When Michelle Luchese and Johnathan Ruggiero decided to get married after seven years of dating, they were both excited to pick out their wedding rings — until they found out stores didn’t stock anything in Ruggiero’s size, and the rings that were available online started at $600 and were plain.

Eventually Ruggiero ordered online, experiencing what he described as horrible customer service.

“It shows up in just a mailer in the little plastic bag. It wasn’t even a box, and it just fell out of the bag,” Ruggiero said. “And you go wow, this is my wedding ring?”

The experience of buying a wedding band, a ring meant to have special significance, wasn’t anything like Ruggiero or Luchese expected.

“It was just like, get a ring so we can get married,” Ruggiero said. “(My ring) meant something because of the wedding and my commitment but in terms of like, the piece of metal ... I didn’t connect with it.”

Ruggiero and Luchese were married in Florida, where they had moved after feeling burnt out from Hollywood life — Luchese worked as an actress and Ruggiero worked as a video editor and producer, first with music videos, then independent films, and finally Getty Images, where he worked his way up to a supervising producer.

“It wasn’t as fulfilling as it was in the beginning. There wasn’t really anywhere to grow,” Ruggiero said. “(And) my goal was always to have my own business.”

Luchese had recently been laid off from her day job and Ruggiero put in his two week’s notice, then the couple moved to Florida, where Luchese’s parents live. The couple recently celebrated their third wedding anniversary.

Although getting married was a dream come true, the couple quickly realized moving and paying for a wedding had forced them to take on debt. They felt they had two options: start a business, or get jobs.

“Of course, we wanted to start a business,” Ruggiero said. “So we kind of put our heads together and then took all the experience that we had and got really lucky.”

Shortly before the couple left for Florida, with Ruggiero’s ring experience fresh in their minds, Ruggiero said he joked they should start a wedding ring company. Once they were married and a bit more settled, they returned to the idea and decided to give it a shot, dubbing their business Manly Bands.

The couple started their business slowly, with Luchese designing the rings for manufacturers. Luchese said she pictures the kind of person who would wear a wedding band, and designs it based on the image of “The Cowboy” or “The Gentleman,” both of which are designs available to purchase. She also headed up customer service when the business was still small.

The rings use all sorts of alternative metals and materials, such as dinosaur bone, antler and more. Besides the unique rings already available, customers can also opt to design their own. Luchese and Ruggiero wanted to make sure the rings are affordable, so while there are higher-priced rings around $3,000, most rings start at $200.

A few months into the business, the company’s CTO invited Luchese and Ruggiero on a cross-country roadtrip. Since most of their work was done remotely, the couple said yes. When they got to Utah in June of this year, they fell in love with the state and what it had to offer, and decided to put down roots — without even realizing the size of the wedding industry present in the area. They opened a warehouse in Orem this fall to house Manly Bands.

Since being in Utah, the former Hollywood couple has worked with several local actors and producers to shoot commercials, and they said they’ve been impressed with the creative community they’ve found.

“We love it here,” Ruggiero said.

Learn more by visiting the business’s website at http://manlybands.com.

Carley Porter covers northern Utah County and business for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at cporter@heraldextra.com.

Carley Porter covers northern Utah County and business for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at cporter@heraldextra.com.

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