How Much Do You Think Is Reasonable to Pay for an Engagement Ring?

I have mentioned before how much I love the site Daily Worth, a personal finance site for women.  A few days ago a writer added the post, “On Not Springing for an Engagement Ring.”  She broke down all the other things a couple could buy if they decided not to buy a $5,000 engagement ring.  For instance, they could 100 nights of paying a babysitter $50 for nights out or he could buy his wife $10 bouquets of flowers once a week for 10 years!

My own little diamond ring and wedding band is pictured in this post.  The set is very simple.  My husband and I got married 11.5 years ago fresh out of college and broke as can be.  I think my set–the ring and the band–cost under $500.   My husband asked me once if, when we reached a milestone engagement and were financially secure, I would like a different, flashier ring.

I don’t.

I love my simple ring set and have never cared much for the big rocks some women sport.  Not that there is anything wrong with a big ring; it just isn’t my style.  I don’t wear necklaces or earrings, and I like my wedding ring just as it is.

While the Daily Worth post was interesting, as always the comments were even more interesting.  Many readers extolled the virtues of frugal rings including one woman whose fiance bought her a ring from a pawn shop for $25.  Another reader went as far as to say that perhaps people shouldn’t get married if they couldn’t afford a big ring.

According to People Magazine, in 2006, the average wedding band cost $650, and the average engagement ring cost $2,100.   Many jewelers recommend that an engagement ring cost 3 times the man’s monthly income.  As Calla Gold Jewelers in Santa Barbara, California recently said, “The engagement ring is a symbol to the rest of the world not only that you love the woman, but also that the man is economically successful” (Seattle Times).

In our modern age where 22% of women earn more than their husbands (Slate) and many men are glad to be stay at home dads, do we really need a ring to demonstrate how much the man makes?

What do you think?  Was your diamond expensive, or do you prefer a smaller, less costly ring?

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  1. First, mine wasn’t a diamond. 🙂 I have a moonstone set in silver, very simple — and, yes, inexpensive. It is exactly what I would have chosen (because I did have quite a bit of input), and while it may signal to others that we’re broke, it’s definitely in line with our financial values.

  2. Christeen says:

    I don’t even have an engagement ring. We could have bought one. My hubby did ask once if I wanted one but I’m not a ring person so there wasn’t a point. I don’t even wear my wedding ring all that much. I have friends that have the big engagement ring, eternity rings, rings when they had babies or some other milestone etc. Doesn’t really interest me. But my daughter(9yo) has already said that she is going to have one like my niece has who recently became engaged. It’s a whopper. So maybe it just skips a generation.

  3. This post is very interesting to me. I did not want an engagement ring. I was a teacher at the time and could not invision having a ring that would be immersed in paint, clay etc. If I had to take it off frequently I was afraid I would lose it. My husband had an idea for the design of our wedding bands and found what he was looking for at the Los Angeles Jewelry Mart. They were made in Italy, 18 k gold and have served us well for almost 40 years. I am a practical person and I think the emphasis on the size and expense of the ring is ridiculous.

  4. My engagement ring was under $300 including the resizing and tax. Im not a flashy person and would rather spend money elsewhere. Our wedding bands are slightly more, but only because they are what we like and what goes with my engegement ring. In the end we’re still only spending half of what you quoted as the average e-ring price on both of my rings and his ring combined. The wedding world is intense in what you should do, but like everything else, you need to make choices based on your own goals/ideals/priorities.

  5. Melissa says:

    My ring is very similar to yours. I really didn’t know he was going to propose when he did, so he picked out the ring all on his own. The ring showed me he really knew me because I wouldn’t have wanted a big rock. Even now that we are more finicially secure, I still don’t want a big rock. My ring means more to me because he picked it out on his own and didn’t put us into debt because of it.. 🙂

  6. Mmm!!never been married – or engaged. I think what I would like is a man who honour the vows made and to hang with the ring.

    In the spirit of “it’s the marriage that’s important, not the wedding”

    (I’ve jinxed it now haven’t I??? Gabriel Byrne is going to turn up now with a whopper of a ring and a proposal and I am going to have to turn him down LOL)

  7. Quite honestly I thought I was one of those women that wanted a huge engagement ring that cost lots of money and an equally expensive wedding ring to match. However, that was just who I thought I was. When hubby and I got engaged he picked out the perfect ring for me and it was less than $150. It was a simple gold ring with a small diamond. It was and is perfect! When we got married, we jointly picked out our rings. I think his was actually more expensive (around $180) and mine was around $140. They are PERFECT and I will NOT be turning them in for something flashier as we celebrate more wedding anniversaries. I realize that it is not the money, it is the love and thought behind the rings that make them important to me.

  8. ridiculous! it should be what the two of you want it to be and cost what seems reasonable to the people involved. and pawn shops have a stunning amount of rings available! i think like most things it should be a joint decision and both should be happy both with the ring itself and the price of it.

  9. I got married with a $5.oo kmart ring and it has been fine for 33 years. Neither my husband nor I wear them often, we know we are married and it does not matter what others think. BTW, I still love diamonds, but they just don’t suit me and my life style.

  10. My wedding ring set was about $500. It has a 1/4 carat diamond. Anything bigger and living my life would be more difficult. In the 15 years I’ve had it, it’s been immersed in many different substances. I’ve gotten it caught and had to have it soldered together. I’ve had to replace the prongs with platinum so I wouldn’t lose the diamond. I don’t have a lifestyle that would embrace anything bigger and, frankly, it’s what we could afford without having to pay on it forever. I guess to me lifestyle and budget are the factors that should go into selecting a ring.

  11. Heather says:

    I have a very nice ring that I thought I had to have. It was not really expensive but not really cheap either. If i had it to do over again I would have asked for something alot more plain. I find myself not wearing it most days when I am doing house work beause it gets caught on things. But i wear it any time I am not doing house work and I love that my husband picked it for me.

    • Melissa says:

      You bring up a good point. Even though my diamond is small, I scratched our babies a few times with it accidentally. I always wondered how women with huge rocks didn’t scratch their kids with it accidentally.

  12. My girlfriend wants a $2,500ish ring. I don’t get it but I have a set wedding/ring budget so whatever she doesn’t spend on the ring she can spend on the wedding and vice versa. I have a feeling she’s still going to stick to the ring though.

  13. Absolutely not. But you don’t have to sacrifice quality for price. I got my wife’s diamond from a family jeweler and had the setting made for cheap. I got it for about 1/2 of what it’s worth and will always be able to get more than I paid if it were absolutely necessary to sell (not that I ever would). I would probably live on the street before selling my wife’s ring.

  14. I inherited my grandmothers engagement ring (from 1932) when she passed away in 2007. So, when my someday husband came along and proposed there was no reason to purchase a ring, that ring meant more to me than any ring he could have picked out, in our minds it symbolized a marriage that lasted a lifetime. It took us forever however to find a wedding ring that would go with it, finally found a simple gold band with a few small inset diamonds at JCpenney’s on sale for like $400. They go wonderfully together, and someone probably wouldn’t be able to tell just from looking at them that they didn’t come together.

  15. My husband (boyfriend at the time) & I were in our favorite antique store and I spotted a beautiful half carat diamond ring from the 1930’s. I tried it on (even though we weren’t engaged yet, but we both knew it was coming!) and instantly fell in love with it. I tried on a larger carat for the heck of it, but it just wasn’t me. Anyway, the months following I just couldn’t get the smaller ring out of my head. Finally when he proposed, I thought it would be with a different ring because surely the one I loved would be gone from the store by this point. Little did I know he had gone back shortly after our visit and bought it! He was just waiting for a special day to propose. I am so happy he listened, because he wanted to buy me something bigger but he got what I loved instead. I think it was around $1500. We took the rest of the money he had planned to spend on a bigger ring, and spent our honeymoon in Paris & Rome. I’ll take that over a big rock any day!

  16. Hello Melissa,
    I was happy to stumble upon your nice blog here. It was nice to be quoted.
    You asked for opinions so I’ll give you mine. I live in Santa Barbara and it’s a jewelry town. Women rarely just wear a simple band. They often wear something more dreamy and romantic with diamonds.
    I’ll share a recent story since we are focusing on women. My client found me on the internet and was given a quarter carat diamond from her fiance and wanted to design an engagement ring using it.
    Interestingly she was the affluent one in the couple and it was a second marriage. Her girlfriends all wore nice engagement rings with diamonds and she wanted to blend in.
    The quarter carat was small on her hand and just not going to give the right look. I suggested I match the quarter carat (small) diamond and find her a 1 carat to be the center diamond and design a nice unique ring. I knew he couldn’t afford this. I suggested that she could pay it as the woman. That it is done these days.
    She appreciated that advice because it allowed her to get the kind of ring she really wanted and her friends could relate too and didn’t trumpet the fact that he came to the relationship with little financially.
    I’m not telling this story to say everyone has to get a fancy engagement ring, just to share that women can decide what they want and pay to get what they want rather than only consider what the man can pay. They’d of course need to discuss it so everyone was comfortable.
    I feel that your wedding ring/s are the most important piece of jewelry you’ll ever have. I think it’s OK to spend some money on it and custom make it to get your own stamp of your relationship’s personality on it.
    Calla Gold
    Santa Barbara Jeweler

  17. I know this is an old blog post, but I stumbled upon it and will give my two cents.

    When I became engaged, I selected a beautiful ruby engagement ring. I had looked at diamonds at a billion places, online and off, and though they were beautiful, they didn’t suit me. I knew I would be paying for my ring since I had savings, my fiance had debt, and we would be sharing finances so it just made sense. The second I asked to see the rubies, I knew it was mine instantly. It was much cheaper than the diamonds but that was irrelevant. Rubies are my birthstone and would match the jewelry my grandmother – also a July baby – had left me.

    Since then, I rarely wear it as I never found a wedding band that worked well with it and now I work with my hands and would hate to mar the perfect beauty of this gorgeous natural ruby.

    It took me five years of marriage before I found the perfect wedding band. It doesn’t go with my ring at all and I never wear the two together. It was a $19 handmade fine silver 2mm band with my husband’s name stamped on it. It was hand-hammered and has a rustic look, so I never worry about wearing it while I work. Everyone had given up on the idea that I’d ever wear a wedding band but once I got it, everyone thought it was perfect for me.

    My sister has a gigantic and gorgeous diamond on her finger and a beautiful band to match. She loves her ring completely and I love mine. Looking at and wearing her ring reminds her of a man who cherishes her and dotes upon her and the life they’re building together. Wearing (or not wearing) my ring(s) reminds me of a man who didn’t feel threatened that I didn’t wear a band and never minded giving me what I wanted and the life we’re building together.

    Anyone who thinks they should judge what someone else wants or doesn’t want in something so personal doesn’t get it.

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