Wedding Traditions and History: Wedding Rings

How did the tradition of wearing a wedding band as a symbol that one was married begin?  The wedding ring dates back to ancient Egypt, more than 3,000 years ago.

Egyptian society saw the circular shape of the ring as a symbol of eternal love – one with no beginning and no end. Similar to present day traditions, the Egyptians wore the wedding band on their fourth finger on the left hand. Wearing a wedding ring served as a physical sealing of the marriage and a symbol of commitment. This concept has been passed down for centuries and spread throughout many cultures.

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Photo by Yvonne Wong

Unlike the more romantic Egyptians, wherein the ring symbolized love, the ancient Romans viewed the wedding ring as a symbol of possession. A woman who wore a ring signified that she was a wife who belonged to her husband.

Photo courtesy Romano Britain

Photo courtesy Romano Britain

We have the Archduke Maximillian of Austria to thank for the traditional diamond rings with which many men propose today. In 1477, the Archduke offered his beloved Mary of Burgandy a diamond as a betrothal gift – the first ever recorded diamond engagement ring.

Photo courtesy Mariana Chawi

Photo courtesy Mariana Chawi

Be sure to check out our last installment: Wedding Traditions and History: The Ring Finger.

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Wedding Traditions and History: The Ring Finger

Ever wonder why we wear wedding rings on our left hand, second finger from the last?

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Throughout the various stages in history, wedding rings have been worn on different fingers.  This includes the thumb and on both the left and right hands.

According to a tradition derived from the Romans, the wedding ring was worn on the left hand (finger closest to the pinkie) because there was thought to be the primary vein running through the finger. This vein was referred to as the ‘Vena Amoris’, or the ‘Vein of Love’, which was directly connected to the heart. Sadly, scientists have now proven that the existence of such a vein is actually false. Despite the discovery, this myth is still regarded by many hopeless romantics as the number one reason wedding rings are worn on the fourth finger of the left hand.

Photo by Edyta Szyszło

Photo by Edyta Szyszło

Another Christian theory states that early marriages practiced a ritual of wearing the wedding ring on the third finger. During the ‘binding ceremony’, the priest would declare the following words: “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” At the same time, he would take the ring and touch the thumb, index finger, and the middle finger.  Then, while uttering “Amen”, he would place the ring on the ring finger, which sealed the marriage!

Photo by Gertrude & Mabel

Photo by Gertrude & Mabel

If you missed it, be sure to check last months Wedding Traditions and History installment on Wedding Traditions and History: The Bridal Party!