I have always loved weddings. The idea of getting family and friends together for a special occasion is something I feel strongly about, and adding the romance and excitement of a wedding to an already special gathering is icing on the cake (pun intended). My family is very close, very italian, and very involved, so the weddings I attended growing up all reflected that. The weddings brought the whole family together, showcased Italian tradition, and were very involved. Because I grew up around this, it’s always what I’ve wanted for my own wedding. I want booze, food, dancing, the whole shebang. It’s been this way since I was young (though hopefully I wasn’t planning for the booze then). I’m in no rush to get married, but when I do, that big Italian wedding is the image I have in mind.
Recently, I have read more and more on the wedding industrial complex, and I am trying to understand all sides of the wedding/engagement-spending argument. Engagements and weddings can bring on overwhelming expectation and anxiety, and the financial burden is enormous, especially when you’re trying to start a strong, secure financial life with someone else. One thing I know for certain that I don’t want to spend money on is an engagement ring.
When I have told this to people close to me, they usually brush it off, “Oh, you’ll want one when the time comes,” and, “You never know!” While I do have the tendency to change my mind, I also have thought about this as someone who is in a serious relationship that seems like it could be built to last. So, it’s not as if I have come up with this opinion without looking down the road, as my relationship evolves.
It’s not that I think buying an engagement ring is a waste of money for everyone, nor do I have a right to judge anyone who wants a large rock on their fourth finger, or doesn’t. What I’ve realized lately is that these choices are so personal, and they need to be made with a smart financial perspective. What’s right for me may not be right for someone else, and vice versa. Weddings are supposed to be about two people celebrating their love and however they choose to do that is their prerogative. (And for the record, I would of course want to accommodate what my future husband wants out of the wedding and engagement ritual as well.)
I have heard people tell me that the ring is forever, and the wedding ceremony and reception has an ending, but personally, that just doesn’t resonate with me. To be quite honest, I would rather spend our money on a big party than on a diamond ring. The whole “diamonds are forever” idea means nothing to me, but the experience of bringing my family and friends together, and celebrating a marriage, does. While I would like some symbol of an engagement, I would be happy with a band, and no diamond or gem. I would be perfectly happy with the band being $50. I know people who have engagement rings worth more than $4,000, and, personally, I would rather spend that money on a live band or on extra place settings so more of my family could join us. It may not be right to everyone, but I value the wedding experience more than I value a piece of jewelry.
What often strikes me is that, when I say I don’t want a typical or expensive engagement ring, people usually assume I don’t want much of a wedding, and I’m not willing to pay for other things. When I tell people I want a large wedding, with the works, they assume I plan on spending exorbitant amounts of money on everything from shoes to the bachelorette party. It sometimes feels like there isn’t a happy medium: we either have to have it all, or none. And that seems ridiculous to me. It’s interesting how quick we are to place someone into a category, based on their wants or “standards.” It makes it seems as if you are only partially the norm, but the fact is that calling a huge wedding, and a giant engagement ring the “norm” is ridiculous. Weddings don’t need to be either “expensive,” or “frugal,” I think they just need to meet the couple’s needs, and the couple’s budget. When I get married, I don’t want to deal with the stigma of not having a diamond on my finger, because honestly, why is it anyone’s business what my future husband and I are and are not willing to spend money on? Not having a traditional engagement ring will not make me less of the bride.
Even though I’m not ready to get married, I love discussing weddings and proposals. It’s an exciting time in someone’s life, and I believe it merits a celebration. However, I think we need to be more supportive of how people celebrate, especially when what a couple wants isn’t necessarily what everyone else is imagining. While wedding and engagement alternatives have gotten more popular, with many people opting for not-so-traditional celebrations, I am still shocked by how much people take issue when a wedding or engagement isn’t done in the way they think it should’ve been done.
Abby is an IT professional living in Manhattan, originally from the beautiful land of Ohio. She’s obsessed with humans, solving problems, and tuna salad.
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