Engagement Ring and Wedding Band Rules (and How to Break Them)

Engagement and wedding ring etiquette

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We don’t like the word rules when it comes to jewelry, because fashion and beauty is subjective. Restrictions, stereotypes and traditions can stifle your creativity and keep you from expressing yourself.

However, whether you like it or not, there are some generally accepted guidelines and certain etiquette surrounding the wearing of engagement rings and wedding bands.

But there are also ways to break these guidelines.

Whether you choose to follow these rules or to create your own trend is entirely up to you. Let’s take a look at some of the ‘rules’ that are associated with bridal rings and ways to ‘break’ the rule.

Rule #1 – Wedding Ring Goes on First

There are specific rules regarding wearing your engagement and wedding rings on your finger:

  • Before the wedding – the engagement ring is worn on the ring finger of the left hand, chosen because the Romans believed that the ‘vena amoris’ or vein of love ran from that finger to your heart. Science has proven that there is no such vein and the Romans dreamt it up, but it’s now become tradition to wear the ring on that finger and no one really questions it.
  • On your wedding day – the engagement ring is moved to the ring finger on your right hand until the ceremony, making room for your wedding ring to go on first.
  • After you’re married – once the wedding ring is place on your ring finger (fourth finger of the left hand) the engagement ring is placed above the wedding ring. Because the wedding ring is the most important ring of the two, it needs to be nearer to your heart.

How to Break this Rule:

Bride wearing engagement ring on right hand

First, you can choose to wear your rings on any finger you choose, as there isn’t a wedding ring police to make sure you’re doing it ‘right’.

Some brides choose to wear only the wedding ring on their vena amoris finger and the engagement ring on their right hand.

Others prefer to wear just the wedding ring, keeping the engagement ring for special occasions (if they have one).

Another option is to weld the two rings together to create one unified ring.

Rule #2 – You Have to Have Both and Engagement and a Wedding Ring

Tradition dictates that you need to have two rings – an engagement ring and a separate wedding ring. This is because your engagement ring is given first during the proposal and is a symbol of your commitment and unavailability. You’re off the shelf, so to speak. The wedding ring then solidifies this commitment and becomes an exchange between you and your partner. Both of you are now off the shelf. Although this might seem like a very old rule, it’s only been around for a while, made more prominent by clever marketing from the diamond industry.

How to Break this Rule:

5 stone wedding ring on ice cream

Choose an all-in-one ring, or one ring to do both jobs. An all-in-one ring is a more economical option and it’s also more comfortable, especially for people who don’t like wearing rings.

There are many design options that are perfect for this style of ring. You can opt to choose a single ring that features two separate elements like this twisted pave wedding ring or a diamond engagement ring like this one with an eternity band that incorporates the two popular elements of engagement and wedding rings – diamonds and eternity bands.

Rule #3 – The Engagement, Wedding and Groom’s Rings Have to Match

Trawl on online forums and you’ll see endless threads of brides worrying about how to match their wedding and engagement rings to each other and to the groom’s ring. What many prefer to do is to choose a trio wedding ring set like this gold set, where all three rings have been designed to match.

There’s nothing wrong with this and it’s perfectly fine if that’s the look you love. But some people don’t like the matchy matchy look and yet feel compelled to buy matching rings simply because tradition dictates this.

How to Break this Rule:

Mismatched wedding-engagement rings om finger

Choose completely different rings from each other because more likely than not, you and your partner have different tastes in jewelry and may prefer very different things. He might be a black ceramic ring kind of guy and you might be in love with yellow gold. So be it.

What you can do, however, is to find rings that complement each other without being completely matching. Think similar finishes but different metal colors or vice versa.

Also, pick engagement and wedding rings that are different but may have some similar elements that tie the look together.

Rule #4 – You Should Only Wear One Wedding Band

Since the time the ancient Egyptians began to wear rings fashioned out of reeds, several thousand years ago, the idea was that only one ring should be worn for your wedding ring. The ring was symbolic of the commitment between the couple and when the ring was worn, there was no mistaking what it was. It’s believed that the wedding ring should never be taken off but should be worn all the time.

How to Break this Rule:

Stacking wedding rings on finger closeup

Stackable wedding rings by Jadorelli.

This rule is being blown out of the water with the current trend of stacking wedding rings. Here, instead of wearing one, you can opt to wear 2 or more wedding rings on your ring finger, creating a modern, fashionable wedding ring stack. The reason this trend is being embraced by many women is that it gives women the opportunity to mix fashion with commitment, and to truly express themselves. Most jewelry retailers offer stacked wedding band options. How you want to create the stack depends totally on you.

Rule #5 – Yours Rings Have to Be Made of Metal

Although the early Egyptians used reed for their wedding rings, metal became the material of choice due to its durability and strength, another symbol of the couple’s commitment. Traditionally, gold, silver and platinum have been used for wedding rings, with platinum being the most prestigious and gold being the most popular. Even though many alternative metals for wedding rings have entered the market today, like tungsten, titanium, cobalt or tantalum, they still remain metal.

How to Break this Rule:

Silicone wedding band black

Black silicone wedding band. See it here.

There are many different materials available today that aren’t metal but are used for wedding rings. These include wood, ceramic, silicone and resin. These materials offer many benefits to the wearers, including being non-conductive, safer and more comfortable to wear as well as stylish and modern.

Rule #6 – Your Engagement Ring Should Have a Diamond

The first diamond engagement ring that we know of was given by the Archduke Maximilian of Austria to his beloved Mary of Burgundy in 1477. Diamonds have always been valued for their extreme strength and sparkle, but they were not the only gemstone used for engagement rings. This tradition properly began in the 1930s with the de Beer’s intense marketing campaigns that outlined diamonds as the only gemstone for engagement rings. Since then, this view has entered the general consciousness and now diamonds have become the number one choice for couples getting engaged.

How to Break this Rule:

Gemstone engagement ring

Gemstone engagement ring featuring blue topaz. See it here.

First of all, engagement rings don’t need a gemstone because whatever you choose goes. Second, diamonds aren’t the only gemstone for engagement rings: there’s a world of gemstones to choose from out there. Of course, not every gemstone works for engagement rings. You have to consider the durability and wearability of the stone, but even so, there’s still a lot of choice.

Some excellent options include ruby, sapphire, emeralds, morganite, peridot, aquamarine and topaz. These stones each have their pros and cons but can be worn daily.

So there you have it, some engagement band and wedding ring rules and how to break them to suit your style and preferences!