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Groom With a View: The Ring

Every month our resident former-groom James will be tackling the big wedding topics from the man's perspective...

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James Homer

In August 2011, James and Rox got married. Throughout their 18-month engagement, James blogged for Y&YW about his experiences as an enthusiastic fiancé. Now married, he’s obviously had to shed his H2B status. So James re-joins us in his brand new role as Groom With a View. Same guy, just a little more under the thumb. Every month James will be tackling the big wedding topics from the man’s perspective. So grab your own impending grooms and get them to tune in. You’ll thank us girls – they might learn something.

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Men generally don’t excel at buying jewellery. In fact, the whole ‘buying gifts’ thing isn’t one of our strongest areas. So it’s perfectly reasonable to feel anxious when making one of the most significant purchases of your entire life. It is impossible to overstate the importance of the engagement ring – no pressure then. Do take it seriously, but don’t let it overwhelm you. So where to begin?

I strongly recommend that you don’t ‘wing it’. You will markedly improve your chances of success by doing your homework, so figure out what your girlfriend likes. If you’re an attentive guy (there are apparently some out there), then it’s likely you’ll already have an idea. Girls often drop hints, subconsciously or otherwise, so pay attention for once.

Just to be sure though, you could peek in your girlfriend’s jewellery box to see what rings she already has. And while you’re in there, if you want to be really sneaky you could take one of her rings to the jewellers to get it measured. Just don’t get busted because you’ll have a hard time explaining why you’re borrowing her jewellery. She’ll assume that you’re either sizing up her engagement ring, pawning her valuables or channelling Eddie Izzard.

Alternatively, on the off-chance that your partner has a discreet friend, swear her to secrecy and then ask her advice. That way you’ll get an invaluable female perspective, and also have someone else to blame if you get it horribly wrong.

Choosing the engagement ring is a daunting prospect. You need to decide what metal the band will be made out of, and how thick it’ll be. Will there be stones in it? If so, which stones, how many and how will they be set? Confused? You will be.

In my case, after a little detective work I deduced that the band had to be silver or platinum, and the stone had to be a diamond solitaire. Armed with this information, I became an expert in these types of rings by trawling the internet and visiting countless jewellers. I learnt all about the four Cs of diamond grading: clarity, cut, colour and carat. I boosted my vocabulary with exotic words like ‘asscher’ and ‘marquise’. And I discovered that I’m way more in touch with my feminine side than previously thought, because I actually enjoyed the whole process.

On the question of value, convention states that the engagement ring should cost approximately one-two months’ salary. Personally, I find this a little unfair. Really, it’s about striking a balance. In other words it shouldn’t bankrupt you, although it should certainly hurt a little. But don’t feel uncomfortable asking for a better price than the advertised one. Every jeweller that I visited, without exception, was willing to negotiate.

Over the centuries, certain traditions have woven themselves into the fabric of marriage. But this doesn’t mean that couples should slavishly observe the conventions. But there are some customs that really shouldn’t be tampered with in my opinion, one of which being the prelude to the proposal. If it is humanly possible to do so, the man should always ask permission from his girlfriend’s father for her hand in marriage.

Back in the day this had a rather creepy significance. Men actually had to seek permission from the bride’s father, and then compensate him for the loss of his daughter. So a woman could literally judge her worth by the amount her fella was prepared to trade. How romantic!

Asking the father-in-law has no actual meaning today, but it’s still a decent thing to do. It makes you look like a gentleman, and scores massive brownie points with your new dad.

There are some impending grooms who won’t have to go through this process at all. These days it’s not uncommon for couples to pick the engagement ring together, having jointly decided to get married. Obviously this eliminates the possibility of screwing up. But it also robs you of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of seeing your girlfriend’s face illuminate when you surprise her with a ring and utter those four magical words.

So in conclusion, just give it your best shot. Hopefully your girlfriend will be so overcome with emotion that she’ll forgive you if you don’t get it bang on. Unless of course you neglect to do your research and get it completely wrong, in which case you’ll deserve to get shot down in flames. Like I said – no pressure.

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Did you follow James’ Impending Groom blog? Catch up on previous posts here.