Have you ever wondered where the tradition of exchanging Wedding Rings originates?
The origins of Wedding Rings are surprisingly clouded, it is very unusual not to have more evidence on this tradition so steeped in relevance to the union of a married couple. The first examples were found in ancient Egypt.
Egyptians viewed the circle as a symbol of lasting eternity. No beginning, no end. The giving of an unbroken band was a promised never-ending love between a couple starting their married life. Discoveries dating back 3,000-4,000 years show rings of reeds or hemp, braided into a circle and exchanged between couples. These evolved into leather and bone and many bands have been discovered on their owners remains. Although many cultures no longer follow the tradition of wearing the ring on the left hand, Egyptians believed the ‘ring finger’ had a vein connected directly to the heart. This is thought to have greatly influenced wearing the newly acquired piece of Jewellery on that finger.
This practice was adopted by the Ancient Greeks after Alexander the Great attacked and conquered Egypt in 332 BC. The Greeks wore plain bands, usually made of iron, although it is speculated the wealthier Greeks wore more expensive metals like copper, silver and gold. Regarded as betrothal rings and given before marriage, possibly we could view them as a precursor to the Engagement Ring. The Romans had their own take on the growing tradition and like the Egyptians, presented the bands at the wedding ceremony. Unfortunately it is thought this practice was more a symbol of ownership and much less a symbol of everlasting love. As expected these women had no say in their marriage and loving proposals were not a reality. An agreement was struck between the groom and the father, he would show a good gesture to the father and the two would be wed. The ring was placed on the woman’s hand to signify a binding, legal agreement.
Christians began using rings in ceremonies around the year 860, and were not the plain rings we see today. They were heavily decorated and engraved with doves, lyres and often two linked hands. Garish symbols were generally discouraged by the Church, although never totally dismissed. By the 13th century greater acceptance followed a considerable simplification of the wedding band and consequentially a wider use by Christians followed.
With modern day Wedding Rings, there are many variations in what constitutes a Wedding Ring. What is allowed, what is the correct procedure in wearing it and acquiring it? Many cultural factors still determine what finger and/or hand is used. In some areas of India, practicing Hindus will use a bichiya or ring worn on the toe instead of their finger, however this is only for women and the bichiya is increasingly being worn along with a finger ring.
Male Wedding rings are a recent development in Western culture, thought to have flourished during the late 1930’s when soldiers went to War. Rings were seen as a great connection to their wives back home. It is thought that prior to this period only 15% of married men wore bands compared to 80% post 1940’s. I cannot give you accurate figures currently but that figure I’m sure is now higher, with my own clients running at almost 100%.
And so finishes a little back story to the evolution of the Wedding Ring. Tradition aside your Wedding Ring is exactly that, your Wedding Ring. Make it reflect the union and love you share with your partner and your uniqueness in the world.