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How to wear engagement & wedding rings

Your engagement is such an exciting and eventful season in your life. In this whirlwind of changes and eventual planning of a wedding ceremony, you may have many questions about how to approach it all with ease. While you’ll find all the answers you need over time, you can be sure about the engagement ring and wedding bands you pick from the start.

Couple posing for engagement photo

Ring: The Grace

If you’re not familiar with the engagement process, you may wonder what type of a bridal set to get, and when and how to wear your wedding ring and band. While traditions and norms have changed over time, there are some traditional ways of wearing engagement rings and wedding bands in western culture, with some of the rules differing for men and women.

Here are all the details about how to wear an engagement ring and wedding band and how these traditions came to be.

A Brief History of Engagement Rings and Wedding Bands

Woman's left hand wearing The Victoria and The Forever

Rings: The Victoria, The Forever band

While today’s engagement ring is the quintessential symbol of romance, its origins are not as sentimental. Engagement rings were once used as signs of “marriage insurance” or ownership.

The first wedding band ever dates back to ancient Egypt, more than 5,000 years ago. These rings were made of simple strings of hemp tied around their fingers. Romans took this concept and made iron, ivory, gold, and copper rings. These marriages were mutual partnerships, especially when it came to political alliances, but many of these unions were also loving.

By the year 850 AD, the engagement ring was officially recognized by Pope Nicholas I, and it was defined as a symbol of a man’s intent to marry. At this time, gold was the most popular material among precious metals. Only women wore engagement rings, as they still do today, as a symbol of being promised to another. Men’s wedding rings were not required to be worn.

Not-So-Romantic Origins

Woman's left hand wearing The Evermore set

Ring: The Evermore

There was also another reason why women received engagement rings. They were once a promise item that allowed her to keep her fiancé accountable. If he broke the engagement, she could sue him through the “breach of promise to marry” law that is no longer in effect today. In a time when virginity had “market value,” women’s wedding rings protected a woman if the couple were intimate before the wedding.

It would be difficult or impossible for a woman a hundred years ago to become engaged again after losing her virginity, so the ring gave her a just claim to make sure he doesn’t walk away. Thankfully, times have changed. The “breach of promise to marry” law became practically defunct by 1945, and the age of romantic engagement rings began.

The Diamond Frenzy

Married woman holding Mickey Mouse pretzel

Ring: The I Do

The fixation with diamonds and a diamond engagement ring is actually quite new. Though diamonds were made massively popular through advertisements in the late 1940s, they only appeared occasionally on engagement rings in the past. The first was seen as early as 1477 when Archduke Maximilian proposed to Mary of Burgundy. It was only after the media promoted diamonds that everyone became crazy for the rock for the rest of the 20th century.

Engagement Rings Today

Married couple holding hands wearing wedding rings

Rings: The Sweetheart, The Titan

While diamonds are still popular today, millennials and younger generations are looking for unique and financially responsible alternatives. It’s more common than ever to see different gems like rubies, sapphires, and pink diamonds, diamond simulates, or no gem at all! The focus has shifted to be more on the value of the union than the price tag of the ring.

People are changing the way they wear their rings, too. It’s becoming more common for women to buck the traditional norm of stacking an engagement ring with a wedding band.

The variety of wearing options isn’t new either — in ancient Rome, women often wore ivory rings at home and a gold one in public. The concept of a sturdy “travel” ring that is meant for active lives is practical and good — and it dates back to Roman times!

A Variety of Options

Woman holding rose wearing wedding jewelry

Ring: The Bliss
Matching Necklace: The Harmony

So while what the ring means and how its looks have changed over time, one thing’s for sure — it still symbolizes a promise between people who desire a lasting commitment. They have thankfully shed their stigma of ownership and have become a beautiful promise for a loving future.

There is more freedom than ever in what types of rings to buy. Many individuals are opting for materials like sterling silver and stones that cost less than diamonds. The meaning behind the engagement is more important than the cost of the ring.

So while there are traditions on how to wear a typical engagement ring and which finger to place on, the only rules that apply are the ones you want to embrace.

How Do You Wear an Engagement Ring?

Woman's left hand wearing The Lovely

Ring: The Lovely

Engagement rings are traditionally worn before marriage and are predominantly worn by women. However, this “rule” should not stop men’s engagement rings from being worn! The engagement ring is worn alone up until marriage, then it is stacked on top of the wedding band.

Before marriage, the engagement ring is worn solo on the third finger of the left hand, which is supposed to be closest to the vein that leads to the heart. After marriage, the wedding band goes on first and the engagement ring is stacked on top of it. However, when exchanging vows, it is easier to slide the wedding band on top of the engagement ring, then switch the order of the rings later.

This stacking order originates from some practical and outdated reasons. When more women were housewives, it was preferable to remove the more ornate ring to do household chores. Because many homes didn’t have the modern conveniences we have today, these chores involved a lot of physical labor, such as using washing boards and harsh soaps. Being able to remove the ring easily allowed the bride to keep her ring safe from harsh chemicals and damage.

How Do These Standards Apply Today?

Obviously, these reasons don’t apply much to modern households, which have dishwashers, washing machines for clothing, and a more forward-thinking mindset about the distribution of chores. Today’s choice of how to wear your wedding band is more of a personal choice than a practical one.

Modern brides and grooms can wear their rings on different fingers, the right hand, one on each hand, or even get a tattoo on their ring finger so they can always have a symbol of commitment and love.

The freedom people have in choosing their rings doesn’t just extend to where and how they wear them, but how many they have as well. If you received a promise ring while you were dating, you may want to continue to wear that item as well. The promise ring can be on another hand while the marriage and engagement rings are stacked on the ring finger on the left hand.

There may be a meaningful piece of jewelry that is just as meaningful, like a necklace or bracelet. When it comes to love, express it in a way that means the most to you! Wear these items daily as a constant reminder of your beautiful promise.

Affordability and Modern Trends

Woman's left hand wearing The Amore

Rings: The Amore set

The push toward expensive, ornate gold rings with diamonds have left many people cash-strapped and have even delayed a proposal. After the explosion of diamond fever, engagement became an expensive event. The standard was for a man to save at least two months’ salary to buy a ring. 

When you figure in modern-day costs of living, student loans, and the differences in how much necessities cost today, it’s easy to see why today’s brides and grooms are leaning toward affordability, especially when it comes to their secondary or travel rings. People are challenging the ritual and reasoning behind spending a fortune on a wedding ring when you can save for a down payment on a home instead.

Love Has No Cost

Modern couples are no longer putting a price tag on an engagement’s value. You can now find high-quality wedding bands made with sterling silver, rose gold-plated sterling silver, and vibrant gems or simulated diamonds that look just like the real thing. Another major advantage of diamond simulates is knowing your ring, the symbol of your love, is conflict-free. 

Individuals allergic to metals or who want a ring they don’t have to worry about at the gym can get a silicone ring. These come in many different colors and are made to take a beating at physically demanding jobs and do not need to be taken off while doing chores. Silicone rings keep your symbol of love on display no matter the occasion — and the best part is that this material is incredibly affordable.

Beautiful Rings at Unbeatable Prices

Woman's left hand wearing The Grace and The Forever

Rings: The GraceThe Forever

Now that you know how to wear an engagement ring and wedding band, it’s time to make a choice. Whether you’d like to buy traditional diamonds or opt for an affordable engagement ring that looks just as good, you have an exciting journey ahead.

If you want engagement and wedding jewelry that’s guaranteed to not break the bank, shop with us at Modern Gents. We’re passionate about making jewelry that captures the essence and exquisite nature of your devotion at prices you’ll love.

Shop Affordable Engagement Rings