Wearing a wedding ring or an engagement ring is a time-honored tradition and an unwavering symbol of everlasting love. This practice dates back to ancient times, specifically to the ancient Romans.
That being said, there is no single right answer to the question ‘Where should I wear my wedding band?’. While the ring finger is widely considered the fourth finger on the left hand, this is not the case for all cultures and countries. In this article, we will cover all possible answers to this question to help you determine where to wear your wedding ring.
In most Western cultures, the wedding ring finger is the fourth finger on the left hand. This is because the finger is believed to contain the vein leading directly to the heart — the ‘Vena Amoris’, or vein of love.
Ancient Romans also believed that wearing wedding rings on the left ring finger connected a person’s spouse to their heart, essentially solidifying their union founded in love.
Historically, however, wedding bands have been worn on different fingers, including the index finger and the thumb, and not just the left-hand ring finger. This practice can still be seen in non-Western countries, such as India, Spain, and Russia, where people wear wedding rings on the right-hand ring finger.
As mentioned above, wedding traditions involving the exchanging of wedding bands date back many centuries. The ancient Romans, for example, believed rings signified and solidified the marital bond between two people.
The ancient Romans also believed that the circular shape of the wedding ring represented the nature of the union, with the open center representing the new life the couple would enter following the wedding ceremony.
In the early years of the Roman Empire, couples wore wedding rings made of ivory, bone, or leather. Some couples also wore rings made of gold and silver, but these were typically only seen among the rich.
In the Byzantine Empire, rings were personalized with engravings of the betrothed couple. The engravings were later replaced with images of Jesus Christ or a cross when Christianity swept across the empire around 30 to 40 AD.
In some religions and cultures, wedding bands are not exclusively worn by married women. For example, some unmarried women wear commitment rings on their right ring finger to signify their commitment to their god or deity.
Regardless of where you choose to wear your wedding or engagement ring, science and our modern-day understanding of anatomy show that all fingers have venous connections to the heart. However, if you would like to honor a specific custom, check out the following section on ring finger traditions.
As mentioned above, wedding rings are traditionally worn on the fourth finger of the left hand, especially in Western cultures. However, you can also wear it on your right hand, as seen in many central and northern European countries.
These traditions are also practiced among same-sex couples. Some wear a promise ring on their right hand, while others (who are in same-sex marriage) wear their wedding rings on the traditional ring finger.
The first person to give an engagement ring (at least, according to historical records) is Archduke Maximillian of Austria, when he proposed to Mary Burgundy in 1477 with a diamond engagement ring. The tradition quickly caught on in elite circles but did not become a norm among the masses until the mid 1990s.
Following the establishment of this tradition, newly-engaged couples have taken to wearing engagement rings on the left ring finger, which they sometimes switch over to the right finger during the wedding ceremony.
Promise rings have been around since ancient times. In fact, Roman brides often wore promise rings as a symbol of impending marriage. At the time, Roman laws stated that couples were required to wait a certain period before announcing their intention to marry.
Between the 15th to 17th centuries in England and France, these rings were called ‘posy rings’. This was because they often had engravings of romantic poems or short messages. One posy ring from the archives of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London had the inscription ‘Well for him who knows whom he can trust’ engraved on the ring’s surface.
Posy rings eventually faded in popularity and were replaced by Acrostic rings during the Georgian and Victorian eras. Acrostic rings spelled out a word, such as ‘love’ or ‘dearest’, using the initials of precious gemstones. For example, the word ‘love’ could be spelled out using the following gemstones: Labradorite, Opal, Variscite, and Emerald.
Unlike engagement and wedding rings, promise rings are also worn to signify other meanings, including friendship, chastity, and a promise to oneself.
Originating from the Latin word signum meaning ‘sign’, signet rings were typically worn by religious leaders and Pharaohs in the olden times. These rings usually bore an engraving of the wearer’s family crest, which they would use to mark and seal documents.
The purpose of a signet ring has, however, changed throughout the centuries. In fact, signet rings became a symbol of union in the Renaissance period. Married couples at the time often wore rings with intertwining initials to represent their lifelong commitment.
Today, signet rings are fast becoming one of the most popular wedding ring choices for both men and women. Today’s modern technology has allowed jewelry makers to engrave more than just family coats of arms or symbols on signet rings. They can also engrave a personal message or an image that is meaningful to the couple.
Rings are a great way to symbolize your affection and union. However, you can also opt not to wear a ring at all and get a tattoo on your ring finger instead.
If you are considering getting finger tattoos, do remember that it may involve a lot of care. In many cases, the skin of the finger is susceptible to blowouts. The bottom part of the tattoo will also fade quicker over time, which means you may need to get touch-ups from your tattoo artist.
If you are planning on wearing an engagement ring together with your finger tattoo after your wedding day, you could choose a minimalistic tattoo to compliment your engagement ring.
How do I stack my wedding and engagement bands?
If you’ve decided to wear both your engagement and wedding ring on the same finger, most people wear their wedding bands at the bottom of the stack as it is ‘closest to their hearts’. The engagement ring would then go on top of the wedding ring.
If you want to honor this tradition during the wedding ceremony, you can switch over your engagement ring (or engagement rings) to your right hand’s engagement ring finger before walking down the aisle. That way, your spouse can slide the wedding band onto your left finger.
Another option is to solder your wedding and engagement rings together to form one unified piece.
Can I wear bands on the ring fingers even if I am not engaged or married?
Your ring fingers aren’t just for engagement rings, wedding rings, or promise rings. You can also wear rings to make a fashion statement. That being said, other people could take wearing a ring on the ring finger as a sign that you are in a committed relationship. If you are superstitious, wearing a band on your ring finger even though you are not committed to any person could bring bad luck.
Can I wear rings all the time?
You can wear your engagement ring or wedding ring all the time without removing them. However, this can create physical issues as fingers can swell due to physical changes or temperature swings, which may make it difficult or impossible for you to get your rings off. If your fingers swell, the ring may act as a tourniquet and reduce blood flow to the finger. Should this happen, go to the nearest emergency room immediately.
Can I wear my rings on my other fingers?
Of course! Where you choose to wear your engagement and wedding rings usually comes down to personal choice. You can wear your wedding ring on your third finger (middle finger), and you can also wear it on the ring finger on the left or right hand. If you feel it makes practical sense to wear it on other fingers, go for it. But if you want to honor the traditional way of wearing rings, then the wedding ring should be worn on the fourth finger of the left hand.
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