Engagement Ring vs Wedding Ring: What's the Difference?

Engagement Ring vs Wedding Ring: What's the Difference?

Embarking on the enchanting world of commitment, love, and the eternal symbols that celebrate them, it's essential to understand the key differences between two iconic pieces of jewellery - the engagement ring and the wedding ring. Often mistaken as interchangeable, these cherished adornments have their own unique histories, meanings, and characteristics.

Understanding the distinction between engagement and wedding rings is crucial in the journey of love, as they serve as universal symbols of commitment and unity. Engagement rings represent a promise of marriage when a couple decides to take the next step, while wedding rings symbolise eternal marriage, exchanged during the wedding ceremony. Recognising these differences enables you to make informed decisions when purchasing these significant jewellery pieces and appreciate their cultural and historical roots. This knowledge empowers you to choose the perfect rings, reflecting your unique bond and commitment while understanding the symbolism behind the designs and materials.

In this article, readers will be guided on a sparkling journey to uncover the distinctions between these treasured symbols of devotion, providing valuable insights to make the perfect choice for any timeless love story.

History and Symbolism of Engagement Rings and Wedding Rings

Origins of Engagement Rings and Wedding Rings

Engagement and wedding rings have their roots in ancient times. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans believed that a ring represented eternity, as the circular shape had no beginning or end. The practice of wearing a ring on the fourth finger of the left hand believed to contain the "vena amoris" or the "vein of love," was also introduced by the ancient Egyptians. Over time, this tradition evolved and spread, eventually becoming the custom we know today.

Evolution of Ring Designs Over Time

Engagement and wedding ring designs have evolved throughout history to reflect changes in fashion, culture, and societal norms. In the Middle Ages, engagement rings often featured gemstones such as rubies, emeralds, and sapphires, symbolising love, passion, and loyalty. The diamond engagement ring, now a classic choice in Western culture, gained popularity in the 20th century after a successful marketing campaign by De Beers.

Similarly, wedding rings have seen a variety of designs over the years, from simple gold bands to intricate, gem-encrusted creations. Modern wedding rings often incorporate both traditional and contemporary elements, allowing couples to express their unique style and personality.

A close-up of a multi stone Yellow Gold Diamond Wedding Ring placed on a white shiny surface.

Cultural Variations and Contemporary Trends in Engagement and Wedding Rings

Cultural variations in engagement and wedding ring traditions can be seen across the globe. In some cultures, engagement rings are not customary, while others have unique customs, such as the Claddagh ring in Ireland or the Mangalsutra in India. Wedding ring customs also differ, with some couples opting for matching bands, while others choose individual designs that reflect their personal tastes.

In recent years, we've seen a surge of interest in bridal sets, which include matching engagement rings and wedding bands, reflecting a desire for unity and cohesion in marital symbolism. Moreover, modern trends have sparked an interest in alternative materials, such as platinum, titanium, and even wood, to create unique and personalised sets of rings that resonate with the couple's distinct style and values.

Symbolism Behind the Designs and Materials Used

The choice of design and materials for engagement and wedding rings often carries symbolic meaning. For example, the circular shape of the ring represents the eternal bond of marriage, while the choice of metal – such as gold, silver, or platinum – signifies purity, strength, or value. Gemstones, too, have their own symbolism: diamonds represent strength and everlasting love, while coloured gemstones like sapphires and rubies symbolise fidelity, passion, or protection.

By appreciating the unique origins, evolution, and cultural differences surrounding these rings, you can make informed decisions when selecting the perfect pieces of jewellery to represent your love and commitment.

Wedding rings are a symbol of commitment and take on the role of the mascot of marriage. The term wedding rings describe more than just the bands given during the wedding ceremony. It also includes the engagement ring presented during the proposal.

Wedding Rings or Wedding Bands

What are Wedding Rings? (or Wedding Bands)

Wedding rings are the bands exchanged between partners during the wedding ceremony. Wedding rings are a symbol of commitment and take on the role of the mascot of marriage. The term wedding rings describe more than just the bands given during the wedding ceremony. It also includes the engagement ring presented during the proposal. It is the official symbol of the union of marriage. Wedding rings are worn by both partners in the marriage and traditionally were used to symbolise the marriage as the circle band shape represents eternal love and commitment, something that is continuous.

A close-up of a diamond ring placed on a shiny marble surface.

When To Wear Them?

Wedding bands are first worn during the wedding ceremony. The exchanging of rings during the ceremony dates back to ancient Egypt and is placed on your "ring finger", the fourth finger from the right on your left hand. This finger is believed to have a vein that runs directly to your heart, strengthening the commitment and love the wedding band represents. After the wedding ceremony, the wedding band will sit underneath the engagement ring to remain the closest to your heart. The wedding band and engagement ring will stay on the same "ring finger". Modern wedding ring trends have seen a rise in engagement and wedding band sets. This is the perfect way to ensure your wedding band and engagement ring fit perfectly together and coordinate in style.

A close-up of a woman's hand gracefully holding a stunning two-stone oval and square cut wedding ring.

Popular Wedding Ring Design Trends and Styles


Wedding ring designs can be simple or extravagant depending on your taste and style to match your engagement ring. The wedding band is typically more simplistic than the engagement ring as it usually doesn't have one larger feature stone, unlike the engagement ring. The wedding ring can be a plain simple band or more detailed featuring a pavé or set of diamonds. Some of our favourite wedding ring designs at LKC include eternity bands and open wedding rings. Eternity rings symbolise your love for eternity and typically feature a whole band of diamonds. However, the shape of the band can be completely customisable to suit your engagement ring and the overall look you are after. Open wedding rings have a gap in the front where the engagement ring slots in to create a snug fit of both rings. Each of these designs enables you to be creative and think outside the wedding ring box when choosing which design you want to wear forever.

A close-up of a hexagon-shaped blue sapphire open wedding ring placed atop a shiny white surface.

Traditional Designs

Traditional wedding bands often feature simple metal bands, such as a classic gold band for women or a white gold solitaire ring for men. These timeless designs are popular with those who appreciate elegance and simplicity.

Modern Designs

Modern couples are increasingly opting for contemporary designs that reflect their unique personalities. Modern choices may include sleek and minimalist bands, intricate detailing, or unconventional shapes.

Unique and Unconventional Designs

Some couples are drawn to unique and unconventional designs that make a statement, such as toi et moi rings, vintage rings or vintage-inspired wedding rings. These pieces often feature intricate detailing, unconventional shapes, or a combination of precious metals and stones.

Metals and Colours for Wedding Rings

The type of metal you choose for your wedding ring depends on personal preference. The only limitation you have when choosing a metal is to make sure it is a precious metal that will be durable for an extended period. 

A close-up of a woman's hand gracefully holding a 22k yellow gold wedding ring.

Precious Metal Options

When it comes to choosing a metal for your wedding band, there are several precious metal options available, including platinum, palladium, 18k white gold, 18k yellow gold, 18k rose gold or 22k yellow gold. Each metal has its own unique properties, so it's important to select the one that best aligns with your personal preference and style.

How to Choose the Right Metal and Colour for Your Wedding Ring?

Choosing the right metal and colour for your wedding ring is a personal choice that should reflect your individual tastes and preferences. Consider factors such as durability, personal style, and how the metal complements your engagement ring. Ultimately, the decision should be one that brings joy and satisfaction to both partners.

Personalisation and Customisation Options

Many couples choose to personalise their wedding bands with custom designs, engravings, or unique elements that hold special meaning to them. This can include monograms, meaningful symbols, or even fingerprints – the options are truly limitless.

Choosing the Perfect Wedding Band

Factors to Consider:

When selecting the perfect wedding band, consider factors such as budget, style, and metal preferences. It's essential to choose a ring that not only reflects your personal style but also suits your lifestyle and is comfortable to wear.

Tips for Selecting a Design That Complements the Engagement Ring

A complementary matching wedding band can enhance the beauty of your engagement ring. Look for a design that echoes elements of the engagement ring, such as the metal colour, gemstone shape, or band width. Alternatively, you may choose a contrasting design that showcases the unique features of each ring.

In short, the perfect wedding band is a deeply personal choice that reflects your unique love story. I always encourage couples to take their time, explore various options, and consult with experts to help them make a decision that they will cherish for a lifetime. Remember, your wedding ring symbolises your love and commitment – make it as special and unique as your relationship.

Engagement Ring

What are Engagement Rings?

Engagement rings are given during the proposal, either as a surprise during the proposal or after a couple has decided to "tie the knot". Engagement rings traditionally feature a centre stone or cluster of stones with a more simplistic band to ensure the centre stone stands out.

A close-up of a hand with an oval-shaped diamond engagement ring on the finger.

When To Wear an Engagement Ring?

The engagement ring is worn on the "ring finger" from the proposal until the wedding. As the wedding ring is added to the stack during the wedding ceremony, the engagement ring is moved to the same finger on the right hand rather than the left. This leaves your ring finger open for the wedding band, which is traditionally supposed to sit underneath the engagement ring.

After the wedding ceremony, the engagement ring can either be worn on a different finger than the wedding band if you would prefer to split them up, or it can be worn on top of the wedding ring and remains there permanently. The only times it is thought inappropriate to wear your wedding rings is when the activity could tarnish them, such as intensive cleaning, gardening or outdoor activities.

A close-up of a marquise cut sapphire diamond engagement ring atop a shiny white surface.

Engagement Ring Placement

In New Zealand, as in many Western cultures, the engagement ring is placed on the left-hand ring finger. The wedding band is usually worn on the same finger, placed next to the engagement ring after the wedding ceremony.

Popular Engagement Ring Design Trends and Styles


Engagement ring designs have been changing with modern styles and trends. Engagement ring designs usually feature a centre stone (or stones) that could include a cluster in a symmetrical or asymmetrical design. At LKC, we like to experiment with composition and challenge the boundaries of traditional engagement ring design to embody your story in your engagement ring design.

Engagement rings can come in a variety of styles, from classic shapes that bring all the attention to the centre diamond to intricate designs that feature ornate bands or elaborate settings.

Traditional Designs

Classic solitaire settings have long been a popular choice for engagement rings, showcasing a single central stone with an elegant and timeless appeal. This design style places emphasis on the center diamond or gemstone, allowing it to truly shine.

Modern Designs

For those seeking a contemporary look, modern designs often incorporate additional elements like pavé diamonds, intricate band detailing, and mixed metals. These styles can add a touch of glamour and sophistication to the engagement ring, while still maintaining a focus on the central stone.

A close-up of a Emerald Cut Pink Sapphire Diamond ring placed on a white surface.

Unique and Unconventional Designs

For individuals with a penchant for unconventional, unique engagement ring designs include fashion rings, clusters, and custom creations. These rings offer a distinctive and personal touch, setting them apart from more traditional options.

Gemstones and Their Significance

While diamonds remain the classic choice for engagement rings, many couples choose alternative gemstones to express their unique love story. Sapphires, rubies, emeralds, and other precious stones can serve as beautiful and meaningful center stone, often complemented by additional diamonds or smaller gemstones.

Metal & Colour For Engagement Rings

Engagement rings are made with precious metals similar to the wedding band. The metal you choose for your engagement ring often compliments your wedding ring, so the ring stack appears coordinated. The colour of the precious metal you choose depends on your style and the centre stone you have chosen. The classic white diamond centre stone has been seen most often paired with yellow gold as of 2022 engagement ring trends. However, the metal you choose should be one you love and usually wear. 

A close-up of an oval-cut  22k yellow gold ring with a diamond stone atop a shiny white surface.

Precious Metal Options

Popular precious metal options for engagement rings include platinum, palladium, 18k white gold, 18k yellow gold, 18k rose gold or 22k yellow gold. Each metal has its own unique characteristics and appeal, making the selection a matter of personal preference.

How to Choose the Right Metal and Colour for Your Engagement Ring?

When deciding on a metal and colour for your engagement ring, consider factors like personal style, skin tone, and lifestyle. A ring should complement the wearer's individual taste and preferences, while also being durable enough for everyday wear.

Personalisation and Customisation Options

Custom designs and personalisation options allow couples to create a truly one-of-a-kind engagement ring, reflecting their unique love story and personal style.

Choosing the Perfect Engagement Ring

Selecting the ideal engagement ring involves considering factors such as budget, style, metal, and stone. Here are some tips to help guide your decision-making process.

Factors to Consider

When choosing an engagement ring, it's essential to establish a budget, consider personal style and preferences, explore different metal options, and research gemstones. These factors will help ensure that your ring is a perfect reflection of your love and commitment.

Tips for Selecting a Design that Complements the Wedding Band

To create a harmonious and visually appealing set, consider the following when selecting an engagement ring and wedding band:

  1. Matching styles: Opt for rings with similar design elements, such as metal colour, gemstone shape, and overall aesthetic, to create a cohesive look.
  2. Band width: Choose bands with similar widths to ensure balance and comfort when worn together.
  3. Ring profiles: Ensure the engagement ring and wedding band have compatible profiles so they sit flush against each other on the finger.
  4. Customisation: If you can't find the perfect match, consider working with a professional jeweller to create a custom wedding band that complements your engagement ring.

Ultimately, the perfect engagement ring is one that resonates with your personal style, preferences, and budget. By considering the various factors mentioned above and working with a professional jeweller, you can create a stunning and meaningful symbol of your love that will last a lifetime.

Engagement Ring vs Wedding Ring

Engagement Rings Cost

Engagement ring costs depend on the centre stone you choose. The carats of the precious stones chosen in engagement rings tend to be more than the carats of the wedding ring (if you decide to have stones in the wedding ring). This makes the engagement ring more expensive than one wedding ring. However, if you choose an engagement ring with a small precious stone, no centre stone or a small lab-grown diamond, the price may be similar to the wedding band.

A close-up of a pear-cut diamond engagement ring atop a reflective white surface.

Wedding Rings Cost

Wedding rings usually cost less than engagement rings on their own. However, wedding rings traditionally come in pairs, as the couple each gets a wedding ring. This means the cost of the wedding rings together may catch up to the price of the engagement ring, especially if the wedding rings have engraved details, precious stones or customisations.

Do you Need both an Engagement Ring and Wedding Band?

There is no yes or no answer to this question. Whether you have an engagement ring or a wedding ring is ultimately your choice. As long as the ring symbolises your love and marriage, you can choose to have none, one, two, three or even more rings.

Can an Engagement Ring and a Wedding Ring be the Same Ring?

Yes, an engagement ring and a wedding ring can be the same ring. Traditionally, an engagement ring is given at the time of the proposal, while a wedding ring (or wedding band) is exchanged during the wedding ceremony. However, there are no strict rules, and some couples choose to combine the two rings into one, either for practical or financial reasons or simply as a personal preference.

When to Pick Out Wedding Bands?

Selecting the perfect wedding band is an exciting and meaningful process. To ensure ample time for design, customisation, and adjustments, it is advisable to begin the process at least six months before the wedding. This will give you enough time to explore various options, collaborate with your partner, and work closely with a jewellery designer to create the rings of your dreams.

Should You Buy a Wedding Ring or an Engagement Ring First?

Generally, the engagement ring is purchased first, symbolising the promise of marriage, followed by the wedding bands to be exchanged during the ceremony. However, some couples may opt to purchase both rings simultaneously, particularly if they are considering matching sets or all-in-one designs.

Wearing and Stacking Engagement Rings and Wedding Rings

The Traditional Way to Wear and Stack the Rings

Traditionally, the wedding ring is worn closest to the heart, followed by the engagement ring. This means that during the wedding ceremony, the bride may temporarily move her engagement ring to her right hand, allowing space for the wedding ring on her left ring finger. Once the wedding ring is in place, she can return the engagement ring to its original position, creating a lovely stacked effect.

Alternative Ways to Wear and Stack the Rings

While the traditional method of wearing these rings remains popular, some women choose alternative ways to wear and stack their engagement and wedding rings. Some wear the rings on separate fingers, while others may even wear them on different hands. There is no right or wrong way; it is a matter of personal preference and comfort.

Care and Maintenance of Engagement Rings and Wedding Rings

To ensure your engagement and wedding rings stand the test of time, proper care and maintenance are essential. Here are some tips for the care and maintenance of engagement rings and wedding rings:

A close-up of a Diamond Wedding Ring Placed on a black grey shiny Jewellery box.

Proper Cleaning Techniques for Different Materials

Different materials require different cleaning methods. For example, gold and platinum can be cleaned with a soft-bristled toothbrush, mild soap, and warm water. Silver requires a special silver-cleaning solution.

Tips for Protecting and Preserving Your Rings

To maintain the beauty and longevity of your rings, consider the following tips:

  1. Remove your rings during activities that may cause damage or expose them to harsh chemicals.
  2. Store your rings in a safe and secure location when not being worn.
  3. Regularly check your rings for signs of wear, such as loose stones or damaged prongs, and address any issues promptly with a professional jeweller.
  4. Avoid exposing your rings to extreme temperatures or direct sunlight for extended periods, as this may cause damage to certain gemstones.
  5. Consider having your rings professionally serviced and cleaned at least once a year to maintain their appearance and ensure they remain in excellent condition.

When to Remove Your Rings to Prevent Damage?

Knowing when to remove your rings can help prevent unnecessary wear and tear. Consider removing your rings during the following activities:

  1. Swimming, as chlorine and saltwater can damage metals and gemstones.
  2. Gardening or manual labour, as these activities may expose your rings to dirt and potential damage.
  3. Applying lotions, creams, or cosmetics, as these can cause a buildup of residue on your rings.
  4. Cleaning with harsh chemicals, as they can damage or discolour your jewellery.
  5. Engaging in sports or physical activities where your rings may be at risk of getting caught or damaged.

In conclusion, understanding the difference between engagement rings and wedding rings, as well as the various ways to wear and care for them, can help you make informed decisions when choosing and maintaining your precious jewellery. By selecting ethical and sustainable options, you can also contribute to a more responsible and environmentally-conscious jewellery industry. Remember, when it comes to wearing and caring for your rings, the most important aspect is that they symbolise your love and commitment to one another.

Engagement Ring Vs. Wedding Ring FAQs:

What is the correct way to wear your wedding band and engagement ring?

Traditionally the correct way to wear your wedding ring is on the left hand on the fourth finger from the right, nicknamed the "ring finger". The wedding band sits underneath your engagement ring to be the closest ring to your heart. However, as they are your rings, you can decide how and when to wear them. Some people prefer only to wear the wedding ring or wear both but on separate fingers. Some even prefer to wear them on a chain as a necklace (this is particularly common when people have active jobs using their hands).

Can any ring be used as an engagement ring?

Any ring that symbolises the love and commitment you are about to venture into with your partner can be used as an engagement ring. As long as it means something special to you and your partner, it does not matter which ring you choose as an engagement ring.

Image of Ophelia Mason author for the Layla Kaisi Collection Journal

Ophelia Mason

Ophelia Mason is a writer, content creator, and author for the Layla Kaisi Collection Journal. She transcribes the beauty of artistically handmade jewellery. She is passionate about sharing the stories woven through each design and retelling the moments captured in each piece in imaginative detail. She has an eye for creative harmony and an appreciation for individual reflection in the form of unique jewellery.

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