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what is a wedding band

Women’s and men’s wedding bands are cherished pieces of jewelry symbolic of the eternal love and commitment between the bride and groom as they set out to build a life together. Wedding bands are sometimes referred to as wedding rings, but both terms mean (mostly) the same thing. There are a couple of minor differences, which we will go into further along in this article.

However, for the shortest definition, on wedding day, the bride and groom exchange wedding bands during the wedding ceremony, as a symbol of love and their commitment as they exchange vows and promise to love each other forever.

Also, keep in mind that a wedding band is quite different from an engagement ring, although occasionally an engagement ring might be given as a matching piece to a future wedding band. This is common with brides and grooms who purchase matching wedding band sets or interlocking wedding and engagement rings.

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Wedding Bands Throughout History

Our current century isn’t the only generation that goes gaga over exchanging wedding bands. Wedding bands or some variation thereof have been around since caveman days. In prehistoric times, rings given to indicate love and commitment were made from plant matter like leaves, twigs and grass. Not nearly as enduring as today’s wedding ring styles, to be sure, but they did the job.

The Ancient Egyptians had ring traditions, too. Again, these rings were often made with plant matter, like reeds, sedges and papyrus braided and twisted to fit the finger. Since these rings obviously didn’t last very long, those smart Egyptians started making their rings from other materials, like bone, leather and ivory. These rings the Egyptians exchanged were more of an expression of devotion, while the Greeks exchanged rings as a token between lovers. Rings in marriage ceremonies didn’t start showing up until a little later in time.

However, it’s believed the custom of wearing a wedding ring on the fourth finger of the left hand, a common practice in today’s marriage ceremonies, was passed down from Ancient Egypt. Egyptians thought there was a vein that ran from the finger to the heart called the “vein of love.”

Which Hand Does the Wedding Ring Go On?

Eventually, the Romans came along, and we started to see rings worn in actual marriage. They were considered a public pledge of commitment to the marriage contract and typically were only worn by women. It didn’t become the norm until modern times for men to also begin wearing this piece of jewelry as a way to symbolize their commitment to a woman.

Eventually, this practice rose exponentially during times of war when couples spent a lot of time apart and wanted a reminder of their special someone. Today, of course, men and women both wear wedding bands and often go to great lengths to delineate their own personal style and creativity.

vintage style engagement ring and wedding band

In fact, the pressure to find the “right ring” is a very modern one. Rings used to be much simpler, except, of course, among the nobility of centuries gone by. They wore things closer to super bowl rings than wedding bands. The exchange of rings really picked up around the Second World War and then spiked again during other conflicts where couples were apart for long stretches of time. The wedding band rose in popularity because it was a symbol of commitment even when the couple was split across different countries.

In the modern era, there’s been a big shift in wedding and engagement ring styles and their norms. While it may seem as though the classic gold wedding band you see today has been this way forever, that’s hardly the case. The typical diamond engagement rings (as well as diamond bands) didn’t gain popularity until the mid-20th century, thanks to the De Beers Group. If you’re unfamiliar, think of them like Don Draper from Mad Men but in a company.

The Difference Between an Engagement Ring and a Wedding Band

One of the biggest differences between a wedding band and an engagement ring is that an engagement ring is always given before a couple gets married, whereas a wedding band is given during a wedding ceremony. Engagement rings come in different styles and designs, the same as wedding rings, although engagement rings are sometimes more intricate and flashier. Wedding bands, depending on your taste and style, tend to be less ornate and simpler in design.

Engagement rings are also usually given to a woman to wear; however, in today’s culture, it’s increasingly common to see men wearing engagement rings as well. Wedding rings, on the other hand, almost always adorn the ring fingers of both men and women after they are married. In the West, it is a tradition for a wedding band to be worn on the ring finger of the left hand.

In certain other countries and cultures, however, the wedding band is worn on the ring finger of the right hand. Regardless of which hand you wear your wedding ring on, the meaning and symbolism behind the wearing of the ring remain largely the same, at least according to society today. It means you are married and have vowed to be wholly committed to another person, in sickness and in health, through all the days of your life.

Tradition dictates that if you give a woman an engagement ring, she may wear it on the left hand, but during the marriage ceremony, it gets moved to the right hand until the wedding band is placed on her finger. Once she has the wedding band placed on her finger, the engagement ring can be moved back to the left hand, but the wedding band should have first place — closest to the heart. Although not all couples may adhere to this bridal set tradition, it’s most common.

Are Engagement Rings a Requirement?

Not necessarily. Some couples prefer to decide together on wedding rings and may opt to skip buying an engagement ring entirely so their funds can be put toward their dream wedding ring set. This can be preferable for reasons other than budget, too — like not being able to find a wedding ring that matches the engagement ring. This is a common problem if you don’t buy both the engagement ring and the wedding ring as a pair right out of the gate. Though you can sometimes return to the same jewelry store and buy the match later, waiting can be risky as new inventory is brought in and old inventory makes its way out.

So, Are Wedding Bands and Wedding Rings The Same Thing?

Essentially, yes. There is little to no difference between a wedding band and a wedding ring. If you really want to get nit-picky, you could say that a wedding “ring” is styled and designed more for a woman, while a wedding “band” is styled and designed more for a man. This can be true, but it’s not always true. Wedding rings for women eventually evolved into something that looks more delicate and feminine and may have more style and pomp than a wedding band made for men.

Men’s wedding band styles are often very simple and sleek. Typically there aren’t as many gemstones or intricacies in the design. However, that’s not to say there are not wedding bands for men that flaunt plenty of flash and bling. It’s just not as common, perhaps because wedding bands for men are larger and require more material to make. 

Many wedding bands for men today blend simplicity with a variety of design elements to produce a wedding band that’s still masculine and attractive but isn’t over-the-top. Single rows of stones are popular, and so is the practice of blending metals and materials to make a look that’s unique. 

Another differentiating factor between the two is lifestyle. While it’s fairly traditional for women to wear more ornate wedding rings and for men to wear simpler bands, lifestyle factors may make those standards less appealing.

If you’re active during the day, a more bling-filled wedding ring may be an inconvenience. You can hit it on things as you move about your daily routine and do some long-term damage to it. If that bothers you, you can always take it off during the day. However, in some ways, that feels like it defeats the purpose. Wedding bands or eternity rings are much more friendly to an active lifestyle. Now, with a stackable wedding band set, you can keep your more ornate ring for special occasions and wear the band in everyday life to get the best of both worlds.

Browse All Stackable Wedding Bands Here

What Is a Wedding Band Worth?

pear shaped engagement ring and wedding band

There’s no way to answer this question accurately since every wedding ring is priced differently depending on size, style and design. However, generally, engagement rings are the most expensive, while wedding bands are more modestly priced. 

This is largely because engagement rings tend to be flashier and more intricately designed than wedding bands. They have delicate designs and are decorated with precious gems of varying sizes and may be made from highly precious metals. On the flip side, wedding bands, especially for men, are made from less precious metals and boast few, if any, gemstones.

However, even though flashier engagement rings are the norm, that doesn’t mean the opposite can’t be true. Some couples decide to invest in a simple engagement ring, solely so they can save their dollars and get their wedding bands of choice.

At the end of the day, the decision to wear a wedding ring and/or an engagement ring is a personal choice. With so many styles and designs to choose from, it’s easier than ever to find a wedding band perfect for your lifestyle and personal preferences. And no matter what kind of wedding ring you wear, the symbolism doesn’t change. Love and commitment are the names of the game!