Good morning, it’s Monday again!
I’m back with the second installment in the ‘Wedding Traditions’ series, and this week I have been taking a look into the history of the wedding ring.
The exchanging of wedding rings is believed to be one of the oldest traditions, and they have certainly been adapted a lot over time to reach the expensive diamond encrusted versions we see today.
The earliest recorded exchange of rings was in Ancient Egyptian times, where reeds and hemp were twisted and braided into rings and bracelets to be worn by the bride, this was almost 4800 years ago. The Ancient Egyptians viewed the circular shape of the ring as a sign of the endless love between a man and women. The space in between was said to represent a door, or gateway leading to things and events both known and unknown. They also wore the wedding ring on the fourth finger of their left hand as they believed that this finger held a special vein that linked directly to the heart.
As you can imagine, these rings made of rushes and reeds didn’t have a very long shelf life, so they were soon replaced with rings made of more sturdy materials such as leather, ivory and bone. The price of the material was said to determine how much the groom loved the bride, as well as indicating his wealth.
The Roman’s were next to adopt the tradition of wedding rings, however the ring was no longer a representation of love, but ownership. Roman men would claim their bride with a giving of a ring, these rings were later called ‘Anulus Pronobus’ and were usually made of iron. This led to the tradition of metal wedding rings.
Christians eventually began to use rings within the wedding ceremony in 860. Originally, these rings were engraved with two doves, lyre or two linked hands, however the Church dismissed these as too ‘heathenish’ which led to the introduction of a more simplified band around the 13th century.
Throughout the history of the wedding ring, it has been worn on both the left and right hands, as well as different fingers including the thumb. Like the Egyptians, the Romans wore the ring on the fourth finger of the left hand because of the belief that the vein in that finger connected directly to the heart, however this is false.
Another theory behind the placement of the ring is from Early Christian ceremonies. Here it was tradition to wear the ring on the middle finger of the left hand. As the priest recited “The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit” during the binding, he would take the ring and touch the thumb, index finger and middle finger, then as he said “Amen” he would place the ring on the fourth finger, which sealed the marriage.
A more practical theory is that the wedding ring would be less worn or injured on the fourth finger of the left hand due to the majority of people being right handed. The fourth finger on the left hand is probably one of the least used fingers beside your little finger.
The smallest ring ever to be given was to Princess Mary, daughter of Henry VIII. Aged just two years, she was married to Dauphin of France, son of King Francis I.
So there’s another Monday morning history lesson over with, hope you enjoyed this one and your head is starting to become full with lots of wedding tradition facts.
See you the same time next week for the third installment!