Wedding Bands, Promise and Engagement Rings – What Is the Difference?

Wedding Bands, Promise and Engagement Rings – What Is the Difference?

All rings exchanged by a couple symbolize their love and affection but not all couples rings are created equal. Although promise rings and engagement rings symbolize the special status of the relationship and hope for its future development, they are meant for different purposes. In its turn, a wedding band is different from an engagement ring in form and substance, although sometimes brides wonder whether they need them both.

On the other hand, some brides follow a popular trend and prefer to stack several wedding bands while others can wear their wedding rings on different hands. Here is more on how a promise ring is different from an engagement ring, whether you need a wedding ring or two wedding bands to complement your engagement ring and how to wear them all.


As suggested by its name, the promise ring represents a promise made between the couple; but it doesn’t mean a commitment to marry. The tradition to present a loved one with a promise ring originated in the Middle Ages when men gave posy rings, named after the French word poesie, meaning poetry, to their loved ones. The posy rings bore romantic inscriptions and symbolized love, similar to the promise rings today.

At the same time, the real meaning of a promise ring is unique to each couple. Similarly, there are no rules on how to wear a promise ring, and some people may even have them on a chain around their neck, although the middle or fourth finger of either the right or left hand are the more traditional choices. For the outside world, the promise rings signify that a couple is in a serious and special relationship.

Given the nature of the promise rings, there are no rules as to what they should look like. Popular designs include intertwined hearts, Claddagh rings having an ornament with a heart held by two hands, or bands with a set of diamonds or gemstones. Most often, promise rings were presented by men to women, but lately, couples began to exchange them, and some men started to wear promise rings as well.


Unlike the promise ring, which can mean literally any promise made by the couple, an engagement ring is given with a very specific promise that is a commitment to marry. While promise rings can be exchanged between the couple, an engagement ring is presented to the future bride. In contrast to the promise ring, which can be given on any special occasion such as an anniversary or even a birthday, an engagement ring is presented only when you propose or decide to marry.

Traditionally, engagement rings have been the most exquisite pieces of jewellery among other couple rings, including the promise ring and the wedding band. Most often, an engagement ring includes a centre stone, with diamonds being the most popular choice – although other gemstones, such as sapphire, emerald, and ruby – are not very uncommon. 


A wedding band is synonymous with the wedding ring and means just the same. Since the wedding ring is a band ring of the same width all the way around, it is often referred to as the wedding band.  Wedding bands are worn by men and women and are exchanged during the wedding ceremony. 

In the past, most wedding rings were just plain gold bands. Most men still wear plain bands made of precious metals, tungsten or titanium. Meanwhile, women’s wedding rings are usually made more exquisite, although they still come as bands but may include several diamonds or gemstones and come in various designs.

The wedding bands and engagement rings in Canada and elsewhere in the Western world are worn on the fourth finger of the left hand. This tradition has originated from Ancient Rome as Romans, similar to Egyptians, believed that the fourth finger of the left hand possesses a vein, known as Vena Amoris,  or vein of love, that runs directly to the heart. Meanwhile, in many European countries, for example, England, France, Germany, Poland and Greece, people wear wedding bands and engagement rings on the fourth finger of the right hand because the right hand is used for vows and oaths. 


Traditionally, an engagement ring is complemented by a wedding band. Most often, those who stick to tradition and get both rings chose to wear all their wedding jewellery on the fourth finger of the left hand. If this is your choice, the wedding band would normally go under the engagement ring so that it is closer to the heart. 

Sometimes, brides prefer to wear their engagement rings and wedding bands on different hands. Although it is not a traditional choice, it works well when the rings do not match and cannot be comfortably stacked above each other. Some women even alternate between an engagement ring and a wedding band, wearing the more expensive one only on special occasions.

Meanwhile,  some brides skip the wedding band altogether and opt for having only an engagement ring. Again, it is always a matter of personal preference as some choose to follow the tradition and have both the engagement ring and wedding band while others are more comfortable with just a single ring.


On the other side of the spectrum, some brides prefer a stacked bridal ring set, wearing two wedding bands together with an engagement ring. In doing so, they try to give balance to the more prominent engagement ring and achieve symmetry. 

Whether you prefer to wear only an engagement ring, or opt for a classic bridal set with two rings or even a stacked bridal ring set with two wedding bands, it is essential that all rings on the same finger complement each other and are comfortable to wear. The best solution for those who choose to wear more than one wedding ring is to plan ahead and order a bridal set to ensure that all rings are a perfect match.

Still, it’s absolutely possible to find a matching wedding band after the proposal and presenting an engagement ring. When deciding when to order a wedding band, it is recommended to start shopping 3-4 months ahead of the ceremony to have time to select the one you like and have it ready at least one month in advance for a piece of mind. You are always welcome to search for ready-to-wear wedding jewellery in Barry’s catalogue or speak to one of our consultants who will be happy to help you find the best ring for your beloved.

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