Should I Buy My Own Engagement Ring?

ring

My fiance proposed in April with no engagement ring. He wanted to just go down to the courthouse and marry me plenty of times. I’m not a materialistic person at all. Even when we do get married, I probably wouldn’t wear my wedding ring every day, but I want my engagement ring now. My fiance is still in school and lives with his dad and can’t afford it now. What do you think about me buying my own ring and he gives me the money later on? —Anonymous

You want an engagement ring. You don’t have to apologize for that and it doesn’t make you materialistic, at all. Don’t feel bad about wanting a ring as a symbol of your commitment. The ring isn’t everything, but it is absolutely “a thing,” a cultural tradition (three-fourths of American brides wear diamond engagement rings, according to Kenneth Gassman, president of the Jewelry Industry Research Institute). It’s entirely normal to desire an engagement ring, even if you don’t plan to wear it every day once you are married.

Who pays for the ring isn’t really a big deal, even if it’s an expense that usually falls on the man in heterosexual relationships. Honestly, diamond engagement rings are a relatively modern concept. It’s actually the result of a marketing campaign by De Beers Consolidated Mines that was crafted in a Mad Men-esque marketing agency circa 1938. Have you heard the line, “A diamond is forever?” In 1999, Advertising Age named it the slogan of the 20th century.

All things being equal, there’s nothing wrong with buying your own engagement ring. And unless you or your guy runs around telling people, no one would ever know. That said, all things aren’t equal in your scenario.

Your guy, I’m sure he’s great, but he doesn’t sound ready to be married to you. To be clear: The issue isn’t that you have more money or that he doesn’t seem to have much at all. It is hard to be broke and starting out and married—though easier if a couple is in the same boat. However, it can absolutely work.

There’s also nothing wrong with marrying a man who makes less. The issue is that he’s a dependent adult who can barely do for himself, and you really want things—basic things—that he can’t provide yet. You would be better off waiting for him to get himself together financially and establish himself as an adult before you marry him.

Just so you know: If you’re going to accept a man who doesn’t have a lot of wealth, and marry for love, that’s fine. But you also have to accept what comes with that: not having some of the things you may really desire when you desire them. You don’t get to emasculate your man by getting the things he should be able to provide for you, such as an engagement ring, because you’ve become impatient.

Maybe he won’t feel emasculated and doesn’t care if you buy your own ring, but you must understand that you’re not going to be paid back anytime soon, if ever. Your guy has some core basics that need to be covered, like rent and bills, before he should even think of paying for a luxury like an engagement ring. Also understand that this won’t be the last time you pick up the tab for something you feel he should be able to provide for you. He’s just not in the financial place to do the things that you may want. He may get there, but it won’t happen overnight.

I also have to ask, what’s the rush to get married? He proposed in April. It’s only three months later. I’ll give you the same advice every married person gave me when I was engaged: “Take your time. There is no rush.” You and your beau want to be together; I get it. But it’s much easier to stay together when you have a solid foundation. Work on getting that in order before you head down the aisle.

Instead of trying to figure out a wedding date, have a discussion with your man about finances and the expectations you have of him. Before you get to what kind of ring you want, talk about how and where you two plan to live as a married couple and how much you both need to contribute to those arrangements. That matters more than a ring. Tell him that you love him but you want to wait until he graduates, begins working and can afford to move out of his father’s house before you two are married.

Also tell him that you want a ring. You’re not asking for anything extraordinary here, and a sensible man who really wants to marry you knows that he is supposed to provide one, even if it’s small or has no “sparkle.” You can always upgrade later.

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