Budget-wise wedding rings for menTis the season...for wedding engagements. More than a third of engagements take place between Thanksgiving and New Year's, according to WeddingWire -- so many, in fact, that it's come to be known as "engagement season."

Which means that wedding planning kicks off in earnest in the new year -- followed closely by sticker shock at the price of gold and platinum wedding bands. As the cost of precious metals continues to rise, it comes as no surprise that more and more grooms are forgoing those traditional choices and opting for more adventuresome -- and less costly -- materials, such as tungsten carbide and palladium.

Grooms spent an average of $491 for their wedding bands in 2011, almost a 23 percent drop from the $637 average in 2009, according to wedding-planning website The Knot. That's in part because fewer are buying gold: 39 percent of grooms purchased white gold bands in 2009, versus 34 percent in 2011.

Ruth Batson, CEO of the American Gem Society, chalks up the popularity of alternative materials to style as well as economics. "Alternative materials like titanium, ceramic, tungsten are top trends right now, because of the hardness factor and also for ease of care. While cost may be a factor for some, overall design and how the ring looks and holds up tend to be a priority."

When I got married in September, I sprang for a 14-karat gold band. But if I'd known about all the choices, I might have made a different decision. Click through the gallery below for the best ways to save with alternative materials. (For price comparisons, we controlled for ring type: 6-mm Triton brand rings at Kay Jewelers.)




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