December 14, 2016

Engagement Ring vs Wedding Ring: What is the Difference?

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What exactly is the difference between an engagement ring and a wedding ring? We'll show you how they are different in meaning and appearance.

Engagement ring, wedding ring, eternity rings... What's the difference?

Are engagement rings and wedding rings the same?

No. Engagement rings are given at the time of proposal and typically feature a center diamond. Wedding rings are exchanged at the marriage ceremony and are usually more simple bands.

Both rings are both symbols of love, but they have very different meanings. They're also different in terms of appearance and cost.

Let's go over the differences.

What Is an Engagement Ring?

This is basically what it sounds like. It's a ring given to the girl to symbolize that you're engaged. This is the ring you present to her when you ask "will you marry me?"

You are asking your girlfriend if she would spend the rest of her life with you. This is a huge moment. And doing it with a ring shows that you have really thought about it and are not just saying it for fun. Engagement rings symbolize your love and commitment.

Fun fact: In the old times, an expensive engagement ring was also a symbol that the man is wealthy enough to take care of a wife. It represented financial security for the woman. Back in the 19th-early 20th century, a man could be sued for breach of promise if he broke off the engagement. He could be sued for wedding preparation expenses and emotional distress. So having an expensive engagement ring meant more security that the engagement won't be easily broken off.

Because of this, engagement rings are expected to be more "flashy" and expensive. Thanks to De Beers, a diamond ring is now the norm.

Typically, engagement rings have a diamond center (or another precious gemstone). And a lot of men (and their future brides) put a lot of effort into choosing the best diamond possible. After all, no one wants a diamond ring that doesn't sparkle!

Engagement rings are worn on the 4th finger of her left hand. When she wears it, it tells everyone else that she's already spoken for.

Do men get an engagement ring too? Usually, only the woman wears an engagement ring. But in some cultures, the man also sports a plain band until the wedding. And nowadays, some American modern couples chose to purchase a "man-gagement" ring to show that the man is also off the market.

Which finger to wear a ring?: The ring is worn on the 4th finger, because the ancient Egyptians believed that the finger had a vein that led straight to the heart. In Latin, it was called the vena amoris, or literally "vein of love". While we know from modern science that this isn't true, this ancient belief became the main reason why our 4th fingers are known as the "ring finger."

What Is a Wedding Ring?

Wedding rings are exchanged during the marriage ceremony. This gesture says that the two of you are united forever from this day forward. Both the bride and groom will wear a wedding ring until... well, forever.

A wedding ring is simpler in design. The style is normally a continuous band that has no beginning nor end. This symbolizes eternal love and unity.

Is there a difference between a wedding ring and wedding band? Not really. But wedding rings can be thought of as a bit more intricate with small diamonds or stylized band. And a wedding band is typically more plain.

What does the wedding ring stand for?: The tradition of exchanging wedding rings also go back as far as 4,800 years to ancient Egypt. But back then, the rings were made of stuff like braided papyrus and reeds. The endless circle was a symbol of eternity and the hole was a symbol of a doorway to the future.

Normally, the bride will pick a wedding ring that matches her engagement ring, so that they look good next to each other. A lot of jewelry stores will sell a bridal set (engagement ring and wedding ring) so you can just buy a matching set.

A lot of couples also get matching wedding bands to further express unity.

But many modern men are also choosing alternative materials that look more masculine. I'm sure it's no surprise that most men don't like wearing jewelry. So it's also important for him to get a wedding band he likes. Popular alternative materials for men are titanium, tungsten, cobalt, and ceramic.

Do you still wear an engagement ring after you get married?: Yes. The wedding ring is worn on the same finger as her engagement ring, usually with the wedding ring on the bottom. This is to have the wedding ring closer to her heart, since it's a symbol of everlasting commitment.

And What is an Eternity Ring?

An eternity ring is not the same as a wedding ring, though some may choose this style to be their wedding ring. Confused yet??

Eternity Ring
Eternity Ring via James Allen

An eternity ring is characterized by small diamonds (or gemstones) that go all around the ring. Usually, the small stones wrap all the way around for a perfect continuous circle.

Because the stones usually go all the way around, you'd have to get it sized perfectly to fit. But you can also get a style with a small bit of plain metal at the back, so the ring can be resized if needed.

Eternity rings are traditionally given to the woman at an important point in the relationship, such as a wedding anniversary or birth of the first child. This says that the love is still everlasting.

Nowadays, many brides are also choosing this style as the wedding ring. The dainty, elegant style goes well with a lot of engagement ring designs.

If a woman receives an eternity ring at some point later on, she can choose to replace the simpler wedding ring with it. Or she can wear all 3 rings on the ring finger of her left hand.

What is an anniversary ring? Many couples want to celebrate a milestone anniversary (or vow renewal) with a special ring. There are no rules for an anniversary ring! It can be in a matching style to her engagement and wedding rings so she can wear them together. Or it can be in a completely different style and she can wear it on the other hand.

Because anniversary rings are usually gifted when the couple are more financially secure, the rings tend to be more intricate and contain small diamonds or other gemstones. Anniversary rings are a great time to upgrade a plainer wedding ring or get a ring in a new style if her style has evolved.

How Much Should the Rings Cost?

You may have heard the "rule" that you're supposed to spend 2 months' salary on the engagement ring. While we don't exactly agree with that, the intent is good.

Let me explain further:

  • The basic meaning is that it should show her that you are investing in your future together. That you have saved up and sacrificed to buy something special just for her.

From a woman's point of view, if you only spend $100 on a ring, that's not much of an investment. You can easily lose $100 and not be too heartbroken. While you shouldn't go broke buying the ring, it should still be an amount that you have worked hard for.

How much you spend is a very personal choice that depends on your budget. Just remember, it should show that you are serious about your relationship, without going into debt.

The wedding ring, on the other hand, costs much less. You can find nice wedding bands for just a few hundred dollars. But again, it depends on your budget and style. A lot of couples choose to save on the wedding rings by going with cheaper options.


An engagement ring symbolizes that you are ready to commit and invest in your future. A wedding ring symbolizes love and unity from your wedding day forward.

Hopefully you understand more about the different meanings and styles. But of course, the rules are not set in stone. I know a couple who chose to get tattoos on their ring finger instead of wedding rings. And I also know a bride who chose to get two diamond rings simply because she didn't like the style of an eternity band.

The rings should reflect your personalities and style. Take time to find rings that you'll both enjoy wearing. Good luck and have fun shopping.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy financial decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

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How Much to Spend on an Engagement Ring

How to Buy an Engagement Ring

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Best Place to Buy Engagement Ring Online

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Comments about Engagement Ring vs Wedding Ring: What is the Difference?

  • Laurie from Texas
    on January 5, 2017 10:39 AM said:

    To me one of the main difference is how they look. An engagement ring typically has a bigger stone and is a little more flashy. Where as the wedding ring is more of a band - you can get stones in your wedding band but they typically are more subtle. Great information, thanks for sharing!

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