Can I afford a wedding ring?


Image Gallery: Diamond Engagement Rings The perfect wedding ring doesn't have to cost thousands, as long as the right person is slipping it on your finger. See pictures of diamond engagement rings.
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Jewelers may be happy to meet young couples who are about to commit to each other and forge a loving and (hopefully) lifelong bond. But chances are excellent said jewelers are infinitely happier about the sizeable amount of cash the couple is about to plunk down on wedding rings. After all, everyone's got a mortgage to pay, right?

When it comes to engagement rings, jewelers say they should cost the equivalent of two months' salary (a figure that probably comes before taxes). But in terms of wedding rings, fiancés should definitely evaluate their own financial situation to determine an ideal price range. Perhaps the couple is looking to save a little in this department -- maybe deciding to go somewhat less expensive now and splurge on fancier rings 10 years down the line. Or maybe they feel wedding rings are a priority and deserve a decent chunk of the wedding budget. Whichever the case, once a price range has been established, a couple should make every effort to stick to it.

There are quite a few factors that affect the cost of wedding rings. At the very minimum, you have a band that can be made from a variety of metals such as platinum, palladium, titanium, tungsten, silver or yellow, white or rose gold. If you do go with the classic gold, the alloy not only determines the color but the karat as well, resulting in different levels of strength and purity. The band can be narrow, wide or somewhere in between to suit your own tastes. If you aren't into the traditional band, though, there are whole host of customizable options. The rings can be engraved, curved or bejeweled. If there's a rock involved, the possibilities, and the prices, can skyrocket. You'll be looking at the four C's when it comes to stones: cut, color, clarity and carat.

If you need to find rings that are a little more affordable -- and often uniquely vintage -- there's the option of heirloom rings, antique rings or rings from estate sales. You can either use the ring as is, or retain the band and replace the rock. If the antique jewelry doesn't suit your taste at all, a jeweler can sometimes recast the metal or reset the stones to create a custom piece.

You'll also want to think about the rings practically -- after all, this is a piece of jewelry you may wear the rest of your life. Do the rings coordinate well with you and your future spouse's style? Will the new additions clash with other potential jewelry (especially that engagement ring)? Are the bands comfortable and practical to wear?

Most importantly, remember that wedding rings symbolize love and a special bond between two people. Plenty of perfectly nice rings are completely affordable, and if slipped on the hand of your significant other at the emotional peak of your wedding day, that's really all that matters, right?