Weddings are expensive.
Weddings are so expensive, in fact, that even as the typical wedding involves fewer guests, the average cost for what's typically a five-hour event has shot up to $31,213, as of 2014 according to a survey conducted by The Knot, a multi-platform wedding resource. And the price continues to increase.
And when you've already resigned yourself to the fact that you're supposed to spend tens of thousands to have your perfect day, what's another couple of thousand on a groom’s ring, right?
A wedding band is another piece in the up-sell of everything that goes into a wedding
It's almost too easy to want to spend money on your wedding; we see them as special, once-in-a-lifetime events wherein every item is a symbol, wrought with sentiment and meaning.
However, many of the aspects of a wedding that we think of as long-held, important traditions are actually relatively new inventions thought up by the wedding business to make money. The diamond engagement ring – almost entirely a 20th century creation at the hands of De Beers and its hired marketers – is perhaps the most famous example.
The groom’s wedding band is no different.
While there is evidence of women wearing wedding rings back to ancient Egypt, research indicates that it wasn't the norm for men to wear wedding bands before World War II.
There are a couple of theories behind the birth of the two-ring trend: when men went off to fight in the second World War, many of them were said to have worn wedding bands to reminisce upon their wives back home. Other sources point to the growing gender equality between men and women -- if the woman is wearing a ring, so should the man.
Whatever the reason, jewelers were all too happy to take the opportunity to sell yet another expensive item to American lovebirds -- and it worked.
Yet, while men and women have taken great strides toward equality, the same cannot be said of our wedding bands. It is not uncommon for a woman's wedding band to have a high level of artistry -- diamonds and semi-precious stones, halos, eternity settings -- while most men prefer a simple sliver of metal, which could be achieved easily by even the most novice jeweler.
But because they both fit into that same "wedding" box, men will pay far more than what they have to for what amounts to an inornate band, simply because soon-to-be newlyweds approach the purchase with their eyes closed and their wallets open.
The bulk of the upcharge comes by convincing men to stick to rings made of platinum or gold if they want something that will last a lifetime.
But the simplicity that many men want in their wedding bands offers the opportunity to go with a less traditional material that will be as durable -- if not more durable -- for a lot less money.
One option that is particularly well-suited to the simple designs of men’s wedding bands is titanium. While it is very difficult to solder and thus not as great a choice for more ornate jewelry that might have to be re-sized, titanium is inexpensive to machine into simple circles of a given size. Moreover, titanium is biocompatible – meaning you won’t have an allergic reaction to wearing it – and less susceptible to tarnish and scratches than more expensive metals including gold.
Another material that takes advantage of the relatively simple design of men’s wedding rings is tungsten carbide. This chemical compound is extremely hard so you wouldn’t be able to re-size anything made of it, but can be pressed into pre-determined shapes for a relatively low price. The resultant hardness means that tungsten carbide rings are extremely durable and very difficult to scratch. However, it is important to note that different manufacturers use different compositions of tungsten and carbon, with nickel and cobalt often involved as well, and that the different combinations can mean that these rings can differ greatly in physical properties. As always, read reviews to have the best idea of what you’re getting.
Besides these two, jewelers also offer men’s wedding rings in any number of novel, inexpensive materials that include, but are certainly not limited to, ceramics, steel, meteorite, and dinosaur bone. Needless to say, with a little creativity and legwork you can find something meaningful that won’t break the bank – a welcome relief given the high cost of other aspects of getting married.
Christina Garofalo is co-author of the blog Adventures in Frugal, where she writes about travel, food, finance, and more. Her writing has also appeared in Paste, First We Feast, Robb Report, and Art & Hustle. In her free time, you'll find her writing poetry and eating her way through Brooklyn, New York.
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