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Engagement Vs. Wedding Rings

The difference between the two and what you should look for in each

By Mike Fried,

Both engagement rings and wedding rings carry significant meaning. Choosing rings that match your unique style and taste allows you to own jewelry you’ll want to wear for a lifetime.

The engagement ring is usually given at or close to the time of the proposal or announcement of a couple’s engagement. This ring will typically have a center stone, usually a diamond, and depending on the setting, it may have additional smaller stones in the setting. Engagement rings are more expensive than wedding rings and can range in price from $1000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the size and quality of the diamonds. 

A wedding ring (or wedding band), on the other hand, is given or exchanged at the wedding ceremony. Wedding bands are usually less elaborate and significantly less expensive than wedding rings, starting at around $600 for a classic wedding band and up to $3000 for a ring engraved with diamonds. 

Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:

Engagement ring vs. wedding ring
Do you need both an engagement ring and wedding band?
Wedding ring vs. wedding band
Engagement and wedding ring combinations
Engagement rings for men
Wedding rings for men
FAQs about engagement and wedding rings

Bottom Line Recommendation: Decide on a matching set like this French pavé diamond eternity ring in 14K white gold from Blue Nile or select a stunning engagement ring like this French pavé 18K yellow gold from James Allen and pair it with a wedding ring later.

To help you with the diamond buying process we lean on our expertise and experience. The author of this article, our CEO, Mike Fried has over 20 years of experience in the diamond industry. Mike started from the bottom, sorting and evaluating hundreds of thousands of diamonds to learn every facet (pun intended) of diamond quality and value. Mike followed that up by spending years buying and selling diamonds on the wholesale market as well as selling tens of millions of dollars worth of diamonds to diamond retailers.

Engagement Ring vs. Wedding Ring

Engagement Ring vs. Wedding Ring

The difference between an engagement ring and wedding ring is that an engagement ring is given at a proposal or when a couple decides to get married. A wedding ring is exchanged at the wedding ceremony and represents the official bond of marriage. Both rings are often worn together as symbols of love and commitment.

A wedding ring is usually a simpler ring, such as a classic band like this rose gold ring from Blue Nile or one with small diamonds, like in this white gold eternity ring from James Allen. In most cases, wedding rings don’t feature large diamonds and gemstones. Some brides choose a plain, pavé, or channel set band to complement their engagement ring.

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Engagement rings can be any ring—they don’t have to be a diamond ring or an expensive ring. The most important aspect is choosing a style that your partner will enjoy wearing. Engagement ring styles range from simple designs like this solitaire engagement ring from James Allen (see the guide to the best solitaire engagement rings here) to intricate vintage rings like this custom design from James Allen (find the guide to vintage rings here).  

The engagement ring can also be the wedding ring (if you want it to be), as some people don’t buy a separate wedding ring. It depends on your personal preference and if you want to use your engagement ring as a wedding band. That means you can wear an engagement ring with no wedding band, even after the ceremony.

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You can buy an engagement ring and wedding band together, especially if you want to ensure the two match and complement each other. These are called bridal sets. The sets fit together seamlessly and usually match metal colors. Plenty of people buy the rings separately, though, and follow guides like Blue Nile’s tool for finding complementary rings. As an example, it’s important to match the precious metal color (i.e. white gold or yellow gold) and ensure the rings fit well next to each other on the finger.

How well the rings match is up to personal preference, as your wedding band doesn’t have to match the engagement ring. You can wear two different styles or two different colors of gold if you want. Also, your spouse’s wedding band doesn’t have to match yours, although it can. A bride can have a white gold engagement and wedding ring, while the groom has a yellow gold wedding band.

On what finger do you wear your rings? Your engagement ring finger is the finger next to your pinky finger on your left hand. Your wedding ring finger is the same. Most people wear their engagement ring and wedding band next to each other on the same finger. The wedding ring is placed closest to the hand as its closest to the heart. 

Do You Need Both an Engagement Ring and Wedding Band?

Whether you choose to wear an engagement ring and wedding band is totally up to personal preference. You can stick with tradition and wear both, shown by, for instance, Taylor Lautner’s partner, or go your own way, making a choice that better suits your taste and priorities.

The traditional look is both an engagement ring and wedding band. This is a timeless combination – usually an eye-catching diamond engagement ring next to a sleek and elegant wedding band.

Many, however, choose to wear just a single ring. If that’s your preference, you should feel one hundred percent comfortable making that choice.

Some feel more comfortable wearing only one ring, rather than a stack of two (or more) rings. It also offers up less hassle in picking out an engagement ring and wedding ring that match.

Going with only one ring also makes sense for the budget-conscious. You and your partner can save money with only one purchase. You could even choose to put that money saved towards a more beautiful and expensive engagement ring.

Tradition dictates a bride wears two rings, but there is a growing trend towards single rings. Make the choice you (and your future spouse) are most comfortable with.

Wedding Ring vs. Wedding Band

Wedding rings and wedding bands are the same: a ring given at the wedding ceremony that symbolizes the marriage. As The Gemological Institute of America, the world’s leading gemstone certification laboratory shown, wedding rings have a huge history. Some people call it a “wedding ring” while others say “wedding band.” The two terms are interchangeable. Wedding bands are worn by both men and women.

Most male wedding bands are a simple metal ring while other styles are more intricate like this diamond channel-set ring from Blue Nile. Female wedding bands range in style from classic bands like a low dome comfort ring like this one from Blue Nile to detailed rings like this trellis diamond eternity band from James Allen.

Engagement and Wedding Ring Combinations

Pairing an engagement ring with a wedding ring—that were bought separately—requires some careful comparisons. The metal type and color, style and fit need to be a near match, in order to look like a cohesive unit and avoid unwanted rubbing between rings. Most jewelers are happy to assist with such a matching request and can help in designing a beautiful pair.

Engagement and wedding ring
A half a carat pavé engagement ring next to a simple wedding band with a center diamond for added elegance

An alternative to matching the rings on your own is to select a matching wedding and engagement ring set, also known as a bridal set. This ensures the metal colors are identical and that the rings will fit together perfectly.

We suggest looking for matching wedding rings—or any rings, for that matter—from trusted and reputable online vendors. Our years of experience have taught us that when customers work with a reliable dealer, their experience is exponentially better.

We recommend Blue Nile to our readers, as they’re an industry leader for diamonds and jewelry. They offer a range of matching engagement and wedding ring sets.

Here’s an excellent example of Blue Nile’s offering: Twist curved diamond ring in 14K white gold (to allow space for a large stone on an engagement ring).

James Allen is another diamond vendor we highly recommend. James Allen provides high-end customer service and boasts an expansive inventory of exceptional diamonds and settings.

James Allen offers a wide range of matching wedding ring sets, including:  This 18K white gold halo set with a pavé band.

You can also build your own matching set with James Allen’s bridal set tool.

Engagement Rings for Men

The majority of men choose to wear only a wedding band, though some desire an engagement ring to display their commitment. Engagement rings for men are distinct in style from women’s rings, and a variety of options exist. Many online dealers list their engagement rings as wedding rings, though they can be used for either occasion.

For example, this platinum engagement ring from Blue Nile offers style, while this classic ring from Blue Nile is smoother and sleeker. These two designs are on the simple side of the spectrum and don’t contain any gemstones.

On the other hand, some male engagement rings are more intricate than a plain metal band. Ring styles with diamonds like this bevel setting from James Allen combine masculinity and decorative stones. Other styles are fashioned from a mix of metals or contain an inlay color that’s different than the outside color, similar to this brush inlay ring from Blue Nile.

For those with an active lifestyle looking for a durable option, consider a band like this titanium one from James Allen or this tungsten carbide design from Blue Nile.

Wedding Rings for Men

Wedding rings for men, also known as wedding bands, range from intricate to more simple in style (similar to engagement ring styles). More than anything else, personal preference is the most important factor when it comes to choosing a wedding ring for men.

Lifestyle and favorite activities should also be taken into consideration. If he has an active hobby or job where he frequently uses his hands, it may be better to purchase a sleek and smooth band like this classic white gold ring from Blue Nile. For someone who appreciates more flair, this satin finish one from James Allen may be more suitable.

Some couples also try to choose rings that complement their fiance’s ring. For instance, if a woman has a white gold solitaire ring like this one from James Allen, a men’s ring like this traditional white gold one from James Allen may be a complementary match. Again, this choice comes down to personal preference.

Matching Wedding Bands
Men’s wedding bands can match their partners style as shown here

Deciding on engagement and wedding rings gives you the opportunity to consider what is most important to you and create symbols of love that will last a lifetime.

Check out our Men’s wedding band guide and get more info to make an informed decision.

FAQs About Engagement and Wedding Rings

There’s a lot to know about wedding and engagement rings, and we’re here to answer the most popular questions.

Are engagement rings and wedding rings different?

Yes, they are different as engagement rings are given at the time of a proposal, while wedding rings are exchanged at the wedding ceremony. Engagement ring styles tend to be more intricate as well, such as one featuring a center diamond or gemstone. Wedding rings, on the other hand, are usually classic and simple in design.

How do you wear your engagement ring and wedding ring?

While there are no hard and fast engagement ring and wedding band rules, most people wear their wedding ring on the left-hand ring finger closest to their heart, with their engagement ring sliding next to it (closest to the knuckle). 

Before your wedding ceremony, engagement ring etiquette is to wear the ring on your left-hand ring finger (the finger next to your pinky). As far as male wedding ring rules, the band is normally worn on the left-hand ring finger as well.

You can choose to forgo traditional wedding ring etiquette and wear your rings on any finger you want.

Do you wear your wedding ring and engagement ring together?

Most people wear their wedding ring and engagement ring on the same finger, with the wedding ring being closer to the heart. Some people choose to wear their rings on separate fingers or only wear one of the rings.

The engagement ring symbolizes you’re engaged, while a wedding ring signifies that you’re already married.

Why are engagement rings more expensive than wedding rings?

Engagement rings are more expensive than wedding rings because they typically feature a large diamond along with other intricate details like milgrain or pave. Wedding rings are usually more simple in nature, such as a plain metal band or a pave band with small diamonds.

The average cost of an engagement ring in the U.S. is $6,350, but the price can range anywhere from $500 to $45,000 and more. Most couples spend between $1,000 and $5,000 on an engagement ring.

The average cost of a female wedding band is around $1,000 while the average cost of a male wedding band is $500.

If you have a question beyond these, feel free to send our experts an email.

James Allen James Allen is the leader in online diamond sales. Their imaging technology is the same as inspecting a diamond with a jeweler's loupe. They have the largest exclusive loose diamond inventory online and fantastic prices. They also have the nicest collection of lab-created diamonds online.
What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. James Allen will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free International Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisals
  • One free resizing within 60 days of purchase
  • Free ring inscriptions
  • Best-in-class high quality imagery of all diamonds in stock
  • 24/7 Customer Service
  • Best-in-class packaging
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Blue Nile Blue Nile is the largest and most well-known internet jewelry seller. They have a very large exclusive online inventory. Their high-quality images are catching up to James Allens' and their prices are amazing. 
What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. Blue Nile will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisal
  • One free resizing within the first year of purchase
  • High quality images of about half of their diamonds
  • 24/7 Customer Service
  • 100% credit towards future upgrades (must be at least double in value)
  • Best in class fulfillment
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About the author

Mike Fried Mike Fried Mike Fried has over 25 years experience in the diamond industry working with Leo Schachter Diamonds, Moshe Namdar Diamonds, and joining The Diamond Pro in 2007. He is recognized as an industry expert and has been quoted in publications such as Us, People, Page Six, The Next Web and more.

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