It's an unforgettable moment when your significant other gets that adoring look on their face, asks tremulously, "Will you marry me?" and then proffers a box with—the worst ring you've ever seen. And now it's become something you feel bad for even thinking: "I don't like my engagement ring. What do I do?"
You're not alone. Many before you and many after you will find themselves in this exact same predicament, not wanting to hurt their fiancé's feelings but also not wanting to wear a ring they don't like every single day. There are ways to handle this delicate situation with grace, however. Here's what you can do.
1. Give It a Couple of Days
If it isn't love at first sight, give it a couple of days. Wear the ring around and see if it grows on you. It may not be perfect, but it doesn't mean it can't be something you grow to fall madly in love with. First impressions, even with rings, can be tricky and misleading. Before making a huge stink over it, give it some time. It's also helpful to find out why he or she chose this particular ring. Perhaps there's a story behind it or it's similar to the one their mom or grandma wears. Maybe when they saw it, it made him or her feel a certain way. Sometimes that story will be powerful enough to understand their reasoning and change your feelings toward the ring.
2. Talk About It the Right Way
If you still don't like your engagement ring, it's time to have a conversation. "Every time you look at it, the voice in your head will remind you how much you hate it—and that will cause resentment and annoyance," explains relationship expert Dana Corey. "If you are constantly reminded of your disappointment in their choice, it will color your relationship."
Broach the subject slowly and in private. "Like any sensitive subject, you want to choose a time when you're feeling open and loving, not when you're in a disagreement or feeling upset. It's one of those intimate, vulnerable conversations that will set the tone of your marriage for the decades to come," Corey says. Acknowledge the love and thought that went into your fiancé's choice, and explain that it's not your intent to hurt their feelings.
3. Exchange It or Return It
If your partner purchased the ring new, head back to the jeweler together. You could keep the center stone and have it changed to a different setting, or spend the afternoon trying on rings together until you find a completely new style that you both love. Remember to be respectful of their budget when doing so, and ask him or her to work with the jeweler to ensure the options you’re considering are something you can afford.
4. Modify It
Is the ring a family heirloom of some sort? Find out if you can have the heirloom ring reset. That could mean designing a new ring to hold a family stone, using the metal from the original ring to create a wedding band, or purchasing a ring enhancer (which fits snugly around an engagement ring to add heft, and often additional sparkle, to the original setting) to transform a more simple ring into a design that’s more your style.
5. Choose the Wedding Band of Your Dreams
Not sure if you can bring it up at all? Don’t lose sight of what the engagement ring represents. It’s a meaningful gift that you should cherish either way, and when it comes time to shop for wedding bands, you might just be able to find something to help transform it into the ring of your dreams.
6. If You Just Want a Bigger Rock, Don't Say Anything
Honesty is the best policy...unless you're just disappointed that the stone is too small or poor quality. Because that's like saying, "You didn't spend enough money." You would never want your fiancé to feel that their choice was inadequate in that regard—surely they bought you the most beautiful ring they could afford, so if everything else about the ring works (metal, stone shape, style) then hold your tongue.
Remember: You're getting married to the person, not the ring. "The question I would ask is, 'Are you committed to creating a happy, harmonious life together?'" Corey says. If nothing can be done, or you've upset your fiancé, "breathe, apologize for being materialistic, and get over it. Or reconsider your motives, and be honest with yourself about whether you're ready for marriage."
How Real Brides Handled This Situation
Real brides have found themselves in this exact situation before. We asked what advice they had for what to do if you don't like your engagement ring. Here are their stories.
"I hated the ring on sight, but slept on it before telling my fiancé. I didn't want to hurt his feelings, but I also didn't want to live with something for the next 40 years that made me shudder. So eventually I said, 'Sweetheart I can't wait to be your wife. But I hope I can always be honest with you.' He said of course, so I ventured, 'An engagement ring is something I've dreamt of my whole life and I think I've designed it in my head to the last baguette.' He knows me so he leapt in, 'Honey, let's give it back and pick one you love together.'" —Lisa
"I'd already spoiled the surprise that he was going to propose when we were at a romantic spa weekend (another long story). So we decided to mutually write down why we wanted to marry the other person. Alas, I picked the wrong moment to detox from coffee and suffered a massive migraine. Finally I pulled myself together enough to make our little vows, then he gave me this ridiculous engagement ring—a too-small, small gold and silver band that he got at a hock shop. The band had other people's names engraved inside and only fit my pinkie. Lucky for him, I don't care about jewels. And lucky for me, he has put up with my emotional self for 23 years now." —Nancy
"I adore jewelry. There was certainly nothing wrong with the ring...after all, how could any woman object to a diamond ring of any kind? I simply explained that for something that I intended to wear every day for the rest of my life, it needed to be very, very special and unique to me. He agreed. We created it together with my favorite designer. My rings are flat-out gorgeous." —Kristin
"My husband is a romantic and goes for the big gestures. We dated for two years before he popped the question, but that wasn't long enough for him to hone in on my personal style. The ring was not hideous—a lovely center diamond surrounded by a swirl of smaller baguette and marquee cut stones. But I had been hoping for exactly the opposite—an understated, classic solitaire that I could later pair with a band of smaller diamonds. To say I was monumentally disappointed is not saying enough, but I kept it to myself—and have for 15 years. The bottom line is, this is the man I wanted to marry and he took the step to commit to me. We've already been through hell and back in our short years. Death came knocking at our door; we stared it down and we are still here, still together. I still don't like the ring. But I love the man who gave it to me with everything I have and all that I am—something I'm reminded of each time I look at the clusterf*** on my left ring finger." —Judith
"I got a $10 Woolworth's plastic ring from my man. We were both too poor at that time, but we're still married 35 years later. On our fifth anniversary, he bought me the most beautiful real ring which I also love. The mate is more important than the bling. Unless he's cheap, thoughtless, disregards your preferences, is arrogant or controlling, which can also be evidenced through the choice of ring—and in that case, reject them both." —Claudia
"My husband's mom wanted him to give me an old cocktail ring of hers. Mitch and I discussed it and, knowing she was a negative influence, decided we should start our lives making our own choices independent of her. I was thrilled he saw things my way." —Ileen
"When I saw the ring I was so disappointed. But I knew he chose it with love, so I figured I'd keep it and try to remember his love rather than my dislike of the ring each time I looked at it. But I made sure we designed our wedding bands together." —Amy