The origin of wedding rings is a fascinating one. The tradition of exchanging rings dates back 3,000 years. So why are rings the ultimate symbol of romance?
Believe it or not, It all started with a faulty premise! Ancient Egyptians believed that the fourth finger of the left hand contained a “vena amoris” or “vein of love” that led directly to the heart. So it made sense to wear the ring on that finger. When Alexander the Great conquered the Egyptians, the Greeks adopted that tradition, giving rings to their lovers to represent devotion. Many of these rings depicted Eros or Cupid, the god of love.
When the Romans conquered Greece, they picked up on this tradition and began using iron and copper rings in marriage ceremonies. The rings sometimes had key motifs to symbolize that the wife now had control of the household goods.
When did engagement rings and wedding rings become two separate things?
In Medieval England, getting married was remarkably simple. All the couple had to do was to offer each other their ‘present consent.’ Often, this consent was expressed through the giving and accepting of an object called a ‘wed,’ and this ‘wed’ was often a ring. Thus, a ‘wedding’ was a ceremony where a man offered a woman a ring and she accepted it.
In the 12th century, the Christian church declared marriage to be a holy sacrament and established a formal ceremony. Rings were a part of the ceremony, and it became the rule that no man should place any type of ring on a woman’s hand unless he meant to get married.
Before that declaration, rings did not always signify marriage. They were often given as tokens of devotion. It is possible that two different types of rings emerged when the church codified marriage: the more personal engagement ring and the church-sanctioned wedding ring.
Helping a bride and groom select these deeply personal symbols of their commitment to one another is a privilege. As we enter “Wedding Season”, I hope that we will all have the opportunity to help couples celebrate the exchange of rings and promises during the summer months.