If your fiancé hasn't surprised you with the presentation of a ring he selected or a family heirloom that has been handed down through generations, then go shopping and decide together. Although this can be somewhat awkward or touchy, hopefully you have similar taste and budget ideas.Although some brides (some often second time around) prefer other gems to diamonds, a diamond is the overwhelming choice of today's bride. While the element of surprise is very romantic, the engagement ring is meant to be worn for a lifetime, so it's particularly important that the bride-to-be really loves it. Make searching for the perfect ring one that reflects your personal taste and style, a romantic task shared by the two of you. Don't buy in a hurry.The engagement announcement is generally made during a toast given by the bride's father or her fiancé.A toast is the perfect way to officially fill the guests in on the exciting news, especially when the news may be a surprise to them. The groom's father or other friends may want to join in on the fun and toast the happy couple.Engagement Party Tips• It is a must that you both attend all engagement parties;• Gifts are generally not given, and should not be expected;• If a guest chooses to honor the occasion with a gift, accept it graciously and send a thank-you note;• The party may be a luncheon, brunch, dinner or cocktail party. Any type party would be appropriate;• Avoid hurt feelings by inviting only those guests that you will also be inviting to your wedding;• Invitations may be extended by phone or by written invitation, depending on time and formality of the party;• If formal invitations are sent, and it's not to be a surprise for the guests, then the invitation could read "in honor and" or "Please join us in celebrating the engagement of ..."• If the engagement announcement is to be a surprise for the guests, then the invitations should be a general party invitation, not mentioning the couple's names.• Thank the hosts of your engagement party with a note and a small gift, flowers, or a dinner invitation.There's no one more excited than a newly engaged bride to be.For those next few months there's so much to do such as planning parties and also planning for that special day. Let the engagement period be a time of growth and understanding of one another that involves determining mutual goals for a life together.Telling Your FamilyWho do you tell first? If your fiancé didn't ask your parents for your hand which most do not today, then they should be the first to know. If your parents live nearby and know your fiancé, it is best for the two of you to tell them in person.If they do not live nearby, then tell them by phone and try to make arrangements for them to meet your fiancé as soon as possible. They should be excited as you are. After all everyone close to you knows the time for telling the rest of the world has come.All proud parents love to see their daughter's photo. The formal announcement may be place in the Newspaper. You will be receiving many lovely gifts over the next several months.If the parents of the bride are divorced, either parent may announce the engagement, but typically, the parent whom the bride has lived makes it. Both parents should be mentioned in the article. If one parent is deceased, the surviving parent makes the announcement. If both parents are deceased, the engagement may be announced by a relative, a friend or by the bride herself.For example: The announcement would read "P.J." will be married in November to "John U. Smith." The engagement should not be announced prior to one year before the wedding and no later than six weeks ahead of the date.Since ancient Roman times, a plain gold ring has symbolized true everlasting love. Today, the gold band may be embellished but the symbolism still remains.Selecting the StyleThe greater your awareness of the elements that determine a diamond or other gem's quality, the better chance you have of getting the best quality ring for your money. Try on several styles to see what fits your taste. If you don't find the ring of your dreams or you want something no one else has, check with your jeweler about making a custom design. Many jewelers offer an opportunity to trade up at a later date, like an anniversary, or you can add diamonds to an existing ring.It is not necessary to have a diamond engagement ring to signify an official engagement. Many couples prefer to save the money and combine the engagement and wedding ring in one. This can be done nicely with a wider band that is set with a solitaire or inset with many small diamonds. Instead of a smaller diamond, some couples are opting for a larger colored stone such as a ruby, amethyst, sapphire, or emerald. Such colored stones are very popular for second marriages.Make sure you are dealing with a reliable reputable jeweler whose advice and assistance will help you make a good selection within your budget. Prices vary tremendously, depending on the type of metal used and the quality of the stone.Gold is most commonly used for engagement and wedding rings. It is available in either white or yellow and generally 14k or 18k gold is used for these rings. Platinum, which is the strongest and most expensive ring metal, is often used for the prongs, which hold the stones.DiamondsThere are four classic criteria's when selecting a diamond. The first three-color, cut, and clarity determine the price per carat. Once that is established, carat weight determines the final price.Color, the clearer the diamond, the greater its value. Diamonds are graded on a scale. The greater degree of color in the stone, the lower the stone's value, with the exception of very rare colored diamonds which are extremely valuable. Clear or colorless stones are referred to as perfect.Cut, accuracy in cutting is essential to the beauty and sparkle of the diamond. The stones are proportioned and faceted to maximize the brilliance through their crowns. The brilliant or round cut is the most common. Other shapes include oval, pear, marquise, emerald cut and heart-shaped.Clarity, this is the term used to describe the degree of inclusions when the stone is magnified ten times.Inclusions are interior or exterior flaws. If they are large and noticeable without a magnifying glass, they will affect the beauty of the stone; otherwise, they will only affect the value.Flawless or perfect stones are stones with no imperfections, and obviously the most valuable and expensive.Carats: This is the size of the diamond. Color, cut and clarity determine the per carat value. A higher-quality, smaller diamond may be worth more than a lower-quality, larger stone.As the size increases from one carat to over two or three, the price per carat increases tremendously when the stone is of equal quality.Gemological Institute of AmericaFortunately, most jewelers either use or recognize the classifications of the Gemological Institute of America. Ask your jeweler for the GIA's rating of color and clarity on each stone you're considering.The GIA assigns letters of the alphabet to colors, beginning with the letter D as the clearest color and down to the letter L classification (except AD, which is reserved for the very finest jewels).The GIA also grades the inclusions or imperfections of a stone, which is also important to know in order to comparison shop effectively.Their grading system begins with FL, for flawless diamond, a stone, which contains no imperfections that can be seen with a 10x jeweler's loupe.It goes down to VVS (very, very small spots), VS (very small spots), all the way to an I diamond, which has obvious imperfections. The average person usually can't find any flaws with the naked eye, down to a VS designation.Ask your jeweler to show you similar size stones in varying color and clarity, to enable you to select the one that fits both your taste and budget. Once you've determined the size and quality stone you like (for example a .60 carat, K color, VS brilliant cut), then you can compare other similar stones to find the best price.InsuranceThe Gemological Institute of America will grade your stone and provide a certificate with unquestionable proof of your diamond's identity as well as its grade. Make sure to get a written guarantee and permanent registration for the diamond when you purchase it. Then get a written appraisal of the replacement value for insurance purposes. Make sure to list the diamond separately on your personal property insurance policy.In the event that you don't have such a policy, see about adding the diamond to your parents' policy temporarily. Have your ring re-appraised every few years and increase your insurance policy accordingly.Your fiancé may have already discussed his marriage plans with his parents. They should be formally told after the fact. It also would be best to tell them in person, but if distance is a problem, a phone call will do.Traditionally, your fiancé's mother will write you a welcoming note or letter; she may do the same for your parents. If she does not write you, don't hesitate to make the first move. It's helpful to get off to a good start by making her feel she is gaining a daughter-in-law rather than losing a son.Telling Friends and RelativesOf course you will now want to phone or write all your close friends and relatives and let them in on the exciting news. Or, you may decide to surprise them all at once, and announce the wonderful news at a family gathering or party. An engagement party may be hosted by you and your fiancé or by your parents.Engagement PartiesThe bride's parents have traditionally hosted an engagement party. However, the party may be hosted by you and your fiancé. The groom's parents, relatives, or close friends sometimes host other engagement parties. It's a perfect opportunity to introduce the two families and friends of the couple.Surprise your guests and make a memorable day for both of you, an occasion your guests won't forget either.• The party may be hosted at a home, restaurant, hotel, garden, on a yacht, or just about anywhere.• Have guests arrive at your home for what they think is a party, offer them a glass of champagne, then load them into waiting limousines, vans, trolleys or horse drawn carriages that will take them to the church for a surprise ceremony. Afterward, they will be transported to an elaborately decorated reception site to continue celebrating with more champagne and food.• Invite guests to a barbecue, birthday, house warming or no special occasion party. Then surprise them with the wedding ceremony. To ensure guests dress appropriately, state the dress on the invitation, casual, formal or black tie.• Don't forget, even though it's a surprise you will still need to make prior arrangements with an officiate and obtain your marriage license.• Plan a trip or vacation with a group of close friends. Then surprise them all by getting married on the trip, turning the trip into a honeymoon wedding.• Plan a family reunion with aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. You may want to invite a few close friends to drop by just in time for the surprise ceremony.