The traditions around engagement rings have evolved over centuries alongside cultural norms and jewelry styles. What was once considered proper etiquette regarding proposals, wedding bands, and wearing engagement rings would seem outdated today. Tracing the fascinating history provides insight into how modern engagement ring customs came to be.
In early European societies, the giving of betrothal rings signaled the legal contract between the intended couple rather than any romantic notions. The rings served as down payments on the bride price families negotiated in arranged marriages. Strict social protocols dictated every step of the engagement and wedding process at the time.
By Victorian times, romantic love became tied to engagement rings with the rise of couples having more say in marriage choices. Elaborate rings set with the man’s birthstone jewelry gained favor as symbols of eternal romance. Etiquette rules still heavily influenced the process though, including expectations around timing and approved ring styles.
Post-World War II saw proposals moving away from the woman’s father to the couple themselves. The concept of surprising one’s girlfriend with an engagement ring took hold during this period. Etiquette rules shifted to focus on helping suitors pick out the ring, set up the proposal, and approach her family afterwards.
Today’s engagement etiquette emphasizes the personal choices of the couple. Many shop for rings together to select a shared favorite style. Friends and family may provide input, but the ultimate decisions come down to the bride and groom themselves. Rules now center on how to best surprise one’s partner and make the moment special.
Etiquette around wearing the ring has also modernized. Previously, modesty dictated only wearing it publicly after the formal announcement. That changed to openly wearing the ring immediately after accepting the proposal. Unique rings like those with moissanite diamond lend themselves to this practice, as their brilliant sparkle begs to be shown off.
Proper form around engagement rings has reflected societal values across changing times. But the symbolism of couples committing their lives to one another remains at its core. By learning traditions of the past, modern couples can thoughtfully shape an engagement and proposal that honors their love story.