Breaking Engagement Traditions

Image courtesy of Graeme Weatherston at

Image courtesy of Graeme Weatherston at

When we got engaged, my fiance and I skipped some traditions. In this post, I’ll go over what we skipped and why.

First of all, my engagement ring is not a diamond. I believe the stone is aquamarine but I’m not positive. It’s light blue. (I’m the weirdest girl ever. I couldn’t be bothered to remember a thing about jewelry.)

I love it, and I’m actually relieved my fiance didn’t waste a fortune getting me a diamond, because not only do I know and understand that diamond engagement rings are way overpriced, I also think it’s ridiculous to spend a fortune on a one-time purchase that isn’t a necessary item. My mother refused to even be given an engagement ring at all, and I was really happy to learn that about her.

As requested, here’s a picture of my engagement ring:

engagement ring

For more on why diamond engagement rings are a scam (and really just the result of what was perhaps the most successful ad campaign ever) check out this video from CollegeHumor:

Engagement rings are a minor tradition as far as I’m concerned though, and we didn’t really skip it, just alter it. The big deal tradition that we skipped–the one my dad gave us some crap over–was asking the father’s permission.

My fiance and I had talked about getting married long before he asked me to marry him. It was something we both wanted to do, and we both felt this relationship would eventually be ready for that big step. We also feel that the decision to get married is completely up to the two of us–the members of the couple–and not our parents’ decision. So the question about whether or not my father’s permission needed to be obtained was not about whether nor not we could get married, but rather about whether or not skipping that tradition would offend my father. In the process of that discussion, I did something that offended my father even though it shouldn’t: I asked my fiance not to ask his permission. Because seriously, if what he says doesn’t really matter, why go through the motions of asking?

The way I see it, that tradition isn’t a matter of respect. It’s the remnant of a patriarchal culture in which women were the property of their fathers until they were married, when they became the property of their husbands. I’m not anyone’s property. I’m a person. So I said no; don’t ask him. We toyed with the idea of telling him ahead of time somehow, while simultaneously letting him know that we didn’t want permission. The idea reminded me a bit of this scene in Fiddler on the Roof, in which Perchik and Hodel (the couple) ask Tevye (the father) for his blessing on their engagement rather than his permission.

Spoiler: Tevye doesn’t take this well at first, but eventually agrees. In a half-baked attempt to take back his role as the patriarch, he says, “I’ve decided to give you my blessing AND my permission.”

But why go through that trouble at all for a silly tradition? Why partake in it? Why continue the patriarchal nonsense?

So we didn’t ask him. And when we went to my house to announce our engagement, my parents were shocked. My father, dumbfounded, started rattling off all the things he had done before proposing to my mother:  making sure he could provide for her financially, asking her father’s permission, etc. I had to remind him that my generation is coming of age in the worst economic times since the great depression, and that a lack of financial autonomy (and massive student loan debt) is the reality for the majority of us (average student loan debt is currently $30,000). If we waited until we were as financially stable as my parents were when they got engaged, we’d be well into our thirties. Then I explained my beef with the permission tradition. He never gave me any inkling that he understood, or that he respected our decision.

Which didn’t surprise me. My relationship with my father is rocky at best. He had an outburst today that nearly lead to a post, but I’m trying to give things time before posting about them–which is why I’m writing about this now, months after it happened. I don’t want to say mean spirited things because I’m angry.

What do you think about the engagement tradition of asking the father’s permission, or any other wedding or engagement tradition for that matter? Did any of you break traditions when you became engaged or got married? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful to other people and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!


19 thoughts on “Breaking Engagement Traditions

  1. I am someone who adores jewelry and I did have nice engagement ring, which I love and wear daily. It seems there is a big push to get rid of the ring altogether these days. I’ve had several people (usually from younger generations) imply I’m a greedy bitch for both wanting and accepting a nice engagement ring. I think that’s an unnecessary judgment…some women strongly feel an engagement rings is a gift a of love that will last a lifetime, and I don’t see a problem with this *if the money is available* (we had plenty of money at that time).

    That said, I wouldn’t go for a diamond again as the price really is outrageous. Had I to do it over I probably would have gone with a morganite ring like this…still beautiful but much less than diamonds:

    I’d love to see your aquamarine ring if you could to post a pic. Aquamarine is a beautiful stone!

    I was 30 when I got married and felt is was ridiculous to have my fiance ask my dad’s permission. Finance and I were both living on our own, had jobs, and were totally independent, so I just didn’t see the point. Maybe if you’re 18 and living at home permission might be more appropriate, but I agree with you…it’s a tradition of patriarchy which I don’t like. So we did not ask my father and it’s fair to say he WAS offended, but he didn’t give us shit over it.

    Congrats on your engagement, and I think it’s good to do whatever works for you guys as a couple. It does takes some courage to do this when you have overbearing, religious parents. Try not to burn bridges with them while staying true to your own vision…it’s a balancing act that is worth it, especially for when/if you have kids and want them involved.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It hadn’t even occurred to me that people might want to see the ring. I’ll update the post in a minute with a picture of it.

      I definitely wouldn’t consider you (or anyone) greedy for liking the diamond tradition. The rings are definitely very pretty. I just think people (especially my very broke generation) need to put finances into consideration and be willing to figure out what’s a priority and what’s not when it comes to the more symbolic traditions.

      I love the color of the stone on the ring in the link. And thanks for the advice. I’m still living at home, which if anything is making it more important for me to not burn bridges, but unfortunately it’s also making it harder since the place I’d go for privacy is still in the same house as my parents. I’m looking forward to having a full time job to consistently get me out of the house.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I wish I had a do-over. I’d want a ring like yours–untraditional but beautiful. Instead I got a diamond ring “just because.” I hated the first engagement ring my husband gave me and I am sad to say I made him take it back. I remember being very disappointed that he had no concept of my taste. So I ended up picking out a less expensive diamond ring that I wasn’t thrilled about. In hindsight I should have picked a ring not specified as an engagement ring.

    I like the idea of some sort of engagement symbol (like a ring) but I think it should be worn by both fiances. Why just the woman? It really does feel like some old-fashioned dowry type situation. I don’t like that.

    As far as asking the father’s permission that is just silly. I think it’s important to get to know your future in-laws so you know what you are marrying into, but again, most women by the time they marry are fairly independent and don’t need Dad’s permission. I think you did the right thing.

    In my situation I don’t have a great relationship with my Dad and I would be suspicious of whoever he approved of anyway. Case-in-point he approved of my first fiance who was a very toxic person.

    If I could do it over again I would do a mutual ring exchange alone with my beloved under the stars. We would exchange our own vows to each other, go home and have a special evening (wink, wink) and then let everyone in our lives know. We would get legally married later at the court house (only if we wanted to) with just a handful of our closest family and/or friends. I had a small outdoor wedding, but I would have like to skip the wedding altogether because I hate parties.


    • I like your point about how only women have to wear an engagement ring but men don’t get one. I find that weird too and was wondering if it was just me. It seems like such a strange thing. It reminds me a bit of the double standard where men are thought to be crazy sex fiends and women to be prudish virgins (yet it takes two to tango.) The way this tradition works, the man is not expected to show his commitment until the wedding because boys will be boys, but the woman? She’s locked in right away.

      I definitely agree that getting to know your future in-laws is important. It’s a red flag to me if the other person has no interest in meeting my family. At the same time though, I see how you could have a parent approve of a toxic relationship. I’m sorry to hear that that happened to you.

      I completely understand what you mean about wanting to skip the wedding altogether. I don’t mind parties personally, but the planning (and the cost) is really daunting to me. Also the fancy part. I can do casual parties. There’s something about being waited on in that kind of setting that makes me uncomfortable. It makes me want to be the one collecting plates and refilling glasses.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree, it’s a double standard. It definitely takes two to tango! These days most people are not virgins when they marry. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that if they are, but it’s unrealistic (and unfair) to expect the woman to remain “pure” and not the man!

        As far as parties go, I think that if a wedding party was really fun (and there was no pressure on me to do anything — I am an extreme introvert and terrible hostess) it would be okay. But then again, I’m like you in that I don’t like being waited on. In general, I can’t stand being the center of attention. It makes me extremely uncomfortable.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I couldn’t agree more. I’m not a fan of that feeling you get when your family tells the waiter it’s your birthday and you have to sit through the entire restaurant being informed through tone-deaf singing and awkward claps.


  3. Beautiful ring Nancy…thank you for posting a picture! I really like this emerging trend of going with non-diamond rings. You can still have a lovely piece of jewelry (representative of a promise from your husband to be) without throwing away money on expensive diamonds. It also means you can have a much more personalized style…like the woven band you chose, which you don’t see in traditional engagement rings. Touches like that make the ring a reflection of YOU. And yes, your stone is aquamarine.

    I hope you can find a full-time job soon and get an apartment with your sweetheart. Because I was married when I was 30 we were both totally independent with our own homes…which is not possible if you’ve just graduated from college. I actually cringe at the idea that I would have been living at home under my super religious parents while engaged. That does not sound like fun. Hang in there…a job will come and then you’ll have your freedom.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I already had a diamond that I had inherited from my grandmother, but the setting it was in was outdated and worn out. Our finances didn’t allow for the purchase of a new big diamond, so my fiancée had the one I already had reset for me. That we could afford, and so I have an engagement ring with history to it.

    Liked by 1 person

      • And I just spent Saturday at a gem and jewelry show, where you could spend a mint on a traditional diamond, but there were thousands of less expensive options, all of which were more interesting than the usual diamond. You can have a great big topaz at a fraction of the cost of a jewelry store diamond, or get an unusual stone that suits your personality. Much more fun than a regular jeweler.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. my husband’s “proposal” was one evening blurting out “you know I want to get married don’t you?”

    No engagement ring for us, we barely managed to bother to get wedding bands. I’m a geologist so found wearing a chunk of overpriced compressed carbon a little silly. If I wear jewelry at all, I love ornate fantastical pieces that you’d see in art of queens and sorceresses.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The ring is beautiful!
    We didn’t participate in any of the traditions either. We talked about getting married. We already lived together and were more concerned about saving money for a house at the time than buying jewelry. I picked out a simple Topaz ring. Sometimes I even forget to wear it. I would have loved to have a meteorite ring, but the ones we found were a bit pricey, and I prefer the beautiful home we now have.
    He didn’t ask my father either. Thankfully, my father thinks it’s a silly tradition as well. He joked that it wasn’t his place to give a blessing or permission, it was mine. When the wedding finally happens, there will be no “giving away of the bride” either. He doesn’t seem to mind that either.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much! I definitely agree–having a place to live is way more important than any tradition. I’m glad to hear your dad went with it. The giving away the bride tradition is one I’m probably going to have to compromise on, but I agree that it’s not exactly the best tradition.

      Liked by 1 person

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