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The Bliss in rose gold

There are certain fundamental questions in the universe. Who created us? Why are we here? What the heck is the difference between a wedding band and an engagement ring? If you have the answer to at least two of those, you’re doing better than most of us. Luckily, that third question doesn’t have to be a philosophical mystery — and once you learn the difference, you’ll never forget it.

Getting ready to put a ring on it? Congrats! Most likely, this is your first — and hopefully last — time standing up at the altar, which means you probably have a few questions for the class. In this guide, we’re answering a surprisingly common one — “What’s the difference between an engagement ring and a wedding ring?” — to help you master marriage before you even say, “I do.”

Knowing the difference between the wedding ring and the engagement ring can help you simplify ring shopping and figure out which — if any — ring traditions you want to follow. Let’s start with some ring basics to help you decide.

Engagement Ring

An engagement ring is a ring traditionally given during the proposal to symbolize one’s desire and intent to marry their partner. The proposer usually gives it to the proposee but it can be exchanged and worn by both parties if desired.

holding womens ring

Traditionally, the engagement ring comes first, so let’s start there. This is probably the best-known type of ring. Merriam-Webster defines an engagement ring as “a ring given in token of betrothal” — that’s just a fancy word for engagement. The engagement ring is the classic symbol of marriage, often presented by a man to a woman on one knee. Traditionally, the proposer picks out and pays for the engagement ring in the months or weeks leading up to the proposal.  

That’s the traditional way of doing things. But — record scratch — it’s not the only way. The reality is that engagement rings are often given from woman to man, man to man and woman to woman. In fact, more and more brides-to-be have been getting on one knee to lock down their future husbands, with the frequency of female-to-male proposals spiking by over 300 percent in recent years. So what we’re saying is you can do it however you want and there are plenty of unique engagement rings out there that will cater to your partner’s personal preference.

Oftentimes, especially in Western culture, it’s uncommon for guys to wear engagement rings. That isn’t to say guys never do, and more in the modern era are choosing to wear engagement rings, but it’s the exception rather than the rule. Of course, if you want to wear an engagement ring and show it off to the world, you’re more than welcome to flaunt your engaged status.

Plus, it’s more common than ever to ditch the expensive diamond in favor of more affordable engagement rings featuring simulated diamonds or non-traditional gemstones, such as emeralds, sapphires or rubies. Sure, a gold- or platinum-set solitaire diamond engagement ring is the classic way of doing things, but an engagement ring can look however you want it to look as long as it symbolizes your love and honors your style.

Luckily, you can get gorgeous engagement ring style without the high cost with engagement rings from Modern Gents. While ours are just as stunning as the ones from the jewelry store, they won’t be a burden on the budget!

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Wedding Band

A wedding band is a ring traditionally exchanged during the wedding ceremony to symbolize unity, commitment and eternal love between two people. Both spouses typically wear wedding bands after getting married. 

The wedding band differs from the engagement ring in symbolism, timing and often aesthetic. Unlike with the engagement ring, the rules of who picks out and pays for the wedding band are a bit less clear-cut. The purchase often comes out of the general wedding budget and may be paid for by the couple as a unit. However, when the band is given is quite clear: on the wedding day itself. Both women’s and men’s wedding bands are purchased in the months leading up to the marriage ceremony and then swapped during the ring exchange vows.

Mens and womens rings

Unlike the engagement ring, both members of the couple traditionally wear a wedding ring, which means the designs and styles vary a bit more than they do with your typical engagement ring. The wedding band is usually more minimalist and often doesn’t involve any major bling. While it doesn’t have to be a plain metal band, wedding bands tend to err on the side of simplicity, mainly to match with the more stylistically important engagement ring. Think a simple titanium ring for the guys or a slim rose gold eternity band for the ladies. Sometimes, the band is meant to match the engagement ring for a cohesive look. You can even buy them together, which saves you money. Check out some of our bridal sets to see what we mean.

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How do you wear an engagement ring and a wedding band together? In American culture, both the wedding and engagement rings are worn on the left-hand ring finger. You can wear them in whatever order you please, but traditionally, the wedding band goes first, so it’s closer to the heart.

Even after the wedding date, you can add a stackable wedding band. Stackable wedding bands make great gifts for special occasions like anniversaries or other major milestones. Plus, you can mix and match these as you choose, maybe wearing a wedding ring normally and adding one or two bands for more formal occasions. There’s no strong guidance on this though, so wear your bands and rings however you see fit.

Know Your Rings

At the end of the day, wedding traditions are only suggestions, and you can take them or leave them as you please. Following long-standing traditions and making it up as you go both have their pros and cons. Whether you choose to rock them both or none at all is totally up to you and your spouse-to-be. As long as you find the perfect ring that represents your love for one another, you’re doing it right! Be sure to shop our entire collection of rings to find one that celebrates your relationship.

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