The tradition of exchanging wedding rings goes back in time to centuries long ago. The tradition can actually be traced all the way back to the ancient Egyptians where writings that are over several thousand years old show couples exchanging rings made from braided hemp or reeds.
The Egyptians eventually began using more durable materials such as bone, ivory, or leather. Very much like today. The cost of the material that the ring was made from was often associated with how much the person buying it was worth.
Some say the material of the ring was even associated with how much someone’s spouse-to-be loved them. However, things have surely changed since you simply can’t put a price on true love!
Eventually, the wedding tradition made its way to Ancient Rome where they were made from the different metals that were available to that region. It’s even thought that the Romans were the first to come up with the idea of engraving a ring with a personalized inscription.
So why do we wear our wedding rings on the “ring finger”?
Many believe that the tradition of the ring being worn on the fourth finger of the left hand originated with ancient Roman and Greeks tradition. This is because they believed that was where the vein of love was located, which was believed to lead directly to the heart. The Romans were also thought to be the originators of the tradition of a ring given in marriage, specifically, through the creation of the fede ring, showing two hands clasped together as a symbol of the couple’s love and commitment.
The meaning of the wedding ring tradition evolved, and in ancient Asia, a ring style known as puzzle rings emerged. The legend says that puzzle rings were given to wives to encourage them to be faithful to their husbands.
Of course, the tradition of exchanging wedding rings didn’t stop there. During the Renaissance age, a piece of jewelry called gimmel rings became highly sought after.
The gimmel ring was made up of two parts that interlocked together into one. During the Renaissance, the bride and groom would both wear their own half of the ring during their engagement period. Then, during the wedding ceremony, the groom would reconnect the two interlocking parts onto his bride’s finger, reuniting the two pieces as a symbol of their union.
The ornate and engraved, interlocking style of rings often given during ancient times creates a big contrast to how things were done during the Colonial times. In the Colonial American era, the Puritans started a trend using thimbles as a symbol of their commitment. The women would cut the tops of the thimble off and thus create a band. This was a way to show their commitment to their husbands while keeping their cultures humble tradition of refraining from wearing a lot of jewelry.
Today, of course, the wedding band still stands to symbolize commitment to a loved one. They are made from all sorts of materials, some precious, some not. Many rings boast different stones, while others are plain bands that are charmingly simple with no stones. It is up to each couple to choose based on their personal preference.
They are carved and shaped using many different precious stones and metals to suit a myriad of personal tastes and fit a variety of financial budgets. However, you might be surprised to learn that men didn’t always wear wedding rings in American culture.
In fact, men’s wedding bands didn’t really become common until around World War II. Before that time, only women wore a wedding band. But during WWII and then again during the Korean War, men's wedding bands became fashionable as well.
Some believe it was meant as a way to symbolize their commitment to their wives back home when they were stationed thousands of miles apart, others believe it was a way for the men to be identified as married if something happened to them. Otherwise, no one would know to inform their wives.
Today, the wedding ring tradition is one that continues and shows no sign of stopping. Some couples even go so far as to tattoo their wedding ring onto their finger as the ultimate symbol of permanence and love everlasting. The Romans used to believe the circle of a ring symbolized a gateway into the unknown, while the circle itself represented eternity… life and love, never-ending.