Now is the time of year that we in the wedding industry call "engagement season". Why? Because close to 40% of all engagements happen between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day. Families are all home to celebrate, the holidays make the months extra romantic, and it's just that time of year that engagements happen. If you are one of those people looking to pop the question during this time and you're taking advantage of that little "Black Friday" thing to go shopping, then this is for you.
1. Look at her jewelry as a guide.
Ok, you know her and hopefully you know her style by now. Take away what hangs in her closet, and focus on what she wears around her neck, on her ears, around her wrist and on her fingers. I'm talking about her jewelry. Does she wear multiple pieces together or does she keep things simple and classic? In other words: have you ever looked at her and thought that she had way too many pieces on, only to find out that it was one necklace? Or, have you ever asked her why she wasn't wearing any earrings only to get a nasty glance as she pulled her hair back to show you that she actually was? If you're really not sure what her style is, then get into her stash, take a look, take some pictures, and bring that with you when you shop. Basically? Be a ninja.
2. Go shopping. Together.
Does it take the romance out of proposing if you go ring shopping together? No. Why? Because you're not just going to propose with the ring she falls in love with right then and there at the store. That's not how it works outside of the movies. Just like she will learn that not every wedding gown she loves in the magazines looks good on her, you both will learn what looks good on her hand. Assuming you've had the whole "hey, where's this relationship going" conversation and the answer is "down the aisle, duh", then going ring shopping isn't spoiling the surprise. Not only is this a chance for you both to see what looks good, but you also get to see what she likes and doesn't like, and you get her ring size. Buckets of winning, my friend.
3. Friends. They Know.
Odds are, her friends know that she is expecting a ring and already planning her wedding by putting together 1,457 Pinterest boards. These same friends probably know what type of ring she wants right down to the cut. If you don't want to go shopping together, then this is the avenue for you. Not only will her friends know what she wants in a ring, but they will probably have other useful information for you. For instance, I am currently holding onto proposal ideas, ring ideas and more for several of my girlfriends that are hoping for a ring soon. This way, when their clueless boyfriends (sorry, no offense) reach out to me, I already have all the information they need. And then some.
4. Budget First.
If you've already done the above tips and you're ready to hit up the Black Friday sales and such, then the last thing to do is to figure out your budget first. Do not walk into these stores with no idea of what you want to, or what you can actually spend. 3 months salary is old news and frankly, it's not what's done any more. You want to spend as much as you can afford without going into a mountain of debt. Have that number ready to go when the jeweler asks you what you want to spend or what your budget is. Then based on what you want along with what you can spend, they will let you know what is realistic and what you might have to compromise on.
5. Speaking of Listening...
When you're ring shopping you need to listen to two things: the jeweler and your gut. Assuming you have gone to a reputable jeweler, it's important to pay attention to what they are saying because they are the experts. If you give them a budget and a list of "must-haves", they will be able to tell you what you might have to compromise on, if anything. Perhaps you won't be able to get that exact carat you (read:she) wants without increasing the budget, or maybe you will have to forgo the platinum for white gold. Whatever it is, listen to the experts. When they are done talking, listen to your gut. Are the words of the jeweler stinging your ears? Does your face tense up when you think of popping the question with the ring that she almost wanted? Don't let the jeweler tell you something that you need to be convinced about. Remember, they work on commission, but your gut doesn't.
6. The Compromises.
If you've spoken to your soon to be fiance about ring shopping and style (you should if you haven't), and you have her list of what she wants, then you need to also have her list of what she can do without. Oh, she wants a 4 carat solitaire flanked in platinum? That's nice. What if you can't get that for her? Don't just sit there while she tells you everything she wants and then smile and nod like she can expect even more. You know what that leads to? A crinkled nose covered up with a smile and a strained "oh, how pretty..." as you slip a ring onto her finger that is not what she expected or wanted. Think about it, this woman wants to show off her ring to everyone. E-v-e-r-y-o-n-e. Hell, some girls get manicures every single week solely because they want the first pictures (straight to Instagram) to include the perfect ring on the perfect hand. It's important to find out what she can handle not having for the rest of her life, whether that's less clarity, darker color, a different setting, or whatever.
7. Clarity. Cut. Color. Carat.
The 4 C's are your bible and odds are, you already know this. While carat is the "c" that most women focus on, you should be focusing on everything in this list. This is an area where you can apply another "c" word: compromise...you know, from number 6 on this list. If you can afford the 4 carat diamond by compromising on the clarity, that might be an option to look into. Frankly, size does matter and carat is the most important word on this list for a reason. Certain cuts are more expensive than others and many cuts are similar to each other. Understand what these four words mean and use that to your advantage when shopping.
8. It's About Her.
Very often the groom's style conflicts with the bride's style. As a wedding planner, I see this happen in everything from deciding on centerpieces to what the wardrobe will be for the wedding party. In most cases, the groom ends up just going along for the ride and throwing in an opinion here and there. While I believe that wedding plans and details should be a joint decision, the ring is all about her. She has to wear it every single day for the rest of her life. So, if you are sitting there and all about some ring that you know would make her vomit, then put it down and just buy her what she wants. This isn't the time to get cute and creative, especially if you've done your homework and know what she wants. Do you know what she wants? Good. Get that.
9. Diamonds are not every girl's best friend.
Of course diamonds are what most people think of when the topic of engagement rings come up. However, not everyone wants a diamond on their hand. This is, again, why it's important to have the ring conversation with your bride to be, take her shopping or at the very least, speak with her friends. Diamonds are traditional, but if you're not with a traditional girl, then she might not want a traditional ring. Thankfully, there are countless options including beautiful gems like sapphires, rubies, emeralds and more. Does this make picking a ring out any easier? No. In fact, you might have more hurdles than you think. Sorry buddy.
10. Insure that thing.
Health insurance might be difficult to come by, but ring insurance is pretty cut and dry. Do not blow this off like you do the extra insurance when renting a car, or that travel insurance when booking airline tickets. This insurance is the insurance that you actually need. There are different ways to get ring insurance, and sometimes it will mean getting your home insurance policy involved. Whatever you have to do though, it doesn't matter. Just get it done. Don't sit there and think that nothing is going to happen to that ring when it could be damaged or stolen or simply go missing very easily. When shopping for the ring, ask each jeweler you meet with what insurance they offer. And then buy it.
If you are in the market for an engagement ring, I wish you all the luck in the world. It's a serious amount of pressure and most likely the most important gift you will ever give your significant other. And once you get the ring, then you have to plan the perfect proposal. Oh, sorry....did you think you were done once the ring was purchased? Consider that your halfway point, and the proposal planning the other half. Because you're smart and once you follow this guide and she loves the engagement ring, you'll know to tell her to hire a wedding planner to handle the details going forward, while you sit back, relax and congratulate yourself on a job well done.