Breaking with “Tradition” — Who Pays for the Engagement Ring?

By Ira Weissman
Ira Weissman
Ira Weissman
is a diamond industry veteran with a decade of experience at one of the world's largest diamond polishers. He has traveled the world buying and selling diamonds and now dedicates his time to helping consumers make the most of their diamond buying decisions. He has been featured on Anderson Cooper, Huffingtonpost and has been quoted by MarketWatch, The Village Voice, and BankRate. Visit The Diamond Pro to educate yourself about diamonds.
October 14, 2013 Updated: April 24, 2016

Once upon a time, if a man wanted to propose marriage to a woman, he would buy her a diamond engagement ring worth two months’ salary, get down on one knee, and propose to her. Diamonds were thought to symbolize eternal love and commitment. And therefore, they were the perfect center stone of such a symbolic piece of jewelry, one that is intended to show the world that just as this man can afford a fancy ring, so, too, can he afford to support his new bride.

You can even hear the De Beers instrumental music playing in the background, right? The music fades and the color goes black with the simple genius sentence that has cost American men millions of dollars since the 1930’s: “Diamonds are forever.”

Well, actually, no, they are not. (Diamonds can chip, get lost, stolen, etc.) And the scene I described above is now more likely to belong to the last generation’s proposals. Today’s brides and grooms are a lot more modern and a lot less naive about the De Beers marketing myth-turned-fantasy. Today young couples get it that the man doesn’t need to propose with a diamond, he doesn’t need to spend two months’ salary, AND whatever he does doesn’t need to adhere to some made-up ancient tradition of diamond engagement rings.

So it really comes as no surprise, then, that it’s becoming increasingly acceptable and popular for couples to split the cost of the engagement ring. We live in a different world than that of our parents’ generation. Like it or not, most American couples today live together and share bank accounts before getting engaged. If groceries and rent are a shared expense, why not share the cost of the bridal bling. 

This helps couples in at least two ways. First, it relieves the pressure on the guy to fork up thousands of dollars at a time when that money might be better spent on wedding, housing, or other future costs. And the second reason is it can allow the bride to get a ring with a bigger price tag if she antes up — even if her contribution is less than half of the total cost. 

The question of “going Dutch” on the engagement ring recently became a hot topic on The Knot’s Facebook page, garnering responses like these: “I’m absolutely for it. Welcome to the women’s rights movement, ladies, you’re only a few decades late.” Another commenter stated, “Why should it matter because after the end of the wedding, it will be joint money anyway.”

But other women weren’t so fast to break with “tradition.” One woman wrote, “NO! It should be something he chooses from his heart for you. . .even if it’s a small ring, it should be the thought that counts.” Another bride-to-be opined that sharing the cost is “tacky,” and that “It is a gift, a symbol of your willingness to commit…do I need to supply you with half the willingness to commit?”

Well, that all depends on how seriously you take the diamond engagement ring “tradition.” What began as a marketing ploy by De Beers to increase sales of their diamonds has become a brainwashing of brides who expect this overpriced gift meant to symbolize commitment. But must it? The answer is no, it does not. The ring can be whatever the couple decides it should be.

Whether the couple finds itself amongst the 46% of those surveyed by today.com who were willing to split the cost or amongst the 54% who were not, there are two important take-home points to keep in mind. First, keep to your budget so you don’t go into debt regardless of whose bank account the dough comes from. And second, let the decision be a private one between you and your future fiance. Is it anyone else’s business who paid for the ring? That way, if you do decide to go Dutch, you won’t be accused of being nontraditional — even if it’s the tradition that should be questioned, not you.

Ira Weissman
is a diamond industry veteran with a decade of experience at one of the world's largest diamond polishers. He has traveled the world buying and selling diamonds and now dedicates his time to helping consumers make the most of their diamond buying decisions. He has been featured on Anderson Cooper, Huffingtonpost and has been quoted by MarketWatch, The Village Voice, and BankRate. Visit The Diamond Pro to educate yourself about diamonds.