What Is The Difference Between An Engagement And Wedding Ring?

Weddings are a wonderful occasion, as they mark a new beginning that you and your partner will embark on and share. But as beautiful as they are, marriage ceremonies often follow a strict set of rules and traditions. And while many aspects of matrimony are slowly fading away or evolving to fit the current times, one element remains today, the ring.

difference between an engagement and wedding ring

Engagement and wedding rings are one of the most prioritized pieces of jewelry among couples. As a new bride, you might not be familiar with the differences between the two. Both are gorgeous and often quite expensive, but each type of ring holds different meanings and purposes. This article aims to help explain the two:

1. History

Naturally, an engagement comes before a wedding. Thus, it would make sense for the engagement ring to be given first, then the wedding ring second. However, a surprising twist to this information is that historically speaking, wedding rings were created nearly a thousand years before the first engagement ring.  

For the people of ancient Egypt, circles symbolize eternal love. Hence, married pairs would wear rings made of hemp and reed fibers on the fourth fingers of their left hands. This practice carried over till today. Fortunately, modern craftspeople like Anania Jewellers now create wedding rings out of precious metals so that the ancient symbol of eternal love remains for a lifetime. 

On the other hand, Archduke Maximilian of Austria introduced engagement rings in 1477. In particular, he used a diamond ring to propose to Mary of Burgundy. After this act, the elite of that time followed suit. Fast forward to the 1600s when the legendary playwright William Shakespeare included the use of both wedding and engagement rings in his works. 

However, using engagement rings for marriage proposals only caught on with the masses during the 1900s. That’s why it has become a more familiar tradition to offer both rings to a partner you intend to marry, no matter your budget.  

2. Purpose

Each ring serves a different purpose, hence their respective names. Engagement rings are named as such because they’re meant to symbolize a promise of marriage. If you see someone wearing a fancy, bejeweled ring on only their left hand’s fourth finger, that’s usually the sign that they’re betrothed to somebody else. Traditionally, it’s the person receiving the proposal who wears it. The one who proposes doesn’t have to wear one. But nowadays, they can, too, if they want. 

Alternatively, wedding rings are only given and worn after marriage. Both parties wear one on their left hand’s fourth finger this time. Wedding rings are also often called wedding ‘bands.’ The rings are usually offered to the couple by a ringbearer or, against tradition, the couple’s young children or pets. The two parties will insert the band into each other’s fingers during the ceremony, signifying their vows of unconditional love and support.

difference between an engagement and wedding ring

3. Design

Here’s the part where the two rings are easily identified. However, they share common traits, like using gold or silver as their primary metal. Gold rings may come in yellow, white, or rose variants. Platinum is also a favorite among couples, and it’s becoming more and more popular in recent years due to its shine and durability.  

To compare the two, engagement rings, more often than not, appear much more ornate. They’re usually topped with precious gemstones like the classic white diamond or a subdued pearl. Modern ones now have a centerpiece of different colors and stones, such as pink or blue diamonds, sapphires, or rubies. The rest of the band may also have embellishments. Flamboyant rings are excellent subjects for engagement announcement photos uploaded to social media. 

Meanwhile, wedding rings usually come in straightforward designs. Gold or silver metal is the standard material of the band, often without adornment. However, nowadays, many couples prefer to have decorated wedding bands studded with diamonds or other stones. Sometimes, their names can be engraved on the inner area to personalize the rings. Wedding ring designs of a married pair also tend to match to symbolize their connection to each other.

4. How To Wear Both

Typically, if you’re given an engagement ring, you should wear it on the fourth finger on your left hand, as previously mentioned. Once you receive your wedding band, you can stack this underneath the engagement ring. People that do this believe it’s because the wedding ring should be closer to one’s heart. 

Despite that, you may have seen some people wear their rings on their right hand, as others may feel uncomfortable wearing multiple rings on their left hand. Another reason would be because the engagement ring is loose compared to the wedding band, making it difficult to stack the two correctly. 

Nonetheless, wearing both rings together isn’t a requirement. Moreso, there are no rules on how to wear them. At the end of the day, it boils down to your preference. If you have both an engagement and a wedding ring, you can wear one or the other at any given time on either hand.

Conclusion

While engagement and wedding rings have slight differences, each share one primary trait: to symbolize a promise of eternal love for your partner. Rings are a vital element of marriage regardless of the design or the color. And nowadays, you can choose whether to have both rings or only the wedding band. What’s important is the meaning the jewelry holds for you and your significant other.