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Wedding Bands 101

Women’s and Men’s wedding bands are a cherished piece 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 minor differences, which we will go into further along in this article.

However, for the shortest definition, when a bride and groom get married, they exchange wedding bands during the wedding ceremony, as a symbol of 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 that purchase matching wedding sets or interlocking wedding and engagement rings.

Wedding Bands Throughout History

Woman's left hand wearing The Victoria and The Forever on ring finger

Rings: The Victoria, The Forever

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 rings, 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 third 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.”

A lot of our modern day symbolism originated with the Ancient Egyptians too, such as the circle symbolizing eternity, with no beginning or end, and the opening symbolic of stepping into the unknown. Highly romantic notions, which is likely why they have withstood the test of time and remain such a big deal today.

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 wedding bands 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 a wedding band and often go to great lengths to delineate their own personal style and creativity.

Difference Between an Engagement Ring and a Wedding Band

Woman's left hand wearing The Lovely and The Eternity on ring finger

Rings: The Lovely, The Eternity

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 an engagement ring 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 remains 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 tradition, it’s most common.

Are Wedding Bands and Wedding Rings the Same Thing?

Woman's left hand wearing The Evermore set on ring finger

Rings: The Evermore

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 bands are often very simple in style and by comparison, more budget-friendly than a woman’s wedding ring, since there is not as much detailing and/or gemstones in the design. However, that’s not to say there are not wedding bands for men that give the middle finger to simple and 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. 

Therefore, choosing a style that’s intricate or encrusted with jewels could mean a big hit to the wallet. Many of the 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. 

Are Engagement Rings a Requirement?

Woman's left hand wearing The Sweetheart and The Desire on ring finger

Rings: The Sweetheart, The Desire

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.

What is a Wedding Band Worth?

Woman's left hand wearing The Daisy and The Desire on ring finger

Rings: The Daisy, The Desire
Matching bracelet: The Hope

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 is the name of the game!