Engagement Ring vs. Wedding Ring: Do You Need Both?

We pinned down the difference between an engagement ring and a wedding band, and whether you actually need to buy both

Updated 05/29/19

Photo by Ryan Ray Photography

So, your fiancé chose the perfect engagement ring—congratulations! But, what's really the difference when it comes to the engagement ring vs. the wedding ring? And, if you love your engagement ring so much, do you also need to get a coordinating wedding ring? Sometimes finding the perfect wedding band match can be tricky. Can you simply wear your engagement ring after you're married, instead, or would that be bucking tradition a bit too much? Is it acceptable to even wear your wedding band on the opposite ring finger?

Our wedding experts are here to weigh in on all your burning engagement and wedding ring etiquette questions.

Engagement Ring vs. Wedding Ring: What's the Difference?

Traditional engagement rings have one dominant stone, which either stands alone or is surrounded by additional, smaller stones. An engagement ring is usually given as part of the proposal, or if not, at an early point in the engagement.

By contrast, a wedding ring is usually a plain metal band or an eternity band with diamonds all around that you receive during the wedding ceremony and wear from then on.

These aren't the only differences. There's also a major price difference between traditional engagement and wedding rings. Even if the wedding ring has stones, their total carat weight is usually less less than the engagement ring, and for that reason, a wedding ring is significantly less expensive than an engagement ring.

You can, of course, throw tradition out the window. Taylor Lanore, diamond consultant and engagement ring designer for Lauren B. Fine Jewelry and Diamonds, says that since women are now having more of a say in their ring designing, brides are parting with tradition, and there are a lot more engagement and wedding ring variations. "People are doing whatever they want, and wedding bands offer the opportunity to have more flair," she says.

How to Wear Your Engagement and Wedding Rings

Traditionally, you wear your engagement ring and wedding ring stacked on the fourth finger of your left hand. As far as how to stack them, tradition holds that the wedding brides wear the wedding band inside the engagement ring so that it's closer to her heart (aww!).

Other people like to keep their engagement ring on one hand and their wedding band on the other, especially if they're very diverse rings that can't be stacked.

When To Pick Out Wedding Bands

Lanore suggests that couples choose wedding bands at least two months before the wedding. "That way, you can account for any last-minute wedding planning details that might pop up while your rings are already in production." If you're unsure about what kind of wedding band you want initially, she also suggests wearing your engagement ring for a few months before you choose the wedding ring. Your preferences might change, so take your engagement ring for a spin to get a better grasp of the wedding band you're envisioning as your big day draws closer.

Do You. Need. Both an Engagement and Wedding Ring?

Ultimately, this is really a matter of personal preference. If you like the traditional look, then yes, of course! Whether you're adding an eternity band set with pavé diamonds or a plain metal band, a wedding ring/engagement ring stack is a timeless and beautiful look.

Rings on their own, of course, are also gorgeous. Instead of a separate engagement ring and wedding ring, some people opt for only a single ring. Why?

  • Single rings can be more comfortable and less fussy than a stacked band and engagement ring combo.
  • It's one less ring to have to worry about losing (especially important if you're a bit scatterbrained!).
  • You don't have to worry about two rings perfectly lining up (it can sometimes be tricky to find a wedding band that matches and lines up perfectly with your engagement ring if they're not purchased at the same time).
  • You can make a bigger investment in a single standout ring.

The bottom line? There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing, designing or wearing engagement and wedding rings. You can wear none, one, two, three rings — the only rule you should follow is to make sure you choose whatever makes sense to you!

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