What is a good replacement for a wedding ring?
August 25, 2005 1:17 AM   Subscribe

I intend to propose to my girlfriend of 5 years. Problem is, we've decided not to buy wedding bands when we get married. And we have no idea what to replace it with. Tattooing on our fingers was brought up as an idea. (But too painful) Have anyone opted out on the standard "wedding ring" marriage? What item is a memorable and unconventional replacement for the wedding ring?
posted by merv to Human Relations (43 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Tattoos aren't really that painful, secretly.
posted by Jairus at 1:25 AM on August 25, 2005

Somehow I don't think this is quite your style.
posted by evariste at 1:32 AM on August 25, 2005

As Phoebe suggested in series 7 of Friends, you could always buy each other revolutionary war muskets.

On a serious note though, a tattoo is a good idea, although I have to argue with Jairus and say I died when I had mine done (because it hurt, not because it went wrong or anything.)
Just make sure if you do get tattoos that you go somewhere you KNOW is good, i.e. you know somebody who got a tattoo there already, or you've heard good things about it. And don't judge the tattooist on their personality either, because mine was a really nasty unfriendly guy but he gave me a beautiful tattoo, and I went back for some piercings which were also perfect. Good luck with it all!
posted by trampesque at 1:43 AM on August 25, 2005

Response by poster: evariste:

Actually given a choice, we prefer not to suffer phyiscal trauma of any sort. Piercings are out. Tattoos barring the availablity of better ideas.

Somehow Tattoos make me think of Pamela Anderson/Tommy Lee's wedding ring "tattoos" Ugh.
posted by merv at 1:44 AM on August 25, 2005

Not sure what you have against wedding bands. But if it doesn't extend to jewelry in general, how about small gold lockets you each wear around your neck inside your clothes with a picture of you both inside the locket, with the wedding date inscribed on the front?
posted by mono blanco at 2:15 AM on August 25, 2005

We've opted for bracelets that she bought while in Korea (made of wood beads with a series of carved symbols on each, although my current one is quite worn and those symbols are rather illegible by this point). It was the first present she ever gave to me when we first started dating... but the actual object itself is nondescript (in 5 years, nobody has ever asked me about it), and could be replaced by a newer one for pennies. Or, if we do get tired of them, they're quite easy to take off (or put back on, for that matter).

The object itself isn't that important to me, but rather what it represents. And I don't really need it as reminder at this point... my daily life provides enough manifestations of that love.

I'm not suggesting bracelets as much as I'm suggesting something that holds personal significance between you two. Maybe it's some tiny object that you can attach to a chain and give it to her as a necklace? Or maybe something you can create together just for the occasion. You're not getting married to the object, after all, so it doesn't have to be something that must be worn for the rest of your days.
posted by aiko at 2:19 AM on August 25, 2005

wow, evariste. that link really, but REALLY freaked me out!

merv, what about exchange those physical items that each of you finds most sentimental/important.

something each of you has hung onto for a long time.
posted by punkbitch at 2:27 AM on August 25, 2005

Best answer: I performed a ring-less wedding last week. I don't think they replaced it with anything. If you think the "standard wedding ring marriage" is cliche (just guessing here, please correct me), I don't see why any other set of symbols (including tattoos) wouldn't be. If your vows are sincere, nothing else is needed. I'd never worn any jewelry before, but I like my non-jewel-encrusted wedding band.
posted by planetkyoto at 3:01 AM on August 25, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks people,

You've made some excellent points.

I realise that the significance of the vows actually means more than the price, or even the object itself.

I am just thankful my girlfriend does not want me to cough out a few hundred bucks to deBeers for a diamond ring. heh.
posted by merv at 3:13 AM on August 25, 2005

A different kind of wedding ring
posted by seanyboy at 4:14 AM on August 25, 2005

I did this once. We both had jobs where rings weren't safe. We got similar necklaces with a matching pendant, and the rest of the necklace was different, one more masculine and the other feminine. (It was inexpensive Indian jewelry style stuff, with a stylized dove in the front.) The original plan was chains with a larger and smaller version of the same dove, but they were special order and didn't make it in time. We kind of had to stick with the dove thing as it was mentioned in the vows.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 4:27 AM on August 25, 2005

I loathe to disagree but IMHO the wedding band is still pretty special...you don't have to spend a bucket load of money.
posted by Chimp at 4:58 AM on August 25, 2005

Best answer: My great-grandfather gave my great-grandmother a beautiful but simple pendant she could wear around her neck. Now, it passes down the female line in our family, given to each woman on her wedding day. Far more than anything else, when my mom put it on me, that was when I knew I was getting married. So I guess the point is, all objects accrue importance based on their context. If you want a physical reminder of your commitment, then do as others have suggested and pick something important to both of you. We felt the same way, so we took a jewelry making class together, and ended up with rings anyhow, but rings that we designed and made - a lot more significant than something bought at a store IMO. Good luck!
posted by dirtmonster at 5:04 AM on August 25, 2005

If it's purely a cost issue, poke around here. If you're going to have a wedding with many of the traditional trimmings (renting a venue, feeding people, etc.) the bands are the least of your expense worries. I speak from experience.

If it isn't a cost issue, I got nothing. For the record, I am buying a steel band for myself for my upcoming wedding (30 bucks), and then I'm not going to wear it ever again because I have no interest in jewelery.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:05 AM on August 25, 2005

I am just thankful my girlfriend does not want me to cough out a few hundred bucks to deBeers for a diamond ring. heh.

Where you been looking!? Think a few thousand or more. ;-)

I doubt my girl and I will do the wedding ring thing. I mean, I might get one for her, but I don't wear jewelry or accessories, so we'll have to come up with something different. Perhaps a pair of glasses or something (we're both wearers) :)
posted by wackybrit at 5:05 AM on August 25, 2005

What about something like celtic hand binding?
posted by willnot at 5:31 AM on August 25, 2005

Fortunately, if the amputees in Evariste's freakish link ever break up, they can get prosthetic replacements from the same people that make them for ex-yakuza.
posted by craniac at 5:36 AM on August 25, 2005

The body mod link was an April Fool - look at the date.
posted by zadcat at 5:53 AM on August 25, 2005

+1 on the bmezine.com story being an April Fool's.

I like the wedding-ring tattoo approach. For something the size/shape of a wedding ring, you're talking about entirely-bearable pain for about 5 minutes.
posted by Netzapper at 6:45 AM on August 25, 2005

I like the wedding-ring tattoo approach. For something the size/shape of a wedding ring, you're talking about entirely-bearable pain for about 5 minutes.

This is an excellent idea if you have a job where you can wear a "Slayer" t-shirt to work. Merv has already insinuated that he doesn't want to be forever recognized as a sailor/grit/late 90's to 2000's hipster.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:51 AM on August 25, 2005

How about the Billy Bob Thornton / Angelia Jolie idea of hanging small vials of each other's blood around your necks. Creepy yes, but certainly unconventional.
posted by gfrobe at 7:01 AM on August 25, 2005

To clear up the pain/tattoo issue, the amount of pain depends on what part of your body it is on. The face, hands and feet, have the most nerve endings, so they will hurt the most. On your spine or around your tailbone will hurt the least. It just felt like one long scratch to me.

And for the record, I like rings. The idea of an object passing through time, and possibly to other people holds such a ritual significance.
posted by scazza at 7:15 AM on August 25, 2005

I'm not sure how "worried about it being too painful" equates with "not wanting to be recognized as a sailor/grit/late '90s hipster," particularly when merv says that tattoos are out "barring the possibility of better ideas." I honestly don't think that a small, elegant but rather discreet ring-tattoo will be perceived the same way as full-arm sleeves or the ubiquitous butterfly-on-the-asscheek. Worst case, it would be easy to cover up with (yes) a ring during work hours.
posted by ubersturm at 7:21 AM on August 25, 2005

Response by poster: Cost is an issue for both of us. Both of us just graduated from college.

Most probably we'll be forgoing the whole wedding shindig and settle for a simple dinner party with close friends.

I'm not warming up to the tattoo idea, because finding a design that would last through decades would be a challenge obviously.

I've seen enough kanji-tattoos-gone-wrong to think seriously about tattooing. (Plus I'm such a wuss with pain. nvr had a tattoo before)

And also, We're both not big on jewlery.

Yeah, most probably I'll be giving her something I've made with my own hands, or get her a simple antique necklace. (She likes old, intricate stuff)

Thanks everyone!
posted by merv at 7:25 AM on August 25, 2005

There's actually a thread somewhere that deals with tattoos as rings. While some people liked them, there is more fading and feathering than in many other parts of the body, primarily because of the high-use of hands and the constant exposure to the sun.

The idea of the antique necklace is great, especially if it's her style. You can find beautiful antique necklaces and rings for not very much money, and congrats!
posted by barnone at 8:04 AM on August 25, 2005

I have heard of tree planting as being a symbolic alternative.
posted by aburd at 8:32 AM on August 25, 2005

Even though you said you didn't want to use wedding bands, a simple band with something meaningful engraved on the inside would be a romantic idea. Perhaps some other kind of jewelry with something special engraved on it. I don't like the idea of the tattoos because what would happen if you get divorced? Would you really want a tattoo to remind you of the past?
posted by cass at 8:45 AM on August 25, 2005

The antique necklace sounds like a good idea. I'm not sure how you feel about the symbolism of both of you wearing a marker of the marriage every day - is that important to you?

If so, and if you both already have pierced ears, how about getting a pair of earrings and each of you wearing one? Or they wouldn't have to match exactly, if you like different styles.
posted by expialidocious at 9:40 AM on August 25, 2005

"With this watch I thee wed..."

True story.
posted by vignettist at 9:44 AM on August 25, 2005

If your plans change and you do go with tattoos, have them done during the ceremony.
posted by Aknaton at 9:47 AM on August 25, 2005

Do keep in mind that you don't give a wedding band when you propose -- you'll have the whole time between proposing and the wedding to decide together what to do about wedding bands.

(If you and she both don't want to involve an engagement ring, well, do so!)
posted by mendel at 9:58 AM on August 25, 2005

Just to clarify, the BME link was an excellently executed hoax for April Fool's.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:07 AM on August 25, 2005

When my husband and I got married, neither of us had a ring. He's not big into jewelry and neither of us had much money at the time.

For our first anniversary, I asked for a wedding ring as a gift because I felt it my right as a big girl to be a bit girly and wear something pretty. I got a beautiful ring (and cheep by wedding ring standards! < $500!) from the met store as opposed to the traditional wedding band because i wanted something just a little bit different. this idea was inspired by my parents who got their beautiful wedding bands from the mfa in boston. getting a ring from a museum (as opposed to from ebay or weddings4cheep dot com) was a big thing for me as i'm a big artsy person and like that putting my money where my mouth is business. br>
Anyway, my husband didn't want a ring in return, though I would have been happy to give him one. I did want to give him something lasting and something special and was thinking of something "jewelry-esque" for the occasion. I ended up deciding on a really nice Swiss Army pocket watch. It's a beautiful piece and my husband loves it - it's much more his style than a more traditional piece of jewelry. He's a compulsive fidgeter, so any sort of ring, bracelet, etc. runs the risk of getting lost when he starts playing with it. The beauty of the pocketwatch is that he can't lose it because it's attached (quite literally) to his hip!

Anyway, this is how we did it and we're both quite happy with the result. I'd recommend giving your girlfriend something beautiful and meaningful that goes along with her personal style, whether that be a ring or a necklace, doesn't really matter. The object itself isn't as important as the intent behind it.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:25 AM on August 25, 2005

Something to consider; your rings are not just a symbol of your wedding for you.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:36 AM on August 25, 2005

My wife and I went with simple no-gem rings from David Virtue, which were very reasonably priced at $200-$300 IIRC. He makes many nice ring-alternatives as well, such as bracelets and necklaces.

FWIW, I'm pleased to hear that you are avoiding giving money to the truly ethically-terrible deBeers cartel. Luckily for me, my wife agreed with my ethics on that matter, and in any case couldn't have a ring with sticking-out-bits on it due to her medical examiner job. Intestines snagging on the ring, eew.

I would suggest that you do have some physical token of the wedding, as it does have an unconscious and ritually significant place in the whole marriage "thing". If you are truly so poor that you cannot save a hundred or two for such a token, you might want to consider putting your energy into getting your job & finances settled rather than getting married at this time. Getting married takes a *lot* of attention.

Saying that marriage is no big deal, that the ritual (which includes a token) doesn't matter, it is just a legal thing and you are together for the long haul anyway is (in my observation) setting yourself up for a failed marriage. It really is different than living together. I'm putting words in your mouth, and I know it, but I've heard a lot of people (including myself) say such things, and live to regret it.

I wish the best for both of you.
posted by Invoke at 10:40 AM on August 25, 2005

i have had a tattoo'd wedding ring for the last 8 years; my wife wears a traditional ring-set.
tattooing didn't hurt at all 'cept for a smidge where finger-meets-palm. i have always been happy with this choice and would recommend it.
posted by RockyChrysler at 12:51 PM on August 25, 2005

Neither my husband nor I wear wedding rings (nor any other type of symbolic adornment). We will celebrate our 31st anniversary on Sept. 7. I share that with you as evidence that wedding rings are not required for a long, happy union.
posted by Lynsey at 2:35 PM on August 25, 2005

Since the original question has been pretty thoroughly answered, I'll give in to my curiosity and ask: if the two of you have already decided to get married, what's this about "proposing"?
posted by languagehat at 3:10 PM on August 25, 2005

Languagehat: it's not too uncommon for a couple to have the "hey, maybe we should get married. in fact, let's do" conversation, and then for the tradition minded lad to later pop up with a ring on bended knee for the full "proposal."
posted by Juliet Banana at 3:39 PM on August 25, 2005

Response by poster: Languagehat: Yeah. Its explained by Juliet.

Me and my gf talked about our future plans together.

But for some girls (for my gf at least), its no-go until the whole symbolic "bended knee, proposal" thing.

On that, she won't compromise :d
posted by merv at 5:17 PM on August 25, 2005

Ah, thanks. (I did the bended-knee thing in front of an amused gaggle of Lebanese waiters. It was embarrassing as hell but very satisfying.)
posted by languagehat at 6:56 PM on August 25, 2005

I have some friends who got themselves a piece of art together as a "wedding ring". They decided that they like artwork more than they like jewlery and that the piece they both fell in love with was better at symbolizing their union than rings.

So go for it!
posted by mulkey at 8:22 PM on August 25, 2005

Seconding what pollomacho said, the ring is also a cultural symbol for everyone else to see. Wards off potential flirters, gives credibility to using SO's credit card, ect. As a parent, I appreciate having the ring on when people see me with my child-I'm not the nanny or a teenage mom.
Also, I love the planting a tree idea above. I've heard of this for the birth of a child, but it would be lovely as a symbol of a growing, thriving relationsip. Just choose something hardy.
I think the thing to think about is what you want to ring (replacement) to mean-
a visable symbol of the relationship?
a personal reminder to have when your partner is not with you?
a symbolic gesture as part of the actual ceremony?
posted by slimslowslider at 12:48 AM on August 26, 2005

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