Engagement Ring vs. Wedding Rings

The exchanging of rings as a traditional symbol of marriage dates back to ancient times. As a modern practice, it brings up a lot of 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 in the same style and worn together?

There’s a lot of tradition mixed with more modern choices made for engagement rings and wedding rings today. While what you choose to do should be based on what feels right for you, let’s go through some answers to these questions and gain some clarity over any lingering confusion about these special symbols of love and commitment.

What's the Difference?

Engagement Ring

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 to be more of a wedding ring style.

Wedding Ring or Wedding Band

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 sets or even being soldered together in some cases so they become one piece. These days however, we see more and more clients opting to wear their wedding ring and engagement ring in unique ways, whether on separate fingers, or stacked with additional rings (more on creating a stacked set here). Wedding rings are usually simpler in their style and are a band without any large stones or a centerpiece gemstone.

Wedding rings can be as simple as a plain band of metal 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. Total carat weight is likely to be far less in a wedding ring than an engagement ring, even if the wedding band is inlaid with gemstones.

A diamond engagement ring worn on the traditional "ring finger" with diamond wedding bands on other fingers of the left hand.

engraved wedding band

Engraved wedding band worn by itself on the ring finger.

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. 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.

Before the Wedding: When you receive your engagement ring, traditionally it is worn on the ring finger. (You do not receive the wedding ring until the wedding ceremony.)

During the Wedding: During the wedding ceremony where there will most likely be an exchange of wedding bands, the engagement ring shifts to being worn on the right hand ring finger. This is done because due to another tradition, as a symbol of ultimate love and devotion, the wedding band is typically worn closest to the heart with the engagement ring on the outside. Wearing the engagement ring on the right hand during the ceremony also makes it easy for the wedding band to slip on the left hand without having to move a ring.

After the Wedding: After the wedding, many will choose to shift their engagement ring back to the left hand ring finger so the two rings start to be worn as a pair. The wedding ring is placed on the finger first so that it resides closest to your heart, with the engagement ring following on the outside. For those who prefer 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 rings. This ensures the rings will sit nicely on your finger next to one another without unnecessary rubbing or even scratching of metal by stones. For some, they may choose to solder their two rings together to prevent movement and twisting around the finger making the rings misaligned.

While this is the traditional arrangement, some prefer to only wear their wedding ring on a day-to-day basis, or add additional bands to create a unique stacked set.

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

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

There are really no rules to follow, though. And since these rings are such important pieces to be worn and cherished for a lifetime, it’s most important that you love your rings 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 rings in a stack all together, or spread out. Or perhaps wearing the wedding ring daily and the engagement ring only on specific occasions. Read on for more tips on how to choose a wedding band for your engagement ring.

5 carat cushion with two diamond rings

5 carat cushion engagement ring worn on ring finger, paired with two diamond bands

Oval engagement ring worn with multiple diamond rings

Solitaire engagement ring worn alone on ring finger, with bands worn on other fingers.

Matching engagement ring and wedding ring set

A diamond engagement ring shown with a diamond wedding band worn closer to the inside of the traditional ring finger.

A matching wedding band set (men's wedding ring, women's wedding ring and an engagement ring in coordinating faceted style).

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 of time 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 important 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 may be your second experience of picking out rings together, but it will require some 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 own individual tastes to be represented in the band. Honoring personal preference is so 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 it comes to 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 jeweler 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.

Pear diamond engagement ring worn on the ring finger.

Pear diamond ring worn with a wedding band and addtional ring on the ring finger.

Pairing a Wedding Band with High vs. Low Set Ring

Have questions? We're happy to help.