Engagement Rings Versus Wedding Rings: Do You Need Both?

Ultimately, it's up to you.

Wedding bands and engagement ring sitting on top of invite

Photo by William Reid Photography

If your partner surprised you with the perfect engagement ring, you might be wondering if you really need to add another ring to your fourth finger once you're married. What's the difference between an engagement ring and a wedding ring? And, as you're likely wondering, if you love your engagement ring so much, do you really need to add a wedding band, or can you simply continue to wear your engagement ring solo after you're married? Let's get these engagement ring versus wedding ring etiquette questions answered once and for all.

An Engagement Ring Versus a Wedding Ring

Traditional engagement rings typically have one dominant stone, which either stands alone or is surrounded by 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 traditionally a plain metal band or a diamond-encrusted eternity band that you receive when you exchange your vows during the wedding ceremony. Typically, there's also a fairly significant price difference between engagement rings and wedding rings. Even if the wedding band has inlaid diamonds or other gemstones, its total carat weight is generally less than that of the engagement ring.

You can, of course, throw tradition out the window. According to Taylor Lanore, former public relations director for Lauren B. Fine Jewelry and Diamonds, brides are having more of a say in the choice and design of their rings. And not only are they breaking with tradition, but they're also 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 the former public relations director for Lauren B. Fine Jewelry and Diamonds.

How to Wear Your Engagement and Wedding Rings

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

That being said, some brides opt to wear their engagement ring on one hand and their wedding band on the other, especially if they're diverse rings that can't be easily 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, and your rings are already in production."

If you're unsure about the kind of band you want, 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 band you're envisioning closer to the big day.

Do You Need Both?

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 and engagement ring pairing is a timeless and beautiful look. And a recent trend that shows no sign of waning is building a ring stack of three (or more!) bands, often with mixed metals and styles.

Of course, it's perfectly fine if you'd rather wear just one ring to symbolize both your engagement and your (future) married status. Here are a few sensible reasons why some brides opt to wear just one ring:

  • Single rings can be more comfortable and less obtrusive than a wedding band and engagement ring combination, and they can look absolutely stunning on their own. 
  • It's one less ring to worry about losing, which is especially important if you're a bit scatterbrained.
  • You also don't have to be concerned about two rings perfectly matching. It can sometimes be tricky to find a wedding band that pairs with your engagement ring if they're not purchased as a set.
  • The funds that would typically be allocated for both an engagement ring and a wedding band can be invested 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. Whatever you choose, just make sure it will have enduring meaning for you for many years to come.

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