This article is a follow-up to the piece I wrote entitled Five Wedding Traditions You Don’t Have to Uphold: Part One.
Tradition #4: Men, you must buy your betrothed a diamond ring to seal your bond. And ladies, the bigger the rock, the more your fiancé loves you.
More than 80 percent of American brides receive a diamond engagement ring, at an average cost of $3,200. I get pretty rankled about this, for many reasons. First of all, one must consider the relatively recent history of this tradition. Because while the practice of giving diamond engagement rings has been around since at least the 13th century, this absurd ritual didn’t really get going in America until the 1930’s, when the good old De Beers diamond company was trying to figure out how to fix its drop in sales. To solve this problem, the company created what is quite possibly the greatest marketing scheme of all time: selling the notion that diamonds are equated with romance and everlasting love (because, I mean, is there anything more effective than a little commerce to really get you in the mood?). The company’s ads portraying diamond-splashed happy honeymooners began to be plastered everywhere. Frances Gerety, a female copywriter, coined the now infamous line “A Diamond is Forever.” And the American public fell for it all. By 1965, 80 percent of brides had diamond rings on their fingers.
Another reason diamond ring sales began to increase was that, after 1930, the “Breach of Promise to Marry” action was abolished. What was this act, you ask? Well, it basically stated that jilted women could sue their fiancés for financial compensation, in order to restore their reputations. So, of course, after the act was abolished, some sort of financial commitment had to replace it in order for women everywhere to be assured that their fiancés wouldn’t leave them. Right.
This all reeks of some pretty intense sexism – I mean, have you ever considered why men in America never receive diamond engagement rings? I’ll tell you why: because men in our society are expected to be the providers, and the ring on a fellow’s future bride symbolizes that commitment to provide.
In addition, there is the high cost to consider. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not personally acquainted with many young couples (or any couples at all really) who have six grand lying around that they can spend on jewelry.
So, why cave into the pressure? I’m sure that sum of money could be better spent elsewhere…like using it to buy a place to live.
Tradition #5: The bride must change her last name.
Oh, boy. For whatever reason, this is the one tradition that the public really seems to feel strongly about. I come from a family of awesome, self-respecting women, but when I recently mentioned that I’d be keeping my last name, most of my family members were either shocked, disgruntled, or flat-out confused. They prodded, “You mean…you don’t even want to hyphenate? Or use the same last name on Christmas cards?” And the answer is, no. I don’t. I love my name. It’s a part of who I am. Quite simply, I find it highly unfair that women in our society are expected to change their identities, when men are not.
Now, I realize this may not be for everyone. This is a practice that has been embedded in our societal mindset for many years, which makes it pretty difficult to change. But if you are a woman who feels even the slightest bit of apprehension about switching names, I urge you to at least consider the option of keeping your own. I promise you won’t turn into an angry bra-burning crazy person overnight.