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Putting a ring on it

Weddings make great business. In 2011 the average expected nuptial cost was $23,330, according to "Weddingbells" annual online survey of over 2,000 brides-to-be. But before a couple walks down the aisle, an engagement ring must be bought -- a task largely falling to the groom. Men may not have much experience buying jewellery, but they do have lots of pressure.

"Men don't think [about engagement rings], at least I don't," says Gregory Clarke, who popped the question in December. He knew what his fiancée wanted. He also knew what he was looking for -- something affordable and memorable that would set his bride apart. "I was looking for the shiniest and best ring my money could buy. I was looking for a ring that could stand up to the test of time."

Salary rules don't apply
This one-time purchase carries a lot of weight: "It's got to be something that she's not embarrassed about, but it has to be something that's not going to put the groom into debt," says Danielle Andrews Sunkel, president and co-founder of The Wedding Planners Institute of Canada.

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With most couples living together before marriage and paying for more of the wedding themselves, finances are important. The popular guideline that a ring should cost one, two, or even three months of the groom's salary offers little consolation.

But many wedding experts suggest ditching that idea altogether. According to Andrews Sunkel, that advice was simply part of a marketing campaign by De Beers Jewellery. As Chris Easter, co-founder of The Man Registry and author of "Be the Man," points out, "The old 'three month's salary' is just that -- old." He suggests men make a budget they're comfortable with, starting with an average cost of $5,000.

Clarke approached his purchase analytically. He considered the cost of the ring over the decades he plans to spend married to his fiancée. He suggests men begin putting aside money for the ring as soon as possible. And don't forget proper insurance. Jewellery may be included in home or property insurance, while some companies, like Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company, exclusively sell jewellery insurance.

A girl's best friend
Diamonds remain the classic stone for engagement rings and their price depends on more than "the four Cs" of cut, clarity, colour and carat weight.

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-- Posted February 8, 2012
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