A 'Placeholder' Engagement Ring Could Have Saved Your Proposal (PHOTO)

proposal with placeholder ring

After months of dropping hints, visiting jewelers, and quizzing your soon-to-be fiance on your ideal engagement ring, the first time you laid eyes on the diamond he chose, your heart sank.

While you still wanted to marry him (of course), your once-in-a-lifetime moment was marred by a rock you immediately wanted to exchange -- and he probably felt terrible. What could have prevented that disappointment?

Enter the placeholder ring: a fake engagement ring to wear until the "real" ring is found.

"A placeholder ring says, 'I want to spend the rest of my life with you and start this journey off right. I want to make you happy,'" explained Stacey Levy, wedding planner and founder of Planned to Perfection.

More from The Stir: 5 Ways to Get Him to Buy the Engagement Ring You Want

When Andrea Evers got engaged, she said her fiance knew she "wasn't into big rocks." So, enlisting the help of a friend, her beloved found a funky placeholder that captured her personality instead.

placeholder engagement rings

Evers said the initial reaction of family and friends was shock at the non-traditional nature of her engagement ring. As her wedding approached, the bride-to-be decided it was time to embrace something more classic.

"I called Brian at work one day and said, 'You know what? I want a ring.' He came to meet me and we went out and bought a simple diamond band that I wear still," she recalled. "And I throw on the 'placeholder' when we go out to cool art openings and things."

It isn't that her now-husband was cheap or lazy, either -- or that they were strapped for cash.

"He could have afforded anything," she said. "I love that he knew me well enough to propose with the right ring and then knew me well enough to get me something sparkly when I was feeling it."

Here are 5 reasons to say "I do" to a placeholder ring:

1. Taste. Hopefully, this is a piece of jewelry you'll have and wear forever. You want it to fit with your personality and lifestyle.

But rather than risk hurting your guy's feelings by demanding an exchange (which sort of implies his taste is bad and he doesn't know yours too well either), a fake or silly ring can spare everyone some awkwardness during what really should be one of the happiest moments of your life. 

When Brandon Strawder proposed, he wanted the love of his life to be completely surprised. From the location (the Met Museum in New York City) to the words he chose ("I never thought I could love someone this much. But 'I do.'"), everything had to be perfect. Including the ring -- but he wanted to get her exactly what she had in mind.

So for the big night, bought her a very real-looking Cubic Zirconia placeholder. (Look at the photo below -- can you tell which one is which?) 

placeholder engagement ring, real engagement ring, diamond rings

(The fake one is on the right.)

Truth be told, Strawder's unconventional idea didn't go over so well when he floated it about a month before he popped the question. Women dreaming of wedding bells aren't usually overjoyed at the thought of a fake diamond engagement ring, after all. But then he explained.

"Many couples shop for the ring together -- they pick one out and then it becomes a waiting game," he said. "I wanted to surprise her completely, ask her to marry me, and buy the actual one afterwards."

2. Vacation. How many times do you hear about a bride who's come home from her honeymoon devastated that her new diamond is now floating at the bottom of an azure blue sea in the Caribbean somewhere? The placeholder ring is a great fix if you're traveling -- either for the proposal, the honeymoon, or any time afterward.

Lauren Conrad, for example, recently swapped her massive diamond solitaire for a simple rose-gold band while vacationing in Guatemala. She still showed the world she was attached -- without taking the chance of losing that precious rock of hers.

Of course, your engagement ring should be insured, but if you lose the ring or the diamond falls out of the setting, chances are you might not get it back.

3. Debt. The average engagement ring in America cost $5,431 in 2013, according to TheKnot.com. No one wants to start out married life with a mountain of IOUs.

Historically, the "rules of engagement" have dictated that a man should spend approximately three months salary on a ring. But if your sweetie can't afford to fork over a lot of cash for a diamond or if you'd rather save the money, a placeholder might be the way to go.

4. No Returns. Even if you and your mate feel you are completely simpatico and could dominate The Newlywed Game, there's still a chance he might get it wrong when it comes to picking out the stone and setting.

Find out your jeweler's return policy, and read the fine print. Something that seems as innocent as getting the ring sized can void any chance of a return or exchange. Engraving will also eliminate the possibility. If you're not absolutely certain the ring is "the one," go with a placeholder instead.  

5. Stress. Is the fear of picking out the perfect ring putting your proposal on hold? If your fiance-to-be is petrified of disappointing you, that could be detouring you on the path to your happily-ever-after. So a temporary ring can take some of the stress out of popping the question. Let's face it: Getting down on one knee and asking someone to spend the rest of her life with you can be pretty daunting! 

Though some might worry that a stand-in will mean the wedding may never happen, Levy said it doesn't have be a "just for now."

"It's a symbol of your love and the fabulous insight of your groom-to-be," she said. "He wants to please you forever. He wants to purchase the ultimate ring of your dreams -- with your guidance." 

Strawder said when he first opened the ring box, his fiancee couldn't tell whether it was the real one or a fake. But she was just as happy as if he'd proposed with the diamond they bought together a month later. That only made him love her more.

The couple have been married almost four years and have two children together -- real ones, not placeholders.

"The engagement ring is a symbol of love, whether it's real or fake," he said. "It's not an indicator of future happiness and whether or not you're going have a good marriage. Ultimately that's not what it's all about."

Would you ever have been happy with a placeholder engagement ring -- or is it the easy way out?


Images via 2/Ocean/Corbis; Alissia Melka-Teichroew via MoMA; and Liz Alterman



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Charl... Charlyla2

We bought a $99 ring from JC Penney that was basically just to say "hey, we're engaged", we don't even own wedding rings. I don't think it matters. I have never understood the hype around engagement rings. It's kind of a dumb tradition to spend thousands on a useless piece of jewelry that half of the couples will eventually pawn or give away when they break up. I know, I sound bitter, jewelry just isn't that important to me. I'd rather spend the money on a honeymoon. LOL

nonmember avatar AC

I think people should worry less about the ring, and more about the marriage ahead.

sterl... sterling21

I did not get a real diamond ring until are fifth anniversary. It was double special, because that was the first year we spent as parents. It was more of a symbol that we made it and are family was complete. An engagement ring has very little meaning.

LuvMy... LuvMyBoys09

I think its incredibly shallow for a woman to be disappointed with what her fiancée proposes with.

Equally as shallow....asking him to exchange it.

I just don't believe that the value of your love, should be placed on the size of the rock on your hand and a man should not feel so stressed out over picking a ring.

He loves you enough to ask you to marry him and if your response to the ring he chooses, is less than excitement, he needs to find someone else.

Michael A. Koenecke

Fortunately, my wife-to-be was happy with half of a pipe cleaner, twisted around her finger. (She did get a regular engagement ring a couple of months later.)

nonmember avatar Tim

The time I knew when my good friend's marriage was over? When his wife decided the engagement ring he got her (what he could afford at the time but was by no means cheap) wasn't good enough. She wanted to upgrade - to the tune of $20K.

He agreed. They were separated a year later. She sold it.

Modern love.

nonmember avatar Basil Buckner

If a ring matters that much to a woman/girl, dump her and run away as fast as you can. It'll save you a lot of pain in the future.

Will Cate

Diamonds are stupid things to buy. Like new cars, the depreciate the moment they're driven off the showroom floor. Plus, the industry that produces them is corrupt.

nonmember avatar mackykam

Guys, get her a ring with a small stone. You can always upgrade later one; a new stone or a new wife. If you're happy and she deserves it buy a bigger rock later on. This way, if the marriage doesn't work out she only gets to keep a small memento.

nonmember avatar happymarriedguy

A guy whose prospective fiance gripes about the engagement ring has done him a great favor, by demonstrating how superficial she is. If he still marries her, at least he can't say he wasn't warned

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