Advice by Michael J. Coren
Advice by Michael J. Coren
April 18, 2023 at 6:30 a.m. EDT
Last June, Nivi Achanta walked into a Seattle shop to celebrate her engagement. For most of her life, she had imagined slipping a diamond ring onto her left hand to mark the occasion. She had even sent her boyfriend of five years an Instagram-worthy montage of fairy-tale scenes, inspiration for a wedding to which her parents planned to invite hundreds of guests.
So her friends and family were a bit surprised when she pedaled home on the Avail AR 1, an iridescent purple endurance bike “ideal for venturing further and riding longer.” Her friends mostly embraced the engagement bike, while “my parents are taking it … not amazingly,” she says. “But they’ve become more supportive of who I am.”
Who she is, Achanta realized, is someone happier riding an engagement bike than wearing a diamond ring — putting her at odds with an estimated 85 percent of brides in the United States.
The bicycle kicked off a reevaluation of how she and her fiance wanted to spend money as a couple. A new wedding gown was the first thing to go. Over fierce family resistance, she bought a secondhand dress. Then the couple dropped wedding favors. Instead of doing a wedding cake, she asked a local Black-owned business to cater a dessert table for the party this summer.
With the money she saved, she’s renting an Airbnb for the wedding party to stay together over four days. Extra food is going home with guests, and the rest will be composted.
“We just both realized all the things we think we want were just informed by what other people want, not what we actually wanted to do,” says the former management consultant at Accenture, who now runs the Soapbox Project, an online community for people tackling social and environmental projects. “We reprioritized and focused on what we want out of life.”
The engagement bike set her on a path to question the assumptions of what she “should” buy and focus on what makes her happy.
It’s not a chance most of us get too often, overwhelmed by daily life and expectations amped up by social media. Planning a wedding might not be on your horizon, but there are other occasions — a birthday, graduation, homecoming — that might prompt a rethink of tradition to suss out what is meaningful and what needlessly increases our consumption — and environmental impact. You may discover something more precious than a diamond.
The meaning of an engagement ring
Few things inspire more spending than the “traditional” wedding. By various estimates, the average wedding in the United States now costs about $30,000 — a figure that obscures some very, very expensive nuptials — and the median is closer to $14,000, according to the Wedding Report, a market research firm.
Couples have also begun spending more time and money than ever on the proposal, splashing out on items like lighting and decor, and even hiring pros to help them pop the question, says The Knot, a wedding planning site and marketplace. And, of course, there’s the engagement ring, perhaps the most recent, and engineered, tradition of all.
It’s true the engagement ring is one of society’s oldest rituals. In ancient Egypt, rings were placed on the left hand of a bride-to-be, encircling what they believed, erroneously, to be a vein flowing directly from the finger to the heart. Ancient Romans and European nobility adhered to similar customs, sometimes insetting precious jewels, a visible sign of wealth.
But as late as World War II, only about 10 percent of engagement rings in Western countries featured diamonds. In the 1930s, the De Beers Group, one of the world’s largest diamond mining companies, launched a marketing campaign, “A Diamond is Forever,” that remade the diamond into America’s symbol of commitment.
The now oft-cited “rule” that grooms should spend at least two months’ salary on their bride’s engagement rings was the product of a second De Beers campaign featuring the slogan “Isn’t two months’ salary a small price to pay for something that lasts forever?” Today, the price of the typical engagement ring ranges from $2,000 to $6,000.
“Wedding industry advertising has fueled the norm that spending large amounts on the engagement ring and wedding is an indication of commitment or is helpful for a marriage to be successful,” says Hugo Mialon, a professor of economics at Emory University in Atlanta. “But we find that they are inversely correlated.”
What a diamond ring buys you
Mialon’s 2015 study in the journal Economic Inquiry polled about 3,000 married people on the cost of their weddings. The survey, which used an opt-in online sample as opposed to a random sample, sought to see if spending was linked to the survival of the marriage.
The news was not good — at least for De Beers.
With some important caveats, the more money couples spent, the likelier their marriage was to end. For women married since 2008, weddings that cost more than $20,000 were 3.5 times more likely to end in divorce compared to those that cost between $5,000 and $10,000. Similarly, men who spent between $2,000 and $4,000 on engagement rings were 1.3 times more likely to divorce than those who spent between $500 and $2,000.
Mialon couldn’t prove what caused this correlation. Spending itself wasn’t the problem. Splurging on honeymoons, regardless of cost, wasn’t correlated with lower divorce rates. Nor were high personal incomes. And spending below the bare minimum, around $1,000, did nothing for marital prospects.
But the way couples spent their money appeared to correlate with the success of their marriage. Couples who spent it on things that brought people together, such as a honeymoon or modest yet well-attended ceremony, fared better than those who bought expensive objects such as rings, on average.
Should you buy an engagement bike?
I’m not advising anyone to ditch engagement rings, or other purchases tied to milestone events such as buying a car for a new graduate.
There is a reason humans mark special occasions with certain traditions. “Rituals give us a feeling of going beyond the ordinary — of having a moment that transcends that, turning events into something special and meaningful,” says social psychologist Shira Gabriel at the University of Buffalo in New York. They can also be personally meaningful or useful.
But if happiness or a long marriage is what you’re after, it’s worth asking if the objects embedded in our rituals are special to you — or special to a mining corporation with excellent marketing.
It’s not easy. Eschewing a tradition, however contrived, means telling your parents, friends and the world that you’re rejecting something they hold dear. It takes serious thought, even courage, if you’re the only one. But you may not be.
When Achanta walked into Montlake Bicycle Shop last year to select her engagement bike, she was surprised to find out she wasn’t the first to have the idea. The co-owner of the shop, Gary TeGantvoort, had just bought an engagement bike for his fiancee, Chaya Rothschild.
Rothschild hadn’t been a bicyclist when she met TeGantvoort before embarking on her own summer bike adventure in 2019. But the activity quickly became a core part of their lives together. Today, the forest green bike with a custom steel frame continues to give back every time she rides it, she says.
“The engagement bike was just an expression of all the things we both cared about, with the added element of being intentional and practical about how we spend money as a couple,” says Rothschild. “It’s not the popular or mainstream way of doing things, but it’s been the most rewarding for us.”
Be forewarned: If you do pick an engagement bicycle over a diamond ring, it might not stop there.
For Achanta, abandoning the idea of a ring was like pulling out a Jenga block that caused a lot of other blocks to tumble. It revealed what was worth spending money on, she says, at least for her. “None of this feels like a sacrifice to me,” she says of her wedding choices.
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The engagement ring stands for the promise of marriage, it symbolises devotion and commitment to the beloved partner. The shape of the ring already indicates its meaning: it is circular - without beginning and end - and thus it has become a universal sign of eternal love and faithfulness, perfection and infinity.Where did the engagement ring tradition come from? ›
Anthropologists believe this tradition originated from a Roman custom in which wives wore rings attached to small keys, indicating their husbands' ownership. In 1477, Archduke Maximillian of Austria commissioned the very first diamond engagement ring on record for his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy.Is there a difference between engagement and wedding rings? ›
Are engagement rings and wedding rings different? Yes, they are different as engagement rings are given at the time of a proposal, while wedding rings are exchanged at the wedding ceremony. Engagement ring styles tend to be more intricate as well, such as one featuring a center diamond or gemstone.What is the right hand for engagement ring? ›
In many Western countries, the tradition of wearing an engagement ring on the fourth finger on the left hand, (the left ring finger on the ring finger guide below), can be traced back to the Ancient Romans. They believed this finger had a vein that ran directly to the heart, the Vena Amoris, meaning 'vein of love'.When a woman proposes to a man who gets the ring? ›
The person who receives the proposal usually gets a ring to wear. It would be a nice gesture for both people to wear a ring, but I don't think it's expected.Why is engagement ring important in a relationship? ›
An engagement ring serves as a constant reminder of the love and commitment shared between the couple, and its sentimental value increases over time as they build a life together. It is a cherished piece of jewelry that represents the couple's journey, and is a symbol of their love and commitment to each other.What are the benefits of wearing an engagement ring? ›
The symbol for eternity and completion is the circle, and that is why an engagement ring is important. It represents a commitment to a lifelong promise of caring, laughter and love with someone important.Who wears the engagement ring first? ›
One choice is to wear your engagement ring first, with the wedding band on top. Logically, it might make sense to wear your rings in the order you received them. Symbolically, the idea that your engagement represents a promise and your wedding ring crystallizes that promise might really speak to you.What to get a man instead of an engagement ring? ›
- A Ring of His Own. ...
- An Engraved Tie Clip. ...
- Personalized Travel Accessories. ...
- An Initialed Decanter. ...
- Custom Coasters. ...
- "Our Song" Vinyl Wall Art. ...
- A Picnic with His Favorites. ...
- Cuff Links or a Watch.
Another term used for rings women purchase themselves is the 'non-engagement ring. ' Women are celebrating singledom and self love more than ever before. A non-engagement ring may feature a diamond or birthstone, and can be worn on any finger.
The engagement ring represents the promise to get married, the wedding band represents the actual union and the third ring represents another large milestone for couples. The third ring is given after one of two events: an anniversary or the birth of a couple's first child.Why is engagement ring more expensive than wedding ring? ›
In general, engagement rings are bigger and flashier than their wedding ring counterpart. They typically feature a larger center stone (often, a diamond), and are characterized, for many, by their bling factor. Thus, the engagement ring is generally the more expensive of the two rings.Why do you not wear your engagement ring on your wedding day? ›
Since the wedding band traditionally goes first on the finger, you'll want to remove the engagement ring during the ceremony to avoid any awkwardness. Since many brides and grooms want the chance to show off their wedding and engagement rings together, wearing it during the reception only is a desirable option.Do you wear your engagement ring down the aisle? ›
Traditional Ring Etiquette
Traditional etiquette would require the bride to wear her engagement ring on her right ring finger to walk down the aisle. During the exchanging of the rings, the groom would place the wedding band on the bride's left finger.
While many couples believe you should always wear your ring, it really is up to personal preference, and you won't know how your partner feels about it until you ask.Do you wear your engagement ring everyday? ›
In general it's perfectly safe to wear your engagement ring every day. However, if you are doing any kind of rough work such as cleaning or gardening, sports or the gym. It's not advised to wear your rings in bed as the diamonds may loosen or catch on bedclothes and remove before showering.Who should propose first? ›
When it comes to marriage proposals one survey says 95% of proposals are made by men, which follows the tradition that men should make the first move in all stages of a relationship ie they should ask for the first date, they should express their intentions to progress the relationship to the next phases of seeing each ...How do men feel about being proposed to? ›
Our first survey question was, “How would you feel if your girlfriend proposed to you?” Overall, 60.79% of men reported that they'd be thrilled!How long do men wait to propose after buying ring? ›
Most men will propose a month to 6 months after getting the ring. It's closer to 3 months. But sometimes, he might be waiting to propose because he was waiting for that special day to come around.Do couples usually pick out engagement rings together? ›
Definitely. In fact, 62 percent of couples now go engagement ring shopping together. If you don't feel comfortable doing so, be sure to communicate those feelings to your S.O. Simply tell them that you don't want to do a joint shopping trip because you think it's more romantic to be surprised.
It Really is Up To You
In conclusion, when it comes to deciding whether or not you should see your engagement ring or wear it before your partner has proposed, the decision should be based on what feels right to you.
Typically, we'd recommend waiting for at least six months before you give or receive a promise ring. Whenever you are ready to exchange these, be very clear about the ring's purpose and whether you're ready to uphold the promise that has just been made.How much is the average engagement ring? ›
While $6,000 is the national average cost of a ring, the spend per couple varies. Our study found that roughly one-third of all respondents are spending between $1,000 to $4,000 on their engagement ring. In fact, 8% of ring shoppers are spending under $1,000.Who buys the man's wedding ring? ›
Tradition has it that each person pays for the other person's ring. So in a traditional wedding, the groom or his family would pay for the bride's ring, and the bride or her family would pay for the groom's ring.Does it matter how much you spend on an engagement ring? ›
There's no one-size-fits-all formula. How much you spend on an engagement ring is a very personal decision. Experts say you should consider your current and predicted income, expenses, and savings, then establish a budget and stick to it.Why do Europeans wear wedding ring on right hand? ›
The Romans, who introduced the world to the principle of marriage proposals, believed that the left hand was untrustworthy and unholy. Therefore, they used to wear their wedding rings on their right hand. The right hand is a symbol of trust, loyalty, and honor. All characters you want in a marriage.Who wears wedding ring on right hand? ›
"Today, wedding rings are most commonly worn on the fourth finger of the left hand. But some countries including India, Germany, Spain, Norway, and Russia traditionally wear their wedding rings on their right hand." Overall, it seems cultural traditions and norms set the standard for this custom.Who owns the engagement ring? ›
Courts have ruled that engagement rings are conditional gifts, typically made by the husband-to-be to his fiancee. If the parties marry, then “the condition has been met,” and it becomes a “completed gift.” Therefore, the wife gets to keep the engagement ring as it is her non-marital property.How much should a guy pay for an engagement ring? ›
General Rule: You should spend at least 2 months salary on the engagement ring. If, for example, you are making $60,000 per year, you should spend $10,000 on the engagement ring.Do men pay for their own engagement ring? ›
When it comes to who pays for the wedding or the engagement ring, there's no hard and fast rule that “the proposer” needs to shell out all the money. In fact, more and more, couples are choosing to buy engagement rings and wedding bands together or consider it a team purchase.
Rule #1: Three Months' Salary
According to an expert-fuelled report on Brides.com, the purchaser should spend about three full months' salary on the ring. This is more a rule of thumb, however, and if the person buying the ring is “heavily in debt or concerned about job security,” they might want to scale back a bit.
It's where someone posts a picture of their sparkler — usually a diamond engagement ring — and everyone piles on to roast the unfortunate jewelry. There's at least one large Facebook group dedicated to the concept: “That's it, I'm ring shaming.”Is it OK to buy your own engagement ring? ›
The engagement ring is a symbol of love that will identify you, a promise of a future together and a piece of jewelry that you will wear for a long time. There is nothing wrong with taking matters into your own hands if it is within your means, just as there would be with the wedding dress or any other similar detail.What does it mean if a woman wears a ring on her little finger? ›
It symbolises intelligence, intuition and persuasion. Wearing a stone such as moonstone, amber or citrine on the pinky finger is said to enable the power of Mercury.
Eternity rings are traditionally the third piece of your bridal ring set.How long before you get an eternity ring? ›
So in keeping tradition, the traditional anniversary to give a diamond eternity ring would be their 60th anniversary.Which ring goes closest to your heart? ›
A: Conventionally, couples wear the wedding band “closest to their heart”, meaning the wedding band is stacked below the engagement ring on the left ring finger. However, some people like to wear their wedding band on top of their engagement ring as a way to secure it on the finger.Is a 2000 dollar engagement ring cheap? ›
No, a $2,000 engagement ring is not cheap, and can be quite stunning. The quality of your ring depends on the diamond's cut and your setting, along with which vendor you choose. You can find high-quality budget diamond engagement rings through online vendors like Blue Nile and James Allen.Is it better to get a bigger or smaller engagement ring? ›
Remember, it's definitely better to size a ring up if you're unsure. A ring that's too large is easier to adjust than a ring that's too small. No ring will be perfect but strive for the best fitting ring that you can. The closer you can get to your accurate size, the better off you'll be.What is the most expensive part of an engagement ring? ›
Diamonds are the most expensive part of an engagement ring, so you can save major dough by using a diamond alternative as the center stone. “Consider a white sapphire, which is hard enough to withstand daily wear and has a similar color,” says Gandia.
Move the Ring
Traditionally, the wedding band goes first on the finger so it's closest to the heart. To ensure the proper position, some brides temporarily move their engagement ring to their right hand. Then, after the nuptials, they return the ring to their left hand over the wedding band.
Once you're married, tradition dictates that your engagement band be moved back to the third finger on your left hand. When you do so, your wedding ring should remain closest to your heart (where your spouse placed it on your wedding day) and your engagement ring is placed next to the wedding ring.Who puts ring on first in wedding? ›
Traditionally, the groom goes first in the exchange of rings. Although most couples choose to follow tradition, there's no rule that says you can't switch things up. If one of you is more comfortable than the other in front of an audience, then you might want that person to go first, so the other will be less nervous.How long should you stay engaged? ›
While research shows the average length of engagement for most couples in the United States is between 12-18 months, you shouldn't let this influence your decision. Some couples have shorter engagements and others wait closer to two years before tying the knot.Where should I put my ring if I'm engaged? ›
In many Western countries, the tradition of wearing an engagement ring on the fourth finger on the left hand, (the left ring finger on the ring finger guide below), can be traced back to the Ancient Romans. They believed this finger had a vein that ran directly to the heart, the Vena Amoris, meaning 'vein of love'.What cultures do not wear wedding rings? ›
Many Chinese put the ring away to protect it, except for important holidays, such as anniversaries. In Chinese tradition, higher status for men was signified by having several young female partners or concubines. A ring denies that status. For this reason, many modern Chinese men do not wear a wedding ring.Where do you put your wedding ring when you don't wear it? ›
A Jewelry Box
One of the most secure places to store a diamond ring is a jewelry box. That way, you will always know where it is, making sure it's safe when it's not on your finger. Just make sure the jewelry box is fabric-lined and the inside isn't made from a material that can scratch your jewelry.
When washing your hands with gentle soap and warm water your engagement ring is totally fine; no need to stress about taking it on and off. You should definitely be taking your engagement ring off to apply hand sanitizer, however.How tight or loose Should a ring be? ›
However, a good rule of thumb is that a ring should be tight enough that it doesn't easily fall off but loose enough that you can still comfortably move your finger. If you are struggling to move your fingers, then it's likely too tight. On the other hand, if the ring feels like it is going to fall off, it's too loose.Do diamonds ever lose their sparkle? ›
Despite its ruggedness, diamond can lose its sparkle with oil or dust deposited on it. To maintain the sparkling of this indestructible gemstone is a tough job, but a possible one!
- A particularly sad or stressful time for your partner. ...
- While celebrating someone else. ...
- During a work-related event. ...
- In the middle of or right after a fight. ...
- When he or she is distracted.
This might not come as a shock, but there's no exact timeline for when you should get engaged. You may hear some "love at first sight" couples say you can get engaged after a few days, while experts may say wait three to six months.Do men act different before proposing? ›
When he's going to propose, your man might start to act just a little weird. One of the biggest signs that he is going to propose is a change in his general attitude. He'll go out of his way to tell you how much he loves you. He's hoping you'll do the same; he's looking for confirmation that the time is right.How do guys act when they want to marry you? ›
He Shares His Future Plans With You
Whether it is tailoring his decisions based on your goals or considering you before making major life decisions, he has you and your life together on his mind. If he frequently uses 'we' more than 'me,' it is clear that he wants to marry you.
The truth of the matter is that there is no right or wrong length of time to wait to get engaged. Some couples wait six years before making it official, while others date for just six months—it all depends on your unique circumstances.Can a man demand an engagement ring back? ›
If the receiver breaks off the engagement, he can ask for the ring back. Most states, however, view an engagement ring as a semi-contract, or a “conditional gift.” In this view, the ring is given with the understanding that the couple will get married in the future and symbolizes a verbal contract.What is a engagement ring mean from a boyfriend? ›
Whilst the meaning of promise rings and eternity rings is similar, the main difference is when they are given and who they are given by. Engagement rings on the other hand are a sign that a couple is actively planning to marry, and their nuptials are imminent.What does an engagement ring symbolize in the Bible? ›
For Christians, the ring was a symbol of the marriage covenant, so it did not seek to be showy and elegant. On the contrary, it was only limited to demonstrate the union and love between a man and a woman.Why is the engagement ring always a diamond? ›
Diamonds were the original gemstone used in an engagements ring, and once they were discovered in abundance in South Africa, they were marketed by the diamond company as “The” engagement stone one should have. The Great Depression slowed things down a bit, but it picked right back up once the economy strengthened.Do men want an engagement ring? ›
No matter the traditions of engagement rings, modern times are fully embracing the practice of men receiving and wearing engagement rings with all the level of individuality and personal meaning engagement rings are known to carry.
General Rule: You should spend at least 2 months salary on the engagement ring. If, for example, you are making $60,000 per year, you should spend $10,000 on the engagement ring.Why do you wear an engagement ring on your third finger? ›
However, regardless of where the tradition comes from, the sentiment behind it remains the same: a wedding ring is a symbol of love and commitment, and wearing it on the third finger of the left hand is a way of keeping that love and commitment close to the heart.What does it mean when your husband stops wearing his wedding ring? ›
Him not wearing it usually means something other than a lack of commitment. Some men have occupations and hobbies that would make the ring uncomfortable and possibly even dangerous. Add to this that most men are quite active and fear losing it.Which finger do Christians wear engagement ring? ›
For example, Christians tend to wear the engagement ring on the left ring finger and the wedding band on the right, while Jewish wear the wedding ring on the left hand.Why do engagement rings have 3 stones? ›
Traditionally, the three stones in a three stone ring tell the story of a couple's past, present, and future together. The ring's center stone, usually the largest in the trio, symbolizes the couple's present, while the ring's side stones represent their past and future.