Updated September 23, 2022

Engagement Ring vs Wedding Ring: What's the Difference?

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Is there a difference between an engagement ring and a wedding ring? How many rings do you need to buy? Here's a quick guide.

Engagement ring, wedding ring, bridal set—what's the difference?

The difference between a wedding ring and an engagement ring is the latter is given during the proposal. While wedding rings are exchanged at the wedding ceremony.

Wedding jewelry terminology can be confusing.

Engagement rings and wedding rings are both symbols of love, but they are different. They have different meanings, styles, and costs.

What Is an Engagement Ring?

The engagement ring is the ring you propose with.

Asking for someone to spend her life with you is a huge moment. Doing it with a ring shows that you have really thought about it. The engagement ring is a promise of a future together. It shows your love and commitment.

Fun fact: Back in the old days, a man could be sued for Breach of Promise if he broke off the engagement. But the U.S. started doing away with this law in the 1940s. A verbal promise to marry wasn't good enough anymore. Engagement rings became insurance the engagement won't be broken off.

Engagement Ring Design
Most girls dream of being swept off their feet. And being proposed to with their dream ring. Because of this, engagement rings are more "flashy" and expensive (thanks to De Beers marketing).

Engagement rings usually have a diamond center and a gold or platinum band.

You can build your own engagement ring with this tool. This can help you visualize the ring before it's made.

See the most popular engagement ring settings. Learn about the different styles, their advantages, and what each is best for.

Engagement Ring Cost
In 2022, men spent an average of $5,225 on the engagement ring. But don't let this number influence you. What's important is buying something you can afford.

Consider buying your engagement ring online. You can stretch your buying power because online retailers are around 40% cheaper.

With low-cost, fully-customizable jewelers like James Allen, you are able to design your fiancé the perfect ring without creating financial stress on your marriage. Explore their Inspiration Gallery to learn how everyone else is doing it.

What Is a Wedding Ring?

Wedding rings are exchanged during the marriage ceremony. This gesture insinuates the two of you are united forever. Both the bride and groom will wear a wedding ring forever.

Wedding Ring Design
Wedding rings are simpler in design. The style is normally a continuous band that has no beginning or end. This symbolizes eternal love and unity. It's usually made of a precious metal like gold or platinum.

Modern wedding rings are often more stylized. Many men and women choose a band with small diamonds all around. Many men also like more masculine bands made with alternative materials.

Many couples also get engraving in their wedding rings, like the wedding date or a special phrase.

Wedding Ring Cost
The average cost of the bride's wedding ring is $1,100. For grooms, the average price is $510.

Instead of overspending at a local jeweler, be sure to check prices online. At minimum, you should visit James Allen to get a better idea on how much wedding rings actually cost.

What is a Bridal Set?

Also called a "wedding set," this is a set of matching engagement and wedding rings for the bride. Most jewelers will have some bridal sets to choose from.

To start, check out James Allen's Inspiration Gallery to help you choose the right setting and diamond for your ring. 

There are some advantages of choosing a bridal set:

  • The rings will look good next to each other. You wouldn't have to worry about finding a matching wedding ring later.

  • They will fit comfortably together. Sometimes, rings that don't match will pinch the skin or have an unsightly gap.

  • You only have to buy her wedding jewelry once. And often, buying a set of rings is more affordable.

We recommend doing this if you and your sweetie have already discussed marriage. Or if you're planning on ring shopping together.

If you buy a bridal set, you only propose with the engagement ring. After, you can surprise her again with a matching wedding ring.

Watch out: Sometimes, a wedding set is designed so the rings only look complete when worn together. Then the wedding ring can't be worn alone or it'll look weird.

How Many Rings Do You Wear After Marriage?

Usually, after getting married, the woman will wear the wedding ring on the same finger as her engagement ring.

The wedding ring goes on the bottom, so it's closer to her heart. It's a symbol of everlasting commitment.

Is the engagement ring or wedding ring more important to wear?
Both are important for different reasons. During the engagement period, it's important to wear the engagement ring to show commitment. After marriage, the wedding rings become more important.

Most women continue wearing their engagement rings above the wedding ring.

If she receives an anniversary ring sometime later, she can replace the wedding ring with it. Or wear all 3 rings on the ring finger of her left hand.

But there are no hard rules. Maybe she has a job where she can't wear a large engagement ring. Or sometimes, the engagement ring and wedding ring don't match or aren't comfortable together. So she may wear them on different fingers.

What is an eternity ring?
An eternity ring is a ring with small diamonds all around. It's usually given during a special moment, such as the first childbirth.

Many brides also choose this style as the wedding ring. The dainty, elegant style goes well with a lot of engagement ring designs.

Do the Rings Have to Match?

You don't need to plan all your rings right from the start. But it's smart to know your options. It'll cause fewer headaches later.

Most women will wear their engagement and wedding rings together. Rings that match will create a nice, uniform look. In this case, you should consider getting a matching wedding band from the start.

With intricate vintage rings, custom designs, and twist tension rings it's hard to find a matching band. And some settings, like a halo with a wide bottom, won't be able to sit flush against a straight wedding band. But some girls like a more unique, fashion-forward mismatched look.

If you want to just get matching rings and be done, a bridal set is the best way to go. If you're unsure, it's best to let her pick out her own wedding ring. But you should know the options beforehand.

Does her wedding ring need to also match his?
There are no rules. Some couples get matching wedding bands to express unity. But it's more important to have rings you both like. It could be hard to find matching bands that fit both your styles. Many men choose more masculine-looking materials, such as titanium, tungsten, or cobalt.

If one of you is intent on having matching bands, then you can get rings in the same metal. Or you can pick rings in a similar style.

Who Buys the Rings?

The engagement ring is a special gift for the girl to show the groom's commitment. So he would usually foot the bill.

Most grooms make the decision alone, but even if the girl wants to be part of the shopping process. He still usually pays for it with his own money.

Did you know?
Some modern couples are also splitting the cost of the ring. About 14% of brides pick up (at least a portion of) the tab for their own engagement ring.

As for wedding rings, traditionally, he buys her wedding ring and she buys his. But many modern-day couples buy the rings together out of a joint wedding fund. Since your finances will merge soon, you will likely both pay for them.

Most couples enjoy shopping for wedding rings together as a pre-nuptials bonding activity. 30% of couples say where they got the engagement ring.[1]

Engagement Ring vs Wedding Ring Price

An engagement ring is usually the most expensive wedding jewelry. Wedding rings usually cost much less because they are simpler.

  • The average cost of an engagement ring was $5,225 in 2022.
  • A wedding ring, on the other hand, averages about $1,100 for the bride and $510 for the groom.[2]

But don't let these numbers influence you. How much you spend is a very personal choice that depends on your budget.

How Much Should the Rings Cost?

The engagement ring should show you are serious about your relationship, without going into debt. Find a balance between what you can afford and what she wants.

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.

Let's say you have $1,000 put aside and you can save $300 a month. After 5 months, you'll have $2,500 for the ring. That might be a good budget for you.

Wedding rings are usually a joint financial decision. A lot of couples choose to save on wedding rings by going with cheaper options.

FAQs

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. Some American modern couples choose to purchase a "man-gagement" ring to show that he is also off the market.

Which finger to wear a ring on?
The ring is worn on the 4th finger of the left hand. Ancient Egyptians believed this finger had a vein that led straight to the heart. The vena amoris, or literally "vein of love." This ancient belief influenced why our 4th fingers are known as the ring finger.

Is an engagement ring the same as a promise ring?
A promise ring is a "pre-engagement" ring. It could be given because it's too soon or you're not financially ready. But you want to show commitment. Usually, promise rings are cheaper and smaller. After, they're replaced with a real engagement ring.

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

Is there a difference between a wedding ring and a wedding band?
Wedding rings can be thought of as a bit more intricate with small diamonds or a stylized band. A wedding band is typically plainer.

Which do you prefer?

Should you buy a wedding ring or engagement ring first?
Usually, it's better to just buy the engagement ring first. Especially if you're not sure if she will say yes or if she will like the ring. Some girls also like to pick their own wedding ring later.

If you have discussed marriage, then you can buy the rings at the same time.

Bottom Line

An engagement ring symbolizes commitment and a marriage promise. 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.

You might choose to get tattoos on your ring fingers instead of wedding rings. You can also wear two diamond rings alternately if you don't like the style of a wedding band. Or you might not want any rings at all.

Overall, the rings should reflect your personality and style. Take time to find rings that you'll both enjoy wearing. Good luck and have fun.

References

  1. ^ The Knot, Serious Question: Who Buys the Wedding Bands?, Retrieved 1/15/2021
  2. ^ CreditDonkey, Engagement Ring Statistics: 23 Surprising Facts, Retrieved 1/15/2021

Write to Anna G at feedback@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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Comments about Engagement Ring vs Wedding Ring: What's the Difference?
  • Laurie from Texas
    on January 2017 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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