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.
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?)
(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