Would you say yes to a mar­riage pro­posal with­out a ring?

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFESTYLE - By NI­COLE MOW­BRAY

I have a male friend in his midthir­ties who’s been think­ing about propos­ing to his girl­friend of three years, for about, oooh, two-and-ahalf of them.

The main rea­son he hasn’t yet done so? He has ERT — oth­er­wise known in our cir­cle of friends as en­gage­ment ring ter­ror.

His girl­friend, like me, works in the fashion in­dus­try. By her own ad­mis­sion, she is ul­tra choosy about what she wears — in­deed, he con­fesses he dare not even buy her a pair of shoes for her birth­day or a jumper for Christ­mas be­cause “he knows it will al­ways be wrong”.

“It’s not like she tells me,” he says. “But there’s a thinly-veiled look of dis­ap­point­ment in her eyes when she un­wraps it and then I never see the item again. It dis­ap­pears into the black hole of her wardrobe. I find the whole process soul de­stroy­ing, so now I buy her prac­ti­cal things in­stead, like walk­ing boots.”

But there’s noth­ing prac­ti­cal about choos­ing your beloved an en­gage­ment ring. If you want to do things the tra­di­tional way — as he does: down on one knee, com­plete with a sparkler — there’s no way to shirk it. And yet, ERT is so preva­lent that a poll has just re­vealed that a quar­ter of men now pop the ques­tion with­out prof­fer­ing a ring, at all.

Their fears would seem war­ranted, given a post cur­rently go­ing vi­ral on so­cial me­dia, in which an uniden­ti­fied woman on Mum­snet clan­des­tinely com­plained about her en­gage­ment ring be­hind her fi­ance’s back.

“DP [Dar­ling Part­ner] pro­posed and pre­sented me with the ring he’d cho­sen — a di­a­mond soli­taire in white gold. I was so happy and ex­cited to ac­cept but was dis­ap­pointed when I saw the ring,” she wrote on­line. “There’s noth­ing to dis­like ... per se,” she con­tin­ued, “a di­a­mond soli­taire would have been my choice — but it’s the whole thing, the colour of the gold, the set­ting, the small stone and rel­a­tively chunky shoul­ders.”

The poster didn’t at­tempt to hide her dis­ap­point­ment with the value of the ring, ei­ther.

“His salary is near­ing a six-fig­ure sum and he’s usu­ally very gen­er­ous. Hav­ing seen the re­ceipt I know he paid £1,300, which is a lot less than I would have imag­ined he would have spent on such a sig­nif­i­cant piece of jew­ellery.”

Opinion seems fiercely di­vided, as to whether she has a right to be dis­ap­pointed, or is un­grate­ful and spoilt to com­plain. Moan­ing about the value of some­thing is quite frankly, al­ways pretty un­couth. In fact, her other half spent more than the av­er­age man now does on a ring (£1080, ac­cord­ing to re­cent sta­tis­tics, down 19 per cent on 10 years ago).

But, value aside, I dare say this poster echoes the great un­spo­ken sen­ti­ments of many a woman who is pre­sented with an en­gage­ment ring she has had no in­volve­ment in choos­ing.

For a man, pick­ing a ring is fraught with old-fash­ioned rules of en­gage­ment — some de­cree they should cost a whop­ping three month’s salary; oth­ers pro­claim spend­ing one month’s wages is suf­fi­cient.

Yet for the ma­jor­ity of to­day’s women, the price is ir­rel­e­vant. Usu­ally, she earns her own money and is happy to buy her own jew­ellery, ‘just be­cause’. Re­cent re­search shows millennial shop­pers, es­pe­cially, think noth­ing of treat­ing them­selves to rel­a­tively high-value jew­ellery, and even pre­cious stones. We al­ready know the set­tings we like, the stones, the met­als — which makes us much harder to buy for.

Wed­dings are loaded with pres­sure and ex­pec­ta­tion from be­gin­ning to end, but it all be­gins with The Ring. Friends and fam­ily clam­our to see it, the minute you an­nounce your happy news. Ridicu­lously, the en­gage­ment ring selfie is even a Thing (there are guides as to how to get the best shot, on­line) and ad­ver­tis­ers ramp up the hype, telling us di­a­monds are the “ul­ti­mate sym­bol of love” and some­thing “she’ll trea­sure for­ever”. So, no pres­sure then.

Pres­sure is some­thing I’m sure my (now) hus­band felt. Both in our midthir­ties when we met, we agreed early on that we’d both like to get mar­ried. Then, my fa­ther be­came gravely ill — there was a fi­nite time­line in which he would be able to be at our wed­ding, which ac­cel­er­ated the ring chat.

Poor guy. He is ul­tra low main­te­nance and couldn’t give two hoots about clothes or fashion. I am bossy and picky and know what I like — what bet­ter way to paral­yse some­one with in­de­ci­sion?

I wanted some­thing plain, but not too plain. Clas­sic but not bor­ing. Yel­low gold, but noth­ing chunky or flashy. I quickly be­came the kind-of woman who makes pri­vate Pin­ter­est boards of rings and showed them to him, think­ing it would help. In­stead, he be­came hor­ror struck at hav­ing to buy and choose some­thing so ex­pen­sive and pre­cious on his own.

In the end, we or­dered a ring from a jew­eller friend of ours who gave us a good deal. I of­fered to con­trib­ute to­wards it, but he said no (sev­eral of my friends have gone halves, which is the more mod­ern way to do things). While I re­alise that doesn’t sound very ro­man­tic, the way we got en­gaged means I wear a ring I love, and my hus­band avoided the stress of pre­sent­ing me with a costly un­known quan­tity.

All of which ex­plains the rise in pop­u­lar­ity of the ‘place­holder ring’, which I as­sume is what many of the men propos­ing with­out a ring had up their sleeves, in­stead.

Ami Amin, 34, a lawyer from north-west Lon­don, was pos­i­tively re­lieved that her then-boyfriend, now hus­band, Ajay, 34, a di­rec­tor with Price­wa­ter­house Cooper, pro­posed with a stand-in ring in 2013.

“We were at the Trevi Foun­tain in Rome and he told me to close my eyes,” she says. “When I opened them he was down on one knee with a ring box open, and I just saw in­side it a ring I didn’t like, with a row of three stones.”

Thank­fully, it turned out he’d got it for free from the jew­eller who went on to make her proper en­gage­ment ring. “I was glad he didn’t try to choose the proper ring him­self,” Ami says. “I didn’t even know what kind of ring I wanted, so how could he have been ex­pected to get it right?”.

It’s a tricky thing to buy, a for­ever pur­chase, loaded with sym­bol­ism and semi­otics on both sides. One al­ter­na­tive is to keep it in the fam­ily and pro­pose with an heir­loom in­vested with sen­ti­men­tal value, as the Duke of Cam­bridge did when he gave his Diana’s sap­phire to Kate.

But there’s a grow­ing move­ment of peo­ple shun­ning rings al­to­gether — par­tic­u­larly when it comes to sec­ond wed­dings — pre­fer­ring to put their cash to­wards things like a de­posit on a home or the cost of the wed­ding it­self.

A ring is a tricky thing to buy, a for­ever pur­chase, loaded with sym­bol­ism and semi­otics on both sides. Want­ing to choose your own doesn’t mean you don’t love your part­ner

Ul­ti­mately, en­gage­ments are about the re­la­tion­ship, not the rock. And while dis­lik­ing the ring you have been given, or want­ing to choose your own, is un­doubt­edly awk­ward, it doesn’t mean you don’t love the other per­son, or that you’re a madam, or that some­one hasn’t tried hard enough.

My ad­vice, for men wish­ing to do it the old-fash­ioned way, is to con­sult with your other half be­fore tak­ing the plunge. Sure, there’s al­ways that guy with in­cred­i­ble taste who bought their part­ner the ‘per­fect ring’ with no help, but if you have a choosy other half, ex­pec­ta­tion will weigh heavy.

And for men suf­fer­ing ERT, I ad­vise you to in­vest £1 in a bag of Haribo Starmix, which comes com­plete with sev­eral jelly sweet rings in­side. Down on one knee, with one of those in hand, and a prom­ise to hit Hat­ton Garden to­gether? There’s no way you can go wrong.


En­gage­ment Ring Ter­ror is so preva­lent that a quar­ter of men now pop the ques­tion with­out prof­fer­ing a ring, at all.

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