The Wedding Engagement and the Engagement Ring: Free Advice
Tradition Behind the Wedding Engagement
Most couples plan a year-long engagement to make preparations
for their wedding, although some of the most popular wedding specialists
can be booked from 12 to 18 months in advance.
In the earliest days of the human race, the betrothal ritual
involved an exchange of gifts or property from the groom-to-be
to the bride-to-be's parents. This was not only ceremonial, but
an important part of the marriage contract because the bride's
family was losing her to another lineage forever, and sought compensation
for this. The betrothal eventually gave way in the eighteenth
century to a courtship whereby a groom chose his bride for reasons
Following the era of the arranged marriage when the groom would
specify the exact payment he offered for his future wife, the
formality of a groom asking the bride-to-be's father for her hand
in marriage preserves a trace of history and often serves to cement
the relationship between the groom to-be and his future father-in-law.
Origin of the Engagement Ring
Engagement rings or betrothal rings date back to the ancient days
of marriage by purchase when gold rings were circulated as currency.
The groom-to-be would offer his bride-to-be a gold ring both as
his partial payment and as a symbol of his intentions.
Brides-to-be in these earlier times wore woven bands made of
rush (a flexible marsh plant with hollow stems), and replaced
them each year. Roman brides-to-be wore rings made of iron to
symbolize the permanent, unending nature of marriage. During Medieval
times, grooms-to-be placed the ring on three of the bride's fingers
in turn to represent the Holy Trinity -- the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Spirit.
The Gimmal Ring
The gimmal ring originated during the Elizabethan period and
is a set of three interlocking rings. During the engagement, the
bride-to-be, groom to-be, and their witness each wore one of the
rings until the wedding day when the three pieces were united
as a single ring for the bride.
Buying the Engagement Ring and Considering Other Options
It is customary for the groom-to-be to cover the expense of
the engagement ring for his bride. Because of the cost of some
engagement rings and wedding bands, it is certainly acceptable
for the bride-to-be to contribute to the purchase of her ring.
It is usually the bride-to-be who purchases her fiance's wedding
band. The most popular groom's rings today are classic bands of
gold or platinum.
Probably the first consideration for a groom is whether to
purchase a new engagement ring or present a family heirloom. The
most traditional engagement ring is a diamond solitaire which
can easily be paired with a variety of wedding bands. Some brides
prefer to wear their engagement and wedding rings separately,
or to just wear their engagement rings on special occasions.
Engagement rings can be found in jewelry stores and the fine
jewelry department in some department stores. The bridal couple
should visit several jewelers to compare selection of styles,
workmanship, price points, and customer service. A jeweler's credentials
and memberships in professional jewelry associations can be checked.
The American Gem Society, founded in 1931, is an organization
maintaining high standards for its members, and sponsors ongoing
educational programs to train retail sales associates. Most jewelers
offer complimentary sizing, cleaning, and tightening of the stone
for the first six months or year of ownership.
Technical Specs on Engagement Rings
The setting refers to the arrangement of stones within the
metal frame of the ring. A good setting is like the right picture
frame: it needs to show off what is inside and be able to fit
in with its surroundings. It is, therefore, important to find
the perfect setting that goes not only with the stone the couple
choose, but also looks good on the bride's hand.
Engagement rings are popularly available set in gold and white
gold. Silver is rarely used because it tarnishes and therefore
is not a good representation for a marriage. Platinum, a metal
used for rings prior to World War I, is now popular again in the
rings worn by almost one-third of today's engaged women. Fourteen
karat gold and 24 karat gold are numbers which refer to the purity
of the gold. Twenty-four karat is pure gold, while 14 karat is
a blend with 14 parts gold and 10 parts of another metal.
Various Gemstones that can be Incorporated in an Engagement
Some brides choose their birthstone or favorite gemstone in
a setting enhanced with diamonds.
- Garnet, the birthstone of January, is regarded to
symbolize eternal friendship. The garnet is a semi-transparent,
dark red gemstone.
- According to biblical folklore, amethyst a February
birthstone, is a symbol of faithfulness and sincerity. This gem
is a clear purple or bluish violet quartz widely used in various
types of jewelry.
- Aquamarine, the March birthstone is a transparent
blue, bluegreen, or green gemstone. It is said to symbolize intelligence
- Diamonds, the birthstone of April, are believed to
protect the wearer from evil spirits and represent innocence
and matrimonial happiness. While most diamonds appear colorless,
others offer a hint of color ranging from a soft blue to light
- Emerald, the birthstone of May is a symbol of domestic
harmony and success in love. This gem is a transparent green
- The pearl is said to reflect health and longevity,
and is the birthstone of June.
- The July birthstone, a red corundum, is the symbol of love
and contentment. Legend suggests that a ruby engagement
ring will darken in color if the course of true love is not running
- The sardonyx, the birthstone of August, is a white-and-brown
variety of the onyx.
- The sapphire is said to bring its wearer good health
and good fortune. The birthstone for September represents truth
and faithfulness. This gemstone is from the same family as the
ruby, but is rich blue in color.
- The opal, an October birthstone, symbolizes hope.
This gem is often marked with an iridescent mixture of colors
against a soft, milky white ground or a vivid, fiery ground.
- Fidelity is expressed in topaz a November birthstone,
which is a yellow to yellow-brown transparent gemstone.
- Turquoise, a blue, bluish-green, or green gem is the
December birthstone. It is said to represent prosperity.
Criteria to Use in Shopping for a Diamond Ring
Financial experts recommend that couples spend not more than
three weeks' salary, or roughly 6 percent of annual income. On
the other hand, the jewelry experts recommend inve Couples with
limited finances at the time of their engagement can certainly
reset the stone or add extra stones at a later date.
The diamond industry has identified the four C's -- color,
clarity, cut, and carat weight -- to assist consumers in making
- The majority of diamonds do appear colorless, though there
are many that contain a hint of color. The Gemological Institute
of America has a letter grading system for classifying the color
of diamonds, starting with D for the slightest blue tone and
spanning the alphabet to Z for the yellow stones.
- The clarity of a diamond refers to the number of internal
flaws contained in the stone. Diamonds, the crystallized form
of carbon, may contain some impurities that are often visible
only by a jeweler's microscope. The fewer number of flaws increases
the value of the stone.
- The cut of a diamond refers to the design of facets, including
the round solitaire, marquise, oval, pear, and emerald. High
quality diamonds reflect more light and appear to have a greater
sparkle. The marquise cut refers to a stone that is pointed at
both ends. An emerald cut refers to a stone that is square or
The karat of a stone is a unit of weight for precious gems
equal to 200 milligrams. There are 100 points to a karat. The
average size of an engagement ring today is about .75 karat.
The Role of an Outside Appraisal
Before making the final purchase of an engagement ring, the
groom should take the ring to an independent appraiser for examination.
The appraiser will prepare a written document that confirms the
specific composition of both the stone and the setting, including
a detailed description of the weight, color, and shape. The appraisal
essentially identifies the quality of the ring, which should be
compatible with the price set by the jeweler. Any discrepancy
in the appraiser's examination of the stone and setting should
be resolved with the jeweler before the sale is complete.
Insurance to Protect an Engagement Ring
For some couples, the wedding jewelry can be covered on a basic
homeowner's insurance policy, but should be separately itemized
listings. The rings should be reappraised about every five years
and the insurance coverage adjusted to reflect the current value.
Couples should consult with their insurance to determine their
needs-protection against theft and/or loss, and coverage if the
whole ring is lost, not just the stone.
Timing in Presenting an Engagement Ring, Making the Proposal
and the Ensuing Announcement
Although many grooms-to-be take pleasure in slipping an engagement
ring on their fiancee's finger along with the offering proposal,
it is certainly not a requirement for a couple when pledging their
love to each other. In today's modern age, many couples spend
time together shopping for the engagement ring either before or
after the conversations that lead to the formal proposal. Many
grooms-to-be employ a restaurant waiter to share in the process
by placing the engagement ring in the bride-to-be's champagne
glass, or by delivering a dessert inscribed with the question
"Will you marry me?" or having a fortune cookie specially
made with the proposal written inside. The engagement ring is
placed on the third finger of the left hand since in ancient times
this finger was believed to be the only one with a vein running
directly to the heart. Therefore, it was believed that a ring
on this finger would ensure a long and loving marriage.
Both sets of parents should be the first to learn of the upcoming
marriage. Traditionally, the bride's family hosts the first social
gathering to share the good news with family members and close
friends If the groom's family resides in a distant hometown, they
may also host an engagement party for the couple.
Formal Engagement Announcements
After sharing the good news with the immediate family members
and close friends, there will be other family members, friends,
and colleagues who the couple will want to inform. A formal announcement
is the most traditional vehicle for providing the information.
Mr. And Mrs. James Arthur Harding
announce the engagement of their
Mr. Charles Edward Perkins
February the fourteenth
Nineteen hundred and ninety-eight
Although the complete date of the engagement is usually shown,
some prefer to indicate just the month and year.
The Official Engagement Announcement in Print Media
Most newspapers prefer to announce engagements between six
months and one month before the wedding day. The bride should
contact the newspaper(s) she wants the announcement in to find
their particular procedure and time. Most newspapers can provide
the bride with a standard form to complete with the following
information on both the bride and groom: first, middle, and last
names; names and hometowns of parents; schools attended and degrees
received; current job title and employer; date and location of
wedding. Although most newspapers historically printed engagement
announcements as a courtesy to its readers, it is not unusual
today for a nominal fee to be assessed for the publication. Many
newspapers will accept only professional photographs to publish
with both engagement and wedding announcements. Some newspapers,
however, are limited by space requirements to only accept one
photo; couples will need to agree which announcement they prefer
to accompany with a photo.
If the groom's parents reside some distance from the bride's
parents, the bride's parents should provide all the information
necessary to announce the engagement in the groom's hometown newspaper.
It is not traditional for the groom's parents to make the engagement
If the bride's parents are divorced, the engagement announcement
should be worded in the newspaper like this:
Mr. James Arthur Anderson of Dallas, Texas, and Mrs. Laura
Lee Anderson of Atlanta, Georgia, announce the engagement of
their daughter Caroline McLean to Charles Edward Hayworth, the
son of Mr. And Mrs. Mitchell Pines Hayworth of Kansas City, Missouri.
If the bride's parents are divorced, the formal engagement
announcement should be worded like this:
Mr. James Arthur Harding
Mrs. Laura Lee Harding
announce the engagement of their
Charles Edward Perkins
February the fourteenth
Nineteen hundred and ninety-eight
If the bride and groom are hosting their own wedding, the engagement
announcement should be worded in the newspaper like this:
Caroline McLean Anderson, a graduate student at Boston
University, is to be married to Charles Edward Hayworth, a doctoral
candidate at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Miss Anderson
is the daughter of Mr. And Mrs. James Arthur Anderson of Dallas,
Texas. Mr. Hayworth is the son of Mr. And Mrs. Mitchell Pines
Hayworth of Kansas City, Missouri.
Gifts and the Engagement Party
Guests are never expected to bring gifts to an engagement party,
but they often do. Unless every guest attending the party brings
a gift, the couple should open their gifts during a private moment.
At the engagement party, the bride's father is the first to invite
guests to raise their glass in honor of the bride- and groom-to-be.
As all the party guests drink their beverage, the bride and
groom refrain from drinking. The groom-to-be then offers a toast
to honor his fiancée and her family. When the groom-to-be
has concluded his short speech, other guests may propose toasts
to the couple and their parents.
To compile the guest list for the engagement party, the bride-
and groom to-be should be ready to provide names and addresses
of their immediate family members and close friends for the hostess
of the engagement party.
An Engagement Gift for the Groom
There is no requirement that the bride-to-be choose an engagement
gift for her fiancé, although many engaged women give a
personal, long-lasting present to their future husband. Popular
gift choices include a watch engraved with the date or a special
message, or a leather portfolio stamped with his initials.
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