We are all familiar with Beyonce’s didactic words of wisdom instructing the wayward boyfriends of the world that ‘if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it’. But, when push comes to shove, putting a ring on a girl’s finger is a mammoth responsibility. Obviously, at the heart of proposing marriage to another, there’s the gravity of life-long commitment and everlasting love. But what I’m talking about here is the sacred charge of choosing the perfect ring for your partner; quite frankly, it’s a god damn minefield.
I have to confess that my mind’s a muddle on the topic of marriage proposals. For most of my twenties I wasn’t even sure that marriage was for me and when I contemplated it as a possibility it seemed archaic that a self-supporting woman with a successful career, master’s degree and mortgage should have to wait for her partner to call the shots on tying the knot. When, at 29, I finally met Steve, my views on of matrimony shifted. Suddenly I was filled with all this certainty that I just needed to be with him and we talked candidly and openly about being married to each other.
For a little while, I wrestled with the option of waiting for him to ask or rebelling from the age-old tradition and asking Steve to marry me. The Simone De Beauvoir inside me niggled to break conventions but the other part of me that likes reading Jane Austen’s novels coveted a romantic proposal in the grounds of an ancient deer park complete with dropped handkerchief, twisted ankle and smelling salts…okay, so maybe this is a slight exaggeration! Anyway, while I was considering how to facilitate a romantic, modern-day marriage proposal that would please both Simone and Jane, Steve secretly bought an engagement ring, popped the question and pipped me to the post.
But I deviate from the crux of the matter: the engagement ring. A lot us us remember that episode of Sex and the City, right? I’m alluding to the one when Carrie accidentally comes across an engagement ring in Aidan’s overnight bag and she finds it unspeakably ghastly. A cautionary tale for those out there planning a proposal. Because, let’s face it, when you give an engagement ring you hope your beloved will wear it for the rest of their life. It’s imperative that a) they don’t find it hideous and preferably that b) they love it because it appeals to their personal aesthetic tastes.
But that’s so hard because women’s tastes vary so much. I’ve read that American ladies tend to favour a more sizeable token in contrast to Scandinavian girls who believe that the understatement and functionality of a thin band is the epitome of elegance. In the UK, the majority of women might choose a compromise between these two extremes.
However, some British women do enjoy rocking a rock; take Pippa Middleton and her art-deco-inspired, Asscher-cut knuckle-duster. And then there’s Victoria Beckham to show us that variety truly is the spice of life with her collection of gargantuan engagement rings which, at the time of going to press, totalled 13 (I’m hoping that one day they’ll be curated in a special exhibition at the V & A).
Steve was clever and I suggest to all you wannabe-marriage-proposers out there that you take a leaf out of his book. He asked my sister, who knows all my secrets, what my tastes were. Then he covertly searched my dressing table for the Edwardian sapphire and gold ring my mum gave me for my 21st birthday and had it measured, knowing that I wear it on my right fourth finger.
Feeling confident, he chose me the most beautiful engagement ring: a round solitaire diamond set in a delicate gold band.
I like the ring because it reconciles aesthetics with utility; it will sparkle through a lifetime of furniture-painting, sea-swimming, vegetable-plotting and guacamole-making. But what I love about it is that it was Steve who asked to put it on my finger. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about?
P.S. Join in with our wedding-planning adventure on Instagram by following me @sweetpeasandsighs