Groom Duties

Wedding Bands: The Other, Less Expensive Ring

Photo by Isabelle Hattink

You will purchase many cars. You will buy more than one home. You’ll churn through laptops and TVs. Barring divorce, you will probably buy only one wedding ring. In other words, this is an important purchase. (One even more important purchase: the engagement ring itself, if you haven’t bought that yet.) So don’t cheap out, and don’t screw it up.

You have questions.

I don’t want to wear a wedding ring. Any advice?

Let me guess. You think your fiancée is different—she won’t mind if you buck tradition and skip the ring. She’s a smart woman, right? Surely she knows that a silly ring—a trinket, a bauble—isn’t going to make or break the bonds of fidelity.

Maybe. But what if she doesn’t? What if you say you don’t want to wear a wedding ring, and your fiancée starts reading between the lines? Maybe she’ll think that you don’t want to look married…because you want to flirt other women…because you want to have an affair…because she’s inadequate.

Unless you have a “Get Out of Ring Free” card provided by your religion or culture—many Indian men don’t wear wedding rings, for example—you should suck it up and wear a wedding band.

[Sigh] Fine. I don’t really give a damn, so I can just let her pick it out, right?

Bad idea. You’ll have to wear this sucker forever. That’s a long time. You will fiddle with it. You will tap it, twirl it, spin it on a table, scratch your ass with it. You will coordinate it with suits and watches and—at the risk of getting too girly—even your skin tone. Don’t cede this decision.

Does it need to match her wedding ring?

Technically, no. There’s no requirement on matching. Your wife can wear something glitzy and you can wear something simple.

Hold up. You said “technically….”

Look, if she’s had some lifelong fantasy about wearing matching wedding rings, good luck trying to shake it. That being said, this is your ring. So make your voice heard.

Good one. Who pays for it?

According to tradition, you pay for hers and she pays for yours. In reality? Your finances are about to be merged (if they’re not already), so, effectively, it comes out of the same pot. Consider this as part of the overall wedding budget.

She wants to get it engraved. Is that normal or is that only for weirdos?

Totally normal. Just make sure it’s engraved inside the ring. For thoughts on inscriptions that won’t embarrass you, click here.

How much should I spend?

Two conflicting variables are at play. On the one hand, you’re a dude—and most dudes don’t spend money on jewelry. On the other hand, this is the first purchase in your life that you are buying forever. Think about that.

Yeah, it’s sort of obvious.

Think harder. We can’t impress this enough. When you buy a flatscreen TV, a few years from now you can upgrade from 42” to 50” or from 4K to 8K. You can get new furniture. And while you can technically “upgrade wedding bands,” it makes sense to stretch your purchase for something you’ll be happy with for the next 2-70 years.

Jesus! I get it. Could you frickin’ give me some ballpark numbers?

…I see. Fine. We’re just trying to offer perspective. But okay, we’ll get to the point. There’s a range. At the low-end you can squeak by with $100-$200 for sterling silver or white gold, and with platinum we’re talking $1,000 plus. Add diamonds (at your own peril) and the sky’s the limit.

What metal should I get? My buddies tell me that white gold is trendy.

White gold is all the rage. Platinum is good too, though yellow gold is more traditional. Prices vary depending on size and karat.

..Ah, what, exactly, is karat again?

Roughly speaking, the higher the karat of gold, the higher the cost, the higher the purity, the lower the durability.

Wait…so if a lower karat is more durable and cheaper, wouldn’t you always want that?

Not necessarily. Here’s the thing about pure gold: it’s soft. It gets bent and scratched. So, to make the gold a little more durable, jewelers will blend it with other metals like zinc and copper. This has a tradeoff. Extra metals (technically called an “alloy”) bring extra durability…but the actual “purity” and color vibrancy is diluted. A discerning eye can tell the difference. Purity looks better. 24 karat gold—

24 karat?

24 is pure gold. Frankly, it’s not suitable for wedding bands. It way too soft. 18 karat is less pure (75% gold), which makes it more durable and less expensive. 14 karat is even more extreme—very durable, very cheap, especially for something small like 3mm.

English, please. “MM?”

Millimeters. It’s how you measure the width of your ring. 3mm (3 millimeters) is a small little girly ring; 8mm would fit Yao Ming.

Wait, but that’s width, right, not diameter?

Yep, good catch. But proportion matters. While technically a big guy could get away with a 3mm ring, you want the width to fit your overall frame.

Alright, lemme back up. You said platinum is the most expensive. Why would I want to do that?

If you can afford it, get it. Platinum is the most durable and most attractive. It holds up over time. It’s strong. It has a certain weight that just feels substantial, like the difference between a heavy, leather-bound novel and a cheap paperback.

Any other alternatives?

Sure. Yellow gold has fallen out of favor but it’s never inappropriate. Palladium is a newish alternative—it has almost the identical properties as platinum in terms of durability, but it’s less money. And then there’s tungsten and titanium. Both are cheaper and durable–and they look good–but they’re harder to mold over time. So if you put on a few pounds, say, you won’t be able to get them resized.

Well…since sterling silver is the cheapest…can’t I just do that?


Oh, come on. Don’t be a snob. What’s wrong with silver?

It’s not about snobbery. It’s about durability. Silver will scratch and tarnish. It gets nicked and bent and marked up. A few years from now you’ll probably regret it.

What about the different “settings” of wedding bands?

Careful. Now you’re swimming awfully close to “fad” — territory that you’ll later regret. Remember, this ring will be with you always. Simple = timeless. That being said, the settings can be textured, etched, or engraved…all of which will make your ring look more ornamental. Proceed with caution.

What else should I look for?

Ergonomics. Lots of rings have domed contours so they’ll fit your finger more snugly. Look for something called “comfort fit.”

Can I do “dual metal” rings? Mixed metal?

You can do whatever the hell you want. If you can’t decide between white or yellow you can get both. It’s not unheard of to get copper rings, stainless steel rings, whatever. Again, though…think about long-term. Don’t be a sucker for the latest trend. Can you imagine if people wore parachute pants in the ‘80s and were never allowed to take them off?

Where should I get this hunk of metal?

Check out our engagement ring MANual. The places that sell diamond rings also sell wedding bands. In fact, you might even be able to save some money by using the same dealer.

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