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SAVE SOME MOOLAH

Need to save money on your wedding rings? Here are four ways to do it:

  • If you're interested in a white metal, buy white gold instead of platinum (white gold costs approximately 45% less than platinum).
  • You'll tend to spend less if you buy a matching or coordinating set (half as much, according to the Diamond Information Center) as opposed to choosing individual rings; you'll save even more if you two -- or your fiscally gifted fiance -- buy a "trio," a set consisting of her engagement ring plus his-and-hers wedding bands.
  • Go generic and flourish-free. Avoid a designer's version of a "plain" band -- the brand name will jack up the price -- and opt for the epitome of eternity symbols: no fancy details, period.
  • Upgrade on your fifth anniversary. If you can't afford your heart's desire now, swing what you can with the promise of a considerable upgrade when your funds are a little more liquid (start saving now!).

diamond engagement rings

Wedding Rings: 10 Commandments

Choosing wedding rings that you love and can live with forever is easy with our 10 easy-to-follow commandments.

Photo: Ryan Phillips Photography

Certain buying basics apply to all jewelry, but when it comes to your wedding rings, that pair of bands you'll wear for countless anniversaries to come, a different set of shopping tips apply. Here are our 10 commandments to finding, affording, and caring for your all-important wedding rings.

mix it up

Freaking out because she likes platinum, he likes yellow gold? Don't even worry about it -- there's no rule that you have to match. It's more important that you each have a ring you're happy with and will enjoy wearing.

Narrow Your Choices

Because this is one of the few pieces -- if not the only piece -- of jewelry you'll both shop for and wear, make some preliminary decisions (flip through magazines and browse jewelry stores to get ideas). What color metal are you interested in -- yellow or white? Perhaps all the jewelry you own is gold, but he wants a white metal to match his watch. Compromise: Look for bands that have both yellow and white metals. Are you interested in something simple or eye catching? What about a wedding band with diamonds or colored gems?

Set a Budget

A set of simple gold bands will cost from $125 to $200 each; plain platinum bands run $400 to $600 each. Diamond wedding bands average $742, according to the Diamond Information Center. Engraving on the inside of the wedding band can cost from $1 to $8 per character (letter or number), depending on the font and whether you have it engraved by hand or machine.

Start Browsing Early

Begin looking for your wedding bands at least two months before your wedding date. This gives you time to browse and revisit rings that catch your eye. (Browsing is an important part of the process: Don't skip this step and buy the first thing you see.) Allow even more time if you're interested in a custom piece. Keep in mind that engraving can take up to one month.

Think Practical

Keep your lifestyle in mind at all times: What's the point of buying something pretty if it makes you uncomfortable or you have to remove it often (and increase your chances of losing it)? Remember: You will wear this band everyday. The idea is to choose something that becomes a part of your life seamlessly. For example, those who enjoy -- or pursue for a living -- sports or music should avoid wide, bulky bands and opt for a slimmer ring with rounded edges (appropriately called a "comfort fit"). Those who work with their hands a lot might want to avoid the hassle of a diamond engagement ring or wedding band and opt for something simpler that can't trap dirt. If you're allergic to certain metal alloys, invest in platinum. Its purity renders it hypoallergenic for most people.

Do the 20-Year Test

Don't be afraid to be different, but make sure the style you choose is something you'll still want to wear in 20 years (not to mention at all the jobs, PTA meetings, and social functions in between).

Be Smart About Size

Most people rarely take their wedding bands off; they wear them through summers, winters, menstruation, exercise, pregnancies -- all times when your fingers swell and contract due to heat, cold, water retention, and weight gain. To find the size that will best weather all these changes, do your "final fitting" when you are calm and your body temperature is normal. Never finalize your ring size in the morning (you retain salt from the night before); after you’ve just exercised (fingers swell); or when you're extremely hot or cold.

Check for Quality

This applies to all rings, but it bears repeating here. Make sure wedding bands have two marks inside the shank ("ring" part of the ring): the manufacturer's trademark (proves they stand behind their work) and quality mark (24K or PLAT, for example -- proves that it's what they say it is). If the ring consists of two or more metals, make sure there is a quality mark for each.

Keep It Clean

Cleaning your wedding rings is a cinch. For a ring with no stones, simply rub it with a soft, lint-free cloth (chamois is good). Grease can be removed by dipping the band in alcohol; tarnish can be cleaned with a solution of soap, water, and a few drops of ammonia (simply brush the ring with a soft toothbrush, rinse -- make sure the drain is closed! -- and dry with a soft cloth). If your wedding ring has stones, wash and soak it in warm sudsy water; brush with a soft toothbrush or eyebrow brush; rinse; and pat dry with a soft lint-free cloth.

Protect Your Investment

Yes, metals -- even platinum -- are vulnerable. Real life will never allow your rings to be completely blemish-free, but avoid wearing your ring when doing rough work or sports (which can nick and scratch your rings) and when working with concentrated chlorine, such as that found in bleaches, cleaners, and swimming pool disinfectants (which can cause pitting or discoloration to your band). Nicks and scratches are most obvious on matte finishes and most easily affect platinum, which is softer than white or yellow gold on the surface, but more durable overall. Luckily it's easy for your jeweler to reapply -- or change -- the finish or plating on your ring to restore its former glory.

Safety First

You'd be surprised how easy it is to lose your ring. Hopefully, you've chosen something that you rarely have to remove. When you absolutely have to do the deed, put it in a designated place so you'll always know where it is (pockets don't count) and never near a sink. If it doesn't fall down the drain on its own, your cat will help it along. The most dangerous time to remove your wedding ring? When you're away from home. That's when rings are most likely to be lost or set down and forgotten.

-- Lori Seto

See More: Engagement Rings , Wedding Accessories + Wedding Jewelry