Even though I’m not married, I’ve had enough friends get married to know one thing: most men don’t think about wedding and engagement rings until they’re the ones shopping for one. While that’s understandable, it also puts lots of men in a tough situation when they reach adulthood and they realize they don’t know very much about how the custom usually works. That’s why I’m here to explain it to you all.
Engagement Ring vs. Wedding Ring: What’s the Difference?
There are two main differences between engagement rings and wedding rings:
Traditionally, men don’t wear an engagement ring after getting engaged, but women do. Some people don’t even consider an engagement to be “official” until there’s a ring on the woman’s finger. But this norm has been changing in recent years, with some men choosing to wear an engagement ring as well.
An engagement ring (or rings, if both people in the couple will be wearing one) is exchanged during a proposal. Wedding rings are exchanged during the actual wedding vows during a wedding ceremony.
They’re often lumped together, but wedding rings and engagement rings mean different things. Engagement rings are a signifier of the seriousness and intentions of a relationship. Wearing a ring honoring a relationship gives the relationship more weight and gravity; it communicates that your intentions are serious.
Wedding rings signify that a person is officially married. But they also symbolize a deep and lasting bond between two people.
An engagement ring is worn on the ring finger of a person’s left hand. This is your engagement ring finger. This is such a strongly-reinforced cultural norm that people who aren’t engaged know not to wear jewelry on that finger, for fear of sending the wrong message. Engagement rings are generally given (or exchanged, if both people will be wearing one) during a proposal and worn through the duration of the engagement, until the wedding.
Traditionally, in heterosexual couples the man gives the woman an engagement ring during a proposal to signify their relationship. But some people prefer both individuals in the relationship to wear an engagement ring, and same-gender couples often have both people wear an engagement ring.
Wedding Rings (Also Known as Wedding Bands)
Wedding rings are often referred to as “wedding bands” because they’re traditionally less elaborate than engagement rings. They’re often just a plain band. For women, they’re traditionally worn alongside an engagement ring, often in a complementary style.
For men, the wedding band is generally the only piece of jewelry worn on the left ring finger. The traditional look is for men to wear a simple band with little to no adornment – but of course, that’s not a hard and fast rule.
Wedding rings are exchanged during the wedding ceremony as part of the official proceedings. The wedding band should be put on the ringer first. The reasoning for this is that the symbol of the actual wedding should be “closer to the wearer’s heart.”
How to Find the Right Engagement Ring and Wedding Ring
Shopping for an engagement ring or wedding band can be intimidating. It’s a big decision! Whether you’re shopping alone or with your spouse-to-be, here’s what to keep in mind.
Be Practical About Your Budget
It’s no surprise that engagement and wedding jewelry can be expensive. For most people, it’s the most important and most luxurious piece of jewelry they’ll ever purchase. That’s why you don’t want to just walk into a jewelry store and see what catches your eye. Know what you can afford before you start shopping. That way, you won’t be swept away by an enormous diamond ring that costs the same as your car (unless that’s what you want, which is fine).
Shop Around a Little
When you first start shopping, you might be a little starstruck. Wedding jewelry is beautiful, and rightfully so. But there are a lot of options out there. This is a big decision. Take your time and let yourself enjoy the process. I recommend browsing at least three different stores before you make your decision.
Be Open to the Unexpected
You wouldn’t believe how many of my buddies who’ve told me they just want a plain gold band and have ended up with a wedding ring that makes way more of a statement than they originally planned for. Or how many of them realized they wanted an engagement ring for themselves! Keep an open mind while you shop.
You might be surprised by what jumps out at you. It’s an intimidating prospect to buy a piece of expensive jewelry you’ll wear for the rest of your life. But it’s also an opportunity to buy something that really fits your personality and makes you feel like your coolest, best self.Now you know the basics of engagement rings and wedding rings, and you can get out there and shop with confidence.