Buying an engagement or wedding ring is a big occasion unlike any other. It’s an exciting new time and the start of a new chapter in your life. But while it’s certainly a time to celebrate, it can also bring about uncertainty and questions — about the ring, that is!
In this guide, we’ll take you through the differences between an engagement ring vs. wedding ring, the best time to buy them, and some tips on how to find the perfect ring.
What Are the Differences Between Engagement Rings and Wedding Rings?
One of the most noticeable differences between engagement rings and wedding rings is the way they look. Engagement rings are typically grander with one center stone, either alone or combined with smaller stones in a variety of settings.
Wedding rings are more simple and subtle. They’re usually a plain metal band, chosen to complement the engagement ring. To make it easier to find a perfect match, you can also buy bridal sets (also known as wedding sets), which feature both an engagement ring and wedding ring.
Another difference between engagement rings and wedding rings is how they’re chosen. Engagement rings are often a beautiful surprise alongside a proposal. Some partners propose with a family ring or one that they’ve picked out in secret. This means the proposal is the first time you (or your soon-to-be fiance) will see the engagement ring.
While it’s true that many couples now shop for rings together, this is much more common for wedding rings. Engagement rings are presented during a proposal, which means it was chosen ahead of time well before the wedding ceremony.
When you compare engagement rings (especially diamond engagement rings) and wedding rings, you’ll find there’s a noticeable price difference between the two. Since they’re often decorated with diamonds or precious stones, engagement rings are typically more expensive than wedding rings. The type of metal, carat size, and intricacy of the ring design can push the price up considerably, which makes wedding bands less expensive on average.
The other major difference between the two types of rings is the meaning and purpose. An engagement ring signals the intention to marry whereas a wedding ring symbolizes that commitment. This remains the same whether you follow tradition or make your own rules about your rings and your wedding.
How Are Engagement Rings and Wedding Rings Similar?
Engagement rings and wedding rings may look very different, but when worn together they should suit each other perfectly — much like the happy couple.
The two rings are traditionally worn on your left ring finger, with the wedding ring beneath the engagement ring. As such, choose a pair of rings that complement each other both in shape and size. The rings are almost always made from the same metal but may feature different stones, especially if you’ve chosen an engagement ring with a gemstone.
Both your engagement and wedding rings are pieces of jewelry that you’ll most likely wear every day, but you or your partner may choose to only wear one ring or wear one on a different finger.
Wedding Ring vs. Wedding Band
You might think that men’s and women’s wedding rings and wedding bands are the same thing. Well, they are and they’re not.
Wedding bands are often simple, plain, and understated — like a plain gold band. They’re more traditional in style and the only decoration may be an engraved message on the inside of an otherwise plain band.
On the other hand, wedding rings can be more extravagant, with diamonds or gemstones set into the band. These stones are likely to complement or match those in the wearer’s engagement ring, as they’re typically worn stacked.
While the designs of the rings may differ, the intent is the same. Wedding bands and wedding rings are both exchanged during the marriage ceremony, and both symbolize your commitment to each other. You’ll need either a wedding ring or a wedding band, but the choice is yours.
Engagement Ring vs. Wedding Ring: Do You Need Both?
As with almost every choice you make about your wedding, it all comes down to personal preference. Traditionally, once married, women wear both an engagement ring and a wedding ring on their left ring finger, while men only wear a wedding band. However, some women may wear one ring on another finger — especially if the two rings are very unique.
If you favor tradition or simply like the way that two rings stack together, it makes sense to invest in both. Many couples also enjoy the sentimental value behind wearing both rings, as they bring back memories of their proposal and their wedding day.
Not every couple wants to follow tradition, however. Some people choose to buy and wear only one ring that symbolizes their commitment. This could be for practical reasons, like comfort, the type of work they do, or financial reasons. Some couples also want to break tradition and make their own rules, and one way to do this is by wearing one ring.
When Is the Best Time to Buy Engagement and Wedding Rings?
Planning a wedding can be thrilling, intoxicating, emotional, and sometimes overwhelming. That’s why whether your day is an intimate gathering or a no-expenses-spared getaway, you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to choose and buy your wedding rings.
It doesn’t hurt to start early. You’ll be able to get a feel for what you (and your partner) like and how much it will cost. Plus, if you don’t wait until the last minute, you have more time to shop around and you may even find a deal on a ring that would’ve otherwise been outside your budget.
Most couples shop for their wedding rings at least a few months before the big day. This gives you enough time to find rings that fit your style and budget and get them customized or engraved. If you’d like a bespoke ring designed for you or want to get involved with making your own, speak to your chosen jeweler to book a date.
How to Choose the Right Engagement Ring or Wedding Ring
Whether there’s a proposal in the near future or you’ve already moved on to planning your wedding, buying rings can be a daunting task. To help make finding the right rings easier, here are some of our top five tips for engagement ring or wedding ring shopping.
1. Do Some Visual Research
Weddings are a visual feast with colors, decorations, and lighting that create a memorable occasion. This means that lots of couples use various tools to plan the look for their special day.
You can do the same when choosing your rings. Use search engines, Pinterest, and Instagram to create a collection or digital moodboard of the styles and colors of rings you like. You’ll get to know whether you love rose gold more than yellow gold or white gold, or whether you prefer a solitaire or pave setting. Over time, you’ll start to see commonalities in the styles you like to help you narrow down your search.
2. Know Your Budget
There are beautiful rings available at every budget and knowing how much you’re able to spend will help you find the right jeweler. While ring shopping can be fun, you don’t want to spend hours traveling to or browsing a store if the price isn’t right.
You don’t have to set a hard budget, but being realistic about what you want to spend will help you feel more comfortable with your decisions. You’re less likely to be persuaded by a salesperson into spending more than you wanted, and you’ll spend more of your ring shopping time focused on stores that suit you.
3. Visit More Than One Jeweler
Unless you’re set on buying a ring from a specific jeweler or store, browse more than one to truly get a sense of what’s available, how rings are priced, and other details.
For many couples, the engagement period will give you enough time to make a shortlist of jewelry stores to visit. Depending on your choices, this could mean trips to different cities or booking appointments with specialty jewelers.
If you’re planning a short engagement, time is of the essence and you’ll want to focus your efforts on just a few spots. You can also browse and order wedding rings online at virtual marketplaces such as Etsy, which is especially popular with couples looking for something a bit different from mainstream offerings.
4. Be Practical
Aside from a financial process, buying your wedding rings is an emotional journey. It symbolizes a major life moment, so it’s only natural to feel sentimental about your purchase.
At the same time, it helps to stay practical about other considerations that go beyond budget. For instance, you’ll need to know whether or not you react to certain metals. If you have an allergy to a specific metal like nickel, you’ll want to make sure your rings don’t contain any.
It’s also a good idea to think about the comfort of your ring. Some metals like silver or platinum are heavier than others, so if you prefer something lighter you might want to opt for a metal-like titanium or stainless steel. This is why giving yourself enough time for in-store shopping and trying on different rings is so important.
5. Be Open to Something Different
The engagement ring or wedding ring you end up choosing may not be what you expected. You could walk into a jewelry store and fall in love with a different style than you imagined, or decide that you prefer to make your own rings.
Planning and research will help save you time when choosing your rings, but sometimes it’s that emotional response that tells you a ring is the one. Be open to considering different styles, metals, stones, and designs. Diamond rings may be popular, but there are plenty of other choices.
Wedding Planning Made Easier
Your engagement and wedding rings are among the most special pieces of jewelry you’ll ever own. They mark the beginning of your future together and they’re a constant reminder of your loved one and the commitment that you’ve made to each other.
At Joy, we want to make it as simple as possible for you to embark on that journey. And that includes planning your wedding without any stress. To help you get started, take a look at our wedding planning guide from real-life couples who have used Joy to help them get through this momentous occasion and create memories to last a lifetime.