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Battle of the Bands

By Kirsten Valle

Posted: Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009

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Photo by Critsey Rowe

Kirsten Valle is a business reporter for the Observer. She can be reached at kvalle@charlotteobserver.com.

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One of the hardest parts of planning a wedding is the realization that most of its parts are fleeting. The flowers will wilt, the food will be eaten, even the dress will be packed in tissue paper stored away. It's thousands of dollars for one day – the equivalent, a family friend once said, of buying a Mercedes, taking a four-hour joyride and then totaling the car.

That's why Reese and I were relieved to begin shopping for our wedding bands, enjoying the permanence and symbolism of the purchase. We arrived at the jewelry store near SouthPark one recent Saturday, almost a year to the day after we nervously browsed the store on our first trip to look at engagement rings. The same saleswoman who patiently helped us through the complexities of settings and the four C's was there on this day, too.

Finding my band was easy. The designer of my engagement ring makes a matching wedding ring: a thin circle of metal encrusted with delicate pave-set diamonds. I tried on a similar style in the store, holding my left arm out and fluttering my fingers under the bright jewelry-store lights, admiring the sparkles. I winced, though, when I saw the price – and again when the saleswoman reminded us that gold and platinum were at record highs these days.

Meanwhile, Reese was carefully checking out the selection of men's bands, peering into the glass case and quietly vetoing one style after another. I found this whole process intriguing, because jewelry on most guys our age is just so…unnatural. I've heard too many stories of grooms who lost their wedding rings – in the ocean on the honeymoon, down the drain in the kitchen – and I'm convinced that it's because they just aren't used to wearing the things in the first place. I imagine that once they become accustomed to that added weight around their ring finger – and the strange, sinking feeling when that weight isn't there – the rings are a little safer. Or at least I hope.

Beyond that, though, many guys just don't like jewelry. Reese, for instance, has a nice watch he got for his graduation a few years back that mostly sits on top of his dresser, because it's too heavy, he says. And the last time we were in that very jewelry store, making final decisions about my engagement ring, he slipped on a men's band – only to promptly freak out, thinking he'd gotten it stuck on his finger. Once the saleswoman assured him that wasn't likely, he slid the ring off, set it down and didn't mention it again until months after we were engaged.

This time, though, he seemed interested in finding the perfect one. Nothing too flashy – a beautiful ring in shiny platinum with one tiny diamond on the inside edge? Too much, he said. His favorite was among the simplest: a thin, unadorned, lightly polished band. He examined it on his hand. It looked so grown-up, so elegant, I thought. So real. I almost teared up in the store.

Eventually we nestled the rings back into their velvet display and left the jewelry store. A few days later, the jeweler called with updated prices and specifics on ordering the rings, and Reese and I decided we'll buy them soon, before the prices climb any higher and with plenty of time before the wedding in case something goes wrong.

The purchase will be one more step, one more hefty payout, one more pretty thing in the parade of pretty things that comes with a wedding. But what stands out about the wedding bands is the fact that they'll be there, long after the ceremony and reception, the first anniversary and the 50th. In today’s tight economy, and in this holiday season of giving and sharing and grasping for the things that matter most, that simple fact makes the rings one of my favorite wedding-related purchases.

We'll wear them, as they say, for better or for worse, and I hope we'll always remember the excitement of choosing them and, in a few short months, the thrill of slipping them on each other's fingers in front of a church full of family and friends.

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