Navigating Engagement Ring Etiquette for a Perfect Proposal

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This comprehensive guide to engagement ring etiquette will help you make a thoughtful and meaningful proposal. It covers everything from selecting the right style and budget for the wedding ring. By following these dos and don’ts, you can demonstrate respect for your partner’s preferences and cultural traditions and create an unforgettable proposal. So, let’s check with Viva Wedding Photography!


Engagement ring etiquette encompasses the guidelines and expectations for selecting and presenting an engagement ring. It involves various factors such as style, size, quality, budget, and timing. So, adhering to this etiquette demonstrates respect and consideration for your partner’s preferences and cultural traditions. It also ensures that your gesture is thoughtful and meaningful and will be treasured for years.

Besides, this etiquette has evolved over centuries to reflect cultural norms and values changes. Additionally, cultural differences give rise to unique customs and expectations around engagement ring presentation and style in different regions and countries.

7 Engagement Ring Etiquette Rules To Dismiss Forever

Despite the ever-changing landscape of marriage, it is clear that tradition still plays a significant role in the engagement experience. Even as trends come and go, certain engagement aspects remain constant. For instance, it is still customary for proposers to present a ring while down on one knee.

According to The Knot 2021 Jewelry and Engagement Study, which surveyed more than 5,000 couples engaged the previous year, this was true for 90% and 86% of engagements, respectively. This indicates that traditional engagement practices remain significant in couples’ hearts even in modern times.

Engagement Ring Etiquette Rules
Engagement Ring Etiquette Rules – Photo by: Adagio DJ

In 2023, the focus on getting engaged has shifted from formalities to creating a personalized experience that reflects your unique partnership and love story. While traditional engagement ring etiquette rules may have once been considered mandatory, they are now disregarded as outdated and stuffy.

As couples continue to reimagine the wedding experience, they are also reinventing the engagement process. Rather than adhering to strict guidelines, couples can create engagement traditions that better align with their values and preferences.

You can’t tell your lover what kind of wedding ring you desire

For years, there has been a common misconception that you cannot directly communicate your desired engagement ring to your partner. Many people have instead resorted to subtle hints, hoping their partner would pick up on their preferences. This could include dropping hints during a movie or TV show or casually commenting about other people’s rings. However, this approach is often ineffective and can lead to disappointment.

Sometimes, individuals may even share their preferences with friends or family, hoping the information reaches their partner. The notion that it is taboo to communicate one’s preferences outright must be eliminated. So, being honest and open communication about engagement ring preferences ensures the ring represents your style.

  • Now: Communicate those preferences directly to your partner.

Effective communication is essential for a happy and successful marriage, and it should begin before you even say, “I do.” If you have strong feelings about the type of engagement ring you want, it’s important to communicate those preferences directly to your partner.

After all, the ring will constantly symbolize your commitment and a cherished possession you’ll wear for the rest of your life. By being honest and upfront about your desires, you can ensure that your partner selects a ring that perfectly matches your style and brings you joy every time you wear it.

You may not shop for an engagement ring together

Engagement Ring Shopping Etiquette
Engagement Ring Shopping Etiquette – Photo by: iStock

Many believe trying on engagement rings before getting engaged is bad luck, but this is a myth.

  • Now: Shopping for an engagement ring together is a great way to find the perfect one.

Shopping for an engagement ring with your partner is a great way to ensure you both find the perfect one. Experts even recommend trying on rings together before the proposal. Doing so lets you determine your preferred engagement ring designs and ensure the ring fits comfortably.

It also provides an opportunity to create a shared experience and helps to alleviate any anxiety or stress associated with selecting the wedding ring. So, rather than adhering to outdated engagement ring shopping etiquette, couples should feel free to shop for rings together and create a memorable experience.

One person paying the engagement rings bill

The 2020 Jewelry and Engagement Study by The Knot states that the current national average cost of an engagement ring is $5,500. However, the study also revealed that a quarter of the participants spent between $1,000 to $3,000, highlighting the individuality and personal nature of engagement ring purchases. Besides, some couples have opted for lab-grown diamond engagement rings to get more value for their money.

The cost of an engagement ring can vary greatly, depending on several factors, including the custom details. Bespoke engagement rings, in particular, tend to be more expensive. Nonetheless, it’s important to recognize that an engagement ring is a significant expense, regardless of the specific price point.

  • Now: Both partners are free to contribute any amount they can or desire to.

While it is still common for one partner to pay for the engagement ring, many couples now opt for a more collaborative approach. This can involve the recipient selecting and paying for the ring or both partners contributing to the cost to ensure they get the ring of their dreams.

Ultimately, the decision of who pays for the ring and how much each partner contributes should be based on their circumstances and preferences, as well as their mutual respect and understanding of each other’s financial situation.

Purchase the wedding band after the proposal

If you’re following traditional engagement ring etiquette, you might think shopping for wedding bands comes after the proposal during the wedding planning process. However, this isn’t the only way to do things. Many couples now shop for both engagement rings and wedding bands simultaneously. Experts suggest that this approach can help ensure that both wedding rings complement each other and create a cohesive look.

  • Now: Purchase the engagement ring and wedding band simultaneously.

Choosing an engagement ring and wedding band together can be a great opportunity to create a cohesive and personalized look. When selecting both rings simultaneously, you can consider how the two pieces will complement each other in design, materials, and gemstones.

For instance, you may choose a wedding band with diamonds or other precious stones that enhance the beauty of the center stone in your engagement ring. Alternatively, you might opt for a wedding band with a unique texture or pattern that adds interest and contrast to the simplicity of your engagement ring.

The engagement must be completely unexpected

Movies and TV shows often depict on-screen engagements as complete surprises, leading us to believe that the best proposals come out of nowhere. The element of surprise can indeed make the moment even more special. However, this doesn’t mean that an engagement must be completely unexpected.

Engagement Ring Etiquette
Engagement Ring Etiquette – Photo by: Brides

More couples prefer to have a conversation beforehand about the possibility of getting engaged or even going perfect ring shopping together. Ultimately, the best way to propose is the most meaningful and authentic to the couple’s relationship, whether it involves a surprise element or not.

  • Now: You may exchange this with your partner, and that’s okay.

It’s common for partners to know that a proposal might be coming, especially if you’ve talked about your perfect ring preferences or have had important conversations about your future together. Experts suggest having these discussions beforehand to ensure you’re both on the same page and ready for marriage.

By openly communicating your expectations and intentions, you can help your partner feel more comfortable and confident about getting engaged. It also lets you understand what you want from your relationship and future together. So while the element of surprise can be sweet, it’s important to prioritize open and honest communication with your partner.

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Three months salary rule for buying the ring

If you’ve researched engagement rings, you may have heard of the “three months’ salary rule,” which suggests that the purchaser should spend three months’ worth of their income on the ring.

However, you may not know that this was originally a marketing campaign during The Great Depression to increase diamond sales during tough economic times. The “rule” started as a suggestion to spend one month’s salary on a ring, then increased to two, and eventually three.

  • Now: Invest an amount that aligns the ring with your lifestyle and financial situation.

Determining how much to spend on an engagement ring can be daunting, but it ultimately depends on what fits within your financial means. While you may hear about the “three months’ salary rule” or the average cost of an engagement ring, these guidelines should not dictate your budget.

The most crucial aspect of engagement ring etiquette is to prioritize your budget. Spending an amount that aligns with your financial situation is crucial, rather than breaking the bank and incurring unnecessary debt. Starting your married life on the right financial footing is more important than adhering to any arbitrary rule.

Only men should propose

Engagements have traditionally been viewed from a heterosexual perspective, with the expectation that the man proposes to the woman.

  • Now: Anyone can propose

However, with changing times, there is a growing acceptance of women proposing to their partners, and the issue of same-sex couples proposing has also gained prominence. As society progresses, it’s becoming clear that fitting relationships into any predetermined mold no longer makes sense. In 2023, love is love, and everyone should be free to express it in whatever feels right.

The Dos and Don’ts of Engagement Ring Etiquette

When selecting a ring, consider your partner’s taste and preferencesGo into debt to buy an engagement ring
Establish a budget that is reasonable for you and adhere to itBuy a ring that doesn’t fit your partner’s style or preferences
Ensure you obtain the appropriate ring size to prevent any resizing difficulties laterSkip the ring altogether – it’s an important symbol of commitment
Keep the Four Cs (cut, color, clarity, and carat weight) when assessing diamond qualityForget to insure the ring to protect your investment
Wait too long to propose after buying the ring – your partner may wonder why you’re holding onto it for so longIf you require assistance, don’t hesitate to seek it from a jeweler or a trustworthy friend.

What hands does the engagement ring go on?

The tradition of wearing an engagement ring on the fourth finger of the left hand, also known as the “ring finger,” originates in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians believed that the “vena amoris” or “vein of love” ran directly from this ring finger to the heart.

What hands does the engagement ring go on?
What hands does the engagement ring go on? – Photo by: Estate Diamond Jewelry

However, in certain cultures, such as those in Eastern Europe and South America, the engagement ring is traditionally worn on the right hand, while the wedding ring is worn on the left hand after the wedding ceremony.

In modern times, the placement of the engagement ring is not strictly bound by tradition and is ultimately a matter of personal preference and cultural or religious practices. Some individuals wear their engagement ring on a different ring finger or hand or even as a necklace. The meaning and significance of the ring remain unchanged, regardless of its placement, as it is a deeply personal symbol of commitment and love.

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Cultural Differences in Engagement Ring Etiquette

Differences in engagement ring styles

Engagement ring etiquette styles
Engagement ring etiquette styles

A vast range of engagement ring styles is available, reflecting personal tastes, cultural customs, and historical trends. Here are some examples of commonly found styles:

  • Solitaire: The solitaire ring is a classic style featuring a single diamond or another gemstone, often set in a plain band. Its timeless and elegant design has remained popular for generations.
  • Three-stone: A three-stone ring is a style of engagement ring that incorporates three diamonds or gemstones, symbolizing the couple’s past, present, and future together.
  • Halo: A halo ring is an engagement ring with a center stone encircled by smaller diamonds or gemstones, creating a stunning halo effect that amplifies its brilliance.
  • Vintage: A vintage engagement ring showcases intricate details and designs inspired by previous eras, often drawing inspiration from styles such as Art Deco or Victorian.
  • Colored stones: Engagement rings can incorporate non-traditional gemstones, such as sapphires, rubies, or emeralds, instead of the classic diamond center stone.
  • Custom: Couples can create custom engagement rings, allowing them to design a unique ring that perfectly reflects their styles and preferences.
  • Alternative metals: Although gold or platinum are commonly used to make traditional engagement rings, some couples prefer to explore other options and choose rings made from alternative metals such as titanium, tungsten, or stainless steel.

An engagement ring style is a highly personal decision that should reflect the couple’s unique tastes and preferences. Whether traditional or unconventional, the ring should symbolize the love and commitment shared between the couple.

Differences in engagement ring budgets

Engagement ring budgets can vary significantly depending on the personal financial situation, cultural or family traditions, and individual priorities. While some couples may prioritize investing in a more expensive engagement ring, others may opt for a more affordable option that suits their preferences and financial circumstances better.

Engagement Ring Etiquette With Budgets
Engagement Ring Etiquette With Budgets – Photo by: The New York Times

Here are some possible differences in engagement ring budgets:

  • High-end luxury rings: Some couples prioritize investing in a high-end luxury engagement ring featuring rare or large diamonds or other precious gemstones. However, these rings can come with a steep price tag, sometimes ranging from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • Mid-range rings: A mid-range engagement ring featuring a smaller diamond or gemstone in a less expensive setting is a popular option for many couples. These rings range in price from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars.
  • Budget-friendly rings: For couples with a tighter budget, there are many options for affordable engagement rings. These rings may feature smaller diamonds or alternative gemstones, typically costing less than $1,000.
  • Family heirlooms: Rather than purchasing a new ring, some couples may choose to use a family heirloom as an engagement ring. This option can be both sentimental and cost-effective.
  • Custom designs: Custom engagement rings can be a great option for couples who want a unique ring that fits their tastes and budget. Working with a designer gives couples more control over the cost of the ring, as they can choose the type and size of the gemstones and the metal and level of intricacy in the design. This allows couples to create a one-of-a-kind, affordable, and meaningful ring.

Finally, the ring’s true value lies in the love and commitment it represents rather than the amount spent on it. Therefore, it is important to choose a ring that best symbolizes the couple’s love and future together rather than one that is simply expensive.

Differences in engagement ring presentation

Engagement ring etiquette presentation
Engagement ring etiquette presentation – Photo by: How They Asked

Presenting an engagement ring is a significant aspect of the proposal process and can vary depending on the couple’s preferences and cultural traditions. Here are some ways in which engagement ring presentations can differ:

  • Surprise proposal: A surprise proposal involves presenting the engagement ring unexpectedly during a special moment, often creatively or romantically. The element of surprise adds to the excitement and anticipation of the proposal. The ring may be hidden or presented uniquely to make the moment memorable.
  • Public proposal: A public proposal is a choice made by some couples where the engagement ring is presented in a more public setting, such as at a sporting event or on stage at a concert. In this case, the proposal may be more dramatic, with the ring symbolizing their love and commitment in front of a larger audience.
  • Private proposal: Some couples may prefer a private proposal in a quiet setting, such as a park or home. The ring may be presented simply and intimately during a heartfelt conversation or a romantic dinner.
  • Traditional customs: The presentation of an engagement ring may be influenced by cultural or religious traditions, where certain customs and rituals are observed. These can include formal ceremonies or specific ways of presenting the ring.

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Engagement ring etiquette is important in the engagement and proposal processes. So, following these guidelines, couples may ensure their proposal is a memorable and significant experience for both partners. Finally, Viva Wedding Photography hopes you will have the sweetest proposal for your partner.

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