What does an engagement ring look like? For many people, my wife included, the answer is a diamond ring. While that’s a concept that didn’t become widely accepted until the diamond industry’s marketing campaigns in the mid-1900s, it’s one that holds strong today. However, some couples are going in an alternative direction. The intention isn’t to be cheap, but rather to use the savings to make a different kind of meaningful investment in their future together.
When and how a proposal happens can be a surprise, but hopefully, the answer won’t be. That situation is likely doubly true if the question is popped without a diamond engagement ring or perhaps without a ring at all. As always in a relationship, communication is most important. While some people may be excited by the idea, it could be a deal breaker for others.
What will a meaningful investment look like to the both of you? A friend of mine recently shared with me the story of how he proposed to his wife and their decision to forgo an engagement ring altogether.
When they first started discussing marriage and engagement rings, she said she’d rather put the money toward a down payment on a home because starting a home together was more meaningful to her than a ring. He didn’t ask right away, but when he did take a knee, ringless, and ask her to marry him, she said yes. Today they live in the home their saving helped buy and wear only wedding bands. He said neither of them regrets the decision.
Saving for a down payment might not make sense for you, but there are other ways to invest in your future together. For some couples, paying down debts or saving for their wedding so that they don’t go into debt might be a better fit. Or, you might want to start a travel or honeymoon fund.
Consider your options if you want to buy a ring. Understandably, the idea of proposing without an engagement ring isn’t for everyone, and there is a middle ground. Consider a less expensive engagement ring and put the savings towards your shared goal.
Here are few options you could discuss with your significant other.
Buy an alternative stone. There are a variety of alternative precious and semi-precious stones you could pick for the ring. Matching a stone’s color to the person’s eyes or choosing their birthstone could imbue the ring with a personal touch. However, be careful about picking a “soft” gem that could be easily scratched if it’s worn daily.
Diamond look-alikes are good choices. You could choose a synthetic diamond or a stone that looks similar to a diamond but costs much less, such as a cubic zirconium. Some of the man-made and alternative options can look more brilliant than genuine diamonds, and you don’t need to worry about whether or not the stone is conflict-free.
Choose a solid band. While it won’t have the same flash as a ring with a large gemstone, choosing a smaller diamond or solid metal band with a symbolic meaning could be just as meaningful to your partner.
Family heirlooms can also make for memorable engagement rings, and often there isn’t a price tag attached, although a lengthy discussion might be in order. A vintage ring could appeal to some people’s style, or the center stone could be reset in a modern band. In either case, there’s something special about wearing a gemstone that’s been in one of your families for generations.
Decide on your priorities as a couple and act accordingly. According to The Knot’s 2015 Real Weddings Study, an average of $5,871 was spent on engagement rings. For some couple, there’s no better way to spend money. After all, it’s a ring that’s going to be worn for decades.
However, you can discuss engagement ring expectations before you ask someone to marry you. If a diamond isn’t particularly important, an alternative ring or gemstone, or no ring at all, can be an equally timeless and beautiful gesture of love when you both know the money is going to an important step in your future together.
Nathaniel Sillin directs Visa’s financial education programs. To follow Practical Money Skills on Twitter, visit www.twitter.com/PracticalMoney.