Although gold is still the metal of choice for wedding rings, platinum has become extremely popular as a bridal metal. The allure of platinum is its unparalleled strength, durability and purity. Many wedding rings also combine the warmth of yellow gold with the cool white of platinum, providing a contemporary twist to a traditional classic.
For those who like the look of platinum but can't afford it, there is always white gold. White gold, which is pure gold that has been mixed with nickel, zinc, silver or other white metals, costs considerably less than platinum, but is also less durable.
Not only can today's brides and grooms choose from a dizzying array of fashionable solid metal bands, but they can also opt for wedding rings with diamonds or colored stones. Channel set bands - rings with a line of small diamonds set in a groove, or channel, along the band - are particularly popular.
An increasing number of men are choosing wedding rings with diamonds, as well. One word of caution, however: when buying either a men's or women's diamond wedding band, make sure the stones are small enough so they don't overpower the engagement ring.
Other considerations for buying a wedding ring include:
Consider your lifestyle. If you or your spouse are athletic, outdoor types or work with your hands, pure gold (24 karat) probably isn't the choice for you because it's scratches and shows wear easily due to its softness.
Consider your existing jewelry. Look at the kind of jewelry and watches you already wear, and consider how your wedding band will look next to them. A bride-to-be also needs to consider whether she'll wear her wedding band and engagement ring on the same finger, or whether she will move her engagement ring to her right hand and just wear the band on her left. If she plans to wear them together, she'll need to choose a wedding band that matches the engagement ring and sits comfortably against it.
Establish a budget. Plain gold bands can be bought for less than $150, but fashion comes with a price. High-fashion bands with diamonds or other gemstones can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, depending on the size and quality of the stones and the workmanship of the piece. Also keep in mind that a men's band tends to be more expensive than a woman's, because it tends to be larger, wider and denser.