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Engagement Ring vs. Wedding Ring: Which One Do You Need?

May 2021 | Mariam Norman

An engagement ring and a wedding ring mark the beginning of a lifelong partnership. Just as you spend so much time contemplating unique proposal ideas, you’ll probably encounter more challenges finding the right ring.

To make sure you’re getting the right piece for your soon-to-be partner in life, you must understand the difference between an engagement ring and a wedding ring. 

In this engagement ring vs wedding ring guide, we’ll cover everything you should know about these symbolic rings - from what each piece symbolizes to how they look, how much they cost, and how to wear them.

Ready? Let’s get started.

What Is An Engagement Ring and What Is the Meaning Behind It?

What does an engagement ring mean? The engagement ring stands for the promise of marriage. It's a tradition dating back to ancient times. It symbolizes devotion and commitment to your beloved partner.

Historically, engagement rings weren’t associated with diamonds. It was not until the 20th Century when people began to use diamonds on engagement rings. It has something to do with the massively successful advertising campaign "a diamond is forever", launched by the De Beers in 1947. 

As people come to realize how diamonds are made, they regard these gemstones as the most precious of all. But the norms are changing. Today, colored stones are also popular choices for engagement rings.

What Is a Wedding Band and What Is the Meaning Behind It?

what is a wedding band

A wedding band is traditionally a plain metal or a diamond-encrusted ring that a couple wears during their marriage ceremony.

Married couples have been wearing wedding rings since ancient times. The very hat grew along the side of the river.

Fast forward today, wedding bands come in different styles and colors but they generally look simpler than engagement rings. Platinum wedding bands have become widely popular although plain yellow and white gold wedding bands are more traditional choices.

Is wedding band necessary? While it’s not completely necessary, a wedding band is a well-loved tradition everywhere in the world. This ring symbolizes eternal love and union.

Difference Between Engagement Ring and Wedding Ring

The main difference between an engagement ring and a wedding ring is that the former is given during the proposal and the latter is worn during the marriage ceremony. From there, both rings serve the same purpose - they symbolize the couple’s love and commitment to each other. However, it’s easy to distinguish one from another in terms of look, style, and settings.

Engagement Ring:

  • This ring has a more intricate design that steals the show.
  • It typically features a center stone, usually a diamond or a gemstone.
  • Since it’s made with intricate designs and settings, many women don’t wear their engagement rings daily but only during special occasions.
  • It comes in many styles and settings.

Wedding Ring:

  • It looks simpler than an engagement ring. It’s typically a plain simple metal ring although modern designs can have subtle embellishments.
  • Wedding rings don’t normally feature large gemstones or center stones but they can have smaller stones around the band.
  • The most common styles or settings are plain, pavé, and channel set.
  • Wedding bands tend to be sturdier than engagement rings and suitable for everyday use.

Do You Really Need Both an Engagement & Wedding Ring?

While an engagement ring is nice to have, there are no rules that say couples should have them. It all depends on your personal preference. Some people choose to propose without a ring and that’s perfectly fine.

However, proposing marriage with a ring has become an important tradition in many cultures. The ring symbolizes the emotional commitment that their partner is willing to make for them.

Traditionally, a diamond engagement ring is given during the proposal. You should wear it throughout your engagement. And once you officially tie the knot, you wear a complementary band which is your wedding ring.

engagement ring proposal

How to Wear Your Engagement and Wedding Rings

Many couples get confused about how they should wear these two important pieces. But then again, there are no rules about how to wear engagement ring and wedding band. You can choose to follow the tradition (which varies between cultures) or wear it however you want.

Do You Wear Your Wedding Ring and Engagement Ring Together?

Most brides choose to wear their engagement rings as they walk down the aisle and even long after their wedding. Typically, you wear both rings on the fourth finger of your left hand, with the wedding band inside so it’s closer to your heart.

To ensure the position, it is customary for a bride to transfer her engagement ring on her right-hand finger during the wedding. Then, after the nuptials, they put it back to their left-hand ring finger, stacked on top of the wedding ring.

Why are They Worn on the Left Hand?

The ritual of wearing the engagement ring and wedding ring on the left-hand dates back to ancient Greece and Rome.

At the time, people believed that the fourth finger of the left hand has a vein connected to the heart. That vein was called Vena Amoris. Since people regarded the heart as the “center of human emotions”, wearing the rings on this finger is symbolic of their significant importance in a couple’s life.

Which Finger to Wear Your Engagement Ring On?

Engagement rings are typically worn on the fourth finger of the left hand. All the other rings that a woman bought for herself go to the right hand.

But as mentioned earlier, some brides move the engagement ring temporarily to their right-hand finger until after the exchange of wedding bands.

Which Finger to Wear Your Wedding Band On?

Knowing how to wear wedding rings is one of the first few things marrying couples are excited to know. If you choose to follow the tradition, it’s similar to how you wear your engagement ring.

How to Pair Your Engagement Ring With a Wedding Band

Because you’re likely to be wearing both of them together on your left-hand finger, it’s nice to have an engagement ring and a wedding ring that complement each other.

Many people think that engagement and wedding rings should have matching metals. Well, not really. Feel free to mix and match colors and designs. Be creative!

However, if you don't want a gap between your two rings, choose a classic style of wedding band. For engagement rings, round-cut stones are extremely versatile and work well with any type of band.

Engagement Rings and Wedding Rings for Men

engagement ring for men

While it isn't very common, men can wear engagement rings too. Traditions vary by country and culture when it comes to who, when, and how engagement and wedding rings are worn.

Men's engagement rings vary significantly from women's. Among the most popular styles are platinum eternity and diamond bands. Men's wedding bands are usually chunkier for a manly appeal and they can also have a large center stone.

Similar to women, men are expected to wear their engagement and wedding rings on their left-hand ring finger.

How Much Do Wedding and Engagement Rings Cost?

Wedding bands and engagement rings are high-value jewelry products. Their prices can vary depending on many factors like the diamond quality, band type, prong setting, uniqueness, and style. However, it’s possible to find beautiful pieces without breaking your bank.

You can buy an exquisite diamond engagement ring below $1,000. Check out this stunning large black round cut diamond surrounded by small white diamonds or this dazzling three-stone diamond ring crafted in 14K white gold.

You can also find a high-quality wedding band at an affordable price. Whether you want something classic and sophisticated like this platinum wedding band or a uniquely charming piece like this delicate clarity ring with shimmering diamonds, you have plenty of beautiful options to choose from.

Engagement Ring vs Wedding Ring: Bottom-line

Both the engagement ring and wedding band symbolize a couple’s commitment to each other. They make marriage proposals and weddings more special and significant.

When shopping for these rings, it’s important to consider your partner’s preferences. It also helps to learn as much as you can about fine jewelry so you feel more confident when shopping around.

Learning about 14K vs 18K gold, 4Cs of diamond, and popular styles of rings should help you choose the perfect rings to mark the start of your married life.

Lastly, dare to be different. You don’t have to strictly follow the norm when choosing or wearing your engagement and wedding rings. After all, it’s your wedding. Choose the style that suits your personality and makes you feel happy!

Mariam Norman
Mariam Norman is a former wedding planner, an experienced storyteller and a gemologist at Noray Designs. She is passionate about helping people explore all aspects of gemology and fashion industry.

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