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What Is the Difference Between an Engagement Ring and Wedding Ring?

engagement ring on a rose

Have you ever wondered: do I need an engagement ring and a wedding ring? When it comes to a wedding band vs engagement ring, both have similar origins in history. However, there are notable differences in the meaning between engagement rings and wedding rings.

Wearing a ring on your finger sends a signal that you are romantically involved and are no longer in the market for potential suitors. So if you like it, you should probably put a ring on it.

Here at ItsHot.com, we’re all about helping customers find the most perfect engagement ring and wedding band that you and your loved one will wear and cherish for the rest of your lives while showing off your personality, style, and flair.

But what is the difference between an engagement ring and a wedding band? Let’s talk about it.

Difference Between Wedding Ring and Engagement Ring Definitions

To understand the engagement ring vs wedding ring differences, let’s look at the definitions of each.

  1. The definition of an engagement ring is a ring that is offered by a partner to their prospective spouse as part of their proposal to marry them. It represents a formal agreement for future marriage.
  2. The definition of a wedding ring is a ring that indicates that its wearer is married. It is usually made of metal, traditionally gold or another precious metal. It is often worn for the first time during the wedding ceremony.

Unlike the wedding ring or wedding band, the engagement ring isn’t usually part of the marriage ceremony. When the ceremony is over, traditionally the bride usually puts the engagement ring on, wearing it outside of the wedding ring.

Wedding Ring and Engagement Ring History

Did you know that the tradition of wedding rings go way back in history? They even pre-date civilization. There are many different types of early wedding rings from around the world. For many centuries, there was no difference between engagement ring and wedding ring types. Let’s get into the history of both.

The Neanderthals

Although we think of Neanderthals as barbaric, they were actually fairly civilized, and even romantic.

To show his bond to his spouse and to protect her from evil spirits, a neanderthal man would tie strands of grass around the wrists and ankles of his “bride”, forming rings. These early rings turned a blade of grass into a circle, which represents eternity and unity.

Ancient Egyptians

Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs display a man and woman exchanging rings, which could make them one of the earliest wedding rings.

Although some people think the Ancient Egyptians invented wedding rings, these rings didn’t necessarily always symbolize marriage: the rings likely had other meanings such as eternity, commitment, and friendship. This means that the rings of the Ancient Egyptians more closely resembled what we would refer to as “promise rings.”

Despite their love of gold, the Ancient Egyptians made their symbolic wedding and friendship rings from twisted plant material, such as hemp. These rings served as a status symbol and a symbol of love.

The Egyptians did start the tradition of wearing the ring on the left hand, on the 4th finger of the left hand, which they believed held a significant vein connected directly to the heart. This vein was called “vena amoris” by the Romans, or “vein of love.”

Ancient Rome

The first wedding and engagement rings originate (as far as we know so far) in Ancient Rome. Their first wedding rings out of leather, bone, ivory, and eventually iron.

The first engagement ring comes from the second century B.C. A man showed his interest in marrying a woman by giving her two rings: a gold ring, and an iron ring. This eventually shifted to an iron ring and a gold ring.

It was customary for centuries for Roman women to wear an iron ring at home and a gold ring in public. Similar to today’s engagement rings, the Ancient Romans’ gold ring was flashier and meant to be seen.

Similar to wedding ring engravings today, the Romans would personalize their wedding rings by carving self-portraits into the band. Eventually, when Christianity became the leading religion, the most popular engraving for wedding rings was a cross symbol that was engraved between the picture of the couple, as a symbol of Christ’s blessing their marriage.

Design/Appearance

The appearance of wedding ring vs engagement ring designs is usually different. You can often tell the difference between a wedding ring and an engagement ring by looking at them.

Engagement Ring Appearance

engagement ring

What does an engagement ring look like? An engagement ring is easily distinguishable from wedding rings and other rings by its intricate, lavish design, and is usually topped with a large centerpiece stone such as a diamond or another precious gemstone. Unique engagement rings that differ from the traditional solitaire diamond engagement rings are really popular right now.

Whatever the engagement ring style, the gemstone is typically mounted in an elaborate setting made out of platinum or gold. Traditionally, the groom picks the engagement ring and presents it at the time of the proposal—usually as a surprise—by getting down on one knee and popping the Big Question.

Traditions are changing, and some couples prefer a more collaborative process though, and shop for and pick the engagement ring together. Some women prefer to buy their own engagement ring or split the cost.

No matter what your approach is, you will find exactly what you are looking for in our high-quality, manufacturer-price engagement ring collections.

Wedding Ring Appearance

wedding ring

What does a wedding ring look like as opposed to an engagement ring? Wedding bands or Wedding rings (as they are also called) are a lot simpler in design compared to an engagement ring.

A wedding ring is typically made out of either platinum or gold, and its style can range from simple wedding bands to ones decorated with smaller diamonds or gemstones all around. You can even take a really unique wedding band route and opt for unique black diamond wedding bands.

Wedding bands are brought out by a ring bearer at the wedding ceremony and are exchanged during the reading of the vows, thus signifying the completion of the union. The engagement ring is removed during the wedding ceremony so that the wedding band can be placed on the ring finger first, closer to the heart.

Picking wedding bands is usually a collaborative process and wife and groom often pick rings of similar designs or as a part of a matching set. You can browse through some of the finest wedding bands if you prefer to have different wedding ring styles, ItsHot offers real gold and platinum wedding rings at manufacturer costs, which cut out the additional charge of standard retail.

Or if your preference is a matching wedding ring set, have a look at our amazing selections of matching wedding ring sets.

How to Wear an Engagement Ring

wedding and engagement ring

Determining how to wear just an engagement ring will depend on different cultural factors and personal preferences. Here are some of the ways to wear just an engagement ring:

  1. Wear it on your left hand. Typically, people wear their engagement ring on the third finger of the left hand. In many countries, especially Western cultures, this is the most common way to wear an engagement ring on its own. This dates back to the romantic idea derived from the Ancient Egyptians that this finger contains the “vena amoris,” vein that leads directly to the heart. Even though this is some anatomical bullsh*t true, it’s a nice bit of symbolism that represents the meaning of an engagement ring.
  2. Wear your ring on your right hand. It’s totally acceptable and fine to wear your ring on the third finger of your ring hand. In some countries, such as Russia, Greece, and Columbia, and Orthodox cultures, the most popular hand for a ring is the right hand. Your ring on your right hand doesn’t have to have cultural meaning, however. It may simply be more comfortable or practical to wear it on the right hand.
  3. Wear it on any finger you want. There are traditional ring fingers, but in the end, it’s up to you. Wear your engagement ring on whatever finger feels the most comfortable, whether it’s your index or middle finger. If the ring doesn’t fit your ring finger, it’s better to resize it than settle for a finger you don’t prefer.

If you see someone wearing their wedding ring or engagement ring on their right hand, or a different finger than the ring finger, there could be countless reasons why. Many women intentionally wear a right-hand ring. For more information on the meaning of wearing your ring on different hands or fingers, check out our post on right hand ring and different ring finger meanings.

Some people choose to do this for practicality and comfort, others may wear it intentionally to pay tribute to their culture, a loved one, and some may wish to make a bold statement and intentionally steer away from tradition.

How to Wear a Wedding Ring

wedding and engagement ring

Similar to how to wear an engagement ring, you can also wear a wedding ring on its own. Although the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Israel and India like a gemstone engagement ring and a simpler metal wedding band, other countries prefer to wear just a wedding band, that can be simple or ornate.

Here are the different ways to wear a wedding band or wedding ring:

  • Wear it on your left hand ring finger. Your wedding ring finger is the finger next to your pinkie on the left hand. The tradition to wear a wedding band on this finger originated in ancient Rome for proximity to the "vena amoris" or vein of love.
  • Wear your wedding ring on your right hand. It’s totally acceptable and fine to wear your ring on the third finger of your ring hand. Before the 1700s, people frequently wore their wedding ring on the ring finger of the right hand. This shifted to the ring finger on the left hand in the West at the beginning of the 18th century. This just goes to show how the choice of the ring finger is somewhat arbitrary.
  • Wear it on any finger you want. Even the traditional wedding ring fingers are not set in stone; they’ve changed a lot over the years. So where you wear your wedding ring is it is up to you. Choose whichever finger feels the most comfortable or has meaning to you.

As mentioned before, people used to wear their wedding rings on the right hand in Western cultures before the 1700s. If you’re wondering, why did people wear their wedding ring on the left hand now instead of the right? There are several theories. One reason may be because most people are right-handed, and moving it to the left keeps it from getting in the way of right-handed work. Another reason may be that the left hand is closer to the heart, even though the vein of love does not exist anatomically.

One reason people may wear a ring on the right index finger is for traditional Jewish wedding ceremonies. This is typically a plain gold band. During the ceremony, some brides will move the ring from the right hand to the left ring finger after the ceremony, but others keep it on the right hand. You may choose to wear your wedding ring on the right hand if it’s more comfortable, or if you find your own symbolism in it.

Right-Hand Wedding Ring Meaning

A lot of people wonder why some women wear engagement and wedding rings on their right hand. Often, this may be a symbol of independence or success. There are many reasons why people may wear their wedding ring on their right hand, among which is the new tradition amongst some women today to wear a wedding ring on the right hand to symbolize female empowerment.

In the past, women commonly chose to wear a right-hand ring if they were not yet married or engaged. Today’s women see marriage as a choice; it’s no longer an expectation or a necessity for financial stability.

Today, women still often choose to buy similar rings as a status of not being married, but a new tradition is to wear flashy or glamorous diamond or gemstone rings to signify their personal achievement, self-sufficiency, and financial status. These right-hand fashion rings carry the symbolism of strength and empowerment; right-hand rings today can be as extravagant as engagement rings, featuring diamonds, gold, and finely crafted designs.

Buying a right-hand ring is a meaningful way to reward yourself for working hard and following your ambition and symbolize personal accomplishment.

How to Wear an Engagement Ring and Wedding Ring Together

wedding and engagement ring

There is no right or wrong way to wear an engagement ring or wedding band, but the traditional way to wear an engagement ring is by wearing an engagement ring and wedding ring together on the fourth finger of your left hand.
Here are the different ways you can wear an engagement and wedding ring together:

  1. Wear the wedding band inside the engagement ring, so that it's closer to your heart (the Ancient Egyptians and Romans would probably concur). The engagement ring would go on top of the wedding band.
  2. Wear your wedding band on top of the engagement ring to mimic the order in which you received the rings. This means that the diamond engagement ring goes on the bottom, and the wedding band on top of it. This way of wearing wedding rings does not work with every style, however.
  1. Wear the rings on separate hands. Place your wedding ring on your right hand, and your engagement ring on the left, or vice-versa. This is a less traditional option, but there are many different reasons why you may wear your wedding and engagement rings on separate hands.
    1. It may be more comfortable if you have shorter fingers or prefer not to have more than one ring on each finger.
    2. Your rings might not fit next to each other.
    3. This way shows off both rings well.
  1. Alternate wearing each ring. Though most people wear both rings at the same time, other people like to wear each one separately, alternating between the two. Here are some reasons why you may alternate your wedding and engagement ring:
    1. One ring may be very expensive and you might not want to wear it to work/on vacations.
    2. You might choose to wear one of the rings only for special occasions or with certain clothes.
    3. You may prefer to only wear one ring, so taking turns between the two can let you show off both on different days.

Of course, you can always choose which finger you wear either your wedding ring or engagement ring. Even traditions aren’t as traditional as they seem, so you can always be a trendsetter.

Alternative Ways to Wear Engagement and Wedding Rings

You can also wear your engagement ring or wedding ring on a necklace. This is a good way to wear wedding rings to keep them out of the way if you’re working or doing activities where you need your hands.

Check out our gold, platinum, and sterling silver chains to slide your ring on if you prefer to wear it this way, like a pendant. You can pick your length of chain, to wear your wedding rings on a choker or longer necklace style. A choker will be more out of the way, and a longer chain may look good with a v-neck.

You could also wear your wedding and engagement rings on a bracelet chain. We have many different silver, gold, and platinum chain bracelets that are perfect for wearing wedding rings on. In particular, check out Figaro chains, rope chains, and curb chain bracelets for engagement and wedding rings.

Do I Need an Engagement Ring and a Wedding Ring?

wedding and engagement ring

If you’re wondering, do you need both a wedding and engagement ring, the answer is that it depends. In the United States and Europe, people prefer both a wedding ring and an engagement ring. In these countries, a diamond engagement ring is most popular, with a gold or platinum wedding band.

There are many different wedding traditions around the world that vary. In many countries, people don’t buy both an engagement ring and a wedding ring. In others, the styles of engagement and wedding rings differ.

In many Latin American countries, both partners wear a simple wedding-band style engagement ring on their right hand. Once they’re married, they move it over to their left hand where it becomes an engagement ring. Couples in Argentina both wear a silver engagement ring until they get married, and then replace the silver ring for a gold band on their wedding day.

There's no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing, designing, or wearing engagement and wedding rings. You can wear no rings, or as many as three or more rings if you want. The most important thing is that whatever wedding rings you choose symbolize your love and marriage, and will last for years to come.

Find the Perfect Ring

Whether you’re shopping for a wedding ring or an engagement ring, here at ItsHot, we offer unique wedding and engagement rings—as well as traditional rings—that are high in quality and low in cost. We have over 20 years of professional service manufacturing fine jewelry.

We were recently awarded the 2020 WeddingCouple’s Choice Award, an accolade honoring the top wedding professionals for quality, service, responsiveness, and professionalism reviewed by couples on WeddingWire. We set the bar for online engagement and wedding ring stores—featuring user-friendly filters to search for rings by price, metal, carats, gender, style, and more.
We offer custom diamond rings—as well as wholesale diamonds and engagement ring settings. We’re located in NYC, but we aim to provide an online shopping experience that’s just as good as in-store. For the best deals on wedding rings and engagement rings, check out our website, and visit our Bridal Collection.

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