I Don’t Have an Engagement Ring and I’m Not a Loser

Cartier Ring Box

People get worked up about engagement rings. Just last week a coworker announced she was engaged. The first thing other women did? Rush over to scope out the engagement ring. That’s just what people do. Anyway who’s ever contemplated marriage has felt the intense social expectations about “the ring.” So when I tell people I don’t have an engagement ring it wouldn’t surprise me if these thoughts cross their minds:

That my fiance is strapped for cash and couldn’t afford one.
That he doesn’t love or value me enough to spend the money.
That I’m not truly “engaged” without the ring.

Well, I have some news for you: you don’t have to feel sorry for me. Really. All the above thoughts, debunked below:

My fiance could have spent the three month’s salary if we had wanted to.
Even after 3 years, he still waits to hear my footsteps on the stairs so he can greet me at the front door. Every single day.
And we got married last month (surprise!), so I’d say our engagement was legit.

So if it’s not about a lack of money or love, then why did we decide to nix the ring?

To be clear:
This isn’t a moral argument about blood diamonds.
Or about how the DeBeers campaign has tricked us all.
Or about how you could buy something “better,” like a sweet honeymoon or a house down payment.

You’ve heard all that stuff before.

No, our decision was ultimately about values.

But society has this way of making you (at least temporarily) forget your values.

I know this. Because it happened to me, too.

I Went Through the Usual Motions

Late last year my husband and I decided we wanted to get hitched–yay! A natural planner, I quickly moved on to the next “automatic” item on the checklist: the engagement ring.

We agreed on a $3,000 budget, and just like when I’m planning vacations, I flew into research mode. Clad in sweatpants and wedged in my bed, I scoured so many articles about the best way to judge a diamond, I bet I could pass as an amateur gemologist.

Over a month passed. Eight store visits. Still no ring.

It wasn’t for lack of trying. There was no stone left unturned. We trekked over to Williamsburg to try on the best of the indie designer rings, to Barneys for fashion-forward styles, and even threw in a few vintage shops for good measure. At home I went onto the James Allen and Blue Nile sites and played with the different filters to “design” my very own ring. Nothing felt right.

But it was just a matter of time. When I had the right ring, I’d know it, I told myself.

And then there was Tiffany. Can anyone ever talk about engagement rings without mentioning Tiffany?

At work, I’d browse online vintage jewelry stores at lunchtime, and one day came across a truly vintage Tiffany solitaire from the late 1800s. It was exactly what I wanted. It had the history, the glamour, and since I’m practical, could hold its value better than all the other rings I saw.

But I couldn’t pull the trigger. It still seemed too expensive.

But why? If it’s something I’ll wear forever, isn’t $3,000 a bargain? And if it wasn’t Tiffany, then what?

Nothing Gave Me The Feels

All the rings I tried on were beautiful. They all sparkled like crazy. But none of them made me feel anything. What’s up with that?

For the first time in the engagement process, I started to ask myself some questions.

So wait, if something doesn’t make me feel anything, then do I really have to spend thousands of dollars on said thing?

Wait–do I even LIKE jewelry?

And when something feels “too expensive”, maybe it really means that you don’t value it. It’s kind of like how you’d go nuts if I told you I spent $275 on a pair of Helmut Lang jeans*. That’s because you don’t value clothes the same way I do. My values aren’t any better or worse than yours, but just different.
*Yeah, I totally have and I don’t regret it.

I felt cheated by the wedding industry. Nobody told me I could resist or question it. In fact, I didn’t even know that not having an engagement ring was an option.

But the more I questioned myself, the more empowered I felt, and then the path forward suddenly became more clear.

You Don’t Have to Be a “Ring Person” and That’s OK

Every ring I tried on failed to make my heart skip a beat. Because if you’re going to spend thousands of dollars on something, heart skipping should be a requirement. I had to be realistic about who I was: I hardly wear any jewelry, so does it make sense for me to now wear a super-fancy piece every single day, for the rest of my life?

You can be a person who enjoys beautiful things, and doesn’t find meaning or value in rings. If you showed me a Cartier Tank watch or a vintage Rolex there would be maximum heart skippage. Jewelry? Not so much.

I Can’t Be Trusted with Tiny, Expensive Things

I also thought maybe I needed to get used to wearing a ring. As a test, I started wearing a cheap brass ring I found in my jewelry box. At work, I’d take it off and stuff it in my pocket to wash my hands, often forgetting to put it back on. At home, I’d lost track of it twice in a week. No matter where I was, I worried about it constantly: losing it down the bathroom drain, clouding it with soap residue, scraping it on the subway poles. Taking care of the $3000 worth of merchandise on my hand started to feel like it might be a part-time job.

I Focused on What I Did Care About

There’s only one ring you need to signify you’re taken, and that’s the wedding band. We tabled the engagement ring search and started looking for wedding bands.

Leaving Cartier one day, I told my husband that I’d be OK with no engagement ring. He asked me if I was sure. I nodded. Letting go of the engagement ring had a nifty byproduct: we could go all out on the wedding band. I chose a Cartier Trinity ring–three rings in one. But you know me, I hardly ever buy anything new, so we bought it from Portero for less than $600. It came in perfect condition and no one could ever tell it’s used.

But I’m Not Naive

In a perfect world, no one would ever judge you for not having an engagement ring. But I’m firmly planted in the real world. So I bought a $50 cubic zirconia ring off Etsy to wear to vendor appointments. Because let’s face it: vendors will see your ring or lack thereof and then form an opinion. And then treat you a certain way. Guys, I even upgraded myself to a whole carat, because for $50, why not?

Cubic Zirconia Solitaire Ring from Etsy
My $50 cubic zirconia ring from Etsy.

Final Thoughts

Call me unromantic, call me overly practical, but to me, spending based on your values is always a win-win situation. Some people look at their engagement rings and feel a swell of happiness, and that’s awesome. But some people don’t. So before you pull the trigger, it’s worth a second thought: do I want this ring because I’m supposed to or because I actually value it? Know who you are and spend accordingly. And if the societal pressure gets to be too much, $50 knockoffs will do just fine.

What was your engagement ring experience? With or without one, do you regret it?

Image: The Luxe Strategist

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