Friday, 9 March 2012

Otherwise engaged

There comes a moment in every late twenty-something’s life, when she looks around and realises everyone is getting married.

Last weekend was my moment.

The University besties are happily hitched (you can read all about always being the bridesmaid here) but in my school friends I had hoped that we had a few years yet.

Seems not.

For on a Friday night,  whilst catching up in our favourite curry house in Wolverhampton, drinking beer from a wine glass, one friend casually said: “So, ladies, what’s the etiquette on engagement rings?”

I almost choked on my aloo gobi.

Turns out, said friend and her partner are in discussions about this very matter. And she is non too pleased with his views on the ring. “He said he was going to spend £500. I mean £500?”

Seems he doesn’t know that one to two months' salary is the norm for these matters. Although it might be worth mentioning that this norm seems to stem from De Beers' marketing department, who I’d say have a somewhat vested interest.

“Oh no I quite agree,” added another friend (apparently planning her engagement this summer) “It’s one month’s salary, or £1000: whichever is greater.”

Friend B’s fiancĂ© to be is soon to qualify as a doctor. My advice to him is: BUY THE RING AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE before your salary sees a dramatic spike skywards.

“But how can I tell him that £500 isn’t enough, without sounding, well, like a snob?”

By now ‘soon to be doctor’s wife’ had put away several wine glasses of beer, and had the perfect response.

“Just say, (adopts sinister whisper) £500? F**k you.”

Perhaps this seems a tad on the harsh side in the sober light of day.

But my friends are not alone. Getting married is synonymous with haemorrhaging cash.
The engagement is just the beginning, for thereafter lies the interrogation about the ‘big day.’ “Will you have a big wedding?” they will ask, looking at you as if you have become a giant living cashpoint. What they mean is: will you pay for 300 people to hate your wedding dress and whisper about your back-fat?

No, I wouldn’t either. 

The average cost of a UK wedding is £21,000. £21,000. Why, oh why, would I spend 21k on a wedding, when I’m trying to buy things – like, oh let me think, a house!

Call me selfish, but the idea of eloping for a two person ceremony followed by a fabulous five star holiday sounds like a far better option to me.

Whichever way I look at it, spending 20 grand on a wedding for £2000 of John Lewis goods is bad economics. I’ll buy my own toaster, thanks.

So ladies, I’m afraid I can’t agree with you on the ring. Surely it’s just the love that counts?
Although saying that, if anyone ever buys me one from Elizabeth Duke, I might have to reconsider my position.
Finally, I hope you’ll allow me to close with the words of a fellow Wolverhampton-er, Caitlin Moran:

“Perhaps we should just junk the whole idea of getting married in the first place. I’m generally against anything where you’re supposed to change your name. When else do you get named something else? On joining a nunnery, or becoming a porn star. As an ostensibly joyful celebration of love, that’s pretty bad company to be in.”

If you haven’t read Caitlin Moran’s: How To Be a Woman you really should. 


  1. What happened to finding one you really like and want to wear for the rest of your life, and if it's expensive, thinking carefully about it and if it's only £500 being grateful it's the one you want to wear for the rest of your life that you want to spend with the person buying it?

    Not changing your name doesn't seem to me to quite capture the whether or not to get married thing either, tbh, and frankly ditto the spending (for a lot of people) a year's salary on a day - surely even worse than a month's salary on a ring??

    If you decide on the eloping to somewhere beautiful and sunny, can I come too to marry you? ;-)

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