The Engagement-Season "Rule" No One Is Following Anymore

Photographed by Megan Madden.

It's almost that time of year: Soon, you won't be able to scroll through your Facebook news feed without seeing an engagement announcement or two. The holidays are a big time for proposals: According to a trend report by WeddingWire, 40% of couples celebrate their engagement between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day. In fact, six out of 10 engagements take place in December, and Christmas Day is by far the most popular time to pop the question.

While the timing has pretty much stayed the same, there's one major aspect of engagement season that has evolved in recent years: Engagement rings no longer have to cost an arm and leg. According to Metro, the traditional rule that "an engagement ring should cost an equivalent of three month's salary" is officially passé. "The idea of the engagement ring now, I feel, is more tied to values and integrity of the material and the maker, as well as the people who will ultimately own the rings," Anna Sheffield, an L.A.-based jewelry designer, said in the interview.

The belief that an engagement ring should deplete a significant chunk of the purchaser's income originated from a De Beers campaign in the 1930s. Aiming to stimulate spending on diamonds in the post-Depression era, the jeweler came up with an ad declaring one month's salary as the ideal spending on a ring. In the ensuing decades, that figure slowly ballooned to three times the monthly pay.

However, with the advancement of lab-grown diamonds, technology used by brands like Brilliant Earth and Diamond Foundry, acquiring diamonds has become a much more affordable — and ethical — process. Also, online jewelers like Carried Jewels and Mociun are gaining a share of the market by selling fashion-forward, unique bands at affordable price points.

Of course, picking out an engagement ring — and deciding how much to spend on it — is a personal decision between you and your S.O. But, in case you need a ballpark, WeddingWire has found that the average couple spends about $5,000 on one. That's still a 57% increase compared to a decade ago, adjusted for inflation. Still, with "three month's salary" no longer being such an obligatory standard, we hope the times are a-changin'.

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