5 Good Reasons to Propose Before you Shop for an Engagement Ring

by Jennifer Cram - Brisbane Marriage Celebrant © (17/12/2020)
Categories: | Wedding Traditions | Proposing |
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Two gold wedding rings on a heart-shaped
                    shortbread biscuitProposal season is hotting up. Apparently about 40% of proposals happen between Christmas and Valentine's Day. Proposal stories, and ring photos are starting to fill Social Media. So, if you've fallen in love (lucky you), and have decided to pop the question, you might be feeling the pressure, and particularly the pressure to propose while holding out the perfect ring.  Actually, proposing with a ring you have chosen without input from your best-beloved is a very new "tradition", and like all traditions, not a law. Previous generations believed that a bouquet of 108 red roses, in the language of flowers, meant "Will you marry me".  But before you order 108 red roses, think about how overwhelming the fragrance of that many roses will be. Trust me, I know from personal experience that the only way to cope is to put them outside, particularly at night. You'll also need a trolley to move them.

Here are some very good reasons to propose before you shop for an engagement ring.

Proposing without an engagement ring takes the pressure off you


If you've never bought expensive jewellery before, making such a significant jewellery purchase can be stressful. When there is a whole lot to be aware of about quality of gems, styles, types of settings, and the characteristics of different precious metals, the pressure is exponentially increased. If you add to all of that that perhaps not being sure about what is good value for money, let alone what you best beloved would like or not like, or even if they would even want a ring (some people don't), leaving the way open to go ring shopping as a couple starts to feel like a very good idea.

Proposing with an engagement ring can feel presumptuous

Going ahead and choosing a ring that your best beloved will be expected to wear for the rest of their life can be interpreted to the assumption that the answer will be yes. Which is pretty much the same as taking them for granted. A big no-no in relationships. It also puts pressure on your best beloved to pretend they love it even if it is not to their taste. On the other hand, proposing with an empty ring box and a request to choose one with you, is beautiful.

Proposing without an engagement ring enhances spontaneity

Remember that iconic line from the movie When Harry Met Sally?
"when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody,
you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible"
He certainly didn't put it off until he'd had time to go shopping for a ring! Many of my couples have told me stories about significant delays caused by not having a ring, or not having the ring with them when the ideal "spontaneous" moment presented itself.

Proposing with a ring could make your intended feel obliged to say yes

If you've followed the De Beers formula and dropped 3 months salary on the ring, your best beloved could feel obliged to say yes to being engaged even if they are not quite ready to take that step.

Proposing without an engagement ring sends a strong signal about equal partnership

I'm a strong believer in the importance of negotiation in relationships. Proposing without a ring leaves the way open for the two of you to talk openly and frankly about finances in general, what might be affordable for a ring in particular, together with preferences for ring style, stone, and size. Shopping together for rings, whether engagement or wedding, is a very romantic thing to do, and can be great fun.

Alternatives to proposing with an engagement ring

You don't actually have to propose with anything. In Victorian times it became usual to present a bunch of flowers, chosen for their symbolic meanings, and to go down on one knee (or not) but it wasn't until relatively recently that, instead of taking your intended by the hand, proposal propaganda started to include a Ta-Da moment of opening a ring box to display a ring, all prompted by the diamond industry, particularly De Beers, as a logical progression to their A Diamond is Forever advertising campaign. A campaign, I might add, which was aimed as selling more diamonds, and which got everyone believing that the "correct" amount of money was a month's salary, which then got upped to 2 month's salary, and is now 3 month's salary.

However, if you'd really like to have something in your hand when you pop the question, try one of these:
  • A fun plastic ring, as found in Christmas crackers or some of those arcade games. If you want to get really cheesy, attach it to a DVD of Breakfast at Tiffany's in acknowledgement of the Cracker Jack ring
  • A Notice of Intended Marriage (click here to download one). You might like to at least partially fill it in. Good to know - the clock doesn't start ticking on the Notice until you have both signed it in front of a qualified witness and given it to your celebrant. From that point it is valid for 18 months.
  • A copy of Happily Ever Before and After, the glossy government pamphlet about getting married that every celebrant is required to give everyone getting married. You can download a copy here or ask me for a printed one
  • A pair of wedding rings, one for each of you - either the real deal or fun versions. In some European countries the couple purchases their wedding rings when they become engaged, wearing them on their left hands until the wedding, at which the rings are swapped to their right hands. If you did that following Australian custom, you'd wear them on the right hand until the wedding day.
  • A relevant childrCover of Guess
                            How Much I Love You by Sam McBratneyen's picture book, such as Guess How Much Do I Love You?  by Sam McBratney
  • A handmade scrapbook with photos and other paper mementos chronicling your relationship, with your proposal question on the last page
  • Something Blue that they can wear or carry on your wedding day, it can be as simple as a tiny blue bow that can be sewn into the hem or seam of a dress, vest, or suit jacket.
  • A wedding cake topper, just don't pick one that includes a surname - changing names is another decision that should be well and truly discussed beforehand.
  • A DVD of music that could be played at your wedding. They still exist!
  • An origami flower made of paper on which you have printed "Will you marry me, [NAME]".
  • Proposal Wine. Some wineries have the facility to create a label that is an adaptation of the label for one of their wines. Otherwise, buy a cleanskin bottle and either source a label (Etsy is a good place to start) or design your own.
Once you start thinking along the lines an an alternative to proposing with a ring, you'll surprise yourself as to how creative you can be, and how much fun planning your proposal is.

More thoughts about proposing

Thanks for reading!
Jenny xxx Let's talk
                        soon about how you can have the best ceremony
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