One of the fun details of wedding planning has been deciding what sort of wedding bands my fiancé and I will get.
With this in mind and with some time to kill on a recent trip home, my mom and I dropped into a jewelry store to look at wedding bands and get a sense of what might look good with my engagement ring.
I was immediately overwhelmed by the display cases, which were filled with row after row of perfectly groomed diamond rings. I stepped up to the glass where nearly uniform diamonds — distinguishable only in the number of halos encircling them — twinkled back at me.
The salesperson — a stout woman with short blonde hair, oval-shaped glasses, and a thick New Jersey accent — came over to assist.
“How can I help you ladies?”
My mom responded. “We’re just looking around to get an idea of what sort of wedding band she might want.”
“What are you interested in?”
I searched for a moment among the sea of shininess then finally pointed to a few thin stacking bands tucked away in a back corner. The woman lifted the tray from behind the glass and surprised me by grabbing not one, but two of the stacking rings before sandwiching my engagement ring — which I love for it’s delicate, non-uniform shape — between the two diamond-encrusted bands, turning my finger into a thick block of bling.
I looked down.
“I don’t really like how this takes away from my engagement ring.”
She grabbed my hand to take a closer look.
“What metal is that — platinum? White gold?”
“It’s silver,” I said proudly.
“Oh.” She released my hand, unsure how to proceed. “So this is a temporary ring? Are you planning to upgrade before the wedding?”
I raised an eyebrow. “Um, no.”
She fumbled seemingly trying to grasp the concept that I would choose to have a ring that is silver over some other metal.
Then her tone shifted from puzzled to sympathetic. “Are you on a budget? I can bring you to the other side with the…” she paused, “…less-expensive jewelry.”
“No, I’m not on a specific budget. I just want something that will complement my ring.”
“Oh, okay!” she said, cheerfulness fully restored. “Go with the platinum and diamonds, then — whatever you like.”
Whatever you like
Since we’ve started to plan our wedding, the most common piece of advice I’ve gotten has been that I should do whatever I like. As it happens, what I like in this case wouldn’t be a big, flashy diamond; but rather something unique that has soul — a ring that is a reflection of me.
But I let this woman get under my skin. Her short-sighted assumptions made me question my otherwise strong convictions — that if what I want isn’t in line with what jewelry stores and magazine ads say a ring should look like, then I am doing it wrong. And moreover, that doing your wedding on a budget is something to pity.
When planning a wedding, the things that women are encouraged to value are rooted in a status based on materialism. In such a system, a woman’s worth is somehow determined by how big of a rock she can convince her fiancé to buy.
To me, an expensive diamond ring is nothing more than a financial choice driven by a decades-long marketing campaign executed by one of the most lucrative industries in the world.
Like most newly engaged women, I look down at my ring multiple times a day and beam with joy over the beauty of its design and its meaning.
I left the jewelry shop after that comment with my composure intact, reminding myself that a wedding ring — the pretty piece of jewelry it may be — is nothing more than a symbol. The relationship I share with my fiancé is the gem that gives it meaning.