Wedding Rings

What's the Difference Between an Engagement Ring and a Wedding Ring?

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

Photo by Ryan Ray Photography

So, your fiancé chose the perfect engagement ring—congratulations! But, what's really the difference between an engagement ring and a 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

Your husband-to-be uses the stunning engagement ring to propose, and it traditionally has one (or a few!) dominant stone. You wear this sparkler when you snap your exciting ring selfie and throughout the course of your engagement. On the other hand, the wedding ring is a band that's given at the wedding—you and your partner put these on each other's fingers when you exchange rings. A couple's wedding rings typically look similar, and are usually plain metal bands that match the engagement ring. Or, the bride can choose a more intricate wedding ring design, like an eternity band with diamonds all around.

The main difference between the engagement ring and the wedding ring is that they're two separate, stacked bands, and you don't wear the wedding ring until after you're married. You can also choose to attach the two rings, but this is less common since you can't take them apart. Traditionally, brides wear the wedding band inside the engagement ring so that it's closer to her heart (aww!). However, 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 wedding ring variations. "People are doing whatever they want, and wedding bands offer the opportunity to have more flair," she says. "Some people want wedding rings with a big stone, and that won't fit with the engagement ring, so they'll wear it on their other hand."

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?

Ultimately, it really comes down to personal preference. Instead of a separate engagement ring and wedding ring, many couples these days are deciding to get one ring each. Besides saving money, there are multiple benefits of going this route: Single rings are 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, plus, more of an investment can be made in a single stand-out stone. So deciding to go with one ring is a very smart idea for some couples. All that really matters is that your engagement ring is one you love and will be happy wearing all the time. And if you're enamored of your engagement ring on its own but still want a wedding ring, consider wearing them on separate ring fingers.

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