If someone asked you, even at a young age, “What finger does the wedding ring go on?” you probably knew the answer. In the United States, it is very common for most people to wear their wedding ring on the left ring finger. But have you ever wondered why the wedding ring is worn on the left hand in the first place? Do brides and grooms have to do this?
Read on for a little history behind the traditions in engagement and promise rings and the story behind left hand ring placement and whether or not your have to follow this custom.
The Wedding Ring
The story of why the wedding ring is worn on the left hand can be traced way back to ancient times. In ancient times, the Romans believed that the vein in the ring finger (which is the fourth finger on your left hand) ran directly to one’s heart. Due to this belief, this that vein adopted a name “vena amoris” or vein of love. To solidify they their love or a union between two people, they would place the ring on that finger that housed the vein of love to signify the romance that the newly married couple shared. Really, when you think about how symbolism plays a role in much of our life as human beings, this is the most adorable physical representation of two hearts being connected that there is. No wonder it has existed in tradition all these years.
Unfortunately, modern-day science suggests that all your fingers have vein connections to the heart. However, the ring finger continues to symbolize love and commitment in matrimony. Why is the ring finger sometimes referred to as the “third finger”? Some people don’t include the thumb when they are counting. To clear, however, the ring finger is the digit next to the pinkie. In some countries the ring finger is on the left hand. In others it is on the right. And in some wedding traditions, the engagement ring is transferred from the left hand to the right. Some women remove their engagement ring after they get married. Others wear it with their wedding band. Many couples remove their wedding rings altogether even though they are still married. They may do this due to discomfort or fear of losing the expensive jewelry. Sometimes, in marriages that have challenges the rings may come on and off regularly symbolizing a couples state of mind.
You are welcome to wear your wedding ring on the right hand. In doing so, you’d be following the example of many central and northern European couples. The real point of any of these concepts is that the age-old tradition of offering an engagement ring and eventually sealing the deal with a wedding ring, is an honor and important symbolic gesture in every walk of life in mankind.
In India, the left hand was once considered both unclean and unlucky, so wedding rings were worn on the right. But nowadays, either hand can be a home for wedding baubles.
Image by Lace Hanky Photography. Bridal Hair styling and image provided by WarPaint International Beauty Agency.
The Engagement Ring
Since Western cultures have accepted the above-mentioned wives tale to be true, the newly-engaged have also taken to wearing the engagement ring on that left ring finger. And interestingly, many of the people in Europe who choose to wear their wedding rings on the right hand, still wear their engagement ring on the left and then transfer it over. This symbolizing the transition from engagement to union.
In Latin American countries such as Colombia and Brazil, couples often wear bands as engagement rings on their right hands, and after completing their vows, move rings to the left hand. In Germany and the Netherlands, they may do the opposite—positioning engagement rings on the left hand and then wedding rings on the right.
Today, especially within same-sex marriages, men have begun wearing engagement rings. “Same-sex couples sometimes choose to use the ring finger on the right hand for engagement and wedding bands since it’s similar, but not identical to the heterosexual practice, according to GayWeddings.com. “Others, however, embrace the traditional practice of using the ring finger of the left hand. We have also known of folks who have used other fingers; some have chosen the same finger and other couples have each picked a finger and not matched.”
If you’ve decided to wear both (or all three) rings on the same finger, you might be wondering about stacking. Married couples conventionally wear their wedding bands closest to their hearts. This means they’re the bottom stack, below the engagement ring, pushed towards the base of you knuckle. On your wedding day, the the most popular strategy is to switch over your engagement ring to your right hand right before you walk down the aisle. Now your spouse-to-be can slide the band right up your left finger, and can then top it off with the engagement ring during the ceremony, or later on.
Today, it is common for many brides, either in an an attempt to save themselves some trouble or enact another “marital bond” metaphor, to have the wedding and engagement rings soldered together into one jewelry piece. At Gittelson Jewelers, we offer this service all the time.
Below is a quick and fun video from Bride-to-be magazine in Australia, showing a different graphic visualization of why the wedding ring is worn on the 4th finger.
So how should I wear my wedding rings?
The answer, fortunately, is that it’s up to you! Stackable wedding bands are definitely trending, and you can wear multiple rings in any way that you like. Traditionalists may opt to keep all bands on the left ring finger, but there is no set rule on needing to have all of the set on one hand. Ultimately, it’s up to the bride to decide how many bands she’d like to wear and on which fingers.
Today, comfort has a lot to do with the way brides choose to wear their rings over tradition or even fashion. Some brides like the symmetry of having their engagement ring in between two bands. A ring jacket, which is made to keep multiple rings in place comfortably, can be a great addition for these brides.
How will you wear your wedding ring ensemble? At Gittelson Jewelers we have 35 years of experience making recommendations and today, designing custom rings based on your own vision of the perfect symbol of love.