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Engagement Rings vs. Wedding Rings

You’ve found the one and you’re getting ready to pop the question - and enter a whole new world of proposals, engagement rings and marriage.

It can be confusing but don’t worry! We’re going back to basics in our latest guide, which explains the difference between engagement rings and wedding rings. Read on to find out everything you need before you start your next chapter with your other half.

What’s the difference between an engagement ring and a wedding ring?

In its simplest definition, the difference between an engagement ring and a wedding ring is that an engagement ring is given to your partner when you propose and worn throughout your engagement, while a wedding ring is worn by both parties when they are married.

In the sections below, we’ll explain more about each type and the difference between the two: 

What is an engagement ring?

In practical terms, an engagement ring is worn to signify a person’s engaged-to-be-married status. In more romantic terms, it’s a symbol of your love and devotion to the other person, and your commitment to marry them.

Engagement ring

In the UK, an engagement ring is usually worn on the fourth finger (AKA the ring finger) of the left hand, although this may vary in some cultures. You can find out more about what wearing rings on different fingers means in our guide to ring meanings.

Typically, only one person in the relationship will wear the engagement ring. While tradition suggests that the bride-to-be should receive the engagement ring, there is a growing trend of men’s engagement rings and for both parties to wear an engagement ring.

Engagement ring styles

In terms of appearance, engagement rings tend to be more decorative and stand-out than wedding rings. Although styles vary, engagement rings are usually larger. This could be because they feature a large diamond or central stone, a triple-stone design or have stones arranged in a cluster design.

Because of their more intricate design, the cost of an engagement ring tends to be higher than a wedding ring. Some people believe that an engagement ring should cost two months’ salary; this stems from a De Beers marketing campaign from the 1980s. In reality, you don’t have to spend a lot to find the perfect engagement ring. There are styles to suit every budget.

What is a wedding ring?

Also known as wedding bands, wedding rings are worn to signify that a person is married. They are exchanged during a marriage ceremony, so both people in the relationship will receive a ring to wear.

Wedding rings

Although the wedding ring is worn on the same ring finger as the engagement ring, the engagement ring will need to be removed before putting on the wedding ring. This is so the wedding ring can sit closest to the heart. This tradition is connected to the Ancient Egyptians who believed in the ‘Veina Amoris’, a vein that connected the fourth finger to the heart.

While engagement rings tend to be chosen by one partner as a surprise for the other, wedding rings are usually bought by the couple together. Tradition states that the bride should pay for the groom’s wedding ring and vice versa. However, in today’s society of joint accounts and shared responsibility, many couples see the cost of wedding rings as a shared expense.

Wedding ring styles

In comparison to engagement rings which tend to be more statement, wedding rings are considerably plainer. Many people opt for a plain wedding band made from gold, white gold or platinum. This is usually chosen to compliment their engagement ring, which makes choosing the right engagement ring even more important!

It is possible to get a diamond wedding ring, although these tend to not feature a single stone. Usually, smaller diamonds or stones are inset into the wedding band itself, which when worn alongside the engagement ring can help to accentuate its sparkle.

Men’s wedding rings tend to have plain, simple designs, although there are options available for those looking for more sparkle. Because these styles are quite rare for men, opting for a bespoke design service is usually the easiest way of creating the wedding ring of his dreams.

You may be able to buy the engagement ring and wedding ring together in a set. Some partners choose to do this to ensure they get the perfect fit around their engagement ring. This is most common for larger, single-stone engagement rings.

Engagement rings vs. wedding rings: An overview

We’ve summarised the main differences between an engagement ring and a wedding ring in the below table and graphic:

Engagement Rings Wedding Rings
Given during the proposal Given during the marriage ceremony
Worn throughout the engagement and in marriage Worn in marriage
Worn on the fourth finger of the left hand Worn on the fourth finger of the left hand
Usually worn by one person, although can vary Worn by both people
Normally more statement in style Usually plainer with a simple design
Tend to cost more due to the larger stones used Tend to cost less due to their simpler style


Onsite Graphics Engagement rings vs wedding rings

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

Most couples will choose to have both an engagement ring and a wedding ring. However, there is no set rule and you don’t have to follow tradition. Some people will choose to have just one ring, while others will choose to have none at all!

You may not want to have both an engagement ring and a wedding ring because:

  1. You might find wearing a single ring more comfortable than wearing two rings.
  2. You’ll have one less ring to worry about, which is important if you’re prone to losing things!
  3. You don’t have to worry about finding two rings that match together perfectly.
  4. You want to combine your funds to be able to buy a more impressive single ring.

As long as the meaning behind the proposal and marriage is right, the decision on how many rings to have is entirely up to you!

Couple holding hands

What is the difference between an engagement ring and a promise ring?

Although an engagement ring is a promise to marry the other person, it’s very different from a promise ring.

A promise ring is a ring given to your partner to signify your commitment to them and that you see a future together. It doesn’t always mean that marriage or living together is imminent.  An engagement ring, on the other hand, is a symbol of your commitment to marriage.

Promise rings are often the first stage of commitment within a relationship, used to signify commitment and monogamy to the other person. They ultimately end up being replaced by engagement rings as the relationship progresses, although some couples choose to only wear promise rings as a symbol of their love.

A promise ring can be given at any stage of a relationship. Designs can vary although many people will choose a design that’s distinct from a traditional engagement ring style. As the first step of commitment, promise rings tend to be cheaper to buy than engagement rings.

Now you know more about the difference between an engagement ring and a wedding ring, you’re fully equipped to find the perfect engagement ring to surprise your loved one.

For extra advice on picking the perfect engagement ring, take a look at our guide.

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