Difference Between Engagement Ring and Wedding Ring

Michael Bold
Written by Michael Bold · Posted in Rings Last Updated April 7, 2023 · minute read

Contrary to what J.R.R. Tolkien will tell you there isn’t one ring to rule them all when it comes to weddings. Engagement and wedding rings are not the same things, let’s get that out there straight away. 

To our utter amazement, lots of people use these terms interchangeably. We’re here to set the record straight once and for all. 

couple holds hand in wedding attire showing off engagement ring

What is the Difference Between an Engagement Ring and Wedding Ring?

Our plan is to tell you the difference between an engagement ring and a wedding ring. We’ll do this by exploring the significance of each, providing guidance on how to wear them, exploring the costs involved, and answering some frequently asked questions about the subject.

So sit back and relax as we take a deep dive into all things rings. We promise there will be no more mention of Lord of The Rings from here on out!

Engagement rings vs wedding rings

What is an engagement ring?

We’ve all seen it in rom-coms, haven’t we? It’s usually a guy getting down on one knee to pop the question to his beloved. If he hasn’t placed the ring in a flute of champagne he’s usually opening a box to reveal, you guessed it, the engagement ring.

This is the ring used for a proposal and to signify your intention to marry your partner. It’s usually chosen by the proposing partner but it’s becoming increasingly popular to shop for it together. This way the bride can pick out the perfect piece of jewelry that matches her style.

There’s a lot of variety to how an engagement ring looks. Popular options are the three-stone, halo, and solitaire styles. At the same time, they also come in various materials and will often feature diamonds or other gemstones. How many your ring will have will probably depend on the budget of a groom or couple.

This is usually the headline grabber and the ring you’ll show off to all your besties.

What is a wedding ring?

By contrast to the engagement ring the wedding ring usually gets less attention because it’s not as showy. 

However, it’s arguably more important. This is the ring you use on your wedding day as you exchange vows with one another. It’s a symbol of your love and commitment and is said to be circular to represent the unending bond you’re forming.

As we’ve said they’re usually much simpler in design and usually constructed from gold or platinum. They can be jazzed up a bit with some personal inscriptions on the inside but are usually smooth on the outside. 

The significance of engagement and wedding rings

Each ring comes with its own significance and will also hold personal value to a couple. 

Perhaps you were on a romantic holiday abroad when your partner surprised you with an engagement ring? 

Well, you’re always going to hold that memory close to your heart. Your engagement ring will be symbolic and a constant reminder of that moment whenever you look at it. This ring is a symbol of the beginning of your journey together.

On the other hand, your wedding ring shows the significance of those promises you make to each other on your wedding day. Remaining faithful to each other through all of your life struggles until death do you part.

Both hold their own significance and when combined create one ring of power. Sorry, we said no more Lord of The Rings references!

How should you wear engagement and wedding rings?

There are lots of different ways to wear your engagement and wedding rings. Heck some guys even wear them on chains around their necks and other people just don’t bother. 

The traditional way is to wear your wedding and engagement rings on the 4th finger of your left hand. That’s the one next to your pinky just for clarification. 

It seems that an urban myth passed down from the Egyptians is the reason for this. They believed that a vein on that finger runs directly to the heart and would therefore be symbolic. 

In fact, there is no such vein, well I guess all veins lead to the heart in one way or another. 

Before the wedding

Show it off gurl, you are engaged! 

Your significant other will place the engagement ring on your ring finger. If your partner purchased this covertly it might be the wrong size. Don’t feel bad for saying so. You’ll be wearing this for a super long time so make sure it’s comfortable.

Related Reading: How Should My Wedding Ring Fit?

During the wedding

This is typically where the wedding rings have their time to shine. It will probably be under the watchful protection of whoever you’ve chosen to be best man. Hopefully someone you trust implicitly! 

Before the ceremony, you’ll place your engagement ring on your right ring finger. This is so that the wedding ring can easily be placed on the left ring finger. You’ll already have the perfect sized wedding ring so it’ll slide right on.

At this point, you’ll probably be declared married and you can share your first kiss as a married couple. LET THE PARTY BEGIN!

After the wedding

Once you’re officially a married couple you can then move your engagement ring back to the left hand. The order of the rings is that the wedding ring goes on first followed by the engagement ring. This is so that the wedding ring is closest to your heart.

Hopefully, you’ve chosen rings that compliment each other. But if not you can just wear one. Some people don’t like to wear their engagement ring all the time, especially if it was a pricey number and they’re worried about losing it.

Equally some people find it uncomfortable to wear two rings at once. It’s really your choice what you do and there are no rules to follow. 

You could wear your rings for special occasions, solder them together to prevent movement or you could even get a tattooed ring as a symbolic placeholder. 

That last option is great for people who work with their hands a lot and find the ring irritates their finger or gets in the way.

Can you use your engagement ring as your wedding ring?

That’s really going to be up to you. What we can tell you is that it’s not the norm. The engagement ring is usually a bit more flashy than the wedding ring. For this reason, it might look a little bit out of place during your ceremony.

Equally, if you do use your engagement ring as your wedding ring it won’t match your partner. 

Couples typically choose wedding rings that are made of the same material and look visually similar. They also might have special engravings on the inside that can be seen when it’s not worn.

Should I make sure both my rings are from the same set?

It gets tricky trying to match your engagement ring to your wedding ring. Your engagement ring was likely bought for you by your partner as a surprise. Whilst the logical thing to do can seem to be to buy your wedding rings from the same set this isn’t necessary.

Instead what you should do is look for complementary elements in your wedding ring. Try to choose one that’s made of the same material. Don’t for example choose a gold wedding ring if your engagement ring is silver. Well, you can but we don’t think it will look as elegant on the finger.

At the same time, you also don’t need to purchase your partner’s wedding ring from the same set. This again can be chosen to just have a slight matching element that makes them look and feel cohesive with one another. 

With all that being said jewelers do offer bridal sets where the engagement and wedding ring are a perfect match. This might be the best option for you if you want a fuss free approach to purchasing your rings. Equally, purchasing as a set might reduce your overall costs.

Ultimately it’s something you’ll have to decide as a couple.

Engagement ring and wedding band rules

There are no rules when it comes to engagement and wedding rings! Simply traditions and superstitions. You can either choose to follow these or be cursed for your whole marriage…only joking! 

As an active wearer of an engagement and wedding ring, I can tell you that the fourth finger of the left hand just makes sense. Trust me! I’ve tried it on various other fingers and combinations and this is the comfiest.

However, say you’re working with your hands all day or are even left-handed I get how that could get in the way. Just find what works best for you and know that nothing bad will happen if you don’t adhere to tradition.

When should you purchase each ring?

Deciding who buys each band for a wedding is tricky but there are some things to consider on the best time to make the purchase.

The timing of your engagement ring is the toughest to answer. What have you got planned for the proposal? Are you waiting for a special date to pop the question? Valentine’s day? Christmas? New Year’s Eve?

We suggest getting it well in advance of this date. Maybe even raid your partner’s jewelry box so that you can take one they wear to the jeweler to get the right size.

You’ll purchase the wedding bands much closer to your wedding date. After all, you need to find out if your partners said yes to your proposal first! 

Our advice is a good 3 months before your wedding. This allows plenty of time for any sizing alterations or engravings from your jeweler. Getting this ring locked in early means there’s no mad panic near your wedding date when you’ll be stressed enough.

Do I have to buy an engagement ring and a wedding ring?

No, of course not. You can forgo the wedding rings altogether if you like. As we’ve said there are no rules when it comes to wedding rings. Maybe jewelry just isn’t your and your partner’s thing and you’d rather spend your money elsewhere.

Equally, you could just purchase the wedding bands or the engagement ring. 

One ring might suit your lifestyle better and it can often be more comfortable to wear than two rings. Having one ring can also mean it’s one less thing to worry about losing. 

Engagement rings can be expensive and we’ve all heard tales of people losing them. Dropping them down the basin or putting them down somewhere only for them to disappear. 

Whichever option you choose will be right for you and your partner. You don’t need to feel pressured into sticking with what everyone else does if it doesn’t feel right for you. 

Engagement ring vs wedding ring price

One big difference between engagement and wedding rings is how much they cost.

You’ll find that an engagement ring commands a much higher price tag. The reason for this is usually that they contain diamonds and have intricate detail. They’re also purchased mainly by men who are suckers! Only joking.

On the other hand, a wedding band is usually much simpler in design so will typically cost a lot less. That being said there are always exceptions to the rules, it will always come down to what you’ve picked for your wedding. 

Most couples will purchase one engagement ring usually for the bride and then a wedding ring each for the big day. The price of both wedding rings is usually comparable to the cost of the engagement ring but this isn’t always the case.

The Knot’s 2022 Jewelry and Engagement Study [1] found that the average cost of an engagement ring in the USA is $6k. On the flip side, the average cost of the groom’s wedding ring is $600 according to California Business Journal [2]. That’s 10x the price so you really need to think about your budget when choosing your rings. 

Obviously, those numbers are just averages but that means some people are spending way over $6k to pop the question. Do whatever feels right for you and where you’re at in life. 

You may feel more comfortable allocating that money to the overall wedding fund or using it to pay for the perfect honeymoon.

FAQs about the difference between engagement and wedding rings

Are engagement and wedding rings the same thing?

Engagement and wedding rings are not the same things. We get the confusion. Most people refer to the engagement ring as a wedding ring. “Oh, I love your wedding ring”. They are separated by a variety of factors including price, appearance, and when they’re worn.

Do you wear both rings at the same time?

After your wedding, you might choose to wear both of your rings at the same time. For some people however, this can be overkill or might even be uncomfortable. For others there’s a constant worry about losing such a pricey piece of jewelry. Whether you wear them both at the same time will ultimately come down to your own personal preference.

Why is there such a price difference?

The usual thing that separates these rings in price has to do with their construction. An engagement ring will most likely feature a diamond or other precious gemstone. On the other hand, a wedding ring usually has a more subtle design crafted from one piece of metal. 

Why are they both worn on the left hand?

It’s that old wives tale that a vein called “vena amoris” Latin for “vein of love” runs from the fourth finger on the left hand straight to the heart. 

We think however that it’s probably the comfiest place to wear it for a right handed person. Try it for yourself and see. It just feels weird having the rings on any other finger.

Which ring is the most important?

There’s an argument for both rings being the most important. Without the engagement ring and proposal, there would be no wedding and therefore no wedding ring. 

Without a wedding ring, you have nothing to exchange at the altar in a traditional wedding.

Both are as important as each other in our eyes. 

The engagement ring is symbolic of starting your new life together and working towards marriage. The wedding ring joins your two hands in marriage until death do you part as you seal the deal.

How many diamonds should my engagement ring have?

It really depends how many extra shifts your partner can take on at work! 

Equally, if you buy the ring together you can choose as many diamonds as you want. It will come down to how many diamonds you are comfortable having on your engagement ring. Do you want to draw attention to the fact you’re newly engaged? Or would you prefer a more subtle aesthetic?

Do guys wear a ring when they are engaged?

Men wearing engagement rings aren’t all that common but at the same time isn’t unheard of. 

There’s no reason in 2023 why a man shouldn’t rock an engagement ring in the same way a woman would. 

You’ll find that male engagement rings tend to look more visually similar to the wedding ring. Perhaps with a more jazzy design to separate its appearance slightly from the wedding band.

Related Reading: Do Men Wear Engagement Rings?

Do you wear your engagement ring every day?

There is no law that says you have to wear your engagement ring every day. 

Some people do and some people don’t. Some people take them off when they hit the gym or do housework. 

You’ll generally want to wear it every day in the build-up to your wedding but it’s certainly not compulsory.


Well, there you have it! You now know the difference between an engagement ring and a wedding ring.

Hopefully you understand that there’s a big difference between the two from when you wear each ring to the price you’ll pay. 

We also hope that you can appreciate some of the symbolism of each ring and understand the traditions such as wearing them on your fourth finger of the left hand.

With that being said though we also hope you’ve realized that there are no rules when it comes to the rings. You really can do as you please. So if you don’t feel comfortable wearing your engagement ring after you’ve said “I do” you don’t have to.

Both rings share one thing. They’ll both remind you of your love for your partner. From the engagement right through to the wedding. So they should be cherished forever. 


[1] – https://www.theknot.com/content/how-much-to-spend-on-engagement-ring

[2] – https://calbizjournal.com/what-is-the-average-cost-for-mens-wedding-bands/