It’s the classic dilemma of a hopeful groom-to-be: how much of an investment should you make when purchasing an engagement ring? What everyone should realize is that despite attempts at setting a “range,” there is not an unequivocal hard-and-fast rule regarding what someone should spend on an engagement ring. And, if there are guidelines, they’re often misunderstood.

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Consider, if you will, when the U.S.’ “The Office’s” Michael Scott (Steve Carrell) decides to propose to long-time love Holly Flax (Amy Ryan) in the popular series’ seventh season, which first aired in March 2011. Michael, notoriously bad with money, announces to Pam Halpert (Jenna Fischer), Jim Halpert (John Krasinski), Ryan Howard (B.J. Novak) and Oscar Nunez (Oscar Martinez), pulls out jewellery box, opens it andshows an extremely large diamond engagement ring.  Pam leaps out of her seat towards the ring and exclaims, “Holy [Bleep] – is that real?” A concerned Michael responds, “Yes. Is she not going to like that?” Adding that he’s done what “they say” to do and:  spent “three years’ salary” on Holly’s engagement ring.

An incredulous Oscar, whose head has been in his hands, raises his head up and shakes it in disbelief, saying “Nooooo,” and Pam quickly says, “No, she’s going to love it.” Spoiler alert ahead for those who haven’t seen the episode: Holly does love the ring, and Michael’s proposal is accepted, laying the groundwork for actor Carrell’s departure from the show.

It may surprise you that the notion of “three months’ salary” as a base, actually originated in the 1980s, with the then-annual income appropriate “two months’ salary.” The suggestion was part of a diamond company’s promotional campaign, but it is still often quoted because it’s an oft-asked question. “Three months’ salary” will likely be the most common response when the question is posed, but an extended version of that conversation will be laden with responses divided, most likely, in two camps: emotional and rational. It may be stereotyping to point out that the more romantic replies will consist of passionate thoughts and fairy tale futures.

But remember that you cannot measure or define your love by how much money you spend on her engagement ring. Then again, you’re going to have the more practical suggestions, which are likely to focus on using more money for a down payment on a house, rather than something ornamental, like an engagement ring. But you cannot deny the beauty of, for example, Serendipity Diamond’s ethical engagement rings.

We think there are benefits to both sides of the argument, and the ultimate decision will be yours and, for some couples, a joint choice. The facts are simple:

If your proposal is accepted, this is a watershed moment in your relationship. You will reiterate the story many, many times throughout your life together.

The ring has to reflect your fiancé’s personal style and preferences.
She is very likely to wear the ring often, if not for the rest of her life.

Those are big deals. It is an onus of responsibility to purchase an engagement ring, and a decision that should never be taken lightly. There are practical issues to consider, too.

 Does the investment price of the engagement ring reflect the guy’s salary only?
         Should the woman’s salary play a role?
         How involved should your potential fiancé be?
         If the woman makes more money than her fiancé and is someone who has always dreamed of a diamond of extraordinary quality with a price to match, how do you choose?
         Do you know places to get your diamond ring re-set in case she doesn’t end up liking it?
         What is the nature of your culture? Do you come from a tradition of rings passed down generationally?
         What are the standards and potential “rules” for same-sex couples?
         Is your fiancé the kind of person who would feel very uncomfortable with the responsibility in the daily wear of an expensive ring
  Or, conversely, is your fiancé someone who would not feel truly loved and engaged unless she has a real statement engagement ring?

Be both practical and be passionate. If you are thoughtful in your approach, you should be able to eventually come to a decision regarding your budget – how much you want to spend and how much you can spend.