Engagement rings vs. wedding bands: The Differences Explained

Engagement rings and wedding bands are often seen as two peas in a pod. For some rings, they fit together perfectly due to their organic nature, and for others, any straight band will work. But differentiating between the two rings seems to be an important point for those shopping for one of the most important days of their lives.

For starters, let's clarify the definition of an engagement ring vs. a wedding band. An engagement ring refers to the ring presented during the proposal. A wedding band is the ring exchanged during the wedding ceremony.

The engagement ring is typically chosen and purchased by the person who will be proposing. This ring usually has one main center stone (diamond, colored gemstone, etc.) in the center and is sometimes accented by other stones or designs on the shank (the part of the ring that goes around the finger). The ring is presented at the time of proposal and once gifted, you’re considered to be “engaged to be married.” There is the occasion where both people in the relationship choose to propose, and in that case, each partner can select an engagement ring and present it to the other person.

Sometimes an engagement ring will be a band without a center stone, depending upon personal preferences and personality of the recipient. There are no steadfast rules around this, and it’s perfectly fine to design and/or purchase any ring that will make both you and your partner happy.

When it comes to the wedding band, this is the ring that is exchanged during the wedding ceremony and there is one for each partner. Men’s wedding bands tend to be more straightforward in terms of design, but do oftentimes have stones set. For the wedding band that will match the previously purchased engagement ring, if the ring has a straight shank, it’s possible that any straight band (plain gold or set with stones) will fit up against the ring. These types of rings are sometimes referred to as “stackables.” A standalone wedding band is a great option if you plan to wear the band alone often. If you plan to wear your wedding set together most of the time, a set that matches well is preferred. If the engagement ring is more organic or custom, it could require a wedding band to be made specifically to fit against it comfortably. The benefit to this would be that not only will your wedding set be completely unique, but it will fit together perfectly as opposed to having gapping. 

While couples often shop for their wedding bands together, typically each person will pay for their partner’s wedding band. Sometimes couples prefer that their wedding bands match, which can be a fun choice, but not always necessary. Since you both have different personalities, it’s best to purchase something that you’ll be happy wearing as opposed to worrying about it matching your spouse’s band perfectly. It is possible to pull some design elements so they nicely complement each other.

Some people choose not to purchase a wedding ring to match their engagement ring for a variety of reasons, e.g. budget, or they prefer how their ring looks on its own. In this case, you can remove your engagement ring for the ceremony and have your partner put it on your finger during the ring exchange.