You finally met the woman of your dreams and you’re ready to ask her to spend the rest of her life with you. But first you need a ring.

Before you can figure out how you want to pop the question, you must figure out what kind of ring to get. For a man who has never shopped for an engagement ring the task can be daunting, but there are certain steps you can take that will help you make a more informed and successful purchase. The first step is to determine whether or not you want to surprise your fiancée-to-be or if you want to involve her in the purchase.

If you choose to involve your special lady in the process of picking her engagement ring, then you really only need the one step. However, it does take the surprise factor out of the equation. Another benefit of including your prospective wife in the buying process is that you will know with complete certainty that the ring chosen will be exactly what she wants. On the other hand, involving her in the ring selection might make the task feel more like a business transaction and less like solving the very romantic riddle of finding the engagement ring of her dreams. If you do want to try to decode the riddle, the next step is to figure out what taste she has in jewelry.

You may have a fairly good understanding of the kind of jewelry she likes, but you can also remind yourself by paying close attention to the jewelry she wears on a daily basis. Is it ornate or casual? Does she like floral motifs or geometric patterns? Does she often wear diamonds or other colored gemstones? By observing your soon-to-be fiancée you’ll be able to gather a decent amount of reconnaissance concerning her jewelry preference, and you can confirm your own research in one of two ways: by checking with one of her close friends or by surreptitiously checking with her.

Checking with one of her friends will be easier since you can ask her direct questions without trying to be sly, however, make sure you trust her friend enough not to spill the beans. If you want to run ring ideas past your lady love, you must take sneaky precautions such as creating a cover story. For instance, you could casually mention that someone from work asked you for your opinion on selecting an engagement ring for his girlfriend. This approach is trickier because she might see through your ruse completely, but again you’ll without a doubt get her opinion on the matter.

The choice of how to go about gathering information is yours, but ultimately the decision will come down to how well you think the engagement ring suits your favorite gal. If, when you are perusing engagement ring stores you cannot imagine any of the rings before you resting on your lovers’ hand for the next 50 - 60 years, chances are that the ring selection is not right for her. Trust your instincts and make sure to support those instincts with the clues around you.