So you and your girlfriend have talked about getting married, and you’ve decided you’re getting ready to propose. Yay! Congratulations! Before you get too overwhelmed about all there is to know about getting an engagement ring, read these steps to put your mind at ease.
Step 1: Deciding when to propose
A popular option this time of year is proposing around Christmas or New Years, but if she’s expecting it, it might be a good idea to wait and plan something a little later on. It is also important to be thinking about the time frame of your ring purchase. If you have started putting money aside for this occasion, then it might make your possible proposal date a little sooner. On the other hand, if you need to enroll in a layaway program, you might have to wait a few extra months. Similarly, if you think you might be interested in getting a ring custom made (have no fear…that’s not as unreasonable as it may seem), that may take somewhere between 6 to 8 weeks.
Step 2: Deciding if it is a surprise or not
Depending on your girlfriend and your relationship, it is best you decide if she should be included in helping to pick out the ring. In my experience, girls are at one extreme or the other, either they have several wedding Pinterest boards (which could really be a significant help later on), or they haven’t given the slightest clue about what they would love to wear every day for the rest of their lives. There is no harm in starting to shop without her. If you feel like you need help then you can bring her in, but it really is what works best for you and your partner.
Step 2A: You decided it is a surprise
There’s something to be said about her getting to tell all of her friends that you saw that ring and picked it because you knew it would be perfect for her. Unfortunately for you, you have to do a little more ground work, the tricky part being, you have to do it without her knowing.
If you haven’t before, it is now important to start noticing what kind of jewelry she wears. Does she gravitate toward more simple pieces? Or does she tend to wear bigger, flashy statement pieces? If you girlfriend has sisters, you are in luck. Sisters are some of the best spies and information gatherers. If you have that resource, use it! Check her social media too. If she has Pinterest or Facebook, she could have posted something there!
Ring size is obviously a huge factor. See if you can sneak one of her rings to get sized by a jeweler. It’s OK if she doesn’t wear it on her ring finger – jewelers can usually guess based on the size of other rings worn on other fingers. If you can’t sneak one of her rings, or she doesn’t wear rings, a good rule of thumb is your ring size is typically your shoe size.
Step 2B: You decided to include her
Taking your girlfriend ring shopping allows you to get an idea of what she likes, what she doesn’t like, and eliminates all the guess work. Don’t worry, by no means do you have to go to the store, let her pick out a ring, and pay for it there and then. Suggest you’d like to go browse around for rings. When you get there, set the tone that you’re just getting a feel for what she would like. Also while you’re there, get her ring size.
Step 3: Set your budget
When setting your budget, be realistic. A good rule of thumb is starting with 4-6 weeks worth of pay, and be willing to go up a little if you’re certain that ring is perfect. Additionally, be confident and stick to your budget. Make sure you can afford the ring you are purchasing. Your girlfriend will probably be annoyed with you if you buy a ring and then can’t pay the rent for a few months. Like I mentioned before, you may want to do some research about doing business with a store that offers a layaway program. Having that extra time to be earning and saving money could allow for a bigger purchase.
Step 4: Learn about Diamonds (Unless you don’t want a diamond – then see Step 5.)
To a rookie ring shopper, most diamonds look alike. Without proper education, you could be setting yourself up for a tough time. It is most certainly worth your dollar to invest in a certified diamond. Certified diamonds come with paperwork that provide information such as a shape, measurements, carat weight, symmetry grade, clarity, color, and cut. It is also important to learn about the 4 C’s of diamonds, carats, clarity, color, and cut. More information can be found on the 4 C’s in our Diamond Buying Guide. Since you are going to meet with a professional, you don’t need to be a professional yourself, but having a working knowledge of diamonds increases your chance at getting the ideal diamond.
Step 5: Maybe you don’t want to get a diamond
It is becoming more and more common to get an alternative center stone. Look into finding a colored gemstone like a sapphire, emerald, garnet or morganite to complete the ring. Not only is it something unique, it might allow for a bigger stone for less money.
Step 6: Think about yourself for a minute
More often than not, the metal of her engagement ring matches her wedding ring. Further, her wedding ring matches your wedding ring. So even though she might be gushing over a rose gold engagement ring, now is the time to look out for yourself and pick a metal that would look nice on her but you would also be comfortable wearing.
Step 7: Consider going custom
Don’t panic when you read “custom”. Custom does not have to mean expensive. By now, you’ve done significant research about what kind of ring you’d like to purchase. Maybe you’ve seen a setting that you like but really like the diamond in another. It might be possible to have the best of both worlds! Ask your jeweler if you can customize the setting with the diamond you like to create your perfect ring! For an extra special touch, consider purchasing a setting and using a family heirloom as the center stone.
So you’ve done your research at home, you have a general idea about what direction you’d like to go. Now you need to find a jeweler to get you there.
Step 8: Finding your jeweler
There is a lot to be said for the quality of jewelry you receive depending on where you choose to purchase it from. These days, you have access to so much information before walking into a store. Being able to go online and look at their reviews gives you a sense of what you’re walking into. You really have 3 options, online, at a chain store, or privately owned jewelry store.
Purchasing engagement rings online sounds look a good idea, but it has a few strong deterrents. You do not get the advantage of seeing the piece before you already own it. Just because something looks great on your computer screen does not mean it will look that way when it arrives at your doorstep. You do not get the satisfaction of meeting the person that will set your stone, and build a relationship that you can utilize come time to purchase wedding bands, anniversary gifts, and the occasional “just because” piece.
Buying an engagement ring through a chain also allows for some bumps in the road. If the ring were to (God forbid) lose a stone or be damaged in some way, chain stores typically have to send pieces out to be repaired, leaving you without a ring for an undetermined amount of time in an undisclosed location. On that same note, if your fiance wants to come in and have her ring cleaned, chain stores may not offer that service in house. You paid good money to have a really shiny ring on her finger, it’s a little ridiculous she can’t go to the store to have it inspected (to check for loose stones or a bent prong) and polished so it stays looking bright and beautiful at her convenience. Similar to purchasing online, you are not necessarily able to build a relationship with the employees of a chain store.
Finally, you have the option to shop at a privately owned jewelry store. Choosing a “mom and pop” jewelry store lends itself to building a relationship with the business. You have access to an in-house jeweler, meaning anytime your new fiancé needs to have her ring polished to perfection she can just stop in. If something simple needs to be fixed, your ring can be repaired in-house. It is also comforting to know that some in house jewelers have earned certifications through some of the worlds leading diamond certification organizations, such as the Gemological Institute of America. It is pretty comforting to know the person selling you a diamond is a certified Diamond Graduate from one of the world’s leading gemstone grading services. Overall, your engagement ring process is just that, your process and experience. Do what you feel most comfortable with. Ask your family or friends where they’ve had good experiences. Just remember to go with your gut — it is your investment.
So you have a ring, now you get to decide officially how you are going to ask this woman to spend the rest of your life with her! Ah! I just got even more excited for you!
Step 9: Deciding how you are going to propose
The execution of the proposal is almost as important to your girlfriend as the beauty of the ring you’re going to reveal, so now let’s talk about that. Deciding if the proposal should be more intimate or in a pretty public place is a good start. Depending on your girlfriend, she might get embarrassed if you take her somewhere crowded to propose. She might also love that so many people get to share the moment! That call is solely up to you as you know her best.
One thing I would suggest, no matter how you do it, capture the moment. Set up a camera (a friend of mine was able to get security camera footage because she and her boyfriend were alone), or ask someone to take your picture and then drop down on your knee (My fiancé recruited the help of a professional photographer in Disney World). The look on her face and yours is absolutely priceless. That initial reaction is something I don’t believe you can duplicate, so capture it in real time. Using her full name when you propose is such a powerful statement. I also recommend that you get down on one knee because what girl doesn’t want to see the man of her dreams on one knee asking for her hand in marriage? Do what you think she would love and be comfortable with – remember you are trying to make the day perfect!
Step 10: Execute the proposal
You have a ring, you have a plan, it’s go time!!! Congratulations to you and your beautiful (soon to be) fiancé. Being engaged is such an exciting time. Have fun, try not to be too nervous, and be sure to come back and tell us all about it.