As you begin thinking about getting engaged, it is a good idea to contemplate some different routes you can take to reach that point. First question...should you completely surprise her or should you involve her in the process?
1. Total Surprise.
She has no idea what is coming. This is the traditional method. You select the design, metal, diamonds/gemstones and ring size based upon your detective work, her personal style from your perspective and ideas of what you think she would want.
Complete Bridal Set. You purchase both the engagement ring and the wedding band. She doesn't have to lift a finger (except for her ring finger, that is), and she has absolutely no choice about her rings. If it is a ring that is custom designed and already has a band paired with it, this can be more cost effective over the long term.
Engagement Ring Only. You purchase just the engagement ring and let her be involved in the selection of the wedding band(s). Again, this is the traditional method. Usually purchasing the engagement ring alone can be an intimidating task. I tend to suggest that you let her be involved in picking the wedding band. You never know if she might have something different in mind than the traditional band.
Pro: You can create a magical moment, sweeping your loved one off their feet, causing a strong emotional response. There will be a great sentimental value in the fact that you did all of the work yourself, and your special lady is sure to love anything you select. Great choice for a sentimental gal.
Con: She will have no input as to design, metal, stones or size. The ring may need to be sized. Will you worry about if she likes it? Will she pine over another design to grace her finger?
2. Options That Use Her Input
There are a number of ways to still create that magical moment of the engagement ring proposal with a little less stress and guess work.
Present her with a solitaire with the intention of resetting it. You can focus your surprise on the stone, by choosing a special diamond, sapphire, ruby, or spinel, and then have this stone set in an ultra simple prong setting. After the proposal, you can let her know that you want her to be involved in the selection and custom design of her special ring. Being allowed to participate in the design of her own ring, collaborating with you and the jeweler, will be a rich and rewarding experience for her. This is a great choice for a contemporary woman. It also allows you to spread out the cost a little bit (stone first, some shopping time for her, before you need to put down a deposit on the mounting).
Ring shop in advance. This is a very common practice. You’ve been together for awhile and both feel you are on the track to being engaged. Take her into a store where you feel comfortable (Diamonds Direct, obviously) and spend some time letting her try on rings and talk about what she likes. Have your sales associate write the information down for you, including a ring size. Then, when you are ready 5 days later or 6 months later, then information will be there for you to surprise her with a final product.
Pro: She will love being involved in the creation of a fine piece of jewelry. This is something that she will wear and look at every day, and it will be an expression of her style as well as your commitment to her.
Con: Some of the surprise element is missing, and she may get antsy in anticipation of when you are going to present it to her.
In a nutshell, you really have to do what is comfortable for you. If you are more traditional and want to choose the engagement ring completely, then chances are your lady knows that about you and will appreciate it. If she has been very verbal about choosing an engagement rings and is dropping hints about styles, then you might be safer getting her involved. The most important part is that you both have realistic expectations and respect that this is a symbol of something much bigger than just a ring.
On a side note, I received the sweetest thank-you gift from a client today. Kathy and her husband, Joe, have been married for 30 years. To celebrate their anniversary, he bought her a beautiful new diamond engagement ring. When Kathy came in to pick up her ring, she presented me with a nice card and the cutest Christmas tree ornament. She was in the store choosing out her ring when we found out the offer we placed on our new house had been accepted so she wanted to get me something for the new house. I already modified it a little by adding the infamous “McMahler”. I couldn’t help myself!