Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Topic of the Day: Ugly Engagement Rings

On a Reddit thread the other day, a 40-year-old woman complained that despite having a conversation with her 44-year-old boyfriend about what kind of engagement ring she would like, he proposed to her with a ring she hates and that she would be prohibited from wearing at work (she works in the medical field, directly with patients).

She said: “I’m not much of a jewelry person anyway and nothing huge and ‘glamorous’ would suit my personal style, I don’t care for the look, and I would not be allowed to wear it at work,” she wrote.

She says her other half understood at the time, but then he “proposed with a giant brick I hate and never would or could wear”.

“I brought it up with him the next day after thinking about how to say it. He got very upset,” she explained.

“I wanted a simple band or silicone wedding ring because I cannot wear set stones at work, nor do I like large, glam jewelry and that’s exactly what my now-fiancé proposed with.

“I don’t like and can’t wear this ring. I suggested compromises and he’s insistent that I ‘deserve’ this ring….. that I hate and can’t wear. Help.”

My advice, since all she wants is a simple band anyway, would be to go to a jeweler together to pick out wedding bands and get exactly the band she wants to wear on a daily basis. She should keep the big ring she hates in a safe, and whenever her husband-to-be asks about it, she can remind him that she isn’t allowed to wear such a thing at work and it’s not her style anyway. If he keeps pressing the issue, she can tell him she loves wearing her wedding band and she loves the sentiment behind her engagement ring and the memory attached to the proposal, but she doesn’t need to wear the ring to be reminded of those things. If he *still* continues pressing it, she can tell him he’s either free to wear the ring himself or he can sell it and they can use the money to buy or or do something that they would enjoy.

Those of you who have been engaged, is this a problem you faced? Did you do anything to ensure you’d end up with an engagement ring you liked?

Drew proposed with my great-grandmother’s ring, which I procured from my mother and gave to him to propose with “when he was ready” (which was a week later). I do love that ring, but I was allergic to the material in it and kept getting eczema on my finger where it rested, so a couple years ago Drew got me a new engagement ring that I now wear instead (with no band), and I keep my original ring in a safe to pass down as a family heirloom to whichever kid is interested.

39 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Ele4phant April 11, 2019, 11:20 am

    We shopped for my ring together. That seems to be the general custom in my friend group. I think it’s kind of a nice experience, sort of the first thing you do as part of your next phase together.

    I get why some might be like “don’t be ungrateful”! But your engagement ring is something you wear as a symbol of your partnership, it should be something that makes you happy to look at, something that reflects both of your tastes, not just his. And seeing as you will soon share finances, you should get input into the budget.

    In this day in age – where marriages are more equal – it seems like picking the ring should be a shared decision, not a decision that your soon to be husband makes for you.

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    • avatar

      Ele4phant April 11, 2019, 11:24 am

      Also I technically forwent the engagement ring. I have a ring I started wearing when we got married but it does have stones.

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    • avatar

      ktfran April 11, 2019, 11:38 am

      What really bothers me about this Reddit person and her fiance (well, him) is that they specifically discussed what type of ring she’d like and could wear and he went ahead and bought her the “flashy” ring. I wonder why? Like, what is he trying to prove? I’d be more concerned that he didn’t listen and did what he wanted regardless of preference.

      Now, if people don’t discuss beforehand and it’s a ring someone doesn’t like, I think that should be handled a lot more tactfully. Especially if it’s an heirloom piece.

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      • avatar

        ktfran April 11, 2019, 11:39 am

        I’m agreeing with you if that wasn’t clear.

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      • avatar

        Ele4phant April 11, 2019, 1:55 pm

        Yeah it’s one thing if you discuss what you want beforehand, then the guy uses some discretion to pick a ring in keeping with that.

        Heirloom rings are a different ballgame though. I’m a pretty sentimental person so I think if I was given a ring that had family meaning I would’ve loved it even if aesthetically it wasn’t my taste. However there is no such ring in either family – so we bought new.

        Certainly if you receive an heirloom ring and you don’t like it – you basically have to be polite and accept it, maybe you just don’t wear it to “keep it safe”.

        But definitely if a guy buys you a new honking ring you hate, you should be able to talk about it without him feeling insulted or refusing to find a different ring you both like more.

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      • avatar

        Fyodor April 11, 2019, 2:45 pm

        I think that the romantic script that is offered to people is that the woman might ask for a small ring but it’s the man’s job to demonstrate his level of interest by getting something expensive. Kind of like how you’re not supposed to accept a woman’s offer to split the check on a date. It’s a bad dynamic but it’s not something that he pulled out of thin air.

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      • avatar

        Fyodor April 11, 2019, 2:48 pm

        I will also add that the folks at the ring stores know how to work this dynamic.

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      • avatar

        ktfran April 11, 2019, 3:15 pm

        I’m an old lady. Ok. Not really. And I’ve never heard a woman say she didn’t care about size or wanted something small but was really wanting something bigger. In fact, I think women who want bigger diamonds will tell you straight up to get a bigger diamond. Like, it better be so many carats. For me, I wanted quality over size. Both times around, the person did just that.

        Or is this all in men’s head that they must buy bigger diamonds?

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      • avatar

        Fyodor April 11, 2019, 3:41 pm

        I think that the dynamic that’s sold is that the financial harm the man incurs from buying a big rock is a testament to his love and devotion. It might be untoward for women to demand such a gesture, but the man, if he really loves her and is committed will put forward the gesture regardless.

        I will add that it’s bullshit, but it’s definitely out there.

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    • avatar

      ktfran April 11, 2019, 5:08 pm

      Oh, I totally get the dynamic that’s sold. Where I disagreed with you the idea that a woman will ask for a smaller diamond but really want a bigger one.

      Most women who want a big diamond will let their boyfriends know that’s what is expected. Most of my friends wanted a bigger, flashier ring. Everyone knew it because it’s something most of us talk about.

      Most woman who say they want a smaller diamond or no diamond are being truthful. If she receives a bigger one, that’s the boyfriend buying into the trope and not listening to his girlfriend.

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  • avatar

    CCL April 11, 2019, 11:33 am

    I was engaged once, and we both picked out the ring. It wasn’t till after wearing it that I realized how annoying it was. It was a marquise style and it was lovely but it was constantly getting caught on everything. I’d much prefer a nice thin band with no big rock. Looks nice, but not practical for everyone.

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    • kmtthat

      kmtthat April 16, 2019, 1:47 pm

      Oh god, this is me. I have a 1.7 carat marquise engagement ring and damn, it’s beautiful and exactly what I asked for. But it sits nearly half an inch off my finger and literally everyday I get hair caught in the prongs. Wearing gloves is impossible. Still going to wear it everyday but I definitely didn’t realize how complicated it would be.

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  • avatar

    ktfran April 11, 2019, 11:43 am

    I’ve been engaged twice. The first time around, then fiance gave me the exact ring that I wanted. An emerald cut diamond with baguettes on the side. White gold. IT WAS GORGEOUS. I called off the wedding and gave the ring back. After that, I was over the engagement ring thing and didn’t want another. Ever.

    My husband proposed with diamond earrings, which I asked for. We went band shopping together, so we both wear bands and I wear my earrings every day.

    In summary, both times the person listened to me, took my preference into account and proceeded accordingly.

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    • avatar

      bondgirl April 11, 2019, 12:59 pm

      I had a similar experience. First engagement my ring preferences were mostly met. I mainly took issue with the fact that I was proposed to without any discussion of timeline or preference — lessons learned were kept in mind when I got engaged to my soon-to-be husband …we went to look at rings together and was able to show him my exact preference on the ring setting (the center stone he was free to choose between several styles). He also knew I wanted it to be a private moment, i.e. no public scene, jumotron feature, or flash mob. So, second time around, I got what I wanted. I definitely agree the proposee’s preferences should trump what the proposer wants to buy…within reason. (meaning, for instance, proposee shouldn’t be allowed to demand a $30k ring if the proposer doesn’t want to spend more than $8k…..just my opinion though.)

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      • avatar

        ktfran April 11, 2019, 1:03 pm

        Oh, for sure about the pricing! I mean, you have to keep budget in mind. But don’t be my white gold or platinum when all I where is gold, or whatever.

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  • avatar

    Allornone April 11, 2019, 11:57 am

    Never been engaged. My boyfriend seems insistent that if he ever proposes, a ring would be involved. I personally don’t need one (and told him so, but “tradition”) so I’ve tried to not-so-subtly steer him into the cheaper options (cubic zirconia, all the way!). Honestly, I just wish the boy would propose. I don’t need a ring; I don’t even need a wedding (though my mom will kill me if I don’t have at least a party); I just want to be married to him. I don’t need to, but want to. Eh. Maybe one day.

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    • avatar

      HQB April 11, 2019, 3:52 pm

      Have you considered proposing to him?

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      • avatar

        Allornone April 11, 2019, 6:28 pm

        Actually, I have. But I’m a little bit of a ‘fraidy cat. we’ve had all the talks on my and we seem to be on the same page, but you never know.

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  • Lucidity

    Lucidity April 11, 2019, 12:04 pm

    I didn’t take part in choosing my ring, but I did describe what I wanted to my husband. Simple, timeless, and quality over size when it came to the rock. He listened and made a perfect purchase. I could have gone shopping with him but it’s more special to me because he picked it out by himself.

    If he hadn’t listened and had bought the opposite of what I wanted, I don’t know that we’d be married right now. I’d take that as a symptom of bigger problems when it comes to communication and respect.

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  • Pheebers

    Phoebe April 11, 2019, 12:28 pm

    This reminds me of a coworker whose husband gave her a fur coat. She had no interest in wearing it, and he’d spent a lot on it, although he could afford it, so this wasn’t a huge deal.

    She questioned why he got it for her when he knew it wasn’t her style, and his response was “I want my wife to wear a fur coat.”

    This could be about him wanting to flaunt what he can afford. It might be important in his business circles, the way it was for my coworker, or him just being obnoxious.

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  • avatar

    TheHizzy April 11, 2019, 12:29 pm

    When we first discussed getting engaged I asked FMH to send me what he would pick. And it…was…not my style AT ALL. I asked him to go ring shopping with me to see if we found something we both liked. He really wanted to do this on his own, but I told him I was the one wearing it all the time so I really needed to be included in it.

    As for the reddit user’s FH I can see how he spiraled out and got something bigger. When we were ring shopping I had asked for something small, not super flashy and vintage. The clerks kept trying to get me to like these HUGE rings. I put it on and I was like “No it’s way too much” and I was told I’d “get used to it.” If he went shopping alone he very easily could have been pressured into something else. I hope they sort it out OK though.

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  • avatar

    anonymousse April 11, 2019, 1:07 pm

    We just had a conversation and decided to get married, no proposal. We went band shopping together. My husband doesn’t wear his because he tends to lose things. He actually has ten or so silicone rings he bought off amazon that he wears instead.

    I have a skinny band with an inside joke stamped into it, and a slightly larger band.

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  • avatar

    K April 11, 2019, 1:34 pm

    I picked out the exact diamond and setting that I wanted from Blue Nile and sent it to my fiance. He never buys me jewelry (I prefer to pick out my own) and even though he probably would’ve come up with something similar, I wanted the chance to research it (ran the diamond through Pricescope, etc.) and pick out something I would be happy with.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom April 11, 2019, 1:56 pm

    We decided together to get married, no proposal and then went ring shopping together. My ring is perfect for me.

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  • avatar

    csp April 11, 2019, 2:15 pm

    So I had real opinions about my ring and my friends had real opinions around the time I was getting engaged (13 years ago). And honestly, I am a little embarrassed about my attitude but would consider it a part of being young. For example, I told my now husband that a ring under a carat meant he wasn’t serious. (yikes) He picked out the style and it is pretty standard and exactly one carat. The funny thing is now I really don’t even notice it. I went awhile not wearing them because they needed to be resized. I only notice when a young woman who is starting to think about getting engaged makes a comment. It is just interesting how things go in and out of your life and something could be such a big symbol of your relationship and then later just be almost forgotten.

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    • Guy Friday

      Guy Friday April 11, 2019, 4:35 pm

      I wouldn’t beat yourself up too much about your attitude, because I think a lot of people who don’t know much about diamonds don’t realize how valuable the other C’s in “the 4 C’s” are. My wife had the same attitude you mentioned: she INSISTED on getting at least 1.5 carats when we were talking about rings. Frankly, I called her out on it for being selfish and spoiled for demanding something like that, and I told her that she had to trust me that I paid attention to things like what she wore regularly and would pick the right diamond. I ended up going to the store 3 different times with 3 different female friends to help me pick, and each time the same diamond was there, so I got it. It was only .77 carats, but it was a D color and VVS1 clarity, princess cut, and it sparkles like nobody’s business. We’re almost at 7 years, and I like to tease her from time to time about how “if you really want to get rid of it, I guess I can go get a bigger less clear diamond” and she takes it with an eye roll at how silly she was 🙂

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    • Copa

      Copa April 12, 2019, 9:21 am

      Yeah, don’t beat yourself up too much! I’ve seen a big shift in attitudes as my friends and I get older and yours doesn’t seem totally uncommon. One friend of mine was probably 23 when she got engaged. She also insisted on at least one carat, and felt if your bf couldn’t afford at least a $10K ring, it mean you weren’t ready for marriage. It’s been maybe 8-9 years since she got engaged and she absolutely cringes at what she believed/said aloud back then.

      Anyway, I do think it’s odd and problematic that he completed disregarded her preferences after the conversations they had. Was he just trying to do something thinking he was being romantic by getting something huge, but landed way off the mark? Or is he like this about more than just the engagement ring?

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph April 11, 2019, 3:15 pm

    I think if not a red flag then its a pretty dark orange one that this guy a) didn’t listen to what she wanted and b) still won’t listen to the fact that this ring isn’t her style and also can’t be worn at her work.
    I don’t really wear jewelry except my wedding set, and so I didn’t know style-wise what to ask for but I did have a few requirements for my now-husband which was that I didn’t want a tall/pointy solitare type stone so it wouldn’t get bumped on things, that I didn’t want any diamonds that were from conflict areas or of indeterminate origin, and that I hate the color gold so I didn’t care what the metal was but I wanted it to be silver in color. He met all of these criteria (its platinum, has a flush bezel-set center stone made of moissanite, flanked with smaller lab-grown diamonds) so that was good. Had he proposed with a standard engagement-looking ring, I probably wouldn’t be wearing it 7+ years later.

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  • avatar

    Helen April 11, 2019, 3:30 pm

    I told my now husband that I needed to pick out what jewelry I was going to wear every day. He proposed with the ring his father used to propose to his mother (she chose her own ring a few years into their marriage) and we went ring shopping together. It was fun and we both got exactly what we wanted. I was engaged before and he proposed with a ring that he chose with no consideration of my wants or needs. The problem went a lot deeper than just rings and I’m glad I didn’t marry him

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  • avatar

    dinoceros April 11, 2019, 5:17 pm

    I’d be a little concerned to be marrying someone who presumably was told/knows what kind of ring I wanted and what worked with my lifestyle and bought something else, and then was told again and just sort of pouted. It’s hard for me to imagine this is a one-off thing where he normally listens/cares to understand her/handles criticism or suggestions diplomatically in other aspects of life, but just not this.

    Sometimes my friends have asked if I wanted someone to ask my parents for permission before proposing to me, and I said that I wouldn’t marry someone who did that. My friends were appalled, but my point was that anyone who thinks that’s something I’d want probably hasn’t paid any attention to anything I’ve said and probably doesn’t actually understand my personality. I feel like this is similar. This situation shouldn’t be happening if they are a couple who communicates well and has a healthy relationship dynamic.

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  • avatar

    Ange April 11, 2019, 7:03 pm

    I supplied my own engagement ring too. My mother had a ring she’d inherited from her aunt that she had remade into a solitaire and she gave it to me to be remade. We designed the ring together and I let him pick it up for when he was ready to propose. I don’t think anything was lost by me being a part of the process, it was still exciting and surprising and all that. For an expensive piece of jewelry you have to wear every day it’s worth it.

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  • avatar

    allathian April 12, 2019, 1:15 am

    In this case, the ring is just a symptom of worse problems. The OP should give the ring she doesn’t want to wear back and call off the wedding and MOA. If he doesn’t listen to what she says in the matter of wedding rings, there’ll be worse obstacles ahead in the marriage. Consider this a red flag to get out of the relationship.

    In my case, there wasn’t a proposal, we just talked about the future together and decided to get married.

    I like planning more than surprises, so I would have been devastated not to be allowed to choose my own ring. We never really got engaged, but my ring is gold/white gold, and the gold has seven small lab-grown diamonds set in it. So it looks like I’m wearing two rings when I’m only wearing one. Unfortunately the diamond setting keeps collecting gunk and no matter how often I clean it, I get a rash when I wear it for more than a few hours. So these days I don’t wear my ring except on special occasions.

    (Actually, I hate surprises, even ‘good’ ones: A friend of mine when she got married didn’t even know the location of the honeymoon. All her fiancé told her before the wedding was what to pack. She only found out the destination at the airport. If my husband had attempted to do the same, I would have applied for an annulment the next day, but luckily my husband knows me better than to pull stunts like that!)

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  • avatar

    snoopy April 12, 2019, 9:21 am

    I had a lot of *feelings* about marriage as an institution, so designing my ring with my husband was one way for me to exert some control and feel like I was pushing back on some of the more patriarchal aspects of marriage.

    We had discussed timelines and when it was getting close, I let him know that I didn’t want a diamond, or a classic shape, or silver coloured metal. I gave him the option of seeing my pinterest board and going from there or going to this cool place where they have loose stones and you design your own ring. So we went together and picked a stone and put it in the design I had in mind.
    Silly me still wanted a proposal. So when the ring was ready, he planned a proposal (we had talked about what we wanted for that as well since we had big family trips coming up and I had *feelings* about that) and away we went. It was more of a surprise to those around us, than for us. Which seems kind of fitting because we had known for a while how serious the two of us were, so the proposal felt a bit more like a big announcement to friends and family than anything revelationary for ourselves.

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  • avatar

    Kali April 12, 2019, 10:59 am

    Well, I picked out my own ring so may not be the best source of opinion BUT when my husband did buy me jewelry, he never listened to what I wanted and went with his own taste which was horrendous and gaudy. Even when I explicitly told him and wrote down an item number, he’d come back with something HE liked better. Actually most of the gifts he got me were gifts he liked – like the bowling ball he bought me when I detest the game.

    I do not have a good poker face and I could never pull off a gracious thank you for something I hated. He would invariably be pissed off. It was never good. It was just one symptom in a marriage full of poor communication and missed signals. Although we lasted 20 years, I should have split much sooner..

    I like Wendy’s advice but pay careful attention to the way your fiancé reacts. His statement about it being “the ring you deserve” means time that he values his own opinion more highly than yours and that is a warning sign to me. I may be biased but watch for that. Trust me, years of presents you detest is not fun.

    That said, would anyone like a cheap-looking silver-look squirrel pin?

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  • TaraMonster

    TaraMonster April 12, 2019, 11:14 am

    I have my grandmother’s engagement ring for when I get engaged. The ring happens to be exactly my taste and I wouldn’t want a new diamond for ethical reasons anyway. When I told my ex about my grandmother’s ring, he made a big deal about not wanting to “take handouts from your family” and not wanting to “owe anyone for anything” which is one of many reasons he’s my ex lol.

    My current boyfriend is fully on board with using this family heirloom in his proposal. He shares my feelings about diamonds and understands the emotional significance of using my grandmother’s ring (if anyone read my deleted thread day concern, there’s been a very positive breakthrough on that front and we of course have an open, ongoing dialogue abt it 🙂 ). I can’t imagine my partner so flagrantly disregarding my wishes the way the Reddit poster describes… it’s def not a good sign for their marriage.

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  • TaraMonster

    TaraMonster April 12, 2019, 11:33 am

    Also, this is a cute anecdote that always pops into my mind whenever rings come up: when my best friend and her now-husband were getting close to an engagement abt 9 years ago, she and I visited a jewelry shop so she could try on and pick a style she likes. She wanted a princess cut with baguettes, so pretty much half the rings in the place fit that description. There was one specifically, though, that she was really fawning over, so I took note bc I knew he would ask me to come with him when he went shopping.

    A few weeks later, I accompanied him to the same shop. He walked around looking at the rings for a bit and then stopped in front of the one she’d loved. He said “I think this one is perfect. What do you think?” You guuyyysss, my heart!! I told her this story after the proposal and she hadn’t been any more specific with him than telling him the cut, shape and metal she wanted. <3

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  • avatar

    Randee April 12, 2019, 1:17 pm

    When my hubs proposed to me, I made a big deal because it was a semi-surprise (we’d discussed ahead of time but not like when he would propose) and it was in front of family.

    Later, in private, I was delicate in saying: Um, is there a reason you picked this specific ring? (Because it was butt ugly, like a faux gold version of a cigar ring, and because we’re grown ups and can talk about things that are awkward.) He said he didn’t know what I’d want so he just picked something at Macy’s and kept the receipt. That, among many other details, proved I had the right guy: he had no ego tied up in this, and let me design the actual engagement band I wanted.

    My concession to him is that we actually hardly ever wear our engagement bands or wedding rings; he’s not a jewelry fan so he’ll wear his band if I ask him, and I put my rings on for Fancy Time, but mostly the rings stay tucked away.

    I think this kind of thing shows you the measure of what you’re getting into, and how you can make your expectations mesh. If you can talk about the ring, you probably shouldn’t be talking about the wedding.

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  • avatar

    d2 April 12, 2019, 10:03 pm

    The photo at the top is great. I snorted a glass of wine when I opened the DW page…

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  • avatar

    Cyndi April 13, 2019, 12:15 pm

    My husband proposed with a solitaire diamond that was reset from one of his mom’s rings. It’s simple and beautiful. I have very tiny hands, so a large ring would have been ridiculous. I am also not much of a jewelery person except for ear rings. I love my ring. Many times simple is the best.

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