Rules of Engagement

November 18, 2011  |  
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It finally happened: your man popped the question and now that altar is so close that you can almost feel the taffeta brush against your face. But a lot can happen along the way from the proposal to actually legally becoming husband and wife. While an engagement is a major commitment, it can also be a stressful time for the couple who’s burdened with the opinions of family and friends, the responsibility of planning a wedding and containing pre-wedding jitters.  Too much time sweating the small stuff could possibly leave the love you both share in the dust.  The list below includes some common Q&A that can nag at even the nicest nuptials.

1.  If we decide to break off the engagement, do I get to keep the ring?

If you are any kind of Judge Judy fan you already know the proper way to handle this rule of engagement.  An engagement ring is a conditional gift based upon the fulfilled promise of marriage.  This means that even if he liked it and put a ring on it, if he decides he doesn’t like it anymore he gets his ring back–that is if he paid for it.  I don’t care if the break up is completely his fault; if he leaves the relationship without a wife he gets his ring.  You discover he actually has another family?  Yep, he still gets his ring back.  Now you could be bitter and try to keep it, but the truth is, who really wants to wear the ring of someone who did them wrong? Who wants a constant reminder of a failed relationship?

Also keep in mind that different states have different laws about how conditional gifts are handled and that pre-nuptial agreements are a good way to protect engagement rings that are also family heirlooms.

2.  What about after we’re actually married? If we divorce do I get to keep my wedding band and engagement ring?

Actually becoming a wife changes the rules.  If you think of marriage as a legally binding contract (which it technically is), by becoming his wife you have fulfilled your part of the contract.  This means you get to keep all of the cuts, carats and colors you want.  You could always pawn your jewelry and throw yourself a fancy divorce party.

3. How long is too long to be engaged?

Although the time may vary depending on each individual couple, most people agree that two years is a long enough time when it comes to the length of an engagement.
When planning a fancier wedding, you have to consider that reservations for venues sometimes have to be booked at least a year in advance depending
upon their popularity, and the poshest of weddings usually take that long to plan.  Couples may even have different priorities like finishing school or saving up money, but if not, remember that the whole point of getting engaged is the expectation that a marriage will soon follow.  If you’re still just a “fiancee’” after four or more years then the truth is, you’re really just a long-term girlfriend with a fancy title and a promise ring.

4.  Who chooses the ring?

Historically, it was the man’s responsibility to choose the ring that he thought would best suit his lady.  Many women also feel that after being together for a substantial amount of time, her man should “just know” what type of ring would be perfect for her.  But let’s be serious, we’re talking about the same guy who chooses his outfit for the day by giving it the “sniff test.”   Etiquette aside, I think it’s important for the bride-to-be to be happy with the ring she’s rocking since, after all, it will hopefully be on her finger for the rest of her life.  There’s nothing wrong with helping your man out by throwing a few ideas his way like your ring size, the cut of diamond you prefer as well as the metal.  But most of the time, you shouldn’t be present when he actually purchases it.  The proposal should always be a total surprise and special in its own way.

5.  What if I hate the ring he’s picked out?

This is a toughie, but something that is quite common especially in the case of precious family heirlooms.  He’s finally popped the question, but once he’s popped the box open he pulls out something that is completely ancient and outdated, or gaudy and not your style.  As we stated previously, this is something that you will have to wear on your finger for the rest of your life, and if it’s something you hate, it is more likely you are going to “lose” it, not make it very visible on your hand (turn the stone into your palm) or avoid wearing it at all.

So honesty is the best policy if you just absolutely can’t get over how unsightly you feel the ring is.  On the other hand, it’s important to recognize that the love you share is bigger than the ring on your finger no matter how many carats it is.  Be mindful of his feelings and the fact that he’s invested much of his time and energy into making this a perfect moment, and that he’s battled a bundle of nerves leading up to this very moment.

6.  How much should he spend on the engagement ring?

There’s no magic number when it comes to the standard that all couples should spend on engagement rings, but to put things into perspective, if you take into consideration the amount of money you’re spending on the wedding and anything else that will result from combining lives, the last thing you want to do is go into debt over your engagement ring.  If you know anything about diamonds, you should also consider the quality and clarity of the stone and not necessarily how huge it is.  Pick something that you can afford that flatters your beauty and not some Kardashian engagement replica just because it’s what “hot.” You don’t have to abide by that 2-3 month salary rule either, especially if that’s money that’s better invested elsewhere (like on purchasing a home).

7.  I’m tired of waiting for him to make his move.  Is it really acceptable for me to pop the question?

I’m not a woman who’s ever fantasized about planning my fairytale wedding or romantic honeymoon, but ironically for that reason, I refuse to be the one to propose.  I feel like I’m pretty independent and liberal and don’t ask for anything over-romanticized.  So the least a man can do for me is put a little effort into asking for my hand.  I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable popping the question, but admittedly some men need a little push and if you feel like you’ve found the man you want to share your world with forever, then why not?  The only thing I suggest is that you ask for the right reasons.  Don’t rush a marriage because all of your friends are getting married, or you want a wedding more than an actual marriage.  And of course if you’re getting on bended knee, it’s your responsibility to buy him a ring.

8.  Should we stop having sex until we say, “I do.”?

This is something else that I don’t quite understand, but try not to pass judgment on.  If you are genuinely saving yourself for marriage, then it makes sense to wait a little longer until it’s official.  But on the other hand, if you’ve already been fornicating and have no religious or other objections against that type of behavior, what’s the point of taking a break now?  While marriage is a sacrament for some, getting married itself shouldn’t be the only reason you choose to live a sin-free life.  I make it a point to respect everyone’s beliefs, but I don’t feel like not having sex just because you’re engaged if you already been having sex on the regular is going to make your marriage anymore pure. It’s important to function in your relationship the way you and your partner feel works best; you don’t have to prove anything to anyone else or live according to what others expect.  If you want to take a breather until you’re an actual bride, that’s fine as long as it’s what YOU want to do.

9.  Should he ask my father for my hand before he asks me?  Do people still do that?

Traditionally, asking a father for his daughter’s hand in marriage was viewed as sign of respect and a polite gesture.  These days it is perfectly acceptable to have a conversation with both parents (if the bride-to-be has a healthy relationship with them) about the feelings and intentions you have for their daughter.  It’s a way to make the parents feel included and get an honest opinion about how they feel about the relationship.  Fortunately, the response is usually positive, but if you don’t get the answer you were looking for, it’s up to you and your bride-to-be to determine how to proceed and consider their reasons for withholding their blessing.  Nowadays, this action is seen as a nice gesture, but not necessarily a final say.

10.  Engagement Photos?  Cheesy or cherished memories?

Engagement photos are nice to include in wedding announcements, include in the actual wedding or post on an engagement website, but they are totally a luxury and not necessary if it doesn’t fit in the budget.  If you’re going to go the extra mile to document this special time, use it as a test run for your wedding photographer. If you’re strapped for cash, get someone with a good digital camera, great eye and pick a spot that best represents your style as a couple and say, “Cheese!”

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