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Thursday, October 29, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Miss Manners: She wants to be surprised – with exactly what she wants

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin Andrews McMeel Syndication

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My boyfriend and I have been discussing marriage. I will be the last of my close circle of friends to walk down the aisle, so I have had plenty of experience surfing the internet and bridal magazines, finding things I like for my future Big Day.

My worry is that I have now become very specific in the type of engagement ring I want. I like different styles and gem options (I honestly do not prefer a diamond), but as far as a setting goes, I have some pretty particular ideas about what I do – and definitely do not – want.

My plan was to have my best friend (the very one who introduced me to my man) show my boyfriend some of the pictures I secretly posted and then let him decide.

Is this acceptable? I would say that I don’t care what he gets me, but if I’m honest, that isn’t quite true. I feel that since I am going to be wearing this ring forever, I should have the most say in what it looks like. Right?

My boyfriend has even said he knows I’m the type of girl who cares about what her ring will look like. I want to be surprised and completely grateful, but I also don’t want to be unhappy.

GENTLE READER: Then stop wishing to be surprised. And as the gentleman already knows that you have definite tastes, please do not stick him with the burden of possibly guessing wrong and giving you an unpleasant surprise.

The idea that a proposal must come with a snap-open box, proffered by a kneeling suitor, has always struck Miss Manners as ridiculous. It is a cartoon version of the past, when it was considered unseemly for a lady to entertain the notion of marrying until an abjectly pleading gentleman overcame her maidenly reluctance.

You may be sure that such was not really the case then, and it is even more ludicrous now, when you, and other sensible couples, have already had serious discussions about marriage. Nor was it the way real people acquired engagement rings before the phony theatrics of staged proposals, complete with lurking photographers, became common.

Of course a bride has an interest in the style of a ring she will be wearing from the engagement on, and it is a rare gentleman who has given any thought to the matter before he plans to buy one.

But becoming engaged requires only a mutual agreement to marry. Miss Manners is certainly not opposed to this being the occasion for both people to state the sentiments involved, in however romantic terms they can devise, but that is more dignified – and, she would think, more significant – when done in private. Surely pledging one’s life should call forth emotions more powerful than any attached to jewelry, however understandable interest in that aspect may be.

If a gentleman had a family ring to offer, he can bring it out then, carefully specifying that it is a choice that in no way is attached to accepting or rejecting him.

More commonly, one would propose a shopping trip, for her to select a ring she loves. (And if he has any sense, he will have been at the shop alone first, and asked to put aside a variety of rings in his price range.)

Miss Manners assures you that this expedition is much more romantic than the phony surprise.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,

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