Wedding Ring Etiquette

Answers to the bride and groom's engagement and wedding ring etiquette questions.

diamond wedding ring
Although it may seem like weddings are filled with complicated etiquette questions, the rules surrounding engagement rings and wedding rings are actually much simpler than other aspects of the wedding.

Choosing the Engagement Ring

Historically, men were expected to pick out engagement rings on their own or with input from the bride's close friend or family member. There's nothing wrong with this approach, but it's becoming more common for couples to go ring shopping together. This ensures that the bride gets a ring she's thrilled to be wearing every day and takes some of the pressure off the groom to guess which ring his beloved would prefer.

If the groom picks out the ring on his own and the bride isn't pleased with the design, etiquette experts recommend a tactful conversation once the excitement of the proposal is over. Brides should bring up the topic privately, praising the groom's thoughtfulness but gently stating that the ring doesn't suit their personal style. Many jewelry stores do offer return or exchange policies, but it may also be possible to have the stone reset.

Paying for the Rings

The groom traditionally pays for the bride's engagement and wedding ring, while the bride traditionally pays for the groom's wedding ring. However, with many couples living together before they become engaged, there's been a growing acceptance of women chipping in to help pay for the ring of their dreams.

Ring Placement

The custom of wearing the engagement ring and wedding ring on the left hand ring finger originated in Egypt. At one time, people believed this finger contained a vein that led directly to the heart. By the time this idea was scientifically disproven, the tradition was well established.

On the day of the wedding, etiquette dictates that the bride should temporarily switch her engagement ring to her right hand ring finger. The groom places the wedding ring on his bride's left hand ring finger. After the ceremony, the bride moves her engagement ring back to her left hand by placing it on top of her wedding ring.

A married woman should always wear her wedding ring closest to heart, with her engagement ring placed next to the wedding ring. For this reason, many brides choose to have their wedding ring and engagement ring permanently welded together.

Keeping the Rings Safe During the Ceremony

Traditionally, it's the job of the ring bearer to bring the rings to the bride and groom during the ceremony. The ring bearer is typically a young boy ages four to eight, but a young girl can be a ring bearer too. If the ring bearer is a girl, consider having her wear an outfit that matches that of the flower girl, and make the ring pillow a feminine one with lace and flowers.

If you are not having a ring bearer or do not feel comfortable entrusting valuable jewelry to the care of a small child, have the maid of honor keep the groom's ring on her thumb and ask the best man to slip the bride's ring on his pinkie finger. Alternatively, the maid of honor can carry the ring in a small satin bag and the best man can slip the bride's ring in his pocket.

Who Gets to Keep the Rings After a Broken Engagement or Divorce?

Traditional etiquette says that once you give someone a gift, you can't take it back because you're displeased by their behavior. This leads many women to feel as though they have a right to keep their engagement ring after a broken engagement.

  1. However, the laws regarding who gets to keep an engagement ring vary from state to state. Some states classify the ring as an unconditional gift that the receiver can keep regardless of the reason for the broken engagement, while others require that it be returned under certain circumstances. The ring may also be viewed as part of a business contract, where the recipient is legally required to return it if the wedding does not take place.
  2. In the event of a divorce, the law in almost every state favors the woman being able to keep both her engagement ring and wedding ring. The primary exception occurs when the ring is an heirloom from the groom's family. In this case, the bride might be compensated with a cash payment or the couple might decide to set aside the ring to give to one of their children.
  3. To avoid legal troubles, it's best to consult an attorney for advice specific to your situation before selling your engagement or wedding ring.

Written by: The Printable Wedding Team