So, it’s time. You think it’s time anyway. How do people know? Do you ever really know? No, they don’t, but this feels as close to knowing as you’re going to get. Yes, it’s time to buy a diamond ring and pop the question.
Fortunately, there are a lot of saving-up-for-a-ring stories and other resources out there to help you determine the right way to go about getting engaged. There are premarital counselors, wedding planners, friends, family members, articles (like this one!) and even a lot of strangers willing to give you unasked for advice. Some of those resources are helpful and some aren’t, but nobody can say there’s not enough of them.
But in this one regard, you’re generally on your own: the ring. It can be an expensive purchase, depending on the kind of rock you’re looking for — for a lot of people, it might one of their very first purchases to veer into four digits. If you’re feeling intimidated, calm down. What you’re feeling is normal. Here’s a simple guide to buying a ring.
Get on the Same Page
There’s obviously a sort of romantic appeal to opening the ring box and having the love of your life gasp in surprise and say “it’s perfect!” If you’ve got a lot of faith in your jewelry assessment skill, you’re welcome to give it a shot. But for the rest of us, this is a conversation worth bringing up ahead of time.
There are lots of different types of diamonds, settings, and bands and you want to make sure you’re both on the same page for something that’s going to be a fixture of your wardrobe for the rest of your life. You’ll hear a lot about the so-called “4 Cs” of diamond quality (cut, clarity, color and carat) but the important thing is that it’s a diamond your (hopeful!) partner wants.
The diamond industry’s dirty secret — which is barely a secret anymore — is that much of it is built on the backs of exploited labor. This exploitation largely depends on buyers’ willingness to look the other way. Now that you’re confronted with the reality of giving a lot of money to a very corrupt industry, it’s a great time to consider alternatives.
Conflict-free diamonds aren’t as plentiful as regular diamonds, but they do come from just working conditions. Likewise, you could go for an uncut diamond — which doesn’t have that sparkle and might not be for everyone, but they do tend to come from more equitable environments and you could buy a couple for each finger for the cost of one cut diamond. You could also ask family about possible heirlooms which, in addition to being free, come ready made with emotional impact. This ring is a symbol of your love, so why not make that symbol something you can be completely proud of?
Determine How You’re Going to Pay
A lot of places will offer layaway plans and there’s always a credit card or, who knows? Maybe you’ve been saving your nickels and can pay for the whole thing on the spot. Whatever it is, the worst thing you can do is not plan for it.
Take an honest assessment of your budget and figure out the best way to make these payments. Oh, you don’t have a budget? Maybe you’ve gotten by for a few years as a single person without one, but if you’re looking to get married, it’s really time to get a budget down. Here’s a tool that can help you figure out a solid one.
Remember That It’s Not About the Ring
A lot of people get so caught up planning their wedding and engagement that they forget to plan the marriage. This is a stressful season, but if you taking the time to really talk to your partner about the life you envision — your goals, your insecurities, where you see yourselves in 10, 20 and even 50 years — will have a tangible impact on the days and months after the wedding. This involves talking about your professional and family goals too, but also goals for your emotional and mental health; what sort of people you want to be spiritually; and your financial realities as well.
Discuss shortcomings in your relationships with your family, be honest about your student loans or other debt, and set a course of vulnerability for the future. Choosing the right ring is important, but not as important as choosing the right future. Get started by taking a look at the first five things newly-engaged couples need.