History of the Wedding Ring

Ever wondered why we use the left ring finger when we get married?  Or why we even have wedding rings?

Although no one knows for sure when the tradition of exchanging rings began some of the oldest recorded ring exchanges were recorded in ancient Egypt close to 4,800 years ago. Many ancient cultures used a circle as a symbol of eternity, a tradition and belief that has carried through history into our culture today, hence the ring being used as a symbol of love through eternity.

The first rings were made out of sedges, rushes, reeds and papyrus, twisted and or braided into rings. These materials were unable to stand the test of daily wear and were soon replaced by sturdier materials such as leather, bone or ivory. As with our own rings today, the more expensive the material used for the ring, the greater the giver’s love. Giving someone a ring symbolizes an eternity of love.

Ancient Romans however adopted this tradition of exchanging rings with their own meaning. Instead of the ring being a symbol of love it was a symbol of possession, akin to the rings around the slaves necks. This was the Roman way of being able to lay ‘claim’ to their woman or property. Romans are also believe to have been the first to engrave their rings.

By 860 Christians were using rings in their marriage ceremonies. These rings were a far cry from the first rings used by the Egyptians, made of reeds or paper, instead these early wedding rings were decorated with engravings. This practice was changed in the 13th century when the Church decided that the decorated rings were ‘heathenish’ or gaudy and an overt sign of wealth. Rings became simpler and spiritual until today where there is no limit to what a ring can look like.

Fun Facts:

  • Why throw a bouquet or a garter? When people were particularly superstitious in the 1300’s people believed that having a piece of the bride’s dress would give them good luck. As brides got upset about people tearing their dresses they began throwing things for the guests to catch instead.
  • Believed to be the first diamond engagement ring was given to Mary of Burgundy by King Maximilian I of Germany in 1477.
  • Putting a cube of sugar in a bride’s glove is believed to ‘sweeten’ the marriage in Greek culture.
  • Greeks and Romans from ancient times believed that having a veil over the bride would protect her from evil spirits on her wedding day.
  • The Gimmel Ring was popular in Europe in the 1500/s-1600’s and involves two interlocking metal bands, one for the groom and one for the bride at the time of their engagement. At their wedding the groom would give his ring to the bride to interlock with her own to make one ring.
  • In the Middle East men used to give their brides puzzle rings. These complex pieces of jewelry were put together and placed on the woman’s finger in the belief that if she took it off she would be unable to solve the puzzle to put it back on, thus showing if she was ever unfaithful.
  • Another reason for the Egyptian use of the circular wedding band comes from their belief that the empty center was a symbol for a gateway to events to come in the couples life together.

References:

The Origins of Wedding Rings

History of the Wedding Ring

History of the Wedding Band

Wikipedia

Image: www.relationstips.com

 By: Clare Rhine

Tags: , , , , , ,