Wedding Series: The Pros and Cons of Engagement Ring Shopping Together

or, My Engagement Ring Story

or, Communication is Never a Con

Trying on Rings

The first time I ever tried on an engagement ring was well before I was engaged. I was visiting my mom and she suggested we go over to her jewler to "try some on for fun". This was very nerve-wracking and exciting. Like a lot of young women I had thought about what kind of "dream ring" I would want. So in we went, and, nervously, I tried on what I thought the dream style would be!

Well, that's a pretty ring. But...it doesn't look that great.

I'm very glad I had that moment in a store looking casually with my mom and not when a question had just been popped. I must have tried on about a dozen rings in different colours of metal with different sizes of diamonds and different settings and shapes. I was very surprised to learn that certain shapes just looked unnatural on my hand! (I have never been a big jewlery-wearer).

"Do you think I should tell the boyfriend?"

My mom's advice was "absolutely". People aren't mind readers. If you didn't know what would look good, how would he? Where would he even start? And imagine how awkward it would be to receive a (pricey) ring that you didn't like!

Never one to hold back, I did tell the boyfriend about trying on rings. I'm pretty sure I made it very casual - more casual than it was. "Mom dragged me into her jewler", "she convinced me to try a few on", "it was SO suprising! I had no idea that a round setting looked terrible on me!" This first conversation led him to ask questions such as, "What DID look good on you? What did you like?", that he was taking note of for the future. Now, I'm not naive, and neither is he, so we both knew what was going on. I was very un-subtly dropping hints and he was taking cues for future ring shopping.

Above: The setting I'd always envisioned

Above: The settings that ended up suiting my hand

Trying on Rings, The Pros:

  • Find out what looks good on your hand, especially if you're not a big jewlery-wearer

  • Discover your taste in a pressure-free environment

  • Bring your partner up to speed on what you like (people are not mind-readers!)

The Cons:

  • If you've never talked about engagement/rings before you could put unwanted pressure on your partner

  • If they already have a ring you could confuse your partner or set yourself up for disapointment

Do Your Research

Not too long after I found myself living alone in Toronto while my boyfriend was clear across the country. We had already talked marriage and engagement and were planning for the future. I was definitely lonely, sometimes sad, sometimes relishing all the alone time. And it was during this alone time that I started to do more ring research (pinterest, anyone?)

Is a clear diamond the only option? What about the ethics of how the stone is sourced? How much to these things actually cost? What kind of setting is going to suit my (piano-playing, clumbsy-girl) lifestyle? What about an antique or heirloom ring?

I had a lot of time to research online, search on pinterest and browse etsy. I really saw how much was out there beyond the scope of traditional jewlery stores. My personal taste developed more and more, but so did my feelings of worry: If my taste becomes this specific, how could he possibly ever know? At the end of the day this was the piece of jewlery that I would wear all day, every day, for the rest of my life. I decided that something that important (to both of us) shouldn't go unspoken. We continued to communicate about it, including talking about going and trying on rings together. I sent him a few pictures when he asked for them. My husband (then boyfriend) is an extremely visual person. He has a hard time visualizing something concrete until he can see and touch it for himself. So, I found an interesting jewler in Vancouver, and we agreed that on my first trip out over Halloween, we would go together,

An example of the limitless centre stone options. (Anne Sportun Design)

Researching Different Styles, The Pros:

  • Discover options outside of chain jewlery stores: this can suit your taste better, save money on the cost of a ring, uphold ethics that are important to you, etc. The list goes on.

  • Communication in a relationship is never a con

  • Giving examples of your taste helps your partner narrow down the choices in an overwhelming array of styles

The Cons:

  • Takes the element of complete surprise and control out of it for your partner

  • If they already have a ring you could confuse your partner or set yourself up for disapointment

Ring Shopping Together

The experience of ring-shopping together was so memorable and exciting. We were giddy. It's one thing to talk about the future, but to go into a jewlery store together and see a ring on that finger was a whole new level of reality. We couldn't stop smiling as we nervously talked to the saleswoman (who I'm sure had seen it all before). It was so much fun to pick out different styles together and seperately. My visual-learner boyfriend could understand what I meant when I said something looked unnatural. And, being an artist, was able to appreciate the small details and differences of every ring. We left even happier and more in love than when we had arrived. (And little to my knowledge, my boyfriend had already started dreaming up his dream ring for me as well. He fell in love with that jewler's style and soon returned after I left for Toronto).

Above: Some rings I tried on (Era Design Jewellery)

Ring Shopping Together, Pros:

  • A fun, romantic and intimate experience that can draw you closer together

  • An opportunity for your partner to see and touch different ring styles

  • A basis on which your partner can move forward when selecting a style

  • A way to meet jewlery designers and show your partner options outside of traditional/chain stores

Cons, Honestly I can only think of the previous two:

  • Takes the element of complete surprise and control out of it for your partner

  • If they already have a ring you could confuse your partner or set yourself up for disapointment

Custom Design: His Ring-Design Story

After visiting the jewellery store my boyfriend went to work designing a custom engagement ring. He knew that the idea of an heirloom ring appealed to me and he liked the idea of saving some money! So he asked his mother if she had any heirloom jewellery/stones, and turns out she had some of her mother's rings. She was so happy to be included in the engagement and very generously offered a few rings for him to look through! When he went back to the jewler he was armed with the heirloom rings and the first-hand knowledge of what looked best on me. Because we had gone ring shopping together he was able to remember every detail that caught my eye and everything that got a reaction out of me. He knew which colours of metal looked best, which shape looked good on my hand, and what kind of setting would suit my lifestyle. Hubby and the jewlery designer put everything together into one incredible and unique design. He ended up using four heirloom diamonds as the four corners of the halo setting with new diamonds in between. This was very sentimental and also saved him money!

The heirloom ring that donated four stones to mine

Custom Design, Pros:

  • Your partner can still surprise you and be in control by designing a ring

  • Your partner can gain confidence knowing that their design is based on elements of your taste

  • Using heirloom stones and/or metals saves money

  • The design process is fun and rewarding for creative types

Cons:

  • Custom design can be more expensive than buying a similar ring off the shelf

  • If you don't like the design it could be more difficult to change or return/exchange

Our Proposal Story, or, the Ring beyond my Dreams

Our proposal story has two versions: the simple and sweet version, at home on the couch, and the long-winded epic of the the proposal that almost never happened (including an ice-storm, several foiled attempts at privacy and an airport security bag search. No joke. I'll save that one for another time.)

Both versions end with an apartment full of flowers, a beutifully illustrated book of our best moments, the best person I know down on one knee beside the couch, and the most breath-taking, shocking, perfect, unbelievable ring. It's the ring beyond my dreams because I couldn't ever have dreamed it up. Only my thoughtful and attentive artist husband could have put everything I loved into one ring.

More than a beautifully crafted piece of jewlery, I received the most thoughful and pain-stakingly planned gift that I ever had. I am so glad that I took the risk of telling my partner about my ring preferences, because it led him to create something priceless: A piece that reflected his ability to listen. His artistic powers of observation. His willingness to go above and beyond for me. And our ability to communicate.

Overall Pros

Trying on Rings and Researching Different Styles

  • Find out what looks good on your hand, especially if you're not a big jewlery-wearer

  • Discover your taste in a pressure-free environment

  • Discover options outside of chain jewlery stores: this can suit your taste better, save money on the cost of a ring, uphold ethics that are important to you, etc. The list goes on.

Telling your partner your preferences:

  • Bring your partner up to speed on what you like (people aren't mind-readers!)

  • Communication in a relationship is never a con.

  • Giving examples of your taste helps your partner narrow down the choices in an overwhelming array of styles

Ring Shopping Together

  • A fun, romantic and intimate experience that can draw you closer together

  • An opportunity for your partner to see and touch different ring styles

  • A basis on which your partner can move forward when selecting a style

  • A way to meet jewlery designers and show your partner options outside of traditional/chain stores

  • Can lead to custom designs, combining all of your favourite elements

Overall Cons

Trying on Rings and Researching Different Styles

  • potential to set yourself up for disapointment

Telling your partner your preferences:

  • If you've never talked about engagement/rings before you could put unwanted pressure on your partner

  • If he already has a ring you could confuse your partner or set yourself up for disapointment

Ring Shopping Together

  • If he already has a ring you could confuse your partner or set yourself up for disapointment

  • Takes the element of complete surprise and control out of it for your partner

My Advice

Every couple, relationship and engagement is different. What worked for us or for your friend may not work for you. Consider what is truly important to you and how you would handle ring disapointment. For me it was important to communicate my taste & ethics. It was worth is for me to have taken a bit of surprise out of the equation and know that my top two priorities were being considered. Know what kind of learner/listener your partner is - would they appreciate visuals? Conversations? Lists? Or nothing at all? Some people appreciate feedback and want help narrowing down the options. Others thrive on pulling off a great surprise and feeling in control. Most of all, people are not mind readers. If you don't communicate your expectations, chances are they won't be considered. And communication is never a con!

Hubby Anecdote

I was still able to completely surprise her because it was custom. Yeah, some surprise was taken out of it, but it wasn't as if we went to the ring store and I bought her favourite ring. It was good to see what she liked, and say "I could do even better". The only con was that then she was expecting a proposal, took a bit of the element of surprise out of the timing of the proposal. I definitey don't have any regrets for the ring-shopping process.

Vendors & Materials

Ring design by Era Design Jewellery in Vancouver, Canada

Band: Rose Gold

Setting: White Gold

Halo: Four clear heirloom diamonds, clear diamonds

Centre Stone: Cognac diamond

Summer Leigh Photography

#weddingseries #wedding #marriage #engagement #engagementring #eradesign

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