$20 Wedding Rings, $50,000 Honeymoon, and the Secret to Happiness

November 8, 2017 Sterling Laudon 14 comments

Sarah and I obsess about happiness. We read, and we scheme, and we make deliberate decisions about how to be happy.

After lots of reading and scheming, we left our Washington, DC jobs in February 2017. We moved out of our apartment, drove across the country, got married, and launched an around-the-world honeymoon.

We budgeted $50,000 to last as long as we can—or until we get burned out.

$20 Wedding Rings, $50,000 Honeymoon, and the Secret to HappinessKicking off our honeymoon in South Africa

The science of happiness: spending money on experiences will make you happier than spending it on possessions.

The science and research (and tons of articles on the internet) explain why experiences make us happier than possessions, but it can be weird to do things differently than other people.

How many people do you know who use a flip phone? Probably just your grandmother—and me. People laugh when they see it, but nobody really judges you.

Try proposing without a diamond ring and then wearing a silicone wedding band.

Yikes.

$20 Wedding Rings, $50,000 Honeymoon, and the Secret to Happiness

Can your cell phone take pictures like this?

How people traditionally purchase wedding rings.

According to The Knot, the average American couple spends $6,163 on an engagement ring (mean not median, so I’m guessing this gets inflated by a few bajillion-dollar rings). In return, you get something to worry about losing, a divorce rate that goes up with the price of the ring, and you don’t get judged when people ask to see it.

Add gold wedding bands and the total is seven to eight thousand dollars. That’s how much we spent to visit Southern Africa for 10 weeks.

This isn’t meant to knock diamond rings or gold wedding bands or the people who want to buy them. Wedding rings create lifelong meaningful tokens of love for millions of couples.

While diamond engagement rings may have started out as one of the greatest marketing campaigns of the 20th Century, they also became a part of Western culture. Sarah and I bought an engagement ring and wedding bands too—we just weighed the factors in a way best for us.

$20 Wedding Rings, $50,000 Honeymoon, and the Secret to Happiness

Can you put a price on lemur time?

We purchased non-traditional rings when we got engaged, and again when we got married, because they make us happy.

After Sarah’s first engagement ring (an airport gift shop ring from Indonesian Borneo) started to show wear, we discussed a new ring. As much as we value minimalism, Sarah loves big shiny things and we wanted something that would last forever.

$20 Wedding Rings, $50,000 Honeymoon, and the Secret to Happiness

Our original engagement ring

After our typical amount of reading and scheming, we decided to buy a moissanite ring. Moissanite is slightly shinier, slightly softer, and way less expensive than diamonds. Sarah and I visited a couple local jewelry shops and heard that many do not carry moissanite because it is too difficult to distinguish from diamonds.

We bought our engagement ring on Overstock.com. Sexy, we know. For $645, Sarah is the proud owner of a 1.8 carat moissanite ring. The ring sparkles like crazy and nobody knows the difference unless we tell them (or publish an article about it on the internet).

$20 Wedding Rings, $50,000 Honeymoon, and the Secret to Happiness

Unless you have a microscope, moissonite looks extremely similar to diamond

The title of the article says you bought $20 rings!

For wedding bands, we chose $20 silicone rings that we bought on Amazon. They are super comfortable, occasionally pass for gold bands, and they bend like rubber (Bonus: no chance of ripping a finger off like Jimmy Fallon did). The rings are often marketed to people who work with their hands, such as athletes, medical professionals, and tradespeople. If we lose one, replacement is easy and affordable.

Having never worn jewelry, I was apprehensive about having a ring on my finger every day. Turns out I barely notice it. On a hot day, the ring expands to the size of my finger. On a cold day, the process reverses. The only time I notice the ring move is when I use conditioner in my hair (which is rarely).

Several people have asked us about our “gold-brushed” rings. Maybe this is a polite ruse or maybe they noticed the color was a bit off. Either way, people love when we take them off and squeeze the rings to demonstrate their bendiness. After seven months, the rings look identical to when we purchased them. To us, this immutable quality is as good as gold.

$20 Wedding Rings, $50,000 Honeymoon, and the Secret to Happiness

Silicone rings at our wedding

Spending money on airfare, diamonds, and gold have environmental and human impacts. We weighed our choices and spent accordingly.  

Nobody judges your carbon footprint the way they judge the size of your engagement ring. Still, we considered how production of our wedding rings and Sarah’s engagement ring might affect people and the world around us.

We skipped buying gold wedding bands in part because gold mining is often rough on the environment. We avoided buying diamonds, which are notoriously exploitative. That said, Sarah’s engagement ring contains gold, and flying around the world is terrible for the environment.

I wish we could say our aversion to buying stuff was purely altruistic. In truth, the biggest consideration is the research saying it won’t make us happy.

$20 Wedding Rings, $50,000 Honeymoon, and the Secret to Happiness

We wish

In America, traveling long-term is uncommon… but that’s ok.

Traveling the world, you meet more Germans than Americans, even though there are four times as many of us. In New Zealand, if you don’t take a gap year to travel at some point, you are probably some kind of weirdo.

Australians and Canadians regularly travel abroad (yes, 90 percent of Canadians live within 100 miles of the U.S. border). Japanese tour buses fill up Yellowstone National Park in the summer.

In the United States, we don’t get much vacation and prioritizing travel makes you an outlier. People close to you wonder when the hell you are going back to work.

Sarah and I chose a path to happiness. We hope our next job interviewers are interested in hearing about the time we almost stepped on a crocodile in Swaziland.

Possession that does make us happy: rum on the beach

Creating our vision of happiness.

Most people don’t picture their honeymoon as sleeping in their car to avoid giant beetles in Namibia, tent camping on the beach for five nights on Reunion Island, or riding on a crowded bus in Madagascar eating one-cent lychee fruit.

Honestly, we didn’t either. Was it a little weird? Possibly. Did it make us happy? Absolutely.

How did you pick out wedding rings? Let us know in the comments.


Note that this guide contains affiliate links, meaning that if you purchase something through the links, you are supporting us in the costs of running Two Fish Traveling. All the products that we discuss are ones that we use and love—like bug proofing our clothes with Permethrin to prevent malaria/dengue fever. We earn a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to the purchaser. We will never link to products that we do not wholeheartedly recommend to our readers and have found useful ourselves. The affiliate link is this article is for our silicone wedding bands.


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I am Sterling, one of the Two Fish Traveling. I grew up in Montana, worked in DC, and left to see the whole world.

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14 Comments on "$20 Wedding Rings, $50,000 Honeymoon, and the Secret to Happiness"

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Chris Lambert
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Sarah, Do you wear your engagement ring while you travel or do you keep in Montana so it doens’t get lost or damaged?

Tom
Guest
Excellent post. You guys thought about and figured out early what makes you happy and that’s awesome! Everyone has their own version of it right? Reminds me of hiking the AT in ‘98 and the common phrase many of us used. “Hike your own hike” which essentially means hike the hike that makes you happy. That could mean being a purist, blue blazing, yellow blazing, monster miles, less than 10 miles, smokin and tokin’ miles, drinking, hiking with Jesus, or any other way. Keep it up guys!! Love reading about your adventures and stay happy!!! 🙂 PS – went the… Read more »
Sarah Weaver
Guest

Thanks for reading and commenting, Tom!

I love what you said about “hike your own hike.” That’s fabulous advice (especially for a slow hiker like me who sometimes feels bad about slowing down the group 😉 ). It’s good to remember that life isn’t a race, and prioritizing happiness at your own pace is a good thing!

Super cool about the traditional route with engagement ring and exotic bands! An Australia ring sounds awesome :). Is there a special connection with Australia? Where is Alie’s from?

Tom
Guest
Good question, I did not write about Alie’s because I couldn’t remember… so I asked! She was looking for something with a vintage look and she found one in all places at a jeweler in Wilmington, NC where my Father happened to be living at the time. It says “ I wish to love no other than you” in old French (college major) with leaves winding around the band. No special link for me to Australia. I literally googled “cool or exotic wedding rings for men” and it showed up in the results. It’s a mix of two metals swirled… Read more »
Sarah
Admin
Tom, I read this comment right before we got on a 24 hr bus ride (that’s right, you read that correctly!) into Vietnam. When we arrived, we went to an island with limited wifi and then proceeded to go on a hike. It was a steep one. I thought of your hiking tips while I was cursing the uphill… and it worked! Another one I like to say to myself is “focus on your breath.” After the hike, Sterling told me he had been thinking about what you’d suggested, too! That’s very cool about Alie’s ring. I love hearing people’s… Read more »
Jane
Guest

Love the post! And I love your “gold-brushed” matching silicone bands, haha. 🙂 I guess for us not too much thought went into it. No engagement ring, and I wanted the cheapest solid gold band I could buy. Saw how shiny the band with diamonds was at the jewelry store so upgraded to a thin gold band with tiny diamonds. 🙂 I think it was $700? Keith got a palladium band. Beyond the initial period of telling people we were getting married (no proposal), nobody has asked me about a lack of engagement ring. 🙂

Laura
Guest

Awesome y’all. 🙂 My engagement ring is a big garnet that my husband’s mom contributed–it turned out his whole family was in on the secret–that he had set on an art-deco style ring. It’s perfect, and was a total surprise when he proposed (I actually said yes before he managed to show me the ring). We got bands to match the design on the engagement ring, but for our sixth anniversary I got us both silicone bands, because we mountain bike a lot and sometimes that gets epic.

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