1. Narrow Your Choices
Because this is one of the few pieces—if not the only piece—of jewelry you'll shop for together and wear every day, make some preliminary choices before you hit the stores. What color metal do you prefer: yellow, white or rose? Are you interested in something simple or over-the-top? Work these questions out to hone in on what you are looking for.
2. Start Your Search Early
Once you have a basic idea of what you want, head out to the jewelry stores. 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 such as engraving can take up to one month.
3. Be Different
Don't fret if you like platinum while he likes yellow gold. There's no rule that you have to match metals or even styles. Pick wedding bands that reflect each of your style sensibilities and tastes. However, some aspect of the rings (which can be as simple as an inscription) should match.
4. Set a Budget
A plain 14k gold band starts at around $330; plain platinum bands cost upward of $600 apiece. Diamonds can add considerably more to the cost. The price of engraving the inside of the wedding band depends on the font and on whether you have it engraved by hand or machine.
5. Be Practical
Keep your lifestyle in mind at all times. What's the point of buying something pretty if it makes you uncomfortable or you have to remove it often (and increase your chances of losing it)? Remember, you'll be wearing this band every day. The idea is to choose something that seamlessly becomes a part of your life. If you work with your hands often, look for a streamlined ring with little to no frills.
6. Think Long-Term
Don't be afraid to be trendy, but make sure the style you choose is something you'll still want to wear in 20 years (not to mention to all the jobs, PTA meetings and social functions in between).
7. Size It Right
Most people rarely take their wedding band off. They wear them through summer, winter, exercise, pregnancy—all the times when your fingers swell and contract due to heat, cold, water retention and weight gain. To find the size that will best accommodate all these changes, do your "final fitting" when you are calm and your body temperature is normal. Never finalize your ring size in the morning (you retain salt from the night before), after you've just exercised (fingers swell) or when you're extremely hot or cold.
8. Check for Quality
Make sure the inside of the wedding band contains two marks: the manufacturer's trademark (which proves they stand behind their work) and a quality mark ("24k" or "PLAT," for example—proves it is what they say it is). If the ring consists of two or more metals, make sure there is a quality mark for each.
9. Clean It Often
Cleaning your wedding rings is a cinch. For a ring with no stones, simply rub it with a soft, lint-free cloth (chamois is good). If your wedding ring has stones, wash and soak it in warm, sudsy water, and gently brush with a soft toothbrush or an eyebrow brush (too much pressure can loosen the stone from the setting). Then rinse and pat dry with a soft, lint-free cloth.
10. Protect Your Investment
Yes, metals, even platinum, are vulnerable. Avoid wearing your ring when doing rough work or sports (which can nick and scratch a ring) and when working with concentrated chlorine, which is found in bleach, chemical cleaning solutions and swimming pool disinfectants (which can cause pitting or discoloration to your band). Nicks and scratches are most visible on matte finishes and most easily affect platinum, which is softer than white or yellow gold on the surface but more durable overall. Luckily it's easy for your jeweler to reapply or change the finish or plating on your ring to restore its former glory.
11. Keep It Safe
You'd be surprised (and probably a bit scared) at how easy it is to lose a ring. Hopefully you've chosen something that you rarely have to remove. When you absolutely have to remove your ring, put it in a designated place so you'll always know where it is (pockets don't count), and never near a sink. The most dangerous time to remove your wedding ring? When you're away from home. That's when rings are most likely to be lost or set down and forgotten.