Some little girls never grow up fantasizing about their wedding day. They don’t have China patterns picked out and find floral arrangements dull. As they mature into young women, the idea of spending thousands of dollars on a gaudy dress they will only wear once makes them sick to their stomachs. But these women are still expected to hope a man one day drops to his knee and produces an oversized gem that costs more than a compact car. Why are we willing to waste so much money on engagement rings, and weddings, instead of financially preparing for our futures?
Naturally, Americans are inclined to not only keep up with the Jonses but that bigger is indeed better. We’re conditioned not to be satisfied with a simple gold band to signify our endless love. Instead, women must be presented with a gem, worth three months of a man’s salary or if you’re Michael Scott, three years. The average cost of an engagement ring this year is $5,200 and 12% of couples spend more than $8,000.
A quick history lesson about the power of advertising. The tradition of the diamond engagement ring took off in the 1930s when the De Beers diamond company hired the N.W. Ayer advertising agency to increase sales. It took a few craftily placed diamond rings on the left hands of actresses, some fashion designers to mention how in vogue diamond rings were and, some well-worded ads, but within three years diamond sales went up 55 percent. By 1947 the slogan, “A Diamond Is Forever” came into play and we, the American public, were committed to spending a fortune to express endless love.
Oh, and some argue that men started to also buy engagement rings because it provided a financial commitment to a woman. Before the 1930s, women who were left at the altar (or before the altar) were able to sue for damage to her reputation. Once judges stopped being so receptive to jilted brides, men provided financial promises in the form of expensive rings. This was particularly the case if a women’s “virtue” had been compromised during the engagement. An expensive ring insured either the man would stick around or the woman would be highly rewarded for the transaction. Romantic, right?
Virtue protection aside, the engagement ring seems like an impractical waste of money for a, presumably, young couple preparing to start their lives together. Is it really worthwhile to spend thousands on a ring instead of investing in a home or paying down debt? Can you really make the case a ring is a practical financial investment? I don’t see many bachelors running around buying up rings at Tiffany’s thinking they’re making a savvy financial move. More importantly, why do women feel justified in being disappointed about their engagement rings being too small or not their taste. Isn’t it a symbol of your commitment to marry your soulmate?
Perhaps I’m just the most unromantic woman on earth, but I’d much rather be proposed to with a piece of paper showing my spouse has no student loans or consumer debt than a shiny ring. If my dream proposal isn’t plausible due to rampant millennial debt, then I’ll take a simple wedding ring after the marriage and a lump sum dedicated towards debt repayment or buying a future home. And a final non-romantic tip: don’t propose on a holiday. If the engagement gets called off, the woman often has a legal right to keep a ring given as a gift.
[Image from Unsplash.com]
[Image taken from Flickr]