Wedding rings on tree branch

The Ultimate Wedding Ring Buying Guide

Jan 29, 2019
By Wedding Spot

Don’t let your wedding rings get overshadowed — or over-glimmered — by the engagement ring. These are the rings you both wear to symbolize your unity. They deserve careful consideration, too. Let our wedding ring buying guide help with an unalloyed look at wedding ring shopping and selection.

Explore everything you need to know about wedding ring buying:  

How much should you spend on a wedding ring?

Before you begin browsing bling, determine how much money you can drop on the wedding rings, and how much you want to spend. Focus on setting a budget that enables you to purchase quality rings without breaking the bank. Remember: the symbolic meaning of the rings matters far more than their price tag.

Wedding ring cost is determined by:

  • Materials: Platinum wedding rings are generally more expensive than white gold, and white gold costs more than yellow or rose gold. Gold remains the most popular option, but non-traditional materials — silver, tungsten, titanium, cobalt, and stainless steel — are becoming more common. Non-gold wedding bands can be less expensive and possibly even safer to wear with particular jobs and activities.

  • Stones: There’s more to diamonds than cut, carat, clarity, and color. The shape of the gem and the setting affect price as well. Choose a white sapphire if saving money matters more than a real diamond, or opt for a brilliant emerald or ruby if you prefer a splash of color.

  • Designer name: If a well-known designer name is essential, you’ll pay more. If you fall in love with a designer wedding ring that’s out of budget, ask the jeweler for similar options at a lower price.

  • Custom made: Working with a jeweler to custom-design your wedding bands doesn’t have to be more expensive than ready-made styles — it may even save you money. Discuss your custom designs with a jeweler to create one-of-a-kind bands or to update an heirloom ring.

Who pays for wedding bands?

The bride and groom usually shop for, and purchase, wedding bands together. The couple may choose to buy wedding rings for each other as gifts or pay for their own rings. It’s a matter of preference and should be decided when budgeting.

When should you start looking for a wedding ring?

After a budget is in place, it’s time to try some wedding rings on for size. Begin your search three to four months before your wedding date — more for a custom design. Make your purchase at the two months to six weeks mark, and aim to have your bands in-hand a month before the wedding. Allow time for fittings, adjustments, and custom engraving. Confirm how long the jeweler will need to avoid surprises.

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Where to buy wedding rings

Most well-known jewelers have brick and mortar stores as well as ecommerce sites. Before making your purchase decision, visit a jewelry store in person so you can get sized, try on rings, and narrow down your preferred style. Here’s where to look for wedding rings: 

  • Major retailers. Options include Tiffany & Co., Blue Nile, and James Allen.

  • Independent storefront jewelers. Seek out recommendations for reputable jewelers in your area. You may find unique rings at an affordable price.

  • Big box stores. That’s right. You can go to Costco for a month’s supply of cereal and your wedding bands.  

  • Vintage purveyors. Find curated antique wedding ring collections at vintage jewelers, such as Doyle & Doyle.  

  • Artisan sites. Gain access to distinctive jewelry designers from around the world via online marketplaces, such as Etsy.  

  • Within your family. Perhaps you know a ring is being passed down to you one day. Or your mother has a ring in her jewelry box that she never wears. Ask about the possibility of receiving the ring sooner rather than later. Or get a low-cost ring as a placeholder.

  • Pawnshops. This is a fine choice for affordable, if you and your beloved don’t mind the possibly sad history. Also, you’ll give the rings a happier ending.

What is your wedding ring style?

Sit down with your partner and talk about personal styles. Do you want your bands to match? Are gemstones a priority? Should the wedding band complement her engagement ring? Take your budget into consideration: Do some browsing online to confirm that the styles you prefer are within budget.

Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone: Try on the wedding bands you’ve been dreaming of, but give other styles a chance as well. You never know what style you may love.

Popular wedding ring styles:

  • A minimalist metal band in gold, without gemstones

  • An engraved band, with or without gemstones

  • A pavé style ring, with diamonds set into the band

  • An eternity band, with stones set around the entire ring

  • An anniversary band, with stones on the top of the ring only

  • A curved or contoured band to rest flush against your engagement ring

  • A wrap to be worn with an engagement ring

How to choose a wedding ring

For longevity, consider materials like yellow, rose, or white gold, platinum, or tungsten carbide. Because pure gold is too soft, rings are always made with an alloy of gold and other metals. The most common are 14K or 18K gold. Lower karats means a higher percentage of alloy, which generally makes for a more durable ring.

Non-traditional materials like silicone, wood, meteorite, Damascus steel, ceramic, and even antler are showing up in jewelry shops. Recycled gold rings are becoming popular. Or, blend metal and earth with a titanium band with wood lining.

Electricians, mechanics, doctors, and other professionals who can’t wear a metal ring due to safety risks may opt for silicone rings to meet workplace safety compliance requirements. Other options include wearing the wedding ring — or a pendant — on a necklace or choosing another symbol of the marriage instead of the traditional wedding band.

For people with sensitive skin, hypoallergenic materials can help prevent irritation and redness. Nickel, found in many gold alloys, is the most common allergen. Titanium, platinum, and palladium are hypoallergenic. Speak with your jeweler about options if you seem to be reacting to the metal in your wedding band.

Do wedding bands have to match?

If your ring preferences differ, there’s no reason they have to match. Let your personalities shine in the individual rings you choose. Or, have the wedding rings custom designed to include a little of each style preference. A mixed gold braided ring can incorporate elements you both love.

How to wear engagement rings with wedding rings

If the bride intends to wear her wedding band with her engagement ring, a matching bridal set isn’t required — but the bands should complement each other. Style-wise, ensure the metal tones don’t clash and gemstones look good together. 

Consider shape, too: The contour of the wedding band should fit against the engagement ring’s stone for comfort. Will she wear the ring alone? Consider a more intricate style, such as an anniversary band or gems set prominently. Some people choose to wear their wedding band every day and only don their engagement ring for special occasions; others wear their engagement ring on their right hand and their wedding band on their left.

Choosing a wedding band to match an engagement ring

Use these tips and suggestions to select the perfect band based on your engagement ring style:

  • A ring wrap or enhancer can make the engagement ring stone stand out. These can be designed to suit a variety of stone shapes and settings. A ring wrap is not meant to be worn alone, but rather fits with the engagement ring like a puzzle piece.

  • A notched or contoured wedding band works well with a variety of engagement ring settings, especially those with an unusual shape. The band wraps around the engagement ring’s stone so they sit flush against each other. This style is meant to be worn with the engagement ring.

  • An eternity or anniversary band pairs well with a three-stone engagement ring.

  • A flat wedding band complements a bezel-set stone. The diamond rests above the band for a flush fit.

  • A simple band may be the just-right choice for people who are active or aren’t interested in flashy jewelry. Engraved florals or scrollwork or distressed detailing adds a gorgeous touch to gem-free bands. Suit a minimalist with a thin, unadorned band or add a bit of interest with a sweeping twist rather than a diamond. Rather than gemstones, consider textured, hammered, or engraved bands.

Wedding band styles for men

While the focus is often on the bride’s band, men’s wedding rings are available in a wider variety of options now. Is he drawn to wide bands or narrower rings? Would he prefer bands that match or a unique ring that expresses his sense of style? Men with classic tastes may prefer a straightforward gold or platinum band. If he likes eye-catching styles, consider diamond accents, brushed metal detailing, or two-tone designs.

Wedding ring buying based on hand and finger size

While your personal preference is the most important consideration, some styles fit better with particular hand and finger characteristics. In general: 

  • Most styles look fantastic on long fingers, especially a classic round or princess-cut stone or a wide band.

  • For short fingers, a marquise or oval-shaped stone or a narrow band can create length.

  • An emerald-cut stone, cluster setting, or thicker band complements wide fingers.

  • Large stones can overpower small hands. Opt for a princess or oval cut diamond or an anniversary band with multiple smaller stones rather than a center stone.

  • Large hands are perfect for bold styles: A halo setting, sparkling band, or detail-rich band are gorgeous choices that work well.

How to determine ring size

Hands and fingers change with age or with lost or gained weight. Most rings can be sized up or down to fit, but adjusting the size too much or too often can compromise the metal. Some materials — tungsten and titanium included — are difficult or impossible to resize. To find your ring size, you can get your exact measurement from the jeweler. Otherwise, determine your ring size by measuring yourself.

To measure your ring size at home:

  1. Loop a piece of string around your finger.

  2. Mark the spot where the string meets — allow enough room for your knuckle.

  3. Measure the length of the string in millimeters.

  4. Compare the measurement with the ring size guide provided by your retailer.

  5. Measure the finger you will wear the ring on, as your fingers may be different sizes.

  6. For a comfortable fit, ring measurements should be taken in the evening as hands and fingers may swell throughout the day.

After purchase, your jeweler will ensure an accurate fit. Don’t go for your fitting first thing in the morning or after exercising. 

Your ring should slide over your knuckle without much effort, but should require a bit of gentle force to remove. The ring shouldn’t slip off your knuckle while you’re wearing it. For people with larger knuckles, the ring may slip somewhat due to the extra size necessary. If this is uncomfortable, visit your jeweler for solutions.

Wedding ring engraving ideas

The medieval European custom of engraving messages in wedding bands remains popular. Continue the tradition, or add a unique spin to your bands. 

The cost of wedding band engraving varies. The fee may be by letter or word, and hand-engraving is more expensive than a machine-engraved message. Ask your jeweler how long engraving will take, triple-check the spelling prior to having the work done, and examine the rings to ensure they are correct. Here are a few ideas — sentimental or simple — to get you started: 

  • Your initials and wedding date.

  • A single word such as ‘Always,’ ‘Forever,’ or ‘Yours.

  • An expression of love in English or another language; popular choices include ‘Always and Forever,’ ‘Je t'aime,’ or ‘Mi amor.

  • An engraved image on the outside of the band — a treeline or mountain range for the adventurer, the Eiffel Tower, overlapping hearts, or another meaningful design.

  • Have a special message or symbol laser inscribed in the gemstone itself — it’s only visible under a microscope, and can even help identify the jewelry if lost or stolen.

Put these wedding ring buying tips to good use!

As with all wedding decisions, we recommend tackling your wedding band search like you do most of your adventures: Pay attention to what matters to each of you and have fun!  

NEXT UP: Tips and tricks for planning your own wedding

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Wedding Spot

The Wedding Spot blog is designed to help couples navigate every step of the wedding planning journey. From before the engagement to after you say “I do,” our goal is to give you the tips, ideas, and inspiration to prepare for your big day — and all that comes with it.