wedding band

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

If you've been with your partner for a while and the topic of marriage is coming up in conversation more regularly, it may be time to start thinking about rings. Although it's an ancient tradition, exchanging rings as a symbol of the union of two people is still very much practiced today. Whereas in the past, traditions were strictly adhered to, people have much more free choice today with regard to engagement and wedding rings.

wedding band

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

An engagement ring is a ring that a person gives to a prospective spouse during or shortly after a marriage proposal. The ring symbolizes the promise made to each other that they'll get married in the future. Typically, an engagement ring features one dominant gemstone, which may stand alone or can be surrounded by smaller gemstones. However, there are many modern trends that deviate from this traditional design, such as three-stone rings, cluster rings, and even plain bands, which is a style typically used for wedding rings.

A wedding ring, or wedding band, is a ring that's exchanged between partners during their wedding ceremony. The rings serve as a symbol of the union of marriage and are traditionally worn by both partners every day to show that they're married. Wedding rings are usually simpler in design than engagement rings and don't feature large or many gemstones. Many people opt for a plain band of quality metal, which may feature decorative details such as milgrain or channel set diamonds. Since wedding rings are normally plainer than engagement rings, they are often also the cheaper of the two.

The History of the Wedding Ring

Some believe that the custom of exchanging wedding rings can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians. For them, the circle represented eternity, as it had no beginning or end. A ring was therefore a fitting symbol for eternal love. Apparently, the tradition of wearing the ring on the fourth left-hand finger may also come from the Egyptians, as they believed that a vein ran from the fourth finger straight to the heart. It's believed that the Romans may have adopted these traditions from the Egyptians, after which they spread to Europe.

The first mention of a diamond engagement in documented history is when the Archduke Maximillian of Austria gifted Mary of Burgundy a diamond ring upon their betrothal. However, the popular use of diamond engagement rings only really started after a campaign run by De Beers in which they succeeded in persuading consumers that diamond engagement rings were indispensable.

Do You Need an Engagement Ring and a Wedding Band?

While it's become a tradition in the Western world for a woman to wear an engagement ring and a wedding ring, it's entirely up to your personal preference. Whereas some women prefer to only wear an engagement ring, others prefer to go with only a wedding ring.  

In the past, an expensive engagement ring served as financial security for the woman in case of a break-up, as she customarily got to keep the ring. However, these days women aren't in such vulnerable positions anymore when an engagement is broken off, with the result that an engagement ring is no longer compulsory or necessary.

Traditionally, only women wear engagement rings, with men mostly only wearing wedding bands. This, however, is also a newish tradition, with men only starting to wear wedding rings during the Second World War as a way to remember their loved ones.

How Should You Wear Your Engagement and Wedding Rings?

Traditionally, both rings are worn on the fourth left-hand finger, called the ring finger. The wedding ring is normally placed first on the finger as a symbolic gesture since it's closer to the heart. Some people choose to solder their wedding and engagement rings together, whether for personal or practical reasons. 

How you wear your rings, though, is a personal choice. Some prefer to wear their wedding band on their left hand and their engagement ring on their right hand, whereas some choose to wear their wedding rings daily and only don their engagement rings for special occasions. There's also a trend these days to wear three or even more rings in a stack or spread out across fingers.

How to Go About Picking Out Wedding Bands

Since a wedding ring is ideally a jewelry piece that you'll wear for many years, it's important that you give it some good thought. Here are a few things you may want to consider before you choose:

  • Narrow it down: Narrow down your choices by deciding on the metal and gemstones you would like. Think about, for instance, whether you want your wedding ring to be the same metal as your engagement ring. Also decide on a style, such as a clean and simple or something more ornate. Factors to consider include whether you want the design to match that of your engagement ring and whether you want you and your partner's rings to match.
  • Keep your lifestyle in mind: Most people wear their wedding ring on a daily basis, so the design should be practical and a good fit for your lifestyle. If you play sport or an instrument, you should probably opt for a slim ring with round edges. Similarly, those who work with their hands should veer away from ornate rings with gemstones or protruding edges. You could also opt for a more durable metal, such as platinum.
  • Think long-term: Although you want to choose a ring that suits your taste, remember that you're potentially going to be wearing the ring for many years to come. If possible, opt for a more timeless and classic design that will remain in fashion regardless of current trends.
  • Give yourself enough time: Give yourself about two or three months before the wedding to visit different jewelers and try on different styles of rings. You may also want to do some research, negotiate prices, or have engravings done, so ensure that you have ample time and don't end up making a hasty decision.

Deciding to enter into the bond of marriage is a special event and a promise that hopefully remains unbroken until the end of your days. Ensure that your wedding ring is as special as your union by choosing one that will make you happy every time you look at it.