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Monday, 9 September 2013

Wedding Traditions: Wedding Rings

To many ancient cultures, including the Egyptians, Eternity can be represented with a circle - it has no beginning or end - just a hole in the middle which was considered to be a gateway.

It was believed that to present a ring to a woman was to declare immortal and never-ending love.

The Romans adopted this idea but with their own variation - the ring would be offered as a symbol of ownership not love.  Their rings were eventually made of iron (symbolising strength and permanence) and known as “Anulus Pronubus” and they would declare a woman as theirs by giving one of these rings. 

Allegedly, in the prehistoric age, before the ceremony, the groom would wrap grass around his bride’s wrists and ankles in order to stop her soul escaping.  Once they were married he would then tie this grass to one of her fingers.

But it doesn’t really matter which of the many explanations you choose to believe - the exchanging of rings is probably one of the oldest traditions of marriage.

Christians didn’t use rings in their marriage ceremonies until around 860 AD.  These rings were usually engraved with two linked hands, doves or lyres but by 13th Century the Church decided that they needed to be much simpler in design and so they became plain bands of metal.

Wedding rings have been worn on different fingers and thumbs and even different hands throughout various stages in our history but most religions have eventually settled on the third finger of the left hand.  Some believe this is because the majority of the world is right-handed and the ring is less likely to be damaged if worn on the left hand and also, apart from the little fingers, the third finger is not used very often.

The Romans, who were believed to be the first to engrave their rings, had other ideas about the wearing of the wedding ring.  They allegedly believed that there was a vein which ran from the third finger which was connected directly to the heart and they called it the ‘Vena Amoris’ or ‘Vein of Love’.  Scientists have since shown this to be totally untrue but people still like to believe in this myth as the reason behind why we wear the wedding ring on the third finger.

A more plausible theory however is the ritual that the Christians go through to placing the ring on the third finger.  The priest would hold the ring and touch the thumb, index finger and middle finger whilst reciting “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” and then the ring finger whilst he uttered “Amen” thereby sealing the marriage.

In many European countries though the ring is worn on the third finger of the right hand and in line with Jewish traditions the ring is placed on the bride’s index finger by her groom.

by Jacqui Dunster

Sources:  Wedding Shoppe Blogger: Meghan J, December 22, 2009;