Only 1 in 4 men involves their significant other in buying an engagement ring.
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Buying an engagement ring is not the time to forever hold your peace.
The average price of the betrothal bauble hit an eye-watering $6,351 last year, a 25% increase from 2011, according to The Knot’s 2017 Jewelry & Engagement Study that surveyed 14,000 engaged couples and newlyweds. The Wedding Report, a wedding industry research company, puts the average cost at closer to $3,400, which is still enough to rock a couple’s finances. The numbers dip slightly for gay couples. Men spend $2,226 on average, and women spend $3,185, according to The Knot’s 2017 LGBTQ Weddings Study, which also found women (86%) were more likely than men (60%) to exchange engagement rings during the proposal.
Yet only one in four men gets their partner involved in choosing the ring, according to a report highlighting heterosexual couples released by online engagement ring boutique Engage Studio on Thursday — even though nearly one in three women (30%) said they want to help pick it out. The Knot found just one in three couples shop for the ring together.
These suitors should listen to their significant others for several reasons: Just one in six think they know what kind of ring their partner wants, and only 17% even know their partner’s ring size. No wonder a 2013 David’s Bridal survey found that 57% of brides weren’t satisfied with their rings.
But the biggest reason that both of you need to be candid about your engagement expectations is because this sets a financial precedent for your entire marriage. While 70% of men told The Knot they’re still shouldering the cost of the engagement ring alone, marrying the ring buyer means you’re inheriting their debt. “Wedding planning in general stands for so much more than it actually is … how you plan together and problem-solve together in the days leading up to it says so much about the relationship,” The Knot’s style and planning editor Alyssa Longobucco told Moneyish.
“So the conversation about financing the ring now can dictate how your partner might handle finances for the rest of your lives,” she added. “If they’re secretive and cagey about it, that doesn’t bode well. But if you lay everything out on the table, years from now when you’re buying a car together, or buying a house together, it’s not going to seem so overwhelming because you’ve already planted the seeds of those conversations.”
Paul, a 35-year-old who asked to withhold his last name, said he and his husband disclosed their debt and financial history before getting engaged so that they could tackle it together. “People have to be smarter at these things,” he said, imagining this conversation down the road: “Why do you have so much debt?” “Part of it is your ring …”
“So when we felt that the time was right, we both went out to pick out engagement rings, and proposed to one another,” he told Moneyish.
Some people are enamored with the idea of a traditional surprise proposal, so they avoid discussing ring details. But you can put your heads together to pick out a ring that suits the wearer while staying within a budget — and without killing the romance. Here’s how:
Ask the recipient how involved he or she wants to be in picking the ring. When you’re having conversations about your future together, Longobucco suggests saying, “How do you see this engagement playing out? Do you want to be surprised by the ring and the proposal? What is important to you?” Kelsey Bowen, 26, said she and her beau had “the ring conversation” months before he proposed in April. “The engagement was still a surprise! He did a good job of convincing me that we’d wait longer to do it, so I wasn’t expecting it so soon,” she told Moneyish. “This conversation won’t kill the romance; an engagement ring is a big expense, and you’re just being practical.”
Set a price range you’re both comfortable with. “The ‘rule’ of a man or woman spending three months of their salary on the engagement ring is bogus. A couple should always stick within a budget that feels comfortable for them,” said Longobucco. She suggests opening the conversation with something like, “I love you so much, and I want to be able to give you the world. I’m comfortable spending x-amount of dollars. Let’s figure out together what we can get that’s beautiful at that price point.”
Browse or “pre-shop” for rings together. This doesn’t mean that you have to pick out the ring together, but you should pin down some essential details (ring size, carat size, cut, color) before one person plunks down a few grand. “Now is not the time to remain coy and say, ‘Whatever you think looks like me, honey,’” said Longobucco. If the recipient wants to be involved, you can look at rings together online, or go into jewelers to try some on and see what looks the most flattering. And if they want to be surprised, get some details (“I’ve always wanted a princess-cut diamond” or “I don’t like yellow gold bands”).
If the recipient is asking for something you can’t afford: Longobucco suggests saying something like, “Honey, I would love to be able to buy this for you, but I don’t feel comfortable spending this much money — especially because I know we are going to have to contribute to the wedding ourselves. Let’s pick out something in our price range now, and we can add onto it for our five- or 10-year anniversary.” Or they can offer to help pay for the ring of their dreams. “You can say, ‘I’ve always imagined myself wearing a two-carat, emerald-cut diamond. That might be a little out of our price range, so let’s shop together, and if I see something that I fall in love with, I’m happy to contribute,’” Longobucco said.
If you receive a ring you’re not in love with: Be as diplomatic and straightforward as possible. Longobucco suggests, “I’m so thrilled to be spending the rest of my life with you, but I have to admit that this ring isn’t exactly what I pictured. Do you think we could try and come up with a solution together? I want to love it as much as you and I value our relationship.” Exchanging the ring for a different style at a comparable price may be possible. If not, ask a jeweler or look online to see if there’s a wedding band that you or your partner can eventually pair with the ring to make it more like the style you originally had in mind.
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