Engagement Rings and Wedding Rings: Styles, Differences, Tips for Wearing and More

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Exchanging rings is an exciting part of getting married for many newlyweds. But what’s the real difference between wedding bands and engagement rings? Do you need to wear both rings, or can you choose to wear just one? When should you buy rings, and what options do you have for how to wear them?

The tradition of wedding rings for couples as symbols of love dates back from 6,000 years ago, but common practices have changed a lot since then. We’ll walk you through both the traditional customs of rings and some of the more diverse, modern approaches people choose today. In the end, every decision you make about your rings comes down to personal choice.

How Are Engagement Rings and Wedding Rings Different?

Engagement rings

An engagement ring is traditionally presented during a proposal, or when a couple decides to get married. Engagement rings usually have one dominant stone, either standalone or surrounded by other, smaller stones. The most common is a diamond, but other stones are gaining in popularity. The ring band style can be as varied as the stones and range from thin to wide. They can be made from simple silver, white, yellow or even rose gold (or a combination) to platinum metals. 

In reality, an engagement ring doesn’t have to look any certain way, and it can even be styled more like a typical wedding ring. You should choose the ring you or your partner are bound to love for years to come. If you are looking for ideas for an engagement ring you can study up on the most popular ones in our guide to everything you should know before buying an engagement ring

Wedding rings

Wedding rings, on the other hand, are usually exchanged between both people at the wedding ceremony, to symbolize the official bond of marriage.

They’re typically a band with a simpler style than an engagement ring. Some brides prefer to wear plain metal bands, like platinum or yellow gold wedding rings. Most commonly, wedding rings for couples often have no central focal point and no large stones. The symbolism of a wedding ring is closely tied in with the symbolism of its shape—a circle. Circles have no beginning or end, therefore historically have been used as a metaphor for totality, wholeness, infinity, and timelessness. By exchanging wedding bands the couple are promising their timeless and never ending love and devotion to each other. 

Do I Need to Wear Both Rings?

Traditionally, both engagement rings and wedding bands are worn together after the wedding. They each symbolize a separate element and meaning of the married couple’s love, commitment, and journey together. Of course, if you want to wear either just an engagement ring or a wedding ring on its own, that’s perfectly okay, too.

Some people prefer not to wear an engagement ring — especially if there was no big engagement event where a ring was presented, or it was more of a mutual agreement to get married. Others choose to keep it minimalist and just don’t ‘dig’ the aesthetic of both the wedding and engagement ring. It all depends on what combination holds the right meaning for you throughout different times in your marriage.

What Are Some Practical Reasons to Wear Just One Ring?

Here are more of the reasons some brides keep things simple by wearing only an engagement ring or a wedding ring.

  • You can spend more money on one standalone ring when you don’t need to split your budget between two.
  • You don’t need to worry about losing two rings when you only own one.
  • A single ring may be more comfortable for you to wear.
  • You can choose a larger ring with no concerns about how to still fit two rings on one finger.
  • You don’t have to worry about coordinating the styles of two rings perfectly, especially if you didn’t buy them as a set.
  • You can wear just your wedding band on occasions when you’d prefer to accessorize with less bling.

Can I Wear More Than Two Wedding/Engagement Rings?

Tradition dictates only an engagement ring and wedding ring are worn at the start of a marriage. Then, later, sometimes a spouse gifts an eternity ring to commemorate a significant anniversary.

But, more recently, a trend has emerged where brides build a collection of more than two bands. These can be worn in a nesting stack on one finger, for a layered look. Or, they can be spread across different fingers. You can mix different metals and stones, or go for a matching style. 

These sets include the wedding band and engagement ring with other rings being added to mark special occasions. If you’re hankering for more rings than just the two, the options are endless.

How Should I Wear My Wedding Band and Engagement Ring?

The Ancient Egyptians believed there was a vein in the fourth finger, between the pinky and the middle finger, of the left hand that led directly to the heart. The Romans later adopted the tradition of wearing commitment rings on this finger, as they believed it strengthened the vow of commitment. This spread it throughout Europe, and it has carried through into most cultures today. Although there’s no such vein, we still typically wear engagement and wedding rings on this finger.

It’s customary to place the wedding ring on the finger first so it sits closer to your heart. The engagement ring sits on top, closest to the knuckle, to protect the wedding ring. Male wedding rings sit on the fourth finger of the left hand as well. 

However, you should wear your ring or rings on the finger that feels most comfortable and significant for you. Some brides wear their engagement ring on one of their fourth fingers and their wedding ring on the other, especially if the rings don’t sit well together.

Do the Engagement Ring and Wedding Ring Need to Match?

The majority of people want their two rings to complement each other aesthetically, as they’re usually worn on the same finger. It’s popular to perfectly pair the metal color, style, or format, as well as any stones that feature on the rings.

But no rule says your wedding band and engagement ring must match one another. If you can’t choose between two styles that you love, you can mix and match your rings to your heart’s content. And some brides think it just looks better when their rings contrast each other. You could be on the hunt for a white gold engagement ring and yellow gold wedding rings. Your main concern should be that your rings fit well together so they don’t scratch, rub, or catch on one another.

Should I Buy Both Rings at the Same Time?

You can certainly buy an engagement and wedding ring together, and many couples prefer to. More and more brides are having a say in the design of their rings — even the engagement ring, traditionally not seen by the bride until the proposal. 

If you’re planning to buy both rings together, you may want to invest in a bridal set — a set of rings, designed to coordinate seamlessly. The rings’ metals are usually exactly color-matched and fit together flawlessly.

Plenty of people also buy their rings separately, especially if they don’t yet know what they want to wear as their wedding ring. If you have plans for your rings to match, buying one later may take some careful planning. After all, the metal color, style, and fit will all need to align. Did you know that Gabriel & Co. rings are designed to be matching sets? Every Gabriel & Co. engagement ring has a matching wedding ring. So even if they are bought separately, you can find the perfect match to your rings.

However, this process becomes a lot easier when you speak to a custom jeweler. Find out more about our custom jewelry design service at Brinkers. Just make sure you pick out your wedding bands with enough time before the big day, in case delays come up or you need to request size alterations. We recommend at least two months prior to the wedding.

Why Are Engagement Rings More Expensive Than Wedding Rings?

There’s usually a pretty sizeable price difference between engagement rings and wedding rings. According to The Knot 2020 Jewelry and Engagement Study, the average cost of an engagement ring is currently $5,500. But female wedding bands in 2020 came in at an average of just $900. Why is the price difference so great?

This disparity often comes down to the cost of the stones in the engagement ring. Wedding rings tend to be a lot simpler in style. Even if the wedding ring has inlaid stones, its total carat weight is typically lower than the engagement ring. Engagement rings also usually feature a larger diamond (or other stone) than any found on the wedding ring.

Ultimately, The Decision is Yours

There may be cultural or religious rites you follow that will affect the engagement and wedding ring choices you make. But besides these, there are certainly no ‘official’ rules to follow when choosing engagement rings and wedding bands. And there are no wrong answers to where to buy wedding rings, how they should look, how much they cost, or how you choose to wear them. 

You could own both an engagement ring and wedding ring, then find over the years you alternate which ring you wear depending on the month or the occasion. You might find over time you want to change fingers, or your rings no longer fit how they used to. 

It’s important, however, that whichever ring or rings you buy are right for you. Although not every piece of jewelry sees it through the entirety of a marriage, you’ll probably be wearing them for a long time. You should find the style you love and show it off exactly how you want. Take a look at our beautiful collection of engagement rings and wedding rings. You can browse our Brinkers online shop or visit us in-store to find the perfect rings for you.

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