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Men have been buying engagement rings supposedly since the time of the ancient Egyptians, but the first record of this goes to Archduke Maximilian of Austria, who proposed to Mary of Burgundy with a diamond ring in the shape of an “M.”
Before this, rings could be made of out anything from metal to grass to hair, depending on the culture — but the modern concept of diamond engagement rings really started with the increase of the diamond supply in the late 1800s, when companies like Tiffany & Co., Sears & Roebuck, and Cartier brought them into the mail-order catalogs and store windows of the civilized world.
Now, more than a hundred years later, diamond engagement rings seem to be making their way out of style. Couples are now seeking more unique (not to mention cheaper) ways of declaring their love for each other.
Some girls just don’t like wearing jewelry. Maybe you’re not a ring person. In fact, maybe you’re more of a tattoo couple—so why not skip the engagement ring and just go straight to getting your wedding rings tattooed? (You’ll be dying to get one after you see how cool they look on Pinterest.)
It’s a far more permanent, and typically cheaper, way of showing the world you belong to each other (although you will need to factor in the cost of touch-ups over the years). It says something about who you are as a couple, and it also provides a cute photo opportunity if you get them done together.
2. Swap the Ring for an Experience
Do you like to travel together? Try new things together? Then maybe instead of an engagement ring, you should consider marking the occasion by going skydiving for the first time, or finally taking that trip to Europe. As long as it’s fun, memorable, and something you both want to do together. Rings can get lost or worn, but you can’t lose the experiences you share. Your future selves may thank you for it.
3. Start a Rainy Day Fund
Maybe you’re all for experience over jewelry, but aren’t sure yet what you want to do? Put that money in a new bank account, and you can decide what to use it for later. Maybe you’ll be spontaneous, or maybe you’ll wait and use it to have an extra-special honeymoon. Either way, you know it’ll be used on something you both really want (or need—life happens).
4. Put the Money Toward a Big-Ticket Item
One of the biggest purchases newlyweds make these days is a home or new car. Since you’re starting your adult lives together, it might be best to start your engagement off by putting a down payment on a house or vehicle. You could also furnish your home or pay off any debt you two have. It’s practical, and it may lessen the stress of entering your lives as a married couple.
5. Adopt a Pet
A more fun way to show your belief in your relationship and your commitment to being adults together is to go out and adopt a furry (or feathery, leathery, etc.) friend to raise as a couple. This might ward off some of the questions about kids (probably not, but it’s worth a try, right?), and it will give you both an opportunity to test your abilities to keep something alive.
6. Still Want the Ring, Diamond-Less?
There’s no shame in wanting a ring to signify the commitment you’re making, but maybe the traditional diamond isn’t for you. If you’re an old-fashioned couple, try knot rings or a gemstone other than diamonds, like your birthstone. These unique alternatives are just as beautiful as diamonds, but have a more individual touch to them.
My personal favorite is a Claddagh ring, which is a traditional Irish ring with a heart held by two hands and a crown overhanging, symbolizing friendship, love, and loyalty. If you’re a nerdy couple, there are tons of fandom rings out there—from Star Trek, to Lord of the Rings, to Harry Potter. You know each other best, so the respective rings or jewelry of your favorite characters might be the way to go.