My engagement ring-and wedding ring-suck. Sorry darling, but you know it’s true. But I’m sticking with them anyway-and here’s why.
Engaged as A Teenager
I was married at 21-before anyone else I knew. Being married so young is highly unusual where I work, and in the personal finance community. Most people I work with were married in their late 20’s or early 30’s.That was when we were married. I was actually engaged at 17, twenty years ago in 1998. My then boyfriend was 23. We both worked in a grocery store, where we met. I was a cashier, he worked in the meat department. We started talking on our breaks and eventually went out to McDonalds on our first date. Romantic, huh?
My husband was terrible with money at the time. As in, living paycheck to paycheck and even occasionally bouncing checks. He was no where near the frugal(ish) person he is today. So affording a fancy engagement ring was hardly on the table. Instead, he had to open a store credit card, and put the $500 ring on credit at an exorbitant interest rate. The ring was paid off over time, as was the wedding ring. Total both rings cost around $700, which was a huge amount to both of us at the time. This was cheap, even twenty years ago. Nowadays it looks like the average engagement and engagement ring combo costs about six grand.
Only family and friends from high school know we were engaged so young. It’s not something I ever talk about. Why not? Being engaged to be married before becoming a legal adult is not something most people would consider a “smart decision”. And yet here we are twenty years later, still married and with three kids. So it didn’t work out that badly for us. Although the chance of divorce is much higher for people married in their early 20’s- 36%– that does mean that 64% stay married. We’re part of that cohort.
Looking at the engagement ring and wedding ring now, they’re full of flaws. The wedding ring diamonds look like tiny little fragments, with holes in them. The engagement ring is probably the lowest quality one you’ve ever seen. And yet I wouldn’t trade them in for new, expensive, shiny ones. When I could go to Costco or Blue Nile and easily afford pretty much anything they have to offer, why not? Three key reasons.
Reason One- Jewelry Doesn’t Matter To Me
I am not a “girly” type of woman. I didn’t dream of my wedding day for my entire childhood, which is why my $2,000 wedding was fine in my book. I hate shopping with a passion. I don’t care about fashion, and love shopping at consignment shops because I can get quality clothes at a low cost. If it were up to me, I would wear ratty jeans and hoodies all the time.And I don’t wear jewelry, except when I need to dress up for work or for an event. When I do wear jewelry, it tends to be something I’ve made myself, unless I need to look really fancy. I don’t like gold, and prefer silver. And I like colorful stones like rubies, sapphire and emeralds-not diamonds
.So why on earth would I spend thousands of dollars on sparkly diamonds set in gold, when it’s not something I would even like? Fancy jewelry simply doesn’t matter to me. And I really don’t care what other people think of me. Just because it’s something that other people do, doesn’t mean I have to do it.
If it is a priority to you, that’s great-I don’t judge other people’s priorities. But it’s not a priority to me, so I’m not going to buy something just because marketing says I “should”.
Reason Two- They’re A Powerful Financial Reminder
When I look at these rings, I remember just how far we’ve come-and how much has changed. Twenty years ago, we were just a couple of dumb kids in love. We didn’t really think very much about the future, and what it would entail.
My husband worked hard for many months to pay off those rings. It took quite a while for him to do it, because he didn’t make a lot of money at that grocery store job. Putting the ring on a store credit card was a pretty dumb financial decision, frankly. We’ve come a long way financially speaking since those days.
I’m not a teenager in high school living with my parents anymore, and we don’t work at a grocery store. We have enough to pay cash for those rings many times over. Remembering my financial past is important to me. Why? Because those struggles were an important part of making me the woman I am today. Those early struggles were difficult, yes. We were married very young. My oldest son was born two months after I finished college – I spend my last semester of college working full time in IT, going to school full time and pregnant. We spent many years on the financial edge.
Living that way gave me a deep appreciation for being more financially stable. Even though my financial life has changed substantially since then, I don’t want to forget those struggles. They help me feel more appreciative for the way things are now, and not forget the values of hard work and sacrifice that got me here.
Reason Three-They’re a Symbol of Marriage
These rings are imperfect and full of flaws-just like marriage. I’m not a starry eyed teenager who thinks that life will be full of nothing but roses, sparkles, unicorns, and rainbows.
Life is hard and messy. Good things and bad things happen all the time. Just when you think you have it all figured out, another curveball comes your way. We’ve had good times, terrible times, and boring times. There have been times we were deeply and sickeningly affectionate, and other times we wouldn’t even want to speak to each other.
My imperfect rings are a symbol of an imperfect marriage. If we’re honest with ourselves, no one has a perfect marriage – because we’re all imperfect people. All marriages are filled with flaws, just like my rings. Sometimes they’re obvious, other times hidden, but none of us are perfect.
So I’m Not Looking For New Rings
I’ve worn these rings for 20 years now, through good and bad times, my husbands time in a coma in the hospital, the purchase of our house, and the birth of our three children. They’re a reminder of how far we’ve come, the imperfections of marriage, and on intentional spending. So I’m not looking to replace them anytime soon.
We’ve come a long way, baby.
What are your thoughts on engagement and wedding rings? Were fancy rings important to you-or did you get something cool that’s outside of the norm? Let me know in the comments!
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39 thoughts on “Why I Love My Crappy Engagement And Wedding Rings”
I love this, Liz! I also have a ring that would be considered “nothing fancy”, but I absolutely love it for so many reasons. It does not have a diamond as the main stone and I believe cost in the three-figure range (not 4, 5 or 6!!!). To me, it means so much because it was where we were at and it was picked out by my husband specifically to match me (smaller ring/not obtrusive, my favorite color stone, not diamond centered since my mom never had a diamond and I loved that).
Sounds wonderful! I like colored stones better than diamonds. They seem more cheerful to me
My husband and I were married 8 years before our 1st son. After he was born my chemistry changed and I could no longer wear my wedding ring. The rose gold made my finger blister and itch like crazy so I wore it around my neck, on a chain, on the outside of my shirt otherwise I would breakout anyway. I also had to have it reshanked 3 times in a year. My new one is white gold, bought at a jewelry store where the gentleman was retiring. The new vintage like setting was 75% off. The diamond was bought at LA Belle’s. THAT should date me:) I have been wearing this ring now for 29 years. It has been reshanked once and re-tipped twice. I wouldn’t change it for anything. Sometimes I think the huge rings that I see brides wearing now are not saying “I love my husband” but look what I can afford and on skinny little fingers they just look gawdy….but that’s just my opinion..
Our first rings were sterling silver, I lost mine in the lake by taking it off and diving for it (like an idiot). So my wife took hers off and threw it in the lake so they could at least be together. Our next rings were Titanium because we thought that was cool. All in I think we have spent $140 on all 4 wedding rings.
What a great bargain!
Our rings are both family heirlooms (great grand parent rings). They are basic but also very old and sentimental. Other then sizing costs we spent nothing. The rings are symbols, but the quality of the ring beyond durability is largely unimportant in my opinion. Just another thing to risk getting caught in something she’s working on as an engineer which might get her hurt. So practicality wise small is better.
Very smart approach. If I’d had heirloom rings as an option I think I would have preferred that too
I love this! I remember first hearing about “rules” that an engagement should cost equivalent to a certain number of months of the groom’s salary and being horrified. A ring is a symbol between two people and should reflect their relationship and personalities. There should be no rules regarding cost because the value isn’t in the price but in exactly what you describe… the value is in the meaning and the story.
Yeah I’ve always thought those “rules” were ridiculous. Obviously made up by marketers looking to get people to spend as much as possible
We eloped and I got a plain gold band, which was lovely and I have, but we bought a fancy matching engagement and wedding ring set a few months later, when we had more time to think about it. We could easily afford them and I really like them. We picked them out together and split the cost of them. I had always wanted a fancy ring set – my problem was that I didn’t want to wear an engagement ring during an engagement period if my husband did and he didn’t even want to wear a wedding ring since his dad doesn’t! I think that is a slight sore spot with his mom since she’s very pleased my husband is still wearing his wedding ring. We spent about a half month’s salary on the engagement ring and bought them online, which is really quite reasonable given our net worth and income level. At first, I was worried that it would feel like an expression of wealth to wear the rings, but fancy rings are so normalized that it really doesn’t seem like it after all.
Sounds great! Since fancy rings were something you always wanted, and you made a smart purchase, it sounds very wise to me
This is so awesome! Marriage is about weathering the storm, and those rings have been right there through it all for 20 years! This is powerful. Love it.
It’s so true, isn’t it?
Super sweet story, Liz, and great reasons to hold onto what you have. I absolutely agree that your rings should be meaningful, not just whatever the current ‘style’ at the diamond store says it should be. I do want that sparkly rainbow unicorn to be my real life pet though…
Isn’t the sparkly unicorn the best?
I love this story, and also how it brings us other sentimental types out to share the story of our rings (because no one’s special story revolves around having the biggest rock in the office or whatever). I imagined I would wear my engagement ring only until we got married, as I’m not a big jewelry wearer either. But when my now-husband spent a third of a month’s wage (which is low for engagement rings but more than I’d be happy spending on a short term item) and spent the time choosing something that suited me, I came over all sentimental and couldn’t go without it. My wedding band is a simple band, and he chose a palladium wedding band with a ridge, slightly unusual but still elegant. I can’t help but have fond thoughts of them, not for what they are but for what they represent (flaws and all)
Aw that’s so sweet!
This is so sweet! I got married at 23 and relate so much to this. Millennials are delaying marriage, so it’s seen as more taboo nowadays to get married before 25. But age is just a number when you found the right one. 🙂
I had the luxury of picking out my engagement ring, which cost I think $2,000? After the wedding ring and hub’s band, we paid like $2,700. But guess what? I don’t wear that ring any more! I love my ring and I’d never want to upgrade, but I had a problem with water weight. I’d gain weight and balloon up so much I couldn’t wear the ring. Now I keep the ring put away, and use when we go out on date night. Otherwise I wear a nifty pack of $11 silicone rings from Amazon.
Nice score on the amazon rings! And I’m with you on getting married early on being seen as “strange”. That’s one reason I don’t talk about it unless someone specifically asks. Although if you know how old I am and ask how long we’ve been married, you can work it out. 😃
Nice article! We got married at 26 and engaged the year before. I don’t think I even had a job at the time and my wife paid for the ring. We couldn’t afford much and got the cheapest ring you could imagine! I get the odd pang of shame, but as you say, it’s a great reminder of so many things and where we have come from. I also had the good fortune to marry someone who doesn’t much care about expensive jewelry.
Love it AOF! And it’s good to know I’m not the only one out there who doesn’t care about jewelry
Great article. I am not a jewelry person at all. It always surprises me when folks overemphasize this. Shallow
Yes I don’t really understand it. But if it makes them happy and they can afford it, it’s pretty much the same as buying a fancy car
I had a engagement ring designed for my wife- Alexandrite and white sapphire. Alexandrite is one of the most expensive gyms but I bought it because it changes color in different lights (mood ring?). Anyway, I spent about $10K for the ring in 2009. It burned in the fire…though I spent 3-4 hours digging through ashes trying to find it. My jeweler estimates that it is worth $23K now because of the stone. CRAZY.
Anyway, I offered to make my wife a new ring but instead we both went and bought matching white gold wedding bands. Mine cost $400 and hers $250….we are content. Maybe one day she will want something fancier, but for now we are good to go.
Ha i said gyms and not gems…I suspect you could get a nice home gym for $10K.
I’m sorry to hear that it burned in the fire. Sounds like it was a very pretty ring. I like the colorful ones better than the diamonds, personally
What a wonderful story!
My mom inherited some diamond earrings from her mom’s side of the family. Those diamonds were given to me and my husband used them to make my engagement and wedding rings. I think he paid $700 for the gold and for them to be made. We would have never spent any more, so those diamonds are a special gift.
My hubby’s ring I bought for almost $400 with an engraving on it. Sadly it was stolen.
We replaced it with one for $100.
That was the one time I wish I had used a credit card because the ring would have been able to be replaced under the creditcard’s insurance.
Oh well, cash is king, right?
What a great ring story! It’s lovely that you had some heirloom earrings you could have made into a ring.
I love your rings, they look great and have so much personal meaning and sacrifice behind them. Impressed,
In the 64% here as well! Married at 21, though not a long engagement 🙂 Our three rings combined cost about $500, and it has always felt like plenty. Kind of like with not caring as much about the wedding itself, we just wanted to be married.
I’m with you there!
It sounds like the sentimental value of your rings far outweigh the cost of new fancy ones.
My rings aren’t super flashy either. But the main diamond came from my husband’s grandmother and he had a hand in designing the ring himself (along with a jewelry designing professional of course). I would never consider switching them our for anything bigger or flashier.
That sounds lovely! And yes the rings are worth more to me than their dollar value
I was married at 23! And my husband is six years older than me as well 🙂 He got me a very nice engagement ring, but I don’t wear it – eek! I prefer the $40 one he got from Etsy on my first Mother’s Day after our oldest was born. The other ones stay in a safe.
Your rings sound perfect and like they have so much sentimental value.
Love that your favorite ring is from Etsy!
I love this and can relate to it so much! When my husband proposed, we were only 20. I was given the ring his dad first gave his mom when they were married. It is beautiful, 1/2 karat and simple but not my choice of a ring. And my husband’s ring was about $200. We always said I would upgrade and buy my own ring when we hit ten years. We never thought that would be the year his dad would pass away unexpectedly from a quick battle with cancer. Buying a ring hasn’t even come up. This ring is a symbol of so much more than our marriage and our meager beginnings. It is a symbol of how far we have come through hard work and discipline, how a strong family is more important than anything else, and how everything we’ve been through has brought us closer together. It is a symbol of our roots. Maybe one day we will upgrade, but for now I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Love it! ❤️ I’m with you that the sentimental value, and the reminders, are more important to me than a “better” ring
Aaaaawwwww…my fiance read this and affectionately smiled at each other…so happy i came across this…i am that simple girl who enjoys simple things. We’re not struggling financially but looking ahead we’re going to plan responsibly. This article sounds like us in several ways. Thanks for sharing. May u and ur family be Blessed in all things…
I wear a simple tungsten band that doesn’t interfere with pulling on/off gloves all day (nurse). Part of my reasoning is that I know I will one day inherit my mother’s beautiful, elegant wedding set (though I hope not for a long, long time!). Once I am retired, I will wear it in memory of my parents 50+ (and counting) years of marriage