Engagement Rings vs. Wedding Rings

Timing

An engagement ring is traditionally given at the time of, or soon after the acceptance of, a wedding proposal. Wedding rings are exchanged at the wedding ceremony and worn starting at that time.

Who Wears It

In the United States, traditionally women receive engagement rings. Some couples prefer for both—or neither—person to wear engagement rings. In some cultures, engagement gifts are exchanged that have nothing to do with rings. In modern practice, both parties can wear wedding rings, though, again, this varies by culture and preferences.

Design

Engagement rings can carry a diamond solitaire, several diamonds, a solitaire gemstone, several gemstones, a combination of diamonds and gemstones, or no stones at all. Wedding rings—also called wedding bands—tend to be less fancy than their engagement ring counterparts. Some engagement rings and wedding bands are purchased as complimentary sets. And occasionally husbands surprise their brides with elaborate wedding bands at the altar.

Location

The ring finger is the fourth finger on the hand, counting the thumb as the first finger. In the Christian Orthodox culture wedding rings are expected on the right hand. In other cultures, wedding rings are expected on the left hand.

The wedding ring is considered a more important symbol of the marriage than the engagement ring. It is worn closer to the heart; the engagement ring is worn closer to the fingertip. Due to this convention, during the wedding ceremony in which rings are exchanged, the engagement ring should be temporarily removed so the wedding ring can be placed correctly without interruption. Most brides temporarily wear their engagement rings on the right hand or a different left-hand finger for the duration of the wedding ceremony.

Cost

While both wedding bands and engagement rings can be as simple as the couple desires, most engagement rings include at least one diamond and most wedding bands do not include gemstones. Therefore, the cost of the wedding band is significantly less than the cost of the engagement ring. There is no set proportion for their costs.

Relationship to Each Other

There are no rules for how an engagement ring and wedding ring should appear together. Most people prefer the two rings to blend in appearance, so they select the same metal color to fashion both rings and look for complimentary widths. As mentioned, some engagement rings and wedding rings are bought as a package and designed to appear stylish together. The wedding band can be designed to duplicate the engagement ring—for example, both can have a pav? of diamonds. Or the wedding band can be designed to focus attention on the wedding ring, even to slide under the wedding ring almost entirely.

One Ring, Two Rings, or No Rings

While most married women wear both the wedding ring and engagement ring, some prefer to have one ring carry both significances. Others request no ring, as it may interfere with their daily activities or carry an undesirable undertone. In some cultures, men do not wear wedding bands at all; other men display their wedding bands on their fourth fingers, as their wives do.