What Are Engagement Ring Rules?

What Are Engagement Ring Rules?

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Preparing to ask someone to marry you can be a scary thing. This is the case even when you don't take the emotional weight of what you're doing into account. After all, buying an engagement ring is more than an emotional investment - it's a financial one, as well. The last thing you want to do is go to purchase an engagement ring and find you've accidentally violated one of the practice's rules.

But what are the engagement ring rules, exactly?

The good news is that, as time has gone on, the rules surrounding the engagement process have slackened. Even so, there are several questions you should ask yourself before you get down on one knee, like:

  • How much should you spend on an engagement ring?
  • How many carats are appropriate for an engagement ring?
  • Will you have to wear your engagement ring all the time?
  • Do you have to give back an engagement ring?

The answers to these questions will vary based on your situation. If you're looking for a crash course in engagement ring rules, though, this guide can help you make the best decision for your special day.

What Are Engagement Ring Rules?

While, again, the tradition around choosing and purchasing an engagement ring has relaxed over tine, there are still a few "rules" that you'll need to consider if you want to propose. Keep our guidance in mind, and you'll find yourself with a strong foundation on which to build your engagement ring ambitions.

When Should You Propose With A Ring?

Let's start with the basics: when should you propose to your partner with an engagement ring?

As traditions have faded, fewer people have truly surprised their partner with an engagement. Note, of course, that we say "engagement," not proposal. There are plenty of surprise proposals happening all around the world. Engagements, however, are now being discussed by more couples than ever.


With divorce rates in the United States alone higher than they've ever been, more to-be married people want to be certain that they're preparing to marry the right person. As such, couples are checking in with one another to ensure that they're comfortable with the commitment of marriage.

Before you try and decide what kind of engagement ring to buy your potential spouse, then, make sure you talk to them. Measure the balance of your future together with questions like:

  • What are your financial ambitions?
  • What are your career ambitions?
  • Where do you see the relationship going?
  • Do you imagine children in the future? Pets? Going back to school?

Layout the groundwork of your future together and make sure that your partner is thinking about engagement, if not as prepared as you are. Once you're certain, you can start shopping for an engagement ring.

Who Should Buy The Engagement Ring?

With that in mind, who's job is it to buy an engagement ring? Tradition suggests that it's the man's job to propose to the women in heterosexual relationships. Nowadays, though, women are just as able to propose to men as men are to women.

This isn't new, exactly - there's an old tradition in several European countries that even benefit women, should they choose to propose to their partners. That said, those benefits will only arise should the woman in question propose on a Leap Day - February 29th of a Leap Year. In Finland and Scotland, women are encouraged to propose to their partners on a Leap Day for good luck. If their partner says yes, the women get a spouse. If their partner says no, however, they're expected to buy the woman enough fabric to sew a skirt - or, in modern practices, a fairly nice dress. Talk about a win/win situation.

That old, "it's the man's job" byline also doesn't work in non-heterosexual relationships. Which man is supposed to buy the ring in a gay relationship? Which woman buys the ring in a lesbian relationship? In most cases, it's the person who's decided that they want to spend the rest of their lives with their partner and who can buy a ring the fastest.

What Kind Of Stone Should You Get?

Once you've decided that it's time to propose, you're going to have to choose the kind of gem you want on your partner's band. Old tradition would suggest that diamonds are the only way to go. However, it turns out that diamonds are both a) out of most people's price range, and b) not the only stone appropriate for an engagement.

Some of the best alternative gems to diamonds include:

  • Moissanite
  • Tourmaline
  • Sapphires
  • Aquamarine
  • Morganite
  • Emeralds
  • Rubies
  • Amethyst

The most important thing about an engagement ring's appearance is whether or not your partner will like it. So long as you purchase a ring that's their style, you should be in the clear. The different types of engagement ring cuts include:

Round engagement rings

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Princess-style engagement rings

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Emerald engagement rings

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Oval engagement rings

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Baguette engagement rings

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Pear engagement rings

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Marquise engagement rings

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Heart engagement rings

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Radiant engagement rings

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Cushion engagement rings

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How Much Should You Spend On An Engagement Ring?

There's an old saying that addresses the supposedly-ideal cost of an engagement ring. According to it, a person needs to spend a minimum of three months ' salary on a ring to honor the marital tradition.

This isn't actually the case. Today's to-be-wed individuals are typically working on a tighter budget than their parents. As a result, budgetary guidelines for engagement rings have gone out the window.

Most engagement rings range in cost between $500 and $100,000. However, you can find many beautiful engagement rings for as little as $50 through a platform like Amazon or Etsy.

When considering how much to spend on an engagement ring, take your personal budget into consideration. Ideally, you do not want to go into debt to pay for an engagement ring (or a wedding, for that matter). Work with the finances you have to ensure that your partner receives the engagement ring that will make them the happiest.

This is another area in which communication will serve you well, too. Check-in with your partner to determine what kind of ring they want. If they're looking for a rock that can be seen from space, you may want to put some extra money aside. If they're more flexible, experiment with alternative gemstones and see if you can find ways to lower your costs.

How Many Carats Are Appropriate For An Engagement Ring?

Most engagement rings have a band that is 2 carats or some variation within a 2 to 2.7 range. This carat size allows the ring to successfully retain any gem you wish to include on it without risking its structural integrity. That said, there is no set carat size that engagement rings have to meet. Much like with gemstones, the carat size of your engagement ring can vary to suit your partner's needs.

Are You Supposed To Wear Your Engagement Ring All The Time?

So, you've popped the question, and your partner has said yes. You've now got a ring to match the one you've bought, indicating that you are off the market. But do you have to wear your engagement ring all the time?

Once again, tradition would suggest "yes." Practicality, however, says "no." If you want your engagement ring to retain its shine, you should take it off when:

  • Cleaning
  • Showering
  • Working Out
  • Swimming
  • When Applying Makeup
  • When Sick
  • While Cooking
  • When Sleeping

These tasks typically expose engagement rings and other pieces of jewelry to chemicals or substances that might tarnish them. You'll want to safely set them aside - in a locker, on your nightstand, somewhere far from the kitchen drain - to ensure that they aren't impacted by those chemicals. However, if you forget to remove your engagement ring, you don't have to panic. There are a number of easy ways to clean your engagement ring, should the need arise.

Also, as a note: you don't have to remove your engagement ring while you sleep. Some couples choose to do so for comfort's sake, while others don't. If you find you sleep more comfortably with your ring on your nightstand, then remove it. Should your partner object, have an open conversation about your needs so you can get a good night's sleep.

Do you have to give back the engagement ring?

Returning an engagement ring is a tricky bit of business. Usually, it indicates that an engagement has been broken off, which means both parties will be dealing with a heady mix of not-always-pleasant emotions.

Let's start, then, on a positive note. You do not have to give your engagement ring back upon getting married. Instead, you'll stack your engagement ring with your wedding ring and be able to wear both for as long as you like.

If your engagement is broken, etiquette becomes more complicated. Typically, the receiver of the ring will need to return that ring to the giver as soon as possible. Other "necessary return" situations include:

  • When legal statutes demand the ring be returned to the giver
  • When ownership/heirloom etiquette would return the ring to either the receiver or giver.

It is true that if the receiver's family originally owned the ring, then it will stay with the receiver as their inheritance. There are a few other occasions on which the receiver is entitled to keep the ring they've been given, including when:

  • The receiver contributed or entirely saw to the cost of the ring
  • The ring was gifted to the receiver on a noted holiday, including a birthday

To complicate matters further, certain states have laws that apply to the returning of an engagement ring. These states classifying engagement rings as "conditional gifts." If those conditions are not fulfilled, then the ring must be returned to its giver. States that legally require rings to be returned if a marriage is not completed include:

  • Florida
  • Kansas
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Wisconsin

Other states assume that the ring becomes the receiver's property unless the receiver breaks off the engagement. Should the giver break off the engagement, the following states allow the receiver to legally keep the ring under the legal protection of "implied conditional gift" status:

  • California
  • Texas
  • Washington

Montana is the only state that legally allows the receiver to own an engagement ring upon its gifting. In this state, it is up to the receiver to determine whether or not to return an engagement ring. Whatever decision that person makes, the law will be on their side.

Have experiences to share regarding your own engagement rink? Leave us a comment to let us know!

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