Wedding traditions explained: The Wedding Ring

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In this post we’re asking: Why do we have wedding rings?

Wedding rings have been exchanged for almost 5000 years and they are just as significant today, but why do we have them? Where did they originate? The ancient Egyptians created their own rings from reed or leather and used them to signify their never ending and immortal love for one another. The material used to create the ring was a sign of wealth and power but the sentiment stayed the same.

Wedding bands are always circular in order to fit around the finger. The circle is the symbol of eternity, with no beginning or end, something that is still used in marriage ceremonies today.

In many countries the wedding ring is worn on the fourth finger of the left hand. This tradition is thought to have derived from the Romans, who believed that there was a vein running from this finger straight to the heart. They gave this vein the name ‘Vena Amoris’ which translates to ‘Vein of Love’.

The Tudor times brought the arrival of medical science and the discovery of the circulation system. This discovery completely disproved the Roman’s romantic theory of the singular vein running to the heart.

Despite the scientific advancement most people continued to wear the wedding ring on the fourth finger of the left hand.

Bride and Grooms hands on stone wall next to bouquet showing wedding rings

The exchange of the rings

For some couples the exchanging of the wedding rings is just as significant as the vows. During the exchange couples say a promise to each other such as;

“I give you this ring as a sign of our marriage, and as a symbol of our love. I promise to care for you, to respect and cherish you, throughout our lives together.”

The wedding ring is not only an outward sign of the marriage but acts as a lasting reminder of the promises that have been made during the wedding ceremony.

Before the ceremony the engagement ring is usually removed to make way for the wedding band. After the ceremony is complete most people place their engagement ring on the same finger, on top of the wedding band.

Bride and Grooms hands on stone wall next to bouquet showing wedding rings

Alternative Ways To Wear Your Ring

Although we now accept that the fourth finger of the left hand is the place to wear the wedding ring there is no law to say it has to be this way. There are reports of churches asking the bride and groom to wear the ring on their thumb and even their middle finger.

In today’s world the wedding band can be worn wherever is practical. If you were left handed for example, you might choose to wear your wedding band on your right hand to offer a little more protection. It is entirely up to you which finger you’d like to wear your ring, just find where it fits most comfortably!

Next in our series is Wedding Traditions Explained: The Engagement Ring