It's proposal season--and we're not talking about business proposals.
We're referring to sparkly-ring marriage proposals. And according to TheKnot, December is the most popular month for said engagements.
Of course, much like the actual ring, not all marriage proposals look exactly alike. Some have marching bands! Some have flash mobs! Some are completely devoid of witnesses--and some prefer it that way.
If you plan to propose this holiday season, as an early engagement gift to you, we've looked into the costs of some of the most elaborate proposals out there--as well as the best post-proposal financial practices.
What People Are Spending on ... the Ring
It's an age-old question, complete with a handful of inexact estimates floating around the Internet as to how much you should shell out for the ring: two months worth of salary, 25% of your annual income, $2,500.
Fact-wise, TheKnot.com reports that the average cost of an engagement ring is $5,200--and it takes the average person three months to find the right one.
The truth is that there isn't a hard-and-fast rule as to how much a person should pay for a ring, just like there isn't a rule about how much people are expected to spend on wedding presents.
In other words, it's less about what you should spend, and more about what you can afford to pay.
"It's really important to budget for an engagement ring," advises LearnVest CFP Sophia Bera. "Don't use all of your savings to buy it--your emergency savings should be separate from your ring savings."
Translation: The ideal amount to spend on a ring is different for everyone--and it doesn't necessarily need to be something that you take on alone. "Maybe this is unromantic, but I think it's important to talk to your significant other about what they want, and the price range they have in mind," adds Sophia.
Perhaps it isn't so unromantic: TheKnot also reports that 65% of brides have at least some say in their engagement rings, while 31% shopped for and/or purchased the ring with their groom.
In some cases, the ring is only a blip on the proposal budget--a new trend in over-the-top proposals means that the ring isn't always the sparkliest part of the moment.
What People Are Spending On . . . the Proposal
You've probably seen videos of some pretty incredible will-you-marry-me asks: From a marching band in midtown Manhattan to a song-and-dance routine on a suburban street in Portland, Oregon, some people go all-out to utter those four simple words.
For instance, The New York Times looked further into the flash-mob proposal of 43-year-old David Centner, who proposed to his girlfriend in July of 2012--in front of a crowd of people dancing to "I'm All Yours" by Jay Sean.
Sure, the memories are priceless, but the event? It cost over $7,300!
The marching band in Midtown, which required 140 instrument-wielding high schoolers bussed in from the suburbs, cost about $7,000--not including flying in relatives to witness the show this past June.
Of course, not everyone spends thousands of dollars on this one moment. But are people spending more on proposals, in general?
According to proposal planner Michele Velazquez of The Heart Bandits, the answer is yes. "In the past, most people proposed in a restaurant, at home or just in a pretty setting--there were no photos, there was no hoopla," she says. "Now, our clients generally spend between $500 and $3,000 on a proposal."
Why such fuss? "'How did they propose?' is one of the first questions everyone is asked when they announce their engagement," Velazquez explains, "so the story needs to be special."
But if you aren't planning to shell out thousands to ask the question, don't worry--you're in the majority. In a 2012 survey conducted by TheKnot and Men's Health, 99% of men surveyed said that they didn't use a proposal consultant, and 72% said that their proposals weren't documented through photo or video.
This doesn't mean that the proposal wasn't special: Among women surveyed, 29% said that their proposals happened at a place that had meaning (like the location of their first date), and 47% said that the surprise factor was "very important."
So They Said Yes ... Now What?
"People are spending more money on the proposal because they're putting more into its uniqueness and sincerity," explains Kailen Rosenberg, relationship expert and founder of Kai-len Love and Life Architects. "But they are spending less on the wedding. We're seeing more people who are doing elaborate proposals, and then eloping or having small weddings."
Okay, maybe not that small: According to TheKnot, among engaged couples who didn't plan the wedding themselves, the average cost of the big day in 2011 was about $27,000.
Given this not-so-modest figure, couples need to keep in mind that there's another big day that's just as important: The day you and your partner open up about your finances.
"If you haven't talked about finances with your significant other, you are not ready to get engaged," says Sophia. "A lot of couples haven't talked about the amount of credit card debt or student loans that they have, but these things will definitely play a role when you combine your finances."
We know having the "money talk" isn't easy--it's hard just to look at your own bank balance sometimes. But you'll need to work as a team for the rest of your lives, so getting off on the right foot today will help set you up for financially happy ever after.
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