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Something Old, Something New: Wedding Jewelry Traditions

Modern romance is a whole different world from what our parents experienced. Lots of couples meet through purposeful online dating, plenty of females make the first move, and some people rock being single (while bravely dealing with their family’s well-intentioned questions about their love life).

As gender roles evolve, our wedding traditions change with them, including the way we think about wedding jewelry. What’s right for a traditional couple might not make sense for a more progressive pair. Not everyone gets married, especially nowadays, but we can all celebrate when a friend or loved one does. If you’re the bride-to-be, remember that there will be so many exciting milestones beyond just the wedding!

wedding jewelry

Jessica Roberts Photography

Modern Engagements: Breaking Wedding Jewelry Traditions

We all know the traditional engagement story. The woman drops hints about the kind of ring she wants. The man saves up his money, buys the bling, then surprises his beloved by dropping to one knee and popping the question. The happy couple announce their proposal to friends and family, and the rest is happily ever after. It’s the sweeping, emotional love story we might hear from our parents or see on the big screen. 

Yet this story doesn’t always fit modern relationship traditions. Some couples will stick with the custom, and that’s totally fine. But for many partners, getting engaged can look completely different. 

Shopping for Engagement Rings Together

While many brides still like to be surprised with a romantic proposal, most want their opinion heard when it comes to picking out the engagement ring. By the time you’re ready to get engaged and begin wedding planning, many modern couples will have already discussed marriage extensively. The commitment itself likely isn’t a surprise, though the timing of the gesture might be. For this reason, many couples will visit the jeweler together to discuss cut, color, clarity, and carat of the bride’s dream ring. This symbol of love is an investment in the life they’ll be sharing, so it makes sense that they do this together. It also allows them to discuss and determine a reasonable amount of money to spend on an engagement ring as they think about the next big, expensive event coming up: the wedding.

wedding ring shopping

Karen Feder Photography 

Splitting the Cost of Wedding Expenses (Including Jewelry!)

Speaking of finances, modern couples don’t always follow the wedding tradition for who pays, either. When men were the household breadwinners, it made sense for them to buy the ring. Today, however, if both of you are working, it might be the best financial decision to share the cost. Between the engagement ring and the wedding band, guys usually have to dish out a lot more on wedding jewelry than their brides-to-be, anyway. In some cases, this might be one of the first big financial decisions you’ll make as a couple, so it makes sense to do it together.

Engagement Rings: His and Hers

Another way modern couples are breaking wedding jewelry traditions is by buying each other rings. With new relationship traditions evolving, women can, and do, propose to their boyfriends. Even if the girl isn’t taking the lead, some couples still like the gesture of giving each other a token to symbolize they’re “taken” before the wedding bands officially seal the deal. While this practice hasn’t caught on much in the United States, it’s actually an engagement tradition in Chile! That’s what you can tell your grandmother if she thinks it’s a bit odd. 

wedding ring cost

Gendered Wedding Traditions 

Our understanding of gender roles has changed a lot in recent years. When you enter into a marriage as equals, you get to decide which wedding traditions fit with you as a couple and which ones feel uncomfortably antiquated. This goes beyond breaking wedding jewelry traditions—there are plenty of other wedding traditions it’s okay to break. Consider, too, how many gendered wedding traditions aren't inclusive of LGBTQ couples. Instead of excluding people, let’s stretch the mold and set new standards for normal.

Beyond the Wedding Jewelry: Anniversary Jewelry

The engagement and wedding rings aren’t necessarily the first and last pieces you’ll use to celebrate your union. Each new milestone is an opportunity to recommit yourselves to each other with a token of love. Some say you should give gold at one year, garnet at two, and pearls at three, and so on till death do you part. But don’t feel like you need to follow a set tradition for anniversary jewelry if you don’t like a certain stone. Shop for the kind of anniversary jewelry you like when you decide to mark a major milestone with bling. 

One of the most common and meaningful pieces of anniversary jewelry is the eternity ring. This ring has gemstones all the way around, symbolizing never-ending love. Necklaces, bracelets, and earrings are also popular ways to celebrate anniversaries.

anniversary jewelry

Celebrating Relationship Milestones Even If You Don’t Get Married

What’s the biggest wedding tradition to break? Not getting married at all! While there are plenty of great reasons—both personal and practical—for officially tying the knot, marriage isn’t a good fit for all couples. You don’t have to feel left out of wedding jewelry traditions, however. While you might not go for the traditional engagement rings and wedding bands, you can still give each other tokens to celebrate important anniversaries of your couplehood. If you see yourself being with this person forever, marriage license or not, why not say it with an eternity ring? Instead of celebrating wedding anniversaries, pick another important day to call yours: the day you had your first date, the day you had that important DTR, the day you moved in together. Commitment doesn’t need a government-sanctioned label to be celebrated!

Celebrate Singleness: Treat Yourself

If you’re feeling left out of these discussions of wedding traditions and the jewelry that comes with, we get it. Whether you’re single by choice or feeling forever alone, we could all use a little affirmation and self-love. If you love diamonds and have always dreamed of wearing a fancy stone, you don’t have to wait for someone else to buy it for you. Treat yourself! Make it a birthday gift, use it to mark a big career move, or buy it to celebrate overcoming a personal struggle—whatever is the most meaningful to you. Show it off to your friends just like you would if it were an actual engagement ring. If anyone has an issue with it, just tell them you’re marrying yourself.

While we know marriage can be pretty awesome, not everyone gets married. Some individuals celebrate their singleness with a right hand ring as a sign of empowerment and self-love That’s a pretty awesome way to celebrate yourself if you ask us!

Ryan the Jeweler

Mahonen Photography 

Whether you’re a traditional couple or super progressive, the most important relationship tradition is to soak in life’s big moments together. And no matter where you fall on the spectrum of singleness or couplehood, there will always be people in your life to celebrate with. 

What was your engagement story like? Do you celebrate wedding anniversaries with jewelry?

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Leave a comment

Mya Murphy
June 14, 2020 08:44

Times sure has changed.. I was never about traditional. I was married 17 years til my late husband wasn’t here anymore.. But, I actually proposed to him. We shopped for rings together. It worked for us.. And, I’m engaged again.. I don’t even wear an engagement ring. I wear a gorgeous necklace instead. 💕

Alisha Dan
May 11, 2020 10:34

I had no idea that men’s engagement rings were a thing! How cool!

April 21, 2020 22:39

I love the exploration of different traditions shifting over time. At the end of the day, it’s what makes sense to the couple!

European Jewelry
February 20, 2020 14:39

Thanks for sharing the info, keep up the good work going…. I really enjoyed exploring your site. good resource… Visit:-

Morghan Townsend
July 05, 2018 09:01

I love how the author took the time to explain how modern day engagements and weddings can look different due to gender roles changing. Weddings and engagements can still be beautiful without the typical traditions, and I am here for it!

shannon fowler
July 03, 2018 07:53

This was excellent! I love that there are so many different values couples hold and that it seems it is more acceptable to think about what would be meaningful for the couple.

Sarah Widy
June 26, 2018 08:23

I love how this blog post is all about seeing weddings from everyone’s perspective and making everyone feel included in the celebration of life’s happpiest moments! It’s so important to point out that we are all unique and have different visions about how we want our dream day or relationships to be.

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