Home Culture Feminist Fiancées and Nontraditional Weddings (Pt. 3): Rings

Feminist Fiancées and Nontraditional Weddings (Pt. 3): Rings

This post continues a series about feminism, engagement, and wedding planning.  If you’re curious why I’m blogging on this, you can start at the first post in the series.  Or backtrack your way through the series by jumping to the previous post.

engagement ringAs happy as I was to be engaged, I dreaded what I knew was coming next: “Let me see the ring!”  It became rather tiring to explain over and over why I didn’t have an engagement ring, and I hated all the attention to begin with.  Even if I did have a ring, why did all these people think I would want to show it off for them to evaluate?

Jeremiah wasn’t crazy about the fact that I had rejected the engagement ring tradition, but his reasoning made me even more glad I had.  He knew others would judge him by the sort of ring he picked out, so not buying me a ring made him look cheap and rude.  But that was part of the problem, I thought.  I don’t even care for jewelry, so receiving a diamond ring would be nothing but an acquiescence to the pressures of our culture—pressures for men to prove themselves as providers and pressures for women to measure others’ value by the quality of the man on their arms, as demonstrated by the size of the rings on their fingers.

Wicoff, who did have an engagement ring, talks about this problem in her book.  Having a rather conspicuously large ring, she often felt embarrassed by the attention she received from other women and what it implied about her relationship, her fiancé, and her own identity.  She wanted to just accept it as something given out of love, something her fiancé picked out with her in mind, something which she herself thought was beautiful and enjoyed wearing, but the baggage that came along with the ring made it difficult to enjoy as thoroughly as she had hoped.

I know other women feel differently.  They love their rings and would reject the idea that engagement rings treat women as prizes to be won and men as sugar daddies and whatnot.  Many think rings are essential to making an engagement official, even though the diamond ring tradition didn’t become popular until the 20th century.  I know many women—including feminists—want a ring, and that is their decision.

But I didn’t.  Accepting the attention associated with an engagement ring would have made me feel like I was agreeing with the idea that I had been waiting my whole life to be the magical, mythical creature known as a bride.  That my value was tied to landing a man and the sparkly things he could give me.  That Jeremiah’s value was caught up in trying to make those sparkly things happen.  That, for some reason, as a woman I needed to wear my relationship status on my hand while my fiancé didn’t.  And I don’t even particularly like diamonds, and I’ve never been a ring person.  Giving in and wearing a ring would have been a win for jewelry companies, the larger wedding industry, advertising, capitalism itself!   An inexcusable waste of money on something I didn’t even want. Perhaps if we both were to wear engagement rings, I would have felt differently, but even that is doubtful.

I’m pretty sure at the time everyone thought I was overly political and generally crazy.  Some probably judged Jeremiah for no fault of his own, and many people probably thought even I would come around eventually and wish I had a rock.  But two years later, I still have no regrets.  Early on in our relationship, I had told Jeremiah that I had never wanted an engagement ring and would refuse any marriage proposal that included one.  I am glad I followed through with my convictions and preferences, and despite tiring of having to explain that choice to others, I have always been glad for the reason I could give.

6 Responses

  1. Kate J

    I’ve never been too sure about how I would handle the engagement ring situation…Although it’s possible I might not have a ring if I were engaged, I think I would like to have a ring. Probably not a diamond–I’d like to have something that appeals more to me personally. I’m actually partial to rose quartz rings, largely because I once found a rose quartz ring as a child. I found the ring at my church and turned it in, but after no one claimed within some length of time, I got to keep it (I have no idea what happened to it–maybe some other child has found it somewhere!). Anyway, a rose quartz ring would be meaningful to me, and it would be a ritualized way of marking the engagement…It would be nice to keep things equal, though, so I would consider getting an engagement ring for my fiance, but that would depend on a lot of things…Although I would want to be thoughful about decisions made about my possible engagement and marriage, I feel like I’m still too much in the dark right now to make any firm decisions.

  2. As I have been watching my way through “Say Yes to the Dress” (my new guilty pleasure), I’ve been thinking a lot about engagement and weddings. I’m totally with you on the ring. I’ve known for quite a while that if I did have a ring, I didn’t want a diamond or anything closely resembling one, and would probably want something totally unique and… me! But recently I’ve been thinking that I don’t really want one at all. I like the idea of a symbol that you’re going to spend the rest of your life with someone, but I feel like that can be communicated fully enough with the wedding ring.

    I just read through your other posts as well, and I found the two on proposals to be particularly interesting. For a while, I’ve been totally down with the idea of the woman asking the man, and have been somewhat infuriated at the expectation that the woman has to wait for the man to “pop the question.” Though I like the idea of being surprised by a proposal (which is really the only aspect of getting married that I really have thought about since I was a little girl), deciding to get married requires a lot of open and honest discussion, and I think a moment of decision between two people can be just as special, if not more so, than an elaborate and secretive proposal by one party or the other. I kind of like the idea of the proposal month, but as it stands right now, I’m leaning more towards no proposal at all.

    And I’m sure you’ll get to more wedding stuff, but I’ll go ahead and share my thoughts anyway. :) After many, many years of thinking about this, I’ve basically come to the point where I would like my fiance and I to plan our wedding from scratch. Rather than taking the societally-approved template and deciding what traditions to keep and which to throw out, I’d love to have a conversation about what we think marriage is, and what a ceremony would mean to us. Then from that conversation, we would plan our day of celebration. I have no plans to be given away by anyone, since I am not a piece of property being traded off (not that that is what it means to everyone, but I really can’t get around the imagery myself), and I’ve never really felt enough a part of my family to be given away by them. I’d rather not walk down the aisle toward my husband, and I’m not so sure I want there to be an aisle at all. I’d rather not have a wedding party, and I’m pretty sure I will not be wearing a traditional white wedding dress. Of course, all of this will be somewhat dependent on who I might be marrying, because I would expect him to have an equal share in the planning. I have recently come to HATE the idea that the wedding day is the bride’s special day, that all of the planning is up to her, and that the fiance just smiles and nods to whatever she decides. Basically, I want the whole process to be casual but overflowing with meaning and celebration. A big party for all of our family and friends to celebrate our love for each other and the start (or really, continuation) of our life together.

    Anyways, those are my thoughts (and believe it or not, I left out quite a bit!). Keep the posts coming!!!!

  3. Eric

    Engagement rings are very anti-feminist since 1) they tend to be expensive, 2) only the woman gets one, so the man has to pay thousands while she pays nothing, 3) they are a public symbol of ownership (which is also true of wedding rings).

    Therefore, I will never buy an engagement ring or wedding rings for either of us. If she wants to wear one or both, she is free to buy and wear them, however.

  4. fionalynne

    I’m British and we have similar engagement ring traditions to Americans. But I married a Danish man, who insisted on having his own engagement ring too! We bought them together at the same time (mine is a sapphire ring, his a simple band) with our combined money, and then got them engraved just before the wedding with our names and the wedding date.
    I hadn’t thought about it much before then to be honest, but now I am so happy to have been given a tradition that reflects much closer what I believe about marriage and gender…
    (Just found your blog so backtracking through entries!)

  5. Mara

    Thank you so much for blogging about this and sharing your story. My fiancé used his mother’s engagement ring (a beautiful marquis diamond that feels far too fancy for everyday wear) when he proposed, which I chose not to wear for multiple reasons, including my feminist sensibilities. He seems to be fine with me not wearing it, but most people have had a strong negative reaction. It’s been strange trying to explain my reasoning. I’m also not comfortable wearing a ring until we’re married and both wearing one. We used a local jewelry artist for our wedding bands and spent a total of $300 on both. They are unique and fully ours.

© Jeremiah and Ashleigh Bailey 2012