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

Whether you need (or want) both, it's up to YOU

Updated 05/29/19

Photo by Ryan Ray Photography

So, your partner chose the perfect engagement ring—a big "congratulations!" is in order. But what's really the difference between engagement rings and wedding rings? And, if you love your engagement ring so much, do you also need to get a coordinating wedding ring to match? 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 typically 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 a diamond-encrusted eternity band that you receive during the wedding ceremony and wear from then on.

Additionally, 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 than the engagement ring, and for that reason, a wedding ring costs significantly less than an engagement ring.

You can, of course, throw tradition out the window. According to Taylor Lanore, a diamond consultant and engagement ring designer for Lauren B. Fine Jewelry and Diamonds, women are now having more of a say in the designing of their ring. Not only are brides parting with tradition, but they're opting to diversify their engagement and wedding ring selections. "People are doing whatever they want, and wedding bands offer the opportunity to have more flair," she says.

Meet the Expert

Taylor Lanore is a diamond consultant and engagement ring designer for Lauren B. Fine Jewelry and Diamonds.

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).

Some 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 pick out 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 the kind of wedding band you want initially, wear 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 closer to the wedding day.

Do You Need Both an Engagement and Wedding Ring?

Ultimately, this really comes down to 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's 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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