The Meaning of Wedding Rings

Updated: Jan 12, 2019

Take a good look at how the wedding band is said to come to be and see why it's so very important in defining marriage.

As an officiate this topic is very dear to me. As a newly engaged woman, this concept is important for me to understand. As a mother, the tradition is a valuable one to share with those I brought into the world.

History and Origin of the Ring

When researching the subject it is very common to find the wedding band has grown graciously in importance from its Mythological roots.

The Ring is documented as far back as the Ancient Egyptian era.

The scrolls present beautiful images of vowing to a mate with a ring; smooshed metals molded to form and lovely patterns that twist and roll. These rings were not the typical ring we see now days. A ring would be made out of braided plant materials, bone or ivory and held symbolism of eternal and perpetual love. The Egyptians are said to be the know for placing strong meaning on the Circle/Loop shape for having powers which are never ending, therefore represent the eternal connections of the soul. The loop having no beginning and no end acted as the doorway to the future and connection through the past. Placing a ring on another indicated a supernatural foundation for the relationship being destined and continuing throughout all time, known and unknown. This is also the period when wealth is noted. The material from which a man made a ring was indication of his level of wealth although less important than the actual offering itself. The more expensive the material, the more love shown to the receiver; the value of the ring demonstrated the wealth of the giver and his ability to take care of her. I would imagine that although a man could take on many wives he would be limited by his ability to provide, as a ring also indicated a man had taken responsibility for the woman's happiness. If your wives were not happy then you were not a successful husband. An ancient Egyptian woman was considered to have married if she took her belongings from her parents’ house and moved them and herself into the home of a man. There are records of parents using the occasion to transfer property to the bride or the groom but there are no other signs of anything approaching a ceremony or a party (the ring was the symbolical indication a marriage had taken place).

Scholars have long relied on surviving marriage contracts and art work for help in getting information on Egyptian marital law. Such contracts undoubtedly tell us what was legal, but too often they have been used to draw blanket conclusions, overlooking the possibility that such contracts were drawn up expressly to alter what would normally have happened. Just as the state did not get involved in marriage, it showed no interest in who got divorced. Either party could initiate a divorce and the reasons, if any, for the marital breakdown were irrelevant. Written divorce agreements do exist, and it is possible that a woman seeking to remarry would need to show such a document to her future husband before he would allow her to move in with him. Divorce was simple enough, but the division of assets presented the only real problem. The ex-wife was entitled to take whatever personal items she brought with her---clothing, jewelry, cook-ware, etc.---and, of course, married women always retained separate ownership of land, buildings, slaves, etc. that they possessed before the marriage. What happened to divorced women who lacked such income producing property? They must have been the majority, but we do not know. The understanding of the connection never ended between the two they would physically go separate ways. There are hints that ex-husbands had to continue providing support until remarriage, but in the absence of that they would presumably have had to rely on family. Ancient Egyptian marriage was a social and economic arrangement, not a legal one. Beyond these three points Ancient Egyptian marriage does not seem to have been very dissimilar to that in most English speaking countries today. The entire love process represented by a single ring!

This was all 5,000 years ago!

Affection between two young people did not bond their relationship in the next era therefor the betrothal and nuptial rings were used as seals and symbols of ownership and wealth in the Ancient Roman and Grecian Times with a bit more emphasis on authority and possession.

There were laws formed governing marriage in ancient Rome, including the acquisition of parental consent before a marriage, and a minimum age for marriage(puberty). Marriages were required to have a meeting of the fathers of the young couple, basing the marriage on their interests in expanding a business or forging an alliance between the families, with little concern about what the groom thought of the situation and so came about the custom of giving a wedding ring or Pronumbum (later a token gold ring) and with it 'all his worldly goods'. Oh, the dresses began to increase in importance as the women showed off during ceremony/parties, great story there. The ring surprisingly enough was not presented to the bride during the actual ceremony while all decked out, however, but after she had been lifted over the threshold of her new home. Interestingly enough, a man could marry a woman by winning her, through competition, as a prize. Beside that, the presentation of the ring denoted the confidence placed in her by her husband and was a token that henceforth she should share all that he possessed. Contrary to appearances, women had quite a freedom – they could even demand payment from their husbands for being wives. It was popular among men to look for a rich widow (building up wife’s fortune was husband’s duty). On the other hand, a married Roman could easily find a woman from a lower social class and have an official relationship with her, including having children. Such cohabitation's were widely approved. The only difference between the marriage and cohabitation (without a ring) was the fact that children from such relationship were not full citizens and did not inherit their fathers’ money. The marriage was an investment and the evidence of consensual agreement was the ring.

The rings took on a more hefty feel in these years as well, Roman betrothal rings were made of iron and gold built to be long lasting. They symbolized strength and permanence of the bond, the wedding ring symbolized a contract. It is also said that the Romans were the first to engrave their rings and the first to take martial commitment serious. Divorces were easily arranged, not involving authority yet came at a hefty price. The man would have to pay back, in cash, the remaining dowry money to his wife’s parents plus support her during the transition. Divorces were granted on a few grounds; for example, if the wife could not bear children deemed as incapable of completing the marriage ceremony process and deliver heirs. To divorce and re-marry for inheritance, as a business arrangement basically. She was also allowed all of her original belongings and parents and friends could re-enforce this, even when authorities had no interest. Interestingly enough the divorce rate raised in the 2nd century BCE when women got the right to apply for divorce and began more actively participating in social and political life and the exchange was returning the ring. Divorce happened when a wife committed adultery, divorce was legally required and she was seen as tainted for lack of monogamy. Also divorce was accepted when they simply both agreed to move on. Remember this is the time men took only one Wife at a time, a man could have one wife (or he could have one concubine but he could not have both. If the woman were legally ineligible to be a wife or if she were of a lower class than the man she could be a concubine) and so long as that ring was on her finger a Greek man did not discuss with others their wives. They dared not even give their names outside their close family circle of the woman when they truly loved them. They did not want to attract unwanted attention from unrelated males. These men practiced respect and the lady who they respected was said to wear their ring and was protected at all costs from intruders threatening their bond. Some similarities there between the Greek and Roman as far as the mans pride as a father as well for the woman who wore a ring meant there was a capable (not necessarily monogamous) man she was to give a child to and to be that man indicated a level of success. The rings symbolism took on more of an economical respect, a practical application of security and consented agreements at this point. The ring indicated lack of doubt the couple was on the same team and instead were together as one is all aspects of life.

The quality of the ring took on more importance as well as the intention spoke volumes to those who saw a ring on a woman's hand around this time starting around 800BC. This is where it gets interesting, the word "diamond" is derived from the Greek word adamas, which means "the unconquerable." As Mother Nature's hardest substance, diamonds represented invincible strength, a fitting gem for the marriage covenant. But the real pull of these sparkly stones, which ancient Greeks believed were delicate splinters of fallen stars, came from the powers and protection they offered the wearer. The quality of the rings, indicated by Ancient astrologers, symbolized the power of diamonds promoted lasting love and warded off witchcraft and nightmares, along with many other powerful stones which posses specific powers and purpose. The ladies ring now strongly displayed the intentions of her betrothed and indicated a syndication she was participating in. This is the time I believe women became more proud of their men choosing to wear a ring as well. Most did not chose to wear a wedding band yet this is the earliest time documented for mutual rings to be worn although is not easy to come by the reasoning behind it other than ornaments were in and love was in the air.

Then there is the Renaissance Period, during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Gimmel rings were popular, the ring is comprised of two interlocking parts. After their engagement, the future bride and groom each wore one part. During the wedding, the groom would place his ring on the bride’s finger, reuniting the matched set during ceremony. This period is also heavily influenced by Christianity and the questioning of the origins being Pagan and based on witchcraft so the scripts available diversify at this point as far as the meaning of the ring. Understandably so with the option of divorce already available noting how scripture deemed marriage until death and not as eternal, also the questioning of ornamental rituals taught by previous idols and the list goes on. It seems the Wedding Ring takes on the meaning that it needs to for the individual relationship at that point and makes the woman feel special and valued. Marriage took on a different note as well being less based on love and more about political arrangements and security of future generations. There were several reasons for prohibiting a marriage. One reason was consanguinity, meaning the couple was too closely related. If the boy or the girl had taken a monastic or religious vow, the marriage was also prohibited. Other reasons that prohibited marriage. A couple could also not be married during a time of fasting, such as lent or advent, and a couple could not be married by someone who had killed someone. I assure I have not killed anyone and respect your religious preferences and the extend to which you follow them. Starting back then also, no man could give away his daughter without the blessing of a priest which is why lovers now seek out officiates. As soon as the responsibility of marriage approached a woman she became the property of her new husband. He would take the place of her parents and become her legal guardian. Meaning the husband now owned everything she owned. Everything she brought to their covenant of marriage now became his property. Then again, if the marriage was annulled the only thing the women would leave with is the dowry she brought to the marriage. Now peasants were a little different. They would often marry for love… or perhaps a quick love-fest that resulted in pregnancy would push them down the aisle to care for the furture of their child. Despite differences, peasants in that time still considered marriage to be a legal contract, and there were some who also were set up through an arranged marriage to better the status of their name. Name changes came about in this time. Marrying for love was the ultimate personal success and several tactics were used to listen to their hearts.

Gimmel ring with the hoop opened, in the British Museum

The romanticism of marriage and its desirability grew in so many ways during this time. (Think Shakespearean vibes) The courting process teasing women with the idea of a fabulous ring and the spouse choice being riddled with poetry and newly recognized glamour and better understood wild-women lifestyle embodiment. The growth of love throughout the ages was evident and the wedding event became a focus. Guests would bring little cakes and stack them on top of one another. The bride and groom would then try to kiss over top of the cakes without knocking them to the ground. That is another story and I love history so where is the importance of the ring during this Era? The rules of these intimate relationships were set up in accordance with church law and tended to focus more on ceremony and celebration and the tradition of rings is still stronger than ever. Rings were exchanged mostly amongst the wealthy, however, among peasants was the most creativity with this symbolism, often the groom would break a coin in half keeping one side for himself and giving the other to his bride or make one himself. This sparked a huge creative streak in the variety of Wedding Rings being customized and meaningful.

The Renaissance was the era of the goldsmith, when the art of jewelry reached new heights. Sculpturally intricate and adorned with all manner of enameling and gemstones, wedding rings from this era are some top-grade bling. Their symbolism, though, was entirely romantic – the betrothed would each wear one ring until they were wed, when the rings were joined together into one, unbreakable symbol of unending love evident with the gorgeous gesture of admiration and connection. Further afield things were rather less romantic. Puritans in Colonial America between the 16th and 18th centuries used thimbles as a gift for their brides, as they saw jewelry as frivolous and a pointless display of wealth and longed for more acknowledgement of the heart connection. Women’s secret love for jewelry stood the test of time however, as gradually they started to cut off the tops of these thimbles to wear them as wedding bands after all!

The discovery of the New World also wrought changes in the evolution of rings, as it did for painting, because new stones became available. The wedding ring made it through a trying time in history and is still the ultimate gift of love.

Extensive surviving pictorial evidence is useful because it contributes to a more precise dating and localization of rings from this era. These objects often display literary or symbolic representations of the pursuit or attainment of a lover and putting a ring on it.

How We Wear Wedding Rings

A little controversy gets activated when the question about “Why the 4th finger?” and “Why the left hand?'', so I will tell you what I have found out.

One rather quaint theory, which possibly goes back to the Egyptians, is the belief that a delicate vein, (the aptly named ‘vena amoris’) runs from that finger to the heart. The one placing a ring on that finger gained access to the woman's heart. Take note here, a man in those days could hold the hearts to many women. These love felt rings eternally connecting to the heart of your loved one through all time in the most thoughtfully intended way.

The belief that the wedding ring has always been worn upon the fourth finger of the left hand is, I believe, commonly mistaken. In reality, the Romans argued vociferously over which finger the wedding ring should be worn on, the first-century Roman Pliny the Elder favored the pinkie. In a Jewish Wedding, for example, the ring is placed on the index finger so that it's more easily seen. It can be moved to another finger after the ceremony. The fifteenth century in certain provinces in Europe, the wedding ring was placed on the fourth finger of the bride’s right hand. In Peter Heylyn’s ‘History of the Reformation’(1661) he says “that the man should put the wedding ring on the fourth finger of the left hand, and not on the right hand as has been continued for many hundreds of years.” Certainly some fashionable ladies in the 16th and 17th centuries took to wearing wedding rings on their thumbs!

It was not until the time of the Reformation in England that the custom of wearing a wedding band on the left hand became the norm and still, in Greece and other places, the right hand was considered the hand of power, authority and independence whilst the left was the hand of subjection and dependence and the more fitting place for the wife to wear her symbol of subjugation to her husband; so it was ordered in The English Book of Common Prayer.

Then scientists proving the “Heart Vein” theory incorrect lead to left handed women choosing to place the ring on their less used hand to prevent damage. Their are traditions on moving it from one hand to the other similar to the Hawaiian flower availability symbolism. So many changes and rearranges have occurred with this Wedding Ring ritual/tradition

Some equal-ism was adopted a little later during the War time as the mutual ring became just as desired for men as they are for women.

Missing their ladies, being off at war was difficult and a ring on their finger and a wife to talk about was soothing, they say. A sweet sentiment and indication of honor and devotion while away from their loved ones. The ways in which women's rights have evolved have also indirectly had an effect on men wearing rings as well. Some women want to claim men in the eye of the public and greatly appreciate the gesture and respect symbolism reciprocated. This shift of men wearing wedding bands is now socially acceptable and encouraged in this day and age, rightfully so.

Wedding Rings, Officiate, Marriage Vows, Engagement Rings, The meanign of wedding rings, why wear a wedding ring?

What we can say about how the wear the ring is that it varies to this day and holds different meaning for different countries.

Some wear it on the left, some wear it on the right. Couples wear wedding rings on their left hands in many Western countries, such as the North America, South America, and European nations including the UK, Italy, France, and Slovenia. In the United States, women (and some men) wear both engagement rings and wedding bands on the left ring finger; how the rings are stacked depends on the bride’s personal preference. In Asian countries, people also tend to wear the band on the left hand. Traditional Indian practice is to wear the wedding ring on the right hand, because the left hand is considered unclean. However, modern Indians may wear the ring on the left hand to match the custom in countries such as the United States. In many Northern and Eastern European countries, including Denmark, Norway, Russia, Poland, and Bulgaria, it is more common to wear the wedding ring on the fourth finger of the right hand. In Portugal, Spain, and Greece, the right hand is also customary. In Brazil, the fiancé and fiancée wear plain bands as engagement rings on their right hands, and upon saying their vows, they switch their rings to the left hand. Couples in Germany and Netherlands often do the opposite: sporting engagement rings on the left hand and wedding rings on the right. For most couples, the three main rings worn will be an engagement ring, a ladies’ wedding band, and men’s wedding band. Modern couples are opting to buy all three rings as a trio ring set to save time and money, while ensuring their rings match, just like their commitment to each other. Other couples are sticking with the single ring on each involved in the loving process. Now days there are jewelry workshops where the gentleman can make his wife's ring by hand and surprise her with custom craftsmanship. You can bring in your own stone and have is crafted for your personally desired style or order by mail exactly what you prefer and build it from scratch, you can re-use a family heirloom and the list goes on. Represent your heart as it is.

Marriage has evolved greatly and as you can see the Wedding Ring has solid foundation in a huge chunk of cultures and is deeply ingrained all around the world.

The biggest focus after this lengthy history lesson here is “What does the ring mean to you?”

What does saying yes, accepting a ring, and choose to wear it everyday mean to you?”

We can see the differences in legal marriage and a social pledge

and how the ring seems to be in between on edge ,

of this loving, fun, and creative, connection expression.

The ring is the romantic, thoughtful sharing of your heart felt connection.

The lines of marriage have been clearly defined while the understanding of love is ever changing and seems to shine its brightest through this timeless band. Sadly many rings come off and relationship commitments are abandoned and beautifully enough sometimes a ring never goes on and memorable relationship is built. So why wear a ring these days? What does it mean any more?

We can wear ring without the paperwork, just as we can change out name without official marriage and a wedding does not have to be the big ceremony either. We can arrange the process to own needs. This day and age as some interested technology sharing mind writes about us, in the future, would in their own words describe... As I see it,

A marriage union involves several steps.

  • The mind aspect of marriage utilizes the legal requirements. Our economical system heavily influences our decision making skills so much so that in some locations it is no longer a choice (common-law), instead of dowry it is alimony, forced financial support for children you bring into a relationship is something the state now participates in. There is still marriages for money and name, and non unions because of it as well. As a modern day definition of marriage from the mind we contract, insure, protect and over time has re-instated the importance of materials, investments and security of the necessities to live satisfying lives. The mind choice (well thought out) representing perseverance, haven/protection, pledge of dispensation, consolidation for a joined well being.

  • The roots impact of marriage and identity which is no longer a necessity/requirement. The "Maiden Name" is a tradition that is experiencing flux now that our economical stances between gender are on more equal footing. A woman can choose to change her name or not for many reasons. We see this with the lack of need for parental approval of the marriage union, hyphenated names, returning to precious name when the ring comes off and same sex marriages as well. Our roots are not as easily moved. To participate in the name change represents honor, longevity, adoration, recognition, ethics and family unity.

  • The sense of self and personal desire regulate marriage in many ways.We have more religious freedom and are not exposed to a variety of traditions around the world. The personal motivation on why we marry has taken on different form with surrogacy IVF, adoption and choosing not to have children the pro-creation intent has shifted. Possession in no longer at the forefront and we have redefined love and what this may look like, take same sex marriages for example. Non-traditional is available to let our creative love expression soar, just as equally as traditions and ritual are performed to unite. Want an exotic location or a church filled with family, want and exquisitely classy dress or to wear what makes you feel beautiful and comfortable, want to have the cake with the feast or stick to a health regimen and the list goes on. Approaching the marriage unification process takes on many forms and this personal expression is about order, aligning, joy, satisfaction and thanking love to find someone who wants what you want.

  • The heart regulates the choice to wear the ring. The Wedding Ring evokes emotion with just the thought of it, with the placing upon or taking off of it and as a tradition has withstood the tests of time so far. While not all are choosing to wear a ring and may still practice loyalty and commitment the majority of those wearing a ring are loud and proud of their mate. The heart is what governs this mind, sense of self and the roots and whether or not to wear a ring symbolizes the place your heart is. The rings brings it all together no matter stage. It is the initiation and finalization. Wearing a ring reveals if your heart is in or out of your relationship. This choice represents admiration, strength, forgiveness, consideration, courtesy, priority and most of all emotional connection.

Achieving and maintaining this agenda is more than most can in the 'New Age' (or whatever it will be called) will be able to say and is considered work, ha ha ha, A Work of Heart!

This is coming from a woman who has had a handful of proposals, faced three different rings present by three extremely different men and has tasted relationships with and without that significant band sparkling about over there on the left hand. Trust me and the uncountable other women out there to affirm its significance. I had been in a fully committed, loyal, monogamous non-legal marriage without a ring or paperwork for over a decade and looked at this idea several times. Turns out true marriage requires legal action and is not based solely on love and is more than for show, a ring would have made a huge difference in my mindset. This is the simple evolution of marriage which excitingly enough began with a ring. Then a ring pops into the picture again for me. A ring alone is not marriage by any means, yet it is a massive indication of a level of intentions and level of respect the wearers are allowing themselves to experience. wearing a ring is not only for yourself but for who you choose to spend time with. An enormous step towards an incredible journey of self awareness for connection to others. Either you are building a solid future or not quite clear enough to show a form of display for your affections. For me personally that did it, when I unexpectedly saw the box again, “Do I want to build a future with this man?” If the answer is no, the do him/her the straight honor and kindly decline and deliver him from the restraints of selfishness.

For someone in love to get down on his knee in heed of heart and place himself at such a level of vulnerability is an experience flooded with romanticism and glorification of ladies, the goddess within.

down on bended knee, proposal, wedding ring, meanign of wedding ring, history of wedding rings

For a man down on his knee in love, or woman if you are same gender asking for your hand in marriage consider this:

“ Do you love the other person for who they are, without changing?

“Do you put thought into his character, morals and value and appreciate your partner?”

“Would you share economic means?”

“Are you concerned about the proposers well being?”

“How do you feel about possession/non-possession?”

“What does the idea of divorce stir up in you?”

“Is this someone who shakes you to your core and makes you a better person?”

“Will you follow through?”

“Are you ready for a daily reminder of your loyalty?”

When you know, you know, there is no questioning happening. Accepting that ring is not a decision to take lightly.

A Wedding Ring is:

  • An evident sentiment of genuine and sincere affection and desire for longevity in your relationship.

  • Your relationship is now more socially accepted.

  • The most potent weapon against infidelity available and will be visible to others.

  • A visible symbol that the person you are working towards a future with matters and you have priorities which take fore front.

  • A signal to those on the prowl that you are off the market.

  • Being proud of your choice in a mate.

  • A sign you are no longer in doubt and are certain of a future vision with a specific partner.

I would absolutely love your feedback on this and input for what a ring means to you. These are the responses I get when asking around to my SOI here in Idyllwild.

I can not help but to think back at the beginning origins when the Ring was a glorified eternal symbol utilized with such depth to connect souls. Before the ceremonies and the legalities there seemed to be a connection purposefully formed and maybe, just maybe that is where the magical feeling comes from when the right spouse is on his knee and you look into those eyes and just know.

Does not even matter the when or where as his character takes the lead. The world suddenly stops spinning and you are grinning from ear to ear and when it feels right there is no question because the connection was there all along. As if the intentions of the simple band has summoned up an ancestral bond and women behind, women behind, behind women all cheer you on as you accept the role the past times have been carving and creating specifically for a woman just like you to be seen through the eyes on the one holding the box. Nervous, silly, special, unexpected and it may just be exactly what leads you to this article. The power behind the acceptance rings is felt through the ages as a never ending, exciting, way to show your love and devote your intention to join in as one with your lover. The ring is what extends meaning of your bond beyond the paperwork and any name changes because those can change quickly and is a move of the mind, yet the sensation of representing your heart out loud for everyone to see can not be replaced by anything else but the Infamous Wedding Ring.

When placing the rings upon your fingers during ceremony the history is embodied, acknowledged and given honor to your decision to commit and re-commit later on and then again chose not to quit and give it your all and respond to the alluring call within your heart to open up and start building together. You are not longer solo riding through your life experiences, you are a couple vowed in marriage with evidence to show for how far you intend to go.

Now, I specialize in elopements and like to keep it intimate for the Southern California love bugs out there. If you have some vows to share send the ideas my way and let's meet in the middle to get your hearts on forefront and I will handle the rest.

Your Southern California area elopement and Vow Renewal Officiate offering religious and spiritual Ring Exchange and Vow Recital Marriage Officiate Services.

Why choose Vegas when you have the mountains! …...

Serving Idyllwild, California and the Surrounding areas:

Brandi Shaw soon to be Brandi Thomas

Call: 979-BrandiT

Email: for more information on Elopements and Vow Renewals.


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