How My Husband Embraced My Wedding Ring Tradition

Photo of a bride with a bouquet and her wedding ring
(photo by Crystal Jensen)

Ah, wedding rings. Whenever I see an ad for them on TV, I immediately shout out “Hūnjiè,” (婚戒), the Chinese word for this most intimate of all jewelry, and then shoot my husband a grin. He usually laughs and nods at what’s become our husband-wife running joke — that I still have no wedding ring, and John still “owes” me.

This isn’t some post-wedding inner Bridezilla of mine coming out, as if I enjoyed putting my husband on a guilt trip for all the ways our wedding never lived up to expectations. No, as weddings go, I’m pretty happy over how we tied the knot and wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve never even pressured him about buying things; if anything, I’m the one usually clamping down on our family budget, and he’s the one encouraging me to “reward myself” with something I really wanted. Still, behind this running joke of ours remains a real promise — that, someday, he hopes to buy me the perfect wedding ring.

I never experienced the typical proposal straight out of a romantic comedy, where all of a sudden the guy kneels down and opens a box hiding a diamond ring. Well, for starters, John proposed to me by phone, since I happened to work in Taiwan at the time. But even so, I never expected that ring when I returned to Shanghai. I knew China didn’t have a tradition of engagement or wedding rings, even though nowadays, more and more Chinese couples borrow this Western tradition of exchanging rings at their wedding.

I also knew John’s situation. After all, as a graduate school student, John only received a stipend equivalent to around $25 a month — not exactly the kind of finances that prepare you for a trip to Tiffany’s.

But while I could have easily stepped in to buy the ring myself — my corporate salary took care of the two of us — I never did. As it turned out, my traditional side (a side that my very strong, feminist “women can do anything” perspective liked to believe didn’t exist) still wanted John to do the same thing expected of any American guy with marriage on his mind: to buy me the ring.

So did John. In his words, he considered it his “responsibility,” something he should do for his wife. Even though he never grew up with this tradition, he embraced it because he embraced me. But with an unspoken caveat that we had between us — that he would only fulfill this promise once his finances fell into place.

Well, John went from graduate student in China to aspiring graduate student in the US to PhD student in the US. So far, he hasn’t had the means for a ring, and I haven’t pushed him about it, always saying it’s better to wait. But in a way, I feel as if I already have a rock on my finger, because the man I love never forgot his promise.

Or, for that matter, never forgot to laugh on cue whenever we see another wedding ring ad on TV. 😉

Has your loved one ever embraced a tradition that wasn’t part of their culture, just because it meant something to you?

16 Replies to “How My Husband Embraced My Wedding Ring Tradition”

  1. I’ve never been really proposed to, but I always dream of having an engagement ring of my favorite stone- opal- and jade adorning the yellow gold band. For one reason or another I never really liked diamonds, and to me an opal symbolizes an acceptance, that is, the guy accepts me no matter what. Heck now if I should get married, I’m envisioning the first dance to be with Moon song by Teresa Teng (I love the symbolism I read about it, that no matter the moon or love will always be there,) or if its a Korean guy, I’m envisioning for my march song The Classic songs. Reason for that is again the symbolism, that through generations the lovers tried to find one another but couldn’t, but in the movie they finally did.

  2. It’s funny…I always tell my boyfriend I don’t want an engagement ring. It’s weird, I LOVE them on other people, but I am SO afraid I would lose it or break it…HAHA! I have this really pretty ring he got me for our 5th anniversary and I think that is enough. If we actually make it to a wedding I think I just want a pretty band and that is all. Of course he and his siblings have the western view of wedding rings since they were all born and raised here, but come to think of it – I think his parents wear them too.

  3. My fiance knew that I really wanted a proposal and an engagement ring. I picked out the ring myself in Hong Kong last summer, and he hid it for half a year until he proposed on my birthday in December =) He also knew that I wanted the proposal to be a surprise and it definitely was….he showed up in a Winnie the Pooh costume, walking around the subway station, and I literally didn’t know it was him until he took off the Pooh head. He also plans on wearing his wedding ring everyday, because that’s important to me, and I think to him too. I’m a lucky girl =)

  4. I do hope John gets you the ring soon that you have been waiting for all these years. He should be able to when he gets the internship that is along the way now. I am no expert in wedding rings, but I think it is the symbolism that really makes them to be what they have become. Two people together for bad or for worse, in love (hopefully for their lives) and there for each other in good or bad times.

  5. People that know you’re married probably think you do have a ring but that you daren’t wear it because it’s so expensive! That’s what I would think anyway 😀

    Ordinary Malaysian and Rebekah are right about the symbolism – I have a ring that my parents bought me which isn’t that expensive (in terms of jewellery) but it is the meaning behind it that counts, I would never be without it.

    My Mum recently bought herself a ring which is flashier than her own engagement ring which she tends to wear in place of her engagement ring, not sure how my Dad feels about that… don’t think I would be very happy haha. It has made me think though, instead of having just one ring forever maybe it should be updated over the years as jewellery changes! 😉

  6. My Latin husband definitely embraced this tradition as well. He didn’t propose with a ring, rather after he proposed we picked one out together, which at the end of the day I’m SO happy about because I got to pick the ring of my dreams and I doubt that he would have been able to pick it out himself.

  7. as a phd grad student, he should be an RA/TA and should have a monthly stipend and should be able to afford a diamond ring (5k range) and your hubby been grad student for years and should save up enough for the ring… (even a gold ring of your hubby’s design should work @ 1.5k.)

    you need more pressure on him…

    in chinese culture you two should exchange something that each of you deeply valued (traditionally a jade piece from the family line (for the guy) and a gold hair accesorry from the gal) to remember each other by…

  8. The christmas just passed my boyfriend didn’t have any money because the company he was working for closed down and I lent him money to buy my christmas present, I think if it was me I probably would of lent him money to buy the ring.

  9. I told my wife to pick :
    a) smaller ring and a month vacation in a foreign country and have lots of money in the bank acct or.

    b) big ring and no trip with little money in the bank for rainy days.

    She picked A . True story. It’s the meaning not the size of the rock. you guys need to build memories not materialistic things.


  10. I’m just very good at explaining things to people on budgets, values and comparing things like size of salaries and rings, cars, houses and even life expectancy of someone in order to enjoy those items. Does it mean that if you give your wife a huge ring that she won’t give you problems on other issues ? The answer is NO. Getting along with each other and understanding each other honestly is my Numero Uno gift already. Couples with huge rings still break up ! Anybody disagree with me here? I don’t think so!

  11. I regret getting pushed into getting an engagement ring by my hubby, family, and friends. It is a big waste of money for me as I do not even wear it, but all my female friends love their rings and wear it all the time.

    I say each to their own and do what you feel is right for you and your hubby. It matters not what others say.

  12. Just use common sense! If you have lots of money on the side, you can bring a $10k to $15k diamond ring. Ask yourself a question. Will you wear it all the time and where do you hang out? and who do you hang out with? For example, my profession, even if I wear a fake rolex watch, everybody believes it’s real! Don’t buy something that so expensive that it puts your family in hardship. If the ring is small and cute and has meaning to it , it’s priceless! I think women value meaning rather on the size of the diamond. Bruce – ” I give you my whole life already, what else do you want or need ?” 🙂 lol. Hey, give a big ring to your gf/wife and see if she will love you more or less. Prove me wrong :).

  13. My Chinese husband pretty much proposed in a text message! I didn’t get an engagement ring, which I wasn’t expecting since I had already lived in China for over a year and knew a little bit about the culture, but I did want a wedding ring, simple as it might be. We didn’t get to have a wedding, his parents said it wasn’t appropriate since this was his second marriage, but he did take me to buy a ring about a month after we were married and have the finances to do so (meaning that I had gotten my salary from my decent paying teaching job which was three times as much as his job as a doctor with a Master’s degree). He never wears his ring as he insists that men here never wear rings (not completely true) but also it would get in the way of his work and he’d probably lose it if he were taking it on and off daily. I think my 1200 yuan ring is just as nice as my friends’ rings which cost thousands of dollars and our marriage is just as strong.

  14. This reminded me a bit of my parents 🙂 It took a while, but my dad was able to buy my mom a beautiful ring right before I was born.

  15. Jocelyn! The ring is a symbol, you both show your love and therefore you don’t need to show it with a ring..though .. you would like to have it so I am sure John will one day, when wealth knocks his door, buy you “the ring”, expensive or not, the fact that you have been waiting for it, worths it.
    You both are learning a lot about it…you are learning how to wait, and dont expect…you are laughing at your own blockingpoint and he is learning how to manage his budget and how to plan and adapt.

    Those are already huge rewards!

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