How much money should you spend on a wedding ring? That's a question that haunts many couples planning their big event. There are lots of choices. How does one decide?
Wedding rings are a big expense, possibly the largest one you’ll have made as a couple. In fact, 72% of proposees reported being involved in the selection of their engagement ring, according to The Knot 2020 Jewelry & Engagement Study.
How Much Money Should You Spend on a Wedding Ring?
Who Says Diamonds Are Forever?
More and more, couples are forgoing the traditional diamond solitaire engagement ring and gold wedding bands and spending their money on non-traditional and more budget-friendly options.
When it comes to buying your wedding bands or an engagement ring, the most important thing to consider is your budget, practicality, and the sentiment itself. There are so many factors that go into paying for your wedding. There’s no need to go into debt when there are so many options available to suit your financial situation ahead of your life together.
Choosing a wedding ring is a personal decision, but there are ways to break down the cost to make sure it aligns with your budget and won’t put you both in debt before you walk down the aisle.
It Depends Where You Live.
The national average cost of an engagement ring is currently around $5,500, according to the study. The amount people spend varies depending on which part of the country they live in. For example, couples in the mid-Atlantic spend the most (around $7,600) while couples from the Southeast spent the least, around an average of $5,200.
That said, there’s absolutely no hard and fast rule about spending that much on a wedding ring. The study found that one-fourth of all respondents spend between $1,000 to $3,000 on their engagement rings, with 11% of ring shoppers spending under $1,000.
Taylor Lanore, the diamond consultant and PR director for Ring Concierge, told Brides magazine that it’s all about your budget and what you feel comforting spending on the ring and the rock.
“Spend whatever you're comfortable with—there's no reason to go into debt,” she said. “It also depends on your partner's preferences. There are ways to accomplish any look for any budget.”
The 4 Cs Determine How Much to Spend on a Diamond
Several factors will affect how much you’ll spend on a ring. When it comes to diamonds, the cut, carats, color, and clarity of the stone will affect the price.
The cut of a diamond refers to its facets, symmetry, dimensions, and reflective qualities. The finer the cut of a diamond, the greater its brilliance and “fire.” Carats refers to the weight of the stone. A diamond's color is actually measured by lack of color– the highest quality diamonds are completely colorless, whereas lower quality diamonds can have a yellowish or milky tint. A diamond’s clarity is a measure of internal flaws and visible imperfections.
Beyond the 4Cs, the cost of a wedding ring, whether it’s an engagement ring or a wedding band, can depend on where or how you purchase it. For example, an upscale jewelry store may charge $10,000 for a 1-carat diamond ring in a yellow gold setting, while the same ring may retail for $7,000 online. It comes down to preference and presentation. Some customers are happy to pay extra to present the ring in an iconic blue Tiffany box, while others would rather put that extra $3K toward other aspects of the wedding (or their savings).
The shape of a diamond will also affect the price. Round diamonds tend to be the priciest, but other shapes (such as princess, emerald, pear, or Asscher) are just as sparkly and can offer more bang for the buck without sacrificing quality.
“The traditional round cut can be 30% more expensive than any other cut,” said Jessica Bishop, founder of Budget Savvy Bride. “You could save money by choosing a different cut for your diamond other than round.”
Settings and Metals Affect the Cost of a Ring
Whether you’re choosing the setting for an engagement ring or shopping for wedding bands, you’ll spend more depending on the metal you choose.
“Fine jewelry is crafted with precious, or noble metals, like platinum, gold, and sometimes sterling silver,” said Lauren McCawley, a jewelry expert who studied at the Gemological Institute of America. “Alternative metals offer a more budget-savvy option, but they have compromises. For example, a tungsten carbide ring cannot be resized.”
Platinum, white gold, yellow gold, rose gold, and palladium are common wedding ring metals. While platinum is usually the priciest metal, it can also be the most durable. It’s important to balance practical thinking into your budget when choosing the metal. If you work with your hands, you may want to choose a harder metal, such as platinum or palladium, that’s less likely to dent or bend.
The band's width will also affect how much you’ll spend since it takes more metal to create an 8mm ring than a 2mm. Wedding bands can also come in different finishes, such as brushed, matte, hammered, or sandblasted. Adding custom etching, engraving, and stones to the band or setting can give your band a unique look and add to the cost.
While many couples choose to match the metals from the engagement ring to the wedding band, there’s no hard and fast rule. Many couples mix metals (such as platinum and yellow gold) to create a unique look that suits both.
Spend Less – Ditch the Diamonds
Non-diamond engagement rings had a global moment when Prince William presented Kate Middleton with an antique 12-carat oval sapphire ring surrounded by diamonds. And while you may not have a family heirloom at your disposal, forgoing the diamond can lower the cost of the ring without sacrificing beauty or skimping on the quality of the stone.
Emeralds, rubies, and sapphires are popular stones of choice for ring shoppers, but truly the options are endless. Jewelers can offer or create rings with pearls, opals, amethysts, aquamarine, or really, any other gemstone that suits your taste.
When choosing a stone, it’s important to talk to a jewelry specialist to understand if it’s appropriate for the wearer’s lifestyle. An opal, for example, is more fragile and may crack when struck against a surface or exposed to extreme temperatures. Protective settings can help cradle softer gemstones against impact and everyday wear and tear, but they may add more to the cost.
“Consider your partner’s lifestyle and hobbies to prevent the ring from getting damaged. If someone is going to wear it every day, it needs to be practical and comfortable,” said Bishop.
Antique or Vintage Weddings Rings
Antique wedding bands and engagement rings can add rich history and “something old” to your nuptials. Whether it’s Art Deco or Victorian, a vintage or antique wedding ring can offer unique period design details that will set it apart from others. To confirm that your wedding ring is actually an antique and not a copy of antique design or reproduction, it’s always best to buy the ring from a reputable vintage or antique ring dealer who can confirm the age of the ring and the quality of the stones and metals.
While an older ring may cost less, there are still things to consider. Because rings (and hands) were smaller 100 years ago, you may need to pay extra to have the band resized. Some designs have smaller stones that may require more care–replacing the tiny diamonds in an Art Deco style ring, for example, can add to the cost of maintaining the ring.
Payment Plans and Financing for Wedding Rings
There are ways to pay for your wedding bands and an engagement ring if you don’t have thousands of dollars on hand. If you can’t purchase your rings outright, many reputable jewelers allow you to finance if you purchase the thing with a credit card associated with the retailer. If you can open a credit card account with an 0% introductory APR, you can purchase the ring and pay it off before higher interest rates kick in.
If you want to divide up your payments without putting them on a traditional credit card, you may be able to use a financial service like Affirm, Klarna, and Afterpay to pay off your purchase over time.
And while most jewelers may not advertise this, it’s possible to negotiate a ring's price if you offer to pay in cash.
Before you put thousands of dollars on a credit card, remember, a “good deal” on a wedding ring can go sour once you factor in hundreds or thousands of dollars in interest payments over time.
Ultimately, the choice comes down to your partner and how you view wedding rings' entire idea and what they symbolize, beyond the cost. The most important thing to do when deciding how much to spend on wedding rings is to keep your entire wedding budget planning in mind.
“Your partner may feel like spending a huge amount on a ring is unnecessary and that your money would be better invested elsewhere,” said Bishop. “It’s important to get a better idea of what your partner likes from those closest to her so you can settle on a ring that they’ll love and that your wallet can actually afford.”