The COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020 were tough on us all. However, they’ve produced an unexpected wave of marriage proposals that have millions of love-struck Brits frantically searching for the perfect ring in 2021.
Since the first lockdown of March 2020, Google searches for engagement rings have soared 22% compared to last year. Numerous jewellers in the UK have reported a distinct increase in engagement ring sales.
Culturally and historically, there are several “rules” in place regarding how much a person should spend on an engagement ring for their partner. But in such complicated and changeable times, it can be difficult to separate outdated information from practical advice which applies not only to modern relationships but to our current economic position.
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Let’s Talk Averages
The average amount of money a British individual spends on an engagement ring has gone down by 19% over the past decade. A recent survey suggests that the national average for money spent on an engagement ring in the UK sits at £1,865, even though the average cost of an advertised engagement ring is £1,483.
However, the number of people who seem to be willing to spend significantly less than the national average is on the rise. During the past few years, over 18% of grooms spent no more than £500 for their bride-to-be’s sparklers.
Fortunately for our bank accounts, spending less and less money on engagement rings seems to be a growing trend. In fact, Poundland found great success with its £1 engagement ring, selling 20,000 in the space of just seven days.
Outdated “Two Month Salary” Tradition
With the average UK monthly salary being £1,950, the UK average engagement ring price (£1,865) is just shy of half the traditional “two-month salary” standard.
Here is where many soon-to-be-spouses may feel conflicted.
In 1947, American jewellery brand De Beers started a marketing campaign that was so successful, it set the standard for engagement ring purchases to be worth two months salary.
Their slogan, “How can you make a two-month salary last forever?” implored young romantics to view their purchase as a crucial investment for eternal love, and remains to this day a cultural norm.
Since then, various other jewellery merchants and social constructs have suggested taking this tradition one step further with a three-year salary custom. The average Brit earns about £7,650 over this period, which is well out of range of the average £1,865 spend on an engagement ring.
But don’t feel alone if those words frighten you – after all, these are marketing campaigns designed to make money off of you, and there is no objectively wrong or right amount to spend on a ring for your loved one.
Eating Out or Engagement Ring?
While the average cost of an engagement ring comes to around £1865, it’s surprising to see how else Brits choose to spend this kind of money.
Research by Diamonds Factory suggests Brits spend about £250 more on dining out in just one year than they do on their partners’ engagement rings.
Moreover, people in the UK almost spend the same amount on engagement rings as they do working in the office a year. Office workers spend nearly as much — £1,712 — on transport, food and social activities, as they do on an engagement ring.
The Age Factor
It turns out that the age of the person making the sparkling purchase has a significant influence over how much money will actually be spent.
For example, 45-55 year olds were surveyed to spend an average of £691 on their engagement rings – well under half of what younger couples are currently spending.
Studies suggest that the reason for this is because older men and women are more likely to be having their second or third marriage, which will typically be a more low-key affair than the first.
In contrast, millennials think they should spend about £3,045 — more than any other age group. In reality 25-39 year olds spend on average £1,911, a significant 37% less than their expected spend.
Another factor in how much money is typically spent on an engagement ring has a lot to do with where the buyer is physically located. There are both spoken and unspoken expectations around how much one should spend on an engagement ring, and many of them pertain to the location or region in which the buyer is situated.
The following list details the average amount expected to be spent in each region:
- Greater London: £4968
- North West: £3232
- North East: £3053
- Scotland: £2917
- South East: £2871
But as is the case with many things in life, expectations do not always match reality. Despite the fact that the above regions are expected to spend certain amounts of money on engagement rings, the realistic purchase amounts look quite different.
Below is a list of British regions paired with their average ring spend, ranked from highest to lowest.
- South West: average of £3,784
- Greater London: average of £2,335
- Northern Ireland: average of £2,272
- East England: average of under £1,700
- Yorkshire and Humber: average of £1,600
- Scotland: average of under £1,000
One of the many intimidating aspects of choosing an engagement ring for one’s partner is picking one that meets their personal standards and expectations.
50% of the British population agrees that they expect no more than £1,000 to be spent on a surprise engagement ring – which is significantly less than what people are actually spending.
Put a Ring on It!
As the world evolves, weddings, relationships, and engagements evolve with it. In the midst of a battling economy and more recently, a pandemic, people are having to get more creative about how they choose to celebrate their proposals.
The data speaks for itself – our standards and expectations around engagement rings are clearly changing, and it’s about time.