep tabs on the necklace yourself.

As far as the lameness/coolness, only you and your gf could know that. Do you regularly play tricks like this on each other? Does a hammer hold some other meaning to one of you? How do you think she'll respond to finding out she was wearing the ring for a year, but without knowing or agreeing to do so?
posted by bizwank at 8:31 PM on April 15, 2008

At first glance, I love this idea. The OMG factor is off the charts. Two concerns:

1. ok, losing is a very real possibility. Assuming you can give it to her without shaking, she's going to assume that it's a totally fun trinket (made of clay?) and she isn't going to take sufficient care with it. Even if she's a super organized person who doesn't lose things as a rule - we all, still, assign value to things and take care of them more or less, depending.
2. I wish you'd said how long you've been together because I think it matters for this question. If you've been together long enough (2+ years, more or less? depending on your age and etc.?) that it'd be reasonable to propose at any point from here on out... then her thought, two years from now when you reveal the surprise, might be I can't believe he was ready a YEAR ago and he made me wait an entire year to pull off a joke. Conversely - if you *haven't* been together long enough that the engagement isn't a foregone conclusion.... gosh, if things go south, it would be awfully weird to say "O HAI remember that weird necklace you put in the drawer and never wore again? I'm going to need that back." (see how that'd be weird?)

therefore, my recommendation, should this scheme prove feasible, would be to shorten the timespan enormously. give it to her when you're ready, wait a week, then have her smash it.
posted by moxiedoll at 8:33 PM on April 15, 2008 [3 favorites]

Okay, here's what I don't get. You're planning a year in advance for the day you'll know that a year from that day, you'll be ready to ask her to marry you. What happens if things change between a year from now and two years from now? She has a necklace with an expensive ring embedded in it that you can't get back, and you can't really tell her about the ring, either. And if you're absolutely certain that in 2 years you're going to ask her to marry you, such that the possibility that you've wasted a giant whack of money isn't a problem, why aren't you certain enough to ask her now?
posted by jacquilynne at 8:36 PM on April 15, 2008 [3 favorites]

I second both moxiedoll and jacquilynne. Phenomenally cool idea, but make sure you think through the logistics.
posted by danb at 8:42 PM on April 15, 2008

I think the idea is cool, but I'd suggest embedding the ring inside something less portable and easier to construct, like a sculpture, or something out of blown glass. You can still have the smashing ceremony, but you can be a little more comfortable about the whereabouts of the hidden ring. You seem comfortable that your future fiance is willing to wait 1+ years for your proposal, which is fine, but every day for that 1+ year I'd be a mass of raw nerve endings any time that necklace was out of my sight.
posted by krippledkonscious at 8:43 PM on April 15, 2008

If you decide that do this, why not have two necklaces made, one with a ring and one without? Give her the one without the ring (don't get them mixed up!), and then whenever you're ready to propose, you can sneakily switch them.
posted by amarynth at 9:00 PM on April 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

I think this is a cool idea. However, if this had happened to me, I would have felt just as moxiedoll has indicated. (You made me wait a whole year for this?) Have you considered giving her the necklace on day one of a long weekend away or a vacation and having her break it open on the last day? It likely will reduce the chance of her losing the necklace, breaking it inadvertently, and you still get to have her bash it with the hammer. Good on you for some creative thinking!!
posted by ms.v. at 9:06 PM on April 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Most of the classic engagement rings are constructed of materials resistant to solvents and to moderate heat. Rather than a hammer you might consider using either heat or a solvent to disassociate the ring from it's hiding place. A wax candle for example might be perfect, or a wax plug in a sculpture or even a locket filled with a hard wax that would be impossible to open until subjected to boiling temperatures.
posted by Mitheral at 9:17 PM on April 15, 2008

I would also consider how she might feel about smashing the necklack itself. Assuming you give her this necklace as a gift for a special occasion, she is likely to cherish it, or at least be sentimentally attached to it. If I got a necklace that I loved, wore it for a year, and then had to smash it (even for an engagement ring) I would probably cry my eyes out. But I'm very sentimental like that. YMMV
posted by greta simone at 9:42 PM on April 15, 2008

I'm voting not romantic at all.

A ring has a tremendous amount of symbolism in it. In fact the whole ritual of engagement and marriage abounds with important symbols.

Think about the symbolism of what you are contemplating. Do you really want to begin your married life together with your partner smashing a piece of jewelery that you've given her, that she's worn for one year?
posted by sid at 10:01 PM on April 15, 2008

This is a pretty cool idea, but I'd be pissed if I had to wait for a year just for some (cool, but) annoying if it happened to me trick. Maybe give it to her for Christmas, then do the breaking on Valentine's Day? If those days aren't important to you, choose another pair less than 6 weeks/less than a month apart. This would also be best in the context of a relationship where you have talked about marriage and are of one mind on it. Any other situation would make it dicey as mentioned above or bring in some weird symbolism issues (wearing your ring for a month/year without knowing it) or make her feel manipulated or... yeah. Definitely save this for a relationship where you're simpatico about these kinda things.
posted by MadamM at 10:13 PM on April 15, 2008

I thought it was a cool idea, but after reading the comments about her reaction on finding she'd been waiting for a year, I'm not so sure. I think it would work better for a shorter time period in many cases. I can see planning for about a year if you are giving the pendant at a time previous to when she had started to think seriously about getting married to you, and then breaking it at the right time -- which might be more or less than a year. Don't get to hung up on sticking to your plan exactly here! It will be just fine with her if it's not exactly a year from when she got the necklace.

There are some problems with having the ring in a necklace. The necklace will need to be a much larger size than most women would want to wear daily to provide room for the ring. She won't want to wear it everyday, and might remove it for the gym or swimming. This makes it easy to lose. Hiding the ring yet making it accessible by smashing will be tricky. Wax could hold the ring in place, but might melt in the meantime if it is left somewhere such as a hot car.

The key on a necklace idea seems very romantic to me, and it will be a lot easier to get a piece of jewelry that she will like and wear often. It could even be a charm on the back of a necklace if that doesn't fit in with her personal style so well.
posted by yohko at 10:16 PM on April 15, 2008

1. Buy a lock or a box with a lock. Make sure there are two small keys. In fact, you might want to get one or two extra from a locksmith.
2. Have a jeweller make a pendant for the key or out of one of the keys (leaving it intact). A crafty jeweller could probably get the key to fit into a heart or something, like a puzzle piece. Depends on your budget.
3. When you are ready to propose, go buy the ring.
4. Put ring in box.
5. Give your girlfriend the box.
6. ???
7. Cheer or duck.

This reduces the risk of losing a ring or damaging a pendant. It also reduces the risk of buying an ill-fitting or ill-suited ring that you can't return.

Are you ready to propose now? Obviously not, or you wouldn't be asking this question. So, you can do a few things:

Over the next X months, find someone to make a keepsake box that uses the lock (that matches the mey).
Save up for the ring.
Save up for the proposal. (Depending on what you want to do.)

Those are reasonable reasons to need time to propose.
posted by acoutu at 10:24 PM on April 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

*Key. Oops.
You could also use a small key as a charm or pendant, if you pick the right chain.
posted by acoutu at 10:28 PM on April 15, 2008

i agree with greta simone. i get very sentimentally attached to gifts from S.O.s, particularly if it's jewelry. hell, my boyfriend found a pink plastic quarter-machine bracelet in the street around christmas and gave it to me as a joke, and i'm STILL wearing it! so i personally wouldn't want to smash the necklace, as cool as the idea might be.

also, what would you make the necklace out of that could hold up for a year of probably near-constant wear, and then smash easily?
posted by tugena13 at 10:34 PM on April 15, 2008

Though your specific plan doesn't seem perfect, logistically speaking (what if she doesn't like the necklace, loses it, etc), the spirit of it is wonderful. SassHat's plan (& hopefully parmanparman's) seems like a surer thing. I for one (as a woman, but not the marryin' type) find this idea really exciting.
posted by soviet sleepover at 10:34 PM on April 15, 2008

My plan takes two years, one simple necklace with an elegant key attached, one ring, and 12 antique small chests/boxes.

Year One: Give her the necklace, and say you found it at a market. Apparently, the stall keeper mentioned, it once opened something that has since been lost. It is important to be very coy while at the same time constructing an elaborate mythology about the boxes. Let the story gradually be constructed over the course of the year, culminating in the same day a year later where out of the blue you receive a call that the stall-holder has found the original 12 boxes that go with the key.

Inside one of the boxes/chests is the engagement ring. In the others, various small trinkets to keep her happy and throw her off the scent (gift vouchers, opera tickets, maybe a few expensive things that make her think she has just found the real prize.) Allow her to open one box a month, on the anniversary of the day you gave her the necklace (which I assume would be your anniversary). For the rest of the time, store the boxes safely so she can't open/shake them, etc.

Perhaps you could mix up the boxes, so not even you know which one has the ring. That way it will truly be a thing of fate! She may find it in the 1st opening, or it may take the full 12 months/year. Either way, imagine the thrill that each box opening day will bring.

And when she finally gets to the ring box, pop the question, and have a wonderful story to tell your friends, children, and c.

If you don't want to use this idea I shall make it into a book, with possibly 12 chapters, and become the next Khaled Hosseini. That way, when you decide to do it she will find out that you stole the idea from a book and possibly marry me instead. Seize the original idea while you can!

However, you idea is a bit silly. Engagement-Piñata?
posted by oxford blue at 11:03 PM on April 15, 2008 [11 favorites]

The downside is that it's a buttfuck of a logistical effort she could lose the necklace, or you could break up and you'll never get the ring back.

May I suggest getting a safety deposit box with two keys, and gifting her with something that contains the key, ideally visible but apparently as a piece of art rather than a useful key? That way she'll know about the key but not know about the key, and if things go awry you still have the other key to get the ring out.
posted by davejay at 11:11 PM on April 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

I understand that many people might be pissed about the timespan. Why force her to wait a year? Who wouldn't be annoyed at that.

More importantly, if you hit a diamond sufficiently hard with a hammer, the diamond will become diamond dust. That will suck.

If you need to do this, I think the key idea is the best. That way, if during the year delay you should find that you feel differently, or she should head off with your best friend, you won't be out an engagement ring.
posted by paperzach at 11:18 PM on April 15, 2008

I'm single, but have always vaguely considered doing something similar to this in the far off hypothethical future (depending of course on the personality of the lucky/unlucky girl). I have no direct answers to the scenario you wish to use, but I'll toss out my slightly related scenario to perhaps stymie your creative thought process.

Considering my bachelorhood you should take this with a grain of salt, but the most romantic aspect of the scenario you present doesn't seem to be the actual surprise itself (an expensive ring that was hidden within a necklace - or within the alternatively suggested more easy to keep track of/harder to lose sculpture). To me it is the surprise that you've seriously thought about this for a long time, this isn't a spur of the moment thing, you care enough about her to put in a lot of effort. I really don't think the actual ring is necessary (and you don't have to worry about it being lost/damaged), but conveying the thoughts and feelings that go behind your desire to marry.

I always considered making a paper towle, doing a painting (it'd suck), doing a paint by numbers, having a photo with special meaning, a sketch, personally made cartoon, motto/saying with a special meaning, etc. framed. Writing something on the back of the paper (I've thought about this for a long time, will you marry me, etc.) and having it framed. Part of the proposal (I'm rather big on scavenger hunts) would involve tearing away the brown paper backing of the framed piece to reveal the message inside. I'd really doubt whether it'd make a difference whether there was a ring taped inside vs. a ring in my pocket to present.

Off the top of my head you could probably do tons of other similar things with the same type of idea. A message in:
- a buried time capsule type thing
- writing in fresh concrete
- engraved on the underside of a brick in a park area with a special significance
- could probably dedicate a plaque on a park bench in a special area as long as she's not apt to read it
- hidden (copyrights page?) within a book of special meaning you give to her as a gift
- within something you make her, maybe small writing around the bottom of a pottery plate
- carved into something (roof of a cabin you visited but obviously haven't had time to revisit until the proposal?)

If the necklace you're presenting her is the thing with the special meaning, I'm not sure how you'd go about protecting the ring inside from loss or damage. I'd say that having the ring physically inside the necklace isn't necessary if you can come up with a way for the message behind the ring to be represented within (um, maybe a necklace with an asian theme with the appropriate characters for a proposal?)

(I hope I'm the one handsome man favouriting parmanparman's comment tomorrow. Good luck, and this seems like the kind of thing where you should post a metatalk update on how it went 2+ years from now).
posted by curbstop at 11:26 PM on April 15, 2008

Standard disclaimer--I am not your girlfriend (I hope!), all women are not the same and will not react the same way, yadda yadda yadda...but if this happened to me in the way you've presented it--receive necklace, one year later get instructions from boyfriend to destroy necklace with hammer and find engagement ring inside--I can't help but think I'd be a little weirded out. To a woman, the very act of wearing an engagement ring connotes actually being engaged (even in necklace form--see Carrie's wearing her engagement ring from Aiden as a necklace on Sex and the City). Usually you're supposed to get asked if you want to wear one, and I'd find it creepy if I'd unknowingly been wearing an engagement ring for an entire year without agreeing to it.

It's already been pointed out that logistically, there are so many ways that this plan can go wrong (disastrously so, in some cases) that it's almost definitely not worth doing in the way you've described, but many seem to think that this idea is romantic. I have to disagree. In addition to the symbolism of wearing a ring, there's also the inevitable question she (or her girlfriends) will wonder about: why the wait? Even if you shorten the timeframe from a year, or change it from a ring ensconced in some other material to a key that opens a box where the ring is stored, I still don't get the point of making your girlfriend go through this elaborate waiting game. If you're ready to propose, propose. If you're not ready, don't lay the groundwork for some eventual scavenger hunt type thing far off in the future--because even if she doesn't know now, she will after the eventual proposal. I'm not saying that a little bit of advance planning isn't romantic, but the kind that starts years (or months) in advance just seems...cruel, somehow, even if it's revealed after the fact.
posted by cosmic osmo at 1:40 AM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

I like the idea of putting the ring in a candle. Especially because to make the ring reveal itself you need to spend many romantic evenings together!
posted by wyzewoman at 4:39 AM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do the key idea. It will make a lovely pendant and will give you time to construct the perfect box and find a great ring.
posted by jrichards at 6:42 AM on April 16, 2008

I once dated a guy who gave me a little ceramic sculpture and told me that it was very precious to him, but he wouldn't tell me why. We were in a long distance relationship, and I liked having this thing to look at to remind me of him, even though I was always curious about why it was so important to him. Eventually we broke up, mostly because he had been ready for a while to move toward marriage, and I wasn't even close. At that point he insisted that I return the sculpture. I had grown pretty attached to it, and thought it was really weird that he wanted it back (especially considering the cost of shipping it from my distant location). He was adamant. I was annoyed. It gave an ugly feeling to the end of our relationship, which would otherwise have dissolved quietly due to differing priorities. We might even have stayed friends, if this petty thing hadn't come up. Reading this question, I suddenly wonder whether there might have been something expensive hidden in that sculpture.

The moral of my story is, don't put the ring into her care until you're ready to make her aware of the fact that she's got it. If things don't end up how you expect, it will be ugly.
posted by vytae at 7:09 AM on April 16, 2008 [3 favorites]

Corny? Yes, but so are most of the other things people do with engagements and weddings, and everyone seems to enjoy it. So don't worry about corny unless your girlfriend isn't into to corny stuff. If she gets off on white dresses, wedding planning, and cries at the right moments during romantic movies, she's ok with the corny.

All of the logistical stuff is easily solvable, except for the risk of her swinging that hammer too hard and crushing the ring. So like corny, don't worry too much about the logistics. (Better than a locket, I think, would be giving her a really fantastically ugly vase or box, which she can then smash without the slightest regret. Ring piñata without the symbolism of the locket.)

The real problems here are the wait, and the symbolism. My now-wife would not have been pleased to find out she was unknowingly wearing an engagement ring for a year. But she also would not have been pleased to find out that I knew I wanted to marry her but didn't ask for two years. Are you 110% sure that your girlfriend is on-board with your slooooooow timeline?

I think that there are some conversations you need to have with her before getting out your credit card at the jeweler's. Often, it seems, there is a reliance on overly-elaborate planning as a way of avoiding the actual issue (in this case, the question of getting married). The key here should be the marriage, not the paraphernalia and run-up to it. Don't be like my friend, who delayed getting married for years because he wanted the proposal to be perfect -- he did end up getting married, but there was a lot of unhappiness along the way.
posted by Forktine at 7:11 AM on April 16, 2008

My two cents: it's a really dumb idea. If you think there's a chance you might want to get engaged a year or two from now, you'd be better off talking about that now, not planting secret rings all over the place, like a dog burying a bone. Surprising your spouse with the fact that you were secretly thinking of proposing months or years in advance but were too much of a dickhead to talk about it is not going to contribute to a healthy marriage. Are you going to secretly stash divorce papers someplace, just in case you decide to surprise her someday down the road?
posted by thomas144 at 8:01 AM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Disclaimer: I am a guy and cannot claim to have any idea how your girlfriend would react. You know her better than we do. That said, I think this is a terrible idea for all the reasons that have been mentioned, and I do not find it romantic. (A hammer?) I suggest you set aside your own ideas (presumably those of a geek guy) about what is romantic and cool and devote some serious thought and research to what your girlfriend finds romantic and what she thinks about marriage proposals in general. The subject can come up quite naturally after you see a date movie or a relevant story on TV; just ask casually "hey, what did you think about that guy who [insert "clever" proposal idea]?" DO NOT say "hey, wasn't that supercool?" Don't tell her what you think, just solicit her opinion. You may be surprised; you will certainly get hints about what she would like. And if it turns out what she dreams about is an old-fashioned down-on-one-knee-with-ring proposal, do that. Going into a marriage is not like preparing a science-fair exhibit or a Mythbusters episode. Her reaction should be not "oh my god, that's supercool!" but "Yes!!!" (with floods of tears optional).
posted by languagehat at 9:14 AM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Definitely the key idea. Yes yes yes. Aside from all the problems with the necklace idea that others have mentioned, have you thought about what a pendant big enough to hold a ring would look like? I've thought about it, and it would look like something I would never wear - big and bulky. Heavy and fragile at the same time = bad idea. Also, I sure would be annoyed if my partner gave me a ring and tricked me into wearing it for a year not knowing what it was, just so s/he could have a big reveal at the end. If you are ready to propose now, why wait? If you aren't ready to propose now, don't give her a ring.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:24 AM on April 16, 2008

It sounds like a great story idea (and if I use it, "fair use!" "fair use!"), but real life doesn't always follow a script.

I can think of a number of ways this could go awry. Ignore all the physical pitfalls, though. Can you think of any ways in which your potential life mate *could be* squicked, weirded out, creeped out, or turned off by your cunning plan? That's not nice to do to the person you love and respect the most in the whole world.

[That being said, my story would have the women cracking open the necklace after wearing it for a year and being totally amazed, if a little freaked out. The happy couple gets married. Things go well for a time. Then come the bad years. The husband seems to be a horrible, manipulative, plotting psycho. The wife begins plans to divorce him, only to learn that he has plotted out a similar trick to the necklace/engagement ring years before: Her engagement ring has actually been catalyzing the poison that he's been serially feeding her for years. By taking off the engagement ring for the divorce, she seals her own death. Or something like that. I imagine a clever, long term planning kind of guy like you can come up with a better denouement.]
posted by lothar at 9:35 AM on April 16, 2008

I should have noted that, if you opt for the key, you should find a teeny tiny key, not a great big one.
posted by acoutu at 8:50 PM on April 16, 2008

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