As a young child, I remember looking at my parents’ wedding photographs and thinking to myself how perfect it all was. Nothing was missing from their special day.
All except one detail: an engagement ring.
Why? My father didn’t give my mother an engagement ring when he proposed, but she married him anyway.
My parents had been seeing each other on and off for a couple of years before my father not-so-casually asked my mother what her ring size was. “Now what would you need that for?,” she said. He admitted he had been ring shopping because he wished to marry her.
My mother is a woman of high standards; if it’s not the best she would rather have nothing at all. She told my father the only ring she would ever accept would look like the one Prince Charles offered Diana, Princess of Wales upon their engagement.
My father wished to treat my mother like royalty, but even imitations of the 12-carat spherical sapphire surrounded by diamonds were way out of his price range. He asked her to marry him anyway, later telling me he was surprised when she said yes.
I sometimes wonder how this situation would play out today because we’re told a man must buy a ring he can rarely afford to show a woman he loves her.The bigger the rock, the more invested he is in the relationship. Men are under similar amounts of pressure as the lump of coal that turned into the diamond everyone expects to be on his beloved’s ring finger.
So many of our hopes and dreams for our romantic relationships cost a significant amount of money. We tell ourselves it’s not really an engagement without a ring. Just like we tend to think it’s not really a wedding without a poofy white dress, tiered cake and tipsy bridesmaids spelling out Y-M-C-A on the dance floor. This viral story of a woman’s $130 engagement ring and her affirmation that “a ring is just a bonus” indicates the tide may be shifting when it comes to overdone engagements and weddings.
My parents’ did not invest in an engagement ring– but they’ve always been invested in each other. Their relationship has always been stronger than their finances. They might not have a lot, but they’ve always been able to provide for each other and their family.
Even though I think I mostly take after my dad, I’ve inherited my wedding dreams from my mother. As I followed the pageantry surrounding Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding plans, my mother noted she was about my age when she became engrossed with the previous royal romance. We both agreed it was only fitting that Prince William offered his wife-to-be the very same ring his famous mother once wore. And just like my mother, I won’t settle for anything less than the perfection that is that sapphire stone.
But if I’m being really honest with myself, I don’t know if I’d leave my house if I possessed something so precious. Having an engagement ring didn’t matter that much to my mom, so it shouldn’t matter that much to me (with the caveat that if it’s important to the man who is proposing, I would be overjoyed to receive his way of showing he loves me).
If there is no engagement ring, and if anyone asks me about why a future fiancé didn’t invest 3 months salary into some jewelry, I’ll respond with the biggest lesson I learned from my parents: Money shouldn’t be an obstacle to getting married, but you should put a (wedding) ring on it.
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