Many outdated traditions could use an overhaul. Not to do away with them, necessarily, but to reexamine where their good intentions were lost. Like the greedy commercialization of Christmas can diminish the message of generosity, and the never-ending debt spiral eclipses the personal value of a college education, the institution of marriage has too become an overwrought obligation that boasts bliss in the form of a colossal diamond ring and a lavish event that makes a bride a queen for a day, and is less about a celebration of lasting love. It seems more important for many women to get married as opposed to be married. (I do realize these people tend to be the exception not the rule, and that there are plenty who both value their union and enjoyed the accoutrement of it.)
In 1999, Advertisting Age named “A Diamond Is Forever,” which has appeared in every De Beers engagement ad since 1948, its “slogan of the century”.
When I recently shared a New York Times article about how diamond engagement rings were born from a marketing campaign by their industry, I was surprised at the outcry about “preserving tradition” when the actually very new ritual was unveiled right there in black and white. Strangers shook their fists but couldn’t be bothered to read, much less listen to my pleas that I’m not some romance-hating killjoy. Quite the contrary, I love the idea of a thoughtful and memorable gesture, the reassurance of an iron-clad commitment and always having a loving hand to hold. It’s the cookie-cutter nature of the accessory, shameless lust for the bling, and pressure it puts on males to take out a swollen enough line of credit to sufficiently show off their salary (three months of it), that bother me. But rather than point out the wrong direction others are taking, I find it best to make my own path.
As such, we’ve went the route of the promise ring. I’m in my happiest and longest relationship at five-and-a-half years, and we hope to be together always, to continue growing and thriving. In the meantime, the title of girlfriend doesn’t carry much dignity. When he introduces me, it’s impossible to quantify if that’s girlfriend of five days, weeks, months, or years. But we’ve got to consider far away family that wouldn’t be too happy with an impromptu wedding here on the West Coast. And an elopement would probably get us voted out of both families. The thought of saving for something as frivolous as an engagement ring though, or seeing him take out credit while we’re still struggling to pay down bloated student loans and get by in L.A., makes me cringe. But the promise ring he gave me serves a clear symbol of our commitment to be together, with our own unique touches like a sunshiney canary stone and a special engraving.
Many contemporary couples are adopting the promise ring as their preferred way to express their intentions. “Unlike an engagement ring,” writer and jewelry designer Heather Brigs explained on her Tangles and Chains blog last month, “a promise ring is often less expensive and doesn’t need to have a precious stone on it. You won’t need a fortune to give your partner a promise ring. A simple band in gold or sterling silver can already be a sign of your promise to your special someone.”
Would you forgo the formal engagement ring for a more casual piece of jewelry to symbolize your bond? — Casandra Armour