If you’re getting ready to get on one knee or walk down the aisle, we’re willing to bet you have a few great questions about the process that you never thought to ask. Contrary to popular belief, not everybody knows everything about modern-day wedding customs, and getting married can be a bit of a learning process for first-timers. Luckily, the Verragio team is here to help you every step of the way, from learning the ins and outs of engagement rings to proposing like a professional.
In this guide, we’ll cover all things rings to help you untangle this complex world so you’re ready to make the big commitment with confidence. Read on to learn everything there is to know about the two most important pieces of wedding jewelry: the engagement ring and the wedding band.
Engagement Rings: The Details
The engagement ring serves as a symbol of one’s commitment to marry. Traditionally, it is given from one partner to another during the proposal. Although engagement rings come in all shapes and sizes, the most common and popular style is the solitaire diamond engagement ring. The engagement ring is worn up until the ceremony and after.
- Given from proposer to proposee as a gift to signify the intent to marry
- Traditionally given from man to woman
- Worn on the left-hand ring finger of the proposee
- Traditionally picked out and paid for by the man, though this is becoming less and less common
- Often features a single diamond center stone
- Worn indefinitely, beginning with the engagement
- More expensive than the wedding band
- Worn alone on the finger until the wedding ring is added during the ceremony
Let’s start with the basics. What is an engagement ring? This is the token of love and commitment given from one partner to another, typically from man to woman during the proposal. In the United States, it is worn on the ring finger of the left hand. Traditionally, it is selected by, purchased by and offered from the man to the woman, but those social norms are changing rapidly. Still, surveys show that, among heterosexual couples, less than one percent of women propose to their male partners.
While tradition may reign supreme, the rules are still ever-changing when it comes to engagements and marriage. Today, it is not unheard of for both members of a relationship to wear an engagement ring until the knot is officially tied, especially among same-sex couples. The standard is changing with regard to design, too. While there is no doubt that the classic diamond engagement ring settings are still the most popular, brides and grooms are more likely than ever to propose with a different stone in a more avant-garde design.
Wedding Rings: Everything You Need to Know
Traditionally, wedding rings are exchanged during the wedding ceremony as a symbol of eternity and commitment. Individuals usually pick out their own wedding bands and buy them out of the wedding budget, though this varies from couple to couple. They are generally simpler in design than engagement rings. They are also meant to be worn every day following the ceremony.
- Exchanged during the wedding ceremony as a symbol of eternity
- Worn on the left-hand ring finger of both parties
- Individuals typically select or design their own rings
- Typically paid for out of the joint wedding budget
- Generally features a simpler design and may not have any gemstones
- Worn indefinitely, beginning with the wedding ceremony
- Cheaper than the engagement ring
- Often matches or complements the engagement ring
Unlike the engagement ring, the wedding ring is not worn until the marriage ceremony. In the United States, it is worn by both partners on the ring finger of the left hand. For the woman or proposee, this means that the engagement ring and wedding band are worn on the same finger, often in a stacked manner. For this reason, it’s very common for the woman to wear a matching set or to have a wedding band that complements the engagement ring.
Traditionally speaking, both members of the marriage are supposed to wear their wedding bands every day for the rest of their lives, but this is another one of those marriage norms that’s rapidly shifting. These days, a couple might wear their wedding rings all the time, some of the time or not at all. Usually, couples find a jeweler together to pick out their wedding bands, but some couples pick out rings for one another and surprise each other during the ceremony.
Design and style is another discerning factor that sets the wedding band apart from the engagement ring. Traditionally, the wedding bands are simpler in design and do not feature any large stones. A typical men’s wedding band might be made of a shiny, solid gold with minimal adornment. A typical women’s wedding band might feature small diamonds or accent stones all the way around or just in the front. It’s not uncommon for women to wear solid metal wedding bands with no stones as well.
The Differences Between Wedding and Engagement Rings
So now that you have a general idea of these two pieces of traditional wedding jewelry and the purpose they serve, let’s take a closer look at how they differ from one another. This will help you see that, though they are similar, these two important pieces of jewelry are not the same.
- Their Origins — As you might expect, the engagement ring and wedding band have vastly different origin stories. The wedding ring’s history dates back thousands of years, when ancient Egyptians gave pieces of gold jewelry to one another as a sign of love and devotion. On the other hand, so to speak, the engagement ring is a much more recent symbol of love. The engagement ring, as we know it today, traces its roots back to an ad campaign from 1947 when the De Beers diamond company began promoting them with the tagline “A Diamond is Forever.” That doesn’t make one more valuable than the other, but it helps you put things into context from the beginning.
- Who Buys It — And now for one of the most important questions: Who pays for what? Historically, the male acts as the proposer who picks out and purchases the ring and the female the proposee who accepts — or, in some sad cases, denies — the engagement ring. The same setup may occur for the wedding bands or the couple may choose to select them individually and pay for them out of their wedding budget. With that said, this is really a couple-by-couple decision, and there’s no wrong way to finance your wedding jewelry.
- Who Picks It Out — Traditionally, the male or proposee selects or designs the engagement ring for the woman while the couple selects and designs their own wedding bands. Again, the traditional way is not always the best way when it comes to selecting rings. Realistically, picking out a ring for one’s partner is rare and getting rarer among modern-day couples. The fact of the matter is that wedding jewelry is costly and something you or your partner will wear for a lifetime, so it makes sense for individuals to pick out exactly what they want rather than relying on their partner to get it right with no input.
- Cost — Speaking of cost, it’s one of the biggest differentiators between engagement ring and wedding band. The engagement ring tends to be the costlier of the two, ringing up for about $2,500 for an average engagement ring and $13,500 for a luxury engagement ring. This is why you often hear about the “three months’ rule” when reading about engagement rings. This rule suggests that the engagement ring should cost the equivalent of three months’ salary, though this is a rough estimate and certainly not a rule everyone should follow. In contrast, the average cost of a wedding band is lower, especially for men’s rings, so it’s often the less costly piece of jewelry in this case.
- How It’s Presented — The way in which the rings are presented helps set them apart from one another as well. Typically, the engagement ring is presented during the proposal, with the proposer getting on one knee with a ring box in hand. The proposee typically wears the ring by itself until the wedding ring is added during the ceremony. There is usually a portion of the ceremony that includes “the exchange of the rings,” in which the bride puts the groom’s ring on his finger and the groom puts the bride’s ring on her finger.
- When It’s Worn — The wedding and engagement rings are both used as a way to signal to the outside world of an individual’s status. Typically, the bride or proposee wears the engagement ring only until the wedding band is added during the wedding ceremony. This signifies to everyone around her that she is unmarried but engaged. The wedding bands are traditionally not worn by either member of the couple until they are officially exchanged during the wedding ceremony. Although every couple is different, the traditional thinking is that the wedding bands should be worn constantly for the rest of time, in part to symbolize that the individual is married.
- Design and Style — As we’ve already mentioned, wedding rings and engagement rings look quite different from one another. Traditional engagement rings feature a large, central stone that stands alone or is surrounded by a halo of dazzling smaller stones to complement the main attraction. Check out our stunning semi-mount ring settings for some great examples. For the vast majority of couples, said main attraction is a diamond, but more and more individuals are choosing other precious gemstones as their engagement ring’s showpiece. Wedding bands, in comparison, tend to be a lot simpler and less glitzy than engagement rings. It is not uncommon for them to be made of a single precious metal — often yellow gold, platinum or white gold — with no stones.
- Requirement — While both the engagement ring and wedding band are totally optional, it’s more common for couples to forgo the engagement ring than the wedding band. Similarly, it’s not uncommon for the wife or proposee to only wear her engagement ring some of the time and wear her wedding band all the time. As with every wedding tradition, nothing is truly required. It’s all about what represents you and your spouse-to-be.
Ultimately, It’s All Up to You and Your Spouse-to-Be
Not sure which ring traditions to keep? Just remember that it’s all up to you. Whether you want to go for it and invest in a striking engagement ring that commands attention or you prefer to forgo the jewelry altogether, as long as you are doing what feels best for your future marriage, know you are making the right decision. If you decide to go big with a pretty engagement ring or wedding band, start by checking out the Verragio rings near you!