When Matt Hagel, 28, began shopping around for a wedding band, his primary goal wasn’t snagging a good deal—it was finding the perfect style.
Hagel’s first stop on his search was a jewelry store in New York City’s diamond district, where he bought his fiancée’s engagement ring. The jeweler showed him a sleek tungsten carbide ring, with a black carbon fiber inlay, that Hagel loved. The price: $300. Not bad, Hagel thought.
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Still, being an inveterate comparison shopper, he couldn’t help but surf around online to see if e-prices for the ring were in the same ballpark. Several internet retailers listed a similar cost—and then Hagel found what looked to be the same ring on Amazon. The asking price? A little less than $25!
Hagel was skeptical at first, but he figured that he had nothing to lose. After all, Amazon was a reputable online retailer with a generous return policy. If the ring didn’t work out, he could easily send it back.
To Hagel's surprise, when the band arrived it looked exactly like the $300 model that he first spotted at the jewelry store. “The most important thing was getting something that I liked, but I was happy to find it priced for much less online,” says Hagel, who’s getting married in July. “I don’t need to spend $1,000 on a ring when I’ve never spent a dollar buying jewelry for myself.”
Hagel isn’t the only groom-to-be who’s finding novel ways to save money on wedding expenses. Long gone are the days of the “whatever you want, honey” fiancé who takes a passive role when it comes to wedding-day pomp, prep and payments. And since more couples are tying the knot later—and subsequently putting their own funds toward the nuptials—there's increased interest in racking up savings wherever possible. Translation: When someone else isn’t footing the bill, you’re less likely to throw down $500 here and there on those big-day expenses.
And the first place where grooms are opting to cut costs is in the wedding band department. According to the 2011's Wedding Report, the average groom spends about $572 on his ring, but we tracked down thrifty guys who found smart ways to slash that amount by more than 70%—some even spent less than 50 bucks!
Wise Guys Shop Online
Traditionally, brides have made the jewelry decisions, from the engagement ring to matching his-and-hers wedding bands. But now grooms are having their say about what kind of ring they'll wear—and how much they're willing to spend.
“Plenty of grooms are opting for cheaper metals, like titanium, ceramic and cobalt,” says Ira Weissman, founder of Truth About Diamonds, a shopping guide for wedding and engagement rings. “These alternative metals often have a more masculine look that appeals to men who might otherwise be averse to wearing jewelry. Not only are these materials less expensive than gold and platinum, but they’re also more durable.”
And, says Weissman, cost-conscious grooms needn’t look any further than the web to find such alternative metals at a great price. Compared to brick-and-mortar stores, online retailers—bluenile.com and jamesallen.com are popular with the wedding crowd—not only have more styles to choose from, but they also offer more than 20% in savings in many cases.
Bradway's decision to not shell out too much for his ring was a wise one: He lost it—seven months into his marriage.
For Adam Torkildson, budget-minded e-shopping turned out to be one of the best wedding-related money decisions that the 30-year-old made. Torkildson, who lives in American Fork, Utah, with his wife and two kids, bought his white gold ring and her platinum band online for less than $200—combined. It was a good thing that he got a bargain, too, because he lost his ring ... in a water-sliding mishap.
“I was trying to show my kids how to go down the slide on just your hands, and my ring fell off on the way down,” he says. Torkildson replaced his band for a mere $100 on Overstock.com—this time opting for titanium, which he hoped would give him the look of white gold with more durability. “My first ring held up pretty well in terms of shine, but there were scratches on it,” he explains, adding that his titanium model has retained its blemish-free luster.
A Penny Saved on a Ring Lost
For the groom-to-be who may read Torkildson’s tale and think, “Come on, that would never happen to me,” it's worth noting that the newly betrothed misplace wedding rings more often than you'd think.
Consider this recent New York Times article, “Without This Ring: Losing a Wedding Band,” in which couples reported losing a ring at everything from a Halloween party to a lake. And sometimes the band’s disappearance was so mysterious that it was as if it had vanished into thin air. Given this, what husband wouldn’t feel better about replacing a $50 ring versus a $500 one?
Take the cautionary tale of Todd Bradway, 36, who opted to get a simple platinum band precisely because of his propensity for misplacing things. “My wife and I had been together for ten years before we got married, so she knew that I had a tendency to lose stuff,” explains Bradway, who lives in New York City. Bradway's decision to not shell out too much for his ring was a wise one: He lost it—seven months into his marriage.
The minute that Bradway realized his ring was gone, he tried to call the Connecticut dealer from whom he bought the band, but the jeweler no longer carried the same style. The following day, when Bradway’s wife noticed his ringless finger, he was forced to come clean. "At first, I was like, 'No, no, you're being ridiculous,' " he recalls. "But she knows me too well. When I fessed up, she was bummed ... but not for long, thankfully."
Bradway is glad that he didn’t splurge on his first band, which made it less financially painful to pony up for a new one. He wonders, too, if maybe his wife went easy on him because he’d put the money that he saved on his original ring toward her diamond eternity band—which he knows she'll guard with her life.
Two Rings for (Less Than) the Price of One
With such great deals to be had on rings, some grooms don't blink twice at the idea of purchasing a band ... or two.
Jonathan Ness, 32, found the perfect ring online for $20, plus tax. Of course, the Colorado Springs resident didn't set out to shell out so little. When he and his wife became engaged, the couple thought they'd be paying for their own wedding, so the pair set a very strict budget—which only left $100 for his ring.
Armed with this modest figure, Ness went online to shop for a tungsten band, but when he spotted a steel number, he knew that he'd hit the jackpot. “It was exactly what I wanted,” says Ness, who got married in May. “It has a hammered look, with beveled edges.” The only downside? He wears a 9 1/2, and it wasn’t available in half sizes, so he just purchased two—a size 9 and a size 10. “Now I wear whichever one is more comfortable that day,” he says.
Of course, the only thing that beats a cheap ring is a free one.
Jason Simms, 29, lucked out when he scored a hand-me-down ring from his father. “I looked at tons of bands before I realized that I was looking for one just like the ring that my father wore for most of my childhood,” says Simms, who lives in Old Lyme, Connecticut. “It’s a gold plate ring with a southwestern pattern on it and, in my mind, it’s what my wedding band should be.” When Simms asked for the ring, his dad was happy to give it to him.
"It will be nice to have a little bit of my dad with me," says Simms, who's set to tie the knot this August. "My parents have been married for 35 years, and he's the rock of the family. It's the best example of what a husband should be."
They say that brides are the mushy ones, but sometimes sentimentality counts for the groom too—and saving money is a happy bonus.