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What is a Wedding Band: History, Types, and More

Do you know the difference between a wedding band and an engagement ring? Both rings carry different meanings and style features. In order to differentiate the two, you first need to know what a wedding band is. A wedding band—also referred to as a wedding ring—is a ring that is worn on the ring finger of your left hand to indicate that you are married. Although men’s and women’s wedding bands differ in appearance, stackable wedding bands are usually designed with a plain or simple shank.

A wedding band represents the special bond between two people. While understanding the history and meaning of a wedding band is important, it’s also critical to understand what it means to you and your relationship. Once you are confident that you know what a wedding band is, you can then figure out the meaning you want its style to symbolize for your own wedding.

Palm Springs engagement ring in rose gold. | Men's Jordan wedding band.

What is a Wedding Band?

A wedding band is a ring that is given during the wedding ceremony to symbolize matrimony. It is different than an engagement ring in a couple of different ways. The main distinction between the two is that a wedding band is worn by both people, whereas an engagement ring is usually only worn by the person who was proposed to. Other differences include style features and wearability. While an engagement ring tends to be more flashy – with diamonds, simulated lab grown diamonds or other gemstones – a wedding band is usually simpler in design. That is especially true for men’s wedding rings as they are most commonly designed with a plain shank and featured in one metal type with little to no design features.

While most couples are aware that the simple wedding band is meant to be worn for the entirety of the marriage, many don’t know the order in which a wedding set should be worn. On the wedding day, the bride should move her engagement ring to her right hand. This is so the wedding band can be placed on the appropriate ring figure during the ceremony. After the ceremony, the engagement ring can be moved back to the ring finger, but the wedding band should remain closest to the heart. The order in which to wear your engagement ring dates back to the early beginning of wearing wedding rings. So while you may see women wearing their engagement ring on the inside of a wedding ring set, it’s not the proper tradition.

A matching men's and women's wedding band pictured next to each other.

The History of Wedding Bands

The history of wedding rings can be traced back to ancient times. The Egyptians were the first to believe that the vein in the ring finger connected to the heart, which is why they decided to use that finger to hold such a sentimental adornment and why the wedding band should always be worn closest to the heart. The Greeks and Romans carried on this tradition, but by then rings had changed immensely. Betrothal rings which were previously made of leather, bone, or ivory, were now being made out of metal. Iron was the most common metal type used, although gold and silver were sometimes worn by the wealthy. Although so much has changed since then, wedding rings are still worn on the ring finger located on the left hand and are given as a symbol of eternal love.

While there is some traceability back to where wedding rings began, it’s hard to be sure what their exact meaning was. Today wedding bands hold a universal meaning, but that doesn’t mean they can‘t hold unique meaning for your relationship as well. Some couples choose to design their wedding bands with matching details that hold special meaning. Metalwork or matching stones are perfect for incorporating these details subtly. Women may also choose to design a wedding ring stack with different bands that hold unique symbolism. A new ring can be added to the stack for new relationship milestones- like anniversaries and vacations- to add sentimental value.

Wedding Band vs Engagement Ring

While you’re searching for the perfect engagement ring, you should also be considering the perfect wedding band. The two will be worn together- and although the wedding band is not often thought about to the extent of an engagement ring- it’s just as important. Wedding bands and engagement rings differ not only in visual appearance but also in symbolic meaning. An engagement ring is given during the proposal as a sign of commitment, while a wedding band represents the day of matrimony.

The Sage Collection wedding set in yellow and white gold.
Engagement rings usually feature a center stone and are often accompanied by side stones or accent stones. This results in an eye-catching design that commonly steals the show in a wedding set. Alternatively, a wedding band tends to be much more modest in design. Classic styles tend to match the engagement ring’s accent stones and metal type as to not overpower the overall sparkle. However, some women who want to enhance the dazzle of their ring set opt for a more striking style, like an eternity band. This style of band features an abundance of accent stones that may or may not match the design of the engagement ring.A wedding set is created by pairing both an engagement ring and a wedding band together. While engagement rings are seen as the flashier ring in a wedding set, it doesn’t mean it’s more important. Both rings are just as important when creating a complete wedding set and should be selected carefully based on style and budget. When you finally find the perfect match, it will be just as rewarding as it is dazzling.

Different Types of Wedding Bands

Just as there is an abundance of different engagement ring styles, there is also an abundance of wedding band styles. Each style serves a different purpose, whether that is to match your engagement ring and create a perfect wedding set or create a unique ring stack to wear on your right hand. Each bride will prefer something different, which will depend on the fashion trends they follow and admire.

Wedding ring styles have changed immensely over the years. While traditional designs usually include a perfectly matched wedding set, current trends are more daring. It’s now common to see a wedding set with multiple wedding bands in different metal types and styles. While there are endless options for designing your wedding set, it may be challenging to narrow your search. To figure out which wedding band is right for you, learn more about the most popular styles.

Matching Wedding Bands

Wedding bands that are designed with the same details as a particular engagement ring are considered matching wedding rings. Unless noted otherwise, they usually are designed with the same metal type. Likewise, it is common for the band to match any accents the engagement ring features. This makes a dazzling pattern that, when both rings are worn together, creates the appearance of a perfect match. While this is a traditional option, many couples still opt for a matching wedding band style because of its timeless elegance.

Eternity Bands

This type of wedding band is one of the flashiest styles you can choose. It’s also one of the most symbolic. An eternity band features accent stones around the entire shank. While this creates an abundance of sparkle, it also captures the significance of never-ending love and commitment. If you opt for this style, you can choose to match the design with the same details your engagement ring features – like identical accent stones- or you can choose details that are different and create a unique contrast when paired together.

NestingWedding Bands

Wedding bands that hug the contours of an engagement ring are considered nesting bands. These bands are often designed with a curve that, when worn next to your ring, will leave no gap between the two rings. This type of band is ideal for intricate engagement ring designs that extend out, such as an elongated or asymmetrical center stone. A nesting wedding band will allow your wedding set to fit more comfortably on your finger.

Stand Alone Bands

A stand-alone band is any band that can be worn on its own, whether on your left hand or right hand. Most wedding bands fall under this category, even styles like nesting bands that are designed to fit with another ring. This is because the details on a wedding band may look like something you would see on a cocktail ring. Choosing a band that looks good when worn alone is important for times when you don’t want to wear your entire wedding set. This is common when traveling as wedding bands are usually the less expensive of the two and a more responsible choice to travel with.

Stackable Wedding Bands

This type of wedding band is becoming more popular in modern wedding ring sets. Stackable wedding bands are usually designed with a thin shank so you can stack multiple bands together, although some brides prefer to stack thick and thin bands together. This style is popular because it allows you to change the look of your wedding set daily. You can add new bands to your collection and mismatch them to fit whatever style you feel like at that moment. Eternity bands are commonly seen in a stack paired next to simple bands with dainty metalwork. This type of style also allows you to play around with mixing metals to create contrast or match your outfit.

When to Buy a Wedding Band

Many couples choose to purchase their wedding bands ahead of time- sometimes bundling them with their engagement ring purchase- while others choose to wait until just before their wedding. While there is no right or wrong answer behind when to buy wedding bands, there are a few things to consider when thinking about when to buy a wedding band.

Planning a wedding can be extremely stressful. From choosing a venue to sending invitations, there’s a lot to decide on before the ceremony. Educating yourself on everything you need to know about wedding bands – from style options to timeline to how much should a wedding ring cost – can help alleviate that stress.

While buying a wedding band may not seem as rigorous as some of the other items on your list, it’s always better to plan ahead and purchase your band as far in advance as possible. This is helpful not only so it’s one less thing to worry about, but also to prevent any delays. If there are sizing or design issues, you run the risk of not having your rings on the day of the wedding. To ensure that your wedding band is ready to be worn on your big day, it’s best to buy the band at least three months beforehand. If it does need to be resized, you should still have plenty of time for a jeweler to correct it and get it back to you before your big day.

Now that you know what a wedding band is and how to wear one, you can be confident in creating the perfect wedding ring set. Since it is such a prized adornment, you should take as much time as you need to choose the perfect pair so that it can be cherished forever. Once you finally find the right match, you can start to plan the perfect proposal!

*Diamond Nexus strives to provide valuable information, while being clear and honest about our products. The Nexus Diamond™ alternative is a patented lab grown stone that, among all simulants, most closely imitates the look, weight and wear of a mined diamond, with two exceptions – it is absolutely perfect in every way, and it costs significantly less. Price points and environmental facts expressed in this blog were taken from popular online retailers and may vary. Learn more about the environmental impact of mining by visiting our blog.

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