The marriage proposal is probably the pinnacle of romantic planning. Every detail, from rose petals to candlelight kisses, revolves around that one special ring. Typically, the guys are expected to pick out the perfect ring. That’s a lot of pressure to put on men who, often, are not experts on buying women’s jewelry in the first place.

So what’s a guy to do?

Well, it all depends on if this proposal will be expected or not.

The Surprise Proposal

This is a tough scenario. If you are completely in the dark about what her tastes and expectations are in a ring, finding the right one can be daunting. How much should you spend? That really depends on your budget and your bride.

According to weddingstats.org, the average cost of an engagement ring for 2013 is just under $5,000.

However, people spend on both sides of the spectrum. It really comes down to what you can afford, and what you feel will fit your lady’s personality and taste.

The Planned Proposal

While I didn’t know when my man would drop to one knee, I knew it was coming. We had been talking about our future lives together from very early in our dating relationship. We actually went ring shopping in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and enjoyed being pampered by the jewelers with cushy seats and sparkling bubbly while I tried on all types of dazzling gemstones. He observed my choices and learned my taste.

Then, he took this information and found the perfect ring on his own. It made my ring much more special than if I had picked it out. It also added an element of surprise, as I didn’t know when he bought the ring or when he would pop the question.

Here are 3 things to consider when looking at the cost of the ring. (My husband did!)

1. What price range is affordable?

While the last thing you want to do is go too cheap, you also don’t want to start off your marriage saddled with a huge debt. It’s the man, not the ring, that she is marrying. The guy who stays within a discussed budget will be laying the groundwork to trust him in other important financial matters later in the relationship. I was happy my husband was smart about his purchase and didn’t spend outside of our comfort zone. I have heard that two-month’s salary is a good indicator; but like all societal antidotal ideas, not necessarily worth following.

Before going ring shopping, ask yourself:

  • What is the earning potential of both people in the relationship?
  • Can you pay for the ring upfront from savings or do you have to finance it?
  • If you need to finance, what type of financing is available at what interest rate?
  • How fast can the debt be paid off?
  • What other expenses (wedding, house purchase, honeymoon) will you face going forward, and how will additional debt affect them?
  • How will purchasing an expensive luxury item affect pre-existing financial commitments?

While it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of emotion buying an engagement ring, make sure you put serious thought into these questions and develop an existing price range before you let a smooth salesman turn your head.

2. What type of ring best represents the woman?

Again, my husband knocked this one out of the park. Not only did he study my jewelry preferences, he went a step further and found a princess-cut setting for a beautiful single diamond. Since the translation of my name means Princess, I found that particularly romantic. He also knew that I wasn’t into flashy jewelry. I liked simple, elegant rings without a lot of extra gems. He found one single, gorgeous stone in a graceful platinum setting. Since I work with my hands a lot, my ring needed to be easy to clean and durable. He accounted for this. His ring choice fit me better than any other ring I ever tried on. Now, after eleven years, it hasn’t needed one repair and looks as new as the day he gave it to me.

Choosing the right ring means fitting it to the woman behind the ring. It means not just knowing her ring size, but knowing her heart. I am a tomboy. Rings equivalent to a mortgage downpayment make me nervous. I’m always afraid I will damage or lose them. I am more comfortable with a more practically-priced offering. Other women love to be frosted with expensive jewelry. The woman’s tastes affect the price.

3. What’s the best way to get the biggest bang for your buck?

My husband drove over two hours from our town to get to a large jewelry supplier. This supplier was able to offer him a ring without the retail markup of regular jewelry stores. Therefore, in cutting out the middle man, my ring was appraised at double the cost he actually spent on it. He stretched his dollar as far as it could go, so when he got on one knee and opened the box (complete with tiny light to make the ring extra sparkly), he knew he was giving me his best representation of his love for me without causing extra debt grief.

Buying the perfect engagement ring can be a difficult decision, but with a bit of planning, it doesn’t have to cause anxiety. Instead, the experience can be enjoyed as the centerpiece of a beautiful memory. I want to stress, a relationship doesn’t rise or fall on the cost of the ring. If it does, it certainly isn’t built on a deep enough foundation to last during the ups and downs of marriage. Whether you spend $1,000 or $10,000, the priceless part of the relationship is the love found as two hearts become one, not in the hardware. The ring is just the symbol—not the sum —of a successful marriage.

A little gift, an off-hand compliment, a moment of physical contact can vastly strengthen a relationship: 10 Keys to a Successful Romantic Relationship

Featured photo credit: Wedding rings and tullips via Shutterstock

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