Engagement rings & wedding rings: How much should you spend?

Asking your partner for their hand in marriage is a big step. How could plans to spend your life with someone not be? And with that commitment may come pressure to buy the perfect rings for the proposal and ceremony.

But does how much—or how little—you spend on wedding and engagement rings matter? 

Key takeaways

  • There’s no official rule about wedding or engagement rings—even that they’re necessary. Your and your partner’s taste and budget should come first.
  • If you choose to buy a ring, how much you might spend is based on the type of ring you buy, including which stones are used, which settings and more.
  • Comparison shopping and making sure you’re getting the best deal can help alleviate some of the high costs of wedding rings.

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How much should you spend on an engagement ring?

There’s no set dollar amount everyone should follow when it comes to how much you should spend on an engagement ring. It’s up to each individual person, their budget, their comfort level with the spending amount, and the quality of the product. 

That means if someone finds a $400 ring, they shouldn’t feel obligated to put it down and grab a $10,000 ring instead. But there are some guidelines you can follow to take some of the guesswork out of buying a ring.

Average cost of an engagement ring

Just like with ring sizes, there’s no one-size-fits-all ring budget. But knowing what others are spending might help you determine what you can expect to pay.

The average cost of an engagement ring was $6,000 in 2021, according to wedding site The Knot. But that varies a lot by the 4 C’s of diamonds: cut, color, clarity and carat. 

The Robbins Brothers, a fine jewelry company that’s been making rings for more than 100 years, says each component plays an important part in determining the best ring for you.

  • Cut: The cut refers to how a diamond is shaped. It considers the dimensions, the proportions, and how these components make up the diamond’s sparkle. If a diamond is too shallow or deep, light will escape through the sides or the bottom of the stone, making the cut less sparkly. 
  • Color: Color ranges from colorless to a light yellow. Colorless is the rarest color, which makes it the most expensive type of diamond. Very light yellow is the least expensive color.
  • Clarity: This is determined by tiny cuts within the stone. Some markings are flawless, the most expensive and rare type. Others are “included,” and they’re more common and less expensive. Between those two, there are variations at fluctuating prices.
  • Carat: The carat is how much the diamond weighs. The more carats, the bigger and heavier the stone. But bigger doesn’t always mean pricier. A 24-carat light yellow “included” stone could cost less than a 12-carat colorless, flawless stone.

Each component of the 4 C’s is important in its own right, so try to consider each one when reviewing different diamonds. These C’s are not to be confused with the Five C’s of credit, which might also be useful if you’re planning to finance your ring purchase.

The two-months’ salary rule

How you pay for your engagement ring comes down to what you can afford. Almost a century ago, the ring company De Beers advertised that spending a month’s salary on a diamond engagement ring was sufficient. Keep in mind that a diamond isn’t required to be included in engagement rings, but diamonds make up the vast majority of engagement ring stones.

In the 1980s, the norm became spending the equivalent of two months’ salary on an engagement ring. Nowadays, three months is more of a guideline and less of a rule.

Because there are so many factors that go into building and buying the right ring for your partner, you might find the right fit is well within your current budget. For some other people, the perfect ring might cost more or less than what you spend. 

It depends on your circumstances, so the so-called rule doesn’t fit everyone. In 2019, most people spent about two weeks of pay on an engagement ring, according to a study from Morning Consult and the New York Times.

How to set an engagement ring budget

What you should spend on an engagement ring isn’t necessarily what most people spend. You can create an engagement ring budget based on:

  • Materials: Think of the metal, stone, size and quality of each part of the ring. Remember that each of the 4 C’s carries its own spectrum of quality. 
  • Extra features: If you want engraving or a unique message marked inside your ring, that may cost extra compared to rings without engraving.
  • Insurance: Like home insurance, auto insurance and health insurance, engagement ring policies are there in case a ring is lost or stolen. You can buy a separate engagement ring insurance policy if you feel the value of the ring is worth it. But it might be worth weighing your options. Some homeowners insurance policies might cover jewelry. 

How to save money on an engagement ring

There are a lot of traditional avenues you can take when it comes to buying an engagement ring. But you aren’t required to follow them. 

Maybe you have an heirloom ring from your family that you would like your partner to have—or they have one they would like to wear. In that case, you might only have to pay for the resizing of the ring to fit your partner’s finger.

You might find that a ring with many smaller stones is more affordable than one with one big stone. Or you can forgo a diamond altogether and get a different stone instead. Buying a ring online might cost less than getting one in person, but you’re taking a gamble by not seeing the ring firsthand. If you go that route, make sure you understand the return policy in case you end up with something you or your partner doesn’t like. 

If you end up getting a ring in person, ask about any discounts or deals the seller has. Many stores run promotional periods, so if you aren’t in a rush to get a ring, you might score a special price.

How much should you spend on a wedding band?

Wedding bands vary widely depending on materials, stones and other factors. And bands for men and bands for women are priced differently.

Average wedding band cost for men

The average cost of a wedding band for men is about $510, according to The Knot. The price can vary significantly based on the metal used. Titanium is the least expensive, while platinum costs the most.

Average wedding band cost for women

The Knot says the average price of a wedding band for women is more than double that of men’s, around $1,100. Customization can play a big part in cost. If the band is only metal, the cost may come down compared to bands that include diamonds and other stones.

Ring budgets in a nutshell

It might be a good idea to do some research and talk with your partner before buying an engagement ring or wedding rings. Price-comparison shopping is great for most purchases, including rings.

Whether you’re deciding on rings or catering, DJ or live band, it’s your big day, so try to create a wedding budget that’s best for you. And if you’re looking for some extra help, check out more tips on wedding planning and budgeting

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