A few weeks ago I went to a jewellery store because one of my rings needed to be looked at. Just before me a young couple came in. She seemed excited, he seemed nervous. One of the assistants came over right away and asked, “How can I help you?” She probably already new what was coming next. At least I did. “We are looking for an engagement ring,” the young woman said enthusiastically.
Since all the other assistants were busy, I knew I had to wait for a bit and decided to watch what was going on in the engagement ring section. As soon as the woman put the first ring on her finger, her soon to be fiancé shouted out loud, “This is really happening!” He was walking up on down in the jewellery store and almost chewing on his hat, until the assistant asked him if he wanted to sit down next to his girlfriend. He didn’t.
A week later I found this article in The New York Times, Marriages May Not Be Forever, but Our Obsession With Diamonds Is. It states that diamond engagement rings are “about as old as the microwave oven” and “based entirely on a brilliant, and very new, marketing concept”. It also talks about how more and more women choose their engagement ring. “Today, it’s rare to find a man who comes in by himself to pick out the ring, as it’s become a couple’s purchase,” said Hollie Bonneville Barden, head designer at De Beers in London.
I married a man who picked out the engagement ring all by himself, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Although the first well-documented use of a diamond ring to signify engagement was by the Archduke Maximilian of Austria in 1477, engagement rings are a bit of a different story in Austria. Sometimes there is no engagement ring involved at all. Sometimes both already wear the wedding band on the left hand during the engagement and switch them to the right hand when they get married. On a side note, wedding bands in Austria are always matching and usually get engraved before the wedding. If the woman does have an engagement ring with a stone (diamond or other), she has two options. She can leave the engagement ring on the left hand and wear the wedding band on the right. That’s what I do. Or she can switch the engagement ring to the right hand and wear it together with the wedding band. I have seen both, but most of the women my age tend to separate the two rings.
Before I came to Canada, I knew the diamond engagement ring excitement only from North American movies, and I had no idea that there was even the option of choosing your own engagement ring – not that I wanted to. I still think it is pretty cool that my husband caught me completely off guard when he proposed.
Now that I have been living in Canada for a while, I know that the proposal can be still a surprise, even when you pick out your own engagement ring. Two of my friends are getting married next year, and they also went ring shopping before they got engaged. If you had asked me three years ago about this, I probably would have said that this was an odd thing to do. Now this feels more natural to me. I guess I got a bit “Canadianized”.
In one of the weddings I will be a bridesmaid, for the first time in my life. This is something that is very uncommon in Austria. Actually, I have never been to an Austrian wedding with bridesmaids or groomsmen. Since this is not the only difference between an Austrian and a Canadian wedding, I am going to dedicate a separate blog post to weddings. Then you will also find out if our wedding was Austrian or Canadian.