Start Your Search Early
If you're like most couples, you'll have a basic idea of what you want before you head out to the jewelry stores, but that doesn't mean you won't find five different bands you love once you start shopping. Give yourselves at least two months to browse, research, price, and revisit rings that catch your eye. Allow even more time if you're interested in a custom piece -- extras like engraving can take up to one month. If you're pressed for time, you may need to save the sweet talk for later. Ask if you can bring your wedding rings back for engraving before you buy.
Have a Budget
Shop with the assumption that you're going to spend about 3 percent of your total wedding budget on rings. The average price for a gold band is around $150. For a platinum band, the average rises to $600 or $700. Diamonds can add considerably more to the cost.
Consider Form and Function
Basing your ring decision on looks alone is like choosing a groom without having spoken to him first. (Even though he looks like Brad Pitt he might turn out to be a dud.) Your ring should respect your lifestyle: Those who enjoy sports or music should opt for a slimmer ring with rounded edges (appropriately called a "comfort fit"), rather than a wide, bulky band. Those who work with their hands will want a simple, solid metal ring, as stones can come loose and carvings will trap dirt. And those who are highly allergic to certain metal alloys will want to invest in platinum, as its purity renders it hypoallergenic for most people.
Inspect for Quality
Wedding bands should have two marks inside the band: the first is the manufacturer's trademark (which proves that the company stands behind its work), and second is the quality mark (24K or PLAT, for example, which 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.
This is a ring that's going to have to look cool for a long time, so select a style that will look as great with jeans as it will with that Armani suit you're going to own in 20 years. Stick with a basic shape and a clean finish, and avoid unusual stones that will be over next week. Mix metals -- like many ring designers are doing -- if you're someone who wears both gold and silver on a day-to-day basis. Make sure your wedding band is one you'll want to wear 'til...well, you know.
Knot Note: You don't have to marry your ring. If you can't afford your hearts' desire, swing what you can (white gold) with the promise of an upgrade (diamonds) on your third anniversary.
Just because you and your fiance are a perfect match doesn't mean your rings need to be. Feel free to pick wedding bands that reflect each of your style sensibilities and tastes. Some aspect should match, which can be as simple as metal or inscriptions.
Size It Right
Never finalize your ring size in the morning (you retain water from the night before), after exercise (fingers swell), during menstruation (swelling, again), or when you're extremely hot or cold. Do your "final fitting" when you are calm and your body temperature is normal.
Rings, clockwise from top: A vintage white gold ring with an emerald cut center stone by Christopher Designs; Stackable white gold rings with diamonds or blue sapphires by Suzanne Felsen; An intricate openwork platinum band of diamonds by Fusaro.
See More: Engagement Rings , Wedding Accessories + Wedding Jewelry