How to Wear Your Engagement and Wedding Rings

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Engagement and wedding rings are typically worn on the right or left ring finger, but ring styles and customs vary. Discover the distinctions between engagement ring and wedding ring traditions.


Engagement Ring vs. Wedding Ring

In many Western traditions, engagement rings and wedding bands represent a couple's eternal love, which is symbolized by the rings' circular shape. Such customs date back to ancient Egypt, when Egyptians professed their love for loved ones by giving them rings made of woven reeds. There are a few distinctions between wedding and engagement rings:

Meaning: To symbolize commitment, one partner will offer an engagement ring as part of a marriage proposal or early in the engagement. Engagement rings are traditionally given to brides-to-be, but people of all genders can and do propose. Wedding bands, like other symbols of love, are given to couples as part of the wedding ceremony.

Payment: Traditionally, each person or each person's family pays for the rings of the other partner. Today, however, many couples choose to split the costs and involve both partners in the engagement ring selection process.

Placement: The fourth finger of the left or right hand is the wedding ring finger in Western culture. The wedding and engagement rings are worn together on the fourth finger, or the wedding band is worn alone. Wedding rings are worn first, followed by the engagement ring. If the rings are not easily stackable, people may wear them on different hands. In addition, widows and widowers may wear their engagement or wedding rings on the opposite hand after the death of their partner.

Price: Engagement rings are generally more expensive than wedding rings. Classic, solitaire-style rings with a center stone, such as a natural or lab-grown diamond, are the most traditional engagement rings. In search of more unique engagement rings, modern couples may get creative with their stone, setting, band style, and accessory gemstones. Wedding rings, also known as wedding bands, are typically less ornate than engagement rings and do not include a center diamond. Wedding bands are typically made of plain metal or have a pavé setting of diamonds or gemstones. Personal preference is important when choosing gemstones and precious metals, and jewelers stock a wide range of rings and center stones.


Do You Need Both an Engagement and Wedding Ring?

Every couple decides how they want to purchase and wear their wedding and engagement rings. Given the high cost of wedding jewelry, some couples opt for a single, standout engagement ring rather than a set, or they wear passed-down family heirlooms instead. Others might buy a complete wedding ring set so that all of their jewelry matches. The eternity band could also be a watch, necklace, or other gift or piece of jewelry. Furthermore, each couple makes their own decisions regarding how to propose and then profess their love at their wedding.


How to Wear Your Engagement and Wedding Rings

It is entirely up to you how you wear your engagement and wedding rings. The wedding ring is traditionally placed on the fourth finger of the right or left hand, followed by the engagement ring. You may also choose not to wear an engagement ring due to its sensitivity and keep it as an heirloom. After your wedding, you can switch your engagement ring to your right hand to have a ring on each hand. These decisions can be influenced by family traditions, religious customs, and personal preferences.


Do You Wear Your Engagement Ring on Your Wedding Day?

Before the wedding, many brides switch their engagement ring from left to right hand. They return their engagement ring to the fourth finger on their left hand after receiving their wedding band during the ring exchange. The wedding band is placed on the left ring finger, closest to the heart, followed by the engagement ring. If you prefer to wear your wedding band on your right hand rather than your left, follow the opposite rules.


5 Tips for Picking Out Wedding Bands

When the big day arrives, both partners can wear wedding bands. Follow these guidelines to find the best ones:

1. Give yourself enough time. To allow for sizing and shipping, look for wedding bands three to four months before the wedding.

2. Define a budget. Wedding jewelry can be costly, and knowing how much you can spend from your wedding budget on rings will determine the type of wedding band you purchase.

3. Do online research. There are numerous images of wedding band styles available on the internet. White, rose, and yellow gold are popular metals for wedding rings. Investigate a wide range of options and costs to determine which type of band is best for you. You might want your band to match your engagement ring, or you might want something completely different. Before you go shopping, educate yourself so that you can make an informed decision.

4. Get details from the jeweler.  Before taking measurements and discussing costs, the jeweler will tell you everything you need to know about the potential bands. If discounts are available, inquire about them so you can save money on these expensive pieces.

5. Go to a physical store. While online research is useful for understanding the market, you should ultimately shop in a physical store. You should inspect the band with your own eyes and try it on for size.

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