You've made the decision to propose - yay! Along with deciding how to propose, the next important decision to be made is how much to spend on an engagement ring before you commit to buying an engagement ring.
In a recent Instagram poll*, we found that 57% of users knew how much their engagement ring cost, with a further 30% having a pretty good idea. Only 13% of engaged users admitted to having no clue how much their partner spent on their engagement ring. Knowing your partner is likely to know the price - deciding how much to spend on an engagement ring may have just got more difficult...
To be completely transparent, because that's who we are at Hitched, we can't give you a rule, calculator or a one-size-fits-all answer on how much you should spend on your engagement ring because honestly, it just doesn't exist. When we asked our users how much their engagement rings cost, the answers varied so much, proving that engagement ring spend is so subjective.
In our poll, almost one in five users had an engagement ring that cost less than £1,000, 34% wore an engagement ring which cost between £1,000 and £2,500 (the bracket where the national average falls), 24% claimed to have an engagement ring worth between £2,500 and £4,000, and 23% had one that cost more than £4,000.
So much of the budget for an engagement ring depends on external factors, from your salary and how many financial commitments you have, to the type of ring you want to buy and how long you plan to save for before you propose.
Whilst the cost of buying an engagement ring will vary from person to person, our advice and guide on how much to spend on an engagement ring should help you get one step closer to deciding on what the magic number is for you.
How Much to Spend on an Engagement Ring
In terms of engagement ring spend, there are so many different ways of looking at it. From the traditional rule and the national average, to the expert's advice and alternative options - there are so many different rules and approaches to how much you should spend on an engagement ring.
Without having one blanket rule for everyone, we suggest you take a look at all of the options, before eventually deciding on how much you spend on the engagement ring - but ultimately, the most important thing is to not spend beyond your means. Remember why you're getting engaged - it's to spend the rest of your life with someone you love, not to bankrupt yourself!
1. The Traditional Spend for an Engagement Ring
You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘three month’s salary’ bandied about quite a lot, and yes, you can use this as a guideline for how much you should spend on an engagement ring.
However, before you take it as gospel, you should know that this ‘rule’ was created as the result of an advertising drive from luxury diamond retailer De Beers – who obviously had a vested interest in parting consumers from their hard-earned cash.
In the 1930s, they put out a campaign encouraging people to spend a single month’s salary, which increased to two months in the 1980s. This was followed by ads which eventually led to the contemporary three month figure. It’s become a mantra that many still choose to follow to this day – but there’s absolutely no obligation to fall in line.
Considering that the average salary in the UK today is around £585 per week (or around £2,535 per month according to ONS data), that would put a typical engagement ring budget at £7,605. You can find thousands of stunning designs for far less, so don’t panic if three month's worth of salary is too much for you - less than a quarter of the couples we polled had a ring that even came close to this.
It's also worth being realistic about things - being an adult is accompanied by so many fun things like mortgage and rent payments, bills, food shops and all the other lovely and exciting things we need to survive - so if you know there are more important things to spend your hard earned money on - don't feel pressured to follow this outdated rule.
2. The Average Spend for an Engagement Ring
According to our 2019 National Wedding Survey, the average amount spent on an engagement ring was £2,419 - it is okay to breathe an audible sigh of relief after reading that £7,000 figure above.
Knowing how much everyone else is spending is, one, super interesting, and, two, useful as a generic rule of thumb. However, other research suggests that even the ‘average’ average varies. A prior poll of 2,000 people, conducted by insurance company Protect Your Bubble, reported that the average amount spend on an engagement ring was £1,483, so you see how drastically the number can vary.
3. Expert Opinions on Engagement Ring Spending
"Our typical customer spends anything between £2,000 to £4,000 on an engagement ring," says Jerome Brustlein, chief operating officer at ethical jewellery brand Fenton & Co, which specialises in precious gemstones. "However, we have some customers with smaller budget that also find their perfect ring; for example, our aquamarines are a more affordable stone, but are just as beautiful."
"We believe that there is no 'one size fits all' and it is important to focus on the sentimental value of the ring for the wearer.
"In our opinion, the three months’ salary rule is antiquated and we are happy to see that mentalities have changed. We recently conducted a poll on our Instagram channel asking followers what they thought you should spend on an engagement ring; the general consensus from the replies was that a ring should be an investment, with sentimental value but without breaking the bank.’
Lorna Haddon, head of diamonds and jewellery at Beaverbrooks, agrees: "There are so many different options when choosing a ring, from the design and metal of the band through to the cut, colour, clarity and carat of the sparkling diamond.
"We do everything we can to help our customers pick the perfect ring for their partner. For us it’s not about how much you should spend, it’s finding the ring that’s right for you, your partner and your budget. This runs through the whole ring buying process in store and on our website."
READ MORE: 60 Romantic and Unique Proposal Ideas
4. How to Save Money on Your Engagement Ring
If you already have a look and feel in mind, but are worried that your budget might not stretch, Emily Newman, Head of Design at Lark & Berry says that there are always clever ways to get more bang for your buck if you shop savvy and know what to look for.
"The weight of the metal will affect the price, as will the size and quality of the diamond. If you lower the colour or clarity of the diamond by one increment, this can help greatly, especially if you go from a colourless F to near colourless G. This will not affect the look of the ring as it is very hard to tell the difference, and you will save money."
Jerome points out that while diamonds are traditional, other stones such as rubies, garnets and emeralds can be just as stunning – and save you money, "At Fenton we focus on surface area rather than typical carat weight, which allows you to get a better value for money versus diamonds, as the gemstone will look bigger on the finger."
"Another thing that is important to look for: a nice colour that is evenly spread across the stone, a nice cut, a good size to weight ratio (to get more stone for your money) and not too included – although gemstones will always have some inclusions, it is what makes them special as they are all unique."
In terms of metal, platinum is typically the most expensive. However, there are some areas where you shouldn’t cut corners. Emily advises, "I often recommend using platinum for a white metal instead of white gold. You may save a little with white gold in the short term, but you will end up spending more in the future as the ring will need re-polishing and plating every few years, plus platinum is harder wearing"
5. Buying a Temporary Engagement Ring
Ever heard of a proposal ring? If not, it’s a concept you might want to consider – a temporary placeholder engagement ring that you get down on one knee with when you pop the question, and then replace with a permanent engagement ring that you select with your other half’s input.
Having your partner's input on the engagement ring is not only helpful for the style and design, but knowing what they think you should spend can be a great insight too. Imagine you spent a fortune on a ring, for them to wish the money had been saved for the wedding or honeymoon.
Cubic zirconia replicas of diamond engagement rings can start from as little as £20 and allow nervous proposers to pop the question with a beautiful ring without the worry of spending on something not to their taste.
Proposal rings usually cost less than £50, so are great low-outlay option if you have no idea what type of ring your partner would like. It saves you having to ask them and spoil the surprise you’re planning. Some jewellers will even redeem the cost of the temporary band against the real engagement ring if you buy it with them and still allow you to keep the original as a memento.
6. Buying Nothing At All
Okay, so this is a real opinion divider, but don’t forget that you are allowed to propose without a ring. Whether you invest in one later because you want your partner to choose, or you decide as a pair that you’d rather the money was spent elsewhere.
Some people, especially if they’re highly financially conscious, feel uncomfortable and even guilty about their partner spending so much on an item that’s just for them, so if you suspect that yours might feel this way, it’s an important conversation to have. One of the grooms from our Budget Breakdown series bought his partner a Chanel bag instead of an engagement ring because he knew she'd prefer it.
Under the right circumstances, a proposal without an engagement ring can feel even more spontaneous and romantic; it’s just a celebration of your love in that exact moment, without any pretence or flash.
READ MORE: Unique and Fun Engagement Announcement Ideas
7. Buying What You Can Afford
So you’ve read this all the professional advice, you know the stats and you’re still thinking ‘so how much should I spend on an engagement ring?'
Well, we did warn you at the beginning – an exact figure is something that we can’t give you, because no two people’s journey looks the same. In today’s world, the only real rule is that there are no rules: maybe you and your partner split the cost between you, maybe you inherit a family heirloom or track down a gorgeous antique rather than buying new.
There are resources out there that will take your actual income and outgoings into account, but what it really comes down to is what you can actually afford, and what type of ring will mean the most.
Be honest with yourself, be realistic and above all else, try to enjoy the process. After all, it’s not something you’re planning on doing again in a hurry. Ultimately, an engagement ring is just a symbol of what you already know, and that’s that you want to spend the rest of your life with this amazing person. When you think about it, you can’t really put a price on that.
Engagement Ring Spend Myths Busted
As you decide how much to spend on an engagement ring, it's important to have all of the correct, accurate information to help you make this important decision. There are a lot of myths out there, and rules that are super outdated. Here, we bust some of the most common myths surrounding how much you should spend on an engagement ring and what effects the cost of one.
8. You Can't Buy an Engagement Ring Online
This is well and truly a myth. In fact, there have never been more options to buy an engagement ring online than they are today, and it isn't the 'off the rack' process one may assume it is. There are a number of online engagement ring designer tools where you can select and design almost every aspect of your engagement ring without having to leave the house.
If you're nervous about spending lots of money on an engagement ring online, why not take a trip in store to view the ring you're after. Take a look at a few in person until you are really sure what it is that you want. Once you've done that,
9. The Bigger the Better
Bigger doesn't always mean better quality and you cannot determine the quality of an engagement ring or diamond based on size alone. There are lots of different options when it comes to buying an engagement ring and the quality of a diamond often has little to do with the size.
One big solitaire diamond is usually cheaper than lots of smaller stones, and experts say that the cut of a stone is the most important. If the cut is good, you can afford to be more flexible on the other ‘four C’s’ (that’s colour, clarity and carat).
Because of the four C's, you can actually secure a larger diamond with some impurities (completely invisible to the naked eye) for much less than a perfect diamond of a smaller size. Remember that if you can’t tell the difference between two diamonds of differing quality, most other people won’t be able to either – as long as your fiancée loves it, does it really matter?
10. You Must Spend Three Months Salary
As we mentioned above, the traditional rule of spending three months' salary on an engagement ring is one of those wedding traditions you can definitely skip. We've made it pretty clear now that what you spend on an engagement ring should be what you can afford, and what you want to spend - no other factors needn't play a role.
For some, the equivalent of three months' salary is an affordable amount to spend on an engagement ring, for others it isn't, and for some, it's merely not what they want to spend on one. You can consider that myth well and truly busted.
11. Bespoke is More Expensive
Whilst going bespoke can be more expensive than buying an already made engagement ring, that isn't always the case. There are deals to be had when it comes to buying loose diamonds and designing an engagement ring yourself. You can buy loose diamonds for a matter of hundreds and then pay a jeweller to turn it into the engagement ring of your partner's dreams.
If you want to cut some of the work out of the process, you can use an online engagement ring designer to select the specific diamond you want, the setting and band you like and the company will then make it for you and deliver it.
Alternatively, you can propose with the loose diamond alone and then design the engagement ring together - this is a great way to spread out the engagement ring spend and also guarantees a design your partner loves.
12. It Has to Be A Diamond
Engagement rings come in different shapes, cuts sizes and styles and there are plenty of amazing options outside of just diamonds. Your engagement ring can be made up of sapphires, opals, rubies, emeralds or no stone at all - it is completely down to you and will also depend on what your partner's style is. If they're not a diamond sort of person, you absolutely don't need to buy a diamond ring.
Not only are vintage rings much more likely to be unique and sentimental, because of their pre-loved status, they typically cost less too. Tracking the perfect one down requires a little more research and effort, but the right ring will absolutely be worth the work.
*Informal Instagram poll of 2,684 users on 19/11/22.