The story of the wedding rings begins in the part of the world that is also credited with the birth of human civilization.
There is archaeological evidence that the first known use of wedding rings occurred about 6,000 years ago in ancient Egypt. Relics indicate that Ancient Egyptians saw rings – woven rings, made of natural materials such as reeds, hemp, or leather – as a token of love from husband to wife.
A ring is a circle, after all, and the ancient Egyptians considered the circle to be a symbol of eternity. Since a circle has neither a beginning nor an end, it symbolizes eternal love and the never-ending bond of marriage. Traditionally, the wedding ring is worn on the fourth finger, also called the ring finger, of the left hand. This is because the ancient Egyptians believed that there was a vein on this finger that was directly connected to the heart.
Rings have long been used in wedding ceremonies as a symbol of love, commitment, and marriage. The tradition comes from ancient Egypt, where the fourth finger was said to be connected directly to the heart. This is because, according to anatomy and physiology, there are actually two arteries running through this part of the hand.
Egyptians believed that wearing rings on this part of the body would have a positive effect on their health. They also believed that wearing a ring on this finger would help them tap into their psychic powers.
In ancient Egypt, it was customary for both men and women to wear rings on their fourth finger. Other civilizations adopted this custom and carried it forward. The Greeks and later the Romans were also enthusiastic about the rule of the fourth finger. The Romans even began to call it vena amoris (love vein). Their wedding rings were usually made of ivory, bone, or iron. They believed that durability was a better representation of permanence, and called the rings annulus pronubus (bridal ring).
The Romans were also the first to have their rings engraved. Feather rings showing engravings of two interlocked hands became very popular with Roman men.
Later, wedding ring traditions were incorporated into Christian wedding ceremonies in the European Middle Ages. Early Christian rings, however, were so heavily engraved and stylized that the church at the time denounced them as too elaborate. This led to the adoption of plainer styles, similar to the wedding rings that are widely used today. But extravagance made a comeback during the Renaissance with the popular gimmel rings, which consisted of two interlocking bands.
After the engagement, the bride and groom-to-be each wore one piece. At the wedding, the groom put his ring on the bride’s finger and rejoined the two parts.
Poetry rings made of plain sterling silver were also common. The inscriptions, usually facing inward, show that couples began to view marriage as something personal and intimate, rather than just a legal agreement.
Wedding Rings Today
A crucial thing happened about 100 years ago: during World War II, soldiers on active duty began wearing wedding rings to remind them of their wives back home. Until then, it wasn’t very common for men to wear wedding rings. That’s right: while the wearing of wedding rings by brides can indeed be traced back to ancient Egypt, there is little evidence that until the second half of the last century more than a small minority of grooms did the same.
Today, however, it is standard for both partners to wear a wedding ring as a tangible symbol of the permanent place their spouse holds in their hearts. And while in many cultures it’s now considered normal to wear the ring on the right hand, in the UK it remains customary for the wedding ring to be placed on the ring finger of the left hand during the wedding ceremony. But while some things may have changed with the times, one hasn’t: the symbolism of the wedding ring.