It all starts with the engagement process. First a guy has to drop thousands of dollars on a ring with a diamond on it, because that’s what tradition dictates. Most guys don’t have thousands of dollars just sitting around, so they’re forced to finance the rock.
Then, there’s all this pressure to make the moment perfect. Hundreds, sometimes even thousands of dollars are spent on things like booze, flowers, trips, and other luxurious extravagances just to make that special moment perfect for the lady. It’s not that guys want to do this, but they feel forced into doing it.
After dropping thousands of dollars on a ring, you’d think the happy couple could live happily ever after. But no, it doesn’t work that way. They end up spending thousands of dollars more to throw a giant party for all their friends and family, spending 25-100% more on food, facilities, and dessert just because it’s a wedding.
Assume for a second weddings didn’t exist, and you were coming up with the best way for couples to publicly commit to each other from scratch. Would you really design something similar to what we have today? I sure wouldn’t.
It’s time to rethink our whole mentality surrounding weddings. Let’s start with perhaps the most egregious part, the diamond engagement ring.
“A diamond is forever”
Our whole mentality behind a diamond engagement ring is essentially the result of a decades-long marketing campaign by the De Beers Corporation.
The reality behind the diamond industry is fascinating. Over the course of decades, De Beers has convinced nearly every woman in Europe and North America that she isn’t truly loved unless she’s wearing a diamond on her finger. And then, to convince men to spend money on these rings, they created marketing towards men suggesting that if they really loved their lady, three months salary isn’t such a huge sacrifice. Is that gross or net? The ads never did specify.
It gets even more interesting. Throughout the 20th century, De Beers actively sought out independent diamond mines and created a cartel that artificially limited the supply on the market, thus increasing diamond prices. If a company didn’t join the cartel, De Beers would flood the market with diamonds that looked just like the ones from its mine, pushing down the price for that particular style.
There’s also issues with the working conditions in some of the company’s mines. The term “blood diamonds” was coined by De Beers’s competitors and folks against the company, highlighting the brutal working conditions workers often faced while in the mines. There are also allegations that the company forcefully relocated people that were living on land it wanted to use as a mine in Botswana, among other sins.
If you’re interested in reading more about De Beers and its deplorable business practices over the years, I recommend, The Last Empire, a book that’s equal parts how-to business manual and how-to do some pretty questionable things.
Just avoid diamonds
The world of diamonds has gotten better over the last decade or so. New supply coming on the market from places like Australia and Canada has loosened up the De Beers monopoly.
But that doesn’t mean that insisting on a diamond is a good idea. Like many things in society, diamonds have value not because of the cost of the stone — if you don’t believe me, try and sell your diamonds in a pawn shop — but because of the value our peers put on it. We’ve all seen ladies insist on checking out a peer’s engagement ring.
That’s fine, there’s value to fitting in. But is that value really worth anywhere from $3,000 to upwards of $10,000, $20,000, or even more? For thousands of dollars, I’d be quite okay not fitting in.
There are dozens of alternatives to diamond engagement rings. You could opt to just buy a simple wedding band. You could get a ring with another precious stone on it, one that costs a pittance compared to a diamond. Or you could even wear a cubic zirconia until the wedding, replacing it with something else once the event actually happens.
It’s time to rethink our attachment to the diamond engagement ring. Instead, save the thousands of dollars for something a little more practical. Remember, the size of the diamond isn’t correlated with the amount of love your potential new husband has to offer.