Ask the Wedding Maven: How Much Should an Engagement Ring Cost?

By Azure Nelson, Published Nov 19, 2009

Every few weeks we like to have an exchange program of sorts with our friends at The Plunge. We send them one of our Ask the Wedding Maven questions, they send us one of their advice column questions and you get to hear both a guy’s and a gal’s take on an issue. This week we decided to simultaneously answer a question that the guys received. What’s more, we didn’t tell each other what we were writing. The Wedding Maven’s take is below. Here is where you can read what the guys told the letter writer about his ring shopping problem. It all started when she asked me “what if I don’t like the ring you proposed with? Would you be offended if I don’t like it?” The answer was tricky but I said “Yes, I would be offended on the grounds of you missing the point that it is not about the ring, it is about me offering my life to you.” Call me old fashion but that is how I feel. However, I took her window shopping for the ring. The idea behind it was that at least she would get what she wants (size, cut, color, setting, etc) even if I had to sacrifice the surprise. It was explained to her prior to the excursion that we were doing our homework and that we were not going to buy a ring that night. The problem is that she fell in love with a $12,000 dollar setting, capable of holding a 2.5 carat rock. The ring (diamond included) carried a price tag of $40,000; far more than 3 months of salary by a long margin. The next day she went to work and tracked down the designer of the monster setting online. She then e-mailed me the results of “the hunt” because she “thought it might be useful to have these pictures in my archives.” I was furious. She knows the price of the setting and she does not care if the thing is by itself more than two months salary, half the price of a car, 5 years of food, 7 years of gas, 9 mortgage payments and an infinite amount of dog food. I know I sound like a cheapskate, but I am ready to invest up to $18,000 on the ring (hardly a drop in the bucket), but now I am thinking that maybe, just maybe, I am being taken advantage of. She is certainly not in it for the money, but sometimes she makes me feel like she likes the flash more than the idea of being with me for life. My question is: Am I in the wrong to think that $12,000 for a setting is crazy and that 40 grand for a ring is just insane? Furthermore, since she knows the price of the setting and obviously has check estimates for the diamond, why does she think that such an inconsiderate number is OK? Lastly, if it is all about love, what is so wrong with a ring pop? Dear Ring Shopper, Unless you’re the heroine of a 19th century romance novel marriage is not about “offering your life” to someone. It’s about two people building a life together. In your rush to start talking about engagement rings, you and your girlfriend (fiancée?) seem to have skipped a few more important conversations. The first being, what kind of life is it that you’re trying to build? Does she even want to buy an unlimited amount of dog food or a car? Will you buy a house in the suburbs and have kids? Will one of you want to stay home with the kids? Do you want to skip the kids and spend your life traveling instead? Do you want to join the Peace Corp together? Is one of you going back to school while the other works? In short, what are your goals and are they compatible? How do you feel about money? Do you both feel like saving is important or do you like to save and she thinks money is there to be spent? How do you feel about debt? What’s a reasonable amount of debt to have? Once you’re married will you share accounts or each keep track of your own money and spending? The answers to these questions is what will help the two of you decide TOGETHER what a reasonable amount to spend on a ring is. It is something you need to decide together because unless you buy a ring that you can afford to pay off before the wedding (not a bad idea at all), she will in one way or another be paying for her own ring. If you share accounts, the ring loan is one more bill she will be paying. Even if you don't share accounts then she'll have to realize that you may not be able to do things like go on vacation because you're still paying for the ring. A ring is a symbol. For some people symbols are more important than others. It actually sounds like symbols are pretty important to you. Why else would you get upset at the idea that she didn't like your choice of ring? Marriage is wonderful, but it’s also hard work and sometimes a little symbolism can go a long way toward preventing matrimonial homicide. When your wife is picking up your socks for the hundreth time, or listening to you snore, or in her 36th hour of labor, do you want her to look down and see that you think your love is best symbolized by a ring pop? Are you curious about what the guys at The Plunge said? Here's a little taste: You ask us two questions. One is very easy and one is very hard. We'll start with the easy one, because we're cowards. Your easy question: "What's so wrong with a ring pop?" It's a reasonable position. Isn't a ring just a token, a symbol? Doesn't love transcend trinkets? Hell, in Braveheart, William Walllace merely gives that chick a few strands of twine, and that was that. (Let's just forget the whole "prima-nocte" thing.) Yes and no. This might shock the hell out of you, but we'll defend the diamond ring tradition. We're not kidding. As preposterous as this sounds, there's actually a point to buying an expensive wedding ring. By making the guy sacrifice a little bit, it symbolizes that he doesn't take the decision lightly. If you love this woman more than anything and want to spend the rest of your life with her, the theory goes, then it's reasonable for you to sacrifice just a bit--cutting back on PS3 games, passing up a Vegas vacation, squirreling away some extra cash--that kinda thing. That's the answer to your easy question: yes, there is something wrong with a "ring pop." You should sacrifice a little bit. Read more... If you need wedding advice, or have a question about wedding traditions, etiquette or relationships write the Wedding Maven at About the Wedding Maven

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