Proposing Marriage? Should you buy the ring beforehand?

According to this research, Valentine’s Day is second to Christmas in terms of popularity of marriage proposals. But should you get down on one knee with the ring already purchased or should you propose and then go shopping for the ring together?

When I researched this topic for An Ideal Farm Husband, I had assumed that most farmers wouldn’t dream of trying to find the perfect ring on their own. There’s so much to consider and get right – the size, the colour of the gold, the shape, the stones, the size of the stones. When we shopped for my ring, I hadn’t a clue what I wanted let alone Brian being able to choose one on his own.  Brian proposed to me out of the blue. I think he almost surprised himself. We’d had a difference of opinion on the phone and he hopped in his car to come and see me. As he was living 50 miles away, he had plenty of time to decide whether he wanted to throttle me or marry me. So he didn’t have time to think about a ring.

At age 22, I hadn’t considered marriage at all, let alone thought about the type of ring I wanted. My unpreparedness might be demonstrated by the fact that we were engaged for 3 months before I realised that I would be expected to become Mrs James. I’d never ever done anything like doodled or even thought about my name being Lorna James. I was so horrified I sat upright in bed and told him we couldn’t get married for years, I’d never get used to a different name, let alone a name that made me feel like his mother. (His best man came up with the idea that I double barrel it so I did for a while but then it was too much of a mouthful so I went back to being Sixsmith after a couple of years.)

Should you buy the ring for the wedding proposal?

Obviously all women were different. Some women would prefer to choose their own ring; some would prefer their partner to put time and thought into selecting it carefully; others want to shop for the ring together.

Whether or not to buy the ring in advance is a difficult decision. Maybe these arguments for and against will help you decide.

Why you might buy the ring in advance:

She loves you so much that she will love anything you pick and she has complete faith in your taste in jewellery. You know she has genuinely loved everything you’ve bought her so far. You’re a very lucky man if this is the case. I must sound like a fussy madam in comparison to any of these women.

A few of her friends have got engaged recently and she has given you full descriptions of what is wrong and right about their rings, so you’ve got a good idea what she likes and doesn’t like so you’re feeling confident.

She knows you detest shopping, so if you spend a whole morning picking out a ring, she’s going to know just how much you love her.

You know she wouldn’t like to know what it cost and she wouldn’t like you to go over what you can afford either.

You believe that if you can’t choose a ring for her, how can you spend the rest of your lives together, making decisions?

You don’t want her to know how much it cost. (That is not an excuse to buy a cheap ring by the way!)

It will make the proposal all the more romantic if you can present her with the ring.


Why not to buy the ring in advance:

Hollywood films and romantic fiction always have the heroine loving the ring he picked out and it always fits perfectly, but real life may not work out like that for you. If it doesn’t fit, it’s kinda going to spoil the moment.

You don’t want to run the risk of her turning you down because she doesn’t like the ring.

You might think three diamonds in a row is fabulous but if she would prefer a solitaire diamond or a sapphire, she is going to be disappointed.

She might have admired rings in the past and you think you know just what she likes. She loves it in the box but when she tries it on, it just doesn’t suit her hand.

You haven’t a clue what she likes and they all look much the same to you. You’re going to bow to her expertise and just produce yourself and the wallet.

You’ve decided the pressure is too great. After all, she is going to be wearing it for many years, it has to be right.



Always check with the jeweller that you can exchange it. Just in case.

If you wish to offer her a ring (but not the real deal) during the proposal, make it fun by welding a small bolt to a washer (just like farmer Andrew Gallon in Northumberland did) or produce a jubilee clip so she can wear that in the interim and even hold on to as a keepsake. I’m presuming she will know you well enough to know you aren’t that tight with money and she’ll recognise the jubilee clip is symbolic – if there is a chance she’s not going to be sure, you may want to rethink this whole thing.

Whatever you do, don’t hand her a sum of money and send her off to buy her engagement ring on her own or with a friend. That is not romantic, and suppose the ring she wants is a couple of hundred euro/pounds/dollars more than you gave her? Do you really want her to have to put her own money to it or get a less expensive ring? My advice is to start married life the way it will always be and just go over budget on her gifts. She might look more kindly on the fact that you buy a newer or bigger tractor than you intended when you go machinery shopping.

Buying the ring together should be a special time, so after shopping for the ring, go for a really nice afternoon tea in a good hotel. This might be the one and only time in your life that you will eat tiny crustless sandwiches and you’ll consider each one to be a mere extravagant bite, but be indulgent. And, another tip here, don’t moan about the price or say that your mam would be horrified or that you’d prefer a doorstep ham and cheese sarnie.

Good luck and wishing you many happy years of wedding bliss together.

(This was adapted from my chapter “Should you buy the ring in advance?” in An Ideal Farm Husband)

I’d love to hear – if you are married or engaged – did you/he produce the ring when proposing or did you go shopping together afterwards?

3 thoughts on “Proposing Marriage? Should you buy the ring beforehand?

  • Your Essay Helper

    If you’re stubborn about having THE ring when you get down on one knee, but you’re not confident about picking the right engagement ring, ask her best friend, sister or mum for help. There’s a good chance she’s talked about it with one of these people, so they’ll be able to help you out.

  • Naomi Lavelle

    Great post! I always love to hear people’s stories of engagement and rings; everyone is so different! My husband had picked a ring for me but got advice from a friend first and decided against it. So my proposal was more in the line of … “I had a look at rings and thought I’d get you like (describes the ring) because (describes what it symbolises)”… We ended up getting the exact ring he described, for all the lovely reasons he mentioned. I’d have loved it had he bought it as a surprise but I understand that so many women wouldn’t want that!

    • Lorna Post author

      That’s lovely that you ended up getting that exact ring. Someone commented on my fb page that she collects thimbles and he bought her a thimble with “will you marry me?” engraved on it and then they went shopping together for the ring. A lovely memento to keep of the proposal isn’t it?
      I admire men who go looking for rings on their own as I’d have serious difficulty.



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