Getting engaged is a huge step, but it’s not as life-changing as some may make it feel. Indeed life continues pretty smoothly after getting engaged, and you’ll be surprised how easily you’ll manage it !
And one thing few people think about, if you’re the one doing the proposing, you have a big decision to make. Do you really want this person ? Do you want to share money, a home, a family, pets, everything with them ? Your partner has all relationship-long to think about this, as many do anyway. But as the one proposing, it feels like an immense decision.
It’s okay, you will be fine. If you’ve decided this is the person your heart belongs to, you’ll have some shopping to do. Before that, you need to think smart about how you’re going to get that ring. Let us help you.
How to choose an engagement ring
Choosing an engagement ring is not easy, though it’s not as complicated as it seems. Keep in mind your budget, your loved one’s personal style, and remember that the ring must mean something special to both of you. It has to impress, yes, but it first has to impress you two, then everyone else. Rings can be resized and in some cases your loved one may be dropping strong hints about what she wants.
We’ve compiled a list of the most useful things to remember when buying engagement rings, to make your life easier. When my husband went shopping for my engagement ring, it was the morning of. He had a rough idea of my ring size, and a vague idea of what he wanted the ring to look like. We both loved the ring he brought to propose with, and it matches everything else beautifully.
1. Set a budget
As cold and calculating as this sounds, you first need a budget to know how much you can afford to spend on the ring. Your budget may be different from your neighbor’s or your friends. Take into account:
- any debts, loans, or mortgages
- monthly expenses so you know how much you can afford to pay monthly
- any big upcoming expenses, like surgery or a trip somewhere
You may exceed your budget, and that’s okay. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at online versions of engagement rings you think you and your fiancee would both like. That way you can get a feel of the general budget you’d need, without revealing your intentions.
Remember, the 3 salary rule is complete bull. An engagement ring should cost only as much as you can afford to pay. Getting yourself in debt or forking over 5 figures is absurd. Find a ring that is a nice fit and reasonably priced, there are always those options.
2. Be flexible on the design of the ring
This one goes out to you, the ring buyer, specifically. You or your special someone might have a ring style or design in mind, but unless you go to a jeweler and ask for a customized ring you’re likely to not find an 100% match.
This is why we recommend you be reasonable with your expectation. If you go looking for ring A, with stone B, set in metal C, details D, and priced E, you’re asking for a headache. Finding a ring that ticks all the boxes is incredibly difficult, and you’ll be very frustrated while browsing.
We strongly recommend you have an idea in mind, but be willing to settle for a ring that is just very similar to what you’re looking for. Be flexible, pick a ring you like but don’t obsess over it. In the end, it is just a ring.
If you have a higher budget, go to a jeweler and he should be able to make it for you, or tell you if the design choice is impossible.
Read also: Freshwater VS Saltwater Pearls
3. Consider what center stone you want
Another important point to consider is whether you want a diamond or not. Not all engagement rings are made with diamonds, and not all diamonds are worth the fuss. If you and your loved one have a fancy for a particular gemstone, you can probably find it in most jewelry shops. Here’s what to know.
If choosing a diamond, ask for a certificate
If you’re going the traditional route, you’re likely buying a diamond ring. In this case make sure the diamond has a certificate. That means it’s been appraised for its cut, clarity, carat, and color.
Most diamonds are certified by:
- GIA – the Gemological Institute of America
- AGS – American Gem Society
- IGI – International Gemological Institute
- EGL – European Gemological Laboratories
- GSI – Gemological Science International
- HRD – Hoge Raad voor Diamant
All of these certifications look at a diamond’s quality. Ideally, the diamond you’re buying should be already appraised. Still, we recommend taking your diamond to a different seller for a second appraisal. The gem business can be shady, and not all gemologists have a good work ethic. You always want a second opinion.
If choosing a gemstone, look for color and clarity
Gemstones have a different story here. As they are not diamonds, the emphasis is mostly on how well the color shows, and how clearly it shows, so whether the stone has any imperfections within it that will make the stone blurry.
There is no international grading standard when buying gemstones, which means you can’t easily rely on any certificate a colored gemstone comes with. This also means it gets very, very easy to get scammed. We recommend buying a gemstone that is already certified by your seller, and taking it to a different seller to be appraised.
Also, rely on your own eyes. Do you like the gem ? Is it clear and vividly colored, at least to suit your tastes ? Your opinion matters here.
4. Find out her ring size
Ah, the ring size. To be fair this is probably the most difficult aspect of getting the ring. Be aware that ring sizes change from one hand to another. If the ring is supposed to go on the left hand, know that the left hand has a slightly larger size to begin with, if it’s the dominant hand (more exercise). Still, here’s a few ideas to get you started.
Get a measuring tape, try to measure her ring finger as she sleeps
This is the most basic but also efficient method. It involves your loved one not being aware you’re doing this, which can prove difficult. If she’s a heavy sleeper this is easier. You need measuring tape, and very light fingers. When you wrap the tape around her ring finger, do it at the base, where the ring would sit.
Try to get as accurate a read as you can. You can either wrap the tape around her finger, or try to measure the diameter of her ring finger, so only measure one side. Any jeweler will be able to correctly guess the ring size (with a 1-2 size error) by these measurements.
Buy a cheap ring in a size you think would fit her, test it
Another option is to simply buy a fake, cheap ring that you will have her test, somehow. As you know, rings come in different sizes. Buy a size you think would fit her best. Very petite (short and thin) women generally have very small hands, and very small fingers, so you should look at the smallest sizes.
As for testing, be creative. You can slip the ring on her finger as she’s sleeping, see if that fits in any way. Or, if you’re an especially funny and spontaneous person and you know your loved one can take a joke, you can try fake proposing with the fake ring, but somehow making it funny. This would be a very delicate move, we don’t recommend it to most people.
Another option would be to buy a set of cheap rings form a fashion store, Those come a dime a dozen, and they come in many sizes, so you can ask her to try each of them on, as part of a dress up game.
Ask an engaged or married friend for help
If you’ve got a married, or at least engaged, friend you can then ask them to help you out. Have them talk to your partner, just the two of them, and have them bring up rings and jewelry. If they manage to swap rings, so your partner would see how their ring would fit, you’d get a good idea of what size to look for.
Make sure your friend can keep a secret, or a straight face.
5. Make sure the ring is easy to resize
Even if the ring you buy isn’t 100% in size, it should easily be adjusted. Unless you’ve made a serious error and got a ring 10 sizes too big (or small), the ring can be adjusted. Most can take 2-3 sizes down, but we’re not sure about going up.
For this reason, opt for a ring with as little side embellishment as possible. An eternity ring (stone all around) are exceptionally difficult to resize, since you’ll lose a stone or risk loosening the other stones.
Go for a ring that has the sides mostly plain, even if the top has 2-3 stones.
6. Pick out a ring that fits your fiancee’s style
Finally, be sure to take a look at your fiancee’s style. Does she like to keep things simple ? Does she like hand-made jewelry and goes for a more natural look ? Does she have very elegant jewelry and dresses accordingly ? Is she in love with sequins and everything sparkly ?
All of these will tell you what to look for. A very sporty or casual person will likely appreciate a simpler style, rather than a very flashy ring. Meanwhile, someone very elegant and delicate would rather enjoy a ring with beautiful detailing and a possibly more intricate design. And someone who absolutely loves to stand out will love a big rock, or a very flashy formation or diamond cut.
Look at her other jewelry, see what she usually goes for
Take a look at your partner’s jewelry, does she usually got for very big stones like cabochons ? Does she go for smaller, more delicate jewelry ? Does she like gems in her jewelry at all ?
Gold, platinum, or rose gold ?
What kind of metal does your loved one usually go for ? Most engagement rings are 18k yellow gold, but if your partner usually goes for silver or white jewelry you should opt for white gold or platinum, to keep in line with her preferred colors.
On the other hand, maybe she adores rose gold and most of her jewelry is in this color. Take a look and see what you find in her jewelry box.
Keep in mind that whatever metal you get the engagement ring is likely going to be the metal for the wedding ring too.
7. Go for a ring shape that will easily fit a wedding ring
Whatever ring ends up on your fiancee’s finger, a wedding ring is supposed to fit there as well. Make sure the design isn’t overly extravagant, so a wedding ring can fit snugly next to the ring.
If you’re looking for a ring with a big stone or a lot of stones like a halo, look for one with the stones set higher, so the wedding band can go partially under the stone.
Ask about a refund policy
If you somehow find yourself in the position to bring back the ring, you want to make sure there is a good return or refund policy. Many jewelry stores won’t offer a full refund or won’t take the ring back at all once you’ve bought it, even if no one wore it.
Be sure you know what the store’s policy is, and look for one what has a better policy if you’re unhappy with it.
Do couples pick engagement rings together ?
Some couples are very straightforward and like to do things in a simpler way, in which case they will shop for the engagement ring together. This way your fiancee gets exactly what she wants as she will be the one picking the ring. You still need a budget for this trip !
True, it may not be as romantic or spontaneous as an already-bought ring, but for some couples it’s a better fit. Maybe your fiancee wants to be in control of everything, maybe you can’t make up your mind, maybe it’s more romantic for you both if you do it together.
The point is, you can go engagement ring shopping with your fiancee and there’s nothing wrong with that.
What’s the most romantic way to propose ?
The most romantic wat to propose is very subjective and varies from couple to couple. Sometimes the two people in a couple won’t agree on what’s romantic and what’s not.
It could be that your loved one finds it very romantic to be proposed to in your home, after a fun night out with friends. Maybe to someone else, romantic is on a small boat on a lake at sunset, just the two of them. Maybe to someone else it’s on a stage, after a special song and with everyone cheering.
Think about your love story, tie the proposal into your story
Any proposal has to be unique, in that is has to reflect your love story. Think about your first dates, your favorite places, your favorite meals, something you’d like to do together, or something along those lines.
Something that shows you’ve thought about the love you two share, and want to make it very personal.
Follow your own personal style, stay true to yourselves
Are you two into big gestures, showing off, having friends witness this beautiful moment ? Then you’d love a surprise party with all your family and friends attending.
Are you more adventurous ? Propose right after skydiving, or plant the ring at the bottom of a reef and go snorkeling.
Do you like to keep things more quiet and delicate ? A quiet night on the balcony, with wine and under a warm blanket is likely going to be a better setting. A forest picnic, if you also love the outdoors.
Think of what you both love, and tie that into your proposal.
Don’t blow your budget on the proposal
Whatever proposal you plan, be reasonable with what you’ll be spending. We’re not saying you shouldn’t spend a dime, but we are saying you should remember to have some money left for the engagement party, and some leftover for the wedding itself.
Consider whether you want a crowd or to be private
A proposal is really, really personal. The moment you propose is raw, delicate, and from the heart. Do you want everyone watching ? Call everyone over and plan a party for ‘something else’ that is just a ruse to make your fiancee not suspect a thing. Or propose somewhere public, like a restaurant.
Do you want to keep it private, just the two of you ? Make sure no one disturbs you, put your phones on mute, and lock the door if you have to. Make this your moment.
What if she knows you’ll be proposing soon ?
If your fiancee-to-be knows what’s coming, do it anyway. Propose, because while she does know you will propose, she won’t know when, or how. Snoop around, talk to her friends, see what she suspects. If you want, you can subvert her expectations and propose at a different time than she’s expecting you to.
It also depends on your loved one’s personality. Someone who likes to be in control will likely appreciate the hints and prepare herself. Some may take this moment to reflect if they really want to say yes. Then again, someone who is really laid back and carefree will likely not mind a complete surprise.
For example when my husband proposed, it was on my birthday. I had expected him to propose a year later than he actually did. And on the day-of, I only suspected something about an hour before the proposal itself, because there was a lot of fussing about in the house, more than would be normal for my birthday.
There were flowers, a cake, balloons, champagne, the table was set, and it was really sneaky of him because once I saw the setting I simply thought ‘oh he went the extra mile this year’, and all thoughts of a proposal were gone. Until he dropped to one knee and proposed.
What we’re getting at is that women, in general, will try very hard to not ruin their surprise, even if they’ve found a hint or two. If you think your loved one might be looking for signs too hard, try having an honest conversation with her, explaining that even if you do propose, she shouldn’t ruin the surprise for herself.
We hope your proposal goes well, and you get a big, fat yes from the love of your life !
I’m the main author for jewelrymaterialguide.com. I started this site after we did tons of research before our wedding and noticed that there is information about rings, jewelry, and so on that is really hard to find on the internet.