Can you skip it and have NO engagement ring?

Updated Sep 26 2019
arielmstallings

An excerpt from the Offbeat Bride book recently ran on Elle Canada's website. Granted, it was pretty sanitized (I curse a lot in the book — I guess Elle readers aren't as foul-mouthed as I am), but here's the first section of the excerpt:

Not having a ring
Shortly after Andreas and I decided to take the plunge into engagement,
I found myself in my underwear on my regular aesthetician's table, waiting to get my legs waxed.

The aesthetician and I were chatting amicably, and she asked how my boyfriend was, and I said, "Oh, hey! We got engaged!"

"Me too!" the aesthetician squealed, and held out her left hand so that I could see her ring. I, too, reflexively whipped up my left hand beside the aesthetician's, splaying my fingers out happily. (Is this the secret gang sign for engaged women?)

The difference was immediately evident: I was not wearing a ring. I don't really even like rings. Our proposal was a joint decision involving heath insurance. There was no ring.

So why was I holding my hand up like a dumbass? I snatched it back down to my side. "Our engagement was more of a decision than a proposal," I said, and swallowed. "No ring."

A tradition?
As for the diamond ring tradition? It's not a tradition, it's marketing. De Beers kicked off a publicity campaign to establish diamonds as the standard engagement ring in 1938. Clearly the campaign worked, because here we are, seventy years later, still hearing nonstop from Tom Shane, our friend in the diamond business.

Sabrina Dent explained it to me this way: "I feel good about engagement rings as long as they are a token of commitment — and not of status. I worry about our traditional pattern of engagement: Man shoves big rock under woman's nose and says, 'Will you marry me?' A lot of women seem to hear this as, 'Would you like to wear this really big ring and have a huge party?' Why, yes! Yes I would, thank you!"

Simply stated, the diamond industry is creepy (I could write another whole book on that — but it's already been done), and the tradition of having a diamond engagement ring is just marketing. So then how in the hell did I end up with a diamond on my wedding ring?

Making it your own
Andreas and I thought about it a bit, and we decided that we liked the traditional symbolism of rings — I'm pretty dang agnostic, but what faith I have tends to revolve around cycles and circles. It's the shape of raindrops, of our pupils, of planetary orbits. It's also the shape of a hula hoop, and even if I'm not sure about diamonds, I'm definitely sure about hula hoops. As the engagement announcement I placed on my blog should have made clear: I'm big into hula hoops. And what's a ring but a little finger hoop?

In keeping with the rest of our wedding planning, we made the most of what was available to us. I had inherited my grandmother's engagement and wedding rings from her (cough) third marriage. The design made it eminently clear that Grandma had been married in Las Vegas in the late '60s while wearing a muumuu and a stylish wiglet, so we found a local goldsmith to help us redesign the rings.

I wholeheartedly recommend the experience of designing your own rings. Especially for those who like to dance to the beat of their own drum (or kazoo, or double-headed death-metal guitar), there's a deep satisfaction in having hands-on experience in the creation of a piece of jewelry you'll potentially wear every day for the rest of your life.

Symbolize with your own style
Gulp. Sorry to harsh your mellow, but seriously! If you want them to, these rings will symbolize one of the most important decisions of your life — so why not take the time to make them as unique as you and your partner? Our experience of sitting down and working with our goldsmith, David Weinstock, was reassuring and almost therapeutic.

I had to side with Jen Moon when she said, "We couldn't have gone with boring, or picking something from a glass case. We really did have to do our own." She and her fiancé ended up designing rings that were "Alex Grey–inspired, with a DNA strand with a kundalini fire shooting through it." You're not going to find anything like that at the national jewelry chain store at the mall.

And what of diamonds? I hemmed and hawed over including one of the diamonds from my grandmother's original ring in my wedding band. Joriel Foltz sums my feelings up best when she explains her reasons for not wanting a diamond: "De Beers sucks, and we didn't want to wonder whether anyone died for me to have a little bling."

I salved my political concerns with the fact that my grandmother's diamond was antique — my wedding ring wasn't putting any money in the De Beers coffers (or coffins), and the family sentiment was nice.

Ultimately, however, the choice of stone (or whether there will even be a stone — or whether there will even be rings) is up to each bride. It's interesting to note the ways even the most offbeat of us buys into these material longings.

I guess the best advice I can offer is this: If you're going to buy into the concept, at least choose what you want carefully and with intent. If you want something shiny, consider all your options, from diamonds to opals to tinfoil and everything in between.

You can read the rest in the book, and now I want to know:

Who else skipped the engagement ring? Share your story in the comments!

  1. It was definitely an exercise in inner strength and self-assurance not having an engagement ring. I had to consistently remind myself that everyone ELSE was ridiculous — when eyes dart to your hand every time you meet someone you almost feel like you have to explain, and it's so unnecessary. However, now I'm so proud to not be a part of the blood diamond industry, nor did I contribute to the environmental destruction required to mine Canadian diamonds. Be strong, ladies. Don't let the lemmings pull you in!

  2. Yeah, I got a weird perspective on this issue when I was in Vancouver, and some folks from Urban Rush were like "Ooh, the guys here in the studio are real excited about this — is it true that you say people don't need engagement rings?"

    It made me realize just how much icky stuff is tied up with the engagement ring, ie "Hey, fella: HOW MUCH DO YOU LOVE ME?! Prove it with the size of a rock! If you REALLY loved me, you'd spent more."

    These folks were laughing because it was like "Aww yeah: you're saying guys are off the hook for having to prove themselves! You're letting men weasel out and that's AWESOME!"

    I could hardly wrap my head around it at the time … my then-fiance had proven himself to me every day for six years. It's not like no having an engagement ring meant he could be some fucked up lazy slouch … it just meant that despite all my materialism, I'm keenly aware that the ability to buy a ring with a rock doesn't in ANY way relate to your ability to be good partner.

    Anyone can go put a $5k ring on a credit card once. A REAL spouse has to actually come through every single fucking day with love and care and communication and logistics and all the other things that make a functional longterm relationship.

    • Holy crap that is a great perspective!

      I know it is possibly a bit cliche, but ever since Blood Diamond the movie (I really had no idea!!), I have sworn off diamonds, man-made or not (I just simply can't tell).

    • Ahhhh, I get that from people ALL THE TIME and it makes me so frustrated. I have a somewhat traditional bridal set (engagement ring with wedding band), but non-traditional stones and design, so people often look at and comment on it. When they inevitably say, "Wow, that's so unique and cool, how did your husband pick it out?!" I plainly tell them that I bought it myself — after we were married. We were married for almost a year before we got weddinged… and my fancy ring set was my present to myself before the big show. Apparently that equates to my husband not loving me enough, which couldn't be farther from the truth! And I'll take credit for selecting the awesome ring myself, thank you very much.

      And then the next thing they usually say is, "If you picked it yourself, why is it so small?" *headdesk*

  3. I too purposefully avoiding having an engagement ring… not a fan of diamonds, didn't want to spend our money on something that to us was symbolic rather than actually having some function. I have a silver wedding band that is made by a jewellers from Aland the island between sweden and finland which has a family meaning to my husband. My husband has no wedding ring because as he is a baker he uses his hands all night and he didnt want it to get ruined or have to take it off constantly and worry about losing it.

    Have had people make fun of the fact my ring is fairly basic but in all honesty I think my ring has alot more meaning and alot of thought went into buying it… plus no one died for my ring.

    http://www.guldviva.com/store/en/forgat-mig-ej-ring-1079

  4. I agree, the whole engagement ring thing is odd to me. My mother asked my dad for engagement gold earrings back in the 70's. Everyone thought she was crazy, but he insisted on buying her something so she accepted earrings.

    We are using a gorgeous cocktail ring that was my grandmother's. I'm having it spruced up and fixed a bit (it's 50 years old at least) so I can't wear it until the big day. It does have all diamonds on it but I definitely feel better that it is a reused ring. Also, it reminds me of her, so it is very special to me. If I didn't use this ring, I would NOT want my fella to buy a ring that cost more than 500 bucks. I just can't see spending a lot of money on jewelry. I have to say, it was hard to get used to the disappointed faces of people who were sad that I'm not wearing an engagement ring.

  5. Rings have been a thing on my brain off and on since our engagement, and now since the wedding.
    I proposed to my (now) husband — dropped to one knee at my sister's wedding when he caught the garter and presented him with an opal earring. He has had a pierced ear for years, and wore an earring that his parents gave him until our engagement. I didn't wear a ring, and got so much of the "what do you mean he didn't buy you a RING? You mean YOU proposed?" It was a great conversation opener to the "who says that he has to propose, or buy me something? We bought a house instead."

    We've now been married 3 years – and for the last 9 months I've not been able to wear my wedding ring. I lost over 100 lbs, and it simply does not fit. Amazing how often someone's eyes drift to my hand when I mention my husband.

  6. I didn't have an engagement ring, and neither did my spouse. I proposed to him, but he had been planning to propose to me, without a ring. Neither of us regularly wears much (or really ANY) jewelry. At the time, we were both working in the field in construction (I'm now primarily supervising work from the office) and jewelry is (mostly) forbidden for safety reasons. Even still, neither of us wears it much outside of work either. We did buy fairly inexpensive matching ceramic-and-carbon-fiber bands for the wedding ceremony and exchanged them with the lovely words, "As this ring now encirlces your finger, so shall my love forever encircle you." Much to my surprise, I wear mine all the time now. Joe wears his for special occasions (which is sometimes just that it's Sunday).

    I've never gotten much guff about it, but then I think people expect me to be atypical (I'm kind of butch, I kept my last name, I'm a kickass pipe fitter supervisor).

    Also, I know you have a post about how to get your photo to show up with your comments, but I can't seem to find it. Help a gal out?

  7. I never ever got engagement ring. My husband ducktaped the proposal to our baby (dressed baby)… Then when we were picking rings I had three little diamonds put it there in shape of a little (very tiny) heart (white diamonds in red gold ring)… That way, I still have a bling 🙂 and mind you, my kind of bling. Most of the rings other ladies wear I find tacky… I might eventually get something very very old. Or not :-). Nobody ever bothered me with it! Probably because I did never really tell anybody. And when people ask about it I show them bare finger and tell them the story about the emperor and his new dress 😀

  8. I have an engagement ring and a wedding ring. I never wear either of them because I hate wearing jewelry.

    I told Fiance I wanted to use a ring I already had as an engagement ring, but he wanted to buy me one. Since it was important to him, I went with it and told him to get me preferably an emerald, but definitely not a diamond. He found the perfect emerald ring in the sale section at the store he worked at. He showed it to me, I loved it, and boom! ring done.

  9. I didn't have an engagement ring either. But that's because I thought if we're going to spend that much money we buy something I've always wanted but could never afford. So my husband and I took a prewedding honeymoon to Italy. My first time to Europe. I've never regretted it!

  10. I will say that yes..I do have an engagement ring and I loved it so much that when we got married, I didn't want to switch to the cheap titanium matching rings we've got. I just kept my pretty little amethyst ring on. And for some people its the cost too. Believe me, i was over the moon when my husband said he really wanted to get me a ring.

    Its like a symbol, just like many other cultures around the world have. Our culture is so obsessed with rings though…like promise rings, engagement rings, wedding rings, anniversary rings, "mom" rings (the ones with gemstones to represent each child, etc.), graduation rings, etc. I guess a ring of some sort can show occasions in people's lives, or events that are special to them. I mean you can do the same thing with tattoos or piercings, theres a ton of visual ways you can represent your married team-ness. I like the culture of having a ring, its never bothered me, but reading this article efinitely helped me see other sides of the coin I normally wouldn't understand. ^_^

  11. I completely agree with this! My fiancee had a necklace custom made for me in lieu of an engagement ring. The main pendant on the necklace is a design in Circular Gallifreyan, the language of the time lords from Doctor Who, our favorite show and main reason we started talking in the first place. He also put two runes on the necklace. Gyfu, the rune of gifts and generosity, and Wynn, the rune for joy. He put a lot of effort into planning and researching it, and is ended up having so much more meaning and beauty in it than a big block of a diamond.

  12. Well, I like rings and sparkly ones at that, but I 1) did NOT want my fiancé to go into debt 2) did NOT want a diamond. So….we went with moissanite. No debt, no blood/slave work and I have a sparkly token. Obviously, if we hadn't discovered Moissanite, I would have ended up with a simple band and that would have been okay because I love my fiancé more than anything….and I just wanna marry him!

  13. I proposed to my now-husband and didn't offer him an engagement ring, so did not expect one from him! We have inexpensive, matching bands that really represent where we were in our lives at the time we married. I haven't wanted anything else.

  14. We just skipped it! I think my "pre-husband" (as I call him) thought I was bluffing. He kept asking me to just tell him what I wanted. "I seriously don't want it" I replied every single time. It just isn't a NEED. I need him. I love him. Having a ring to post on the internet isn't the point. I want to commit to my partner forever. Finally after a long graduation-commencement-esque speech. He believed me. Now, not only will there not be a ring… but our wedding will be just the two of us! After months of stressing and planning I get to actually be excited about my marriage! BUT baby is still getting her dream dress. She aint no fool. 🙂

  15. Mari and I have promise/pre-engagement costume jewelery-style rings. We actually have both had two…the first ring I gave her was too small, and I lost the first ring she gave me. XD (the band on hers is starting to wear down, actually, so she has to wear it on her middle finger) When we actually formally announce our engagement I think we're going to skip "real" engagement rings. These work just as well.

    Hell we'd probably keep these as our regular wedding rings if I didn't insist on having Claddagh rings.

  16. My beloved chose my engagement ring – a Pandora silver cherry blossom and I love it. I've never been about the bling bling!
    I've had a variety of comments about it including 'how me' it is and whether it was a place holder. I'm not really a jewellery girl but it is perfect. We have just come home from a road trip and we stopped into a couple of antiques stores on the way home to look at wedding rings. Found a gorgeous Garnet and silver ring (shape of a flower) which is perfect. Looking on the internets when I got home saw it is the stone of the month we started dating and garnet represents loyalty and commitment! I'm just going to wear the wedding ring when the time comes – I do like having the symboliness of it all, but am glad that we went down the non-diamond engagement path as it reflects our personalities best 🙂

  17. I had an engagement ring, which was also my wedding band. It's a plain white gold band with a Celtic knotwork design on it. My husband spent FOREVER combing every jewelery store in our city to find something I'd like. I adore rings. They are the jewellery I wear most often, but I'm not a fan of gemstones, and of all gemstones I find diamonds the least appealing. I just think they're really boring. The ring my husband picked was beyond perfect for me. I wore it as an enagagement ring and then at our wedding it became my wedding band. My husband has one that matches with the same pattern. In the end he found a local craftsman who makes Celtic rings out of his basement for the price of materials because he loves doing it. He and his wife were amazing and working with them was really great. And we get relatively inexpensive rings that my husband and I love.

  18. I'm a jeweler and I only wear a simple silver wedding band, no engagment ring. I can't count how many times people have said "but your make jewelry, you could have had anything you wanted?!" When I respond that I never really wanted an engagment ring they usually just get confused. As a jeweler I have spent a lot of time reading about the history of jewelry and the engagment ring was a symbol that I could take or leave. But the history behind the wedding ring and what it symbolizes in my life is something that makes me all teary eyed just thinking about it. It is totally personal preference. For me my silver ring carries so much meaning, so I do have everything that I wanted in a ring.

  19. I don't want an engagement ring because it doesn't feel right to me and my feminist values, which my partner completely understands and supports. However, we'll be getting engaged soon and I'm starting to stress about how to explain my decision to others. The hard part is that since the tradition is so solid, I think that people who want or have an engagement ring will somehow feel implicated in my explanation for not wanting one – no matter how I frame it. I'm especially concerned because I don't have an easy out or redirect for it because we're not using the money for something else.

    I would love some advice for how to explain this decision to family members and others!

  20. Yes I do have an engagement ring my loving husband bought me a very unsightly large ring that looked like a kindergarten was involved in making it.

    A large rock on a band.

    I do believe that jewelry store sales person sold him the ring that they could not sell.

    I love it and wear it every day only because he gave it to me. Otherwise it goes against my complete fashion sense.

    I had recently had http://www.gregoreandjennifer-rabe.com jewellers in Santa Barbara custom make another diamond ring that is more suited to my fashion taste.

    I like color so a yellow diamond is what I picked for myself what better way than to say I love myself.

    Now I wear both.

    I do not get why people complain about the money we spend more on things the loose value and we will get rid of in less than 10 years like a car. I see men buying giant flat screen tv more expensive than the average ring or ATVs or other toys.

    I think the most important is to helping him in picking the ring you like. If he needs it to be a surprise then guide him to the custom jeweller that you have already met and discussed what you like.

    Then take him there when designing a pendant or earrings and let him know that you buy all your jewelry there they know what you like.

    We are all different lets celebrate that!

    Love the article

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