I felt actively uncomfortable. Not because of the people, but because my stress about how a few hundred dollars in municipal fines would set back our monthly budget and wedding planning was suddenly thrown in stark perspective. I looked down at my engagement ring, which was purposefully budget-minded but is still rather sparkly, and felt even more uncomfortable. It was the sort of place where my ring felt glaringly out of place. It was the sort of place where my context for "budget-minded" felt rather misguided. And so I swung the synthetic sapphire down towards my palm. Not out of fear. Not out of any self-protective instinct. But because I suddenly felt gaudy, ostentatious, and painfully lucky.
This doesn't usually happen in my professional world, among our friends, or with our two families' communities. Yes, my ring generally feels out of place, but it's generally because I find myself explaining why my center stone isn't a diamond. But I felt absolutely out of place in line downtown. In with a real mix of the entire range of Los Angeles instead of in my relatively privileged subset. And it was at that moment that I finally made up my mind: I want a plain wedding band.
In Jewish tradition, the wedding band is plain. It is supposed to be a solid, uninterrupted, unembellished gold band, to represent hope for a solid, everlasting marriage. But I've been torn on whether this tradition matters enough to me. I'm not someone who follows tradition for tradition's sake. And my engagement ring, while gorgeous and perfect-for-us, was never chosen because it fit my particular sense of personal style. And, while I love it, it's not the most practical ring. (I have a real fear of accidentally scratching my future babies' eyes with the prongs.) So part of me has my heart set on a handcrafted, minimally sparkly, practical-but-beautiful wedding band that I can wear on its own, even around babies. But if I buy the ring I've fallen in love with (in white gold), it won't "match" my engagement ring. And so I briefly considered buying a plain band to stack with the wedding ring I love, but that I could also wear with my engagement ring. I recognized that it's more than a little greedy, but weddings have a way of making small greedy impulses seem reasonable. They make the silly seem entirely necessary, and provide ready-set justifications for three entire rings. Even when you know better. And even when your ring budget is modest.
But standing in line at traffic court reminded me that I'd never actually wanted an engagement ring in the first place. It reminded me that there's real beauty in a simple, straightforward, slim band of gold that indicates my marriage to the world versus announcing it. There's something special about a ring I can wear anywhere I feel like, without feeling self conscious at an industry conference full of men or in a waiting room full of mixed-class people. I can dress it up with my engagement ring if I'd like or wear it on its own. A strong, unbroken band of gold symbolizing the hope for our marriage. That's more than enough for me.
And heck, if I'm still hung up on all the pretty rings I couldn't buy for our wedding, we've got quite a few anniversaries and celebratory ring excuses to look forward to over the course of our lifetime.