Irrational Engagement Envy

Note: I originally wrote this post for A Practical Wedding, but I want to post it here too because it generated a ton of really awesome comments and conversation from brides and women in all stages of life. If you want to read more personal engagement stories and encouragement, I’d definitely check it out!


Photo by Niki Marie Photography

My proposal story and ring are perfect. The day my fiancé and I got engaged we spent the entire afternoon and evening doing all of our favorite things—picnicking, singing in the car, watching our TV shows, walking around our favorite park, eating pizza downtown. In fact, we ate lunch in the same park where we had spent our one-year dating anniversary; we even sat in the same place and reminisced about how far we had come. I will always remember the silly details of that day—stalling my car five or six times, arguing over missing the turn out of the roundabout, wrapping up in blankets for our picnic on what was supposed to be a warm day. When I finally fell asleep that night it was with my ring nestled comfortably on my finger and to thoughts about how happy the day had been. My ring, too, was exactly what I wanted—except better than I ever could have imagined. All those fears and worries about what if I hate the ring? Gone. It was simple, timeless, and of course sparkly.

Then two things happened. One, people I barely knew started coming up and congratulating me—sweet of them!—and then immediately launching into asking questions about the engagement. How did he propose? Where were you? Let me see the ring! All of a sudden when telling the engagement story I didn’t know what to say. The short version—“We spent the afternoon in our favorite park and got engaged by a waterfall downtown.”—seemed inadequate. But I couldn’t explain the part where we were going to turn right to get to the park but the traffic was so bad we just abandoned that plan and turned left instead—barely making it onto the highway laughing and glad to be alive. And how could I tell them about sitting on our picnic blanket freezing cold and giggling as we pulled the other blanket over our heads like a fort? So instead I offered up, “We went to our favorite park and ate lunch,” and they were underwhelmed. I showed them my ring and when they asked if it was what I wanted I weakly explained, “We picked it out together,” because we did. Picking out my ring together was fun, trying, and a growing experience all at the same time. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But how do you share that with a stranger?

Second, other people started getting engaged, and their proposal stories were “better.” The key on the beach that opened a treasure chest 500 miles away? Check. The clearing in the forest with the torches and antique desk? Check. The elaborate scavenger hunt with complicated clues and expensive gifts? Also check. The girls were surprised, elated, and more than happy to share their stories with everyone. Their rings were trendy, gaudy, and glittery—everything that the wedding industry loves to push. I felt an irrational engagement envy. They had the ideal proposals, the fancy rings! How could I possibly live up to all that?

But wait! The ring with three halos and 128 tiny diamonds is not for me, and it never was. I have always wanted a classic solitaire like the one resting on my mother’s elegant gold band, something I could wear forever and it would never be out of style. Similarly, the idea of a surprise proposal terrified me—my fiancé and I have always made all our decisions together and planned our lives as a team. Why would this be any different? We’re a partnership, and our partnership is based on trust and togetherness. My favorite dates are walks in the park hand-in-hand while he listens to me talk about our latest client at work or a project I’m leading in graduate school. I value time spent together, not money spent on me. The fact that he skipped class and ignored his text messages for an afternoon meant infinitely more than a carriage ride through downtown or my name on the Jumbotron.

It’s a work in progress. Sometimes I feel a twinge of envy when I see a photo album on Facebook of a particularly intricate proposal. When another girl at work got engaged, there was a little jealousy to hear the exclamations of “Wow, your ring is huge!” Then I think back to the day in the park; my fiancé’s hand in mine as we walked around the lake; drinking hot chocolate; and stealing more than my share of the blanket to stay warm on the coldest day of the season so far. I look down at my hand and see my amazing ring—my delicate solitaire that perches so elegantly on my finger—and smile. Because no one’s engagement is as perfect as mine.


Mrs. Lemur

Greenville, South Carolina
Wedding Date:
May 2013
The Proposal
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  1. msfairy Member
    msfairy 976 posts, Busy bee @ 5:11 pm

    Beautifully written and so true! It’s so easy to get caught up in bridal envy, but so much nicer to remember that your story is unique and perfect to you. :)

  2. mstoadstool Member
    mstoadstool 2485 posts, Buzzing bee @ 8:18 pm

    This is a great post, and I think we all have felt it at least once, because no matter what, there will always be a better story. But as you said, as long as you feel it was perfect, it WAS perfect, no matter what anyone says.

  3. Member
    money 12 posts, Newbee @ 10:06 pm

    But but but “We spent the afternoon in our favorite park and got engaged by a waterfall downtown.” IS beautiful!!

  4. Member
    KBCPurdue 24 posts, Newbee @ 7:12 am

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels this way….I sometimes get really disappointed about the proposal. We had picked out the style of ring together, but my fiance still kept some mystery to it (so i’m not disappointed with the ring at all, itswayyyyy better than I could have ever dreamed). Six months after picking out the ring, I was still waiting on the proposal. I had gone away to a conference, came home with a terrible cold (i’m talking sweatpants and snot allll over my face) and when I opened the door he was waiting there with the ring. No flowers, no candles, nada. I could barely even kiss him because I felt so horrible and I spent most of the rest of the day in bed. Not his fault, but it sucked! And to top it all off I had just started grad school and barely knew anyone, so I never even got to show off my sparkly new ring :( BUT at the end of the day, we are engaged, and very happy together, so I can’t really complain!

  5. mslemur Member
    mslemur 616 posts, Busy bee @ 8:16 am

    @kat2822: Yay I love having ready-made friends over here! :)

    @Miss Fairy: Thank you! Bridal envy definitely does not stop after the proposal. And I have a feeling comparing your marriage to everyone else won’t stop after the wedding either :)

    @money: Isn’t it though? It was perfect for us :)

  6. mspony Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 8:29 am

    This was such a great post, thank you for sharing!

  7. mslemur Member
    mslemur 616 posts, Busy bee @ 8:37 am

    @KBCPurdue: First of all, congratulations on your engagement and your beautiful ring—which I’m sure is amazing! I love that you picked out the style of the ring but he still made it even better than you imagined :)

    I’m sorry you sometimes feel disappointed about the proposal. It sounds like it’s not your fault or his—just the way things worked out for you. Grad school plus a conference plus a cold just makes things hard all around! You’re totally right though, nothing really matters except that you ARE engaged now and you get to spend forever together :)

  8. Member
    stephk527 987 posts, Busy bee @ 10:45 am

    Girl, I think “I value time spent together, not money spent on me.” might be the best line ever written. I am so with you. I think I’m a work in progress, too – I have a lot of these irrational thoughts, so much so that they make their way into my dreams. I’ve had a few especially rude people ask how much my ring cost! It’s frustrating especially when you hear the “Oh I just had NO idea and I had it appraised and it was valued over nine gazillion dollars!” Money = not important. The surprise factor = not important. Taking the step toward marriage and spending the rest of our lives together = important. Thank you for this!

  9. mslemur Member
    mslemur 616 posts, Busy bee @ 6:54 am

    @StephK527: Thanks for your sweet words! I love all these awesome comments :)

    You know, this is weird, but I TOTALLY expected people to ask how much my ring cost, and I haven’t gotten that at all! My ring isn’t huge which might be part of it, although it wasn’t cheap. I have gotten the comment “Oh, how did he afford that?” which I hated. I ended that conversation pretty quickly :/

  10. Member
    Miss Canaras 75 posts, Worker bee @ 12:34 pm

    I love this post! This is how I feel all the time. While I loved my engagement, and especially love the ring my fiance picked out, it’s definitely difficult to tell our story when it boils down to: I went to see him one night after work. He was nervous, I was overcaffeinated. We went for a walk to the river near his house. He proposed, I called him a “stinker”, and said yes. End scene.

    Perfect for us? Yes. Do I still get irrational envy? Absolutely.

  11. Member
    jilleeann 409 posts, Helper bee @ 9:27 am

    I got home from work and he met me at the front door, he was shaking, I don’t remember what he said. I do remember him joking about being an old man (he isn’t, he’s 29) while he was attempting to get down on one knee. I knew he had the ring, I picked it out. I usually tell people he did it in a very him kind of way and leave it at that. He did have flowers, bubbly and chocolate waiting though. I do remember that. Really can’t remember what he said. I do remember his voice was shaky. Did I spell that correctly?

  12. Member
    MrsKeAloha 1044 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:32 am

    I totally understand. I have felt the same – and then I like you think of those moments that I keep just for us. My true engagement story was.. a phone call, Panic, the Army is moving my fiance, Do I stay? Do I go? I have 15 minutes to decide and for him to give his top choice. Those 15 minutes I cried – and he said “we will be getting married” Huh???
    about 3 months later we sat on a spot on the beach and he basically Fell to the ground, grabbed the wrong hand and said “all you need is a ring”
    Was it what I wanted? No, do I still wish I could have heard some loving words, and a Will you? yes, but that isn’t our story – so many women hear those things – but our story is ours. and I look to our future of laughing until we are grey and loving eachother until the end of our time. One day, our story will be told to grandkids and they will listen to it like I listened to my grandparents adorable non-traditional elopement story. It may not be story book but its our story

  13. Member
    LeavinOnAJetPlane 169 posts, Blushing bee @ 10:48 am

    I can relate 100%! My FI’s proposal was absolutely perfect and the ring was exactly what I wanted (I actually WANTED a small diamond- high quality but small). Then within a few months of us a few friends got engaged. One girl in particular incited a little bit of engagement envy. First off, her ring is huge. It’s gorgeous, but it’s huge. And even though I didn’t want a ring that big, I felt like people were secretly judging my FI for not buying me a bigger ring. I got a lot of sweet compliments on my ring, and my close friends understood that it was absolutely perfect- exactly what I wanted and why. But then there were those who don’t know us that well who gushed over her ring and made snide remarks about the size of mine.

    Then there was her proposal. Her father secretly videotaped the whole thing and made a very sweet short film out of it with romantic music. It was seriously a proposal from a Nicholas Sparks book. Now personally I loved my proposal. It wasn’t about how it was done, but the high emotions of the day and how my FI personalized it for our realtionship. But as I watched her proposal video, I felt a strong twinge of jealousy. I felt bad feeling that and felt I had betrayed my FI because I was jealous of someone else’s special moment. But then I really broke it down and analyzed it and realized I was jealous not of the proposal, but of the family’s involvement. My family is opposed to our marriage (we’ll see if they even come to the wedding), and seeing how much her family supported her even though the guy she’s marrying really isn’t the best marriage material out there, made me slightly resentful. Coming to that realization smothered any feelings of jealousy and I was able to take a step back and be genuinely happy for her.

    I love my perfect little very sparkly ring, and I love my proposal and how adorable my FI was during the special moment. I really wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

  14. Member
    merrysextower 13 posts, Newbee @ 9:19 am

    What an eloquent post! Thanks for sharing!!
    I believe it’s all relative.. our life experiences are different and I agree there is too much “life-comparing” with other people. My FI’s proposal wasn’t extravagant by any stretch of the imagination but it was very personal and unique to us and I LOVED it!! While my ring does have the 378 tiny diamonds the total weight is 1 carat and that’s ok. And an over the top proposal with an outrageous rock is no indication of what the relationship is and how it will go. I love our relationship and my ring and no one will ever make me feel like it’s not “good enough.”

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