BY DEREK REIMHERR
Engagement was one of the most terrifyingly exciting times of my life. To say I was emotional and conflicted would be an understatement. On one hand, I had this fantastic woman who I loved dearly. On the other hand...officially locking myself down for life.
Ultimately, as evidenced by this blog’s existence, I went through with it. Surprise! The journey was fun but stressful. I’m here to offer some tips on what we did right and wrong.
Step 1: Evaluate the Relationship
“Why would I do that? I want to marry this person!” That’s all well and good, but this process is not for the faint of heart, and therefore it’s important to do more than a passing glance at the situation. Ask around to your friends, family, and any trusted people in your life. What do they think? It’s easy to be blinded by our affections, but you’d rather reconsider before they are legal ramifications, right?
List off all the endearing and irritating qualities about your significant other and why you want to move forward with this person. Reasons should not include, “Literally all of my other friends are engaged/married.” A good rule of thumb to live by is the 5:1 ratio, something I learned about while getting my psychology degree. Basically, couples who have a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions are more likely to stay together. I don’t recommend keeping a tally, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Step 2: Determine the “When”
IMHO: Don’t start talking about your engagement plans 3 months into the relationship. In fact, the less you talk about it, the better. I persistently steered our pre-engagement conversations away from the topic. Why? You overlook serious issues in your relationship when you’ve already decided that you’re getting married.
However, once marriage is clearly the right step for your relationship, it’s not a bad idea to actually plan the engagement. For example, if your future wife is getting her Ph. D, maybe it would be best to wait until she’s finished her dissertation. Or be like Maggie’s cousins, who got married when they were both in the beginning of grad school and are walking through that process together.
Based on when I proposed, we were engaged for over a year. It was awful. Seriously, there’s nothing worse than looking at your future mate and just WANTING TO BE MARRIED but still having to wait 14 months. Our take: 9-month engagements seem to be the sweet spot. Just enough time to plan, not too much to drive yourself crazy planning. Enough time to digest the engagement and get pre-marital counseling, but not so much that you go bonkers like we did.
Step 3: Buying the ring
This part may be the most stressful for many men, but it should be an exciting time. The best advice I can give: plan in advance and pay cash. I was able to do that and it relieved an unbelievable amount of stress. Don’t overthink the process, though. This is truly the most exciting decision you’ve (probably) made up to this point of your life.
Make a budget. We like budgets. Whatever you’ve heard about spending on a ring, forget it. 3 months salary? Bollocks. I spent roughly 5 weeks’ salary, but we’re all different. Pick the number that works for you and try to stay within 5% of that number.
Pick the Style. Potentially the most daunting task. I asked one of Maggie’s friends and her sister (shout out to Lindsay and Claire). Ask several months in advance so you’re not too obvious. Next step, go to the treasure trove that is Pinterest - should be all the help you need. Try to figure out your lady’s style: traditional (diamond) or nontraditional (precious gem). All women are different and some don’t want a diamond because they’re a ripoff.
Educate Yourself. 4 C’s, y’all: carat, cut, color, and clarity. Learn them, know them. Decide which aspects are important and don’t compromise. If you want more info, peruse GIA’s website. Whatever you buy, make sure it’s a certified gem. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA), American Gemological Society (AGS), and European Gemological Laboratory (EGL) are all considered reputable agencies, with the GIA considered to be the highest standard.
Choose a Jeweler. Please don’t go to a chain store - the markups are ridiculous. Go to a family friend or go to a wholesaler. I went with the latter option where my ring immediately appraised for 50% more than I paid - probably what I would’ve paid if “He went to Jared.” If you don’t know a family friend and are near Atlanta, I went to “The Mart.”
Make the purchase. My advice: Don’t go with your significant other. You can go alone, but I took a close friend who was married and knew more than I did. I think it was more fun for Maggie to be surprised, and I think she agrees. When you’re searching for the ring, see if there’s a matching band. That makes it easier to assess your budget and not have to go back to the jewelry store again later.
Always negotiate that price. Whether you’re under or over budget, it’s worth shaving off more money. I managed to shave about $900 off the list price of Maggie’s ring. BINGO.
That’s it! If you can make it through those 3 steps, you’re probably already engaged and don't need my advice. Congratulations!
Married friends: Any advice for the singles out there? Singles: Any hopes you have for engagement? Let us know!
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