What Is the Difference Between an Engagement Ring and a Wedding Ring?

Wedding Ring

This may seem like a dumb question to many people, but the fact is, there are a lot of people who wants to know the differences between a wedding ring and an engagement ring.

Depending on which part of the world you are in, you may hear the usage of one term more often than the other. 

Looking to purchase your wedding rings? Check out our list of Wedding Ring Shops to help you choose.

The problem here is that many people use “wedding rings” and “engagement rings” interchangeably. However, an engagement ring and a wedding ring aren’t the same things!

Engagement Ring Vs. Wedding Rings

The exchanging of rings as a traditional symbol of marriage dates back to ancient times. However, as a modern practice, it brings up many questions about engagement rings vs. wedding rings. 

What’s the difference between engagement and wedding rings? Do you need a wedding band? If you want to wear both, do they have to be worn together in the same style?

Today, there’s a lot of tradition mixed with more modern choices for engagement rings and wedding rings. 

While what you choose to do should be based on what feels suitable for you, let’s go through some answers to these questions and gain some clarity over any lingering confusion about these unique symbols of love and commitment.

Traditional engagement rings typically have one dominant stone, which stands alone or is surrounded by more minor rocks. 

An engagement ring is usually given as part of the proposal, or if not, at an early point in the engagement.

By contrast, a wedding ring is traditionally a plain metal band or a diamond-encrusted eternity band that you receive when you exchange your vows during the wedding ceremony and wear from then on. 

Typically, there’s also a fairly significant price difference between engagement rings and wedding rings; even if the wedding band has inlaid diamonds or other gemstones, their total carat weight is generally less than the engagement ring.

You can, of course, throw tradition out the window. However, brides are having more of a say in the choice and design of their rings. 

And not only are they parting with tradition, but they’re opting to diversify their engagement and wedding ring selections. 

People are doing whatever they want, and wedding bands offer the opportunity to have more flair.

What’s the Difference Between Wedding Rings and Engagement Rings?

Wedding Ring

An engagement ring is most often given upon the occasion of a proposal or soon after a couple has decided to become engaged. 

Typically, the ring features one dominant stone set in any number of band styles. But modern choices have extended into three-stone rings, cluster rings, and even bands that are primarily considered more of a wedding ring style.

A wedding ring (or wedding band) is usually exchanged at the wedding ceremony as the official symbol of the union of marriage. 

Traditionally, both rings have been worn together, often being designed as a bridal set or even being soldered together in some cases, so they become one piece. 

Wedding rings are usually more straightforward in their style and are a band without any large stones or a centrepiece gemstone.

Wedding rings can be as simple as a plain metal band or more intricate with metal details like milgrain and featuring pavé or channel set diamonds. 

Typically, there’s a significant price difference between engagement rings and wedding rings. 

Even if the wedding band is inlaid with gemstones, total carat weight is likely to be far less in a wedding ring than an engagement ring.

Timing

The engagement ring is presented to a woman during a proposal. On the other hand, the wedding rings are exchanged between partners during the marriage ceremony and are worn starting from that time.

Design

Engagement rings tend to be more extravagant and usually have a centre stone made of diamond (thanks to De Beers’s advertising campaign). In contrast, wedding rings tend to be plain-looking and have simple designs.

To sum things up, the engagement ring is worn by your fiancée after a successful proposal. 

The engagement ring symbolises a pledge of love and tells other people that a woman is no longer available.

Both spouses wear the wedding ring (wedding band) after exchanging vows during the marriage ceremony. 

The rings are worn on the 4th finger of the left hand, representing the commitment, love and faithfulness of your spouse to you.

How Should You Wear Your Engagement and Wedding Rings?

Traditionally, and in most cultures, your engagement ring and wedding ring are worn together on the same finger, commonly known as the ring finger. It’s the fourth finger on your left hand, right next to your pinky. 

The wedding ring is placed on the finger first to reside closest to your heart, with the engagement ring following on the outside.

Exchanging rings as symbols of love is believed to have originated in Egypt. 

They believed that the vein in the fourth finger ran directly to the heart, strengthening the pledge of love and commitment. 

Romans adopted this tradition, spreading the practice throughout Europe, thus becoming the basis for the U.S. tradition. 

In reality, there’s no such vein, but the symbolism and tradition remain strong.

As most people have preferred to wear these two rings together, bridal sets that are specially designed to match and wear well together are popular choices when planning for both rounds.

This ensures the rings will sit nicely on your finger next to one another without unnecessary rubbing or even scratching of metal by stones. 

Some may choose to solder their two rings together to prevent movement and twist around the finger, making the rings misaligned.

We’ve worked with clients to create an engagement ring and wedding ring set that is perfectly matched in style and format, while other clients prefer their calls to have a bit of contrast, whether by mixing metals or styles.

Many of our clients are increasingly interested in wearing two, three or even more rings in a stack or spread out across their fingers.

There are no rules to follow, though. Saying “I do” at Vines of the Yarra Valley is an elegant and luxurious affair.

And since these rings are such vital pieces to be worn and cherished for a lifetime, it’s essential that you love your calls and how you wear them.

For some, that may mean wearing their wedding band on the left ring finger and their engagement ring on their right hand, and for others, wearing their calls in a stack altogether or spread out. 

Or perhaps wearing the wedding ring daily and the engagement ring only on specific occasions. 

Traditionally, you wear your engagement ring and wedding ring together on the fourth finger of your left hand. 

As far as how to stack them, tradition holds that you’ll wear the wedding band inside the engagement ring so that it’s closer to your heart (aww).

That being said, some brides opt to wear their engagement ring on one hand and their wedding band on the other, especially if they’re very diverse rings that can’t be easily stacked.

What Should Go Into Picking Out Wedding Bands?

When it comes to timing, you’ll want to be sure to allow at least three months before the wedding for wedding bands to be produced. 

That way, any issues that come up can be remedied without adding to all the last-minute wedding details and such an essential part of your ceremony is taken care of well in advance.

More and more couples are picking out and even designing engagement rings together, a scenario that was typically reserved for wedding bands only. 

So choosing wedding bands maybe your second experience of picking out rings together, but it will require different considerations.

Couples have a lot of options when it comes to wedding bands. Some choose to have their wedding bands match (with each other), regardless of the style of the engagement ring. 

Other couples may prefer their tastes to be represented in the band. But, again, honouring personal preference is important here, and you have many options for metal, stones, and design elements to make something truly unique and personal.

Whatever you decide, there are no right or wrong answers when choosing, designing and wearing engagement and wedding rings. 

The sky’s the limit when it comes to ideas and options, and working with a skilled jeweller and craftsman will help guarantee you’re making a great choice on your investment. 

Above all, though, make sure you pick a ring or combination of rings that stand as symbols of love and your union that will hold meaning for a lifetime.

When to Pick Out Wedding Bands

Wedding Ring

Couples should pick out wedding bands at least two months before the wedding. 

That way, you can account for any last-minute wedding planning details that might pop up, and your rings are already in production.

If you’re unsure about the kind of wedding band, you won’t initially, wear your engagement ring for a few months before you choose the wedding ring. 

Your preferences might change, so take your engagement ring for a spin to get a better grasp of the wedding band you’re envisioning closer to the wedding day.

Do You Need Both?

Ultimately, this comes down to personal preference. If you like the traditional look, then yes, of course. 

Whether you’re adding an eternity band set with pavé diamonds or a plain metal band, a wedding ring and engagement ring pairing is a timeless and beautiful look. 

And a recent trend that shows no sign of waning is building a ring stack of three (or more!) bands, often with mixed metals and styles.

Of course, it’s lovely if you’d rather wear just one ring to symbolise both your engagement and your (future) married status. 

Here are a few sensible reasons why some brides opt to wear just one ring:

  • Single rings can be more comfortable and less fussy than a wedding band and engagement ring combo—and can look stunning all on their own.
  • It’s one more petite ring to have to worry about losing (which is especially important if you’re a bit forgetful).
  • You also don’t have to worry about two rings perfectly matching; it can sometimes be tricky to find a wedding band that pairs with your engagement ring if they’re not purchased as a set.
  • The funds typically allocated for both an engagement ring and wedding band can be invested in a single standout ring.

Whether you choose to wear an engagement ring and wedding band is totally up to personal preference.

You can stick with tradition and wear both, or go your own way, choosing that better suits your taste and priorities.

The traditional look is both an engagement ring and a wedding band. 

This timeless combination is usually an eye-catching diamond engagement ring next to a sleek and elegant wedding band.

Many, however, choose to wear just a single ring. If that’s your preference, you should feel one hundred per cent comfortable making that choice.

Some feel more comfortable wearing only one ring rather than a stack of two (or more) rounds. 

It also offers up less hassle in picking out an engagement ring and wedding ring that match.

Going with only one ring also makes sense for the budget-conscious. You and your partner can save money with only one purchase. 

You could even choose to put that money saved towards a more beautiful and expensive engagement ring.

Tradition dictates a bride wears two rings, but there is a growing trend towards single coils. Make the choice you (and your future spouse) are most comfortable with.

The bottom line? There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing, designing, or wearing engagement and wedding rings.

You can wear none, one, two, three, or even more rings—make sure that the ring (or rings) you choose to wear to symbolise your love and marriage will have enduring meaning for you for many years to come.

Should You Buy a Wedding Ring or an Engagement Ring First?

Well, we would say it depends on individuals.

Speaking strictly from a practical point of view, we recommend that you only buy the engagement ring if you aren’t sure whether she will say “yes” to your proposal.

On the other hand, if you and your partner had already discussed marriage beforehand and you are confident that she’ll agree to the proposal, it makes sense to get the wedding ring at the same time as the engagement ring.

Do I Need to Get a Complimentary Matching Set For The Rings?

In general, we recommend buying matching ring sets so that both rings will display a consistent appearance. 

On top of that, another benefit of buying a matching ring set is that it prevents skin nipping problems which occur with poorly matched rings.

That said, there are no hard and fast rules on how you should go about matching your rings. 

Whether you decide to buy a matching set or not, what is most important is that you always plan.

Engagement and Wedding Ring Combinations

Pairing an engagement ring with a wedding ring—that was bought separately—requires some careful comparisons. 

The metal type, colour, style, and fit must be close to look like a cohesive unit and avoid unwanted rubbing between rings. 

Most jewellers are happy to assist with such a matching request and can help in designing a beautiful pair.

An alternative to matching the rings on your own is to select a matching wedding and engagement ring set, also known as a bridal set. 

This ensures the metal colours are identical and that the rings will fit together perfectly.

We suggest looking for matching wedding rings—or any rings, for that matter—from trusted and reputable online vendors. 

Our years of experience have taught us that when customers work with a reliable dealer, their experience is exponentially better.

Engagement Rings for Men

Most men choose to wear only a wedding band, though some desire an engagement ring to display their commitment. 

Engagement rings for men are distinct in style from women’s circles, and various options exist. 

Many online dealers list their engagement rings as wedding rings, though they can be used for either occasion.

For example, this platinum engagement ring offers style, while this classic ring is smoother and sleeker. 

These two designs are on the simple side of the spectrum and don’t contain any gemstones.

On the other hand, some male engagement rings are more intricate than a plain metal band. 

Ring styles with diamonds like this channel set ring or this bevel setting combine masculinity and decorative stones. 

Other styles are fashioned from a mix of metals or contain an inlay colour different from the exterior paint, similar to this brush inlay ring.

Wedding Rings for Men

Wedding rings for men, also known as wedding bands, range from intricate to more simple in style (similar to engagement ring styles). 

More than anything else, personal preference is the most critical factor in choosing a wedding ring for men.

Lifestyle and favourite activities should also be taken into consideration. For example, if he has an active hobby or job where he frequently uses his hands, it may be better to purchase a sleek and smooth band like this classic white gold ring or this tantalum band. 

For someone who appreciates more flair, a channel set ring like this one made of 14K white gold or this satin finish one may be more suitable.

Some couples also try to choose rings that complement their fiance’s ring. 

For instance, if a woman has a white gold solitaire ring like this one, a men’s ring like this traditional white gold one may be a complementary match. 

Again, this choice comes down to personal preference.

Deciding on engagement and wedding rings allows you to consider what is most important to you and create symbols of love that will last a lifetime.

How Many Rings Should You Wear After Getting Married?

It’s up to personal preferences and depends on an individual’s culture. 

Most married women wear both the engagement ring and the wedding band together, while some may prefer to wear only one for symbolic reasons.

That said, we know of married women who don’t wear both rings daily due to occupational hazards (surgeons) or social stigma at the workplace.

We had also heard of cases whereby women don’t want to wear both rings because they don’t look good together! 

Please don’t make the same mistake! And that’s why we recommend buying a matching set of rings instead of buying your wedding band and engagement ring separately.

Finding the Perfect Set of Rings

The engagement ring and wedding ring represents the unity and bond towards your significant half. 

Whether looking for an elaborately designed ring or a modest-looking ring, you will be spoilt for choices.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to available ring designs.

We strongly encourage you to spend some time browsing around to understand better what’s available. Also, check out our Top Wedding Planners here to help make your special day as smooth as possible.

And if possible, you should also discuss preferences with your partner before pulling the trigger.

Good luck with your shopping!

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