When you're new to the world of bridal jewelry and lost in the haze of bridal jargon, you might find yourself wondering what the difference is between an engagement ring and a wedding ring. Even though our culture in the United States has been exchanging matrimonial rings for decades; the use, timing, and meaning of each isn't obvious. After all, both types of rings represent big questions and big promises.
In this blog post, we'll cover those distinct differences between engagement rings and wedding rings.
What is an Engagement Ring?
Engagement rings traditionally feature a prominent gemstone, typically a diamond, although other precious stones are also used. The design styles can range from classic solitaires to elaborate settings with additional stones.
Engagement rings are given during a marriage proposal; it's presented by one partner to another as a symbol of their commitment to marry and spend their lives together. This big moment occurs before the actual wedding ceremony, signifying the intention to move forward with marriage plans.
What is a Wedding Ring?
The term ‘wedding ring’ is used interchangeably with the word ‘wedding band’. Unlike an engagement ring, wedding rings are exchanged during the actual marriage ceremony itself, and symbolize the formal union of the couple.
Wedding rings don't usually feature a single center stone. Rather, they're traditionally more understated than an engagement ring, and are made of precious metals such as gold or platinum. However, wedding rings can have added details, like gemstones, milgrain, and engravings.
The History of Engagement Rings and Wedding Rings
Although the origin of the engagement rings and wedding rings have been attributed to a host of different cultures, from the ancient Egyptians to the ancient Greeks, the use of betrothal rings can be most reliably accredited to the Romans around the 13th Century. When Pope Innocent III decreed that couples should wait for longer periods between engagement and marriage, engagement rings gained in popularity as a symbol of commitment during that lengthened period of high anticipation.
The Romans falsely believed the fourth finger on the left hand to be connected directly to the heart via the veina amoris, and for that reason it became the designated ring finger. With the spread of Christianity and craftsmanship of the Renaissance, the tradition of engagement rings and wedding rings spread and evolved. The first known engagement ring with a diamond appeared on the engagement ring of Archduke Maximilian of Austria, but diamonds on rings didn’t become popular until many centuries later. Four centuries, to be more exact. In the 19th century, diamond mines were discovered in South Africa, and the strong and beautiful stone was enough of a commodity that it could become a widely used metaphor for love.
What is today considered an engagement tradition in the United States isn’t tradition everywhere. For example, engagement rings aren’t traditional in India, where they exchange bangles or necklaces instead. And in Russia, wedding rings are worn on the right hand instead of the left.
Do you need both an engagement ring and a wedding ring?
Wearing both an engagement ring and a wedding ring is a common tradition, but it's not obligatory. The engagement ring signifies the intention to marry, while the wedding ring symbolizes the official union. Your choice depends on personal preference, cultural considerations, lifestyle, and budget. Some opt for alternatives like tattoos or unique jewelry. Ultimately, it's about what holds meaning for you and your partner.
If you only want a single ring, rather than a stack, an engagement ring and a wedding ring can serve dual purposes. Some individuals choose to use the engagement ring as the wedding ring, wearing it on the same finger after the wedding ceremony. This can symbolize a seamless transition from engagement to marriage. Alternatively, a single ring, often chosen for its versatility and comfort, may be used for both purposes. This approach can simplify the jewelry process and hold sentimental value as the singular symbol of commitment. Ultimately, whether two distinct rings or one serves as the symbol of love and union, what matters most is the significance it holds for the couple.
Unconventional Rings: The First Eternity Band
Doing things your own way can lead to something truly beautiful. Lana, TACORI's East Coast lead, comes from an Armenian culture where proposals are traditionally done with a wedding ring, and no engagement ring. In fact, there are many cultures in which the distinction between engagement rings and wedding bands may not exist at all. Lana wanted to integrate Armenian tradition into her proposal, so she worked with the TACORI design team to create a custom ring with no center stone, but which featured radiant diamonds all the way around the ceiling. Lana serendipitously designed the very first TACORI eternity band, and she wears it today as her wedding ring.
Design Differences Between Engagement Rings and Wedding Rings
The center stone of an engagement ring is typically the focal point, although the ring setting is what gives the ring character. Halos and three-stone crowns can make the center stone increase in visual size, and accent diamonds, engravings, and Crescent Fabrics create visual impact that represents the personal style of the wearer.
Wedding rings can be subtle; minimalist designs decorated with a few interesting finishes or geometric patterns are common. But wedding rings can also be as elaborately embellished as you like. Lana's diamond-intense eternity band, with a Classic Crescent fabric on the inner face features accent diamonds, hand-hewn milgrain, and windows of light - is an example of this.
Do engagement rings have to include precious stones?
Engagement rings do not have to include a precious stone. There are no have to’s when it comes to designing an engagement ring, because it all comes down to personal preference. Diamond engagement rings are traditional in the United States, but you can also choose alternative stones like sapphire, ruby, or emerald; or you can go with no precious stone at all. An engagement ring can simply be a plain band of precious metal.
When should you take off your engagement ring?
You can wear your engagement ring and a full stack for as long as your heart desires, because there are no rules which dictate how long you’re allowed to wear it. Post-matrimony, you'll definitely want to revel in its sparkling allure. Some people choose to only wear their engagement ring only for special occasions, like weddings and holidays, whereas others wear it on a daily basis. Either way, it’s certainly advisable to remove your engagement ring - with its prominent center stone - when you're playing sports, gardening, using harsh chemicals, or doing anything that could cause physical or chemical damage to it.
Do you have to wear your wedding ring forever?
Although wearing your wedding rings day in and day out is traditional, it's not a hard-and-fast rule. Some couples only wear their wedding rings for special events and occasions, while others wear them every day. If you're active or work in a field that involves heavy machinery, you may not want to risk damaging your ring, or your finger for that matter. Wedding bands are beautiful works of art, and they can serve as a reminder of your connection and the love you share.
How to Wear Your Engagement Ring and Wedding Ring
The most traditional way to wear your engagement ring and wedding band in the United States is to stack them on the fourth finger of your left hand. And if you're following the same tradition, you'd put your engagement ring on first and put your wedding band on after. But some people flip the script and put the wedding band on first, because this places it closer to your heart.
If your engagement ring and wedding ring don't stack well, you can wear one ring on each hand. But if you want to be sure that they stack, check out this guide to stacking your engagement ring and wedding band.
Both wedding rings and engagement rings are centered around a promise. Whether you opt for the traditional American practice of pairing an engagement ring with a wedding band or you embrace the unique customs of your cultural heritage, your matrimonial bands will symbolize this commitment. Explore all ring settings here.