Miss Manners: Does an engagement ring really need to be a surprise?

February 14, 2012

Dear Miss Manners:

Is it appropriate for the woman to pick out the style of engagement/wedding ring that she has to wear on her finger for the rest of her life? Or should the man pick it out without any hint?

The ring could be ugly or not suit her personality. It will save her the pain of having to wear an ugly ring and be secretly unhappy about it, right?

You make a sensible point — one that hasn’t a chance of being implemented.

That is because of the modern invention of the Mandatory Surprise Proposal. It is now obligatory for a young gentleman in this situation to plan an elaborate scene in an exotic place, designed to shock and surprise a lady with whom he has probably been living and debating marriage for years, by falling to his knees, whipping out a diamond ring and blurting out a proposal. He is supposed to have a photographer hidden nearby to record her amazement.

But (Miss Manners hears you ask) isn’t this the old-fashioned way, charmingly revived?

Not exactly. True, it has been a staple of cartoons for many years. But as old-fashioned gentlemen tended to lack the intimate courtship opportunities of today, marriage proposals were not mere formalities, and the surprise was sometimes in the response. Unless he had a family ring to offer, a suitor would be foolhardy to invest in jewelry before being sure of obtaining the hand.

Dear Miss Manners:

My son is invited to spend time at the home of one of his classmates. The classmate’s parents request that I sign a release of liability before my son arrives. I think this is unbelievably rude — as if to imply that I would sue them if there is an accident or injury!

Am I overreacting, or has our society really come to believe that anyone who visits your home, and is injured, will sue?

Well, there is an awful lot of suing going on. But that is all the more reason to be wary of people who harbor anticipatory litigious thoughts about their children’s playdates.

However, that is not the only worry that Miss Manners would have if she were you. What goes on in that household that such a precaution is necessary?

Dear Miss Manners:

If your boyfriend has asked me to marry him several years ago, and he has yet to make a move and set a date — what do you think would be a polite way to tell him that I love him, but I need this relationship to go forward? I do not want to end it. I just want to remarry and have children.

There seems to be some confusion here. Absent-minded as she may be, Miss Manners is pretty sure that she would remember if she had a beau who had asked you to marry him. She probably would have thought about sending you a silver tea service.

Pronoun trouble aside, she does not know of a formula for speeding marriage, now that fathers with shotguns are scarce. But she believes that stating one’s needs is less apt to inspire enthusiasm than the declaration that one is so passionately in love as to be impatient to be united forever.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

2012, by Judith Martin

Distributed by Universal Uclick for UFS

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