Engagement rings: Should men wear them?
Over the last few years, male celebrities like Johnny Depp, Michael Bublé and Charlie Sheen have been spotted wearing engagement rings. That seems unusual right now, but as wedding culture grows ever more egalitarian, it sounds like something that could catch on, right?
After all, who doesn’t want to be like Charlie Sheen?
So let’s go over some reasons why male engagement rings should or shouldn’t become a ‘thing’.
A couple of quick notes:
- We’re giving an emphatic thumbs-down to the term ‘man-gagement ring’. Just because something exists, doesn’t mean it needs a ‘clever’ name.
- We’re talking only about male-female couples here. For the most part, same-sex couples have a simpler dynamic when it comes to exchanging rings and they’re much less bound by tradition.
So let’s ask the question: should men wear engagement rings?
Yes: Because it’s 2017 and we’re all about the equality
This is the main reason people are giving for men wearing engagement rings, and it makes a lot of sense. Women have more equality now than they ever have before. And most areas of society have adapted accordingly. But there are plenty of wedding customs that still carry a strong whiff of outdated patriarchy. For example, the father usually still ‘gives away’ the bride to her new husband – a ceremonial throwback to when a wedding was literally a transfer of property between men.
And the tradition of female-only engagement rings is the same thing, right? You put a ring on your woman’s hand to denote that she’s soon to be your property. It’s basically a sparkly ‘reserved’ sign. But we stopped treating women like property ages ago, so both partners wearing a ring would be a fitting sign of mutual respect.
Yes: Because we might see some more ladies proposing
Women proposing is still pretty rare. And there are lots of different reasons for that.
Our entire system of dating and relationships is based around males doing the pursuing and females choosing a mate from their eager suitors. Wander onto any dance floor on a Saturday night and you’ll see that exact dynamic playing out in every single one. (Well, apart from the gay bars.) You could argue this is hardwired into our DNA, or that it’s the result of centuries of social conditioning – but either way, it’s how things are.
So the engagement ring is the apex of that process. It’s the man saying, ‘look how well I can provide for you if you choose me’. Again, that seems a bit outdated, doesn’t it?
This could just as easily be an argument for doing away with engagement rings entirely. But, ironically perhaps, most of us still love the tradition and ceremony of it all. So if we at least make it the norm for both partners to wear an engagement ring, ladies might feel less socially forbidden to go down on one knee themselves.
No: Because it’s just more commodification of relationships
If it weren’t for tradition, getting hitched would be very cheap indeed. You could just go down the registry office, sign some documents, pay a few quid and head to the pub.
And sure, you can still do that. Some people do. But those people are bucking against immense pressure from society, media and industry. In short – people expect a wedding, the media amplifies that expectation and businesses use it to make money from you. If that all sounds a bit cynical, don’t worry – this isn’t going to become a lecture on the evils of consumerism.
But like it or not, committing to love someone until death do you part is expensive. It’s an intangible, emotional act that we formalise with a quick administrative process, and yet people regularly spend more than their yearly salary on it. And the cost of an engagement ring is a big chunk of that cost. So adding another engagement ring to the mix would just give the wedding industry yet another way to make us pay for loving each other.
Yes: Because then we all know where we stand
I’m engaged, but you wouldn’t know it just from looking at me. So if a beautiful woman comes up to me in a bar and tries to flirt with me, I have to explain that I’m spoken for. So she gets embarrassed and it’s just really awkward. Luckily, that’s never happened to me, but it theoretically could – any day now.
For my fiancée it’s much simpler. If a handsome millionaire tries chatting her up in a bar, he’ll notice her ring – no matter how discretely she tries to slide it off and hide it in her purse. So he immediately realises she’s engaged and everyone knows the deal.
Wouldn’t it be easier if it was the same for both of us?
No: Because it creates awkward situations
If male engagement rings are to become a thing, they’ll need to be an almost universal thing. Because if not, the presence or absence of a second ring will become a comment on the relationship.
Let’s say Rodrigo proposes to Magdalena with a big ol’ diamond ring. She says yes, prompting whoops and cheers from everyone else in the stingray room at Hastings Sea Life Centre, and everything’s just great.
So now Magdalena needs to ask Rodrigo if he wants her to buy him a ring too. That’s a bit awkward. Rodrigo says no, he doesn’t expect a ring. But who would answer yes to that anyway? He’d essentially be asking her for a gift – one that probably costs thousands.
So what if she doesn’t ask? If she doesn’t get him one, maybe he starts to wonder why. Maybe his friends and family notice and start to wonder how committed Magdalena is to their engagement. (Magdalena’s very much a career girl.) But then, if Magdalena does get Rodrigo a ring, would he be mortified that she’d spent thousands just to satisfy some little fad started by Johnny Depp? (Rodrigo can’t stand Johnny Depp.)
Rodrigo could of course buy both engagement rings before he proposes. But surely the giving of a ring is the whole point, right?
So to conclude: We don’t know
We’re totally torn on this issue, and on whether it’s an issue at all. The tradition of only women wearing engagement rings does feel out of step with modern society. But it’s only worth fixing these things if people are suffering from it. Does anyone really think engagement ring inequality is a problem?
But one opinion we’ll always hold is this: You should always be free to do whatever feels right for your relationship. You might think a male engagement ring is a total waste of money, or you might think it’s a brilliantly modern expression of mutual commitment and respect.
So whether or not society thinks it’s a ‘thing’ shouldn’t be the basis for your decision. If it’s your thing, then go for it.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.