While the specific customs may change, all throughout the world, there is a striking similarity between marriage and courtship rituals. In fact, marriage in some form exists in every culture and civilization in the world, as does some form of engagement and marriage ceremony. This is possibly because each custom has a very specific reason that is deeply rooted in the very essence of human nature.
One of the most common mating rituals in the Western world is that of giving an engagement ring. The ritual has become so common in fact, more than 80% of all proposals include a diamond engagement ring specifically. While there is no doubt that an engagement ring has become an almost indelible part of the courtship rituals of most of the Western world, the question is, where did the practice come from?
As much as we may not like to view it in these terms, an engagement is, in essence, a contractual obligation. You can, of course, choose to see this in a very formal, non-romantic, legalistic way, but contracts can actually be quite romantic. In the TV series Grey’s Anatomy, the series’ main character Meredith Grey actually marries her husband via a contract written on a post-it note. The contract not only becomes central to the storyline but becomes one of the couple’s most cherished possessions.
At one time, a woman’s primary value in marriage was her virginity. Women who married were expected to be “pure” when they did so. The reason an engagement “contract” was so important was that most couples began to sleep together once they were engaged. Therefore if a man broke off an engagement, it was assumed the woman was “sullied.” A broken engagement would not only make it difficult for her to find another husband, but she would be considered “damaged goods” even if she did. In a time when women were dependent on either a husband or their family to support them, a broken engagement was not just a blow to them but to their entire family. If a father could not marry his daughter off, he was stuck supporting her for the rest of his life.
It is no coincidence that the most popular stone for an engagement ring is also one of the most expensive. A diamond engagement ring was “security” so that if a woman gave a man her “purity” and he broke off the engagement, she would not be left with nothing.
While the history of engagement rings may have certain sexist roots, it doesn’t have to be any less a romantic gesture. What a ritual means is not determined by its historical roots, but by the intentions of the people engaging in it. Today, a diamond engagement ring has become a symbol of deep commitment. When you truly love someone deeply, it can be difficult to find words to express how you feel. A beautiful diamond engagement ring can help. Michael Arthur can help you express what you may not be able to find the words to say.