Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ring Thing

Recently, I had the, um, pleasure of waiting in a two hour line to make a traffic court appointment. The downtown Los Angeles traffic court line is the sort of place where you see lots of t-shits, scruffy jeans, plastic sandals, mothers with young children in tow, and other indicators that most people weren't taking an extra hour of lunch to deal with moving ticket violations.  It was the sort of place where no one looked twice at the man in front of me who was recording hip hop beats into his phone (yes, for the entire two hours.) It was the sort of place where the two people behind me desperately needed to fight their jaywalking ticket to make rent.

I felt actively uncomfortable. Not because of the people, but because my stress about how a few hundred dollars in municipal fines would set back our monthly budget and wedding planning was suddenly thrown in stark perspective. I looked down at my engagement ring, which was purposefully budget-minded but is still rather sparkly, and felt even more uncomfortable. It was the sort of place where my ring felt glaringly out of place. It was the sort of place where my context for "budget-minded" felt rather misguided. And so I swung the synthetic sapphire down towards my palm. Not out of fear. Not out of any self-protective instinct. But because I suddenly felt gaudy, ostentatious, and painfully lucky.

This doesn't usually happen in my professional world, among our friends, or with our two families' communities. Yes, my ring generally feels out of place, but it's generally because I find myself explaining why my center stone isn't a diamond. But I felt absolutely out of place in line downtown. In with a real mix of the entire range of Los Angeles instead of in my relatively privileged subset. And it was at that moment that I finally made up my mind: I want a plain wedding band.

In Jewish tradition, the wedding band is plain. It is supposed to be a solid, uninterrupted, unembellished gold band, to represent hope for a solid, everlasting marriage. But I've been torn on whether this tradition matters enough to me. I'm not someone who follows tradition for tradition's sake. And my engagement ring, while gorgeous and perfect-for-us, was never chosen because it fit my particular sense of personal style. And, while I love it, it's not the most practical ring. (I have a real fear of accidentally scratching my future babies' eyes with the prongs.) So part of me has my heart set on a handcrafted, minimally sparkly, practical-but-beautiful wedding band that I can wear on its own, even around babies. But if I buy the ring I've fallen in love with (in white gold), it won't "match" my engagement ring. And so I briefly considered buying a plain band to stack with the wedding ring I love, but that I could also wear with my engagement ring. I recognized that it's more than a little greedy, but weddings have a way of making small greedy impulses seem reasonable. They make the silly seem entirely necessary, and provide ready-set justifications for three entire rings. Even when you know better. And even when your ring budget is modest.

But standing in line at traffic court reminded me that I'd never actually wanted an engagement ring in the first place. It reminded me that there's real beauty in a simple, straightforward, slim band of gold that indicates my marriage to the world versus announcing it.  There's something special about a ring I can wear anywhere I feel like, without feeling self conscious at an industry conference full of men or in a waiting room full of mixed-class people. I can dress it up with my engagement ring if I'd like or wear it on its own. A strong, unbroken band of gold symbolizing the hope for our marriage. That's more than enough for me.

And heck, if I'm still hung up on all the pretty rings I couldn't buy for our wedding, we've got quite a few anniversaries and celebratory ring excuses to look forward to over the course of our lifetime.

27 comments:

  1. i adore my engagement ring. love it.

    but it's like you said- it feels so out of place and... smug... when i teach.

    and there's something so clearly MARRIED about a slim band, all by itself.

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  2. Seeing people much worse off than you in the flesh always puts things into perspective... And the symbolism of the gold band is lovely.

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  3. I also have a giant sapphire in my engagement ring that I completely love. But as I originally intended to have a simple and "non-flashy" engagement ring (eh, it sort of escalated and then we found this awesome vintage piece and suddenly I feel like one of these "aaaaaaaahhhhh, look at my giant rock on my finger"-women).

    So at least I'm doing a plain white gold wedding ring. Which feels nice. And, I've thought that it can be quite nice to add stones eventually to my ring. For example, perhaps we can have a small sapphire put in the wedding band for our first anniversary. Perhaps another stone if we get a kid one day? Not to be flashy, but I think it's something sweet about doing something like that, especially if a plain wedding band is the more affordable option when also paying for the whole wedding schebang.

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  4. Great post - currently in the process of looking at bands and been struggling with the same thing. I found myself just the other day, turning my e-ring around bc I felt so obnoxious flashing it in the section of town I was in. It's be no means a huge rock, but the band itself has a lot of filigree and tiny diamonds so it makes it appear more blingy than I think it really is.

    For me, I'm a big traveler, and more often than not I travel to developing countries and locales..and so for that reason, I have a strong desire for a very simple band. I want to always have that commitment on my finger, but don't need it to be in my face. I agree with Liz, there's really something so "married" about the slim, simple band all on its own.

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  5. I'm with you on this. I love that the diamond in my engagement ring is from J's mother, because it symbolizes her acceptance of me into her family. I wouldn't trade that for the world. But let's just say that my future mother-in-law's tastes run much more extravagantly than mine do and the ring just didn't fit my life as a non-profit worker/soon-to-be grad student. My one criterion for the wedding band has been that it won't make me feel like a jerk.

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  6. A long time ago, I remember reading about a couple who purchased a set of inexpensive plain wedding rings for when they travel (which was most of the year).

    At the time, nowhere near the wearing of a wedding ring myself, I thought that seemed sort of odd; why not just make the plain rings your "real" rings, if you end up wearing them more often than the others?

    I get the aesthetic appeal of the shiny, for a little while, but in the end I always come back to quiet, solid, understated as a way of announcing my status... marital or monetary. ;)

    (and yeah, I love my etched silver wedding/engagement ring)

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  7. I know exactly what you mean. While my ring isn't a diamond, sometimes I feel like it's huge and sparkly and stands out in an inappropriate way. And my wedding bad is completely plain. I love that about it. Yes, wear them together when the huge and sparkly is appropriate, and just wearing the band when I need to be unassuming. Perfect.

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  8. I'm debating about what kind of wedding band(s) to get. Do I get one? Or a glitzier one that matches my wedding band along with a plainer one for times when it's inappropriate? I have a slightly larger stone on my e-ring than I intended getting, but I wanted a pale blue sapphire cushion, and well, we found an amazing deal on this one. And our concession to practicality was to get it bezeled. And I love my e-ring. But I'm still struggling with the wedding band issue, and we need to make a decision in the next month or so.

    I never thought I'd be the kind of person who would even think about getting two wedding bands, but here I am, struggling with this issue. Thanks for the additional perspective.

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  9. "weddings have a way of making small greedy impulses seem reasonable."

    Thank you for this perspective.

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  10. Hey Lady-
    So first... traffic court? That's exactly like where I grew up. But substitute 'Junior High' or 'High School' for traffic court. And make it feel a little (or a lot) dangerious. And then you've got it. Which I think is why I was so conscious of teh ring thing. We don't go back home very often (it's unpleasant, to say the least) but something told me that I wanted to be able to wear my ring and not be uncomfortable when I did. So.

    Anyway, I can't remember if you know the details of what we did, but here is a re-cap, since perhaps it will be helpful? I have a 1920's lil' engagement ring, pretty. Then I got a 1930's teeny tiny eternity band with sapphires and diamonds. Seriously - it's SMALL (I have teeny hands). But the unbroken Jewish band tradition was really important to David, so we got a even smaller silver band made (it's 1mm). We exchanged one when we said vows in Hebrew and one when we said them in English. Anyway, I was planning to move my engagement ring to my right had after the wedding.... and I did.... for half a day..... and then I took it off. I never would have guessed, but I just felt like I wasn't engaged any more, I didn't really like being engaged, and I didn't love the way even a simple engagement ring advertised my status. So I wear two tiny wedding bands, and I love it.

    And I can GO HOME in them (or to traffic court), and that's the most important thing.

    So I don't think two bands is necessarily selfish. My second band was *cheap.*

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  11. Oh! And I just hit the link. Blanca did my custom plain band, and Davids. Very affordable. So you could talk to her about a matching one.

    And I really put my foot down on this. Wedding rings are important, and they carry a different weight than anniversary rings. So cut yourself a break - no guilt on a $400 one, yes? SERIOUSLY.

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  12. @Meg - I didn't know the details of your wedding band(s), but I was initially thinking of something similar. Estate wedding band or canadian diamonds in a handmade design alongside a plain band. Both for everyday, with the e-ring for very special occasions. I think it's a gorgeous, much more comfortable look and feel (for me.)

    With our budget, a second band right *now* is currently selfish. However, in the long term (anniversaries, when I save up more $$) I would still love a second, mini-sparkle band. I just don't need it now. And I don't need it to be my wedding band. It's been hard to get to that decision. But I can't feel good spending $200 on the plain gold band and another $400+ on the "pretty" band. I want them both (oh yes, I do) just not now. I can wait until it makes more sense for us. And I can hold fast to my Jewish simple band for traveling, work, and everyday life.

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  13. Mmmmm. Good timing for this one. We went to pick out our bands, and I had a REALLY hard time deciding between what I thought I should have and what I thought I should want, with what I felt I needed. In the end, I opted for the "plain" band, more because it matched the band of my current ring and the price was right. Did I have slight pangs of regret? Surely. But I figured, years down the line, I'm going to be less concerned with what it looks like and appreciate it for what it is.

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  14. This has nothing to do with rings, but I didn't see a post that addresses it - CONGRATS FOR WINNING BEST OVERALL BLOG!! It's so awesome that a blog that uses mostly text and is about real stuff rather than showing 3,000 photos of 'wedding style shoots' is getting recognized in this fashion. Yay substance!

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  15. Yep, totally get this feeling too, despite my instense love of my engagement ring.

    I'm planning on a plain band as well, moving my engagement ring to my right hand for special occasions or a "sparkly day" and to the safe for all other times.

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  16. So I checked on Friday and thought this was the case, but I wasn't sure... but now I just saw that YOU WON! YAY! *throws confetti*

    okay, I'm done now. ;)

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  17. That's my plan. Plain is strong and powerful to me. (If I do want flowery at some point I guess I can cocktail it up!)

    I am just so happy to be inheriting my grandmother's wedding ring I can't imagine wearing anything else.

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  18. I totally do the hiding the ring thing sometimes when I am feeling a little too flashy in public places. My mom worries someone will mug me for it one day. Whatever.

    And we also have had many conversations about how my sister has scratched her kids' faces with her wedding ring. Sad, isn't it? I am way too practical I guess.

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  19. Yes. I'm going to keep the GIANT 1930s DIAMOND from S.'s mom instead of selling it, and it hasn't been resized yet, but I imagine it will be awkward in some places.

    We're having plain, rose gold, embossed bands made by a friend, and i'll stack it when I feel fancy and wear it alone when i dont.

    i love your dream ring!! definitely for an anniversary. sigh!

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  20. I am all for this. I have a solid, thin yellow gold band I can't wait to wear. In fact, it's more beautiful on it's own than next to my e-ring.

    You have such a big heart, Becca.

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  21. "weddings have a way of making small greedy impulses seem reasonable"

    Yes, so true! And I still have 13 months until the big day - so much time to get caught up in the excitement and rationalize every purchase....

    I've only been engaged 4 months and still love love love my ring; although I've finally stopped staring at it in the light as I'm driving (hehehe). But yes, there are times when I will turn the diamond into my palm because I feel too flashy for the place or situation. I don't plan on wearing two bands at the same time and chose the setting with that in mind (future husband agreed). But I do want to buy a simple band to stand on its own for traveling or for situations that call for it...

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  22. congrats on winning the grand prize for the wedding blog awards! you deserve it so much!

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  23. This weekend, I lost one of the diamonds in my very small, lovely, perfectly formed vintage victorian ring... We got the e-ring purposefully because it was pretty and affordable and from a store in my hometown that I love and I love vintage things, and it really reflected who we are and where we are right now (my grandma had offered me her engagement ring with a ROCK that I just couldn't wrap my head around wearing).

    We then had wedding rings made by the lovely women at Bario Neal, who I adore and the rings were super affordable! At the moment I'm wearing my thin knife edge wedding band only, because of the diamond loss. I was pretty upset at first, and more worried about stretching S's budget to replace (though as the ring was v affordable in the first place and we have property insurance I think we'll be okay).

    Lessons learnt:
    a) vintage rings are beautiful but actually quite dangerous in terms of settings
    b) I was way more upset than I thought I'd be about the diamond loss
    c) the simple bario neal band looks really lovely on it's own except for the fact that I now have an awful ring tan from wearing both together.

    Anyways, random, but I hear you.

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  24. I feel kinda bad writing this but I love my ring. It is Ryan's grandmothers. It is bigger than I would probably have chosen if i selected a new one but i love wearing it and thinking of 'Ma'. Also, i bought a simple gold band for the wedding from etsy and i love it.I bought it from here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/kyleannemetals

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  25. @Lisa - why should you feel bad? I think family rings are beautiful for a whole deeper meaning. Mine is a family ring and bigger than I would have chosen too, but it's gorgeous, meaningful, and mine. I love it to pieces. Even if I wouldn't have chosen anything similar from a shop.

    Also, that etsy link is awesome. Pretty and affordable. Thanks!

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  26. hi there. it's my first time commenting here - but i've been lurking around and reading for while.

    i had to pipe up and totally agree with you on the plain gold band thing. i have my grandmothers solitaire engagement ring and it is beautiful - but the diamond is pretty big (for me! i'm sure other people think it's pretty modest). recently i have found myself twisting it around and looking at it as just a thin gold band. the emotional reaction i have to this has made me decide to go for a thin gold band while my friends have all gone for the diamond encrusted band. that is totally fine for them - but for me the thin band is so representative of what i am doing i can't imagine anything else. i'm not sure i will actually wear my engagement ring all the time once i am married.

    it's funny though - i find myself having to defend my decision to go with a plain band to my married friends. i think they feel my choice is somehow a criticism of theirs.

    anyway - i can't wait to rock the single band and be quietly, confidently married.

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  27. I just wanted to add to the few other people who say they wear their engagement ring on their right hand, if at all, after marriage. That was always my plan (my mom did it that way, and I have small hands so two rings on one hand just seems...gigantic), but a lot of people seem surprised about it so I think it's nice to know it's something people do. It also means the rings don't have to fit together aesthetically or physically. My (simple plain yellow gold) wedding band never comes off my left hand (unless I'm kneading bread) and my (not super flashy, but more in-the-way diamond solitaire) engagement ring goes on about half the week and for special occasions.

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