Who Should Wear Engagement Rings?

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated May 1, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Within many cultures, weddings and marriages can be heavily influenced by tradition. From this standpoint, it may be expected for a bride-to-be to wear an engagement ring during the time between proposal and marriage. However, perspectives have shifted quite a bit, and now there are more men wearing engagement rings, too. It’s a personal choice, and everyone can be completely free to make the choice that’s right for them regarding engagement rings. You and your significant other may find it helpful to talk with a licensed couples counselor when deciding how to showcase your devotion to one another.

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What choices will you make for your relationship?

History of engagement rings

Women's and men’s engagement rings are generally a type of wedding jewelry, typically worn on the left ring finger, that can indicate the wearer is engaged to be married. Traditionally, an engagement ring can represent the formal acceptance of a marriage proposal. Often, female and male engagement rings are replaced with separate rings during wedding day church ceremonies. Other times, the engagement rings can be kept and combined with wedding bands instead. But where do these engagement traditions come from? And what do engagement rings signify now?

Why are engagement rings worn, and do men wear engagement rings?

Historically, the use of wedding rings is believed to have begun with the Egyptians. The circular bands are thought to have represented eternity. Wearing a round band on a finger on the left hand usually symbolized a commitment to being together forever. This could also be a physical representation that a person was in a relationship and not available to other suitors. 

But does a man wear an engagement ring? The answer is, in many cases, yes. Although traditionally, engagement rings were worn only by women, many men today wear a male engagement ring. This male engagement ring trend may seem new in countries like the United States, but in other countries like Sweden and Chile, men have been wearing engagement rings for a while. Men’s traditional wedding rings will differ depending on the country. For example, in Chile, a man’s engagement ring will often be made of silver, with gold being reserved for wedding rings later on. 

Though the first record of modern engagement rings occurred in 1477, most people did not adopt the custom until the mid-1900s, and it wasn’t until this time that diamonds and precious metals were commonly featured on engagement rings. 

In 1947, a diamond mining company called De Beers popularized the phrase, “a diamond is forever,” contributing to the trend of buying expensive diamond engagement rings, and the jewelry industry has continued this advertising. De Beers would continue to reference this phrase throughout the years, both in print ads and in tv ads featuring female and male celebrities. Someone preparing to make a proposal may spend a significant sum of money to buy an engagement band or ring for their partner. Though many modern couples continue to choose diamond rings to signify their commitment, it is becoming increasingly popular to choose less expensive engagement jewelry or to not wear a diamond engagement ring (or any engagement ring) at all.

Who wears engagement rings today?

Many of today’s couples choose to wear engagement rings to signify their love and mutual commitment, regardless of each partner’s sex or gender. Women and men wear engagement rings. Whether a person chooses to wear an engagement ring can be a matter of personal preference or a decision made jointly by the couple. Both, one, or neither of the partners may wear engagement rings. You can even change up where you wear it, as some women's and men’s rings are worn on their right ring finger instead of their left. The same is true for same-sex couples. You each decide whether you want your own unique engagement rings, a stacked pair of rings made from the same material, or even if you want no rings at all.

The decision not to wear a ring

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Some people may not like the feeling of wearing a ring on their finger, or a ring may need to be taken off frequently for work or recreational activities. For example, people who do manual labor may find that they can’t wear wedding rings at work without risking their safety. In addition, some may feel that they do not need to wear a ring on their ring finger to show their commitment to their partner.

Partners who don’t enjoy wearing rings may go without completely, attach their ring to a necklace, or only wear their ring on special occasions. Tattooed bands and durable silicone rings can be other options as well.

Settling relationship disputes regarding rings

People of any gender might not find wearing an engagement ring or wedding band appealing for a variety of reasons. Many couples may choose not to buy or wear rings due to cost or personal preference. Engagement and marriage can be about love and commitment for most couples, not about a physical object that you put on your finger. 

If the thought of you or your partner not wearing engagement and wedding rings makes you feel less safe in your relationship, you may wish to talk about the situation with a couples therapist in person or online.

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What choices will you make for your relationship?

If you are in a long-distance relationship or would feel more comfortable trying couples therapy from the comfort of your own home, online therapy could be a good fit for you and your partner. Studies show that, while some couples may experience initial reservations in trying online therapy, many find that it enables a greater sense of control and comfort and less fear of judgment compared to in-person therapy.

Takeaway

Couples should feel free to make the decision that makes sense for them and their unique relationship when it comes to wearing engagement rings. Whether you’re a gay man entering into a same sex marriage or a straight man wondering if guys wear engagement rings, it’s all a matter of preference. One, both, or neither of the partners may wear rings, or you may opt for matching tattoos or silicone rings instead of traditional diamond white gold, or yellow gold jewelry. If you and your partner disagree about marital traditions or expectations – like whether men wear engagement rings or if women’s engagement rings need diamonds – or if you would like to work on strengthening your communication strategies, an online couples therapist could be a helpful resource.
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