Wedding Rings vs. Engagement Rings: 7 Things You Need to Know

Table of Contents

  • What Is an Engagement Ring?
  • What Is a Wedding Ring?
  • Where Did the Tradition of Wedding Rings and Engagement Rings Come From?
  • What’s the Difference Between an Engagement Ring and Wedding Ring?


Ready to pop the big question with a stunning ring? Then you may be wondering what the difference is between a wedding ring vs. engagement ring. Both a wedding ring and an engagement ring can be worn every day to represent your everlasting love, but they often look and wear very differently.

While both are exceedingly popular, an engagement ring is not exactly the same thing as a wedding ring.

You may have started to shop around for the perfect ring to flaunt while engaged, on your special day and till death do you part. Yet one thing remains unclear: what’s the difference between wedding rings and engagement rings? Allow us to explain.

What Is an Engagement Ring?

In a world of engagement rings and wedding rings, things can get a little tricky. How will you know which one to buy? Especially considering all the other decisions leading up to your wedding day; the dress, the venue, the flowers. First order of business: What is an engagement ring?

A woman wears an engagement ring following a successful proposal. An engagement ring is a promise, a vow before reading the real vows, that a couple will be married. Engagement rings differ immensely in style options and can feature anything from a glittering band adorned with stunning embellishments like lab diamonds, to a unique colored center stone. Whatever you prefer, you can craft your engagement ring to echo your unique style.

What Is a Wedding Ring?

Married couples exchange wedding rings during their marriage ceremony. Unlike the glitzy and elaborate designs of a traditional engagement ring, wedding rings are most commonly simple and understated. Wedding rings can be worn alone, or accommodate an engagement ring in a wedding ring set. The main difference here is that both men and women traditionally wear wedding rings—although what is tradition, really? Choose to wear the rings you want, whatever style they may be.

Do you propose with the wedding ring? Many often wonder this very question along with the difference between a wedding ring vs. engagement ring. Every love story is unique, and so is the decision to buy a wedding ring or engagement ring for a proposal. There are some questions to address before proposing, including:

  • Is the proposal a total surprise? If so, play it safe with an engagement ring and then you two can pick out the matching wedding ring together.

  • Are you buying your rings together? If so, it may be more cost-effective to buy a set rather than purchasing two rings separately.

  • How long will your engagement be? If you have a long engagement you’ll have time to pick out a matching wedding ring. If the engagement is quick, you may want to purchase both at the same time to cross this big task off your wedding to-do list.

Before you decide which ring to incorporate in your proposal, find out the history behind engagement rings and wedding rings.

Where Did the Tradition of Wedding Rings and Engagement Rings Come From?

Before the late 15th century, engagement rings and wedding rings were one and the same. Wearing a wedding ring is a tradition dating back to antiquity when people foraged the land and made rings out of plants.

As humanity evolved, so too did the standard for engagement rings. Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I, broke tradition by gifting his fiancée, Mary of Burgundy, a coveted diamond engagement ring. The gift went down in history as the first official diamond engagement ring.

The trend swept through Europe and made its way to America. Still, diamond engagement rings were not the status quo until centuries later. After the roaring 20s came the world’s largest economic blow: the Great Depression. As far as diamonds go, the jeweler’s shelves were getting quite dusty. How in 70 years did diamonds go from dust collectors to the standard engagement ring center stone? With an exceptional, but destructive, slogan.

20th-century couples were the first generation to meet the De Beers diamond marketing campaign. As of 1947, a tidal shift occurred in the engagement ring market with the famous slogan, “A diamond is forever.”

In the 21st-century, rising environmental and social issues are shifting the market toward conflict-free, lab grown diamonds—diamonds that are timeless, more affordable, better for the environment because they are not mind and made to last through generations.

What’s the Difference Between an Engagement Ring and Wedding Ring?

We’ve reviewed the history, so what are the main differences between engagement rings vs. wedding rings? The most notable difference between wedding rings vs. engagement rings is the style.

In a traditional sense, engagement rings are thought to be more detailed than wedding rings, but tradition does not dictate current ring trends. Now, you have the freedom to incorporate your personal style into your ring design—whatever that may look like. While some may wear a simple wedding ring next to a dazzling engagement ring, others may choose a simple engagement ring without a wedding ring—it’s completely up to you.

Engagement Rings:

  • Are worn after getting engaged, during the engagement and marriage
  • Traditionally worn by women
  • Tend to be more extravagant and embellished with a center stone
  • Can be worn alone or with a matching wedding ring

Wedding Rings:

  • Are exchanged during the wedding ceremony
  • Both men and women wear a wedding ring
  • Wedding rings can similarly be extravagant to match the engagement ring, or simple depending on your style
  • Can be worn alone or with an engagement ring

Considering these differences, why are engagement rings more expensive than wedding rings?
Wedding rings are usually a simple design comprised of metal and occasionally a few small accent stones, although more dazzling designs like eternity bands are becoming more popular. Whether you choose a simple or daring wedding ring, your engagement ring will still likely cost more because it contains more expensive and precious materials. Fortunately, engagement rings no longer have to cost a month’s salary. 12FIFTEEN lab grown diamonds cost a significant amount less than mined diamonds, making them the superior choice.

What Is a Wedding Ring Set?

Couples often get caught up in choosing the perfect engagement ring, but what about the wedding ring? Sure, the engagement ring is the spotlight, but a wedding ring illuminates it.

Wedding sets are a pair of rings including the engagement ring and wedding ring. There are several options with wedding ring sets: buy an engagement ring and propose, then choose a matching wedding ring together. Or, you can buy a wedding ring set, and the bride-to-be can wear the engagement ring during the engagement. During the marriage ceremony, the bride and groom exchange rings and the wedding ring joins the engagement ring on the bride’s ring finger.

There is major buyer appeal to wedding ring sets. Namely, a complimentary wedding ring makes an engagement ring look brighter, more brilliant and bigger. Wedding ring sets also solve the problem of deciding between a wedding ring vs. engagement ring. The appeal of buying a matching wedding ring set is that they go together perfectly, just like you and your significant other. Or, perhaps, perfectly imperfect.

Should your wedding ring and engagement ring be the same size? Definitely. Otherwise, there is risk of the rings rubbing against one another and damaging each other, or irritating the skin.

We’ve covered the details, now let’s explore how to wear an engagement ring and wedding ring. Can you use your engagement ring as your wedding ring, for an all-in-one solution? Absolutely! There is no wrong way to wear them, and it’s entirely up to personal preference. You have the freedom to pick and choose what you like. Love the simple elegance of an engagement ring? By all means, rock your ring solo. Want a sophisticated set that matches perfectly? Choose a wedding ring set.

Can’t make up your mind? Choose a set and you’ll have the choice to wear your wedding ring one day, your engagement ring the next, or both at the same time.

You can also pick a few wedding rings you love and play around with the trend of stacking wedding rings. If you’re a trendsetter, have fun mixing the metals of your wedding and engagement ring set. The possibilities for how to wear your wedding rings are limitless!

Which Is Right for You: A Wedding Ring or Engagement Ring?

There are no hard and fast engagement ring and wedding ring “rules.” Instead, there are recommendations and tips to help you make an informed decision. Ultimately, it comes down to what you envision as being your forever ring. You deserve to have an exquisite ring that reflects your taste and love story.

Like the circle of your ring, your love is continuous; it is an eternal promise and everlasting bond. And just as you fell in love with your betrothed, the best thing to do when choosing your ring is follow your heart.

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