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What you need to know before you pop the question

Q. I'm going to propose to my girlfriend during the holidays, but from what I've seen and heard it seems like a huge expense. What do I actually need to plan for?

A. Your life together should start with wedded bliss, not wedding bills, so you're doing the right thing by planning ahead. Before you think about all the possible wedding expenses that you and your intended need to consider, let's start with the expense of getting engaged.

In today's culture, getting engaged takes more than uttering: "Will you marry me?" You may be nervous about what your girlfriend's answer will be or if her parents will approve.

Or your big worry might be whether she'll like the ring. Whether you believe it to be good advice or smart marketing, there is a popular myth that an engagement ring should cost at least two months of a guy's salary.

A good marriage depends on so much more than a ring, so before you buy:

  • Find out what kind of a ring your girlfriend would like and what her expectations are. Get help from family or friends if you want to keep it on the down low.

  • Consider your budget. Do your research in advance to determine how much the ring will cost. Then work backwards—how much do you need to save each pay to afford the ring?

  • If you need to finance the purchase, talk to your bank to find the least expensive method. Financing through a jeweler can mean high interest rates.

  • Size matters. The bigger and better the diamond, the more expensive the ring will be. Educate yourself about the four Cs of diamonds—cut, clarity, colour and carat weight—and strike a balance between size and sparkle.

  • If you're planning a party afterward to celebrate your coming wedding, consider a potluck; maybe one of your parents will host the event or have a dessert night rather than dinner.

There's so much more to getting engaged than the four Cs of choosing a diamond. Cost is a fifth, but getting engaged should be about the priceless Cs—connection, commitment and celebration of your life together.

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