I Want To Get Engaged… Where To Start

Part 1 of a 6 part series on finance and engagement rings.  

It was a set of two phone calls.

Her parents are divorced and remarried.  I wanted to be sure to give each the respect they deserved.

The voices on the other side of the phone knew exactly why I was calling.  I mean we’ve never really talked over the phone.

And rarely (if ever) have I been the one to call them.

Then the question, “Are y’all available for dinner or a drink?”

Now why the hell would their daughter’s boyfriend want to get dinner or a drink with them… alone?

Yup, the secret was blown.  They knew it.  And have even experienced it before… with their other daughter.

So, the dates were set.  One was a lunch and the other was just a talk at their house.

Awkwardness doesn’t seem so awkward when the moment is in the distant future.  But as the date nears, it becomes a little more awkward.

The first set of parents was a lunch.  We go through the normal cordial greetings and then small talk.

And while this is occurring, everyone knows that there is this huge elephant in the room.  Actually, the damn elephant was sitting in the fourth seat… that was my date for the lunch.

Small talk ensues and sincere laughs occur.  Then… boom!  The elephant disappears with one sentence, “I would like to ask for your permission to take your daughter’s hand in marriage.”


And then everyone laughs and talks about how they knew it was coming.  Some jokes came out.  Then, we actually ate lunch.

One down and one to go.  Lunch turned into a short round of golf, which was great.  But then the meeting at the house—going to ask the father of the bride.

Again, much of the same.  Small talk. Hello to the brother who knew why I was there, despite not saying it.  And right behind me was the elephant… one last time.

Sat down, in what I deem a library in the house, with the elephant right beside me.  But with shivering in my voice I asked one last time, “I would like to ask for your permission to take your daughter’s hand in marriage.”

But the answer didn’t come right away.  Instead a notebook opens and questions start to come my way.  Well, the elephant has left the building and now I am the lone soldier!

It was about 20 minutes of questions and answers.  I was continuously looking to find a way to put my love for their daughter into words.  And this is hard.  It’s hard to put an emotion, a feeling into relatable or understandable words.

Ultimately, the approval was granted and it was off to one more necessary step—the proposal.


But let’s rewind for a second…

That’s all great.  But that feels like we are picking up the movie about an hour and 15 minutes in.

And a movie is how many people view getting married.  It’s about the proposal and that’s all.

Asking your loved one to marry you on top of the Empire State Building or getting the question popped on the big screen.

Nah, that’s not reality. Getting engaged is a process and buying that little thing within the black box takes time and knowledge.

The problem many tend to run into, though, is that they believe it to be so easy because Hollywood has made it seem that way.

The moment one decides it’s time to commit to his significant other for the rest of his life, they go to Kay’s.  Nothing wrong with Kay’s, but it’s better to go in with some education outside of that store being the one where, “every kiss begins with K(ay).”

Okay, okay.  So, then we do some searching online and find this idea of the 4 Cs (cut, clarity, color and carat).  This is probably one of the most useful pieces of knowledge that we will need, but there are steps we need before then.

Think about all the research that we do before we buy a car.  The same (or I would argue even more) should be done when it comes to an engagement ring.

On a side note, and not to scare any of you, but some people are almost putting a car on their loved one’s finger.  Think about that!

So the true stress of buying an engagement ring comes, for many, in the form of making sure to not underwhelm the future bride on size, and making sure the proposal is the most epic and memorable event ever!

However, the real problem is well before either of those moments occurs.  It begins with trying to understand what she wants and your options.  The dirty work is what people forget about, and this is where it’s more difficult to find answers.


Going back to the beginning

Understanding that it was time to ask my current fianceé to marry me was the easy part.  It was what happened right after that moment which was difficult.

I had made the decision to propose, and now I needed to figure out what ring she wanted.  These days, it isn’t uncommon for couples to go ring shopping together.  This relieves this initial stress, but not all stresses.

Personally, I wanted to be traditional.  I was all about making it a complete surprise.

Given that I had never grown up with a sister or ever really bought much jewelry, I had no clue where to start.

I read online posts that mentioned we should start looking at their jewelry to get an idea as to what they like.  Ok, that is great advice for some.  But for me, that would have ended up with me going to a jeweler and saying, “She likes rings with stuff on top of them.”

I tell you, I was lost.

Thankfully, we had talked about marriage before, and this led to her talking to her sister about the ring that she wanted.

Don’t be discouraged if your loved one doesn’t have siblings or doesn’t have a sister.  As we all know, most girls have been planning their weddings from the age of two. So turn to her best friend. She will likely have all the answers.

Getting some insights from those close to your lady friend helped to make the process a lot easier.

I had a starting point.  That gave me an idea as to what I would need to save, and thus when the whole movie-esque proposal could happen.

And all of this was necessary before we even got into the 4 Cs.


Navigating the waters before reaching 4 Cs (or Seas)

Have some ideas as to what to ask and do before heading into the jeweler is always a positive.

Asking others and reading online can only provide a particular amount of knowledge. Ultimately, you have to experience it for yourself, because it is a once in a lifetime moment.

It was a time of stress, excitement and ultimate joy.

Some things to think about as you head on this journey of a lifetime and before you make it to the jeweler.

Listen or talk… don’t assume – For me, this is where my fiancée’s sister came in as a huge help!  An engagement ring is a big purchase, and assuming what your fiancée may like is a pretty big gamble.  It is also a purchase that these ladies have been wanting for a long time, so we don’t want to mess it up.   Talk to one of her close friends to see what she has already said she liked.  Listen to her conversations with engaged friends or newly engaged friends when all of y’all are out.  If you understand jewelry, base it off what she tends to wear… but for me, I would also get a second opinion from someone close to her (who is sworn to secrecy, so your surprise doesn’t go out).

Know what you are trying to get out of these conversations – Okay, so it’s great that you are able to talk to some people, but understand what points of interest are necessary for you.  Be selfish here.

  • Shape: What type of diamond shape does she want?  Some words you are looking for here are round, princess, emerald, cushion, oval, pear, asscher, radiant, marquise.  Once you hear those after the words “I like _____” or “She likes _____”, take note.
  • Setting: Here, we are looking for some of the following words:  prong, three stone setting, baguette, bezel, half bezel, tension, channel, channel end and pave.  Again, once you hear these words take note.  At times, a multiple of these words could be used at once.  For me, it was a prong setting with a pave band.  So be sure that you don’t stop listening just after one of the words are spoken.
  • Metal: This may be more of a game time decision, but if you can get insight into what type of metal she would like the band made out of that would be very useful.  It may be platinum, gold or palladium and they all have pros and cons and each impact how far your budget goes in different ways.

Understand the costs… and start saving – Many put this rule of thumb out there that it will cost you two to three months’ worth of your salary.  But everyone is different and the choice should be based on your personal budget and what you all have set out for in regards to your future expenses together.  This may include y’all talking about wanting to buy a house, having kids right away or whatever it may be.  I suggest going to the site www.pricescope.com and using some of the before-mentioned knowledge (mainly shape) and start getting a gauge of prices.  Even before you know what cut, clarity, carat and color mean, look at how these different elements impact prices.  Price Scope has the ability to give you prices for all different ring options.  You can start to see what is out there and get an idea of what could be in your price range without breaking the bank.  Set this range as your budget for a ring and begin saving towards it.

As we move through the 4 Cs, you can make your budget go further based on sacrificing certain aspects of the ring.


It’s a process, enjoy it

Getting engaged is more than just going to Kay’s and buying a diamond ring to put on your loved one’s finger.

It’s a process that takes educating yourself because, for most of us, it isn’t our area of expertise.

It is also a very important time, and a once in a lifetime event.  Realize that this can’t be something that we as men can take lightly.  We have the ability to show our ladies that we do really care about them and we do listen to them.

That doesn’t mean that by just spending more you will get her love, because it doesn’t.  It is an opportunity for us to show that we understand them and their desires.  If we buy them a three-carat diamond, but they really want an emerald and a much less expensive ring, we aren’t showing them we know them.

Show your lady you not only love her, but you understand her.

Stress will ensue.  Nerves will emerge.  And excitement will jolt in.

Enjoy the moment.

As awkward as those moments were sitting on the father of the bride’s couch or small talking at lunch before having the question come out.  It’s all worth it.

And it is what makes the process fun and memorable.  Those are the moments you can talk about and joke about through the entire engagement and marriage.

Embrace the elephant in the room and have fun with it.

This is a big step!  Kudos!