So, your partner chose the perfect engagement ring—a big “congratulations!” is in order. But what’s the difference between engagement rings and wedding rings? And, if you love your engagement ring so much, do you need to get a coordinating wedding band to match it? Or can you wear your engagement ring after you’re married instead? Can you ever wear one (or both) of your rings on the opposite ring finger? Let’s get these engagement ring vs. wedding ring etiquette questions answered once and for all.
By contrast, a wedding ring is traditionally a plain metal band or a diamond-encrusted eternity band that you receive when you exchange your vows during the wedding ceremony and wear from then on. Typically, there’s also a fairly significant price difference between engagement rings and wedding rings; even if the wedding band has inlaid diamonds or other gemstones, their total carat weight is generally less than that of the engagement ring.
You can, of course, throw tradition out the window. According to Taylor Lanore, a diamond consultant and engagement ring designer for Lauren B. Fine Jewelry and Diamonds, brides are having more of a say in their rings’ choice and design. And not only are they parting with tradition, but they’re opting to diversify their engagement and wedding ring selections. “People are doing whatever they want, and wedding bands offer the opportunity to have more flair,” she says.
Publishers forward lots of books to me every year about marriage because of my writing for this web site. I always am surprised how frequently wedding rings are depicted in the cover designs for these books.
Yet, next to nothing tends to be discussed or explained about wedding rings inside these books. I found no mention of wedding rings inside one book whose very title referred to them.
Obviously, though, wedding rings are important to couples planning to wed. Many couples invest large amounts of time in the selection of rings. The sheer cost of wedding rings, moreover, suggests they have real meaning for couples.
The difference between an engagement ring and a wedding ring is that an engagement ring is given at a proposal or when a couple decides to get married. A wedding ring is exchanged at the wedding ceremony and represents the official bond of marriage. Both rings are often worn together as symbols of love and commitment.
A wedding ring is usually a simpler ring, such as a classic band like this rose gold ring or small diamonds, like in this white gold eternity ring. In most cases, wedding rings don’t feature large diamonds and gemstones. Some brides choose a plain, pavé, or channel set band to complement their engagement ring.
Engagement rings can be any ring—they don’t have to be a diamond ring or an expensive ring. The most important aspect is choosing a style that your partner will enjoy wearing. Engagement ring styles range from simple designs like this solitaire engagement ring to intricate vintage rings like this custom design The engagement ring can also be the wedding ring (if you want it to be), as some people don’t buy a separate wedding ring. It depends on your personal preference and if you want to use your engagement ring as a wedding band. That means you can wear an engagement ring with no wedding band, even after the ceremony.
For many generations now, wearing your wedding ring is a common ritual practised by almost all societies worldwide. If you look through the pages of history, you will find that this concept of wearing the wedding ring has not evolved in recent times. Instead, it has been prevailing for many years.
However, have you ever wondered what the reason behind this is?
And why does this ring hold so much significance?
The Roman’s also eventually adopted this tradition but with their own twist. Rather than offering a ring to a woman as a symbol of love, they awarded them as a symbol of ownership. Roman men would “claim” their woman with the giving of a ring. Roman betrothal rings were later made of iron and called “Anulus Pronubus.” They symbolized strength and permanence. It is also said that the Romans were the first to engrave their rings.
It was not until about 860 that the Christians used the ring in marriage ceremonies; even then, it was not the simple plain band as we know it. It usually was highly decorated with engraved doves, lyres, or two linked hands. The Church discouraged such rings as ‘heathenish’. Around the 13th century, wedding and marriage rings were considerably simplified and given a more spiritual look which was very aptly expressed by a Bishop when he dubbed it a “symbol of the union of hearts.”
Wedding rings through different historical stages have been worn on different fingers, including the thumb and left and right hands. According to a tradition believed to have been derived from the Romans, the wedding ring is worn on the left-hand ring finger because there was thought to be a vein in the finger, referred to as the ‘Vena Amoris’ or the ‘Vein of Love’ said to be directly connected to the heart. However, scientists have shown this is actually false. Despite this, this myth still remains regarded by many (hopeless romantics) as the number one reason rings are worn on the fourth finger.
Another theory thought to be behind the ring being placed on Christians’ left hand seems a little more plausible. Early Christian marriages had a ritual of wearing the wedding ring on the third finger. As the priest recited during the binding,” In the name of the father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”, he would take the ring and touch the thumb, the index finger, and the middle finger; then while uttering “Amen”, he would place the ring on the ring finger, which sealed the marriage.
A more practically based theory is that the soft metal (traditionally gold for wedding rings) is less worn or injured on the left hand’s finger due to most of the world being right-handed. Further, the fourth finger on the left hand is probably the second to the least used finger on a person’s hands outside of pinkies. Pinkies being small, making a small ring with little surface area to decorate, perhaps motivated people to then place it on the next least used finger, namely the fourth finger on the left hand, which is roughly the other fingers’ size.
Table of Contents
- 1 The History and Meaning of the Ring Finger
- 2 The History Of The Wedding Band
- 3 What Were The First Wedding Rings?—egyptian, Greek And Roman Wedding Rings
- 4 What Do Wedding Rings Represent?
- 5 Here Are A Few Reasons Why It Can Be Important You Wear Your Wedding Ring:
The History and Meaning of the Ring Finger
The tradition and symbolism of the ring finger can be traced back to ancient times. “According to legend, it was believed the ring finger had a vein that connected directly to the heart, so lovers their rings would connect lovers’ hearts,” notes Selle. “The early Romans called this the Vena Amoris or vein of love.” So, to solidify a union founded in love, a ring was placed on that specific finger to signify the romance that the newly wedded couple shared, essentially connecting their two hearts.
Sadly, our modern-day understanding of anatomy shows that all fingers have venous connections to the heart, and no such singular vein exists, shattering the adorable symbolism. Yet tradition still holds for many couples who designate their left-hand ring finger to signify their commitment to each other.
The History Of The Wedding Band
I have been intrigued by the history and symbolism behind jewellery for even longer than I have been making it. Rings, in particular, are loaded with significance. Since ancient Egypt, rings have known to be the most intimate pieces that we wear. Throughout history, rings were used as personal talismans, in business transactions, as symbols of status, and of course, to pledge your love to another. The wedding ring’s story does not have one clear path; it changes with each religion and country’s view of marriage. Some rings strictly marked the legal contract of marriage, while others were crafted in the name of true love. But this shift isn’t chronological like we might expect. Instead, it ebbs and flows in different times and different places. This is a topic I have been reading about for years, and I wanted to share the story as I know it.
What Were The First Wedding Rings?—egyptian, Greek And Roman Wedding Rings
It was the Egyptian pharaohs who first used rings to represent eternity. That’s because a circle has no beginning and no end and reflects the sun’s shape and the moon, which the Egyptians worshipped. The Egyptians also thought that the open space in the middle of a ring represented a gateway to the unknown. The Egyptian ouroboros (our-uh-boor-ros) rings portrayed a serpent swallowing its tail, representing the eternal cycle of things. The ouroboros is one of the oldest symbols globally, and its name means “tail devourer” in Greek.
Both Roman fede and portrait rings were popular in Medieval Europe. Around the 1600s, fede motifs began to be incorporated into gimmel rings—rings with two, or sometimes three, interlocking bands. Lovers each wore a band during the engagement period. During the wedding ceremony, the groom placed his band on the bride’s finger, uniting the wedding bands into a matched set. The complete ring showed two right hands clasped together.
Around the 1600s, the fede motif evolved into the Claddagh ring, which showed a pair of hands holding a heart. Gimmel rings with the Claddagh motif often had a third centre band showing a gem clasped by two hands. Poesy rings rose in popularity during the Renaissance and Elizabethan eras. These rings were inscribed with poetry inside or outside the band of the ring.
Puritans in colonial America considered jewellery frivolous. Puritan husbands, therefore, gave their wives thimbles instead of rings. After brides used their thimbles to sew clothes and textiles for their new home, they could then see off their thimbles’ tops to create rings.
The importance of the circle
A circle has no beginning or end and is, therefore, a symbol of infinity. It is endless, eternal, and just the way love should be. For many, the wedding ring is worn on the fourth finger of the left hand. This is because the vein in this finger was believed to lead directly to the wearer’s heart. However, in many European countries, it is customary for the wedding ring to be worn on the right hand.
Wedding rings have been worn since ancient Egyptian times when they were woven from plants that grew alongside the river Nile. They were later incorporated into the Christian and Jewish wedding ceremonies, and it became common for the bride to be given a ring when she got married. More recently, both the bride and groom receive a wedding ring on their wedding day.
What Do Wedding Rings Represent?
A symbol of eternal love, the humble wedding ring has been about for years, older than any of us and still as important as ever. While the design of weddings rings is becoming more modern in many cases, the ring’s tradition and symbolism are as strong today as they’ve ever been.
The wedding ring is an emblem of love through time, a symbol of devotion and an agreement between two parties to love and cherish one another for the rest of their days. Wedding rings are, of course, circular and this in itself carries symbolic meaning for the couple getting married.
Here Are A Few Reasons Why It Can Be Important You Wear Your Wedding Ring:
Wedding rings are a symbol of commitment to your significant other. Wedding rings have been tokens of commitment for centuries, dating back to the middle ages where the groom would present the bride and her family with an expensive ring to prove his commitment to the marriage and that he would never step back from this relationship. The ring signifies that you are in a committed relationship and having the ring on you at all times goes to show that you are open about this and that you are willing to show it off. Seeing the ring on your finger daily can also serve as a reminder to your partner about how much they mean to you and that it is them out of everyone else that you chose to spend the rest of your life with.
Wearing a wedding ring can also prove to be a symbol of attachment, love and affection. Although in some cases or societies around the world, marriage is not always believed to be the product of love but in any case, wearing your wedding ring goes to show that you are attached to the person you are married to and that they hold significant value/meaning in your life. Furthermore, the ring can almost act as a memory itself as it can make you reminisce about all of the good times you have shared with your spouse in the past, in times when you miss them the most. Along with being the representation of holy matrimony, the ring also has attached fond memories that you and your better half have shared over your time together.
Your wedding ring can also act as a trigger for you to think about the decisions you choose to make, keeping your partner in mind. With your wedding ring on your finger, there comes an added responsibility, and that responsibility is to keep your partners respect in mind. You must understand that you are no longer single and that your actions can affect not only you but also your loved one. Therefore you must think twice before making certain decisions and ask yourself: “Am I respectful to my partner by taking this decision?” Respect is crucial not only in marriage but in any relationship; keeping your partner in mind at all times will ensure that your relationship/marriage is a stable one and also a quiet way of expressing the importance of your partner in your life.
A key reason as to why you should wear your wedding ring at all times is to avoid or block out any unwanted attention. Infidelity is one of the biggest reasons behind marriages ending in divorce, and it is something that a lot of married couples are in doubt of even though they may not admit to it. Having your wedding ring on can prevent such unwanted consequences from occurring. It sends a message to anyone you may interact with daily that you are in a committed relationship. It is also said that the most common cause of infidelity is often emotional disconnection from your partner or feeling unappreciated or unloved. These feelings cannot be completely avoided as every married couple faces its ups and downs. Yet, you can still do your part by wearing your wedding ring every day in honour of your partner and to prove that you are and always will be attached, committed, and respectful to your partner, as discussed above.
The fifth reason to always wear your wedding ring is that it sets the right example for your children and gives them the impression that their parents’ marriage is secure. As time goes by and your children get to ages where they begin to understand the concept of marriage and healthy relationships, seeing you wearing your wedding ring every day will teach them the ring’s significance. They will learn why their mother and father choose to wear their rings to this day. In other words, your future children will be more likely to have a healthy perspective on marriage by learning from the example that you and your significant another set.
In conclusion, your wedding ring simply defines and highlights the love, commitment, and respect you have for your partner while also acting as a shield from any negative/unwanted entities. Your marriage has nothing to do with the perfect diamond ring or gold or any other metal at the end of the day; what matters most is the love between two spouses, not the ring that you gift.