Throughout the U.S. and many other parts of the world, most women wear their wedding bands on the same finger — the left-hand ring finger. Have you ever wondered why, or where this tradition comes from? Do brides and married women have to wear it on that finger? Keep reading to learn more about the tradition behind the left ring finger and what it represents.
Why Wear a Wedding Band on the Left-Hand Ring Finger?
The ring finger is the fourth finger on the hand, and most brides wear their engagement and wedding bands on that finger of the left hand. However, it's not the same in all cultures and countries. In parts of Europe, women wear their wedding jewelry on the right-hand ring finger instead. In certain cultures, the right hand is used as part of the physical representation of entry into other vows and oaths, which is why these cultures may also use the right hand for their wedding bands.
Some believe that the ring is worn on the ring finger of either hand because that particular digit has a vein that runs directly to the heart. This legend stems from the early Romans, who had a legend that referred to the vein as the Vena Amoris, or vein of love. As a result, the ring finger became a meaningful representation of the two hearts of the people being married and their love for each other.
Our modern-day understanding of biology and human anatomy shows that all your fingers have veins that connect to the heart. Yet the ring finger remains as one of the most popular locations for wedding and engagement bands.
History of Wedding Bands
As mentioned, wedding bands date back many centuries, with proof that the Romans used rings to signify the pledge made between two people as they entered into the marriage covenant. The endless circular shape indicates the eternal nature of the union, while the open center of the ring can serve as a visual representation of the portal to the new life the couple will enter into together.
Early Romans and Greeks typically gave and wore rings made of ivory, bone, or leather, as gold and silver were available only to the very wealthy. In some areas, rings were made of iron, other metals, or other similar materials. During the era of the Byzantine Empire, the betrothed couple would personalize the rings to give to one another with engravings of their figures. When Christianity spread across the empire, the figure engravings were replaced with images of Jesus Christ or the cross, which was believed to bless the union.
In some religions and cultures, women never marry but rather remain committed to their relationship with their deity. In this case, a commitment or symbolic marriage to God is represented with a ring worn on the right-hand ring finger. Other cultures wear the wedding ring on the thumb, although this isn't very common today.
The gimmel or fede ring features two hands clasped together, also known as the Claddagh ring. Some couples choose this style of ring for their engagement or wedding ceremony to indicate their union, although it can also represent friendship or sisterhood. The coronation style of wedding ring was first created for William IV in 1831, who wore it to his coronation ceremony. Elizabeth II later wore the ring, which featured a large sapphire surrounded by a cross of diamonds and rubies.
In the past, the wedding ring was the common symbol of marriage and commitment to one another, but the engagement ring has since surpassed it as the more iconic of the two. Many women have a flashier engagement ring, often with one or multiple gemstones, and a simpler wedding band. Some women have foregone a wedding band and only wear their engagement ring, even after the marriage has taken place.
While a diamond is the most common featured stone in an engagement or wedding band, that was not always the case. In fact, the “Diamond is Forever” campaign launched by de Beers in the mid-20th century pushed the diamond to the center of the wedding jewelry market, making this stone the most popular for an engagement ring setting.
If you do wear both an engagement ring and one or more wedding bands, you may wonder how to position or stack them on your ring finger. Married couples often wear their wedding bands closest to their hearts, or on the inside of the engagement band, but there is no hard rule about stacking. You may receive another band for an anniversary in the future, or you could choose to stack multiple rings to represent your union. Some women even choose to have their rings soldered together into one piece, so the individual rings don't twist separately from one another.
Wearing Other Rings on the Ring Finger
Wondering whether you can or should wear rings other than wedding jewelry on the left-hand ring finger? The short answer is: Go ahead! Just be aware that in most cultures, wearing a ring on this finger indicates that you're in a committed relationship with another person. If you're on the dating scene, you may not have as much luck, since those you meet may assume you're in a relationship when they see a ring on that finger. An old wives' tale also denotes that wearing any other type of ring on your finger is bad luck, but if you're not superstitious, you don't need to worry about it.
Should You Wear Your Rings All the Time?
Some women wear their rings all the time and never remove them, but this can create some physical issues. Finger swelling due to physical changes or temperature swings can make it difficult to get the rings off, while sleeping with rings on can cause damage to the jewelry. It's best to remove your rings at night and give your fingers a break as you rest.
Shopping for a new ring for yourself or a special someone? At Martin Busch Jewelers, we have a large selection of beautiful engagement and wedding bands, as well as the option to create your own custom piece.