Here's the Real Difference Between an Engagement vs. Wedding Ring

Are engagement rings and wedding rings the same? Here's the need to know.
Couple holding hands with bride wearing engagement and wedding ring
Photo: Tyler Branch
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by
Lauren Whalley
lauren whalley headshot
Lauren Whalley
Fashion Editor, Beauty & Inclusivity
  • Lauren writes and edits articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a specialty in fashion, beauty and size inclusivity.
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Lauren worked in wedding editorial for Brides, Style Me Pretty and Enaura Bridal.
  • Lauren studied public relations and advertising at the University of Central Florida.
Updated Mar 26, 2024

I won't sugarcoat it: it's super important to understand the difference between an engagement vs wedding ring before you make any purchases. Buying a ring is a big investment, both emotionally and financially, so you want to make sure you have a clear understanding of the difference between an engagement ring vs wedding ring. Who wears it, when you wear it and how much it costs all make up the unique components of each ring. Not to mention the differences in style and design. The good news, though, is that there are no firm rules on many of these different factors; most of them are personal preferences. Below, I tapped Jillian Sassone, founder and creative director at Marrow Fine, who is helping us break down the need-to-know difference between engagement and wedding rings so you and your significant other can figure out what' kind of bling is best for you.

Engagement vs Wedding Ring 101

So, are engagement rings and wedding rings the same? The short answer is no. Each ring has it's own special meaning and purpose. Keep reading for a full explanation of what actually makes these two different so you and your partner can make an educated decision on your rings. An engagement ring is typically given to the person as part of a proposal, as a symbol of a promise to marry. It usually features a more dominant center stone, according to Sassone, which either stands alone or is complemented by smaller stones.

What Is the Difference Between an Engagement Ring and a Wedding Ring?

Who Wears It

Traditionally, the person who is proposed to will wear the engagement ring on their left hand, but that doesn't mean you both can't wear one! It can certainly be a mutual showing of your love and commitment to each other, no matter what tradition says.

After the wedding ceremony, both partners traditionally wear their wedding bands on a daily basis as a symbol of their marriage. What does this mean? Well, it means you should really take the time to pick out a wedding ring you love. As a newlywed myself, one of the choices I took the most seriously was picking out our wedding bands. Whether it's a unique wedding band for you or a thick men's band for your partner, this is something that you will wear for the rest of your life. So don't make that decision lightly.

When to Wear It

The engagement ring is given at the time of a proposal and is worn throughout the engagement period, but a vast majority of couples continue to wear them long after the I-dos. Wedding rings, on the other hand (pun intended), are worn by both partners and exchanged during the ceremony as a symbol of unity and marriage. After the wedding, many couples choose to wear both their engagement rings and wedding bands; some even have them soldered together to permanently form one ring. Modern ways include wearing your engagement and wedding rings on different fingers or adding additional bands to create a wedding ring stack. Ultimately, when and how you wear your ring is totally up to your lifestyle and personal preference.

"There really are no rules when it comes to your engagement and wedding ring," says Sassone. "Some may choose to only wear their wedding band for practical reasons, especially during activities where the engagement ring might get damaged or lost (while working out, playing sports, traveling, swimming, etc.). Others may choose to always wear both. We even have some clients who wear their wedding band on their right hand and their engagement ring on their left hand. It's ultimately a matter of personal preference!"

Cost

When it comes to cost, engagement rings tend to be more expensive than wedding rings. According to The Knot's 2023 Jewelry and Engagement Study, the average cost of an engagement ring was $5,500, while the average cost of a wedding ring was $1,000. However, keep in mind that these are just averages and the price can vary greatly depending on the ring's size, material, and overall design.

Style & Design

Engagement rings are typically more elaborate and often feature a center stone such as a diamond or colored gemstone. Popular choices include a center stone like an oval engagement ring on a solitaire band or a Toi et Moi ring. Wedding rings are typically made up of a thin band of metal. "Wedding rings can be simple solid gold bands (like our Everyday Travel Band or Classic Men's Band), traditional eternity bands (I love our White Diamond Love Goes Round Eternity Band), or more unique diamond-encrusted bands (like our best-selling White Diamond Gemma Ballerina Ring or White Diamond Lucy Wave Band)," Sassone tells us. "Whether you choose to wear one or both really just comes down to you and your partner." Couples can also choose to add personal touches to their wedding rings, such as personal engravings or additional stones. Remember, there's no hard or fast rule when it comes to your rings, as everyone prefers something different. You're the one who has to wear it every day, after all so you need to love it.

Do I need both an engagement ring and a wedding ring?

Ultimately, you do not need both an engagement and a wedding if that's not your style. It's perfectly fine to wear just one ring to symbolize your marital status. There are no hard and fast rules about what kind of engagement or wedding jewelry you have to have; some choose just one ring because of their career or lifestyle, while others like the simplicity of just one ring. "At the end of the day, it should be what the bride wants," Sassone says. "How and what you choose to wear is completely up to you and your spouse; comfort, style preference and lifestyle are all important factors to consider. Both rings represent special symbols of love and commitment between you and your partner…You get to decide what that means for you!"

If you need help deciding what route to take, talk to your local jeweler. They can help make the shopping process easier by assisting you in choosing a ring or set that fits your vibe. Remember, at the end of the day, it's all about what feels right for you as a couple. So don't be afraid to break tradition and go with a non-traditional approach if that's more your style.

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