What is the difference between an engagement ring and a wedding ring? Do they have to match, or should they be different? What styles of wedding bands are there? How much should you spend on one versus the other?
What are wedding rings (or bands as they are also often called)? How are they different to engagement rings? What are male engagement rings?
Lots of questions to answer here!
In this guide, we discuss everything you need to know when comparing engagement rings vs wedding ring.
With This Ring…
Most of you will know that an engagement ring is given when you propose marriage – and wedding bands are exchanged during the actual wedding ceremony itself, as in “With this ring, I thee wed.”
Wedding bands or rings are worn by both men and women and they symbolize the official commitment of marriage and the vows undertaken during the ceremony.
Your engagement ring can also be your wedding ring, if you want it to be. You don’t have to buy two or three separate rings if you are OK with wearing your engagement ring only after the ceremony.
Most men only wear a wedding ring, although some men also wear a simple engagement ring before they are married as a sign that they are in a committed relationship.
Engagement rings for men are common in Latin countries where they are worn on the left hand, then switched to the right after the wedding, but increasingly they are seen on celebrities such as David Otunga, when he was engaged to Jennifer Hudson, and Neil Patrick Harris and his partner David Burtka.
The male engagement ring trend is on the rise as more and more women are proposing to their male partners in an increasingly popular role-switching movement seen with Millennials and Gen Z-ers.
What styles are available for wedding rings?
Weddings rings tend to have a much simpler design than engagement rings, for reasons of practicality and wearablity – but there are still plenty of elegant and stylish choices available to you.
As the bride will wear both her engagement ring and wedding ring on her left ring finger, sometimes for years, the two rings should not compete from a visual standpoint.
The engagement ring is placed first on the finger and the wedding band goes on second, closest to the knuckle. Having two competing, elaborate styles on the same finger can be both awkward, impractical and uncomfortable, so that is why a simple wedding band works best.
The other point is that wedding bands are worn by both the bride and groom and they tend to match in style, so they need to be a simpler and wearable option for both men and women. For this reason, wedding rings do not feature the bulkier diamonds and gemstones seen in engagement rings.
They are likely to be simple bands, made of the same precious metal as the engagement ring so that the two do not clash with each other from a style standpoint.
They also need to fit snugly so they do not scratch against each other or feel uncomfortable for the wearer.
Should the metal setting colors match? You can imagine a bride wearing a large, elaborate marquise cut platinum diamond engagement ring with smaller diamond side stones next to a plain, yellow or rose gold wedding band. It will not look particularly good because the metals clash with each other. A plain platinum wedding band will give a more cohesive look
Men’s Wedding Bands
Here are a few things you should know about men’s wedding bands:
Wedding band sizes
Men’s wedding bands are made thicker than the corresponding women’s wedding bands, to better adapt to a man’s bigger hands and fingers.
Best-selling metal types and colors
There are many options these days, which don’t have to be boring, although a plain, brushed metal or channel set band is still a popular choice.
Best-sellers are in platinum, tungsten and yellow gold, with options in a mixture of two metals.
Platinum is durable and beautiful. On the other hand, tungsten is scratch-resistant and won’t bend as easily as other precious or alternative metals, maintaining its shine throughout the years. It is also priced lower than platinum.
Wedding bands can come in a wide selection of colors including the obvious ones – yellow (yellow gold), white (platinum), rose (rose gold), dark grey (tungsten) and even black (ceramic & carbon fiber), so you can choose something that goes with your personality or lifestyle.
Flat, concave and dome are the best-selling shapes for men’s wedding rings.
What finishes are available?
A high polish gives your ring a shiny, reflective appearance; matte has a flat look; satin has a shiny finish although less reflective of light; sand-blasted finishes give a rough, abrasive look.
Does a wedding ring have to be plain?
No, in fact wedding rings are becoming increasingly stylish with milgraining (small beaded pattern of metalwork around the ring), small diamonds and even carving.
Should your rings “match?”
Should your engagement and wedding rings match each other?
We do think it is the most sensible thing to do, although there is absolutely no hard and fast rule. It is up to you and your particular tastes as a couple.
You can wear a non-matching engagement and wedding rings, but remember, as a bride, you’ll have them for a long time, so it makes sense to think carefully before you or your partner makes a decision, especially if you want to wear both rings at the same time.
Thankfully, the jewelry industry has made it easy to choose a matching engagement and wedding ring sets, if that is what you want. When choosing an engagement ring, especially at an experienced online retailer such as James Allen or Blue Nile, you can see “bridal sets” and purchase your weddings rings and your engagement ring at the same time, as a matching set.
This makes it convenient and practical and there may be some cost savings to be had. You can also design your own matching set with Blue Nile’s Wedding Ring Matcher and James Allen’s Bridal Set Tool services.
Online retailers will show you complementary match weddings rings, which go with your engagement ring in terms of metal or color but are not a perfect match, and perfect match wedding rings which look the same as your engagement ring.
You will also see rings that are curved and fitted into each other, making them comfortable to wear and attractive to look at. It’s a delightful visual metaphor for a good marriage!
Should a man’s and a woman’s wedding bands match each other?
The long-standing tradition is that they should, but again, nothing is set in stone, as it were. You can choose matching rings – or not, as your taste dictates.
You may see matching rings as a symbol of your new unity as a couple or you may want to maintain your individuality with rings that do not match at all. It’s entirely up to you.
We should tell you, however, that there is a growing trend of wearing THREE stacked rings of mixed metals and colors and styles on the same finger.
You’ll know immediately if you and your loved one fit into this daring category – or if you prefer to stay traditional.
How much should you spend on wedding rings?
With the average cost for an engagement ring in the $5,000 – $6,000 range, you’ll probably be nervous about how much more your wedding rings will be.
In fact, the average cost for a female wedding ring is around $1100 while the male equivalent is $500. That is because the female ring is likely to be a little more on the elaborate side.
This is not an insignificant extra expense so a discussion or agreement on your priorities before making a purchase is the best way to go.
The engagement ring generally takes up the largest portion of your budget. Traditionally it is composed of one dominant stone which is alone or surrounded by smaller stones.
The wedding ring is traditionally a plain metal band; even if it has diamonds, they are likely to have a lower total carat weight than the diamond in your engagement ring.
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to selecting, designing, purchasing and wearing engagement rings and wedding rings.
If you wear both types of rings as an expression of your love as well as your personal taste and style, that is perfectly fine. If you want to wear only one ring, that’s fine too.
Two, three or more stacked rings? It’s totally your choice. What is important is your love and commitment towards each other and its enduring meaning as you face your lives together as a married couple.
This, much more than the expense or style, is what matters.