Wedding rings



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Today the wedding ring symbolizes a promise of eternal love, dedication to one another and faithfulness. Essentially, it is the physical epitome of the wedding oaths. The history of the wedding ring however is not as romantic. Throughout the ages it has symbolized different aspects of the oaths, but not all of them simultaneously. The shape of the ring stands for the promise of love and faithfulness. The circle has no beginning or end, consequently marriage is to last forever.

The earliest wedding bands were placed not on the fingers, but on the extremities. Since life expectancy was low and the ones to reach old age were few, people believed that one’s soul may leave the body at any moment, causing instant death. They have often tried out interesting superstitious ideas in order to keep the soul inside the body. For example, the husband wrapped the arms and legs of his new wife with grass, believing that this will prolong her life.

Archaeologists have discovered written documents in ancient Egypt which mention wedding bands. It appears that ancient Egyptians weaved bands of hemp and other plants, which they placed on the fingers of their wives. These plant “rings” quickly deteriorated and fell apart, which is why they had to be frequently replaced. Circles used to symbolize the undying love, as they still do today, but not faithfulness, since most Egyptians were polygamous.

Although Romans used to put rings on the fourth finger of their wives, this had nothing to do with love and mutual devotion. Wives were considered property of their husbands and the purpose of the ring was to show that to the world. The women in ancient Rome had no opinion in the choosing of their husbands. The woman was considered married once she has put the ring on her finger. Another perspective shows that the ring guarantied the rights of the Roman wife and protected her from the malice of her competitors.

Men from the Far and Middle East had a unique way of ensuring the faithfulness of their wives. They created a puzzle wedding ring that came apart if the woman tried to remove it. The ring could be reassembled, but only by one who knows the right combination. This was a widely used method of ensuring the wife’s faithfulness especially at times of war or if the husband needed to travel.

In the early years of America’s colonization, puritans believed that any form of decoration is unnecessary and immoral. Of course, that meant no wedding rings. Instead, grooms gave their brides thimbles as a symbol of undying love and the more creative of them removed part of the thimble in order to make themselves rings and bands.

The materials used for wedding rings were different throughout the years, depending mostly on the personal wealth or the country’s economic situation. Wedding rings have been fashioned out of leather, stone, aluminum and different metals. Nowadays they are almost exclusively made of gold, silver or platinum. The alternative titanium wedding bands are speedily gaining popularity.

Wedding rings for men are a relatively new thing. History shows that men have always been in a position of lordship and have owned their wives. Some of them even had harems of several wives. This is the reason why men have never before thought of bearing the burden of the symbols of marriage. This changed only recently during World War II when men wore bands to remind them of their loving wives waiting for them to return home. Today men’s wedding bands are a mandatory part of the wedding procedure.

A widely spread European tradition is to engrave the name of the loved one and the date of the marriage on the wedding band, which enhances the symbolism of the jewel. In some cultures, engagement rings become wedding rings once they are engraved and shift from the right hand to the left. If the engagement ring is different than the wedding ring it can be worn at the ceremony where the wedding band is either placed above it on the same finger or on the corresponding finger of the other hand, depending on the local traditions. In other cultures, the engagement ring is taken off for the ceremony and is kept by a maid on a special tray or cushion. After the ceremony it can be placed again on another finger or on the other hand.

Style and fashion

The most popular design for a wedding ring is by far the clean golden band. Medical workers tend to go for this option, since this band is fairly easy to clean and maintain. Women usually wear thinner bands, while men wear wider ones.

In France and French-speaking countries the most popular model of a wedding ring is a weaving of three rings, symbols of faith, hope and love.

The puzzle rings mentioned above that were popular in the Far and Middle East can also be seen in Greece and Italy.

In North America many women wear two rings on the same finger – a plain wedding band and a more decorative engagement ring. Couples often buy wedding and engagement rings as a set where both rings can fit together. The Celtic wedding bands are very popular in the USA, Canada and other English-speaking countries with a number of citizens with Irish or Scottish lineage.

Bad luck

In Irish folklore there are traditions according to which if the wedding band is made of something other than gold it will bring bad luck to the newlyweds.

Other beliefs threaten that it is a bad omen if the rings do not fit perfectly. A band that is too tight is an omen for jealousy while a ring which is too loose is thought to foretell of a horrible future.



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